“Captain, I don’t know what to tell you. The game has changed.”
The dwarf peered sullenly through the haze filled cavern, rank with the smell of refuse, at the dandy who was smiling and smoking a thin cigarillo.
“Anger troubles the blood,” the dandy said in a sympathetic voice, his smile deepening. The expression on the henchman who stood behind him, his hands hanging free at his sides, as though he were waiting an excuse to use them, did not change.
“Daftness,” the dwarf said. He was dressed in sailor’s clothes, as was his companion, a giant of a man with hands as large as the dwarf’s head. They had docked that afternoon and made their way through the city and then below, through the sewers, to this room, as had been agreed. The sewers were ancient and huge, no longer in use, the sole memories of a long extinct civilization. They still retained the shadow of the grandeur that had once existed aboveground, long disappeared, replaced by haphazard and crumbling edifices.
“The Grand Jefe will not be happy. He’s no faro man.”
“He will play,” the dandy said. “It’s all been arranged. There’s no need to trouble yourself with his concerns.”
“I will decide what to trouble myself with.”
The dandy shrugged.
“Daftness,” the dwarf said and spat on the ground. “What have you done?”
“As I said, it has all been arranged. A new sun rises tomorrow,” the dandy said, spreading his hands. He looked at the henchman as if he might confirm that indeed it was so.
“Arranged? What daftness is this? What’s been arranged? What have you done?” Spittle flew from the dwarf’s mouth as he said it.
“It hardly matters to you, but I am keeping the Infernal Contraption. It is no longer for sale.”
“It has already been promised to someone. We set sail tonight.”
“The seas are angry this night, captain.”
The dandy made a show of looking at his shoes, though he still kept his eyes on the two of them. He threw the stub of his cigarillo away and stepped toward the dwarf, holding both hands before him.
“I don’t know what else to tell you. It is not for sale.”
“The thing is not yours. It is for the Grand Jefe to decide,” the dwarf growled. “Now let’s stop with this nonsense. The hour’s getting late.”
Here the dandy’s smile grew. “As to that, there are great many things that are no longer for the Grand Jefe to decide.”
“We’ll see what he has to say when I tell him that you’ve squared the deal.”
“You’ll not be seeing him anytime soon.”
As the dandy spoke the henchman stepped from behind him holding an antiquated handpiece. Before anyone had a chance to move further the giant leapt towards the henchman, moving with a surprising quickness, and got hold of his wrist and neck in his massive hands. The sound of grinding bone was followed by an airless scream from the henchman, more felt by the two who watched than heard. The gun fell from the henchman’s hand and the echoes of its clattering had only just dimmed when he followed it to the ground. The dandy watched with disbelieving eyes.
“The game is changed,” the dwarf said and was at the dandy’s throat with a knife.