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I’m not sure how long I sat there pickling my misery but in terms of alcohol it was about three-fifth’s of the bottle. At the end of that time I heard the outer office door open and then close again. Quick, quiet steps crossed to the inner door. I looked up, saw nothing, then dropped my gaze enough to see a small demon standing in the doorway. He looked like nothing so much as a bright-pink armadillo. “What brings you sniffing around here?” I asked and poured myself another shot.
“Everyone’s a comedian,” the tracker demon grumbled in his piping voice. He came further into the office and hitched himself into the chair in front of my desk and just stared at me for a few seconds. He had a look in his eye as if he were sizing me up. “I guess I’m too late.”
I bit. “For what?” I asked and knocked back the scotch.
“A pal of mine sent me over to warn you some tough guys were coming to see you,” Nares answered. “Judging by the dents, I’d say they’d been here and gone already.”
I grunted. “Very perceptive. You must be sober.” I poured again. The bottle was looking more than a little anemic.
The little demon shrugged, not at all ashamed that he spent most of his time stewed to the hat. “I’ve been working,” he said, which explained his current state. “The regular cops have me tracking some missing coin dealer.” That got my attention but it didn’t stop me from taking the scotch. “I don’t have much to show for it yet, but I was nosing around this gambling dive outside of town. The friend I mentioned spotted me and persuaded me to take a detour and be quick about it. I guess I botched that all right, but he had another message I was to give you: he wants you to meet him at the Chinese club as soon as you can. He’s probably there already.”
The Chinese club was a thoroughly British establishment and that wasn’t really it’s name. It was called that because it was founded by Charles George Gordon. It was the first but not the last gentleman's club to be founded in El Marrow…ed just to be sure.
“He said he’d be wearing a green carnation,” Nares answered.
He wouldn’t, but that confirmed who it was as clearly as hearing his name. “All right,” I said, “I guess I’ll be there.”
“My joy knows no bounds,” Nares said, sliding off the seat of his chair. “I only came as a favor to a friend...and that isn’t you.” He looked slightly mortified by his choice of words. “I mean you’re a former customer,” he clarified. “Maybe future, too. I’m always looking for work.”
“Aren’t we all?” I said. “By the way, was it Tom Lang who hired you to track the coin dealer?”
“Yeah,” Nares answered, sounding a little surprised. “How’d you guess?”
“I didn’t,” I said. “When are you speaking to him again?”
“Dunno. When I’ve got really got something to pass on, I suppose. Why?”
“The goons you came to warn me about,” I said, “they might be tied into that disappearance.”
The demon gave me a long, searching look. “You’re scary,” he finally said. “What in the Eighth Underworld gives you an idea like that?”
“That gambling joint you mentioned—it’s Diamond Maxwell’s right? You just tell the lieutenant what I said and he’ll connect the dots, don’t you worry about that.”
“Yeah, sure,” Nares said. “Sure thing.” He shook his head and started for the door. “Be seeing you, flatfoot,” he called out behind him as he left.
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