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YEAR ONE AND A HALF CHAPTER 8
Nicander, Olivia and Glottis turned around when there was an uncertain knock on the door. It seemed that whoever was about to come in didn't want to do it, and it was a bad sign.
"Come in," Nicander said loudly standing up from his place beside Glottis. During the time he had tried to teach the demon how to play piano and had been delighted to find out that he was really talented. The mere thought that such a gift had been given to a demon, who'd never learn to truly appreciate piano music, pained him.
A good and interested student he was nevertheless and Nicander had, to his own surprise, enjoyed teaching him.
The door was opened and Pedro stepped in.
"Yes? Did you sprout him?" Nicander asked barely managing to hide his excitement. Pedro kept his gaze on the ground and shifted on his place, and that was enough for the man in a blue suit.
Olivia started to laugh.
"That was the revenge plan, then," she said in amuse.
Nicander didn't reply to her, but walked to his sailor in anger.
"What happened?" he asked slowly and his voice was thick with hatred.
"Problems and I accidentally shot some idiot who worked there. Your brother escaped during that scene," he said shortly and there was a bang when the piano chair fell as Glottis stood up.
"Manny? Did you shoot Manny?" the demon asked in worry and Pedro shook his head to keep the demon away.
"No! It was someone else. Calavera ran away with my target. I tried to follow them, but it became too dangerous in the end," he said.
"You probably shot after them like a village idiot," Olivia guessed. To her this was all really amusing and she was interested in seeing who won this little play.
Nicander sighed in frustration and covered his eye holes. He had known Pedro wasn't the best one for the job, but he had thought he was able to shoot one well aimed shot. Well, he had been wrong.
"Where is my brother now?" he asked sharply and Pedro could just shrug.
"Escaped with Calavera. They can be anywhere in Rubacava."
"I don't understand why I am here with you," Nick said holding the rails of the small boat convulsively. He didn't like travelling on water, whether it was by a huge ship or just a wooden boat.
Black waves hit the rails raising small drops of salty water in the air. There were only few hours of dark left and then the sun would rise to light the port town of Rubacava making it a bit safer place than at the moment.
"Let me think... probably because it's better for you to find your brother before he finds you," Manny commented while rowing. He didn't like his job, but he was stronger than Nick and had been chosen for it by quite an unfair vote. Then again, if he had made the lawyer do any physical labour his whining would have made Manny jump in the water.
Nick didn't say anything, but concentrated in keeping an eye on their surroundings. Neither of them knew where Nicander's ship -- if it really was his -- was and they had to row around looking for it. Their only clue was that it was anchored somewhere outside the city's waters.
The night was cool and bright. They didn't actually want to be rowing on the Sea of Lament, but they had no other options. Manny didn't trust Pedro and wanted to find Glottis by himself to make sure he was all right. And Nick then, he had to straighten the mess before Nicander managed to get rid of him.
"I just hope your brother doesn't have any better men," Manny said. They had no guns, getting them was way too difficult and they were expensive, so they were in for a pretty difficult fight if the ship was loaded with armed men.
"If he had he wouldn't have used Pedro again after he failed," Nick assured.
"If you say so, he is your brother after all."
Then Nick suddenly gestured Manny to stop rowing and he obeyed sticking the oars in the water to slow them down. It was almost quiet, they heard only the splashing of waves.
"There is something," Nick said pointing forward and Manny crept closer to have a look. Despite how well you could see that night it was difficult to actually notice anything. Maybe the lawyer had seen things?
But no... Now when he peered really carefully he could see the figure of a ship against the dark sky and he nodded.
"It has to be that one. Let's go," he said quietly. It was unlikely that anyone expected them or noticed their arrival, but right now they couldn't afford to take useless risks. They had no way to escape if someone saw them.
Of course they could always jump in the sea, but after the previous experience Manny didn't want to do it with Nick. The water was much deeper there and sailors talked about horrible monsters who lived down there. He had no desire to meet any of them.
He rowed slowly and carefully taking them closer to the ship. If there was any light there it was on the other side so that none of it could be seen in Rubacava.
