The Signal: Chapter 3

The man leaning quietly on the side of the building stood only a little over five feet tall.  He looked Japanese, old enough to have some steel in his black hair, and was impeccably dressed.  How the hell had he managed to sneak up on her?  Stasya aimed her handgun at his face.  “Who are you?”

“At the moment, a friendly party.”  He shrugged.  “Shoot me, and that will change rapidly.”

“How did you find us?  I covered tracks.”  She shook her head.

“Oh, you did.  A very good job, in fact.  I was actually impressed.”  He straightened.  “But I marked you at that little church fair a while back.”  He turned to look at Sean.  “Mr. Wu, the circumstances regarding the western division are extremely complicated.  I believe it would be best if your family remained apart from those affairs.”

“My son is —”  Sean glared.

“An extraordinary individual.  The apple has fallen rather far from the tree.”  The newcomer smiled, ignoring the fact she was still pointing her gun at him.  “Steps have already been taken regarding Adam’s wellbeing.  It is in his best interest if you remain far from harm’s way.”

“Who —”

“As it happens, Mr. Wu, I am almost always in need of talented accountants.  I would like to offer you a job.”

“Who the hell even are you?”  Sean shook his head.

“Someone who can ensure the safety of your family, Mr. Wu.  Madam Petrov is extremely talented at what she does, and I have no doubt she will do all she can to keep them safe.  She may even be successful.  I would certainly give her better odds than most.”  He smiled.  “I, however, can make it a guarantee.”

“If you don’t tell me who you are right now I’m going to ask her to shoot you.”  Sean glared.

“My name is Ryuu Ishi.”  He met Stasya’s eyes as he said his name.

The gun nearly fell out of her hand.  She stared.  “Bozhe moi.”

“Oh, not quite that.”  He shook his head.  He held her eyes with his.  “I am offering them gainful employment in my service, you as well, with all the…”  He smiled again.  “Benefits and protections that come attached.”

“Ms. Stasya?”

“You should take offer, Mr. Wu.”  She lowered the gun.

#

Coraline looked up at the mysterious man.  He gave her a warm smile.  Her parents were still discussing taking him up on his offer, but the simple fact he clearly intimidated Stasya made her a little concerned.  “Who are you?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“In truth, my dear girl, the concern is not so much who I am…”  He shrugged.  “But what I am.”

“Alright.”  She nodded.  “What are you?”

He held out his hand, and light suddenly seemed to coalesce above it.  A heartbeat later, the toy horse she’d forgotten in their flight from home materialized, dropping into his hand.  He offered it to her.  “Powerful.”

She took the horse from him gingerly.  Then she looked down at it.  “James found this at a rummage sale and I wanted it, but I didn’t have enough money.  He bought it for me with his money, then had Adam repaint it before giving it to me for my birthday.”  She ran her fingers over the little carousel horse.

“Your brothers love you very much.”

“James is dead.”

“That doesn’t change that he loves you.”  Mr. Ishi smiled.

“Mr. Ishi…”  Coraline looked over to see her father.  He took a deep breath.  “I need to know what your offer entails.”

“Naturally.”  Mr. Ishi nodded.  “I will relocate your family to Las Vegas, and take care of all associated expenses.  There are three bookkeeping positions open, all of which pay fair wages.  I will not ask anything unethical or unseemly of you.  Even if you choose to leave my employ, as long as you remain in Las Vegas you will have some measure of protection.  There are also job openings for your wife.”  He glanced at her mother.  “Should the public schools not interest you, I can also make arrangements at one of the private academies for Coraline.”

“I beg pardon, Mr. Ishi…”  Lidia swallowed.  “But your offer sounds too good to be true.”  She shook her head.  “If you can do all this, can’t you help Adam?”

“Yes.”  Stasya nodded.  “Could you —”

“I have…”  Mr. Ishi’s voice was soft.  “Made arrangements in that regard.  It is best, however, for Adam’s own personal safety that I not take a direct interest.  However, given his gifts and the true nature of his parentage being kept secret, it would not surprise any that I sought to acquire his sister.  The Cabal itself had similar inclinations.”

“And just what…”  Sean’s eyes narrowed.  “Exactly is your interest?”

Something flickered across Mr. Ishi’s eyes.  “Has Stasya told you what I am?”

“She said you’re a powerful man.”  Sean glanced at Stasya.  “Frankly, though, I’m not sure how much I believe what I’ve been told lately.”

