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YEAR ONE AND A HALF CHAPTER 4
It was another usual day in the port town of Rubacava. The sun rose on time and dead souls woke up to meet the new day. Work was started at the docks and everything was just like yesterday.
The casinos weren't open that early in the morning, they would be opened when the day started to get dark. One of the many things workers and other people in the down town wondered was what the gamblers and con artists did during daytime. No one saw them anywhere and they couldn't be at the casinos.
Oh well, this too was one of the stories told among friends and no one was really interested in it. Casinos and the bad people they brought were something some people in Rubacava wished to rot in Hell.
Of course no one said this aloud without being sure that the listeners agreed. Anyone could easily be a spy of some important gambler - he could even work for Maximino. Because of that they were very suspicious towards all strangers at the docks, no one wanted the bad talk to be heard in the upper town where the matters of Rubacava were decided.
Just like all places in Rubacava, the High Roller's Lounge was closed. Cleaners took care of the previous night's mess and made sure everything would be perfect for the next one. People in the kitchen prepared the wine and other drinks so that there was enough and everyone else had a job to do too.
Maximino's cats slept in their stables waiting for the next race. Their carers slept too if weren't taking care of something.
But there was one who also desired to work for Maximino.
Nick walked self-confidently on the stone bridge which lead straight to the Cat Track and took a glance around. He could see all Rubacava from there well and if he hadn't been in such a hurry he would have stopped to view the city for a while.
Not that Rubacava was the most beautiful city he had seen, but he was on a pretty good mood and nothing could ruin it now. He was a bit nervous though, but his self-confident nature was stronger and he had no problems.
At least not yet, things could be different when he was allowed to meet Maximino.
Nick had decided he would become the personal lawyer of the man no matter the cost. He was the best one for the job, so there just wasn't anyone on his way. And Maximino needed a lawyer, all important people had one.
He just had to make the man realise it.
The air was still cool and smelled salty. Nick didn't let it bother him, even though he didn't like sea, but continued on. It didn't take too long until he arrived at the other end and took the stairs to a lobby of some sort, which lead to the VIP place of the city.
Someone else might have reconsidered before trying to talk to Maximino, but Nick wasn't one to worry too much. He was sure that if he just managed to meet the man personally everything would go fine. Soon he'd have a position in this city too and could start creating his career.
So what could go wrong?
There was a man dressed in dark uniform standing in front of the elevator. He glanced at Nick in suspicion.
"We are closed, mister. Come back again when the sun sets," he said politely.
"I'm not a customer, I came to ask for a job," Nick answered.
"A job? We do have a place for another waiter," the man stated thoughtfully. Nick glared at him angrily, did that idiot really think he wanted to be a waiter? Ridiculous!
"You didn't understand me, I want to see Maximino. I'm a lawyer," he corrected.
"You? A lawyer?" the guard asked and didn't sound that polite anymore. Now he stood stiffly and looked at Nick as if he was something really disgusting. And that was something Nick didn't like at all.
"Yes, I'm a lawyer, though understanding it might be a bit too difficult for you," he commented icily.
"You can be the judge as long as I'm concerned. You can't meet Maximino without an appointment, which I don't believe you have," the man answered. And now when he took a better look at this newcomer he noticed that he looked like he had spent his night somewhere he didn't even want to think about.
Maybe even at the docks.
"You are kidding me, I have to get in," Nick protested and cursed the fate. This didn't go like he had wanted at all. And just because this fool was here.
The man shook his head.
"Sorry, Maximino is very busy and all kinds of adventurers can't disturb him. I suppose you don't even have a VIP pass?" he asked and there was now a malicious tone in his voice. Nick clenched his fists, what a moron!
"Are you having a meeting of some sort here?" a woman's voice was heard and they both turned to face the female who now stood next to them. She looked really stylish in her brown jacket and purple beret, which made her look like a Frenchwoman.
