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Lensmoor Gothic - Part I
Liam turned around. "How do you do that? I mean, how do you do that? We've been in town for thirty seconds. Literally, thirty seconds..."
"I felt you coming," she said. "In my telepathic ovaries."
"No, those would be yours." She raised her eyebrows. "Of course, you could always blame your favorite scapegoat." She pressed the barrel of the gun against his nose, pushing it down onto his upper lip. "Synchronicity."
"You're magig fud of be."
"Maybe." She pulled the gun back. "Are you going to introduce me to your friend here, or what?"
Liam stepped back. "Isaac Angelus, Sandra O. That's 'O' as in O. Henry, O Captain My Captain, and the Story of O."
Sandra stuck her tongue out at him. She returned the gun to a holster at the small of her back and turned to Isaac. "Hi. I don't do the shaking-hands thing, sorry."
"That's all right."
Isaac resisted an urge to take a step back. Sandra seemed to occupy a great deal more space than her thin frame suggested. She wore plain black jeans, a black shirt, and a leather jacket that had clearly seen action. She kept her hair tied back and wore no jewelry, yet there was something spiky about her, as though she might lash out at any moment and sting an unwary passer-by. She stood an inch or two taller than Isaac.
"So what is this?" she said. "Is this your apprentice?"
"The Society doesn't do apprentices," Liam said. "They-"
"Sure. Right." She jabbed a finger at him. "You and I need to talk."
"Yes, I think we do."
"Just so I'm clear on this," Isaac said. "You're not planning on killing Liam just now, right?"
"Not until I'm done with him, at least." Sandra crossed her arms. "Anyway, there's no money in it." She turned to Liam. "I've got a room upstairs at the Nine Points. Come back with me and have a pint. We'll talk."
"Well, as it happens, you might be able to help me with-"
"Good." She started away.
Isaac looked at him. "Are we really going with her?"
"Jesus. She put a gun to your head just a minute ago."
"That she did, but that's just how she and I say hello."
"Then why don't you seem happy to see her?"
"Thank you, Isaac. I'm quite certain she heard that."
"Um. Sorry. What time do you think it is?"
Liam craned his head up at the sky, the lenses of his glasses reflecting bright sunlight. "Just after midday, maybe. Why?"
"This isn't part of Lensmoor, is it?"
"Always with the bloody questions."
Isaac frowned. "Well, you're not likely to volunteer any fucking information on your own, Liam."
Up ahead of them, Sandra laughed.
"No," Liam said. "It's not."
"I thought so. Nice city, though."
No one said anything.
"It's just, I like the mix of old stone buildings and technology. It's like an electric cathedral or something."
No one said anything.
Isaac scrubbed a hand down his face. "Jesus. What am I even doing here?"
Sandra looked back at him. "Liam does that," she said. "Just takes your life, and takes, and takes. You might want to think about what the hell you want, Isaac. Yeah?"
"Does this mean you're fucking off?" Liam said.
Isaac looked at him. "Do you want me to?"
"Great. Thanks. If I wanted to get back to Lensmoor from here, how would I do it?"
Liam said nothing.
"Right. So I guess I'm staying here. Wherever the hell that is."
Isaac looked up at the sign above the door of the building. "The Nine Points of Roguery. What's that all about?"
"The landlord claims it used to be a song," Sandra said. "I like the sound of it, either way."
"Pubs. I feel like I've done nothing but spend time in pubs since I got out of the College."
"You're welcome," Liam said.
"Come on," Sandra said. "We've got a table at the back."
Liam and Isaac looked at one another.
"We?" Isaac said.
They followed Sandra inside, through the front hall to the commons room. Only a few of the tables were occupied, and no one paid them any attention as they threaded their way through to the back of the pub. Sandra opened one of the heavy doors near the bar and led the way down a narrow corridor to a second set of doors. She pulled one open and stepped back with an 'after-you' gesture.
Isaac and Liam stepped through into a small, low-ceilinged room with one table in the center of the stone floor. A man sat at the table reading a book and picking at a bowl of beef stew. He looked up when the three of them entered.
"San," he said. "And...you've brought friends."
"Liam, Isaac, this is Linus."
Isaac stepped to the side to let Liam forward. The man Sandra had addressed as Linus was slim, dressed unobtrusively, and moved with small, economical gestures. His hair was cut very close to his scalp, almost shaved. He wore glasses behind which lurked bright, attentive eyes. Despite this, there seemed to Isaac to be something inherently thuggish about the man; a kind of predatory predilection that no amount of sophistication could hide.
Linus stood up. "Liam," he said. "I've heard of you."
"Nothing good, I hope.” Liam extended a hand. “Pleasure to meet you, I’m sure, Linus...?”
“Linus Blank it is.”
The two men shook hands. Isaac expected to hear bones crunching as the two crushed each others’ fingers, but both behaved with a kind of chilly decorum, shaking hands and bowing formally.
“Now, these things you’ve heard...” Liam said. “Anything interesting.”
“I’ve heard you were a cold, heartless, selfish, jumped-up bastard of a man. Does that sound about right.”
“You’ve forgotten ‘devastatingly handsome’, but close enough. And you and Sandra are-?”
“Fucking, yes,” Linus said. He stared at Liam. “We are, in fact, fucking.”
“I was about to ask if you and Sandra were here on business, but suit yourself.”
“Bullshit you were,” Sandra said. “Both of you, sit down before you explode. Honestly.” She sat down and crossed her arms. “And be nice.”
“Of course,” Linus said. “Liam?”
“Oh, I’ll be nice,” Liam said. “I’ll put the pal back in palaver, I will.”
Sandra put her face in her hands. “I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.”
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.