Hey there folks. I'd like to tell an interesting story, and how similar parts of it have been to Shadowrun (Well, it's leg work mostly). It doesn't deal with any actual game experience, rules, systems, GM-player interaction or the like. I write it because the similarities amused me (AFTER it all happened), and because it inspired me a bit, and I wanted to share. So...
I live in Israel, and I'm a 35 years old med student (Yes, a bit late, had twists and turns). Between studies, work, research, gaming and such I also volunteer in a free clinic for African asylum seekers in Israel. I won't go into politics, but this population is probably the most vulnerable, weak, and at time exploited population in Israel. In our clinic we try to provide some basic medical services. In the course of this work I've developed different kinds of connections, which will become important.
A call from "the fixer"
About 2.5-3 weeks ago, I got an email from a doctor I work in, who is now in the Ivory coast. Apparently another doctor contacted her. An Eritrean woman visited a hospital and did some blood tests, but left before she got the results. (An odd behavior on itself). No one knew why she needed the tests in the first place. However, there were some abnormalities with the test, ones that could indicate a serious disease. More tests needed to be done to confirm this but... The hospital can't manage to contact her. For most times her cellphone is blocked, and on the one occasion it answered it was a male voice, who hanged up immediately once he heard it's from the hospital.
The disease was most likely at it's early stages, but we don't know exactly how long it would take for it to progress. We needed to find this woman fairly fast. My doctor friend sent this mail to me and some others who worked closely with her, and asked if we could help. I had more free time than the others (Respectively), so I said I'll try, with the others helping where they can.
I have made a sort of an add, but I wanted to run it past a few other people to see if it's ok (Community sensibilities and so on). I first contacted a prominent figure in the community- a remarkable Eritrean woman who is a nun, a nurse, and a humanitarian, but a straight forward, no nonsense practical one. I told her of the story, and she warned me not to mention ANYTHING about her medical condition, for it will start up lots of rumors about possible HIV or TB or other infectious diseases, which carry a heavy social stigma there... So this made things more complicated. Worse- she had once of the most common names in Eritrea. (Think a name like John or Mike or such). Other than her name and her approximate age, we knew little that was certain- only her Visa number (Think social security for non citizens).
So I could say that we were looking for this woman for... well, we were looking for her. I knew I needed to work on something else, so on a slim shot I decided to try and put it around the aid organizations themselves, and target the aid workers mostly. Hopefully they will remember we're looking for her if we do.
I met with some people from the aid organizations at a Tigrinya course I'm taking (Might come useful one day, no?) I spread the adds, and then went to some other organizations where I could spread more awareness. On the way I helped organize all kind of "mini quests" for my "contacts", shared 2 meals at small bars, and so on. Finally, I felt the "contact web" was spread, now hopefully it would wield something.
Stake out and almost breaking an entry?
One of our group suggested a more direct approach. Trying the address she gave. Now, the place is quite near the Old Central Tel Aviv Bus Station- a place that has been mostly abandoned by state authorities, a slum for most asylum seekers, where the police rarely goes, and where crime and other stuff happen more freely. At day it's ok, at night it gets somewhat... dangerous.
Now the address wasn't there, but some way off, so I went with a translator friend of mine and found the oddest thing- the entire rundown small building was made of shops, and no entrance! We found some entrance t a nearby building, which led to a tiny foyer, and an armored door, with a pad lock and a camera above. We tried getting some attention, but failed.
Which is when a computer guy I know came in to help, and got from... somewhere (I am quite the techno drek), some info about the building- Apparently the ownership of the building was unclear, some sort of a bogus name, and some work permits on the door.
So, we had no idea what it was, but we hoped that we might be able to learn more about the place if we try more. So me and 2 other friends decided to visit the place once each every day, and try to find out.
In the third night, I was met by a surprise- two big "gangster like" Russian guys didn't like us poking around apparently. They stopped me and another and questioned us quite... thoroughly... but it ended in nothing. The vibe we got is "this is not for you, scram!". Quite the area for illegal businesses. We did learn that the Eritrean in the buildings "left of their own accord" about 5 months ago.
So... the address wasn't true, the phone belonged to some man which we didn't knew, and after some more waiting- the "contact web" yielded nothing. What's next?
