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Bad Moon Rising

by Davy Stedham


Background
Sighing, you lean forward, let your hair hang in front of your eyes, and glower at Jakob through the dangling red tangles.

"How, exactly, have the plans changed?"

"Cleef sold the plans to Billy Stamen," mumbles Jakob through a chicken leg.

You wince.

"Stamen?"

"Yeah, but it's fine. I've had a word with Billy, and he needs some more hands. He's cutting us in."

"How big a cut?"

"A tenth part between us."

You put your head in your hands, then set your jaw and make up your mind.

"No. Not a chance. We're taking this one, Cleef told us we could have those plans. We need that money to clear the debt, to get the kitty growing. We're taking this one back, Jak."

"Well, it's almost dark," says Jakob, shrugging and wiping gravy about his face with the back of his hand, "Billy's going to be here soon. You got a plan, let me know."

"Dunno yet. Just follow me, and keep ready. You got your bow?"

Jakob flips his old, greasy pistol crossbow over his shoulder, and places it on the table.

"Okay, load it and keep it out of sight."

"Done," he says, winding the bow and dropping it a little gingerly onto his lap.

"And?"

"I'm thinking! Just keep quiet and..."

"Billy!" cries Jakob, smiling a little too broadly.

"Hey, Billy," you say, not looking up.

"Jakob. Martine," says Stamen. He stands by your table for a moment or two, flanked by a pair of half- bright looking thugs, before pulling out a chair and sitting down. His hired help keep on their feet, standing either side of him.

"So, looks like we're all going to be working together. Happy day, eh?"

You pull one of your throwing knives - a long, heavy blade with a nicely balanced handle - from your belt and start flipping it into the air, letting it thud down point first in the scabby table. Stamen sighs and looks unimpressed, but Jakob tenses a little. Idiot. You kick at his shins and he makes an unconvincing effort at looking innocent.

"Cleef told me and Jak that we could have this one, Billy."

"I know. But I paid him my tithe last month. He isn't a charity, as he loves to remind us." You send the blade into the air again.

"We really need this money, Billy."

The knife smacks into the table, an inch or two from your hand. You pull it out and send it flying back up again.

"Yah, Jakob said. That's why I cut you in. I don't like to see you go without..."

"We don't need any handouts, Billy."

"Oh, it looks like it," Stamen says, grinning nastily, "You're getting fat, Martine. What's the matter? You used to be beautiful."

You pull the knife out of the splintered wood and flip it up...

"I still am, Billy," you tell him, grinning right back.

...and it smacks down into the back of his hand, nailing it to the table.

Howling, Billy goes to grab the dagger and pull it out with his other hand, but you're faster, and rest the flat of your palm against the smooth, heavy pommel. Snarling, he tries to grab your wrist, but you just push the blade forward a little, making the dagger scrape against one of his bones. He doesn't like that at all, and decides to keep still.

You haven't taken your eyes off of Billy's, and you haven't been attacked by his thugs either. That means Jakob's got the idea, and is hopefully waving his bow between the two of them, keeping them safely at bay. You put your trust in him, and keep your attentions on Stamen.

"All right. You're going to give me the plans, then I'm going to pull this out of you and me and Jakob're going to walk away. You're not going to move until we're out of the door, and we're never going to mention this again. You're going to go off and lick your wounds, and forget all about this, right Billy?"

You twist the knife a little.

"Right!" he squawks.

"The map and the plans. Get them out."

He scrabbles through his coat with his free hand, then throw them onto the table. You scoop them up then, watching him carefully, wrench the dagger free and back away from the table. Billy jams his hand under his armpit and hisses at you, but doesn't move.

"Thank you very much, Billy. Jak, let's go."
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