The loud rumble of the train sent most visitors mad; the beastly thing should have been retired and upgraded years ago, but the city council had decided it was a pleasant reminder of times past. Convenient, Domino thought, that they lived on the North side of the city, far away from the rattling clamor of the train or the ashen plumes of smoke.
She’d hoped that tripling the fee would generously cover everyone’s fees and the expenses for the mission, but as per usual, there were further complications. Granted, the hooded stranger had already claimed no desire for payment, but Domino was not in the business of doing things in new ways. She had her reasons for doing things as she chose to do them, and Brother Tero would get his cut just like everyone else.
In the meantime, she was famished and needed a drink. The section of the city she was in was littered mostly with bars; a few high class restaurants nestled between like beams of holy light in the heaviest blackness. She ducked into the nearest bar and hung her coat up on the rack inside the door. The lighting was old-fashioned; pale yellow bulbs fastened into outlets, some dangling from the ceiling ensconced by patterned glass so the light twinkled and shifted on the ground.
The bartender addressed her without looking up, and she ordered Southern whiskey and whatever was on special. The grunt that bubbled from his throat was her only acknowledgement until a glass slid down the bar and bumped against her wrist.
Her mind wandered as she waited for her meal, trekking into territories she was not yet ready to accept, let alone ponder. She wiped them away with a few swigs of whiskey and tried not to take offense to the low-grade she’d been given. Another swig finished the glass and she slammed it on the counter to signal for a refill.
Her voice unchanged by the spreading fire in her throat, she said, “Give me the good whiskey, this time.”
“Bossy for a lady,” replied a voice from the far end of the counter, gruff and masculine; the speaker’s lungs lined with cancer from too much smoking.
“Nosy for a corpse,” she sneered, lighting up her own cigarette; the black paper glinted strangely in the foreign light.
“Is that a threat?” Indignation laced his voice, enough to draw her attention away from the empty glass before her.
Her black eyes shifted over, adjusting to the dimness and settling over his face within an instant; his high cheekbones and narrow nose, the slant to his brow that indicated his displeasure, the purse to his lips, the size of his Adam’s apple and the slow way it sank as he swallowed, all of it was filed away in her memory.
She smiled her favorite unsettling grin, an expert blend of arrogance and genuine amusement, and said, “If you want it to be.”
“What’s a woman that looks like you need to be so aggressive for?”
She shrugged, accepting the refilled glass of whiskey with a polite nod at the barkeep, and took a casual sip. “What’s a foolish twat like you need to open his fool mouth for?” She took a short puff on her cigarette and sighed, the smoke swirling inside of the whiskey glass as she tossed it down the back of her throat.
She swept her account card over the scanner and told the barkeep to cancel her food order. As she shrugged on her coat, she leveled her onyx gaze to the man that had spoken to her, and said, “You should have taken my offer; the cancer will be less merciful than I would have been.”
The door slammed behind her, echoing her disgruntled thoughts. She hated Earth; why was she there, again? She couldn’t wait to get off the hellish rock come dawn. A quick glance at her watch told her she had less than an hour to meet up with the group. She’d parked her rental bike in a lot a few blocks down, and the walk was crisp and pleasant. Even in the city there was almost no one on the streets and she passed the windows of bars and the canopies of restaurants uninterrupted. She stomped out her cigarette before she made her way into the parking structure.
Her bike was where she’d left it and she kicked it into gear, revving the engine with a soft, appreciative smile.
The abandoned factory she’d chosen as their meeting place was just over seventy-five meters outside of the city; nestled in the center of an uninhabited factory district long ago shut down. It took her about forty minutes to make the trip, going around a hundred meters per hour, but she didn’t mind the time. It gave her a few extra moments to go over all the details before she had to address anyone. She wondered who would show up first, and who she would want to kill on sight.