Luke woke with a start, frightened to find himself lying under the covers in bed instead of on the ground under newspapers. But just as the familiarity of the room calmed him down, another thing made Luke sit up and press his back against the wall — he wasn’t alone.
There was a bald old man in an oversized coat sitting on the bed opposite to his, watching him intently.
Luke felt energy rush through his limbs, his instincts readying for a hurried escape. No. Wait. He was safe, he told himself. El’s gift, that… amulet, it was still around his neck. Luke felt for it through the fabric of his nightshirt. The item was clashing with his Christian faith, but it kept a much greater evil at bay, so he felt almost no qualms about wearing it.
The bald man sat up straight, lifting his hands in a defensive gesture.
“Bah, boy, I am not trying to rob you. I am merely looking to trade.”
“I’m afraid I can’t trade that,” Luke said quickly.
“That’s alright, you can offer me something else.” The old man’s voice was creaky like poorly oiled hinges. “How about that yellow sock?” The man pointed at one of the two mismatched socks Luke left neatly on top of the rest of his clothes at the foot of the bed. “Would you like to trade that old sock for this almost new watch?” he asked, pulling a smashed watch out of his coat’s inner pocket.
Luke frowned. He had not seen this man before, but he seemed to be acting at home. Could this be his roommate who had been mysteriously missing two nights in a row? But then… “But this is your sock…”
“Then you should have agreed, that would have been a very good deal. You have no business sense, kid.” The old man shook his head, looking disappointed. Then he stood up and offered Luke a hand. “Name’s Penny.”
“Nice to meet you… Penny. I’m Luke.” Luke shook the man’s hand. It felt wrinkly and bony, but had a firmness to it.
“The pleasure is all mine,” the old man rasped and grinned a yellow-toothed grin. Penny’s face was clean-shaven, and his thin graying eyebrows were hardly visible on his patchy pink skin. Combined with his large coat and thin neck, that gave him the appearance of a vulture. Luke mentally scolded himself for the unfavorable comparison, but he couldn’t deny its aptness, as he watched Penny cross the room to one of the shelves and start depositing the contents of his massive coat’s inner pockets into one of the cardboard boxes.
Using the relative privacy of the moment, Luke began to dress.
“If you change your mind, or want to trade something else, hit me up. I’m sure we can make a deal,” Penny said without turning back.
“Sure,” Luke answered noncommittally. There was no harm in humoring his new neighbor. He finished dressing and walked over to Penny. “I’m going to have breakfast, would you like to join?”
“Hm, maybe later. I need to finish organizing the new inventory.”
“I see… See you later then.”
Luke went out into the corridor and headed towards the kitchen. He’d spent most of the previous day there, peeling potatoes and carrots with Amalka again. Her mother, despite staying the night here, seemed to be gone all day long, so Luke still didn’t manage to really make her acquaintance. Out of their family, it was just the little girl and her grandmother spending their time in the tenement. Well, Luke was hoping to get to know all of the tenants eventually. But most of all, he was also hoping that they had more work for him today — he’d dearly missed being actually useful. In the past year he had missed other things as well, like being clean, so on his way, he decided to check if the shower was free. It wasn’t, so he headed to the kitchen.
After he finished making himself a couple of sandwiches, little Amalka appeared again, and so Luke busied himself with more sandwiches, rightfully suspecting that more people would soon show up. To his surprise, one of them was El, who had been gone all of the previous day. The small man was not wearing his memorable hat this time and seemed to be in a hurry. He drew Luke aside for a quick word. “Sorry to hold you back from your meal but I will have a job for you a bit later today. I’ll be back shortly and tell you all about it, so don’t go wandering away anywhere, alright?”
“Of course. I’ll stay put,” Luke promised.
El gave him a firm friendly pat. “Good. That’s what I wanted to hear.”
Without further ado, the small man wished everyone a good meal, grabbed a sandwich to go and departed.
Luke finished serving breakfast and sat down at the table. He surveyed his companions. Amalka and Penny were eating with appetite, Anezka and Alena were nowhere to be seen, while Neha only made disapproving faces at the plate of sandwiches. Then, right before Luke decided to offer her one, she took one herself. The old woman turned the sandwich in her hand, studying it from each side, grumbled something and finally put it on her plate, where it lay untouched, until Penny offered to trade it for his glass of juice, which she grudgingly did.
Luke was finishing his second sandwich, when he heard a faint but clearly distressed voice outside.