"Ah, miss Ofrenda, a pleasure to see you today. Maximino hasn't returned from his trip to El Marrow yet," the guard said changing back to oily politeness and Nick glared at him. So Maximino was out of town? Why couldn't this idiot have told it to him?
Olivia snorted in amusement making the guard glance around uneasily. The woman was always so arrogant no matter what he said and it made him feel really low. As if Olivia was above everyone, especially men.
"That's sad," she stated turning to have a better look at Nick.
"And who is this mister?" she asked curiously. The guard snorted.
"Some dirty adventurer who thinks he can meet Maximino just like that. Says he's a lawyer," he answered letting his despise to be heard. Olivia tilted her head in thought.
"So this is Nick Virago, I've heard about him. Unusual to meet you like this," she said.
"So you know his reputation already? Is he really a lawyer?" the guard wanted to know and Olivia glanced at him in annoyance. That idiot was just bothering her.
"Yes," she answered icily and the guard had enough sense to understand he wasn't needed or wanted here. He quickly stepped in the elevator and left Olivia alone with Nick.
"Do you have something to say?" Nick asked after the guard had gone. Olivia laughed in amusement.
"Does anyone ever have anything to say?" she wanted to know. Then she got serious again. "But seriously, what are you doing here? Of course you should know that they would never let you in. You have to be someone to be allowed in here," she said.
"You seem to have the right to do whatever you want," Nick remarked.
"True, but I am in a special position and Maximino loves me. I'm Olivia Ofrenda," Olivia answered emphasising the word 'love' and placing her hand on her hip.
"In that case you could probably arrange me a meeting with him," the lawyer stated. Olivia laughed again.
"Yes, I could, but why should I? You might have education and excellent papers, but they are no good here in Rubacava. No one knows you, what you've done and for who. Besides, you look way too nice to work for Maximino," she said.
"How sweet of you to tell me that," Nick commented sarcastically. He knew this woman was making fun of him and that just made him feel worse.
"Mm-m. If you really want to have a position in this city get some experience. Show all how corrupted you really are, that's all that matters here." Olivia advised stepping past him in the elevator.
Maximino was away, but during daytime she had nothing to do so she could just laze around and annoy the heck out of Raoul. The waiter was such a square.
Nick watched as the doors of the elevator closed.
So this wasn't going to be as easy as he had thought, he had to start from the bottom and work his way up until he was someone important enough to talk with Maximino. And that would take time.
Of course he had the whole eternity, but he didn't want to think about the possible years he would spend there eating his way up. Nick shook his head angrily and turned to leave. There was nothing for him in here and wouldn't be in a while.
Olivia's words echoed in his mind and made him think. What should he do to prove he was worth of the job he wanted? The woman had talked about corruption, which wasn't anything new to him. His whole family had been involved with illegal things as long as he could remember.
Because of that it had been so ironically sweet that he had announced he wanted to be a lawyer.
Someone very naive might have thought he wanted to be different than his family and build a life of justice, but it wasn't like that. He had understood the meaning of PR and that in the court room he had power others could just dream about.
And then he had died before he had even tasted that power he had longed. That cursed Natael...
But now he had a possibility to have all that power back, he just had to work for it again. It was nothing new and he would make it.
Right now he was nothing, but he would become something. And until that happened he had to settle with something less stylish he had first thought. Something he could leave behind and where no one important would see him.
A place which was so despised by everyone that no one would think he was there.
The morning sun shone on the sky and above the city of Rubacava as Nick walked on the streets. He went past the weird statue and the morgue.
Juelo's pathetic Rub-A-Mat was what he needed.
It was a usual morning and Manny swiped the tables in silence. They were already shining, but since he had finished the dishes just a moment ago he had decided to do something else.
Juelo had left to meet a friend of his who he believed could help them. Manny wasn't as optimistic, he was pretty sure they would be forced to close the place very soon.
To him it meant that he would lose his job and home if the next owner didn't want to hire him. Manny had no idea who would buy the place, but he thought he'd come up with something.
The door banged and he raised his gaze from the table. Lately there had been more people, two, but neither had bought anything. Now it seemed the second one of them was back.