The mystery man
Comes mister computer guy again, and somehow tracked the name of the man behind the phone. (Which sounds to me like quite an accomplishment, the number aren't supposed to be listed on regular webs, but what do I know? ). He had the same family name- family? This was a more unique name, and another clinic found him- Apparently he has a liver disease, and diabetes, and comes regularly. I came to meet him at the clinic, but he wished to talk outside.
We found a small eatery, and talked there. He was a bit of a character indeed! Apparently life has been hard (And they do have a hard life), so he has become an alcoholic (hence the liver problem), and has been quite bad in many ways. But... there is more to that. The man got into debt, serious debt, with some criminal elements involved. He suspected that his sister, who disappeared around the time of the test (Of which he didn't knew, and it surprised him), was taken by these debtors to "pay off his debt", most likely in a form of prostitution or drug worker.
Crap... Now this is a whole new shebang. Damn.
Going in, tense situation
We may be a little crazy, but after some debate we decided to get into the slum that I described earlier, not to mess with any local crime lords, but to try and find out if she was really there, and at least get her to come take the needed blood test. It was potentially life saving.
So we decided to go in 3 of our guys, and contacted one more aid worker that used to work with the prostitutions and the worst cases in the place. And since we thought she might be a sex worker now, we went in at early night. We asked round, but no one heard of her. Our presence (Mostly white folks in a mostly African neighborhood) stood out quite a lot, and drew some attention. And finally we got the wrong kind of attention.
5-6 guys came around us, and one of them would probably have gotten the nickname "Mr. Pretty" in old cliche cop movies. He explained to us, quite simplicitly, that this was not a smart place to be, and that coppers weren't welcomed.
"What coppers? We're not coppers!"
"The guys with the guns."
"We ain't carrying..." I started when one of the others said "Yeah, I thought we could use some back up".
Apparently 2 guys followed us if "things wil lget messy".(Whom I later learned were from areas allowed to carry weapons in Israel. Most Israelis have been to the military, as it's mandatory, but not a lot can legally carry arms later on)
Idiot! Really? I men Really?! These guys would probalby drop us quickly if it came to that. This is no action movie!
I tried to apologize, as did the aid guy (who totally paled, understandably). We acted meekly enough (Street etiquette), and backed away. Thankfully enough ,we seemed to mostly amuse Mr. Pretty and friends. They did say they had no "worker" by such a name. I decided to not press the issue.
And so we wee out, and after quite a few shouts at dumbass and friends, went our seperate ways. about 2 weeks have passed, and we were no place closer.
I was quite bummed out.
Language skill pays off?
2-3 more days passed, when one of the free clinics called me, that our woman was there! (They made sure through the visa). She was there to check on her pregnancy (which was the initial reason she went to the hospital). They manged to get a new phone number, and I got to her. She knew very little Hebrew, and very little English, and was afraid when I said I was about the hospital. (Apparently the hospital charged her a great deal, and she thought they were trying to collect. Eritreans can't get regular medical insurance in Israel, so they have to pay up ludicrous sums). But I managed to speak a few basic sentences I made sure to learn in Tigrinya "I am doctor. I am Tirinya student. I wish to help you. Not about money!"
This managed to get her to listen for a little while, and after long (and difficult conversation) she agreed to meet at the hospital.
Meeting "the mark"
She was late to the meeting, about 20 minutes, when she came to me. Apparently she was there, watching me, trying to judge my character- if I was a debt collector, a cop, immigration or anyone else. But we talked and she started the medical checks up today.
Apparently she is quite resourseful. When she knew of her brothers' debt, and her pregnancy, she decided to make a life switch, and "disappear". She moved from her second home (One we didn't even knew about), to another place, cut connections to her brother (who cannot be trusted), and found a new work. She was worried about using some of the aid organizations, since her brother knew most, and the hospital services, due to the charge.
We managed to have her make a pregnancy follow up free of charge at another clinic than her brother visits, and at least for the current medical situation, we are contacting a fund (My doctor "fixer" knows how to handle this stuff), so this will work out hopefully. Just when I thought she was lost to us... The doctor is optimistic about her chances, since we got her in time. And time will tell, but for now, I'm going to spend me some Karma! Hey, where's the loot?
EDIT: The end of her story a few posts below.