Deal 1003: Race day

At the track, I always bet on the nose. It seems disrespectful to assume that anyone wants to do anything other than win. The race for second is substantially more unpredictable, and never mind at all about the race for third. Not that I won’t occasionally protect my investment with smaller bets. But I only care about the bet to win.

They ran well today, despite the troubles. Something odd was happening out of view of the paying customers. Something hateful and ugly. It had everyone on edge. But on edge is often a good thing, so I doubled my usual investment.

Then they found that vagrant. In two places. It is never a good thing to find parts of an intruder on both sides of the track. That implies that security was way off their game. Or perhaps someone spiked their coffee again. And if someone is spiking the coffee, regulars start to worry about what else might have been spiked, and if it was just slipping a Mickey to security, or if something more serious might be going on.

But that vagrant was found in two pieces. So something a lot sharper than just a little rat poison was involved there.

But the games must go on. I’ve got an investment here, and the house doesn’t like to return bets. Much safer to assume that the situation is under control, that the event was an anomaly, and that things can proceed as usual. A few well placed hints and incentives will keep the gentlemen in blue out of the way, and avoid too many delays.

If they are causing troubles, whisper in the Mayor’s ear, and let him get the guard dogs to back down for an hour or two. It won’t hurt the dead guy too much to wait.

Or perhaps open a window and offer odds on the cause of death?

Nah, that would be more disrespectful than always betting on show.

Finally, they calmed everyone down and readied the main event. My favorite is running in the middle, but with an unfamiliar jockey. And there’s that other shoe that has been waiting to drop. That was no vagrant torn in pieces. That was my investment!

It all went downhill from there.

And now the gentlemen in blue seem to think I might be interesting to talk to too.

I’m gonna need some strong storytelling to get clear of this one.


Deal 999: Lifted

The dirty rat just stood there and stared. At first, we worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew, but as we circled him and stared, we began to envy his cool demeanor. He didn’t flinch. Nor did he seem easily distracted. Not that that prevented the lightest fingered among us from relieving him of his wallet, watch, and gun.

Gun. Now that was a surprise. Someone carrying a concealed handgun and seemingly unaware that a pack of feral kids might be willing to risk lifting it. Clearly it wasn’t serving the only role he was putting it to: protection. Clearly it deserved a more careful owner too. We are happy to provide that service. For a time, at least.

At some new point in time his hand-axe was going to get too hot to handle, and would need to be artfully transformed into a weapon with an entirely different serial number. For the gun, a rebirth of sorts. And for our gang, a chance at survival for another day.

At least.

We ought to be able to live on the take from lifting that gun for a few weeks.

And the tale will be worth a few beers after that.


Deal 944: Meta-Dreamlands

“As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.”

That was the last line that appeared on the teleprinter before it went silent. That was several days ago, and it hasn’t made a sound since. Until the recent spurt of activity, the printer had been idle for some time. So I’ve asked the rats to keep an ear open, and let me know when it starts back up.

The rats agreed even though they spend most of their time somewhere between my menagerie and Michel’s flat upstairs.

One thing was clear, the old mystery object game had started up again. A previous account of it once became popular literature telling of a little girl’s adventures when she followed a rabbit down his hole. This encounter was eerily similar to one of her scenes.

I’m reasonably sure that the narrator in that scene wasn’t one of our immediate circle, as we are all accounted for. Michel is off here and there but mostly here. And the rats or Otis would let me know if he was involved in anything more dangerous than an occasional bottle of liquor in any case. I know it isn’t me, my menagerie is all present and well, and then there’s Tina. But if Tina were involved, it would be a trap of her creation.

I should just file the transcript until she next drops in for a visit. But there’s something about the shape of the tale that draws my attention.

I try a little elementary divination, seeking to locate the object of power in the tale. I feel some hints, but I don’t have the strength to summon it rapidly, or the endurance to get it by any of the available slow ways. It feels real enough, but it isn’t entirely clear what power it would deliver to its holder, aside from a way to cut the stuff of dreams.

Which leads to a different avenue to consider. Tina won’t admit her standing, but we all know who she was. She’s also not the only one of her kind to continue to poke and prod at mortal lives. Morpheus is around somewhere, probably working as an anesthesiologist as deep sleep is his speciality. His brother Phantasos has a much more direct tie to dreams of the weird or prophetic, and likely is around somewhere too. Directly entrapping a hero is not really either of their styles, but they might have a clue about what this powerful object is, and if it is dangerous to our present day.

I can’t just pick up the phone and call either of them without some help.

As much as the nature of the object worries me, I’m just going to have to let it be for now.


Deal 931: Ringing

The phone sat in the corner, unseen.

All their attention was on the rest of the room. Somewhere in here was something both portable and valuable that could be sold swiftly for ready cash.

Naturally, the most portable items were the least valuable, so this plan was already changing from a simple smash and grab into a deeper search. And with every minute passing, their chances of getting away clean with the loot were decreasing.

Decreasing to nothing, in point of fact.

Shortly after they broke in, the phone had made a call. Silently, that call had allowed the authorities to listen to everything that was happening, and find a suitable course of action.