|The Living Flame
Author: xenolith PM
Everybody's looking for something in the Land of the Dead.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Romance - Words: 890 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 5 - Published: 08-28-11 - id: 2947283
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
CHAPTER ONE, Mexican Standoff
The bartender was reading War and Peace. He was under thirty, sandy-haired, freckled, jean jacket-clad, criminally tanned, uncommonly good-looking, and standing there, behind the bar, biting his fingernails and reading War and Peace. Pim cocked her head to one side, staring.
"I'm looking for someone," she said, by way of introduction.
"Yeah?" he said. "That's nice." Kept reading, half-way through.
"My name is Pim."
"Pendergast," she added.
He coughed. Pim tucked her hair back behind her ears. "You know, you remind me of someone. You look a little like him. Like the person I'm looking for. This guy."
"I get that a lot," he muttered at last, eyes never leaving the page.
"You don't even know who I'm talking about."
"Still," he shrugged. "I look like most guys girls are looking for. You're no different than any of the others who come in here. Believe me, it happens a lot."
Pim leaned down on the sticky surface of the bar. "I'm not flirting with you, if that's what your saying."
"No," he said, airily. He raised his eyebrows a little and smirked. He still hadn't noticed her. Pim felt vaguely put out.
She looked around instead. The Boilerhouse. A little off the beaten track, surrounded by dark streets, black alleys, metal fences and deserted bus stops. Every second streetlight had gone out, and the few that remained flickered with the dregs of life. It seemed colder in this part of town as well, if that was possible. Like there was some kind of seal around the district that kept the miserable cold trapped inside.
"You ever get any prospectors through here?" Pim asked the bartender.
"Some," he said.
"What about renegades?"
"Don't know what you mean," said the bartender.
"What about," Pim looked for the right word, "traders?"
"We get all kinds of folk passing through." He turned the page. The sleeves of his jacket were rolled up almost to his elbow, and his arms were a golden brown. He was good at this, Pim realized. Evasion.
"I need to find someone. A trader. His name is Cole. Greg Cole." She waited for him to say something, but he didn't. "Do you know of him?"
The bartender shook his head.
"What about Martin Jamieson?"
"Nope," he said.
She got the feeling he was lying to her. His eyes stopped moving, stopped roving the page of his book. They stilled, which meant he was thinking. Of what, though? Pim hopped off her high stool and moved closer to him. She slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out a few dull gold coins. Placing them down on the bench, she said, "Come on. Why don't you have another think about it."
His gaze moved to her face, and very slowly, he picked the coins up and held them in his hand. The bartender stared at her, she raised her chin and stared back.
Then he shrugged. "I'm sorry. I can't help you."
Pim wrinkled her nose. Wanker, she thought, turning her back on him. How typical. Bartenders were all the bloody same. Self-serving, fence-sitting weasels.
Looking around again, she tried to find another lead. It was too much of a risk to leave without any answers. She knew the neighborhood had a reputation; Pim was counting on it. They had to be here. She just didn't know where.
But something didn't seem right. The room had thinned out, and tables that were full a moment ago were now empty. Men disappeared and those left were suddenly subdued. The old guy sitting at the bar next to her was hunched over, intent on his drink as if it held all the secrets of the after-life. A hush settled over the bar, a stillness that chilled her blood.
Pim sensed movement out of the corner of her eye. She made for her knife a second too late. Heavy hands closed around her thin shoulders, and before she could scream her feet left the floor and she was pulled backwards onto the bar.
A sombre face peered down at her. "You must be Pim," the man said, and a blade appeared at her throat. "The teenage assassin from the Shadow Mountains. I've heard a lot about you."
She swallowed, eyes on the steel. "And you must be Cole," said Pim, heart hammering. "The soul trader from Permios. You have something of mine, and I want it back."
"You're hardly in a position to make demands. I could slit you in a second and drain your blood into a pint glass."
"Do that," said a quiet voice, "and I'll shoot you where you stand and feed your body to the wolves."
Cole stiffened and half-turned. Pim glanced up as best as she could. The bartender stood at the end of the bar with a shotgun pointed at the trader's chest. They regarded each other with sour expressions.
"Is that the best you've got?" said Cole.
"What can I say, I'm a traditionalist," said the bartender. "Now back the fuck up."
Maybe she was wrong about bartenders.
Experimental piece and a work in progress.