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Cover Design: Wakefield Designs
Visit Chris Weston at: www.christianweston.net
Copyright © 2016 Chris Weston
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Table of Contents
About the Author
The town of Mavearba. It's one of the nicer towns they've ever stayed in. Alana sees the brand-new architecture, helped by the strong trade route in the area. The place is out in the country, but they initially they all are. Alana gives it a few more years and it can mold itself into a small city. For now, it’s just a lucky place stuck around some mountains. She tugs on the rope with their prisoner, Kane Drury. Karlyn is behind them, in case Drury tries to run off again.
Drury believes in persistence, which is all he had going for him. He's a big, tall and doughy man. He has as much fight in him as a lap dog, but like a lap dog, he's annoying when he chooses, and that is all the damn time. The captain called him an outlaw. Alana calls him an idiot.
Alana and her sister encounter Drury's type in any world they visit. They always are the type for dishonest work, and they make it difficult for honest, hard-working people to catch them and put them behind bars. There is no such thing as easy money, or else the two of them would scam each place they city and kingdom they transition into.
They walk past the ongoing construction of buildings and reach the road leading to Captain Farrel's office. The guards watch them as they drag Drury along the road. A few of them laugh and call out to congratulate them on the capture. Of course, they would. He managed to evade their patrols for weeks. What useless haps.
They make it to the captain's office and Karlyn opens the door for her. Inside Captain Farrel sits behind his desk. A short man who's round like an apple. No wonder he can't catch Drury, he's working on breaking in that chair.
Captain Farrel says across his desk, "You caught him? Damn."
"Just as we said," Alana responds.
She gives the rope to her sister as she closes the door behind her. To get their payment, they need to transfer Drury; almost there and they can leave this weasel of theirs behind. Alana notices the captain’s face looks like he's deciding whether to bite into a lemon or not.
He scratches the back of his head. "We had a bit of a problem."
Alana sighs. There is no such thing as a bit of a problem. There either is one, or there isn't. These people never seem to have a problem when hiring them. No, of course not. It's as easy as pie, except when it comes to greasing their hand with silver, then complications arise. This is an obstacle like any other she tells herself, painstakingly keeping her temper inside her head.
"Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that it's not a personal love affair kind of problem?"
The captain’s fingers drum on top of the desk. "Because if it were, you'd be paid right now."
Just as she thought, it's always about the money. Time to flex her strength as an independent contractor; she stands up and orders, "Karlyn, grab Drury."
The captain jolts up, knocking back his chair. "And what the hell you think you two are doing?"
Alana slams the heel of her boot into the floor for effect. "We had a very specific contract. You hired us to bring him in to you in exchange for a big ol' bag of silver. We are paid if we bring him in, and as such, you are given Kane Drury when we have our payment. If you don't want to fill my hand with silver, he's not behind bars."
A vein rises in the captain’s temple, as his face turns red. "Aiding a fugitive is a crime."
Karlyn drops her hold on Drury, but places her hand against the door. "It's not aid if his rope slips from our hand."
Farrel's eyes dart between them. "I'll arrest you two."
Jail is old hat, and one of the worst intimidation tactics against them. Alana remembers the first time she and Karlyn were locked up; the transition came two days later. She bets they spooked the jailors who saw them one minute and disappear the next.
She says, "Good luck with that. Won't be able to keep us for long, and you still have a criminal is on the loose. Karlyn, let go of him. Let's see how quickly the captain and his men can catch him for once." Alana stands up and points to the door with her thumb. "Which way to the cells?"
"Stop!" the captain holds his hands up. "We are going to pay you, but there was a small mistake made, so payment is delayed. That’s all that this is, a delay."
There's always a hidden truth behind a flimsy excuse. All it takes to get there is a little prodding. Alana glances at Karlyn. "Don't give Drury any ideas."
Karlyn stamps her foot on the rope and leans against the door.
Alana returns her attention to Captain Farrel. "So, Farrel, walk me through the complexities of delivering a bag of money."
The captain puts his thumbs around his belt. "As it goes around here, all transactions are signed off by the ministry. Our town doesn't generate revenue on its own. The money flows towards us by the ministry, and taxes travel back to the ministry, and that's the system in place. Everything from repairs to bounties goes through them."
Alana sits in a chair in front of his desk. "Farrel, did you do a bad thing and hired us without express permission from this ministry?
Captain Farrel gives a half-hearted smile. "In the case of timely matters, I am given some freedom with credit, as not to bog the town down in bureaucracy. The credit is accompanied by a note stating the reasons for the transaction; that way if the ministry is appraised of my reasoning, and it can be discussed. Believe me, they have more than enough men to come and ask questions. The problem is credit is a valuable commodity, and too many notes brings upon suspicion, suspicion leads to eyes peering in, and given the time it takes to read, all credit is halted."