There was a quiet sound as the boat hit against the ship and they both sat in silence for a while. When nothing happened and no one came to investigate they dared to relax.
"Somewhere has to be a window that we can reach," Manny guessed slowly starting to take the boat around the ship while Nick tried to find a way in.
"Maybe, but will it be big enough for us to fit through?" he asked not believing they would find a window big enough.
"Don't think so," Manny replied.
"Well, you sure are optimistic," the lawyer stated and then felt something under his palms.
"Go back a little," he said quickly and when he felt the item again he grabbed it tightly.
"What now?" Manny wanted to know. He had stopped rowing again and the small boat rested on the waves.
"I don't know, I can't see it. But I think it's a life buoy," Nick guessed.
"And what use will it be for us? Except for you, you hate water, right?" his comrade said sarcastically. Nick glared at him.
"Right now it seems we can't get up there any other way but climbing with this thing. It can't hang here if the people on the deck can't reach it, so if it just is firmly there it shouldn't be difficult to use it," he said pulling the buoy to see if he could take it off.
It seemed to be glued there and it was their only way to the deck.
"Let's try it then. You go first," Manny said.
"Why me?" Nick wanted to know.
"Because it was your idea and you are already there. If I tried to come past you we'd just manage to make this boat turn over and then we would be swimming," Manny answered and Nick growled in frustration. This adventure was really getting on his nerves. If he made it he'd never want to see Calavera again.
The lawyer grabbed the buoy and somehow lifted himself to stand on it. He staggered there a while until was able to climb on the deck. He brushed his already worn out suit and turned to witness as Manny climbed up nimbly.
"So now we are here," Manny said taking a glance around himself.
The whole ship seemed to be dark, either everyone was sleeping or light was only where it wouldn't show in Rubacava. They couldn't see or hear anyone and they felt very unprotected just standing there.
"But where should we go?" Nick thought aloud. He wasn't actually interested in what Manny did, but it was the best to know what he was up to. The lawyer had already decided he would find his brother and see what happened, and he didn't need Calavera for that. If their plans were very different they just couldn't help it.
"I'm going to find Glottis and get out of here," Manny announced firmly. Nick nodded.
"It's a farewell then," he said pretty pleased. Even though hanging around Calavera was safe he couldn't stand looking at the sarcastic waiter.
Manny nodded too. He didn't like the lawyer, something in him didn't promise good and though he wasn't innocent himself he didn't like the style of the man. To this point they had managed to tolerate each other, but now when it wasn't necessary anymore they were happy to depart.
"See you sometime," he said not meaning it and started to walk away on the dark deck.
"Hope not," Nick muttered leaving in the opposite direction.
It didn't take long before Manny found stairs down under the deck and he started to step down pressing his back against the wall. He tried to walk in the shadows as much as possible and make very little noise, that way he had the chance to find Glottis and free him without anyone noticing.
But the problem was how they were going to get out of there. The small boat they had was too small for his big demon friend. Somewhere had to be a bigger one -- how had they brought Glottis there if there wasn't -- but looking for and stealing it made the adventure much more dangerous.
He stopped on his heels when he felt soft carpet under his shoes. He had arrived in the more luxurious parts of the ship and Nicander probably slept here.
He doubted Glottis was kept there, they had probably locked up his friend somewhere else. He had to get out of there as soon as possible and find his friend.
Manny turned around to leave to another direction, but stiffened when he heard a familiar voice behind him.
"You shouldn't have come here, Calavera. I told you your friend is all right," Pedro warned and held a gun in his hand. He looked like he was ready to fire and Manny didn't want to make him any more angry.
"Relax, buddy. I just decided to pay you a visit. You are not offended, are you?" Manny said and backed few steps.
"Don't move!" Pedro snapped and waved his gun as if he wanted to remind Manny who was in charge now.
"I don't have to shoot you, the most important thing is to make sure you won't be there to mess up while boss takes care of his brother. But if you try something, anything, I won't have any other option," he continued.
"What makes you think I somehow want to help Nick?" Manny asked. If he managed to keep Pedro talking there was a chance the man wouldn't lose his nerves.
