R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author Suspense Urban Fantasy Fantasy Dystopian SCI FI
Slugging Pitchers T he    eight    of    us    EUSA    agents    had    already    tossed    back    two pitchers   apiece,   at   least,   and   the   pain   of   a   long   stretch   of   hunting miscreants   slowly   started   to   dull.   Take   more   than   what   swirled inside   a   glass   pitcher.   We   patrolled   a   freaking   rough   sector   of space.
The   Kory   Mae ,   the   ship   we’re   based   on,   wouldn’t   be   back   for   a   couple   days,   so   we   had plenty   of   time   to   sleep   off   the   booze,   and   the   physical   pain   that   mingled   with   the   mental exhaustion. So none of us slowed down. The   barkeep   had   already   asked   us   a   couple   times   to   shank   it   down   a   notch.   Wasn’t about   to   ask   us   to   leave.   Might   need   our   help   one   day.   And   she   wasn’t   going   to   call   the local   constables   to   talk   to   us.   Take   one   look   at   our   EUSA-blue   vests,   sidearms   and armor, the screw-you attitudes, and shrug. I    think    she    was    grateful    we    had    a    limit    to    our    obnoxiousness.    We    needed    the release. Instead of ragging on the team, she opened the banquet room for us. We   took   advantage   of   it.   The   private   space   allowed   us   to   get   as   freaking   rowdy   as   we wanted. The   raucous   slurs,   jokes,   insults,   and   lies,   what   some   people   call   stories,   came   in   a flood,   as   though   it   might   drown   the   other   frustrations   and   horrors   we   couldn’t   speak   of. At   times   the   shouting   could   have   sounded   to   a   stranger   as   though   the   shooting   was about    to    begin.    But    the    team    is    tightknit,    have    been    together    for    a    long    time. Handpicked   by   the   colonel.   There   was   nothing   that   couldn’t   be   said   among   us.   Well. Almost nothing. Lieutenant   GanBwyll   glared   down   his   long   nose   when   things   got   just   a   little   too personal.   More   often,   that   was   when   the   stories   dealt   with   the   colonel.   GanBwyll   had   a lower    threshold    than    we    younger    agents    when    it    came    to    fun    at    the    commander’s expense.   But   he   giggled   like   a   little   girl   with   the   rest   of   us,   as   her   famous   little   ditties   got repeated. “Did    I    tell    you    the    time    the    colonel    and    I    went    down    to    this    stinking    mining satellite?    Think    in    the    Oneida    district.    Background    investigation.    Didn’t    expect    any trouble. Weren’t wearing armor. Bloody hell broke out. “There   must   have   been   twenty   scumbags   shooting   at   us.   Pinned   down   inside   this refining facility the size of Earth’s moon. “I   looked   over   at   the   colonel   and   she   wore   a   smirk,   like   she’d   never   had   so   much fun.    We    were    crammed    behind    this    two-foot-tall    wall.    Shooters    above    us    on    the catwalks.   We   were   flipping   goners.   I   prepared   to   thank   God   for   nothing.   And   Toni   was smiling. “I    asked    her    what    was    so    funny.    She    said    ‘These    guys    don’t    know    who    they’re dealing with, do they?’ “I   started   laughing   up   a   gonad,   and   it   gets   all   quiet,   like   the   scumbags   are   worried they’re missing something. It gave us the only opportunity we were going to get. “Toni   rose   up   on   a   knee   and   blasted   a   hole   in   a   chlorine   tank   that   was   about seventy-five meters over our head. That place emptied faster than a diseased whore. “Toni stands and walks out all calm-like. I still can’t believe we got out of that one.” There   was   a   joke   that   maybe   she   sustained   a   groin   injury   and   didn’t   remember   what really    happened.    A    round    of    catcalls    circled    the    table    and    my    story    telling    buddy stuttered a declaration for our dear friend to perform an impossible act to himself. “I   was   pinned   down   once   with   the   colonel,”   another   said.   “It   didn’t   look   good   for   us, either. I hear Toni say quietly, ‘I’m glad Daemon has more friends than Molly did.’” The   man   looked   down   into   his   beer   for   a   moment,   and   the   seven   of   us   reacted   to   his sudden serious mood. Molly   was   Toni’s   black   Lab,   before   Daemon.   They’d   been   together   almost   three decades.   There   are   only   two   photos   in   the   colonel’s   cabin.   