“Help, please, won’t somebody help us?”
He glanced at the others. Neha was making a show of looking the opposite direction from the window, Penny stared contemplatively at the remaining sandwiches, while Amalka looked back at Luke expectantly.
“Looks like someone came to ask favors of El. Too bad he is out,” she said gravely, watching Luke with unblinking eyes.
“Please! Help! Please!”
Luke looked at all of them again, then asked, “Is there anyone who deals with pleaders while El is away?”
“No one in particular,” the little girl shrugged.
“Definitely not me,” Neha snapped.
“How much are they paying?” Penny asked.
Luke stood up from the table, thanked the three of them for the company and headed outside. When he reached the hall he heard the woman outside plead one more time. “Please, oh, please, it is but a minor favor that we need!”
Luke stepped outside and squinted, the sun was blazing. At the bottom of the stairs a woman stood, dressed in rags so worn they made Luke’s mismatched clothes look prosperous compared. Seeing Luke, she turned to him, her lined face lighting up with hope.
“How can I help you?” he asked her.
Hope quickly turned into gratitude. “Oh, thank you, thank you, young man. Thrice thank you. I knew someone of the good people here would be able to assist. I come on behalf of my siblings and cousins and my poor sickly old mother, we all live in a dead end alley not far from here, and on this beautiful sunny day we find ourselves suddenly submerged in darkness!” The woman made a big gesture with her skinny arms. “It’s the horrible man that lives on the last floor of the tenement there, we asked him many times, but he would not remove his things from the clothes lines. We just want to bask in the sunlight for the few hours it reaches into the alley, and we cannot!”
Luke listened patiently. A few times he glanced back to see if anyone else from among his new community was going to come to the woman’s aid. But it appeared it was just him. El had told him not to go anywhere, but the woman was so distressed. And Luke felt kinship with her plight as a homeless person, they had so little, even being robbed of a few hours in the sun could be a disaster. He was almost sure this wouldn’t take long. He’d be back before El needed him. Besides, didn’t El tell him he wanted Luke to help people?
“I’ll see what I can do,” Luke said, stepping down the porch to stand beside her.
“Marvelous! Splendid! Come at once!” She grabbed him by the arm with surprising strength and dragged him after herself.
Luke felt his stomach sink. Purpose — it was going to get them both killed… But nothing happened as they hurried through the squalid sunlit backstreets. He was still protected by El’s amulet. Luke breathed deeply, calming himself down.
Before long they arrived in a narrow alley at the end of which a number of vagrants sat forlornly amidst their bundled possessions. There was an old woman among them that the pleader went to check up on, that must have been her mother. She was so wrapped in ragged shawls that her face was barely visible. There were other old people there too and even the younger ones looked sad and tired. A few were asleep, huddled close together for warmth. Despite the warm sunny day, the alley was dark and almost cold. The reason for it was a nearly gapless wall of laundry hanging between the fire escapes of the two blocks comprising the alley. Luke looked up at it, amazed by the sheer pettiness and maliciousness of whoever left their laundry out just to spite the homeless. Everything was very evidently dry and the items that were too thin hung in layers just to obstruct the sunlight.
His guide returned to him, to once again beg for his assistance. Just then, a booming laugh came from high above. Luke turned to look for its source, but could only pin it down to the open window on one of the top floors of the tenement on the right.
“Foolish stinking idlers, sitting in dirt!” A gregarious deep voice spoke from above with a heavy Eastern European accent. “No sun for you! Sit in dark as you should, useless dullards!”
“Excuse me, sir!” Luke raised his voice. “Your clothes are all dry, why don’t you take them off?”
There was a moment of silence, and a round face flashed in the open window. “Oh, another hobo come to whine! Go home, trash! Oh, that’s right, you don’t have home, is why you sit in dark in dirt miserable!” The man on the upper floor laughed again.
“You see, it’s no use. He just won’t do it.” The woman who had led Luke to the alley shook her head with a sour look. “We’d move to another spot, but we cannot. Someone could take over this one while we’re gone. And Matilda there has a bad leg.”
Luke nodded apprehensively.
Above them the loud man laughed and dished out more insults. The homeless cowered as if under physical assault. Luke frowned. It was such an unnecessary malevolence on behalf of the man upstairs. But some people were like that. Nothing seemed to bring them more joy than the suffering of others.
