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Old 28th May 2003, 13:34   #1
Palimpsest_Features
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Default 100 - a short story, part 3 - by amner

100 (pt iii)

Baceolus shakes his head and reaches out for the glass.


***


The plan was beneficial to them both. Baceolus would use his enormous capacity for beer and spirits to search the pubs and bars of the city, bringing people into his confidence and eventually redirecting them to Barracuda’s heaving, tense, chaotic fellowship. Copa would keep an ear and an eye out for any snippets of information that this new wave of clientele might bear.

The two men enjoyed the new scheme, although Copa continually referred back to his initial reservations. The truth was it suited them because it kept the search open for both of them. Copa had never ceased thinking of The Imp and Baceolus had missed the Ninety Nine as soon as he found Barracuda, his final goal, or so he considered it at the time. The teamwork the army had trained into them now worked to develop an unbreakable bond between the men. As the months went by, however, Copa noticed that the continual trekking around the city, dodging the guards at curfew and running into muggers and petty thieves - admittedly no match for a determined and well trained Baceolus - was beginning to have an effect on the younger man. Night after night he would come into the bar at closing time and his air of dejection and frustration hung heavier and heavier.

‘I hate this town,’ he would say. ‘Why the hell did I agree to this?’ But after a while, after a pep talk and a good night’s sleep he’d be full of energy and enthusiasm the next day.

After a year, perhaps a little more, Copa heard that Baceolus had left his job in one of the city’s warehouse security corps and taken to pounding the streets full time. Then, one night, Appotus came into the bar again.


***


Baceolus drinks the last mouthful and shakes the bottle by the neck in front of Copa’s face.

‘Empty,’ he says, expectantly.

Copa takes the bottle and gently brings it back to the table. ‘Listen, mate, I have some information for you. For us.’

Baceolus isn’t listening, he just gazes at the empty glass. Copa continues.

‘Do you remember I told you about the man who came in here last year, who mentioned The Imp? Well, he’s been in again. We’ve been talking about it! Don’t you see? The Imp! I know what to do now.’

The other man sits up. The weight of expectation is renewed and his stomach turns over. He suddenly realises that his dreams and flights of fancy, gliding wingless down the dark, foul streets of the old part of the city, may be about to end. Copa is talking.

‘Appotus came in just now. You missed him by about half an hour. He’s caught wind of our quest. He came to help. Now listen, Baç, because you may only get one chance at this. I’m still reeling from it all but I have no reason to suspect that it’s anything other than genuine. Appotus said something very strange. He said that you cannot find The Imp, but that The Imp will find you. He said that the most patient, that was the phrase he used, the most patient will be invited there, but that otherwise you may as well give up.’

‘So what happens?’ Baceolus is almost shaking.

‘The landlord and the patrons will be told of your search, our search, and send an emissary. He will appear and ask for an entrance fee. Once paid, you will be taken immediately to The Imp and the rest is up to you. The Hundred. Finished.’

‘Right, fantastic, I mean, great, so do we know when?’

‘No, just continue as we have. Just make sure you have the entrance fee on you at all times.’

Baceolus reaches into his pockets and throws handfuls of coins onto the table. ‘How much, did he say?’

Copa looks at the money and grins, ‘That’s just it. Nothing too expensive, mate. Just have a penny on you and the place is found. Not bad, eh?’

‘How much?’

‘A penny, that’s all. Wait, where are you going? Baç?’

Baceolus pushes the table and chair out of the way. He stumbles to the door and realises for the first time that the drink is hitting him very hard.

.
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