"You again," he said to Nick, who sat on a chair in front of him. The lawyer didn't seem to be on a good mood and Manny didn't wonder it. Right now he knew no one who had a reason to smile in Rubacava.
"Unfortunately," Nick commented dryly and took a look around. The place was just as pathetic as he remembered and just sitting here made him feel sick.
But he didn't have any other choice now, the rat whole had to be his small hideout until dared to show his face somewhere else.
"I knew you couldn't resist the scent of our sandwiches," Manny said.
"Did you know that you are really annoying?" the lawyer asked and Manny shrugged.
"I've heard someone mentioning it, but who trusts gossip?" he asked.
It was quiet for a while and the only audible sound was a clock on the wall.
"Are you going to buy something or just sit there?" Manny questioned after some time. Nick glared daggers at him.
"Don't disturb me, I'm thinking," he snapped.
"All right, but I have to say that thinking is pretty hard work. You better eat something so you can do it," Manny said.
"Why are you wasting your time here? You should be a travel agent," Nick remarked deciding he couldn't make any plans as long as this fool was here.
"Well, it has always been my call, but..." Manny said finishing with a shrug. The lawyer had no idea how well he had chosen his words.
And that thought made him think who had replaced him in the DOD. There was always a chance that Domino took care of his clients too, but Manny didn't think the golden boy would bother to do anything for those who couldn't expect a Double-N Ticket.
Or he could handle them just so that he could gloat with his excellence and make the others feel even more miserable.
But he didn't have time to think about El Marrow now. He had to concentrate in finding Meche and what he would say to her once she was found.
"Are you going to sit here for too long? I have things to do," he said making Nick stare at him.
"What kind of cafe is this? You have no customers and then when you finally get someone you try to throw him out," he wanted to know.
"You are not a customer, you just sit there using our furniture," Manny answered. A real customer would have suited him, but he had promised to visit Glottis today and now this lawyer doomed him to stay here.
Nick stood up muttering something under his breath.
"All right, I'll go. I can't concentrate in anything because of your wise cracks anyway," he said. That moron -- what was his name again -- probably couldn't be one minute without opening his mouth.
"I think that should be taken as a compliment," Manny stated and left his rag on the table.
"I'll have some fresh air too. It's really nice walking down at the docks in the morning," he said.
"No wonder there are no signs of customers here. When the waiter is always gone no one notices even if someone comes in," Nick stated stepping out of the door. Manny followed just few steps behind not really listening at the lawyer. Then he noticed something.
There was someone outside.
And that someone had a gun.
Not even thinking about it Manny did what everyone in the right state of their mind would have done and jumped collapsing with Nick just when the shot could be heard. A red dart hit the wall behind them.
"What was that for?" Nick asked furiously standing up and straightening his suit. He had been too surprised because of Manny's odd behaviour to notice anything else.
"Don't ask, we have much more important things to think right now," Manny hurried and pointed at the man, who looked like he wanted to correct the mistake he had done. He raised his gun again.
"Come!" Manny shouted and managed to drag Nick with him. Another dart was shot and it hit the floor and the man neither one of them had ever seen growled in frustration. Fortunately he didn't seem to be a good shooter.
The man stood right on the stairs leading down so they couldn't escape that way. It was of course possible to return inside, but that would have been a dead end and a mistake Manny didn't want to make.
Instead of that he knew one more route and was sure only it could save them. He dragged Nick with him and stopped only when they were facing the edge of the terrace.
"Wait! You can't be seri - " Nick exclaimed when realising what Manny was up to, but the man didn't listen. He kept his grab of the lawyer's sleeve not really knowing why he bothered to save this fool and jumped down in the dirty grey water, which grabbed them as they hit the surface.
Few darts were shot after them, but they weren't even close to their target.
The water was cold and dark and surrounded them from everywhere. It wasn't new to either of them, Manny had made this same fall in his first day in Rubacava and Nick had got his share of cold sea water too.
