My bad news went through the bordertowns faster than an nasty burrito goes through the loopy intestines of Mother Nature. Being the primo of my trade, grade A compared to the chopped liver of my fellows, my reputation was mostly back in place after a few of the sniggeringest bounties were collected, head by head. No one messes with the best.
I could tell by the timing of my appointment that I wasn't going to like the offer, but I was being given good money to talk, and not a dime to walk. The flickering gaslight of the southern bordertown burnt red as I caroused the streets, one hand on my liquor, the other on my silvery six shooter. I swore after seeing a mosquito that could outweigh a pteradon. I hate bugs.
The uneasy feeling grew stronger in me as I wandered down the stairs into a place invitingly chill as a crypt, smelling like a morgue on a hot summer's day, and as quiet as a librarian's purgatory. The address was an evil number, combining primes with the gusto of a drunken mathematician. I don't do my own numerology, and, half the time, I don't believe in that stuff, anyway. But Madame Mysteriologica has yet to be wrong, or so she says.
I half wished I'd crossed her palm and gotten a reading on this deal; something about the decor said gloom and doom to me. Maybe it was the prevalence of horned skulls with big teeth. Maybe it was the music, something of the sort where they sift the passion out and leave the cold notes to be played on something no musician worth his tune would call an instrument. The kind of music made by a dentist on the teeth of someone hooked on crackerjack.
I took a table close to the entrance. That way I could make inconvenient my getaway, as every exit is an entrance to...someplace else. A kind of integrity in that, if you get the reference. I amused myself for the few minutes before my clients came with a word game combining the worst of body humor with the best of gothic decor. Numb-skulls and phallic candles come immediately to mind.
My clients seemed to spot me from the rest of the crowd. I hadn't thought about a disguise, and I wasn't wearing a spot of black. Black's the color of crows and vultures. Well, and some cajun food, but almost everything's got an upside if you just adjust your sense of reality for it.
The couple ahead of me seemed to be regulars to the place, if the clothing said it right. The reddish lenses and the obsidian nails told me too much of the story.
"We heard," creep, no, wait, client... number one hissed. "We heard you do border runs."
I mentally cursed those elves. After diminishing the ogre into a pixie-sized marionette, they spread my reputation far and wide as best of the things I most don't like doing. Well, second most, after extermination.
The types of things that try to come over the border, but can't do it themselves, that's what I most hated about the vocation. Bagging demons and defenstrating the ghoulies...well, that was the good part. Better yet, nailing a spike through a loup gone loupy, and taking them to the zoo. I'm not a sadist -- I just love my job.
"So you heard. But I'm on probation," I lied. "I only do it for good causes, and cash."
"Ve haff... all the money you vill need," creep number two was female, scrawny, boney, and long. Just the way I hate 'em. "Ve haff...need. Desperate need that eez vorth your eenvestment." I decided she really did talk that way, and wasn't just in need of an accent tutorial.
"So?" I raised an eyebrow and made my best "Pay up," kind of face.
I saw then, what was coming.
"Ve are but poor folk, poor in the reaches of our hearts, not in monetary design, seeking a new land that shall not reject us like that of our home." The spiel was forlorn and maligned. Melodrama like that should be reserved for the stage plays.
I stood up. "No way." A clue from the ogre set me straight. "I don't know who recommended me to you, but I don't work for undead. Especially vampires."
"I HATE VAMPIRES." I said it loud enough to get me in trouble with the resident bean sidh. 'Course, she never howled for me. When creep number one flinched, I leaned over, just enough for him to smell the garlic from my lunch. "Bloodsucking, fiendish, grave-hopping, hematophagous, undead, noctambulistic, pyemian, exhumating, crepusculant, depraved, nefarious, mephitic, paratrophic, vulturine leeches!"
Combing the depths of my vocabulary, I made it out onto the street. The last rays of the sun's light were with me. I hate the southern bordertowns... I swatted a minature version of the vampires off my arm, seeing the blood there. What I needed was a good drink...not to become one.
j n m ( m n j )
"If I pull up on his hair, and pull down on his beard,
would you put the soap in his mouth?"
Sister Mary Petersburg, as played by Gorto TWK.