It was frustrating her how frequently her phone rang. It seemed Ezra, the man she’d spoken with in regards to Subject Zero, had no qualms giving her number to any random nitwit that decided a hundred thousand credits was worth making an amateur attempt at being a bounty hunter. Domino was not all right with that, and the longer it went on, the less all right she became, until a mild river of fury began to course through her veins.
She considered it mild because she hadn’t seen red yet, but where the rage began the crimson was never far behind. She lit a cigarette and continued to wait quietly in his office, the dim light hardly illuminating the extravagantly decorated room. She could easily make out the small constellations of street lights and apartment lights beyond the windows that lined the east wall.
Domino had been waiting for ten minutes. If she had to wait ten more, she’d put her cigarette out on his plush, chocolate brown leather office chair. Then she’d light another and do it again. Domino was not the kind of woman an intelligent man left waiting; unless he wished to have his things reduced to a pile of ashes. She took a very firm amount of pride in her ability to become void of humanity and compassion at will. Such a skill had served her well many times in years passed.
Just as she flicked ash onto his glossy oak desk, the door behind her opened and the illumination from the hallway flooded the room. She smiled into the remaining darkness beyond the desk as the door closed and steps approached her.
“Evening, Miss Flare,” purred a husky voice – one she recognized from their phone conversations. Ezra’s coruscating beryl eyes grazed over the ash pile on his desk but he said nothing.
“Domino,” she corrected, and ashed on the desk again, her expression unapologetic and impatient.
“What may I help you with at this hour?” He slid into his chair smoothly, setting a small stack of files to the side.
“You can stop giving my number to unqualified pedestrians.”
Her jaw shifted slightly, her indignation clear. “I said, quit giving a bunch of amateur prize-hunters my calling card. They’ve no business hunting your subject and I’ve no time to listen to them. If I receive one more call from an unqualified little twat, I’ll use you as a punching bag.” For a fitful moment, Ezra simply blinked at her. Astonishment did not suit his features, she noted. “Did I make myself clear, Ezra?”
He fumbled for a remote at the edge of his desk and dialed up the lights, presumably so he could read her expressions more readily. He cleared his throat and said, “I’m rather unused to being spoken to in such a way, Miss Flare.”
“I’m rather unused to giving a shit, Ezra. My name is Domino, not Miss Flare. I am not an associate of yours, I am a bounty hunter and pleasantries won’t make me like you.”
He sighed. “Ah, I see. I will re-direct inexperienced callers. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Yes,” she said, shifting in her seat to level her aphotic eyes directly onto his face. She settled her cigarette between her rouge lips and inhaled slowly, taking her time, making him wait. Through the dual plumes of smoke escaping her nostrils, she said, “You can double my fee.”
Again, Ezra was stunned into a brief silence before he found the right words. “My apologies, Domino, but that isn’t possible.”
“Then you can find another Hunter,” she said, leaning forward to stub her cigarette out on the glassy surface of his desk, knowing his eyes watched her every move but sparing him not a single glance.
“Do you know how expensive this desk is, Miss Flare? Very, in case you weren’t aware. The damage you so carelessly inflict on it is going to cost me quite a large sum.”
She smiled – all teeth and no humor. “Good, I was hoping that was the case.”
“This is not an appropriate way to do business.”
“Neither is it prudent to under pay those who are supposed to track, trap, and execute a problem as large as your subject.”
“The reward being offered is hardly underpaying, Miss Flare.”
Domino leaned back against the squeaky leather cushion of her seat. “Call me Miss Flare one more time and I will triple my fee.”
“We won’t pay, I’m afraid, Miss Flare,” he said, deliberately enunciating her name. “I’m under very strict orders.”
The same dark smile lifted her lips to expose her perfect teeth. “And I’m aiming a pistol at your genitals, Mister Corchuda.”
A silence that could have killed a man lingered between them as Ezra studied her face and her posture, attempting to decide if she was telling the truth. She was, of course; Domino had never made a threat she couldn’t back up.
To prove her point, she pulled the hammer back and smiled again, this time there was genuine humor in it. She was beginning to enjoy herself. A fresh cigarette had appeared pinched between her blood-red lips and now and then she took a drag, expelling the smoke from her delicate nose.
“Please,” she purred, imitating the liquid charm he’d attempted to layer through every conversation they’d ever had. “Call me Miss Flare one more time.”
His voice trembled when he asked, “What would you have me do?”
“Wire me the necessary funds,” she said - all traces of unpleasantness gone from her tone.
“I cannot get you double, let alone triple.” The first notable trace of fear leaked into his words.
“You’ll find a way, I’m sure,” she said, inhaling once more from her cigarette. The length of ash grew but did not crumble away. “What I am asking is not unreasonable if you want a proper team to hunt down such a prized and lethal criminal. Tell me, Ezra, what fool let him escape to begin with?”
He fumbled over his vowels. “I, I don’t know.”
She shrugged casually, “It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the loaded gun in my hand and the desk between us that would hardly slow the bullet down. Tell me again that you can’t get me the price I’m asking for, Ezra.”
“Let me make a call, will you?”
“Be my guest,” she said, relaxing into her chair without slackening her grip on the weapon.
The conversation that followed was brief – Ezra’s words were clumsy and nervous, but he made his case and listened quietly while the mysterious man on the other end scolded him for his carelessness. He murmured his regret into the receiver and hung it up delicately – as if afraid the man would hear it if he slammed the phone down into the cradle.
With a pleasant smile, Domino stubbed her cigarette out on a clean section of his desk and asked, “Have you secured the funds?”
A sheen of sweat glistened on Ezra’s forehead and he nodded, choking down a swallow of his own spit before forcing the words from between his lips. “I have, Domino. It will be wired to your account within the hour.”
“Marvelous!” She rose from her seat, flicking the safety into place on her handgun and sliding it into its holster along her spine. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Mister Corchuda, but you’ll understand if I say I hope I never have to see your ugly mug again.”
With a wink and delicate wiggle of her fingers, she left before he could blink.