TO DIE FOR: LIKE WATER FOR ADRIC (Part 3)
"Come on, just one more round!"
"Yeah, we've still got twenty minutes of truce left."
Number One looked at the clock. Yeah, there was time for one more beer,
then a quick exit a few minutes before the truce ended.
He started to call over the bartender, when something that had been
bothering him for the last several minutes finally connected with his
brain. It was 4:30. Adric's shift began at 4:00. And yet, there was
an Ogron tending bar, and no sign of Adric. Strange...
Number One excused himself and went to the bar. "'Scuze me there, Bud,
but is Adric working today?"
The Ogron sized him up for a moment before answering. "Boy off
tonight," he grunted. "Go shopping in town. Francois fill in for boy,
make many big tips."
"Francois?" Number One asked.
"Yes, me name Francois," the Ogron snarled dangerously. "Little
mirror-eyes man have problem with Francois's name?"
"Nope. And even if I did, I'd never be dumb enough to tell you."
Francois thought about this, then grunted in satisfaction. Or possibly
in resignation. Or sexual ecstasy. You never can tell with Ogrons.
"I need to pay my bill, Francois. What do I owe you?"
"What currency mirror-eyes man pay with?"
"U. S. dollars."
Francois the Ogron checked his tallies. "Drink three Dos Equis Amber.
That make six dollars American." The Ogron glared darkly at him and
cracked his knuckles. "That not include tip. Francois know mirror-eyes
man leave _big_ tip, yes?"
Number One smiled wryly. "You bet. I always appreciate service-
with-a-scowl." He gave Francois a ten and told him to keep the change.
"Aww, not leaving already, are you?" Doug asked when he stopped at
"Afraid so. I've got... business... to attend to."
"Ah, well, it was good to meet you, anyway."
"Same here," Number One replied. He nodded to the two ADF ag- ents,
then headed out the door.
Diane looked thoughtfully at Doug. "He's a pretty nice guy to be such a
vicious, troublemaking bastard," she said.
Doug nodded slowly in agreement. "Yeah. When we kill him, we'll have
to make it quick and painless for him..."
"I'm sorry, but none of these are quite exactly what I'm looking for."
"This is all we have, sir," the jeweler said. "If I knew what you were
looking for, perhaps I could order something..."
Adric laughed ruefully. "Yes, but that would mean that _I_ know what
I'm looking for, which I don't. She's just so hard to shop for..."
The old man smiled wistfully. "Ah. Shopping for your girlfriend, are
"Yeah... I mean, no! I mean, it's a girl, but not my friend! She's
sort of mad right now..."
The old man tsk-ed knowingly. "I remember how my own sweet- hearts
would do that sometimes, acting all huffy and hurt over some- thing."
"Mmm, no. I mean, she's _mad_. As in 'insane'. Some form of homicidal
mania, I think, compounded by emotional repression--" Adric saw the
man's blank look. "Never mind. Thanks for your help."
The jeweler stopped him as he was leaving. "Hang on a moment. If you're
looking for something unusual to catch this mad girl's eye, try Carter's
Imports four blocks up. They've all manner of oddball things. Perhaps
they have what you need."
"Where could they have gone?"
Eric shrugged. "How would I know?"
"Blast!" Darren eyed his compatriots thoughtfully. "Does anybody know
their way around this town?"
The other three shook their heads. "I didn't even know there was a real
town here," said Tyson, gesturing at the little shops that cluster- ed
along the street. 'Lambert Road', a signpost read.
"Are they even still in town, I wonder?" Eric mused. "That old guy was
moving pretty fast. And I had no idea Nyssa was so athletic."
Darren nodded thoughtfully. "That's a good point. They may have
already gone right through town."
"I said, give me back my panties, you old geezer!"
"WOOHOOHOO! I don't think so..."
A small, brown shape zoomed past, followed hotly by a second, slightly
larger brown shape holding a crossbow.
"Then again, maybe they haven't!" Darren shouted. "After them, men!
For the honor of Our Lady's underpants!"
"Something just occurred to me, Di," Doug said.
"Eh? What's that?"
"It's almost a quarter 'til five now, and there's no sign of Adric.
He's never this late for work."
"Hmm... Say, you don't think Number One running off all of a sud- den
has any connection, do you?"
Doug nodded. "I think it just might. We should investigate."
"Ready when you are."
Doug stood. "Right, let's just settle up..." He fished around in his
pocket for a moment, then frowned and began searching his other pockets.
"What is it?" Di asked.
"Shit. I _know_ I put that American Express Card in my pocket this
"Welcome to Carter's Imports. I'm Alexander Carter. What can I do for
For some reason, Adric found himself not liking the owner of Carter's.
The man seemed too... something. Looking at the man, it was impossible
to say what it was that he had too much of, but it was clearly in
excess. Not charm, or size, or even looks. Just... something. It was
"Er, I'm just browsing, thanks."
Carter smiled his too-something smile and gestured grandly about at the
racks and shelves. "I have just the place for browsing. Are you
browsing for you, or for someone else?"
"For a... girl, actually."
Carter laughed. "Well, I've not really got anything in the way of mushy
romantic stuff. Unless the girl is either very strange or very
violent," he added.
Adric nodded solemnly. "Then this should be just the place..."
Finally, things were going right.