With the most unpleasant way.
He knew he was already dead and that he didn't have lungs that could be filled with water and yet the same old panic hit him and the cold, dark and dirty water seemed to try to swallow him.
Just like back then.
Nick did exactly the same thing any drowning person would do and grabbed Manny as firmly as possible. By doing that he made it impossible for both of them to swim in the surface and there was a quiet 'thud' when they hit the bottom.
"What the heck are you doing? Let go of me!" Manny told trying to get the lawyer's bony fingers away not really managing. The man had decided to hold on the only thing that reminded him of the world above the surface.
If he had been allowed to think about it he would have never behaved like this, his cool pride would never allow it, but he had been thrown into the water with no warning. Slowly he started to realise what was going on and that he really didn't have to worry.
"Ack," he said in disgust and quickly backed away from Manny, who looked really relieved. He sure didn't want to stay here just because Nick couldn't take a hold of himself.
"The good side of this is that whoever tried to shoot us won't come down here," Nick stated and took a nervous look around. One couldn't really see ahead of oneself in the dark water and despite the fact he could control himself now he wanted away as soon as possible.
"But why did he want to shoot us in the first place? Or one of us," Manny thought aloud. He wasn't bothered by the fact that they stood at the sea bottom surrounded by trash, it was actually pretty nice without lungs.
"Don't ask me. I've never seen him before," Nick answered and looked up where the surface could be seen against the sun."Skeletons are not meant for swimming. How do we get back up?" he wanted to know. Manny shrugged.
"I guess we have to walk until we hit shore," he answered.
"You can't be serious."
"I'm not. We can climb up by the pillars of the piers."
After saying that Manny looked around for a while and then grabbed an oriel next to him. It was slippery and covered by black sea weed, but with its help he managed to get a bit higher. He didn't float as well as he had when he was alive, but bones were still better than stones.
Nick watched as the man went. He wasn't really interested in climbing that seemed both tiring and dirty. Then again, the other option was to stay down there and he didn't like that either.
He sighed giving up and started to follow Manny's example. Nick wasn't as agile or fast as Manny, but somehow managed to get himself up too.
The water became clearer when he came closer to the surface and finally he realised he was on dry land. Okay, not exactly, but close enough. He climbed to sit on a pier and sighed in relief staring at the water. It couldn't damage him anymore, but still it made him feel uncomfortable.
Manny squeezed his sleeve dry and glanced at him.
"Let me guess, you drowned," he stated.
"My brother drowned me," Nick said darkly.
"That was nice. You still shouldn't have panicked like that. You are already dead," Manny commented making Nick turn to face him.
"That never happened," he said in determination and Manny shrugged.
"Fine, but if I were you I wouldn't take it that hard. I once knew someone who was terribly afraid of pigeons," he said. Nick didn't say anything to that, but stood up sighing in frustration.
"My shoes are ruined," he muttered angrily.
Olivia sighed and leaned against a wall. Well, that had been interesting.
After leaving from the High Roller's Lounge she had decided to find Nick Virago again in order to learn to know him. Who knew if the man from previous night came back and wanted more information?
Somehow the woman had guessed the pathetic and poor lawyer would find his way to Juelo's cafe which was just the right place for him. So she had rushed after him and had been really surprised with what she had witnessed.
She had seen the man with a gun some distance away and been careful. The woman had been in Rubacava long enough to know what was healthy and she followed the happenings from a safe distance.
Someone wanted to get rid of either Manuel Calavera, Nick Virago or both. Who it was, Olivia didn't know, but she was going to find out.
Hoping the assassin hadn't seen her Olivia walked the streets of Rubacava to get back to Blue Casket.
But there was someone else who had seen the scene too and was really angry. Glottis clenched his fists and frowned, no one had the right to try to sprout his best friend!
Glottis was a kind and happy demon who rarely got mad, but when it happened nothing could stop him. In that condition he could have crushed someone, but never managed to do it.
Something hit his head painfully and then everything went black.
To be continued...
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