One   of   Molly,   and   one   of Daemon. Toni was cool dying, as long as Daemon was taken care of. We   remained   quiet   a   moment   as   that   sentiment   sank   in.   But   we   weren’t   there   to focus   on   the   realities   of   this   crappy   sector   of   space.   A   second   later   the   more   colorful stories began anew. “I   visited   a   harbor   master   once   with   Toni   and   Daemon.   The   guy   was   an   absolute prick.   Made   the   mistake   of   insulting   Daemon.”   The   man   chortled.   “I’ve   never   since   seen the kind of emotions that came from Toni that day. “She   was   ready   to   close   down   the   port.   If   she   could   have   stood   tall   enough   to   get   in his face, she couldn’t have backed him down any faster. She had the master gulping air. “When   we   were   leaving,   Daemon   walked   over   and   peed   on   the   man’s   foot.   It   was priceless.” Between the chuckles another prepared to top that. “Visited   a   restaurant   with   Toni   on   Earth   once.   Daemon   was   with   us,   of   course. Other   than   staying   very   attentive   for   any   extra   food   she   needed   to   help   us   get   rid   of,   she was   an   angel,   despite   her   name.   Some   uppity   patron   made   a   scene   about   a   dog   in   the restaurant. “The   riot   didn’t   come   from   Toni.   People   at   the   tables   around   us   stood   and   railed   at the woman. “Later,   I   learned   the   snooty   diner   was   the   governor   of   the   freaking   province.   Don’t mess with Daemon in Chicago, let me tell you. She has friends in high places.” “I   was   on   a   conference   with   Toni   one   time,”   another   agent   said.   “The   president   of this   colony   was   giving   Toni   grief   about   the   heavy-handed   tactics   she   was   using   to   close down a smuggling ring. “She   ranted   it   was   killing   the   colony’s   economy.   Kept   dropping   names   of   people   she was going to call. Going to get Toni stripped down to traffic duty. “Toni   calmly   stated   she   was   going   to   pull   someone   else   onto   the   call.   Next   thing   I know   the   freaking   premier   is   joining   the   connection.   She   told   Toni,   ‘You   do   whatever the   hell   you   feel   is   necessary.   You   know   I   trust   you   explicitly.’   Man,   did   that   shut   that dirtbag up.” A   couple   drowsy   eyes   popped   open   a   little,   impressed   Toni   could   get   the   immediate attention of the leader of the Earth Union like that. “I heard Toni’s been offered the director’s job a gazillion times.” “I’ve   never   figured   out   what   motivates   the   colonel,”   GanBwyll   said.   “I   know   she likes   the   quiet   of   space,   her   ship,   and   her   dog.   She   puts   up   with   the   rest   of   us.”   He grinned and took a hearty gulp of his beer. “For someone who doesn’t like a lot of attention, she knows a lot of people.” “Or, a lot of people know of her,” another agent offered. “She’s probably been involved in more high visibility ops than God.” “I’ll   tell   you,   I   love   being   based   on   the   Kory   Mae .   What   a   way   to   travel.   And   while you   can   be   a   bore   and   a   pain,   GanBwyll,   I   wouldn’t   pick   another   commander   than   the colonel,   if   I   had   a   choice.   Wouldn’t   want   to   have   anyone   else   in   the   galaxy   watching   my back, either.” “As   long   as   you   keep   her   on   ship,”   an   agent   shouted.   “She   has   a   way   of   drawing   fire. I hate covering her  six. It’s dangerous.” There   were   a   bunch   of   inebriated   chuckles,   and   faces   peered   into   beer   mugs,   as   we remembered our private adventures with Toni.  “How many times has she been shot?” someone asked. “Every time,” another agent answered, drawing laughs. “Tremynu   and   I   once   went   on   a   hike   with   her   on   this   world   out   in   the   middle   of nowhere.   She   may   be   two   decades   older   than   us,   but   she   walked   our   asses   off   in   that forest. “We   came   to   this   lazy   little   river,   more   a   creek   than   anything.   She   stripped   down   to her toes and dove into this small pool. “I’ll   tell   ya   we   were   shocked   at   the   scars   and   dents   that   tiny   woman   has   all   over. Maybe she spent a couple decades in Vice on some outer planet?” “She always claims she isn’t bashful.” The agent laughed. “I   understand   a   decade   or   so   ago,”   GanBwyll   said,   “long   before   she   joined   the service,   she   was   attacked.   Horrendous   injuries.   Died   and   brought   back   a   couple   times. Dozens of surgeries—” His voice tapered away. Another   agent   continued   for   him.   “Add   up   the   scars   for   every   time   she’s   stepped   in front of a laser or projectile weapon since.” Heads shook. “I’ve   seen   her   in   proper   clothes   before.   Dresses   up   right   nice.   Beautiful   woman   for being   three-foot   tall.   Hard   to   understand   why   she   never   bothered   to   have   the   scars fixed.” “Not bashful or vain,” GanBwyll mumbled. “Well,   never   challenge   her   at   chess   if   you’re   putting   money   on   it.   I   worked   with   her on   a   case   where   this   chess   champion   offered   to   spill   his   guts   only   if   she   could   beat   him and   twelve   of   his   buddies   in   simultaneous   games.   He   thought   his   challenge   was   like, when pigs fly. “But   she   told   him   to   bring   on   his   buddies.   She   walked   up   and   down   this   table   taking out   some   of   them   in   just   a   few   moves.   It   was   so   cool   to   watch.   She   beat   our   witness   in something   like   twelve   moves.   He   still   refused   to   cooperate   until   she   threatened   to   show up at every match until he was no longer seeded.” “There’s a twist on her favorite, ‘You won’t be getting rid of me so easily.’” “Toni   can   be   sweet   and    brutal.   Don’t   ever   set   her   up   with   a   date.   I   ’bout   lost   a   good friend that way. She chewed him up, spit him out.” “Tried to come across cosmopolitan, huh.” “He can be a bit of a stuffed shirt.” We all laughed. “Probably   tried   to   impress   her   with   his   knowledge   of   politics.   Toni   knows   more about galactic entanglements than God.” “Or technology.” “Or just about anything.” “Gawd, it must be tough for Toni.” Grins turned the woman’s way. “Imagine   if   you   were   surrounded   all   day,   every   day,   by   people   that   sounded   like idiots to you, how old would that get?” The   door   of   the   banquet   room   flung   open   and   the   eight   of   us   drew   our   sidearms,   not all   as   smoothly   as   we   would   have   preferred,   maybe.   But   no   one   lost   a   foot.   We   lurched away from the table as a man the size of a galaxy class struggled through the entrance. He   had   a   pretty   face   overly   made   up,   hidden   inside   a   round   circle   of   fat.   Over-the- top    glamour    duds.    His    eyes    trailed    across    each    of    us,    expression    turning    sad.    He teetered   toward   us,   swinging   his   arms   to   help   propel   one-half   of   his   body   forward   at   a time. Lordy.    Why    hadn’t    the    man    taken    advantage    of    medical    science    to    cope    with his—challenge with nutrient intake. A   stream   of   bodyguards   followed   him   in,   but   they   remained   relaxed,   even   with   our weapons   pointed   at   them.   So   maybe   fatball   wasn’t   a   local   scumlord.   I   chilled   a   tad.   I think my buds did a bit too. “I   understand   you   boys   and   girls   are   from   the   Kory   Mae .   Is   the   lovely   Toni   Tegaris on   planet?”   His   voice   was   high,   like   a   four-year-old   child’s.   Far   from   what   his   exterior suggested. GanBwyll   answered   for   the   team.   “No,   sir.   The   colonel’s   on   a   mission   about   thirty parsecs away.” “Colonel.   Oh,   that   sounds   so   impressive.   You   tell   that   sprite   of   a   little   dear   her lovey-dovey   Randal   has   been   waiting   for   her   to   answer   his   offer   of   matrimony,   and   that I’m still looking for that perfect little world to buy her.” None of us spoke. We stared, maybe some of us with gaping jowls. “You’ll do that for little Randal, won’t you?” he asked. “Cer—certainly, sir,” GanBwyll said. “Delightful,”   the   man   answered   in   his   squeal.   “I’m   sure   she’s   been   terribly   busy.   I thank you all. Carry on.” He   rotated   on   his   axis   and   waved,   fat   little   fingers   wiggling   as   he   capped   it   with   a tootle loo. He bounced through the door frame. GanBwyll    sat.    The    eight    of    us    remained    quiet.    Eyes    darted.    We    still    held    our freaking sidearms. One by one we holstered them and joined GanBwyll back at the table. “That must be one hell of a story.” “Can you imagine—” GanBwyll interrupted hard, “Don’t even go there. Not even.” © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
