The Body

“We’re here to collect,” said the short guy with the pinched rodent face, widow’s peak, and black bomber jacket with the cuffs rolled up. Fleur shifted in her high back upholstered leather chair behind an oak desk that was reinforced with steel plating and carbon fiber to catch bullets when the need inevitably came, and she nodded at Mr. Greybull, her most imposing enforcer.

“Escort one of these gentlemen.” And then, turning to the two supposed hitmen, “You understand, of course, I’ll need to see the body.” The taller of the two—whose bald head and vampiric paleness were only exaggerated by his flamboyant tassel fringe trench coat, scrawny bare legs, and black suede boots—nodded with exaggeration. He had a brutal splatter of scar tissue on his throat and Fleur seemed to remember hearing of this one before. Couldn’t speak. She liked that quality. He sulked away. Mr. Greybull followed three steps behind, his shooting hand conspicuously buried in his jacket pocket.

While they waited—Fleur, the little rat-faced man, and her remaining three bodyguards standing stoically around the edges of the abandoned bank vault that now served as the hub of her little enterprise—she went on examining the enormous prints covering her desk. They were schematics of the old drainage system beneath the city. She had big plans. While she studied, she flicked out a blade, making the rat-man jump—which Fleur snickered at contemptuously—and picked the dirt from beneath her fingernails. “Which contract are you intending to collect, Mr…”

“Stud.”

She looked up from her papers. “Mr. Stud?”

“Just Stud.”

Surrounded by idiots. She went back to the schematics and prompted, “As it were…”

The elbows of his leather jacket crinkled as he folded his arms. “The Abilene contract.”

Fleur closed her eyes and continued to dig at her nails with the blade. “You brought me Thomas Abilene?” She opened her eyes after a moment to find him smiling smugly with crooked squirrel teeth.

“Dead as a drum.” He chuckled, impressed with himself.

“Dead as a…that doesn’t make any sense. Listen, Stud, if your buddy slim-Dracula doesn’t come back in here with Thomas Abilene’s corpse you two are gonna be walking out of here with Greybull’s shit-kickers up your down-holes. How’s that make sense to ya?”

Just then, Mr. Greybull walked back in and subtly shook his head. Fleur stood up, spreading her palms wide on the desk and leaning forward. The pale guy entered butt first, dragging a body by the ankles, making a sound on the hard floor like a push broom with each shuffle step. The suit pants looked like Abilene’s style as they passed through the entrance, the square knit tie, the jacket, the… Something was missing.

“Where the fuck’s his head?”

The pale fellow looked to his partner who said, “You wanted to see the body. Here’s the body.”

There was a pregnant silence. At last, Fleur fell back into her seat. “Mr. Greybull, these gentlemen would like to collect on the Abilene contract. Please see they’re compensated fairly for the level of service they’ve provided.”

If the pale one could have lost any more color he would have judging by his expression as Mr. Greybull and the other guards ushered them out, but the rat-man smiled, looking pleased. “Good doin’ business wichyou,” he said.

Idiots everywhere, Fleur thought, and went back to her planning, not thinking about rat-man and the bloodless wonder ever again.

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