Episode 01 - The Food Critic Outlaw

Bounty hunting is most certainly not a fun job. Especially not in New Central City USA, where only the most coldblooded killers of the lot can ever hope to catch a bounty, and where this particular series of tales takes place. We start, oddly enough, with our hero ordering at his local Chinese restaurant.

'Give me a break here, Chan! I haven't eaten since yesterday. Yesterday morning, at that.' yelled a man dressed in a plain white shirt, black pants and a red gun holster around his left shoulder.

'Please, Feld, you have already run a tab twice that of the allowed limit. No more loaned lunches!' responded the Chinese man behind the counter making stir fry. Feld took a seat and rested his elbow on the counter.

'Well, what about breakfast? Can I have that?'

'It's 7pm! No more breakfast, brunches, lunches or dinners until you pay off your tab.'

'Can I at least stay and eat the complimentary peanuts?' By the time Chan looked in his direction, Feld had already grabbed a fist full and stuffed them down his throat.

'No, get out! I have paying customers that I have to attend to.' Feld sat silently for a moment before picking up a peanut, holding it in front of his right eye and staring at it intently.

'Got any information?' he asked with an insincere smile. The second the food landed back in Chan's pan, he turned his attention to Feld.

'Whatever do you mean?' said Chan, nervously. Feld threw the peanut into the air and focused his gaze on Chan.

'Don't play coy with me. I saw it on your face the second I walked in here.' He sneered, reached out his hand and caught the falling peanut without laying an eye on it.

'I really don't know what you're talking about, Feld.' A single drop of sweat escaped from a pore on Chan's forehead and made a run for it, as if Feld's stare was too much to handle. Finally, Chan broke under the pressure.

'Fine, fine. Bobby Xing Lao has a scheduled dinner reservation for 9pm.'

'Huh?' let out Feld with a perplexed face. He wagged his finger and nodded his head dissentingly.

'My Chan, the very man who has been keeping me fed for the last ten years (until recently of course) has stumbled upon a lead to finding and apprehending one of the most dangerous outlaws and harsh food critics in all of New Central? No, no, I won't allow it! I'll just take this information off your hands and you will not need to worry one bit-'

'Please, Feld!' he interrupted. 'Do not try to apprehend him while he's eating at my restaurant. I'm still trying to replace the walls from the last time you had a shootout here! Besides, Bobby Xing Lao is a respected man in this area and his approval may drive my business through the roof. If possible, can you at least wait a few days before catching him?'

'I'll have to think about that one. What have you ever done for me?' After seeing Chan's face slowly melt into an angry frown, he laughed off the comment.

'I'm kidding, tehe.'

'Now please leave.' said Chan, turning back to his kitchen.

'Whoa, wait. This sucker Bobby Xing Lao is worth at least ten grand. Maybe we could split it?'

'You cannot put a price on his recommendation!'

'Alright, alright.' Feld got to his feet, put his hands in his pockets and slowly slinked towards the exit. Before reaching for the door handle, his finger drifted to his chin, where it rested thoughtfully.

'Bobby Xing Lao is a dangerous outlaw, no doubt about it.' he thought to himself. 'What if something were to go wrong, and Chan was caught in the cross fire? What if he doesn't like the food and decides to "off him" in some cruel and unusual way? Gangsters can be pretty unpredictable.' As he stood there scratching his chin, he imagined Chan being rolled up in a carpet and thrown of a bridge by a bunch of stereotypical 1950s mob goons. The fedora, the suit, the obligatory Italian accent, you name it. 'Or maybe something much, much worse like-'

'Feld!' Chan interrupted. 'Are you going to leave or are you going to stand there mumbling to yourself?' Finally, he left the restaurant with the sign reading "Chan's Classic" over it.

2 hours later...

Chan nervously watched as Bobby Xing Lao, a well built man dressed in a fancy white suit, separated two chopsticks and went to pick up a piece of sour pork from the luscious dish below.

A droplet of sweat dripped down Chan's temple as he watched the food near Bobby's lips. Two goons wearing sunglasses sat to his left and right with their arms tightly crossed. Chan couldn't tell where they were looking, nor did he care.

Meanwhile, Feld leaned back in the front seat of his ill maintained Fiat Panda and gripped both cups of his headphones. All he could hear through the speakers was a tense silence and the occasional clearing of someone's throat. Suspicious of this dead air, Feld snuck a peak from his car window at the Chan's Classic restaurant across the street.

'Oh, god, I hope they haven't whacked him in a cruel and unusual way.' he muttered to himself, unable to make anything out inside the building.

At last, the sour pork reached the inside of Bobby's mouth, where it was carefully chewed with a look of deep thought on his face, as if he was contemplating some deep philosophy.

Chan's pores erupted in perspiration as he patted down his forehead with a napkin. This moment of food tasting seemed to last an eternity to Chan, who eagerly awaited some sort of response from the outlaw Bobby Xing Lao.