“Perhaps it would be better…”  Mr. Ishi stepped off the patio.  “If I showed you.”  His form suddenly seemed to glimmer.  There was a flash of gold and silver as his shape changed, growing long and serpentine as his flesh changed from skin to scales.  Her mother’s legs went out from under her and she sat heavily on the ground, and her father staggered before catching himself on a railing.  Even Stasya was not immune.  Coraline watched raptly as the man vanished, and a dragon took his place.  The massive head lowered, eyes glowing with silvery light.  “Tell me, Mr. Wu…”  The voice rumbled with ancient thunder.  “Do you believe now?”

#

He couldn’t make his mouth work.  Or his legs.  Or his hands.  Stars appeared before his eyes and he realized he’d actually forgotten to breath.  He drew a ragged breath, then another.  The dragon shifted, once again becoming the dapper little oriental man.  Mr. Ishi raised an amused eyebrow in his direction.  “I…”  Sean swallowed.  “You’re a dragon.”

“I am.”  He smiled.

“You’re a dragon.”  Coraline was staring.  “You’re an actual…”  She blinked.  “You didn’t have wings.  Can you fly?  Can you breathe fire?  Can you —”  She cut herself off.

“Yes.  And yes.”  Mr. Ishi smiled, then winked at her.  “And yes.”  He looked back up at Sean.  “I can also protect your family, Mr. Wu.”

“I guess…”  Sean looked at his wife.  She was still pale, but she nodded.  He looked back at the dragon.  “You’ve got yourself an accountant.”

“Marvelous.”  Mr. Ishi turned toward Stasya.  “I could also use talented individuals in my security team, Madam Petrov.  My offer extends to you as well.”

“I…”  She took a deep breath.  “I accept.”

“Excellent.”  He smiled.  “You’ll find a jet waiting for you down there…”  He pointed at the town in the distance.  “At the local airport.  The pilot’s name is Reginald.  Do wipe your feet before you get inside.  He is ever so fussy about keeping it immaculate.”  Mr. Ishi bowed.

And then, just like that, he was gone.  Sean stared at the spot he’d been only a moment before.  “A dragon…”  He swallowed.  “Just hired me to do bookkeeping.”

“A dragon…”  Lidia slowly got to her feet.  “Has taken an interest in our son.”

“Perhaps it is best…”  Stasya nodded.  “We learn the nature of said interest.”

“Agreed.”  Sean glanced at the house.  “Alright, everyone get your stuff.  We’ve uh…”  He rubbed his neck.  “Got a plane to catch.”

#

Lidia stared.  The house was lovely.  Mr. Ishi had kept his word thus far.  Their belongings had arrived two days ago, carefully and meticulously packed.  They’d accepted the mover’s aid in getting the heavier furniture where they wanted it, but she’d declined their help with the rest.  She’d been uncomfortable at first with the nature of both the offer and their benefactor himself.

The items that held her gaze had changed that.  Every year, on their birthdays, she’d had her children stand against a different door frame and marked their heights.  When her own mother had died, James had ridden on his bike nearly twenty miles to the house she’d grown up in and had stolen one of her mother’s old rosebushes for her.  The mouldings with their carved marks and the carefully potted rosebush sat in the corner.  Monsters wouldn’t have understood.  “Thank you.”

“I hope that means the accommodations are to your satisfaction?”  Mr. Ishi raised an eyebrow.

“You’ve…”  She nodded.  “I know you must have had your own reasons, but I do appreciate all you’ve done.”

He nodded to the backyard, where Coraline was making friends with the two dalmatians owned by their new neighbors.  “It does an old soul good to see children smiling.  I fear I do not have the opportunity as often as I would like.”

“Next week I’ll take her to look at schools.  Let her settle in a bit first.”  She sighed.  “Let us all settle in a bit first.”

“Ah, that reminds me.”  He produced a couple folders from, as near as she could tell, thin air, and set them on the table.  “I believe I mentioned private schools?”

“You…”  She blinked.  She’d discounted those at first, but then again, with the money Adam had sent, they could afford to send Coraline to the best school available.

“There are two I would recommend.  Coraline, however, may prefer this one.”  He moved one of the folders closer to her.  “They have a focus on art and music, as well as a thriving drama program.  And…”  He opened the folder.  “Their science department actually maintains a small zoo.”

