Chapter Nine: Everything I Know

Follow the links to other chapters in this story here.

Darren’s knuckles were raw, bruised, and bloody. It had been awhile since he had enjoyed giving a good beating. Sometimes, Esmeralda had a good idea Darren could really sink his teeth into.

Phineas’ nose was broken and bleeding. Blood vessels erupted in his eyes. Darren had popped out a couple of Phineas’ wooden teeth. Phineas clinched his mouth closed, grinding his existing teeth into each other.

Darren raised his fist again.

Phineas fell on his knees, raising his open, bloody palms toward Darren. “All right, all right, you win! I’ll get you or tell you whatever it is you need to know!”

Darren stood straight and smiled. “Well, that was all I wanted.” He rolled his shoulders proudly. “Now how about we get your-pathetic-self back on your feet.”

Phineas batted away Darren’s open hand and stood, his knees popped as they bent then straightened. He stumbled to his chair. Phineas winced as he touched his jaw and chin.

“A fine interrogation, Darren,” Phineas said, through a groan. “I’d be proud if I wasn’t in such pain and completely heartbroken. Your own blood, you would do this to your own blood?”

Esmeralda shot a glance down at Darren.

“We’re not related, it’s a guild thing,” exclaimed a wide-eyed Darren.

“I thought I was done with this,” groaned Phineas. “I’m a legitimate businessman now. I’m an arms dealer.”

“Oh, Phineas,” Darren said, coyly, “a legitimate arms dealer, who shifts shipments of his own lord’s weapons into the hands his lord’s enemy’s. Spiders would have trouble spinning the web you’ve woven.”

Phineas smiled through broken teeth, blood dripped from his bottom lip.

“You’re probably gonna need these back.” Darren placed the wooden teeth on the desk.

“Thank you, my boy.” With a wet grunt, Phineas spit blood on the wooden floor. “So, you gonna tell me why I got a beating? Usually you have to demand a question, then I defy you, and then you beat me to a pulp until I talk.”

Darren cracked his knuckles. “Yeah, sorry about that, old chap. That was personal. You have a good, lucrative gig here and you hire that rotten cur of a man, Jacob.”

“He said yes to the job, you were nowhere to be found.”

“Oh, you looked for me first?”

“My best pupil, why wouldn’t I?”

“Thanks, boss.”

Phineas nodded.

“Boys!” shouted Esmeralda.

“What happened to Jacob? You give him a beating too? I haven’t seen him in days. He was my point man on another arms deal.”

Darren shrugged nonchalantly. “He gotten eaten by the thing that attacked the city. I think I saw one of his eyes still blinking at me in it.”

Phineas absently arranged some parchment on his desk. “Shame.” He slapped the edge of the desk with his fingers. “Well, there is an opening now.”

“Really?”

“Darren!”

Darren shrank from Esmeralda’s shout. His voice dropped. “Yes, of course. Look, Phineas, we need information on one of your clients. She’s deceased now so you don’t have to worry about her coming for you. We know her as Claire—” Darren turned and motioned to Esmeralda.

“Davanni, Claire Davanni.”

Phineas raised an eyebrow. “Why do you want information on her?”

“Have you not been listening to the word on the street, or has your legitimate business made you blind?” Darren retorted. “She was responsible for the recent terror unleashed on this town just a week ago.”

“Claire?”

“That’s the name.”

Phineas shook his head. “Such a good person. Very straightforward, always knew what she wanted and would pay pretty good prices to get it.” Phineas stood from his desk and walked to a bookshelf full of black, leather-bound books. “Quite a shame. She was one of my more reputable customers, never had a problem with her.”

“She apparently took issues with cats,” Darren mumbled.

He pulled a thin leather book. “Ah. Here we go. She wanted a lot of rare earth materials, but nothing that couldn’t be gotten through more legitimate means.”

“So, why did she choose you?” Esmeralda asked, arms folded across her chest.

“Well, she had a specific source she wanted all of the materials from. Some group in the mountains south of here. She sent the money and they sent the materials. There was a lot of correspondence between them as well. I just happened to be the discrete middle man.”

Phineas handed the book to Darren. “You may find something in there. The materials came from specific mining towns to the south. I mean, I could have gotten her the materials she needed from anywhere, maybe even cheaper, but she wanted it from these mountains.” Phineas shrugged. “Brand loyalty, I guess.”

Darren opened the ledger and raised an eyebrow when reading over the coded transactions. “Phineas, you haven’t changed your code in years.”

“Well, no one has cracked it, my boy.”

Darren turn several pages scanning several manifestos. He lifted the book close to Phineas’ face and shut it inches from his nose. Phineas sneezed with a start.

“Thanks, old man.”

“Looking to keep my face intact, my boy.” Phineas smile, but his tone cooled.

Esmeralda reached over the two legitimate thieves’ heads and grabbed the ledger from Darren’s hand. “We will be on our way now.”

“Well, you heard the lady.” Darren feigned a smile to his mentor. He tipped his hat. “Be seeing you. Get a clean cloth for that nose.”

“Will do.” Phineas response was flat.

Darren backed toward the door, when he heard footsteps, a lot of them, heading toward the hall outside.

Darren tilted his head quizzically. “You plan on showing us the way out, Phineas?”

Phineas grinned. His face angled into a scowl. Blood still dripped from his mouth. “You’ll be floating downriver when they are done with you.”

Darren heard a heavy scuffle outside the door. Muffled shouts followed by rushing footsteps. The footsteps halted, Darren heard swords draw. The sounds of repeated blows were followed by heavy thuds.

Phineas stood, his scowl breaking.

Darren smiled at Phineas, locking eyes with him.

There was a heavy thud on the door. It creaked from the wait. Phineas fell into his chair, eyes wide.

More muffled shouting. There was a second heavy thud on the door, the top hinge came lose.

“What?” Phineas mouthed.

“I think you have a complication.” Darren said.

Another heavy thud and the door collapsed. Two burly men, crumpled with it. Marcus stood in the door way, bruised and bloodied, holding a third large man by the back of his neck. The man was unconscious blood flowing from his red-stained hair. Marcus half waved with his free hand.

“All of them?” Phineas’ voiced cracked.

Marcus motioned slightly into the hall. “There are a few more in the hall. Good lads, pretty strong.”

Marcus dropped the man he was holding. He hit the floor with a groan.

“How?”

Darren bowed with a wild swing of his arm. “We will take our leave now. Thanks for the info, boss.”

Phineas only stared, mouth agape.

Darren enjoyed that.

Marcus presented his hand to Esmeralda. She placed her hand lightly in his and he helped guide her around the bodies and out into the hall.

Darren walked out last, stepping on the groaning bodies.

He stopped at the door frame and winked at Phineas. “Thanks for the help.”

© 2018 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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