Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The Collector E01P02

    It was not Mr. Snote’s day.
    It had started well, with a nice breakfast, a brisk walk outside the Wynworth dome in the icy Demeter dawn, followed by exercises, his mistress calling to arrange for their date and his wife to say she would be away for another week.
    Mr. Snote felt that these developments augured well.
    Mr. Snote had taken to wearing trousers in public, and custom made shoes to fit his broad and stubby feet. He was tall for a garan, though shoulder-height to a human, and, unlike most of his kind, he believed passionately in grooming. A garan of status like Mr. Snote used styling products for his body fur, trimmed his whiskers and claws and shined his snout.
    His day proceeded in the same light fashion. He walked jauntily (or strolled down the promenade in his own estimation) whistling lightly while reading the Wynworth newsfeeds avidly on his conduit. With his silver-topped cane in his paw, he mentally updating his to-do list. While adjusting a decorative monocle, he quickly checked the status of his trading accounts.
    Mr. Snote was a busy garan. His mistress was timonese, and therefore hot-headed and demanding, whom he loved though she had tried to poison him twice with her venomous bite. His business interests were wide-ranging and quasi-legal. He did not consider himself a purveyor of illegality as such, could be plied to admit (with a moderate dram of any fine spirit) to any bar the police that he moved in certain circles and knew certain people. Though he would never put his paws on that sort of thing, you understand. It wouldn’t be seemly.
    He received an update to his appointments, an invitation to a friend’s gallery opening and was quickly composing a reply while admiring a wondrous bouquet of flowers in a shop window when:
    — All right Snotey. Buying something nice for the missus are we?
    Mr. Snote felt a chill run under his fur stand on end. He gulped, and turned with his best genial smile:
    — Ah, Aurial good fellow. Considering it. I wanted to speak to you about…
    And then he stopped.
    Aurial the dantromelan was standing in front of him, idly swinging a leathery yo-yo up and down, looking directly at Mr. Snote without blinking. He dantromelan was taller than Mr. Snote, lean to the point of emaciated, and with acute, almost triangular eyes.
    He wore a simple jade robe tied off with a sash, and which gathered into a couple of leggings just above the ankle. It was tucked in to simple leather boots. Fair skinned, almost hairless and with large pointed ears constantly moving and alert independently, the dantromelan was clearly fully aware of his surroundings in a way that Mr Snote could never match.
    — Aurial, Mr Snote tried again.
    — Your good fellow, Aurial replied with a cheeky grin and a sing-song accented voice. Yes. You said. You know why I’m here, Snotey. Mr. Crumm sent me.
    — Well, ah, well-
    — Not been paid he says-
    — You see I was just, ah. Our speculative venture in the futures market is not quite what we-
    — Not been paid? I says. No, says Mr. Crumm. Not been paid. And Mr. Crumm three weeks-
    — A difficult market, Aurial, Mr Snote tried. You understand it, yes? The rise and fall of currency valuations? And-
    — And Mr. Crumm three weeks adrift now, he says. Adrift Snotey. Adrift.
    With a barely perceptible movement, Aurial’s yo-yo flicked across the distance and struck Mr. Snote square in the snout, sending his monocle flying and him stumbling.
    As he flailed back, the dantromelan closed the distance between them immediately and screwball-punched the garan hard on his left side, then delivering a knee to his right. Mr. Snote fell hard, but the dantromelan wasn’t quite done and delivered a scissor kick across the garan’s face. Blood spurted out of Mr. Snote’s bottom lip and down his chin.
    — Adrift! Well? Oh stop wailing.
    Mr. Snote peeked out from beneath his shielding arms. The dantromelan was a few meters away looking relaxed and playing with the yo-yo once more.
    — No, he managed with a cough.
    — That’s right Snotey, Aurial said, no he hasn’t. Mr. Crumm can’t help nobody if his debtors won’t pay up. Even though they seem to be able to buy nice new shoes and some very nice trousers.
    — No, Mr. Snote replied while holding his snout and checking his ribs.
    — Come on, Aurial motioned with a gesture at Snote’s jacket. All of it.
    Mr. Snote reached for his inside jacket pocket.
    — Ah ah. Slowly now, so I don’t get the wrong idea.
    Mr. Snote moved slowly and drew out a wallet. He threw it over to Aurial as best he could. The dantromelan caught it easily and opened it. He took out all the undercurrency cash and quickly counted it, sighing.
    — This barely covers for today Snotey. I’ll be back in two days time and you better have it all or Mr. Crumm will tell me to take one of your eyes and maybe your little fluffy balls too. Honestly Snotey, get your act together. I’d rather be racing than this.
    The garan passed out.
    Aurial pocketed the cash, turned and walked down the street, leaving Mr Snote. As he did so, Aurial’s conduit alerted him to an incoming call from Myriad:
    — Oy oy M. What’s happening?
    — The monk’s in, Myriad said. Do you have any paint?
    — Excellent, Aurial said. It just so happens that I know a guy. What was the monk’s mood?
    — Same as ever. Always unimpressed.
    — Is the drunk coming…
    Myriad disconnected.
    As Aurial walked through some back alleys and came out on Plantive Row, he made a mental note for two buckets and some sprayers.
    He was about to turn the corner when he suddenly heard a far off click, and instinctively dived. A shot rang out and a bullet whizzed just over his head and smashed a window behind him.
    Aurial stayed down.

Next time: The Quick and the Drunk