My Only Offer

It smells funny in here. My head feels lighter, swimmy, and my eyes keep rolling up to watch the languid loops of smoke overhead. The ceiling is spotty with water and things that look like hands and faces pressed through from above.

The Vermilion Quin isn't crowded. Stragglers waver in the distant corners, clutching glasses and hanging their heads. They seem to be not so much people as the shadows of people that peeled off and stuck to the seats. Only one person looks animate; and it's the kind of animate like a kinked-string puppet lunging at you over the floor.

Loki grips my hand and pumps it, "Little Laika, princess of the pup-pups, what a surprise. To what do I owe the illustrious honor?" He swings me over to a booth lined with black coffin silk and motions me to sit. "Tell me," he says as he sits across the mug print-whorled table, "where have you been? You have missed quite the purse in your absence. A commission to keep you in Crayola non-toxics for an age."

I shrug.

His head bobbles on his shoulders as if it were liable to topple right off. "Ah, so you have already heard of it. No need to be jealous. Did you hear, then, of the magnificent noir vehicle and greasy escort to drop it off? Did you hear of how my friends proceded to then negotiate a price?" He winks, as if 'negotiate' were some dirty word he was indulging in especially for me.

The snow in my hood is melting. It seeps down my neck, along the nubs of my spine. I smile to cover the shiver and wriggle the backpack around to my side. Loki doesn't seem consciously interested, though his loose eye lolls in my general direction.

"But enough with such reminiscenses," he waves the memory away, shattering a smoke tendril in the wake of his wrist. "You haven't come to hear such things. You have come to ask a favor, yes?"

I nod.

"And that would be?"

"I... need," my voice crackles as if it were a microphone held too close to the source, "information?"

He doesn't speak. He's going to make me keep going.

"About the mayor? The, uhm, the bad one? I need to... find him."

His eye pivots, circling me, while the other narrows. "The city hall blew up. As did Mr. Mayor. Contact is now referred to more spiritual practices." He sounds like a message left on a corporate answering machine.

"Are, uhm, are you a spiritual person?" I ask.

He smiles: red and curdled and gummy when he pulls back his lip. In place of laughter, he says, "You're a funny girl."

I'm not sure whether to smile or cry.

Loki rakes a long-boned hand back through his silvered hair. His right eye rotates in a lazy arc, set spinning again whenever the man shakes his head. He snuffs when he's found his answer, like the chime when a file is recovered. "It seems I may have some information. Not cheap, but considering it's you, shouldn't be a problem."

My hands are shaking under the table. I squeeze them tight, grimacing a little, and nod. "The Groznys owe you a favor."

The End

615 comments about this story Feed