This is not my beautiful house
This is not my beautiful wife
The basement was poorly lit, just a single bare bulb dangling from the ceiling of cobweb laden floor joists. Dozens of stacks of cardboard boxes cluttered the room creating an awkward maze leading to a small, square folding card table surrounding by several chairs. The place was cool but no uncomfortably cold. Elena Bishop sat down in one of the empty metal folding chairs, resting her elbows on the table. Across from her sat the Nameless Hunter, toying with his yo-yo. Unlike Elena, he’d visited this place before, but He was still uncomfortable. Although that was due more in part with a certain member of the present parties, not the basement itself. Hunter Christian sat between them, placing his feet on the table and leaning back precariously in the chair with a content sigh.
“Welcome to my humble headquarters, Elena.” Hunter said.
Curious, Elena asked, “What brought me to your attention?”
“Skills, mostly,” Hunter replied, lacing his fingers together behind his head. “Also to prevent your being killed and all.”
“Not that I mind,” Elena began. “But I didn’t think I warranted being saved by the renowned Hunter Christian.”
The Nameless Hunter snorted derisively at the use of renowned. Despite having agreed to work with him, He did not like Christian, feeling the guy was too cocky for his own good. Hunter ignored the insulting snort, having grown used to the childish reactions of the Nameless Hunter.
“Well,” Hunter said. “I suppose it’s a matter of community unity, in a way. I feel a bit of kinship with other bounty hunters, for obvious reasons, and now it seems that someone is targeting us. So, naturally, I felt the need to intervene in your case.”
“Someone is killing bounty hunters?” Elena couldn’t think of any reason for someone to take up such a task. Revenge was the obvious motive but that was more likely to target a single, specific bounty hunter. Why would anyone want to wipe out every bounty hunter? “Is it Pat Avery?”
Hunter scoffed. “That ass is definitely some sort of key cog, but he’s too much of an idiot to be running things.” He reached into the breast pocket of his soiled green suit jacket, removing a deck of cards. He took out the cards, tossed the empty case pack on the table, and began absentmindedly shuffling them. “We don’t know who is behind it all. We do know that Avery is involved and bounty hunters seem to be the targets.”
“If bounty hunters are the targets, then why did they take out Ezra?” Elena paused, thinking back to their meeting. Ezra had called her there to tell her something. Before he got the chance to spill his guts someone shot him in the head, spilling his brains. “Ezra had info …”
“He definitely knew something,” the Nameless Hunter said, chiming in. “We just didn’t show up in time to prevent his death and found out exactly what.”
“But,” Hunter said. “We did manage to reach you in time. Which is a definite boon to our little group. If you’re willing to put your lot in with us, that is. We could certainly use someone with your capabilities.”
“By which you mean someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
“Pretty much, yes,” Hunter smiled. “But you also handled those scissors really well. Not many people could accurately chuck a pair of scissors like that. And you have a pretty solid track record. Even after being abandoned by your partner, you did all right on your own.”
Elena wasn’t quite sure if she agreed. After all, she’d been days away from eviction living in an apartment without electricity because she lacked the business to pay the bills. Still, this was Hunter Christian. He was notorious for getting the job done. And, while info on him was scarce, the Nameless Hunter had a good success rate as well. Then again, her last partnership had resulted in her being cast aside, kicked to the curb. It could very well happen again. But, given the alternative was being hunted down by an unknown enemy alone, having these two for backup was a definite plus. She decided to take the chance.
“All right,” she said. “I’m willing to give you a shot. What’s our next step?”
“Intel gathering,” Hunter said.
“How very specific,” Elena said sarcastically.
“Sometimes simplicity is the best policy.” Hunter said. “We already have some nice bits. Pat Avery, for example. Of course, we do need more to go on than one idiot. We just need to poke around.”
“Because that won’t draw any needlessly dangerous attention,” the Nameless Hunter muttered.
“Oh it very much will,” Hunter nodded. He continued to shuffle cards.
Elena watched him bridge the cards together, curious as to why Hunter was playing with cards. That same curiosity also extended to the Nameless Hunter and the yo-yo. Despite the curiosity, she wasn’t going to bother asking. Everyone had their own thing. She herself was craving M&M’s at the moment. Which reminded her she needed a new cup to pour them in. The previous one had been smashed against the side of Pat Avery’s head.
“I have the cards because I’m currently in the process of learning some magic tricks.” Hunter said, as if reading Elena’s mind. “I don’t know why he has the yo-yo, though. I assume some sort of childhood trauma.”
The Nameless Hunter fumbled with the yo-yo, losing the fluid motion of repeated tricks, as if forgetting how it worked. The string tangled his fingers. He glared at Hunter, blaming him for the screw up. Unwinding the string from his fingers, He stuffed the yo-yo into his pants pocket. Agitated, the Nameless Hunter stood up and began weaving his way through the maze of boxes, muttering about how he was going to do something productive. Elena looked to Hunter for answers.