The whole system sounded like a pain in the ass to her. Most places act alike with their system of governances, and at first, she wondered why places were so similar, and then it dawned on her, some ways are simply convenient. Given the amount they travel, they were bound to run into a few of these bureaucracies. Farrel, poor guy, probably is used to this as the norm. It almost makes her feel bad about strong arming him with their negotiation tactics. These people don't know any better.
With assurances that their payment is en route, her calm demeanor returns. "So, what did you do that caused this dilemma?"
"I hired more bounty hunters."
If she had a drink in her mouth, she would have spit it on him, then she would throw the cup.
She can't remember the last time someone tried to stiff them payment. It's the simplest contract one can make. A party needs a problem fixed so they gather payment for the hunter. The hunter fixes the problem and then the money is exchanged. End of story. Everyone lives happily ever after. Things are only complicated if the party never intended to pay, or the contract terms are broken. Looking at Drury, he seems plenty healthy and in one piece so they haven’t broken their end.
She rolls her eyes. The disrespect.
Farrel isn't stupid, he can feel the tension from the awkward silence in the air. He trips over his words until he gets a grasp over himself. "I want to give you my word that this won't stop your payment. It only means that the payment will be delayed until the ministry release it."
Alana taps her fingers on his desk. There's no use is getting riled up with this bumpkin. If he doesn't have the money, he doesn't have it. Well, she could get upset at him, but there are less stressful means to feel better. "So, are these other bounty hunters getting a slice of the credit? Do we have to battle it out right here in this office to see who gets paid?"
Captain Farrel responds, "I didn't know you and your sister would bring Drury so quickly. He's been a slippery eel for weeks. The townspeople wanted him captured, and he's evaded my guards so often, that the only sensible course of action was to throw numbers at him. Two sets of bounty hunters gives healthy competition, as well as a redundancy in case he managed to escape you."
"And he didn't," Alana answers back.
"Well, I know that now. Three days ago, my options appeared far more limited, and expectations to have Drury captured were high. You can see why I did what I did."
"It's hard to see that from my perspective." She brushes off the affront. No use in starting a circular fight. It won't do anyone any good. "And the other hunters, are they getting a share of the credit?"
The captain shakes his head. "No, the credit goes to the finders. You brought him in, you get paid."
Alana nods at his response. "Sounds like it should be simple enough."
"When should the credit arrive?"
She turns to her sister who gestures with her eyebrows that his answer sounds reasonable. "My sister and I will be in this office in five days. If it does arrive earlier, we'll be at the Evening Star. Send it our way and the contract is fulfilled."
"Good," Farrel composes himself and straightens his shirt. "Are you two willing to take on any more jobs?"
"For what? Wait around for even more credit? We have no intention in getting a house and living here."
They leave the office. Alana feels the negotiation went well, considering they left without pay. It's an occupational hazard, she can't sweat every detail, but if he does stiff them their credit, she's going back before the next transition to get something of value.
They travel through town to their tavern. They arrive and get to ordering, like they usually do. Karlyn is especially in a sour mood; she hasn’t said a word all day. Alana orders a pear cider, and wants to wash it down with lamb and salad with carrots. Purchasing some expensive items is a costly way to relax. Thankfully, their previous clients paid well. They have a nice stack of coins and some precious stones to barter with. A fine meal isn't going to leave them sleeping in the stables.
The tavern keeper hands them their drinks, and they take a seat at an empty table. Alana takes the initiative before her sister gives her a piece of her mind.
"The credit will arrive. I don't think the captain is consciously trying to screw us over. We shouldn't have a transition coming any time soon.”
"Good," Karlyn says. "I wanted to slap him around a little just for wasting our time back there."
The food arrives. The cider is very tasty here. Alana orders herself another one. Later into the evening patrons flow in. A playful bard comes to strum his lute and make a little money. She listens as he sings his heart out. It's a fine performance and he earns a decent wage. Alana looks down into her mug and sees that it is empty. That's a shame.The cider needs to fix this problem for her. Alana order another cider. And another. And another.
As she takes her latest filled cup to the table, she spills a good portion of her drink as her knee hits the table leg.
Karlyn moves her arm out of the away from the spilled liquid. "You had too much to drink again."
"No, it was just enough," Alana mumbles.
Letting out a sigh, Karlyn stands up.
"Come on, you're done for the night."
Karlyn takes Alana's arm over her shoulder and lifts her along to their room.
They enter their room, and it's an especially nice looking room for Alana right now. Alana doesn't feel tired, but that bed does seem very soft from where she's at. Karlyn directs Alana to her bed. Not that she knows the time of night it is, but it feels too early for bed. Each time she attempts to turn around, Karlyn pushes her where she needs to go. Looks like there is no fighting it tonight; Karlyn's acting too uptight. Alana puts her head down as Karlyn grabs her shirt and pulls it over her head.