Finally, it appeared laughing at the misery of the homeless had lost its appeal, and the tirade from above ended with the man pronouncing with pathos, “Rot in dark, filth! I go to theater now, when I’m back I’ll hang carpet out, like in old country. No sun for you forever!”
The spiteful laughter grew fainter, as the speaker closed the window and retreated deeper inside his apartment. Luke frowned at the rows of clothes and linen. Even if the man hung out the carpet later, by then the sun would have already moved and the homeless would see no sunlight one way or another.
Luke turned to his guide. “Is there anything in the alley I could climb to get to the fire escapes?”
“No, I’m afraid not.” The woman shook her head.
Luke looked around. Most of the windows above had curtains drawn. But he saw a window on the third floor of the same building that was open, with a steaming pot standing on the window sill.
“Do you know which entrance I would have to use to reach that apartment?” Luke asked.
“Hm, I believe it’s the one on the street, just to the right.”
“Thanks,” Luke said and walked in the indicated direction.
Before he reached the street, there was a loud thud above, as the last story window opened, and the cruelly cheerful voice from before announced, “Forgot theater tickets. Got them now! You losers stay put down there, carpet’s still coming! Haha!”
Another loud thud, and the man seemed to be gone for good. Luke shook his head in disbelief and disapproval. Some people had no shred of decency whatsoever. Realizing he might bump into the unpleasant man on the stairs and draw suspicion, Luke decided to wait several minutes first to be sure he was gone. He stopped at the edge of the alley and leaned against a wall, waiting.
The street outside of the alley was bustling with life, and at first Luke felt unease at the sight of so many people. But as he watched them go by, safe and carefree whether they had goals or not, the fear and worry began to fade. He was a normal person now. With no curse or blessing manipulating his fate and the fates of those around him. It was the most wonderful feeling he’d had in years — a feeling of safety and freedom. He could go anywhere, talk to anyone, do anything, and things wouldn’t explode, burn or collapse around him. He could finally be a more or less productive member of society again. But first he had to help these poor homeless people, at least for old time’s sake.
Luke walked out of the alley, past a few shops and into the hall of the tenement. It was cool and dark, most of the lamps had expired. But at least they weren’t stolen or broken. Luke crossed the hall and headed up the stairs past the numerous graffiti glyphs decorating the walls. He made it to the second floor unobstructed, but there a lanky black man with messy graying dreadlocks blocked his path.
“A riddle,” the man drawled.
Luke stood still on the stairs, alert, looking up into the red-rimmed glassy eyes of the stranger. Luke’s first instinct was to flee, but the more he looked at the man the more he appeared harmless and placid. “Excuse me?” Luke said softly.
“A riddle, my dude,” the man repeated. Then he sighed and furrowed his brows, looking beyond Luke. “What has long bright arms and each day reaches them out to every living being? Or well, tries to, anyway.”
Luke stared back at him for a moment. He did not expect an actual riddle. But sure, why not? The man’s red eyes and sluggish manner made Luke wonder if he wasn’t on drugs. If so, it was probably best to play along. Luke thought on the riddle for a moment.
It seemed pretty straightforward.
“The sun?” he guessed.
“Simply tubular, my dude. Ciao.” The man stepped to the side and walked down the stairs, passing Luke.
Luke gaped at him for a moment, unable to comprehend what was just said. Then he shrugged and headed further upstairs. Finally, he stood in front of several doors. One of them had to lead to the apartment he wanted to access. Luke wasn’t sure if he would be able to talk his way onto a fire escape, but he was ready to try.
He imagined the building from the outside and attempted to trace the location of the window he needed to one of the doors. He rang the one he thought was the right one. An old woman in massive glasses and a dainty white apron opened the door and stared at Luke through her very powerful lenses.
“M, yes?” she croaked, squinting up at him.
“Uhm, good day, Madam. I am very sorry to intrude, but there’s a disagreement outside over the laundry hung by an upper floor tenant that obstructs the sunlight in the alley, and I was wondering if I could access the fire escape through your apartment to collect the offending laundry and leave it for its owner to pick up.”
The old woman stared at him silently.
Luke couldn’t blame her. Now that he said it out loud, the request was ridiculous. The whole affair was quite surreal.
“Very well, you can use the fire escape, but then you must first feed my pigeons.” The old lady opened the door fully. “They live on the roof. You’ll spare me the climb.” She waved for Luke to follow her inside.
