That should have been the last I’d heard of Allondir. I was lining up more clients, putting out ads, doing whatever it took to get by. I could do without repeat business from a creature like him.
Life isn’t that simple.
The following week, at nine minutes after eight in the morning, as I emerged from my shower, my scroll chimed. It was Allondir, on his personal line.
“What do you want?” I said.
“I…I just want to thank you again for what you did for me.”
“You can thank me by paying me,” I said. “My invoice said payment in full in net seven days.”
“Yes, yes. I transferred the cash yesterday. You should get it soon.”
“Good. Then we have nothing more to talk about.”
“I…” He cleared his throat. “I would like to hire you again.”
“Please, no, listen!” he said. “I really, really need your help.”
“Take your pity story elsewhere.”
“The triads. They, they want to talk to me again. Personally, that is.”
“Bully for you. Now hire someone else.”
“There’s no someone else. You’re the only one who’ll understand.”
“You’re mistaken. I don’t give a shit. Goodbye—”
“They know!” he shouted. “They know about…about…”
“The kid,” I said quietly.
“Yes!” He swallowed audibly, and lowered his voice to a whisper. “That shophouse…they own it. It’s wired up with microcams. They…they have me on video. Emailed me a copy, even. They are threatening to hand me to the cops.”
“And what do they want?”
“I’m supposed to travel around the region to assess potential business expansion sites for Savon-Bissau. They want me to recommend Bangkok to the higher-ups, then hand over control of the franchise to their people.”
“Sucks to be you,” I said. “Why can’t you handle negotiations remotely?”
“It’s…it’s Kang. He wants to see me in person, or the deal is off.”
“Too bad. Go to Bangkok yourself.”
“I can pay!” he said. “Double, hell, triple your fee!”
That gave me pause. There was a lot I could do with that kind of money. But from a guy like that?
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Yeah? You sure you can afford to turn me down? I did some digging around. I know what you did at Tarabulus.”
I bit my lip. Son of a bitch. The version of the Senate report on Tarabulus released to the public was a pared-down version of the copy sent to policymakers, with sensitive details redacted. Including my name. This guy had connections.
“You and your team got the Ambassador out,” he continued. “You guys were heroes. And you, my God, you lost your arms, your legs, your magic. But the Legion abandoned you, just like that.”
I could recognize a sales pitch when I heard one.
“We also disobeyed orders to stay put,” I said. “I make my own decisions now, and I still say—”
“Hey, just hear me out, okay? Those prosthetics of yours, those are top-shelf. Even I couldn’t tell that they were cybertech up close. It’s quality stuff, not the crap the government gives to wounded veterans. But I’m guessing your cyberware is expensive, at least as much as a used car. And with maintenance and refueling costs, lifetime costs will keep piling up. You need the money. I can give it to you.”
“I’ve got other clients lined up.”
“No you don’t,” he said. “You know who I am?”
“A child rapist.”
He snorted. “I’m a corporate executive at Savon-Bissau. I am of the Elder Race, and I remember the Cataclysm. I have friends in high places. You, you’re a washed-up nobody who lost his magic. If you take this job, I’ll pay triple your fee and recommend you to everybody I know. If you don’t, I’ll make sure everybody knows you abandoned me in Bangkok.”
“You are luc d’muinne,” I said. It was a curse in Salvorin that meant ‘shit of the earth’—and in most elven religions, all things return to and are accepted by the earth.
“Shit I may be, but you are less than shit. One word, just one word from me, and you’ll never find work again.”
Son of a bitch. The scroll warped and buckled in my fist.
“You still owe me payment from the first trip,” I said. “If I don’t see my money by end of business today, I’m not going to escort you up shit creek.”
“Oh, you’ll see it.”
“Also,” I added, “if I’m going to do this, I need to get some gear and hire some people. You will be paying for them.”
“Give me your receipts.”
I laughed. “What, you’re going to make an expense claim with your company?” I just about sensed him glowering at me over the line. “No. The kind of goods and services I’m talking about aren’t sold by people who issue receipts, if you know what I mean. Cash up front, nothing else.”
“C’mon, you’re busting my balls here.”
“Yeah, well, they got you into this mess, didn’t they?”
He sighed. Long and loud. “Fine. How much do you need?”
The rest was a question of price.
If you enjoy blending sci fi and fantasy, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.
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