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YEAR ONE AND A HALF CHAPTER 2


The door banged and Manny raised his glance from the table he had been scrubbing. Because Glottis had seemed to be in a hurry he had returned to the cafe; he had to do something for his pay-check after all. The day was already turning to night, it was dim outside and nothing interesting had happened.

And now they had a customer!

"Carla, what are you doing here?" he asked as the young female officer sat on a chair. She placed her elbows on the table and tilted her head.

"That's not the best way to welcome customers," she said glancing around. "Not that you have very much experience with it."

"We have tons of customers, it's just not the season right now," Manny defended quickly and Carla shook her head in amusement. She, like everyone in Rubacava, knew this place would fall in no time at all. It was just the matter of time before Juelo would be forced to leave and then this place was open for anyone who wanted to give it a try.

"I didn't come here to eat, my interest is totally in my job," she said. Manny continued cleaning the table and glanced at her while doing it.

"If you came to demand the unpaid taxes I can get Juelo," he commented and Carla laughed.

"You are weird, Manuel Calavera. So unlike the men I know," she said.

"Maybe because I'm not one of them," Manny said.

"Whatever, I came to ask if you or anyone in here knows anything about the sprouting. Bogan is busy now so I have to do his job, though I'm just a security assistant," Carla changed the subject. Manny shrugged.

"The only ones around here are me and Juelo and we both know nothing about it," he said. Carla sighed.

"Everyone says that and if I believed them all the whole Rubacava would be full of innocent souls. But someone sprouted a seaman at the docks and I'm going to find out who it was!" she threatened and hit the table with her fist.

"Okay, okay. You know, maybe you shouldn't continue when you are upset like that. Take something to drink, you get it with half of the price," Manny suggested. Carla shook her head.

"No thanks, I have lots of work to do today. Did you know that there is a new ship on the sea?" she asked and Manny looked at her in curiosity.

"A new ship?"

"Yeah, they are not actually at the docks. They have set anchor outside of the city's waters and just are there. No one knows who they are or what they are up to and we can do nothing about it as longs as they don't come to our waters," Carla said frustrated. "I'd so love to search their hold, it's probably full of smuggled stuff!" she continued officiously.

Manny was about to answer, but then the door opened and a new person stepped in. They both turned to stare in surprise, who bothered to come here?

"Phew, it's starting to get crowded here," Manny remarked.

The newcomer was a man and neither had seen him before. He was dressed in a red shirt and aquamarine suit and he seemed to be pretty self-confident when closing the door behind him.

"You have to be new in town," Manny guessed when the stranger sat next to Carla.

"I am. My name is Nick Virago," he said with a pleasant voice and looked around himself. Not very stylish place, but had to do now.

"What are you doing here?" Carla asked curiously. All who came from El Marrow usually avoided this place after seeing what a rat hole it was.

"What is everyone else doing here?" Nick asked back. Manny took a look around.

"There's no one in here besides us," he commented.

"That's right. I want some privacy now," Nick answered. Manny and Carla glanced at each other.

"So you just died?" Manny wanted to know. Usually those who had just arrived to the Land of the Dead were a bit confused before really understanding what had happened. Nick stared at them in suspicion.

"Is this a cross-examination of some sort?" he asked taking a look at Carla's clean uniform.

"No, but everything you say can be used against you," the woman stated.

"But you can always get a good lawyer," Manny added. Nick shook his head.

"I don't have to, I am a lawyer," he answered.

"You?" Carla asked in surprise making Nick glare at her.

"Yes, what's so special in that?" he wanted to know. The woman shrugged.

"You don't look like a lawyer. You seem way too nice and honest," she said.

"Then again, this explains why you are walking through the Land of the Dead instead of having a ticket on the Number Nine." Manny commented concentrating in the scrubbing again. Nick glared daggers at him.

"Very funny," he said dryly.

"Isn't it? Want to hear another dead lawyer joke?" Manny asked and the man shook his head.

"No thank you."

"It would be very interesting to stay here and have a conversation, but I've got work to do. I already stayed for too long." Carla said standing up and walking to the door. Almost immediately after she had gone Juelo appeared from upstairs.

"Calavera! We are having a customer and you are not offering him anything!" he raged and Manny and Nick glanced at each other. The lawyer stood up and shook his head.

"Actually I was already leaving, I have to find a place to stay. I just stopped by to see what kind of place this is." he said leaving. Juelo glared at Manny.

"Now look what you did! This is why you'll never have a club of your own!" he snapped.

---


The night of Rubacava was dangerous for those who weren't important or didn't have a gun. Most of the really important people were packed in Cat Track to have fun and those who still wandered outside were part of the maritime union.

The atmosphere was very infected, no one still knew who was to be blamed for the sprouting and because of that everyone was guilty unless proven innocent. One could trust no one until they found out who was guilty.

"I'm just saying it, the police forces of this city will find out nothing. Just see it, they will give up soon and no one will be punished for sprouting Josť," one of the seamen said angrily and took a careful look around himself. If someone heard what he said...

Another one nodded.

