The first thing I learned is that being mortal is harder than it looks. I gotta admit, these brainless mortal meat-sacks really do have to endure a load of shite. Zeus was agreeable to letting me set up shop outside the Olympus Administration complex, but that means I have to pay rent. Me, pay rent to some mortal. I bought a computer and have been trying to learn it. Apparently, everything in the world is now done by computer. It is nice that I have been able to watch and absorb a lot of the current and past media on it. It has helped me to be able to blend in a little better when I am moving amongst mortals.
Business has been slow. I have been going to the courthouse every day and talking to the bail bondsmen, but nobody is interested in doing business with me. No one wants to deal with me until I make a capture, but I can’t make a capture until someone is willing to deal with me. No money coming in means no money to pay for office equipment, so the building is still empty. I’ve been sleeping on the floor in the office with Jealousy and Hate. They go out every night after midnight to hunt for dinner. Rabbits, stray cats, the other night I think it may have been a homeless person. They smelled awful in the morning and I had to give both of them a bath. All in all though, I’ve had worse accommodations. At least it isn’t Tartarus. There, I was lying on the bare ground with Titans moaning and sniveling all around me.
On a positive note, I discovered coffee. Puts quite a buzz in the brain first thing in the morning. I’ve been going to a place down the street, Sal’s Delicatessen, and getting coffee in the morning. When I haven’t eaten for a day or two, then I indulge and get a thing called a bagel with a schmear. Still not sure what the schmear is, but it’s good.
This morning, I’m sitting there sipping my coffee and trying to come up with a grand plan to get this thing working, and I see two guys come in and start talking to Sal behind the counter. I can’t hear what they are saying, but it’s clear that Sal is unhappy. I keep watching and after a few minutes, Sal goes in the back and comes back with an envelope. He gives one of the guys the envelope and they leave. I hear them say as they go out that they’ll be back tomorrow. I finish my coffee and as I’m headed out, I stop at the counter to talk to Sal.
“Hey, what was that all about?”
Sal glances over at me and answers, “Nothing. Thanks for coming in, now mind your own business.”
“What?” I said. “That looked serious. What was that about?”
I guess Sal must have started to warm up to me being there every morning because he walked over, looked around, and said, “It’s a protection racket. They make all us shop owners pay them each week for protection.”
“Protection from what?”
“Protection from them coming and tearing the place up. Or worse, busting both my kneecaps.”
“Who does this?”
Sal looked around again before whispering, “A guy named Eddie Pastorini.”
“Pastorini?” I said aloud. “Sounds Roman to me.”
Sal shook his head. “No, he’s Italian. He’s a wanted felon.”
Now I was listening. “Wanted? Like by the police? Is there a reward for him?”
“Sure, a big one. Only thing is no one has ever lived to collect it.”
“So, if this Eddie guy was gone, would that make your life easier?”
Sal shrugged. “Maybe, but probably not. Most likely someone else will just take his place and charge even more. I mean, there are people running scams like this all over the city.”
That’s when it struck me like a ton of arch-stones. A plan for exactly how to make the money I need. The idea started in the back of my brain and raced forward, like a cool breeze on the neck that makes you shiver. It was sudden and startling.
“Moxie,” I whispered to myself, “you delicious little tart. Is that you? I owe you.” I was rewarded with a faint echo of a giggle and an electric sensation that made all the short hairs on my neck stand up.
“Sal,” I said as I turned back to address him, “what would you and the other business owners think if I said I could get rid your problem? Specifically, I will get rid of your Eddie problem in exchange for half what he is charging. Then I will make sure you’re protected after that. In exchange if I need any of your services, well, I get them for free. Is that a deal?”
Sal looked thoughtful. “Well, yeah, I suppose. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we would take that deal. I mean, do we have a choice? But are you gonna take on Eddie by yourself? He’s got fifty guys working for him.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve got backup. Just tell your friends to get their money together. I also need a list of all the businesses, so I know who everyone is and what everyone does.”
“Okay, you got it. Good luck. Just so you know, if they carve you into little pieces, I’m gonna swear I never heard of you.”
I nodded and waved my hand as I headed out the door. I fumbled to light a cigarette as I trotted across the street toward the warehouse. This was going to be a good night. I needed to get everything ready, especially my girls.
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