Slugging Pitchers T he   eight   of   us   EUSA   agents   had   already tossed   back   two   pitchers   apiece,   at   least, and   the   pain   of   a   long   stretch   of   hunting miscreants    slowly    started    to    dull.    Take more    than    what    swirled    inside    a    glass pitcher.    We    patrolled    a    freaking    rough sector of space. The   Kory   Mae ,   the   ship   we’re   based   on, wouldn’t   be   back   for   a   couple   days,   so   we had   plenty   of   time   to   sleep   off   the   booze, and   the   physical   pain   that   mingled   with the    mental    exhaustion.    So    none    of    us slowed down. The    barkeep    had    already    asked    us    a couple    times    to    shank    it    down    a    notch. Wasn’t    about    to    ask    us    to    leave.    Might need    our    help    one    day.    And    she    wasn’t going   to   call   the   local   constables   to   talk   to us.   Take   one   look   at   our   EUSA-blue   vests, sidearms      and      armor,      the      screw-you attitudes, and shrug. I   think   she   was   grateful   we   had   a   limit to    our    obnoxiousness.    We    needed    the release.    Instead    of    ragging    on    the    team, she opened the banquet room for us. We   took   advantage   of   it.   The   private space   allowed   us   to   get   as   freaking   rowdy as we wanted. The   raucous   slurs,   jokes,   insults,   and lies,   what   some   people   call   stories,   came in   a   flood,   as   though   it   might   drown   the other   frustrations   and   horrors   we   couldn’t speak   of.   At   times   the   shouting   could   have sounded     to     a     stranger     as     though     the shooting   was   about   to   begin.   But   the   team is   tightknit,   have   been   together   for   a   long time.    Handpicked    by    the    colonel.    There was   nothing   that   couldn’t   be   said   among us. Well. Almost nothing. Lieutenant   GanBwyll   glared   down   his long   nose   when   things   got   just   a   little   too personal.   More   often,   that   was   when   the stories    dealt    with    the    colonel.    GanBwyll had    a    lower    threshold    than    we    younger agents     when     it     came     to     fun     at     the commander’s   expense.   But   he   giggled   like a    little    girl    with    the    rest    of    us,    as    her famous little ditties got repeated. “Did   I   tell   you   the   time   the   colonel   and I     went     down     to     this     stinking     mining satellite?    Think    in    the    Oneida    district. Background    investigation.    Didn’t    expect any     trouble.     Weren’t     wearing     armor. Bloody hell broke out. “There      must      have      been      twenty scumbags    shooting    at    us.    Pinned    down inside    this    refining    facility    the    size    of Earth’s moon. “I   looked   over   at   the   colonel   and   she wore    a    smirk,    like    she’d    never    had    so much   fun.   We   were   crammed   behind   this two-foot-tall    wall.    Shooters    above    us    on the   catwalks.   We   were   flipping   goners.   I prepared   to   thank   God   for   nothing.   And Toni was smiling. “I   asked   her   what   was   so   funny.   She said   ‘These   guys   don’t   know   who   they’re dealing with, do they?’ “I   started   laughing   up   a   gonad,   and   it gets     all     quiet,     like     the     scumbags     are worried   they’re   missing   something.   It   gave us   the   only   opportunity   we   were   going   to get. “Toni   rose   up   on   a   knee   and   blasted   a hole    in    a    chlorine    tank    that    was    about seventy-five    meters    over    our    head.    That place     emptied     faster     than     a     diseased whore. “Toni   stands   and   walks   out   all   calm- like.   I   still   can’t   believe   we   got   out   of   that one.” There     was     a     joke     that     maybe     she sustained     a     groin     injury     and     didn’t remember   what   really   happened.   A   round of   catcalls   circled   the   table   and   my   story telling    buddy    stuttered    a    declaration    for our   dear   friend   to   perform   an   impossible act to himself. “I    was    pinned    down    once    with    the colonel,”   another   said.   “It   didn’t   look   good for   us,   either.   I   hear   Toni   say   quietly,   ‘I’m glad   Daemon   has   more   friends   than   Molly did.’” The   man   looked   down   into   his   beer   for a   moment,   and   the   seven   of   us   reacted   to his sudden serious mood. Molly    was    Toni’s    black    Lab,    before Daemon.     They’d     been     together     almost three   decades.   There   are   only   two   photos in   the   colonel’s   cabin.   One   of   Molly,   and one of Daemon. Toni     was     cool     dying,     as     long     as Daemon was taken care of. We   remained   quiet   a   moment   as   that sentiment   sank   in.   But   we   weren’t   there   to focus   on   the   realities   of   this   crappy   sector of   space.   