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YEAR ONE AND A HALF CHAPTER 7
"What does this card mean, Virago?" Manny asked snatching the card to himself from the lawyer's fingers. He took another glance at it too, the picture on it wasn't pretty.
"Why should I tell you?" Nick asked sarcastically becoming his cold self again.
"Because my best friend is somehow involved and I want to help him. And it suits you too, I'm sure you are the one in danger," Manny answered. Nick glared at him darkly, the waiter was unfortunately telling the truth.
He had no money nor a position to protect him, so he was all alone against this threat. It was new to him and he didn't like it at all. It was also dangerous and he wasn't sure he wanted to have a fight with anyone until he had some real power.
"All right. This card belongs to Nicander," he said annoyed.
"I knew that already," Manny commented. Nick snorted.
"Then why did you ask?" he wanted to know.
"Because I want to know who this Nicander is and why he is after you. Not that I was worried about you, but this causes troubles for me and my friend," the waiter stated simply.
"I still don't understand why you call a demon your friend," Nick said, but decided to give in under Manny's pressing stare. "Nicander is my brother," he snapped shortly.
"The same who drowned you?" Manny asked.
"Of course not, you fool! That was Natael. How could he have died when I just arrived? Natael poisoned Nicander good five years ago because he tried to steal his position," Nick answered as it was all clear.
"All right. How many brothers do you have? Anyone else I should know about?" Manny questioned.
"Only two, Natael and Nicander, but we have a sister Nadja who left after turning twenty."
"Your parents really loved the letter 'n'," Manny said.
"Why are we having this conversation?"
"Let me think... Because you want to tell your life story to me."
Nick sighed in frustration, one just couldn't talk with Calavera about anything without receiving at least one stupid comment. He was starting to run out of patience and if this continued he wouldn't stand it.
Manny noticed the lawyer was losing his nerves so he forced himself to swallow whatever he had been about to say.
"But why does your brother want to get rid of you?" he asked. Nick shrugged.
"How should I know? I never liked him and if Natael hadn't been faster I would have killed him. I even had the knife ready," he snapped. Manny really wanted to say him few words about love siblings usually shared, but let it be.
"Whatever the reason is it causes trouble for both of us," he replied in thought.
"Quite an interesting story," Olivia remarked when Nicander had told everything. The man had said much, but nothing important and she hadn't found out anything else than Nicander had come to Rubacava to get rid of his younger brother.
"Then again, it is pretty childish to assume we would warn him. No one in Rubacava would do it without getting paid," she added in thought.
"Perhaps, but I've learned not to take risks," Nicander answered.
Olivia rested her arm on the arm rest and waited. It was past midnight, but she had never been one to like sleeping. She usually stayed up until dawn writing poems and she wasn't tired at all.
"Where did you send your sailor? And what is his role in this?"
"Pedro? He is already on the way to destroy my pathetic brother. He's not that skilled, but he has potential so I let him hang around," Nicander replied.
"Aren't you going to be there witnessing your brother's last moments? How can you taste revenge if you don't see anything?" the woman wanted to know.
"I already said I don't take risks. Pedro can take care of it and then I can forget Nick forever and concentrate in far more important matters," Nicander said and noticed something then.
"What are you doing?" he asked Glottis who had crept to investigate the piano. The demon glanced at him looking surprised and a bit guilty too.
"Me? Nothing, just had a look at this interesting machine. How does it work?" he asked and Nicander stood up walking to him. He run his bone fingers on the shining surface of the piano as if it was his biggest pride.
"This beauty is the image of true excellence. And that is like this, when someone actually plays it its value just increases," he said softly. Glottis flapped his ears in curiosity.
"You can play it?" he asked and then pressed one of the white keys. It let out a high sound and it echoed in the cabin. "Nice. I'd like to know more about its composition and mechanic. Could I take it apart?" Glottis asked and Nicander stared at him in horror.
"Take apart? My fine piano?" he almost exclaimed and Glottis looked at him hopefully.
"Yes, it fascinates me," he said.
"If you really want to learn more about it I can teach you to play something," Nicander said on guard and then grabbed the demon's fingers.
"I already noticed how fine and slender fingers you have. They are made for playing piano," he said and Glottis listened in silence. He didn't quite understand the weird guy, but if playing helped him to understand the piano he could as well try.
"All right. Could you show me how to play it?" the demon asked.
