Three weeks ago.
Joe unlocked the smaller, two drawer, filing cabinet in his study and reached inside to disarm the 'thing'. That done, he flicked through the files until he found what he was looking for.
Opening it on his desk, Joe reached for his brandy and began to sift the sparse contents.
The medical records got only the briefest of glances but enough to note that the latest, with nurse Maisie's monthly reports attached, was over twelve months old.
He made a note on his pad to get a more up to date version from the Union Medical Centre and, in brackets next to it, put an estimated cost.
After the medical records, Joe took out the single sheet of notes made in his own handwriting. He read through it quickly, still surprised at just how little information it contained.
At the bottom was the note he had added, after listening to their nanny, Silja, recite young Finny's story to his wife, Kirsten, long after Anneka had been put to bed after her visit to the orphanage.
Something Finny had said, a throwaway line lost in the drama of the kid's story of how it was she came to Flag and ended up in the orphanage.
They were fleeing an attack on their camp and Finny was describing the heavy machine-gun fire from the attackers' cars. Then she had said, "... they weren't like the guns my dad made.
" Joe read the words again. The words that had brought him back here now, days later. Then he set the sheet of notes to one side.
What he was looking for was underneath and was the last item in the folder.
Joe lifted the three-year-old NFPD police report and sat back in his comfortable wing-back chair with the report in one hand and his brandy in the other.
His cigar already in residence in the worn and nicotine-stained gap between his top and bottom teeth.
Name: Onetit Dogbreath... Joe wondered what the woman must have looked like to earn such a monica.
Date of Arrest: ... Yeah, yeah. Joe read on down until he found the part he was looking for.
Known Associates: (A) Gang members: Fairy Touched, Epsilon, Lowball, Big John Farmer, Gunman...
Joe pursed his lips. He knew there had been something about nine-year-old's story that tugged at his memory. He tossed the NFPD report back onto the desk and took the cigar from his mouth.
Joe stared, lost in thought, at his bookshelves and his eyes came to rest on the slightly worse for wear copy of Oliver Twist he had lent to Finny some months back.
What went on behind the gangster's intense, brown and perpetually bloodshot eyes for those few seconds remained a secret of the most poker of poker faces. Then the cigar was back between his teeth.
Joe took a gulp of his hand-warmed brandy and leaned forward.
Putting his now nearly empty glass down where it wouldn't leave a ring on the polished wood of his desktop,
Joe pulled the sheet of notes towards him and lifted a fancy pen from the even fancier fancy pen stand.
After Finny's last words, Joe drew an arrow and then wrote 'Gunman' followed by a question mark. Then he reached for his notepad.
Under the note he had made about the medical record update Joe wrote 'Find 'G''. Next to it, he opened another bracket.
The pen hovered for several seconds before finally writing a figure and closing the brackets. The number was not small.
Joe sat at his desk in his study.
Outside, in the hall, Anneka squealed and ran up and down while being chased by Silja,
who was doing her best impression yet of what was meant to be the Troll who stole little children away if they wandered too far from their nannies.
Fanciful in its execution, it nevertheless served a useful purpose in helping keep the little girl safe in a world where most things were at least as dangerous as the mythical beast.
Silja was teaching Annie about Trolls, but in the time and place Annie had been born into, bears were trolls, dogs were trolls,
most flying things were trolls and even some people were trolls of the worst kind. And none of them just tickled you if they caught you. Today's lesson was 'run and hide'.
But as Annie got older, the lesson would become 'kill or be killed'.
Joe tuned out the soft thunder of bare feet on deep carpet. It had been three weeks now since Joe had put the word out that he was looking for the man known as 'Gunman'.
So far, he had received very little return for his outlay.
The problem was the thinness of the information he was able to give those doing the looking. Gunman as a name rather than a description.
There were plenty of gunmen around or at least those who described themselves as such or were known by reputation as such.
But very little came back to Joe's ears about men called Gunman and the few references he did hear always linked the name to the Devil's Own, but he already knew that.
Other whispers that came back to Joe were of people who had left the Devil's Own or, like Finney,
had been forced to flee when the Union or mercenaries or just pissed off townsfolk had attacked the Devil's Own camp in force.
But ex-members of the gang tended to be a tight-lipped bunch, even when there was a fair amount of chips on the table.
A slow shake of the head, a muttered "Never heard of him" or a simple "Fuck off and die" were the usual responses. But then Joe was also of a similar mindset, so he understood.
If some arsehole came up to Joe and asked him if he knew anybody called Kirsten Kjaer,
he would rub his stubble and think very hard for a second or two before swearing on his mother's grave that he had never heard the name in his life...
Even though Kirsten might be standing next to him at the time.
It was a question of trust, Joe thought, as he turned his pencil end over end with each downward tap on his blotter. The Devil's Own trusted only their own, and for very good reason.
Everyone else hated them, despised them and wanted to see them erased from the earth. The fact that they did business with Joe didn't mean that they trusted him.
It just meant that they didn't kill his delivery guys. Which was fortunate for... Joe checked the name on the Med Centre invoice. ...John Smith.
Joe had a lot of John Smiths on his employee roll.
This one might even be walking again in a few weeks after he had taken it on himself to try and earn a bit extra by asking a few questions of his Devil's Own minders while
he unloaded unmarked boxes from the trunk of his car at the encampment outside Serenity Falls.
Joe sighed and looked again at the single sheet of notes. Nothing. Not a single thing to add that he didn't already know before. What he needed was someone on the inside.
Someone who the Devil's Own trusted. Joe pulled the Union Medical bill towards him and grunted. More bleedin' expense.
Bloody doctors, charge what they want and how is the average punter supposed to know if they are being ripped off or not.
Joe opened his ledger and made an adjustment in the business expenses column under 'industrial injury'. The thing is, he thought. Is that every bugger trusts their doctor...
Joe froze, his pen stopped in mid fraudulent entry.
He lifted his head and searched the row of pictures on the far wall, finally finding the one Hyle had sent him of Tukiko's graduation from Haven.
As he looked at the happy face with the goofy grin beaming out at him while holding up her diploma for the camera, a slow smile broadened across Joe's face.