Luke blinked in surprise. “Thank you,” he uttered and followed her through the apartment. The interior looked to be about the same age as its inhabitant. The furniture was an older make, bringing back memories of Luke’s earlier lives, when this was the peak of modern style. That thought made Luke feel very lonely all of a sudden. How much longer would he flounder through the currents of time, dying, only to live again, alone and haunted by his curse, as people around him lived blissfully normal and finite lives?
“Here,” the old woman placed a plastic bag into his hands. “Sunflower seeds. Just throw all of it in the coop through the net. Then you can do as you please on the fire escape.”
Luke thanked her again. When she opened a living room window for him, Luke realized something. “Do you have a bag I could put the laundry in, please? I’m sure your neighbor will return it.”
“That Russki? I wouldn’t count on that.” The old woman huffed. But after some rummaging through the cupboard drawers she handed Luke a newspaper. “You can use this.”
“Um, thanks,” Luke accepted the newspaper and carefully climbed out onto the fire escape.
There he promptly pressed his back to the wall. It was just the third floor, but it was high enough to make him dizzy, when he looked down through the bars he now stood on. Luke forced himself to keep his eyes up. Pressing the newspaper and sunflower seeds to his chest with one hand, he used the other to clutch onto the railing, as he climbed higher, heading towards the roof. He remembered the collapsing fire escape from his very recent misadventure, and his knees grew weak. What was he doing? Climbing buildings to move some laundry around?! This was absurd. He should have just stayed at El’s. Someone else could have helped these people. Or maybe not. Below him Luke heard the homeless whisper, their voices hopeful. Determined not to let them down, he grit his teeth and climbed higher.
Sweat was trickling down the side of his face, his hand was beginning to hurt from gripping the railing too hard. But if the old woman could do this everyday, certainly so could he, at least this once. The stairs finally brought him up to the flat roof, and he hurried to get as far from the edge as possible. Thankfully the wooden pigeon coop was right in the middle of the roof. Luke approached it slowly. The pigeons inside were walking about with a great measure of self-importance. These were some pampered birds. Their little home was old, but freshly painted and the water and food dishes were full. Luke smiled at the pigeons. He tossed in the seed as he was told and watched the feathered creatures descend on it in a hungry cooing cloud. He’d missed feeding animals. It was a pleasant chore. But he did not fancy returning to the fire escape. Still, if he wanted the homeless to enjoy the sun in the narrow alley, every minute mattered. Luke turned around, braced himself and went back onto the fire escape.
“Check this out, Betty, this is what I call a dream-purse.” Wilma whispered, spreading the magazine on the table between them. “Wish they also put the dimensions in here, but it just seems so spacious. Like something that could finally fit both a gun and a make-up kit. And maybe even some other useful things.”
“For example. Or a change of disguises”. Wilma flipped the magazine over and sighed with exasperation, “This is from last September, damn it. They’re all gone by now.”
“We can get one gently used,” Betty said. “Pitch the idea to the boys.”
“True… but since they don’t know their Gucci from their Dior, they will need some visual aid for sure,” Wilma reopened the issue and in a quick, soundless motion confidently tore out the page with the dream purse and tucked it into her current one. “I may or may not xerox this and hang it out as wanted posters around town.”
They both looked up subtly from their browsing, when in the distance the mangy excuse for their boss’ greatest admirer passed like a ghost, chained to another stack of old newspapers. “Aw, look at him go. He’ll know everything soon.”
Wilma snorted. “Well, about all the things he didn’t know, even though he should have. Don’t you think he spends an awful lot of time in here all of a sudden? He’s never borrowed a newspaper before, not until a week ago, and now it looks like he’s going to soon dig back in time to before he was born.”
“He wants to seem real smart.”
“Yeah. Or smart enough.”
“Oh you know, just some stuff.” Wilma looked at her nails, which were done in lavender today and went real well with her beige blonde wig. “For instance, to pass for someone’s biggest fan when he actually doesn’t know two shits about them.”
They looked at Ocher again. He hid behind a newspaper and kept glancing at some man who just came in to borrow a book.
“He seems pretty nervous.” Betty looked back at Wilma. “So you’re saying he’s not the boss’ number one fan…?”
Wilma graced that question with a smirk. “No. I’m not saying that, simply because it goes without saying. The question is, what do we do with that knowledge?”
They looked back at Ocher who was now scribbling something down between furtive glances at the man talking to the librarian.
“An agent would have done his homework,” Betty said. Then, as Wilma did not respond, she cleared her throat and went on. “As would any smart guy. The boss said he’s no threat, and the boss is always right about that. It’s up to us now. Do we let him live?”
