The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
They were such a mismatched pair. First there was Jason Magwier; diminutive and scheming, his close cropped hair was dark brown, his gaze was as unblinking as it was mournful. Then there was Zeth; cool-eyed, muscular with his graying dreadlocks tied back with a bit of ribbon, his clothes were loose fitting enough to hide his two shoulder holsters and the blade he kept hidden up his sleeve. When he moved it was with an almost feline grace, his ebony skin was marked with old scars.
The men had many adversaries and a great number of them snidely dismissed Zeth as Magwier’s bodyguard. Both men would bristle at such accusations. After all hadn’t they both been saving each other’s lives for over a decade? Hadn’t they explored countless forgotten realms, fought against otherworldly unstoppable menaces and been banned from almost every poetry slam on the west coast?
All this was true and more, but it didn’t change the fact that at this moment, on the long and winding street known as Route d'Abbaye, that Zeth was the only thing keeping Magwier from being throttled by his girlfriend.
“The Lunts?” Lorelei shouted. “You brought me out here to protect the Lunts?”
Zeth was standing in front of the girl, the silver-plated maul he had slung over his right shoulder looked ridiculous.
“Erm...” Magwier said sheepishly, “...in a manner of speaking, yes.”
“Goddess Damnit!” She dove at her lover, he dodged to safety, “The fucking Lunts?”
“Just hear me out!” Magwier said.
Lorelei was jumping up and down with rage, “Give me that hammer Zeth! Just for five minutes.”
Zeth shook his head, “No.”
“Give me that hammer or I swear I’ll turn you into a newt.”
“A newt... right.”
“A big black newt but it’ll be a newt!”
The windows of the nearby brownstones were either barred or smashed open, some had lights burning in them but most were dark. A car passed by the trio and while the roar of its engine didn’t drown out Lorelei’s shouts it made some of her more obscure profanities harder to recognize.
“Now, now,” Magwier kept walking and talking, leading Lorelei and Zeth into a parking lot. It was half empty and some of the cars were covered with decades of dust and grime, “I told you Dr. Flesh is on a paid, one night only killing spree. I just didn’t specify his targets.”
Zeth rolled his eyes.
“You always do this!” Lorelei spoke through clenched teeth, “You give us little nibbles but never enough to let us see the full story.”
Magwier paused and stared off philosophically, “Maybe there is no big story. Maybe life is just a series of interlocking vignettes.”
That only made Lorelei madder, she tried to kick him with her clunky boots but he was too fast, “I am not going to risk my neck for that clan of inbred, monkey-worshipping pigfuckers!”
Zeth snickered at that.
“Please-” Magwier said, “I think you’re judging the situation too harshly.”
“The Lunts are a pack of deviants and criminals.”
“Not all. One of them is a Notary Public.”
“They tried to assassinate my mother six times and have been gunning for me since I was twelve. And of course how could we forget the very bottom of the Lunt family gene pool- Jack Diamond? I guess this means that we’re going to try and save the man that beat me eight ways to Sunday and tried to rape one of my best friends?”
Magwier shrugged, “Probably.”
“We should have killed him by now. I should have killed him.”
This was a familiar argument. Lorelei wanted Jack Diamond dead and wasn’t afraid to do the job herself. She wasn’t even twenty yet but she’d taken more lives than she cared to think about. She liked to think most of her victims had deserved it. “They’re evil,” she said, “and utterly ruthless.”
Magwier stopped so suddenly that Lorelei crashed into him, “Exactly. So who would dare try and kill them all? What if it’s someone worse? What if they succeed?”
It seemed like all of the street had gone quiet. Lorelei opened and closed her mouth several times before sighing with resignation, “What now?”
“Well,” Magwier said, “we’ve got one Hell of a hammer.”
Now it was Zeth’s turn to sigh heavily, “So you did plan that whole thing.”
“That’s the beauty of a serendipity spirit. Everything we need will be here on this one street, every player in this little series of vignettes won’t be able to leave until sunrise.”
Lorelei cocked an eyebrow, “Including us?”
“Well, yes,” Magwier grinned.
“So if everything goes to Hell we won’t be able to get away?” Lorelei said, “We’ll be stuck running up and down the same damn street like rats in a really shitty maze?”
“Errrr... I don’t really see it that way.”
“Damn right you don’t. You never do.” Lorelei cast a glance at Zeth. “am I right? Back me up here.”
Zeth shrugged, “I’m sure he has everything under control...” He paused, “Nope. I can’t even say that with a straight face.”
“And you do realize one of my roommates is a Lunt right?” Lorelei’s face paled.
“By marriage only,” Jason said. “Besides I sent her off on a fools errand. Audra is too far away to get caught up in my little web of circumstance.”
“Now come along,” he led them from the half-abandoned parking lot, “I have an idea where our quarry might be.”
“Oh!” Lorelei caught up to him again, “Darling...”
“Yes, my sweet?” Magwier turned on his heel.
And Loreleu laid him out flat with a single punch. “My other roommate Judy is the one that’s a Lunt you puking beetle-headed scullion!”
By the time Magwier had gotten back to his feet she had stormed off. “She hit me,” he said as he dabbed at his split lip, “Zeth why did you let her do that?”
Zeth shrugged, “I’m not your bodyguard.”