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Disclaimer: Grim Fandango belongs to LucasArts. I'm not making money with this story and I'm not associated with the company in any way.
This is dedicated to Tim. No, not Schafer.
THEY OPENED THE BOTTLE
Waves licked the dirty and worn out piers at the docks of Rubacava. The black water reflected the beams of the moon that sat on the cloudless sky, and cool wind brought the smell of salt from the sea. It was cold and damp. Streets glittered with the memory of a passed rain and the streets were almost empty.
The young, Velasco thought to himself in rough amusement. Running inside the minute it gets colder!
He held no dislike for the weather. The coolness that pierced his old bones was nothing new to him. He rather liked it; it told him that he hadn't gone completely numb yet. He had always said that as long as you could feel something, even if it was only terrible agony, you weren't completely hopeless.
His steps sounded hollow against the wooden pier. For a moment he stopped there to glance around. It was the same old ritual every night.
Rubacava had changed so much in the years he had spent in the town. When he had arrived, freshly dead, the docks had been full of life -- if you could honestly say that. Ships had departed and arrived almost every day and everyone eager enough had had a job. Those had been good days. Back then no one had had to fear for their afterlife at the docks and a clear, almost friendly atmosphere had dominated the area.
Then the departures had become fewer and fewer and had finally almost stopped. Sailors had disappeared and the docks had grown deserted. Rubacava had turned into a small and quiet port town that rarely got a visitor larger than an occasional fishing boat.
Some industry had remained and the fast ships exporting construction materials from the Petrified Forest were still in business. Not as much as before, but still. Everything had become so calm and the atmosphere had remained that for a good period of time.
Until ones like him started flowing in, Velasco thought. From the docks he could clearly see the high tower looming over the city and the bright letters attached to it. There wasn't a single soul in town who didn't know where the Calavera Cafe was located.
He snorted at himself and started heading back to his favourite spot. It was calm there and it was a good place to spend his night at.
Rubacava had enjoyed the quiet years for quite a long time. That was why he had been so disappointed when the fine people had started coming through the gates. They had built casinos, cafes and preferred the kind of life that was all alien to him. They had also brought money, crime, corruption and trouble with them.
"I didn't see you in my grand opening yesterday," a voice said when he had almost reached his favourite pier. Velasco lifted his sockets from the ground and looked at the man in front of him. He was dressed in a white jacket which made him look different from the way Velasco remembered him.
This town brings up the worst in everyone, he thought.
"I'm not a very common face in such events," he said as he stepped past Manny to his chair. For a while now he had considered building a small bottled ship, but hadn't got anything done yet.
"You were invited," Manny pointed out.
"Bah. You wasted paper for nothing, son. I wouldn't have been there even if you'd put a gun on my skull." Velasco found it amusing in a way that this freshly arrived man was so eager to include him in his friends. The dockmaster didn't think it would last for long. Sooner or later Manuel Calavera would grow more interested in the fancy life of the upper town.
"I know. That's why I took the liberty to bring you this," Manny said, bent down and took something from the shadows. It was a bottle of good whisky. “Greetings from Calavera Cafe.”
Velasco barely glanced at it.
"Yesterday's leftovers that the posh couldn't drink? I can do without," he announced sharply. Manny placed the bottle at his feet on the pier.
"I know that too. I put this under the counter for you before letting anyone else in," he said. Velasco merely snorted.
The man was a mystery to him. The old dockmaster couldn't categorize him into any of those groups of humans that he was used to seeing in Rubacava. Manny wasn't a sailor or a worker, but neither a pure blooded snake in a suit. He seemed to be a little of them all.
"What are you doing down here? I'd think you to be busy running your new, fancy club," he said.
Manny shrugged. "It's now that crowded yet. People are going to wait a day or two to see if the cream likes my place. I better enjoy these last free days," he said. He leaned against the metal fence that separated the pier from where some ship was anchored every now and then. "So, what have you been up to lately?"
"Hmh, not much. There isn't a lot of life around here," Velasco stated.
"Surely you do something. You can't have spent all these nights here at the end of this pier!" Manny exclaimed. Velasco couldn't understand why the man was so interested in his business. In a way he thought it was fascinating. It was years since he had last time felt the rush of emotion in his bones.
"I walk," he replied. "And I'll build a new bottled ship. I'm rather good at that, even if I say so myself."
"I see. That sure brings excitement to your evenings," Manny said dryly.
"I don't need excitement. I'm not like you. What do you even do here?" Velasco asked. Manny shifted and it looked like the question had annoyed him.
"I thought to stop by and greet you. We haven't seen each other so much lately," he said. Velasco could have sworn that Manny's voice held a sharp edge. Perhaps he only pretended it.
"I don't mind you here. It's always nice to talk to someone," he stated in a soothing manner and drew an old photo from his pocket. "What do you think of this?"
Manny took the picture and looked at it. "S.S. Lamancha," he read aloud on the side of the ship in it.
Even without looking Velasco could remember every detail of the photo. It was black and white, a little worn out in the corners. Most of the space was dominated by a huge ship with an enthusiastic skeletal crew waving at the souls standing at the docks.
"She was the Queen of the Sea," he sighed as he took the picture back. He slipped it gently back in his pocket, careful not to fold it.
"What happened to her?" Manny asked. Velasco shot an irritated look at the man; he had already mentioned it once when they had first met.
"Nobody knows," he said then. "It's a sad truth, but you can't help it. She departed and never came back. Took the fine crew with her too. Women have never been any good to men."
"I thought you liked her," the man in white pointed out. Velasco whirled around in his chair and stared at Manny so sharply that the man saw it best to take a step back.
"Like her? I loved that ship! She was the greatest achievement ever created in Rubacava!" he snapped.
"Then why didn't you join the crew? Why didn't you go with her?" Manny asked with a shrug. The question made Velasco's figure fell and he turned back to his table. He had already placed a bottle on it. He'd have to wash it before starting fiddling with building anything.
"I haven't been a sailor in years and I didn't feel much younger back then," he said. "But if there was even a slight chance of finding her now, I'd go. Damn everything else." He didn't usually want to discuss Lamancha with anyone. This situation wasn't an exception and he was starting to feel uncomfortable. Embarrassed.
"That's not impossible," Manny said. "I haven't given up, even though the woman I seek is nowhere to be found."
Velasco couldn't help chuckling at this. "What are you doing to find her? You founded a club. That helps so much."
"At least I'm doing something." Manny's dark statement didn't change anything in Velasco. He knew S.S. Lamancha wasn't going to come back. No one had heard of her in years. If she had still existed, someone would have heard of her. He would have heard of her.
"Oh, son, one day you'll give up as well," he said.
"I doubt it," Manny replied. Velasco said nothing, but he understood. Manny was still young compared to him.
They opened the bottle Manny had brought and drank together.
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