It was, in Number One's opinion, about time Lady Luck quit pissing down
his back. The way things had been going, he hadn't really had much hope
for locating Adric in town. He had sort of driven around at random,
sticking mainly near the shops on Lambert Road, when he finally caught
sight of the boy going into a place called Carter's.
Number One parked in an alley and got one of his _special_ water-
balloons out of the box in the passenger seat. Now, he would fix the
little jerk, and without any outside interference.
As he crept to the store's side-door, he caught his reflection in the
truck's mirror and stopped. That _was_ a pretty evil grin on his face,
he had to admit. He laughed experimentally, and what came out was a
"Damn," he thought. "Maybe I _am_ the villain..."
It is one of the commonly-known truths of the Universe that arguing with
Ogrons never does any good. However, that doesn't prevent some
foolhardy souls from trying.
"Greencoats not pay?"
Doug laughed nervously. "Aheh heh. Of course we'll pay. It's just
that we'll pay tomorrow."
Francois the Ogron shook his massive head and stabbed the bartop with a
finger, denting it badly. "Greencoats drink today, pay today!"
"You can't just give us credit...?" Diane put in hopefully.
Francois looked at her as if she'd just asked him to perform a sex act
with two weasels and a tambourine. "Drink today, pay today!" he
repeated. "If not pay, Francois be _most_ vexed with sneaky greencoat
people. Francois maybe show greencoat people what he learn at
The two ADF fighters went very pale. "We... we... can't pay," Doug
managed. "We don't have any money."
The Ogron's eyes narrowed. "Oh. Deadbeats. Francois know how to
handle deadbeat types." He bent down to get something from un- der the
bar, and Doug dropped his hands to his pistols. The 9mm rounds couldn't
kill the Ogron, or even hurt it badly, but might dis- tract it from
ripping their arms off. Maybe.
Francois ponderously arose, a pair of brooms in his thick hands. He
thrust one at each of the two. "Here. If not pay, then work off bar
tab. Or, if no want work, Francois know other use for brooms, make
greencoats _very_ sorry."
Resignedly, Doug and Di took the brooms. "How long do we have to do
this?" Diane asked.
Francois checked his tallies. "Greencoat deadbeats have four Kil-
lian's Red and three Bud Light. That make twelve-fifty American, so
both work four hours."
"Four hours!?!" Doug spat. "For a twelve-fifty bar tab?"
The Ogron nodded and smiled, showing teeth like muddy tomb- stones.
"Four hours include Francois's tip. Francois know green- coat people
leave _big_ tip if have money..."
The crossbow, Nyssa decided, was not the way to go.
She'd been chasing the freakish little panty thief for nearly an hour,
and had shot at him six times without result. Five times he merely
dodged aside at the last second, and once actually snagged the bolt out
of the air with what looked suspiciously like a brassiere.
This was getting old. The old pervert was always just out of reach, and
spouted off a constant stream of taunts, wolf-whistles, and laugh- ter.
Thus, her decision to ditch the crossbow. She couldn't hit him with it,
it was slowing her down, and besides, physically rending the little
bugger limb-from-limb would be _so_ much more satisfying.
She tossed the crossbow aside as she turned and followed the thief down
yet _another_ alley, visions of red murder dancing in her eyes.
"Wow! Where'd you get all this stuff?"
Carter smiled mysteriously. "Carter's Imports is a family operation,"
he said. "I have relations all over, and they send me things."
He picked up an elaborate lacquered box and opened it, revealing a large
silver key. The thing was etched with curious designs and symbols that
somehow seemed to both beckon and repel. Adric found himself wanting to
look away, but couldn't until Carter closed the box.
"That," the shopkeeper said, "was sent to me by my cousin Randolph, from
where, I have no idea." He pointed at a rack which held a sword, a
small, bowl-shaped shield, and a hooklike instrument. "And that is an
Okarian duelling set my Uncle Jack sent from Kadabra." Adric gulped,
imagining those implements in a certain pair of dainty hands.
"I think I'll pass on those," he said. "Have you got anything less
Panting and out of breath, Darren and his pathetic posse halted at an
alley mouth on Nation Street.
"We'll... (pant) never... (gasp) catch them (wheeze)."
"Don't... (huff) be so... (puff) negative... (pant) Tyson..."
"Hey," Eric said when they had recovered their wind. "What's this?" He
picked up the crossbow from where Nyssa had dropped it. "Our Lady
dropped her weapon..."
Eric looked up suddenly, his eyes huge. "My God, men! Do you realize
what this means!?"
"What!?" Tyson and Darren demanded together, while roly-poly David, who
was still out of breath, merely grunted.
"This means... This means that I, Eric Rogan, am touching some- thing
that Nyssa held in Her lovely hands!" Eric looked adoringly at the
crossbow, practically cuddling it.
"Hey! I wanna touch it, too!" Tyson lunged at Eric and the two be- gan
an immediate tug-of-war for the weapon.
David stared into space. "Do you know," he said in an awed and rev-
erent voice, "she may have even... clasped it... to Her bosom."
Eric and David stopped fighting over the now-sanctified crossbow and
stared at it in wonder.
"He's right," whispered Tyson. He pointed a shaky finger at the trigger
mechanism. "That very spot may have touched Her on the breast..."
The little tableau was suddenly broken up by Darren snatching the
crossbow from them. He had found a discarded bolt for it, and had what
passed for a cunning look on his face.
"Shut up and listen," Darren said, trying to sound like Number One, but
without the hick accent. "I've got an idea how to get that pervert..."
--to be continued