Wilma pondered that question. Betty was right, it was up to them in the end. They could expose the frantic research of the awkward fanboy to Hector. Hell, they could even dispose of the little thief and simply present their boss with the fait accompli. Hector could reprimand them for spoiling his fun, but in the end, he would still agree with their judgement. He always did. Wilma smiled. She enjoyed the trust their employer put in them. Betty was looking at her expectantly, as always waiting for her to make the final decision. Wilma enjoyed that too. The smile on her face gained a slight curl. “Well, I say let’s just keep an eye on him for now.” She voiced her verdict and eyed the thief again. “He’s actually kinda cute, don’t you think?”
“Is he?” Betty didn’t sound convinced at all.
“Yeah. Cute in that pathetic kind of way.” Wilma kept smiling as she explained. “Like a fluffy creature slowly drowning in a tar pit. But not like a kitten or a puppy, because then you might be actually invested in trying to help him out… No, he’s more like some kind of cute pest that you just have fun watching, maybe consider moving a stick close to, just to see if it’d be smart enough to reach for it.”
Wilma grinned. “Exactly. He’s a possum. And I have a feeling it’s going to be interesting to watch him eat garbage and try to play dead. At least for a while. Let the boss have some more fun.”
“Yeah. You’re right. The boss deserves it.”
“He does.” Wilma admitted. She sighed. “It’s been such a long time since he’s been with anyone I was honestly starting to feel bad for him…”
There was a light thud as in the background Wyatt dropped a book with his elbow. He dove off his chair to pick it up from the floor and hit his head on the table coming back up.
“…though in this case I’m not sure how long his fun will last.” Wilma sighed. “Chances are that natural selection will claim this one before the boss gets to.”
Luke stepped cautiously into the alley and was greeted by a sunlit group of homeless folk sitting just where he had left them, no longer looking glum. Instead they cheered again, when they saw him.
“You shaved zhe day!” a toothless old man exclaimed.
“Praise be!” One of the women intoned.
“Here comes zhe shun!”
“Thank you so much!” The woman who had initially fetched Luke, hurried over to him and shook his hand. “Thank you, thank you! Is there anything at all that we can do to reward you?”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary.” Luke grew red on the cheeks, unused to this amount of attention. “It wasn’t a big deal.”
“It was to us! I insist.” The woman perked up, as if she got an idea, then she scuttled over to the other homeless and hurried back towards Luke with a round shining object in her hands. She held it out to him. It was flat, reflective and had a hole in the middle. It looked somewhat like metal, but when Luke held it, it proved to be much lighter and most likely plastic.
“Thank you,” he said. “What is this?”
“It’s a compact disc.”
“What does it do?”
“I have no idea,” the woman said. “But it sure is shiny, isn’t it? Look how nicely it reflects the sun.”
Luke turned the disc in his hands. The other side was just as shiny, but also contained some writing. Luke tried to read it. The words were familiar, but he had no idea what the meaning of these disjointed phrases could be. Or what the numbers between them signified. Still, it was as fancy a reward as he could imagine. “Thank you kindly,” he said.
“No, thank you.” The woman beamed at him and then headed back to her mates.
“That bastard upstairs, he will have to atone for his sins! Atone!” One of the men shook a fist at the window up above, the window sill of which was now packed with neatly stacked laundry wrapped in newspaper pages.
Luke waved his farewell to the homeless and rushed back to El’s building.
He found El in the common room, seated in an armchair, waiting.
“Oh, I am so sorry,” Luke said, hurrying towards the little man. “I am so very sorry, I didn’t mean to leave and make you wait. There was just an emergency… of sorts. Some people needed help and I-”
El gestured amicably. “Calm down, Luke. Everything’s fine. I’ve barely even returned.”
He did not look like he had barely returned, Luke noticed an almost empty cup of tea on the corner table next to him. In fact, El must have been waiting for quite a while. Luke felt like an ungrateful fool for running off right after being explicitly asked to stay put and promising to do so. He scolded himself mentally, as El avoided doing so out loud.
“I, ah, I am very sorry. So what can I do for you? I’ll get to it right away.”
“Perfect. It’s an easy one, just to start you off. I need a package delivered. I had it somewhere here…” El fished around his satchels and pockets. “Ah, there it is.” He produced a tiny parcel and handed it to Luke. “Please handle it with caution.”
“Of course.” Luke took and held it delicately. “Where do you need it delivered?”
