Neon Noir: The Thirteenth Beat


If Vash doesn’t get back to me, I’m cutting her out of my deliveries.

The man sat in a dim office attached to a warehouse. Outside, the beat of the city’s heart took on a more muddy tone. He took a long drag from the cigarette between his lips.

There’s a knock at his door as one of his men enters.

“Boss, some guy is here saying he has money for you.”

The man’s ears perk up at the words, but he pauses for a moment.

Who owes me money? Or who owes me that’d come all this way to pay?

He gives a gesture, and his man heads off to let the stranger in. He’s an older man, hair peppered gray. Kegs didn’t like to consider his own age, but wondered if his own hair might look like that soon. The stranger is carrying a small bag.

“Kegs, I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure.” The stranger reaches out his hand.

Kegs stands, and gives a wide grin, showing the gold tooth he was so proud to have. It’s real gold, or so he tells people.

“I don’t believe we have. Which makes your claim you have money for me all the more curious.”

The stranger sets the bag on the desk.

“My name is Rupert. I do work for the Gaudio family. This here is the money that Bella owes you. Lady Vash had me deliver it.”

Kegs still confused opens the bag and takes a peek. He’d never seen so many 20s. But on top is a little piece of paper that seemed to have “Don’t Kegs” scrawled in poorly written scratch. What game was little Vash playing? Whatever it is, he’d be sure to add it to her tab.

“Looks like it’s all here. Bella’s debt is settled.” He grabs the bag and goes to set it behind his desk. But the stranger quick grabs his arm.

The man at the door goes to draw his weapon to defend Kegs, but the boss tells him to stop.

Rupert holds Kegs’s wrist tightly as he speaks,

“Vash said you might know where Bella is right now. If so, she’s settled with you. Tell me where she is so I can bring her home.”

Kegs twists his hand and pulls it from the grip of the stranger.

“I trust Vash to keep things for me. Talk to her if you wanna know.”

Rupert doesn’t seem to like that answer. He turns around, looks between the guard at the door and Kegs, and then speaks.

“If I find out you have her, if you’ve hurt her, I’ll be back to burn this whole place to the ground.”

Kegs always saw himself as a tough man, he’d been through a lot to carve out his little empire. But something about the way Rupert said that left him speechless. He watched as the stranger left and walked out of his building, all the while, his mind on the safety of his warehouse.

As soon as he thought he was safe, he sat at his desk, and brought up the vidscreen. He dialed Vash’s number again, cursing as he waited for it to ring.

His attention wandered and he turned to the bag again.

Certainly a lot of money in there. No way Vash would notice a bill or two missing…

Robert Howell

I should call her. Check on Selene. Make sure she’s settling in fine.

Robert Howell had been sitting in an automobile on the corner of the street for three hours, telling himself the exact same thing over and over. His hands have been gripped to the steering wheel, just rubbing back and forth as he waits and wades in his own misery.

A knock on his window snaps him back to the world. He stares wide eyed at the haggard man outside the vehicle for a moment. The man reaches into his jacket and pulls out a brown paper bag. Seeing that, Robert opened the door and stepped out.

“That looks a little small.”

The haggard man scoffs.

“You don’t like it, you can cut out. I did my part, now did you do yours, Mr. Badge.”

Robert’s face scowled.

“Don’t call me that. Here,” he said as he pulled out some cash, “that should cover it.”

The man excitedly grabs the cash and hands the bag to Robert. While he counts his gains, Robert opens and reaches into the brown bag. He pulls out a glass bottle in the shape of hand flask.

“This doesn’t look like her style. I expected something bigger.”

“Haha, you think I could have gotten out of there with a full bottle?”

Robert considers it a moment, then shrugs his shoulders.

“Fine. And you’re sure it came from this bar?” Robert points to the building directly next to him.

“Yeah, of course! Waitress there is soft on me.”

“Sure she is. Thanks.”

Robert considers if he’s really gonna try what he has planned, but then he thinks of his wife’s eyes. Full of tears. Telling him he won’t be seeing her for a while. His hand reaches into his jacket and clutches his weapon.

“Listen, Mac. You’re gonna want to be far from here.

The haggard man looks and sees the weapon.

“Ah hell. You said you were taking it easy tonight!”


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