"Exactly, they are not really interested in finding out the truth as long as the sprouted one is not one of them. Let's wait a while, immediately after someone from the casinos is found in the middle of a flower bush the whole city will be alarmed," he admitted. This made the others mutter in agreement and the one who had spoken first raised his voice again.

"I think we should find out what happened by ourselves! No one will do it for us, this is now our responsibility!" he said.

"Yeah! I bet the guilty is someone from the casinos. They don't like us and maybe they wanted to show us who makes the rules around here," one of the seamen shouted from the back if the group and the others nodded. Of course it was someone from the upper town, who else would attack them like this?

"We can not let this continue, we will take the matters to our own hands!"

---


Nick didn't like the docks. It was so cold, cruel and uh, so uncivilised! He would have liked to stop by in the Cat Track, which seemed to be the VIP place around here, but knew they would never let him in. He didn't have money and he was no one important.

Yet.

He wasn't going to be satisfied with the role of a small crook, he had come this far and he most certainly would fight his way on the top. It would be difficult, but he would probably find a job he was fitting to.

The best thing would be if he could talk to the kingpin of this city, Maximino, and make him believe he absolutely needed a personal lawyer. He had heard the man didn't have one yet, but everyone that important had to have one.

Or that was what Nick thought and he knew he was the best choice for the job. And then he would have all the cards he needed and able to do anything he wanted.

But now he had nothing and he had to take in whatever happened. He didn't have a place to stay and they didn't like homeless in the upper town. Not that he would have stayed there anyway, it would not do good to his image if the important people saw him like that.

So he had come down to the docks freely. Nick didn't know if he'd find a place to sleep, but he was sure he would come up with something. He might not have a nice night ahead of him, but he would make better plan the next day.

The nightly sky was lit by stars and he sat on a peer deep in thought. The black water hit the wooden piles splashing on his face. Nick brushed the it away, he didn't like water.

At least not anymore.

He had never been one keen on swimming, but after letting Natael creep behind him on the shore he had hated the word with passion.

The peer shook when someone stepped on it and Nick turned his head to see who was now with him. He saw a group of seamen who eyed him in suspicion and he nodded at them.

He didn't like seamen, he considered them to be stupid idiots who had no idea about the stylised way of living. To him they were all barbarians who just drank and fought with each other.

"We've never seen you before. Who are you?" the first one of them asked. Half of his face was covered in colourful tattoos.

"Why do you want to know?" Nick answered shortly and hoped them men would leave him alone. He really didn't want to talk with them longer than what was necessary.

"You are not one of us," the man said to him.

"No, no I'm not." Nick admitted and thought the man was even stupider than he looked like. Anyone could see the lawyer had never done any physical labour in ships.

"What are you doing here? Why are you not at the casinos?"

Nick stood up, he didn't like the hint in the seaman's voice. He took a glance around himself, if the situation got nasty it was good if he had a way to escape.

"I don't like it there," he answered. It was clear these men didn't like the people of the upper town, it would be better if they thought he agreed with them.

"I don't think so. I think you are here to sprout one of us, right guys?" the seaman said gathering courage from his friends.

"Yeah! He is probably the one who sprouted Josť!"

"That's right! Let's show him he can not mess with us!"

Now Nick was sure he didn't like this. He had never been much of a fighter, he had left it to others and concentrated in reading and getting himself an education.

That didn't really help him now.

"I'll sue you if you attack me," he warned. Nick didn't know if this city had a court room at all, and even if there was he doubted anyone would believe him now when he was no one.

The seamen laughed.

"You heard that? He thinks he's scaring us!"

"Well, he sure isn't having any success!"

There was a loud clang as if someone had slammed a metal lid of some sort. A voice of steps followed it and soon a small man totally covered in tattoos stepped on the peer looking very annoyed.

"You idiots are fighting on my peer again? I already told you to get lost!" he snapped and waved away with his hand.

"We don't have to do as you say, Toto! You are not one of us!" the leading seaman shouted back.

"Then I'll never finish that tattoo of yours and everyone will think you are too afraid of the pain to come back. Get out of here!"

The seamen muttered something out of their breath, but fled anyway until only Nick was left alone with the weird little man.

"Well, aren't you going anywhere? Oh, but you are not one of them. But still doesn't mean you can hang around on my peer," Toto said.

"I'm already leaving," Nick said. This man didn't seem like one who he wanted as his enemy. But then again, he didn't like the idea of leaving and facing the men again.

"My name is Toto Santos and I make tattoos. You don't look like your place is at the docks. Maybe the seamen would like you better if you had a big and neat tattoo. You want one?" the man said. Nick shook his head.

"I don't think so. I'm Nick Virago, a lawyer," he said. Toto nodded in understanding.

"Ah, I see. Are you really sure you don't want one? I have some stylish devil designs just for you," he tried again.

"I don't want a tattoo," Nick said in determination and turned to leave. He had to be careful when being alone, but he doubted anything serious would happen.

Toto watched after him for a while, but shrugged then and returned back in.

To be continued...



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