“Where, when and how, are the three important questions.” El smiled, “Listen carefully now. Find the biggest tree in St. Mark’s park, and stand under it until you hear a bird cry out, then go in the direction the shadow of the tree is pointing you in. Walk until you are in the street outside, and once there, start asking the passersby about what time it is. Give the package to the third person who responds. They might be a bit confused, but trust me, they will thank you later. Do you think you can make that delivery?”
El’s eyebrows rose pretty high. “And you have no questions about the instructions?”
Luke thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No. I’ll get right on it.” He hid the package in the inside pocket of his coat.
“Wonderful!” El rubbed his hands. “By the way, later on you might want to see if Penny has some bag or backpack to trade, or you can browse the pile and search for something like that. It will come in handy for bigger parcels in the future.”
“I will. Is there anything else you need help with when I’m back?”
“Hm. We can’t be sure when you’ll be back, but no, I think that’s all from me for today. But I’m certain that if you want to help others with the chores later, you’ll find they always have work for you.”
Luke nodded. “Alright. I will take care of the delivery now.” He started walking away, then turned to El, feeling self-conscious. “I won’t let you down again, I promise!” He hurried out, to prove his dedication.
“You didn’t let me down!” El called after him into the street.
But Luke knew better than that. He did fail El. And he wasn’t going to do that again. Instinctively, he clutched the talisman through his shirt. It was still there, he could really travel the city streets accident free. With a nervous but energetic bounce in his step, Luke hurried towards his destination.
Seven people sat down at a table. Three women and four men. They did not look happy to be gathered like this.
The crone sat silently. She never spoke a word. Sometimes the doctor spoke for her, but not today. Today he was silent too, and grimly so.
“And here we go again,” the hero said solemnly. “Took him long enough this time. And yet he acted quickly, and we could do nothing to stop him. Or could we?” The hero cast a scolding look at the heretic.
The heretic looked back at him, sourly. “What was I supposed to do? I informed you, and you did nothing about that information. You were too busy, as you always are.”
“We could have croaked him right there and then,” the brute said excitedly. “Played it off as an accident!”
“We all know what your accidents look like,” the heretic sneered.
The brute glared at him.
“Gentlemen, relax,” cooed the temptress. “Nothing happened. We’ve been through this so many times it’s plain boring. At least at long last, there’s something slightly new to the pattern. Let Hector play and just watch. It might turn out exciting!”
The servant readily poured her beautiful mistress another glass of wine and stayed silent.
“We do not care about excitement here. This is about survival, about building a future. But to you, it is always just fun and games, isn’t it?” The heretic berated her. “Let me remind everyone. Last time we listened to her, there were casualties. We are down to seven. We cannot suffer another loss.”
“Oh please. It’s only natural that weaklings are claimed by natural selection. Only the strongest, and the smartest will survive.” The temptress smiled at the hero and at the doctor.
The doctor and the hero smiled back at the temptress. The brute watched her coldly.
The heretic snarled and almost got up, but the servant put her hand on his shoulder, and he remained still.
“Why are you always so grumpy? Is it that because we always meet in the evenings?” The temptress asked the heretic. “I have a nice surprise in the works for you. It started today, I’ve been told, and will be trickling in bit by bit. Hopefully you’ll feel more cheerful soon.”
“Such generosity and wisdom.” The hero raised a glass to the temptress, then turned to the sour-looking heretic and shrugged. “I don’t want to watch that travesty unfold any more than you do. But Hector is bound to come around and grow bored of this deviation. And then he’ll kill him.”
“Precisely!” The temptress purred. “No need to get involved yet, we can always intervene, but murder is more fun when it’s improvised, wouldn’t you agree?” She turned to the brute with a grin.
“Duh,” the brute said reluctantly.
“Look at you, what a smart boy.” The temptress praised.
“I’m not a boy, you wh-”
“Shut it,” the hero slapped him on the back of the head. “Don’t snap back at the lady.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the temptress apologized, as the brute was silenced. “I meant, what a smart wolfling. How cute. Awoo.”
The brute glared at her, but said nothing more.
“It is settled then? We wait?” the doctor asked. “For how long?”
“Let’s give it a month,” the hero pronounced.
The others nodded, including the crone. The brute didn’t. He just grumbled to the side. “I can kill him tonight.”
“Nobody doubts that, young one,” the doctor said softly. “But it is best that Hector kills him. Let’s give him room to do so.”