Thursday, July 21, 2011

Deadly Chances

Fu Ying, a former hireling of Tetsukichi until he found that his true calling was taking care of giant centipedes, appeared one morning on his former employer’s doorstep. One of the other centipede trainers, Fu Ying’s mentor and friend, a rough-hewn, but decent man whose name is best-translated as “Hardtack,” had been killed the night before. Or maybe early that morning. No one knew much, just that he had ended his shift at the Myriadome early, the cash box was later found to be missing, and that morning he was found in the ruins, dead and mangled by animals. As far as Fu Ying could tell, the management seemed genuinely upset, and not just about the missing cash box. But he and the other workers were afraid to ask too many questions, so maybe Tetsukishi and his friends, as outside agents, might be able to figure out what happened. Back to Fun Town!

Manchu Woman Front by danielle.kane
Manchu Woman Front, a photo by danielle.kane on Flickr.

That evening, Tetsukichi, Beatriss, and their companions had a really good day at the races. Despite their good luck, they were popular with the crowd and the management as they spent most of their winnings on beer and meat-on-a-stick, including a few rounds for new friends. One bookie glommed onto them and kept them going with compliments and good-natured, if not especially humorous, jokes. Just as they were leaving, they exchanged a few words about “the sad thing that happened.” Neither side let much information, except that the bookie stated, that in his opinion, although Hardtack did place personal bets on the races—a discouraged practice—it was unlike him to steal. He very much valued his job and respected his fellows in the organization too much. And although the management was strict and sometime harsh, their personnel policy would prefer beating a man senseless in public as an example to others, rather than killing him in secret. But most of all, he was glad they had a good time enjoying the unique sport of centipede racing and hoped to see them again.

They went back a second night, and had another good time, this time staying until close with hopes of following the workers home to see if anyone else might get attacked. But the guards of Fun Town shooed them out. On their way out, they stopped in a small tavern catering to clerks; an old man bought them drinks and asked them to join his book group. Also on the way out, Tetsukichi, spotted, from the corner of his eye, a young woman jumping off the top of a two-story building. They searched the alley and found no trace of her.

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