“Well now…”  She laughed a little, then it faded.  “Adam would want her in a place like this.”

“He is a strong young man.  Stronger than I gave him credit for, and clever.”  He nodded to her.

“You’re…”  She hesitated.  “You came to us because you are looking out for him.”  She met his eyes.  “Why?”

“I fear the answer to that question, Mrs. Wu, would greatly increase the danger to all of —”

“He’s my son, Mr. Ishi.”  She folded her arms.  “Do you have children?”

“I…”  Something flickered across his features.  “Yes.”

Her stomach dropped as realization came to her.  “Adam’s father.  Haru.  He…”

“It would be best, Mrs. Wu, if you discontinued this line of reasoning.”  His voice was gentle rather than threatening.  “For Adam’s sake.”

The memory of the man’s true form filled her eyes for a moment, then she nodded.  “Do they have horses?”  She swallowed past the lump in her throat.  “Coraline has always wanted to learn how to ride.”

#

Her condo was a simple one-bedroom apartment on the second floor.  She could see the Wu family residence from the balcony.  The complex had a pool and a gymnasium, and Coraline had already stated her intention of coming over to visit for the express purpose of using the former.  The Wu’s were in their backyard now, apparently trying to decide how they wanted to set up their patio furniture.

Even after unpacking, the place was still virtually empty.  She put Patrick’s things in the hall closet.  It was silly, but she couldn’t bear disposing of them.  She’d left his rifle for Adam, but Patrick’s extra handguns were in the drawer beside her bed.  Lidia had brought her a painting the day after their belongings had arrived.  It was a simple landscape, but she recognized the signature of the artist.  Adam’s work.  Lidia had followed it up by insisting she come to their Sunday family dinners as often as possible.  “You need troubleshooter.”

“There are occasionally troubles I would like to have shot.”  Mr. Ishi nodded.  “However, if you would prefer to remain local, arrangements can be made.”

“Just until they settle in, are comfortable.  I made promise to Adam.”  Stasya turned to face him.  “After that…”

“After that…”  He took a deep breath.  “Not all who fall afoul of groups like the cabal are lucky enough to find shelter with werewolves.  I could use someone to help me with…”  He smiled.  “Retrieval.”  Before she could speak, he held up his hand.  “Given that it is in Adam’s best interest that the Cabal not learn he spared your life, you would not be dealing with them.  There are other groups though, some just as dangerous.”

“I’m in.”  She nodded.

“Just like that?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“You know my background, Mr. Ishi.  You know why I joined Cabal.  I was fool.  Thought them different.  Thought them…”  She shook her head.  “They became monsters in their search for power.”  She smiled, a bit of bitterness in the expression.  “You were always a powerful monster.”

He laughed softly.  “That is, I suppose, one way to put it.”

“I am not good.  Neither are you.  I want to do good.  So, I think, do you.”  She shrugged.  “I think that is reason enough to work for you.  And there is work to do.”

“I have always admired Russian pragmatism.”  He inclined his head.  “Let me know when you are ready, Madam Petrov.  There is, indeed, work to be done.”

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Primitive: Chapter 17 – The End

“I punched the harbinger of the apocalypse in the face.”  Christophe sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall.

“Ragnarok.”  Lykos shrugged.

“I punched the harbinger of the Ragnarok in the face.”  Christophe kept staring at the wall.

“Not the Ragnarok.  Just Ragnarok.”

“I punched Jörmungandr in the face.”

“Was good punch too.”  Lykos grinned at him.

“I punched a dragon, in the face.”

“You know, if was going to punch a dragon, he was right choice.”  Lykos patted his shoulder.  When Christophe slowly turned to look at him, Lykos shrugged.  “He think it funny, respect your guts.  Other dragons?  They just set you on fire.  Or bit off head.”

“Your grandfather is the World Serpent.”  He exhaled.

Lykos shifted to sit next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder before pulling Christophe in.  “You should sleep.  Was big day.  Nearly got brain fried, nearly nuked, punched dragon, rode off on back of dragon…”

“He flew from Colorado to Holland in less than six minutes.  I can’t even…”  Christophe shook his head.  “We should not have been able to survive the G-forces involved with going that fast.”

“You ride dragon, and you worry about g-strings?”  Lykos tilted his head.

“G—”  He turned to stare at Lykos.  “There you go.  Thinking you’re funny.”  He smiled a little.

“I…”  Lykos put a hand on his chest.  “Am hilarious.”

