“Can’t recollect?” Lafitte said. Hmmm, he thought. Of course, the obvious thing to do would be to simply hand over a few coins and see what the man really had to say, but Lafitte had a striking suspicion that if he did so he’d be out of money, and possibly without any useful information to boot.
While happy that the guy could be bought, the problem with the type was that they were always after more, making the bribing process difficult. He briefly weighed in his head the benefits of speed versus practicality.
He decided to play coy with it, downing the rest of his ale. “Hmm, a pity, I’d’ve given a good five gold if you’d’ve known anything,” he said, rising from his chair. Thunderclap! Lafitte smiled beneath his mask as the lightning from the beginnings of a storm gave a dramatic point to his actions.
“Now, now, what’s this rush?” said Ashcat the barman. He sized Lafitte up from behind his own mask, unwilling to let the eorman go. But the rain that now came pelting down would soon fill the small bar space with customers seeking shelter under the awning. Time was flying away with the storm’s wind. “This is a tavern, friend,” he said. “There are punters and gamesmen turning cards all over the place. Tell me what you seek, and maybe I can give you a bearing.”
Lafitte raised an eyebrow but grinned ever wider. Alright, I’ll give a little, he thought. The rain was pelting down outside. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind he wondered why that storm was still following him all this way, but it was drowned out by opportunity. “I’m looking for a special kind of card,” he said, “Ones a bit more rare than a normal enchanter’s set…”
“Aye, that much I kenned,” Ashcat couldn’t help snapping, though he restrained his impulse to clamp a strong hand on the man’s arm to haul the details out of him. He wiped the bar down with a rag. “I mean to say, I figured you meant something … special, shall we say? Or else, you’d have gone to the enchanter’s with your daisical friend, it being just the door next. What kind do you seek — Gambler’s Luck? Thieves’ Gold?”
He watched Lafitte closely as he tossed out the names of those common charms.
Lafitte’s smile turned to a scowl of suspicion at the barman’s brief outburst. What’s going on here?, he thought. A lot of outburst for a simple set of cards. Where before Lafitte was suspicious as to whether he would get any information out of the man, now he began to suspect that a real nerve had been struck here. He decided it was time to just put it out there. “Nah, nothing so simple,” he said, “I’m looking for something a bit darker, something more…demonic.”
Ashcat’s eyes never left the other man’s, focused hard on what little he could see of the eorman, while the rag slowly swept over the board between them. Rain spattered festival-goers in their finery and workers in their plainclothes were crowding into the small space where they faced each other, calling for drinks.
“Indeed,” he said, his voice low and even, “now who told you such things could be found here? Eh?”
“I was in the market, and this looked like the neighborhood for it,” Lafitte said, noting the shift in tone from the barman in front of him. Frustration with what was probably a guy looking for luck or fortune turned to a subtle threat at his actual prey. Briefly Lafitte considered simply taking a gun to the guy and threatening the information out of him, but he was controlled enough not to let it show in his body language or features. This was Ashcat’s (as the other patron had said) territory, and the guy was unlikely to be alone. Instead Lafitte simply offered some subtle suggestion of his own.
He moved his duster over to reveal the crossbow pistols strapped to his person, plainly in sight of the barman but unlikely to be noticed by anyone not directly in front of him. Showing that he was armed and able to defend himself if this transaction got ugly, Lafitte then placed a single gold coin on the counter. “A token of good faith, now who might a guy like myself look to for a few of those cards?”
Ashcat’s gaze flickered over the crossbows and the gold. He slung the rag over his broad shoulder and picked up the coin, tucking it into a pocket of his vest.
“No one. We don’t allow such traffic here.”
With that, he tossed the eorman’s empty mug into a wash bucket and turned his attention to the increasingly pressing mob of customers, quickly losing himself behind a shield of strangers. As he poured the drafts, he caught the eye of a boy who had been scrubbing tankards in the dark recess of the tavern-back. He nodded towards Lafitte, and the boy swiftly vanished, slipping out of the tavern by the far side from the eorman and into the rain.
Lafitte scowled slightly. Well, it’s to be expected, he thought at the abrupt calling off of negotiations. Once again an urge to just get the job done now overcame him, but alone he probably wouldn’t get much, except a possible arrest.
He decided it was time to regroup. He’d gotten something at least so it wasn’t a total loss. These cards had certainly changed hands within this establishment. By whom, and to whom? That was the question. If the brothers thought it’d be a good idea to press for more, he’d come back with them in tow, maybe a few of his crew, even up the numbers.
For now, however, he made his way out of the tavern and into the rain soaked alley-way…
A Maurepas/Muravyets Production