Four of spades. Jack of diamonds. Two men leaned back in identical office chairs, their feet propped up on either end of the institutional metal desk. They took turns tossing cards face up into a hat on the floor between them. The room was small, not much more than a basement supply closet, but it had ambient ceiling light, and the wall com was working fine. The sounds of a traveler string duo piped in, just loud enough to hear.
Three of spades. Six of diamonds. “Think you’re gonna miss the official headquarters?” This from the slender, pale blond wearing sunglasses. He wasn’t tall, nor short, but he did look like he would bruise if you poked him. The sunglasses were mirrored, his eyes not visible.
“Come on.” Ace of diamonds. This man was tall, with a bald head of deep brown skin, solid but not heavy. “Business was terrible. Nobody wanted to hire the guys working out of the old supply closet, no matter how nice they made it in the remodel. No, I won’t be looking back.” Everything that wasn’t furniture or part of the walls was gathered in three boxes, including a pile of com relay displays.
Five of hearts. “Easy for you to say. We’re not moving the office into your apartment.”
Ten of spades. “I can’t afford an apartment.”
Nine of hearts. “You just stay in mine and don’t pay rent.”
Queen of clubs. “I could, but we’re saving up for another office, remember. That’s my savings account,” said the dark man, pointing to his chest.
Ten of clubs. “You mean your ex-wife’s.”
Seven of spades. “I earned that settlement. I didn’t cheat.”
Two of clubs. “You sure did. And you never do.”
Seven of clubs. “Oh what, did you like that one?”
Two of spades. “I like all of ’em, you’re a bastard and I can’t stand the sight of you.”
Ace of clubs. “Can’t stand the sight of myself sometimes, it makes me wonder when I’m gonna get flunked.”
“DeWalt, the sad thing is I think you’re passing with flying colors.”
The radio string music was sliced in half by a screech, and the volume rose as the channels seemed to tune themselves. Both men looked at the wall console.
“I’m on your line, idiots. Did you turn off your ringer?”
They looked at each other. The dark one, DeWalt, made a face. “Sounds like Derringer.”
“I didn’t turn it off,” said wavy blond hair. “Anyway, Derringer. Why are you talking this way. What’s going on.” He threw the three of hearts into the felt brim hat.
“Listen Dremel,” the voice warped, white noise cutting in and out, “I’ve got a pretty big deal in the room here with me, and we need you to show up.” A few strange warbles came through, none of which made sense.
The slender blond leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. “Last day on this line, bud. You’re lucky you found us here.”
“No, I’m not,” the incoming voice whistled, “you have absolutely no where else to be. Sending the address.” The five working com relays in the box lit up, showing a new message stored.
Dremel sat up, taking his shoes off the desk. “Is that you doing that? Have you learned some new tricks? I didn’t think it possible.”
“Not me. The people I’m working with -” He was cut off by a twenty second drum solo. With a couple sonic slashes, the system reconnected to a pop channel that made both men wince.
“Okay then.” The pale blond Dremel stood, smoothing back his hair with one hand, while adjusting his tie with the other. He bent down and picked up the hat, emptying the cards out onto the floor.
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