Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #104

“Listen,” I said, directing my gaze back over my shoulder. “Hey, you, what’s your name?”

I felt the mercenary’s sword twitch at my neck. “Er… Graham.”

“All right,” I said, “Graham, there’s another way to do this thing. Work for us! Job offer’s still on the table!”

Ms. Moon scowled. “Phyllis, what are you doing?”

“Negotiating,” I said, “Do you mind?”

“I am trying to save your life!” she said.

“Great!” I said. “Me too!” I craned my neck aground again. “So, Graham. I know you’ve got a thing going with the Scarlet Lobsters or whatever, but you also seem to already be on vacation or sabbatical or something. Forgive me, I’m not familiar with the mercenary benefit package. Point is, what are you doing for work right now?”

“Um…” he said.

“My guess is not much,” I interrupted. “Given your little stab at banditry here. Heh, sword pun not intended.” I swallowed an awkward laugh. “So my point is, you made your starting position clear: you wanted to rob us. Then my colleagues made a counter-offer, namely, killing your friends and planning to kill you too. I bet we can find a compromise somewhere in the middle.”

“Look,” he said. “How do I know they won’t just kill me too, the instant I let you go?”

Ms. Moon sneered. “You want to hire him? He’ll just run off or worse the instant our backs are turned.”

“Hey guys!” I said, doing my best to shrug without jostling the blade at my throat. “A good compromise leaves both sides equally unhappy. Tell me, Graham. I’m betting that the roads ahead are pretty dangerous, from people a lot worse than you and your buddies were. Am I right?”

After a pregnant pause, he nodded. “Yes, and not just dangerous people. There are creatures that even attack during daylight on the busiest roads. That’s why no one wanted the job that you lot took.”

“Right,” I said, turning my gaze to Ms. Moon. “And we’ve shown that we’re not entirely defenseless, but one guy with a sword can force us to a stalemate. We could use some help in that arena. By an armed man, a skilled fighter, and someone who knows the territory. What do you say?”

“Wait,” said Graham, confused. “Are you still just stalling or are you actually serious?”

“A good question,” agreed Ms. Moon, her eyebrow raised.

“Of course I’m serious!” I said. “Do we suddenly have super-high standards for who joins our party now? Because if so, I think we need to work on our group communication skills.”

Ms. Moon furrowed her brow and snorted. “We five are all united in our desire to return to the worlds from whence we came, and to heal my brother from the nanorobotics plague which infests him.”

“Whoa,” said Graham.

She pointed at him. “What motivation would he have to stay loyal to us?”

The sword lowered a few inches from my neck.

“Depends,” he said. “What’s the job pay?”

I chewed on my lower lip. “Equal share of whatever we get?”

He laughed, and I could feel his hot breath. “That include the part where you all get yourselves killed on some dumb quest? I get an equal share of that too?”

Ms. Moon smirked. “We could pay you that in advance, if you like.”

“Counter-offer,” he said. “I get you to where you’re delivering that wagon. Then we sell the wagon and horses, and I take an equal share of the profit.”

“Deal!” I said. “Now how about you take that sword away from my throat so we can shake on it?”


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