A   second   later   the   more   colorful stories began anew. “I   visited   a   harbor   master   once   with Toni     and     Daemon.     The     guy     was     an absolute     prick.     Made     the     mistake     of insulting    Daemon.”    The    man    chortled. “I’ve   never   since   seen   the   kind   of   emotions that came from Toni that day. “She   was   ready   to   close   down   the   port. If   she   could   have   stood   tall   enough   to   get in   his   face,   she   couldn’t   have   backed   him down    any    faster.    She    had    the    master gulping air. “When     we     were     leaving,     Daemon walked   over   and   peed   on   the   man’s   foot.   It was priceless.” Between        the        chuckles        another prepared to top that. “Visited    a    restaurant    with    Toni    on Earth     once.     Daemon     was     with     us,     of course.   Other   than   staying   very   attentive for   any   extra   food   she   needed   to   help   us get   rid   of,   she   was   an   angel,   despite   her name.   Some   uppity   patron   made   a   scene about a dog in the restaurant. “The     riot     didn’t     come     from     Toni. People   at   the   tables   around   us   stood   and railed at the woman. “Later,   I   learned   the   snooty   diner   was the    governor    of    the    freaking    province. Don’t   mess   with   Daemon   in   Chicago,   let me     tell     you.     She     has     friends     in     high places.” “I   was   on   a   conference   with   Toni   one time,”   another   agent   said.   “The   president of   this   colony   was   giving   Toni   grief   about the   heavy-handed   tactics   she   was   using   to close down a smuggling ring. “She   ranted   it   was   killing   the   colony’s economy.   Kept   dropping   names   of   people she   was   going   to   call.   Going   to   get   Toni stripped down to traffic duty. “Toni   calmly   stated   she   was   going   to pull   someone   else   onto   the   call.   Next   thing I   know   the   freaking   premier   is   joining   the connection.      She      told      Toni,      ‘You      do whatever    the    hell    you    feel    is    necessary. You   know   I   trust   you   explicitly.’   Man,   did that shut that dirtbag up.” A   couple   drowsy   eyes   popped   open   a little,     impressed     Toni     could     get     the immediate   attention   of   the   leader   of   the Earth Union like that. “I     heard     Toni’s     been     offered     the director’s job a gazillion times.” “I’ve   never   figured   out   what   motivates the   colonel,”   GanBwyll   said.   “I   know   she likes   the   quiet   of   space,   her   ship,   and   her dog.   She   puts   up   with   the   rest   of   us.”   He grinned and took a hearty gulp of his beer. “For   someone   who   doesn’t   like   a   lot   of attention, she knows a lot of people.” “Or,    a    lot    of    people    know    of    her,” another agent offered. “She’s   probably   been   involved   in   more high visibility ops than God.” “I’ll   tell   you,   I   love   being   based   on   the Kory    Mae .    What    a    way    to    travel.    And while    you    can    be    a    bore    and    a    pain, GanBwyll,      I      wouldn’t      pick      another commander    than    the    colonel,    if    I    had    a choice.   Wouldn’t   want   to   have   anyone   else in the galaxy watching my back, either.” “As   long   as   you   keep   her   on   ship,”   an agent   shouted.   “She   has   a   way   of   drawing fire.      I      hate      covering      her       six.      It’s dangerous.” There     were     a     bunch     of     inebriated chuckles,   and   faces   peered   into   beer   mugs, as   we   remembered   our   private   adventures with Toni.    “How   many   times   has   she   been   shot?” someone asked. “Every   time,”   another   agent   answered, drawing laughs. “Tremynu   and   I   once   went   on   a   hike with   her   on   this   world   out   in   the   middle   of nowhere.   She   may   be   two   decades   older than   us,   but   she   walked   our   asses   off   in that forest. “We   came   to   this   lazy   little   river,   more a   creek   than   anything.   She   stripped   down to her toes and dove into this small pool. “I’ll    tell    ya    we    were    shocked    at    the scars   and   dents   that   tiny   woman   has   all over.   Maybe   she   spent   a   couple   decades   in Vice on some outer planet?” “She   always   claims   she   isn’t   bashful.” The agent laughed. “I    understand    a    decade    or    so    ago,” GanBwyll   said,   “long   before   she   joined   the service,     she     was     attacked.     Horrendous injuries.   