“Yeah…”  Christophe shook his head.  “Like the plague.”

“Bah.”  Lykos lay back on the bed, pulling Christophe down with him.  Christophe shifted so he was laying in Lykos’s arms, his head resting on Lykos’s chest.  Lykos stroked his hair gently.  “Are you okay, my Christophe?”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Strange as…”  He swallowed.  “I am.”

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 16

Lykos tossed the last soldier into the room, then slammed the door.  It took only a heartbeat of concentration to seal the metal door into the metal frame.  “I want you to know, I did not kill anyone getting in here.”  He tilted his head.  “Except that doctor.  May have broken her skull.  A bit.”

“I, uh…”  Christophe nodded to him as he pulled the pants up over his hips.  They were too big for him, so he had to cinch the belt tight.  “Yeah, I’m okay with that.”  He smiled, then checked the gun before putting it back into its holster.  “You weren’t hurt, were you?”

“I got buried by avalanche.”  Lykos stared at him.

“Yeah, but were you hurt?”  Christophe raised an eyebrow at him.

“A.  Va.”  Lykos narrowed his eyes.  “Lanche.”  He shrugged.  “Then forest fire.  Also, got shot.”

“Yes…”  Christophe drawled the word.  “But were you hurt?”

“Well…”  Lykos shook his head.  “No.  Not really.  Annoyed.  They stole my guns.”

“You stole them first.”  Christophe gestured to a corridor, and Lykos started down it.  Christophe followed.

“Not point.”

“I’m glad you’re alright, Lykos.”  Christophe’s quiet voice made him turn, and he saw Christophe giving him a shy smile.  “I, uh…”  He rubbed his neck.  “I was scared for you.”

“Scared for me?”  Lykos ran his knuckles down Christophe’s cheek.  “You were one nearly got brain fried.”  He tapped Christophe’s nose.  “Come.  Which way go now?”

“I was kind of out of it when they brought me in here, but uh…”  Christophe pointed.  “These are all laid out similar —”  He cut off at the sound of footsteps heading their way.  “And since that is the way the reinforcements are coming from…”

“I may have to kill —”  Lykos started to put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder.  The alarm blared into life as all the lights in the area started blinking red.  “Christophe?”

“Yeah, that uh…”  Christophe shook his head.  “That’s not good.”

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 15

“One would think at some point in the past few centuries you would have learned patience.”  Lykos growled at Jormun, who just rolled his eyes.  Jormun continued, ignoring the growling sound.  “Christophe has been moved back to the military base.  He is still sedated.”

He didn’t miss Jormun’s small frown.  “Why still sedated?  Is no need sedate Christophe.”

“Captain Guerin’s orders.  Christophe is to remain sedated until he can be transported to a secure medical facility.”  Jormun set his cell phone down.  “It is possible —”

“He called out warning to me.”  Lykos started pacing.  When Jormun raised an eyebrow, Lykos sighed.  “Twice.  Yelled warning before first shot, yelled when rocks fell.”

“Stockholm —

“He is mine.”  Lykos shook his head and gave Jormun a furious look.  “He said he would stay with me.”

“And Lima Syndrome.”  Jormun exhaled.  “You developed feelings for your hostage.”

“Is not like that.”  Lykos glared.

“Or perhaps you’ve just become sentimental in your old age.”  Jormun stood.  “Lykos, you need to put this behind you.  If you care about the boy, let him be.  Let him go home to his family and —”

“He knows.”  Lykos clenched his fists.  Then he met Jormun’s eyes.  “He knows his father killed innocent people.  Shot the deputies.  Murdered them.”  Lykos waved a hand.  “Send them after me then kill them for going after me.  Cannon fodder.”

“There are reasons for our rules, Lykos.  And one of those reasons is men like Guerin.”  Jormun sighed.  “Come.  It is time to —”

“No.”  Lykos shook his head.  Then he started for the door.

“Lykos.”  Jormun called after him.  “Lykos, where do you think you are going?”

“To get my Christophe.”  He grabbed the door handle and started to open it.  The door slammed shut again.  He turned toward Jormun.  “He is mine.”

“If you persist in this, Lykos…”  Jormun’s eyes narrowed.  “I may have to take measures.”

“Defending is allowed.”  Lykos glared.

Jormun sighed, then nodded.  “Exercise discretion.”  The door clicked open behind him.  “And good luck.”