"Of course. I appreciate everyone who is interested in the secrets of piano music," Nicander promised and gestured the demon to take a seat. The bench was too small for Glottis, but he didn't argue about it.
He touched the keys with his fingers.
"It is beautiful," he said pleased.
"Yes, yes, but you have to learn the notes. This here is 'H' and the one next to it is 'A'. You have to remember where each one is, but we can let that be now. I'll teach you this simple tune first," Nicander said and placed his fingers on the keys.
He wasn't actually a good teacher, but playing piano was one of those few things death hadn't taken from him so he always enjoyed it when he could spread the fun. The tune he played for Glottis was very simple and he could have played it blindfolded, but at that point it wasn't wise to teach the demon anything but easy tunes.
"So you like music," Olivia stated watching the two with slight interest. Nicander glanced at her.
"Yes, it fascinated me when I was little. Natael wanted be a banker and a member of a powerful crime organisation and Nick became a lawyer. So it was up to me to have some culture in the family."
"I suppose you all three had connections to that organisation? That's why you are here," Olivia said and Nicander nodded gloomily.
"Yes, Nick was starting to think too much of himself and desire my position. He thought it was frustrating to be the youngest one of us so he decided to get rid of me," he said.
"How do you know it was him?" Olivia asked curiously. Nicander seemed to be so sure of it.
"Who else could it have been? I and he never got along and he had all the reasons to want to see me dead."
"Maybe so, but Rubacava has taught me nothing is ever what it seems," the woman pointed out.
"Every city in the world is not Rubacava and you can't make decisions because of one place," Nicander replied not lifting his gaze, but concentrated in teaching Glottis. "That's right, when you learn to play a bit faster and study the notes you could become anything. You clearly have talent," he flattered pleased because he had found a good student. If Glottis had been human he would have taken him as his apprentice, but demons were never good for positions like that.
They could be talented, strong and loyal, but each one of them had been created for one single purpose. Despite the fact this demon was one of the most talented ones Nicander had ever seen he could sense he wasn't a pianist demon.
"Thank you, mister Virago. I do like cars more, but playing piano isn't that bad," Glottis said and run his fingers on the keys creating a nice tune. Nicander turned to see Olivia and nodded at Glottis to tell the woman how special this demon really was.
"Oh boy, how interesting," Olivia said sarcastically.
"You know Virago, I think we should find this brother of yours," Manny commented.
"And may I ask why?" Nick wanted to know. They had both drank way too much coffee and just sat there in silence.
"Because I want to know where Glottis is. And it could be good if you sorted things out with him before he sprouts you."
"You can't sort things out with Nicander. It's pretty useless with brainless people," Nick replied. Manny tapped at his skull.
"We are all brainless, remember?" he said. Nick snorted.
"Your sense of humour really seems to be blossoming."
"What I'm trying to say is that we have to do something about the situation instead of just sitting here. Neither one of us gets anywhere before we've solved this," Manny said becoming a bit more serious again.
"We?" Nick asked and Manny spread his arms.
"Yes, we! We are having this problem because of you, Virago, and if you really think I'm going to do everything while you sit there you are mistaken!" he snapped.
"So you have some edge too," Nick answered and the despise in his voice really got Manny boiling. Who the heck did that man think he was?
"You know, I really don't understand you," he said angrily.
"Not a surprise, I'm a lawyer."
"All right then, mister Lawyer, but now - " Manny started, but then the door was kicked in and someone soon followed it. They both turned to see and noticed they were face to face with the same maniac as before.
"This doesn't look good," Manny said standing up. "Put that gun away so that I don't have to call the security guards," he added loudly. Pedro gestured him to back away.
"You may leave, Calavera. My employer is interested in this little crook," he said darkly and nodding at Nick. The lawyer was still sitting and eyed this sudden guest.
"Is this the best man Nicander could afford to send after me? I'm hurt," he said.
"The tone will change soon, lawyer. I didn't come here to fail like last time," Pedro growled and took a better grab of his gun.
"I'm not going anywhere before I know where Glottis is!" Manny interrupted. The man who had rushed in glanced at him in annoyance.
"Don't mess up with this! That demon is in good hands and you can have him back if you do as you are told," he advised.
"When? And how can I be sure you are talking the truth?" Manny asked suspiciously. Now Nick had stood up too and looked around thinking where to rush if things got nasty. You could never know when you dealt with maniacs.