Bobby's eyes closed as if he had ascertained a peace of mind found only by shoaling monks. On Feld's headphones only the sounds 'chew, chew, chew, cheeew,' could be heard at a worryingly loud volume.

Both Feld and Chan's eyes widened as they heard 'gulp'. Bobby kept his eyes closed as he reached for a napkin and gently wiped his lips.

'That was...' said Bobby in a smooth, drawl voice. The sides of Chan's mouth perked upwards as he leaned forward in suspense.

'...rather lackluster.' he continued, opening his eyes half way. 'Not the worst dish I've had, certainly, but definitely not something I can recommend with a straight face.' Chan's smile plummeted and he dropped onto his knees.

Bobby reached into his wallet, took out a twenty dollar bill and rose from his seat, as did his two goons.

'I must be going.' said Bobby, leaving the money on the table. 'I have another dinner reservation. I'm sure my review of your food won't affect your business, or your confidence as a cook, too badly.'

Chan quivered at his knees and stared straight forward, still trying to comprehend what he had heard over a hundred words ago. Bobby and his two goons turned to face the main entrance when a man walked through the doors with an expression of contempt on his face.

'I know Chan's food isn't the best in the world, but it's rather rude to form an opinion after one bite.' said Feld.

'And who might you-' said Bobby, noticing the gun holster. 'Are you a-' Bobby continued, 'bounty hunter?' As if offended by the term, Bobby's goons reached inside their suit jackets and pulled their Glocks on Feld.

However, before they could even get their finger on the trigger, Feld had already drawn and fire two shots at the goons, hitting them in the right arms. The first goon's sense of direction went wild, sending his gunshots into random locations in the restaurant.

The second goon's handgun dropped from his hand immediately and crashed against the floor. He followed shortly after. Chan dived under the table as the first goon continued to fire randomly into the ground. Eventually, he passed out and dropped face first into the dish of "rather lackluster" sour pork.

Bobby Xing Lao stood in amazement at the shooter's speed and accuracy. Feld watched Bobby's quivering hand as it hovered half-way inside his suit jacket. Feld waged his finger left and right.

'I wouldn't do that if I were you.' he said. 'I'm bringing you in, Xing Lao. We can settle this peacefully or-' Fend's eyes skip across the two goons lying in their own blood.

'Okay, the ship may have sailed for them, but me and you can settle this peacefully.' Bobby's eyebrows arched inwards and the veins in his forehead looked as if they were about ready to burst.

'You have disgraced me and my men. One of us will die here tonight, bounty scum!' shouted Bobby. Feld rolled his eyes.

'What is it with New Central gangsters and honour anyway? Can't you just sell each other down the road like normal crime syndicates, please?' Bobby screamed from the bottom of his lungs, swiftly pulled out his Glock and dived over the counter.

The front windows shattered from Bobby's handgun fire, and the kitchen appliances behind him burst with water and food from Feld's. Feld tipped over one of the tables and used it as cover.

He peaked his head over the table in the moment of silence and inspected Bobby's surroundings. Hanging just above where Feld speculated Bobby hid was pans used to make stir fry. With one well-aimed shot, Feld hit the peg it was hanging on, leaving it to fall to the ground below.

The pan dropped onto Bobby's thumb, causing him to momentarily loose grip on his Glock. In the confusion, Feld jumped over the counter and caught him flinging his wrist from a sore thumb.

'Haha!' he let out, his shoulder sliding along the wet floor, 'Foiled by a stir fry pan. I'm sure there's some irony in there somewhere. Now drop the gun!'

With his eyes wide in disbelieve, Bobby dropped the gun and put his hands in the air.

'To think,' said Bobby, 'I meet my end at the gun barrel of a bounty hunter. How... lackluster.'

The next day...

Passed the smashed windows, broken entrance door and destroyed tables, Feld sat down at the counter of Chan's Classic with a jovial smile on his face. Chan stood in misery on the other side and shot Feld a dirty look.

'Cheer up, Chan. At least I saved your reputation. I don't think Bobby Xing Lao will be criticizing food from jail, that's for sure. Hey, and I can even afford to pay for my food today, how about that?'

'No, you don't. All ten thousand of it will go towards fixing my restaurant and paying off your tab.'

'Huh?' Chan reached under the counter and brought up a long strip of paper. He cleared his throat before speaking.

'With your tab paid for, the new glass and tables I will have to install and all the broken cooking equipment, it comes to 9,999 dollars.'

'Oh,' said Feld. 'Hey, I'm a victim here too! The bugs I planted were destroyed.' Chan grunted in annoyance.

'So... what can I get for a dollar?' asked Feld.


'What, in a lousy joint like this?'

Chan turned away from Feld and walked in the other direction.

'Well, can I at least get something on my tab?'

Another day, another bounty...