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 14

“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”  Christophe narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“You doubt me?”  Lykos gave him a wide-eyed look of shock, but the corners of his mouth twitched just a little.

“There is no such thing as a were-beagle.”  Christophe folded his arms.

“Just the one.”  When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos shrugged.  “Never gamble with pixie.  Always with the thinking they are funny.”  He looked around the camp.  “Few days, jerky will be dry.”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Any chance we could get some pepper or —”

“We leave in five days.”  Lykos turned back toward Christophe.

Christophe blinked.  “What?”  He stared at Lykos for a moment, then his eyes widened.  “You mean…”

“Go Canada.  Find little town.  Cabin.  Get you television.”  He put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder.  “Maybe violin.”

“I, uh…”  He gave Lykos a hesitant smile.  “I would like to learn to play again.”  It took him several minutes to realize that travel would give him the opportunity for escape.  He could…

“Christophe?”  It took him a moment to realize Lykos was speaking to him again.  “Your eyes went away.”

“I was…”  Christophe exhaled, then touched the collar.  “A few nights ago, you forgot to lock my chain.”

“Did not forget.”  Lykos met his eyes calmly.

“You…”  He stared.  “You were testing me.  You…”  He took a deep breath, then stepped forward and shoved Lykos hard enough the man actually took a step back.  “You think taunting me with freedom is fucking funny?  In case you forgot, you fucking kidnapped me.  You…”  He felt the anger start to fade, and that pissed him off again.  “Son of a bitch.”

“Hey.”  Lykos poked him in the chest.  “I not insult your mother.”

“I…”

“You can write.  Drop letter in mail on way.  What you tell her is your choice.”  Lykos squeezed his shoulder.  “I will not read letter.  If…”  Lykos hesitated a moment.  “If when time to go, you want to go a different way…”  He met Christophe’s eyes again.  “I will take off chains.”

“You…”  He swallowed.  “You’d let me go?”

“Yes, Christophe.  If you want to go…”  Lykos sighed.  “I will let you go.”

“I…”  It was Christophe’s turn to hesitate.  “But then you’ll go after my father again.  You won’t…”  He looked away.  “You’ll kill people.”

“Is possible.  Is also possible they will leave me alone and I will not have need kill people.”

“Let me think about it.”  Christophe couldn’t believe he’d just said that.  Lykos was offering to…  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Let me think about it.”

“Take all time need.”  Lykos patted his shoulder before heading into the cave.

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 13

“I won’t be part of this.”  Ruarc glared at the duchess.

“You’ll do as I tell you.”  She narrowed her eyes at him.

“I’ll not help you torture a man.”  He shook his head, noting that Jurgen was watching him.  With the guard present, there was little he could do to help the man at the moment.  And with the man’s companion still threatened, Jurgen wouldn’t come to his own defense.  He’d let Durante push him toward the pillory.  The man was willing to be tortured to save his friend.  That alone told him which side he should be on.  He turned, and walked away.

“Ruarc.”  Her voice came after him.  “There will be consequences for this.”

He ignored her, and continued up the stairs.  Ignoring her felt…  Freeing.  Ruarc took a deep breath, and headed back toward the dungeon.  The blond man was pacing his cell, his expression furious.  He glared when he saw Ruarc.  “If that man is harmed, I will see this castle and all its inhabitants wiped from the face of the world.”

“He’s feisty.”  One of the two crossbowmen chuckled.

The man in the cell also wasn’t afraid.  At least, not for himself.  Ruarc took a deep breath as he walked toward the nearest of the crossbow men.  Then he grabbed the man by the throat, spun him to catch the crossbow, and fired it into the second man.  The second man fell back, the bolt sticking out of his chest.  He screamed.  The first man tried to strike at Ruarc, and Ruarc shoved him into the wall and brought his other hand in to gain leverage.  Then he snapped the man’s neck.  He turned toward the screaming man, and finished him off with a sword thrust before bending down to retrieve the keys.

“You…”  Markus was staring at him.

Ruarc turned the key in the lock.  “They’ll have heard that.  Grab a weapon.”