"You've ruined our plans two times already, no one is stupid enough to do it by accident. As said, none of us have a heart around here," the sailor said.
"Hmm... I guess you are right. But I'm not stupid," Manny stated. He tapped at his skull as if wanting to prove it.
"Manny! What are you doing here?" Glottis's familiar and welcomed voice was heard. Pedro turned around to see the big demon who had no idea what was going on.
Manny didn't answer, but gestured at his friend who just then noticed the gun in Pedro's hand. The demon frowned.
"You weren't going to shoot Manny, were you?" he asked with a threatening tone. Pedro shook his head quickly and backed away from the demon.
"Of course not! I'd never shoot him!" he defended himself.
"Don't believe him Glottis, he was just about to pull the trigger when you came," Manny said. It wasn't actually true, but close enough. Pedro was a security risk to everyone and it was better if they got rid of him now, not after someone was sprouted.
Glottis slit his eyes dangerously and neared the seaman. The man backed away some more not even remembering the gun. Not that it would have helped that much, one couldn't get rid of demons by just shooting them.
Before the terrified man managed to do anything the demon had grabbed his collar, snatched the gun and thrown it away.
"I think you have to cool up some," he said and calmly climbed on the deck. There he didn't hesitate at all, but threw the screaming Pedro in the sea.
There was a splash when he hit the water and then nothing. He had a theoretical chance to survive if he managed to reach the shore by foot, but the monsters would probably take care of him and eat his bones.
"Thank you Glottis," Manny said stepping next to his friend and eyed the dark water. The demon shrugged.
"You're welcome Manny. But what are you doing here?" he wanted to know.
"I came to save you. Why else would I have took such risks?" his friend replied.
"But Manny, you don't have to save me. Nicander is really nice and teaches me how to play piano. He promised that we can return home once he has got rid of his brother," Glottis explained. He valued that his friend cared, it just proved how close they were.
"But this wasn't a completely useless trip, at least the world got rid of one idiot," Manny said nodding at the water. "Do you know how to get out of here? I really don't want to stay and see which one of those two Viragos is the winner," he continued. Glottis flapped his ears in surprise.
"So you mean Nick is here? Shouldn't we go and help Nicander?" he asked.
"Nicander? But this is all his fault. Not that Nick is any better. If we get involved in their mess we'll end up worse, so I think it's better to just let it be. It doesn't matter which one of them wins," Manny said.
"If you say so, Manny," Glottis agreed and together the friends left to look for a bigger boat that could take them to shore.
Unlike Manny, Nick stayed on the deck, but he too tried to be as quiet as possible. He didn't want to be surprised by anyone, but had no idea what to do once he met someone.
It was five years since he had last talked to his brother and they had never got along that well. Nicander was way too childish for his liking, he really believed he could be something by playing a piano.
He had understood Natael somehow, the oldest brother had worshipped money and though Nick wasn't going to let himself get attached to anything that badly, he agreed. Money was one of the most important things and he couldn't name anything else as important as good position.
It was almost quiet, the lawyer heard only the sound of waves hitting against the ship and a few distant clangs here and there. It seemed the whole ship was alive -- as alive as it could be in that world -- and he didn't like the idea.
"Well, well... my sweet kid brother bothers to pay me a visit," a voice he hadn't heard in years said behind him and Nick turned around.
Nicander stood in front of him a new shining gun in his hand and dressed up in blue clothes, just like when he had been alive.
"I already thought I wouldn't have to meet you again," Nick said in frustration and Nicander laughed.
"You probably thought so, but your plan failed. Here we are again and this time Natael can't save you from me," he said.
"I highly doubt he would do it, even if he could," Nick replied.
"He always liked you more than me," his brother reminded. Olivia had been right, it was so much fun to be there watching Nick's last moments and know he had done it.
"That didn't stop him from killing me," the lawyer said darkly. Nicander tilted his head.
"So that is how you died. Murdered. Oh well, a proper end for a murderer," he said in amuse. This was so ironic!
"I am not a murderer. I've never killed anyone, which I now regret. I should have taken care of you before Natael did. Maybe then he would have thought I was something and not made a move against me," Nick said sharply.
