What Vultures

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Unusual Equipment

Hogwild is in his apartment at the bottom of the ocean, ponderously shaving with a straight razor. He reads the fortune tucked into the mirror: YOU HAVE AN UNUSUAL EQUIPMENT FOR SUCCESS. USE IT PROPERLY. LUCKY NUMBERS 8, 11, 19, 21, 24, 36. He smiles at himself, then stretches the smile horribly wide. “You handsome devil,” he says through the grimace.

He slaps on some aftershave, leans in to give his hairline a once-over, checks his teeth. His silk boxers go ssst ssst as he walks over to the closet. He considers the row of monochromatic suits and is about to make a selection when the wall intercom buzzes.

He presses the button and says: “Maggie.”

“Hoggy,” Margaret Feddema says, her voice crackling with distortion.

“What are you wearing.”

“Not this time. Got a Mister Horn job for you.”

“Good,” Hogwild says. “That means I can work the delts.”

“Hard to tell what the fisticuff level will be on this one. Looks like a wait-around to me, but Horn’s always a grey area. The Item’s waiting for you at the Delphi.”

“What are you wearing.”

“Nary but a monocle. It is Thursday.”

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Backwall Greens

The dropoff point is at this eastside industrial park called Backwall Greens. Hogwild’s early, as usual, seated at a picnic table, motionless. The Item is locked in a small steel box, cuffed to his wrist. One of Horn’s men is supposed to arrive in about fifteen minutes to pick it up.

Hogwild hates these kinds of jobs, the ones where you’re not even really taking anything anywhere. Could’ve just as easily chained this thing to a parking meter.

He can just barely make out the forest there to the east, some of the taller trees breaking through the fog. Just barely make out the scent of pine. It makes him antsy.

He senses the two people coming up behind him before he sees them. As they sit on either side of him, he realizes why Horn didn’t chain the Item to a parking meter: He needed someone to fend off the competition.

Hogwild glances down and sees an enormous spider on his right sleeve, slow and delicate and orange. The two goddamn interlopers press in close. The woman says: “Careful now.” The man says: “Oh god I hate spiders.”

Hogwild controls his breathing, sits up straight. Things are looking up.

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It’s Chester!

The woman grips his arm tight. She says: “Don’t move. Don’t touch it.”

The man says: “You know what that thing is?”

“Us either,” the woman says.

“Doesn’t even have a name yet,” the man says.

“I call it Chester just for something to call it,” the woman says.

“Fresh out the lab.”

“We do know a couple things.”

“Its bite does not cause instant death.”

“No way.”

“It does, however, make you wish for instant death.”

“There will be convulsions.”

“Tongue swallowing.”

“Tears of blood.”

“I hate to even mention it but the loss of bowel control.”

“The visions.”

“And then some kind of internal organ holocaust and I do not use that word lightly.”

“My advice to you is no sudden movement,” the woman says. Her perfume is chemical, and severe.

“It doesn’t want to bite you,” the man says.

“And I think I can coax it back into its little box,” the woman says.

“Are you sure?” the man asks, concerned.

“I’ll give it my best shot,” the woman says. “No promises.”

“But first,” the man says.

“First we were wondering what you have in your little box there,” the woman says.

Hogwild shrugs. “I’m just a courier,” he says.

“Just a courier, he says,” the man says.

“You let people handcuff things to you and you don’t even know what they are,” the woman says.

“All the time,” Hogwild says. “At work and at home.”

“Well I certainly don’t care what’s in that box,” the man says.

“Well you know my opinion on the matter,” the woman says.

“Whole thing’s a waste of time,” the man says. “But you know the higher ups.”

“Higher ups are interested.”

“Higher ups say if it’s a big enough deal for Horn to want it,” the man says.

“Then Rustic Industries wants it,” the woman says.

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Half Price Chicken Wings

The orange spider makes an abrupt turn and starts crawling down Hogwild’s arm toward the handcuff. “Seems like a bonehead idea to me,” he says. “You’re like a kid who wants a toy just ‘cause his brother’s playing with it.”

“Preaching to the choir,” the man says.

“Hey, we’re grunts like you,” the woman says. “Just doing what we’re told.”

“I feel like we could all go out for a beer after this,” the man says.

“You know that place over on Fountain?” the woman says. “Half price on chicken wings, if we wrap this up quick.”

Hogwild watches the spider skitter toward a knuckle, then brace itself as a light breeze blows through the park. He clenches his fist.

“Careful now,” the man says. “Chester looks agitated.”

“This will end in blood tears,” the woman agrees.

Hogwild turns and punches the woman, smashing the spider against her eye. He pivots and swings the silver lockbox against the man’s head and he tumbles to the grass with a cry, scrambling for his gun. Hogwild kicks over the picnic table, steps on the man’s hand with a tiny crunch, picks up the gun and lobs it over to where some businessmen are smoking. The woman is shrieking, the noise distorting his ears. He glances down and sees the lockbox is bloodied and hanging open. There’s nothing inside.

“You know, it’s almost as if,” Hogwild says, then raises his voice to be heard over the din, “it’s almost as if Mister Horn didn’t want anything at all. He just wanted to see what vultures would fall out of the sky.” He fishes through his coat pocket for the key, unlocks the handcuff and lets the box fall on the man’s crotch.

Hogwild’s suddenly incredibly hungry, and starts walking to the place over on Fountain. Goons know their happy hour food, so he feels he can trust their recommendation.

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Next | The Game is Carrick

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©MMXI · Joshua Allen

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