Hunter shrugged. “He doesn’t like me very much. Oh, by the way, there’s M&M’s in that top box behind you. Sorry in advance for the lack of cups.”
“That’s fine.” Elena said.
She jumped out of her chair, nearly tipping it over. She saw no need to hide her enthusiasm. M&M’s were her vise and she accepted that. And, as far as some addictions went, her’s wasn’t so bad. But Elena couldn’t help but wonder how Hunter had known to stock the candy. Was it just coincidence? Or was he aware of her mild addiction? She’d bet all the money she didn’t have on the latter. You didn’t gain a reputation like his through sheer luck. Even so, it was the slightest bit unsettling.
The box was filled to the brim with dozens of large bags of M&M’s. For Elena, it was like opening a box full of heaven. The sweet chocolate smell wafted up penetrating her nostrils, tantalizing her taste buds. If not for solid self control, she may have very well tore into several bags at once. Instead, she contented herself with a single bag, tearing open a corner and pouring a handful into her palm.
Elena sat back down. In between mouthfuls of candy, she said, “How’d you learn about all the dead hunters?”
“Well, as you are aware,” Hunter said. “There are plenty of information sources out there for someone who is willing to pay for a bit of news. And plenty of those are dead, too. Some really good ones.”
“Information brokers in addition to hunters?”
“Yes,” Hunter said. “So, tell me, what do you know about Arraz?”
“That they are a group you don’t want on your bad side.” Elena paused her eating, setting the bag on the table. “You think Arraz is behind all this?”
Hunter shook his head. “Directly behind it, no. Like Avery, they are on somebody else’s payroll. A hired gun. And a very dangerous one, at that.”
“Who could possibly have Arraz working beneath them?”
“Someone even more dangerous.”
“Great,” Elena said and resumed her consumption of M&M’s.
“How many reliable information sources do you have?” Hunter asked, holding out a spread deck of cards. “Also pick a card.”
Elena stared at the cards for a moment, wondering if he was serious or screwing around with her. She decided he wasn’t joking and drew a card from the middle. It was the 3 of diamonds. She put the card back and Hunter thanked her. He reshuffled the deck, took his feet down and grabbed the box, reinserted the cards, and stuffed the box back in the breast pocket of his jacket. Elena stared, perplexed.
“I haven’t got that far in the trick.” He cleared his throat. “Now, about your information contacts.”
“I have several I consider completely trustworthy.” she said. “But, due to my cash flow issues, I doubt they will want to hear from me.”
“By now, they’ve probably caught wind of brokers being knocked off, so I imagine they might be a bit forthcoming with info.”
“Or charge even more …”
“Just a risk you’ll have to take.” Hunter said. “But not the biggest you’ll be taking.”
“You want me to ask about Arraz. See if my informants have knowledge of member whereabouts, possible money transactions, and the like.” Elena triumphantly tossed an M&M in her mouth, glad to be ahead of Hunter Christian.
“Yes,” Hunter said. “You’re catching on. Good. Find your most trusted informant and see if you can goad some Arraz stuff. Also, sidebar, Harry Baxter is dead, so adjust accordingly if he was your number one.”
“Makes sense. He was one of the best, so taking him out early is a wise move.” Baxter would have been too expensive to consider anyway.
“Would have been wiser if their assassin had done the deed and departed immediately.” Hunter said, leaning forward. “That’s how we know Arraz is involved.”
“You killed a member of Arraz?”
“Welcome to their bad side.”
Hunter stood up and Elena followed suit. She stuffed the nearly empty bag of M&M’s into a back pocket of her jeans. She resisted the urge to stuff a couple more bags into the other pockets.
“What’s your plan?” Elena asked.
“I’m going to track down the whereabouts of one Patrick Avery. If there’s a weak link in this chain, it’s him. Give me a call when you learn something.”
“I don’t have your number!” Elena called after him.
“Check your right front pocket.” Hunter replied as the door slammed shut.
Elena reached into the pocket and pulled out a playing card—the 3 of diamonds. Written on the back was “Is this your card?” Beneath that was a phone number. She shook her head, choosing not to think about how he managed to get the card in her pocket.
Elena made her way out of the basement. As soon as she stepped into the chill night air, the bag of candy was out of the pocket and in her hands.
“Now,” she said to herself. “Where can I find a new cup?”
no matter how sad I am this never fails to make me laugh
Day 77, no one suspects a thing.
Fifa World Cup starts today. Who are you cheering for?
Found a better use for the wine glasses
That’s a martini glass
I’m literally using it for milk and cookies does it look like I care about the finer points of debauchery