"Natael? What are you - " Nicander started, but laughed again then.
"What is so funny?" the lawyer asked angrily. The five years hadn't changed Nicander, he was just as annoying as last time.
"Good try Nick, you always were the most cunning one of us, that much I have to admit. But don't talk for nothing, I know you are the one who poisoned me," he said.
"Then you know wrong. My intention was to kill you, but our dear brother was faster," Nick said and crept slowly away. Just a little bit more and he'd be around the corner safe from the darts.
"You liar! Do you think I'm stupid?" Nicander asked angrily and Nick decided that now was a good time to see if he had had the chance to become a professional sprinter. He rushed on the move soon disappearing behind the corner and thinking what he would do.
He heard his brother had left after him and his steps. Nicander wasn't as impatient as Pedro, who in the same situation would be out of darts by now, but it made him a more dangerous opponent.
Nick almost flew the stairs down and closed the door behind him, at least he was safe for a while. But not for long, he had to come up with something and take care of Nicander so that he would never cause any harm to him.
There was loud banging when his brother whacked the door in frustration. He demanded him to open the door though he well knew he'd never do it. Then the banging stopped and Nick knew Nicander had gone to search for another way in. One certainly existed and Nicander knew where it was, it was his ship after all.
So the lawyer would be running out of time if he didn't come up with something pretty soon.
Nick looked around starting to feel desperate. He was standing in a corridor which didn't seem very decorated, so it probably didn't lead to where Nicander slept.
There was a door that wasn't quite closed so he rushed to it and opened it.
He stepped inside taking a careful look at the surroundings. Everything was very neat, there was a saucepan filled with water on the table and all cupboards were probably full of similar stuff. Maybe he'd find something to use against Nicander?
In the first cupboard were knives and forks, which weren't very useful since his brother was just bones. Growling in anger Nick slammed the cupboard shut and just then realised it had been a stupid thing to do.
"If he wasn't a thick headed idiot I wouldn't be here going through this junk," he muttered moving to the next cupboard which held something more interesting.
He found a shining salver and investigated it in interest. The metal was decorated with flower carvings and the lawyer tapped at it with his knuckles. It echoed faintly and he nodded pleased. Maybe not the best armour in the world, but better than nothing.
"You ought to be good then," he said to the salver slipping in inside his suit and trying to not rip his clothes too much. Nicander wasn't allowed to notice anything until it was too late.
He took a thick ladle with him too and believed he was now as well protected as it was possible in this situation. He could have put a kettle in his head, but that ridiculous he didn't want to be. This was embarrassing enough.
Nick returned to the corridor after making sure it was empty. He saw no one anywhere which was a good sign and considered what to do next.
He could follow the corridor or return on the deck. Which option was better? Nick had never been a very good strategist, but believed it was better if he didn't stay in the corridor for too long. If he was trapped there it would be the end, but on the deck he had much more options.
The door he had locked was easily opened and he stepped on the deck in silence. It was colder and somehow more peaceful outside. It felt as if Nicander didn't even exist and that he had imagined the whole thing.
Nick pressed his back against the wall, he didn't want Nicander to surprise him from behind.
But where was his brother?
He wrapped his fingers tightly around the ladle and looked around.
Something flashed and Nick immediately turned to look in that direction. In the next moment a shot could be heard and the lawyer felt as the poisonous dart hit the salver that protected his chest. He stumbled few steps back and thanked his luck for the fact he had realised to cover himself.
He quickly pulled the dart out and threw it away. No poison was in his bones yet, but he didn't want to risk it by walking around with the dart still in the salver.
"Missed me, brother!" he shouted at Nicander, who eyed him in suspicion. He could have sworn he had aimed just right...
"I won't do that mistake again," the pianist promised and fired again. Nick was much closer this time, and Nicander thought the lawyer was really stupid to come nearer and offer himself to be shot. There was a silly looking ladle in his hand and Nicander laughed.
"You honestly think you can harm me with that?" he asked expecting the flowers to eat his brother, but instead of that he calmly pulled the dart from his chest and dropped in on the deck.