Died   and   brought   back   a   couple times.    Dozens    of    surgeries—”    His    voice tapered away. Another     agent     continued     for     him. “Add    up    the    scars    for    every    time    she’s stepped    in    front    of    a    laser    or    projectile weapon since.” Heads shook. “I’ve   seen   her   in   proper   clothes   before. Dresses   up   right   nice.   Beautiful   woman   for being   three-foot   tall.   Hard   to   understand why   she   never   bothered   to   have   the   scars fixed.” “Not      bashful      or      vain,”      GanBwyll mumbled. “Well,   never   challenge   her   at   chess   if you’re   putting   money   on   it.   I   worked   with her   on   a   case   where   this   chess   champion offered   to   spill   his   guts   only   if   she   could beat    him    and    twelve    of    his    buddies    in simultaneous     games.     He     thought     his challenge was like, when pigs fly. “But    she    told    him    to    bring    on    his buddies.    She    walked    up    and    down    this table   taking   out   some   of   them   in   just   a   few moves.   It   was   so   cool   to   watch.   She   beat our     witness     in     something     like     twelve moves.   He   still   refused   to   cooperate   until she   threatened   to   show   up   at   every   match until he was no longer seeded.” “There’s   a   twist   on   her   favorite,   ‘You won’t be getting rid of me so easily.’” “Toni   can   be   sweet   and    brutal.   Don’t ever   set   her   up   with   a   date.   I   ’bout   lost   a good   friend   that   way.   She   chewed   him   up, spit him out.” “Tried    to    come    across    cosmopolitan, huh.” “He can be a bit of a stuffed shirt.” We all laughed. “Probably   tried   to   impress   her   with   his knowledge    of    politics.    Toni    knows    more about galactic entanglements than God.” “Or technology.” “Or just about anything.” “Gawd, it must be tough for Toni.” Grins turned the woman’s way. “Imagine    if    you    were    surrounded    all day,    every    day,    by    people    that    sounded like idiots to you, how old would that get?” The   door   of   the   banquet   room   flung open     and     the     eight     of     us     drew     our sidearms,   not   all   as   smoothly   as   we   would have   preferred,   maybe.   But   no   one   lost   a foot.   We   lurched   away   from   the   table   as   a man    the    size    of    a    galaxy    class    struggled through the entrance. He   had   a   pretty   face   overly   made   up, hidden   inside   a   round   circle   of   fat.   Over- the-top    glamour    duds.    His    eyes    trailed across   each   of   us,   expression   turning   sad. He   teetered   toward   us,   swinging   his   arms to     help     propel     one-half     of     his     body forward at a time. Lordy.    Why    hadn’t    the    man    taken advantage   of   medical   science   to   cope   with his—challenge with nutrient intake. A   stream   of   bodyguards   followed   him in,   but   they   remained   relaxed,   even   with our   weapons   pointed   at   them.   So   maybe fatball   wasn’t   a   local   scumlord.   I   chilled   a tad. I think my buds did a bit too. “I   understand   you   boys   and   girls   are from    the    Kory    Mae .    Is    the    lovely    Toni Tegaris    on    planet?”    His    voice    was    high, like   a   four-year-old   child’s.   Far   from   what his exterior suggested. GanBwyll   answered   for   the   team.   “No, sir.   The   colonel’s   on   a   mission   about   thirty parsecs away.” “Colonel.       Oh,       that       sounds       so impressive.   You   tell   that   sprite   of   a   little dear    her    lovey-dovey    Randal    has    been waiting    for    her    to    answer    his    offer    of matrimony,   and   that   I’m   still   looking   for that perfect little world to buy her.” None   of   us   spoke.   We   stared,   maybe some of us with gaping jowls. “You’ll   do   that   for   little   Randal,   won’t you?” he asked. “Cer—certainly, sir,” GanBwyll said. “Delightful,”   the   man   answered   in   his squeal.   “I’m   sure   she’s   been   terribly   busy. I thank you all. Carry on.” He   rotated   on   his   axis   and   waved,   fat little   fingers   wiggling   as   he   capped   it   with a   tootle   loo.   He   bounced   through   the   door frame. GanBwyll      sat.      The      eight      of      us remained   quiet.   Eyes   darted.   We   still   held our    freaking    sidearms.    One    by    one    we holstered   them   and   joined   GanBwyll   back at the table. “That must be one hell of a story.” “Can you imagine—” GanBwyll     interrupted     hard,     “Don’t even go there. Not even.” © R. Mac Wheeler 2017