Immediately, Markus obeyed.  Ruarc picked up a shield and tossed it to Markus before picking up another and strapping it to his own arm.  He exchanged a brief nod with the other man as a group of guards came to investigate, then moved in alongside Markus to attack.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 15

Daniel tried not to be nervous as the door opened.  Meeting a dragon was so far down the list of things he’d thought he’d ever get to do.  And that was the list he’d made after he’d started dating a werewolf.  The man on the other side of the door was…

Actually kind of a disappointment.  He looked like an ordinary man.  Maybe 5’3”, about Ted’s age, and some flavor of oriental.  He thought Japanese.  The name had sounded Japanese.  Actually, he looked a little like George Takei, so Japanese was most likely.  And he was rambling in his own head.  He tried to focus.

The dragon, Ryuu, actually greeted Magda with a kiss on the cheek.  And ignored Matthias entirely as he stepped back to let them all enter.  Magda took off her shoes as soon as she entered, and the others all immediately followed suit.  “Welcome, welcome.”  Ryuu gave a small bow.  “Let me start by assuring you, I have absolutely no interest in harming any of you lovely people.”  He closed the door behind them.  “Or Matthias.”

“Forgive me if I’m slightly relieved, Ryuu.  It’s been rather eventful lately.”  Magda offered him the wine Ted had picked out, and Ryuu made some appropriate noises of gratitude as he accepted it.

“Truly.”  Ryuu nodded.  “You know for all the fussing the Western division has been doing lately I expected something better than that tired old anti-christ thing.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Two thousand years.  You’d think they’d get a new gimmick.”  He gestured toward archway that led to what looked like a dining room.  “But business can wait until after we’ve eaten.”  He crouched a little to look Anna in the eye.  “Milady, I won’t be offended if your condition prevents you from partaking.  I arranged a fruit tray just in case, with extra bananas.”

She smiled.  “I like bananas.”

“You are a woman of excellent taste.”  He nodded to her before standing again and walking into the dining room.

“He’s being friendly…”  Michaels gave Magda a concerned look.

“He says he’s not here to hurt us…”  Magda smiled reassuringly.  “Then he’s not here to hurt us.  Right now we’re probably safer than we’ve been in the past year.”

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 14

“You know, I actually thought this task was going to take all day.”  Ted looked around the room.  With Gabriel having to work, he’d planned on renting some hand carts or perhaps even a pallet jack to get the truck unloaded.

“We keep Matthias around for a reason.”  Daniel grinned at him.  “God, Ted, this place is awesome.  I wish my hometown had something like this.”  He ran a hand down the machine in front of him.  “Why pinball?”

“Once, a long time ago, I was a child.”  Ted chuckled.  “Used to love it.  When I saw these up on an auction website I couldn’t resist.”  He pointed.  “The game consoles have been in here a while, and get used so much I have to replace the controllers every couple months.  I thought perhaps they might enjoy these as well.”

“Alright.”  Matthias slid out from under one of the machines.  “That’s the last one.  Everything should be working.”  He stood.  “I remember when these things were everywhere.”  He tilted his head.  “Kind of craving a malt now.”

“Oh, almost forgot.”  He headed over to the storage closet.  “I know Anna wants to go to the fair, but in her condition that much walking might not be wise.”  It took him a moment to pull the item he was looking for free, then he pushed it toward Daniel.  “This might help.”

“She might object to being pushed in a wheel —”  Daniel cut off as Ted offered him the bright pink bike horn with attached streamers.  “Yep, that’ll work.”

“Hey, Ted…”  Matthias shrugged.  “How much does it cost you to run this joint?”

Ted shrugged.  “Less than you might think.  Erilon, through methods I really prefer not to think about, has managed to keep the licensing fees pretty minimal and we do get donations.  Plus most of the labor is volunteer.”

“Generous as you’ve been to us…”  Matthias shrugged.  “Like to make a donation.”

“That’s not necessary.”  Ted smiled.  “Given your situation, it would be best to conserve your resources.”

“Money ain’t one of our problems.  The whole uh…”  Matthias rubbed the back of his neck.  “Being one of the good guys thing is sort of new to me.  Might be one of the reasons I’m not great at it.”  He shrugged.  “Lot of people out there willing to pay a guy like me a hell of a lot of money to get shit done.”

“You…”  Ted exhaled.  “You’re telling me you used to be an assassin.”

“Among other things.”  Matthias nodded.

“Not really sure what to say to that.”  Ted exhaled.  “Well, Matthias…”  He shrugged.  “There will be a lot of charities at the fair, some of which do better work and are much more desperate for funds than I am.  If you are looking to buy some forgiveness, that would be a good place to start.”

(more…)