"Yes," he replied and whacked the ladle on his brother's skull before he even managed to realise something was wrong.
"What - oof!" Nicander exclaimed and stumbled back holding his head. The gun fell from his hand.
Nick immediately snatched it and backed away when it was his.
"The odds have changed now, hmm," he said darkly.
Nicander stared at him in shock and couldn't say anything at first.
"But how did you... I shot you!" he managed to say. Nick drew the salver and threw the item on the deck and it made a clang.
"In this town nothing is what it looks like," the lawyer said calmly. Nicander stared at the suffered salver for a while until he totally realised how serious the situation was. He raised his gaze to his brother.
"Don't do anything stupid Nick, let me talk first," he said quickly and one could hear how nervous he was. If Nick wanted he could shoot him.
"Yes? It is interesting to hear what you have to say after this. Farewell, maybe?" he said sarcastically.
"Come on Nick, I just played with you. Of course I believe you, I never thought you had killed me," Nicander said getting more and more nervous. He took a quick glance around himself, but there wasn't a way to escape.
"Really. So that is why you shot at me," Nick guessed raising the gun. His brother backed away and raised his arm to protect himself.
"Wait! What will you do when Natael comes here? He killed us both once, you will never survive against him alone! Let's team up to wait for him and destroy him together!"
"Together?" Nick repeated. Nicander nodded eagerly.
"Yes, together! Just like real brothers should!" he said.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't like that bargain. Goodbye then, brother," Nick said pulling the trigger.
Nicander fell on his back on the deck as the poison dart hit his chest and leafs sprouted from his body. Orange flowers blossomed all around him and during this he screamed cursing his brother and swearing he would get what he deserved sometime.
Nick watched his brother's destruction calmly and shrugged when it was all finished and his body taken over by flowers.
"To be honest, I never thought you'd do that," a familiar voice said and Nick turned to face Olivia, who was walking in the scene.
"I see," the man stated.
"You know, many of the men I know would have given him another chance. He was your brother after all," the woman continued and stared at the flowers in thought.
"But I wouldn't. I would have never been able to trust him, it was better to get rid of him when it was possible," Nick said and Olivia started to laugh. "What?" the lawyer asked angrily.
"You are a special man, Nick Virago. A man has to be something if he can shoot his own brother just like that," Olivia said in amuse.
Nick didn't say anything and they stood in silence for a while.
"To tell the truth, Maximino has been looking for a good lawyer a while. Someone talented who won't pity anyone for nothing or betray him with the first chance," the woman continued.
Nick nodded, it seemed he had proven himself now. Olivia had told him to show how corrupted he could be and what was a better prove than this?
He threw the gun away next to his brother's corpse and flinched when Olivia touched him lightly while walking past him.
"Only a very interesting man can commit the murder of his brother. I like interesting men," she said in the darkness.
It was an unusually beautiful day in Rubacava and it made many go outside and enjoy it.
Manny and Glottis didn't have time for it though, they were busy redecorating the Rub-A-Mat so that they could start their own business.
Now when Juelo was gone Manny had claimed the small cafe as his own. No one had stopped him, they all knew he had been the only worker there and no one was interested in such a pathetic place. They all thought he had no chance against real casinos, but they let him try anyway.
"Manny, I've been thinking," Glottis said while painting the wall. Manny glanced at him.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Nicander said that I can play piano. What do you think, should I practise more?" the demon asked as if he was ashamed.
"If it makes you happy. Right now we don't have the chance to meddle with cars, so it's good if you find something else to do," Manny said.
"Good. I could become the pianist of this club one day," Glottis said happily.
Manny nodded and concentrated in making plans about all the changes they had to do. His dream of a club of his own had finally come true and now he could give Glottis a real home.
He hadn't seen Nick after their adventure and was pleased with that. He didn't like the lawyer, especially after he had heard what he had done to his brother. Nick had got what he wanted too, and was Maximino's personal lawyer which was a great improvement considering what he had been just a few days ago.
Manny guessed Olivia had something to do with the choice, but didn't want to think about it that much.
The most important thing was to get the club ready, it had to shine when Meche arrived.
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