"I'm starting to lose my nerves with you. Last time you ruined everything by saving that public nuisance and now all you do is shoot your mouth off. What is wrong with you?" the sailor asked frustrated. Manny shrugged.
"I guess I was born like this," he said innocently and flinched when Pedro pointed his gun at him.
"One word and I'll forget everything we promised the demon. That wouldn't be very healthy for you," he threatened.
"Weren't you supposed to shoot Nick over there?" Manny asked nodding at the lawyer who glared at him darkly.
"Oh, thank you Calavera! So nice of you to remind him," he replied. Pedro shook his head. He was starting to get really nervous and couldn't say why he hadn't pulled the trigger already.
"That's it! I'm going to shoot!" he exclaimed and right when he had got that said Juelo rushed from upstairs looking really mad. He was dressed up in an orange pyjama and had the situation been slightly different Manny would have laughed.
"What is going on here? Calavera! What's this noise?" the owner of the Rub-A-Mat asked his voice thick with annoyance and tiredness.
The shot echoed in the air and Juelo didn't have time to notice anything before the red dart had sunk in his chest and in the next moment leafs and buds were sprouting from his body. He screamed, at first in surprise and then in pain when the flowers ate his bones and finally the man fell growing yellow flowers.
Pedro hadn't meant to shoot Juelo, he had just been really nervous and the sudden appearance of the man had made him fire. He didn't actually care about the man at all, but it was a surprise to see a soul being destroyed just like that without any warning.
"Come on!" Manny hurried gesturing at Nick and together they rushed past Pedro in the night of Rubacava. Pedro didn't leave after them, but just stared at what he had done.
"Despite the fact you are the most annoying person I've ever met hanging around with you has its advantages. You have an incredible luck," Nick commented when they ran the steps down. It didn't take long before they passed the police station and Membrillo's morgue, but of course they didn't even consider going in.
The polices couldn't help them -- even if Bogen was there -- and Membrillo had probably left already. His job with the sprouted souls was very tiring and had made him gloomier and gloomies during the years. Some of the old people in Rubacava could remember the happy and positive Membrillo who had just arrived in town and had been about to continue in the Ninth Underworld.
Now Membrillo was depressed and quiet and he was in no hurry to anywhere. He had totally lost his faith in that there was a better place and his job just made it worse and all his friends had left him.
There was a shot somewhere behind them, and it was actually a good sign. Others would hear it too and alarm everybody and after that it would be ridiculously easy to escape.
"If he keeps firing like that he won't dare to chase us for long," Manny guessed and Nick nodded.
"With some luck he'll shoot himself," the lawyer added.
Few shots were heard, but they were all some distant away and finally it was quiet. They still didn't dare to stop, but continued until they were sure they really were safe.
Nick leaned against a wall when they were certain Pedro had given up.
"At least I'm going to get in shape with you, Calavera," he said. His fine Italian shoes were not meant for running and he could really feel it in his feet.
"That's great. You need it, doing an academic sedentary work is really unhealthy," Manny remarked.
"I'm already dead. Could it possibly get any worse?" Nick asked sarcastically and straightened his back then. They had run all the way through the still open lobby of the Cat Track and were now pretty close to the warehouse where the Bone Wagon was.
"Sure, you might break your bones."
Nick didn't say anything to that.
"At the docks in the middle of the night. That's isn't very healthy either, even if you were dead," he said in suspicion. He was very wary about sailors and actually everyone who didn't have papers from some known university.
"You are right, there has been more sproutings here lately," he admitted. Then he rubbed the back of his skull and looked around himself. Something was bothering him and he couldn't quite say what it was...
Someone had said something about the docks... Something he hadn't thought twice then, but what now seemed important.
Who had he talked to in the last days?
"Calavera? What are you doing?" Nick asked, but Manny gestured him to shut up.
"Shh! I'm thinking," he said.
Juelo, Glottis, Velasco, Carla...
"Now I know! I know where to find your brother!" he exclaimed suddenly and Nick looked at him in suspicion.
"What do you mean? Are you completely nuts?" he wanted to know. Manny shook his head.
"Carla said that there is a new ship just outside the city's waters and no one knows anything about it. At the same time when the ship appeared more sproutings started to happen and when I add that it all happened just before you arrived... That ship must belong to your brother," he said.
"Could be. Nicander always liked sea and sailing," Nick admitted. They were both quiet for a while and looked at each other. Then Manny turned to stare at the docks.
"Well, shall we?" he asked.
To be continued...
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