Chapter 1

I read the note again, put it away, emptied my glass, then read it again by the dim light of the bar. A dirty and torn scrap of paper and Sam’s scrawl in ink. Just two short lines: "I’m running out of time. Meet me ASAP"

There were only two places Sam would want to meet. Specs’, the bar where I sat reading his note, or the pizza joint down the street. We both had rundown flats, both echoing of empty bachelordom in the worst way, so we rarely saw each other inside of them. Our friendship, such as it was, measured itself out over the years in drinks, games of pool and late night staggers through a city indifferent to aging failed writers. 

Sam had left the note with Lisa, the one waitress he’d apparently grown to trust. She was sexy in that tatted-out, edgy SF way. Not my type, but I think he had a thing for her. She delivered it with my drink, saying no more than, "This is from your buddy." 

Two points immediately got my attention. Why a note, why not the usual text? And the use of "ASAP" in caps, underlined. No way would Sam, with his tendency to avoid most human interaction unless absolutely necessary, would use ASAP and underline it unless it was pretty fucking urgent.