Chapter 2, page 3

For a second I considered softening my tone, but then I thought better of it as all these guys were the type of men who might see that as a weakness. It was better they thought me rude than weak. So I kept up the defiant attitude as I flashed their boss a smile and turned my head to look at the goon. “It’s a hand warmer my dear friend. Did you want to borrow it?”

The only reaction I saw from the man was a slight tightening of his eyes. It was actually the boss who replied to my question, and, again, I had to suppress a shudder at his tone. “More importantly, why do you need one? It’s a perfectly warm day out.”

I turned my head back to stare at the lead thug as I answered him, with the first obfuscated truth I could think of. “Sometimes my body has trouble regulating itself and I can get cold very easily. So when that happens I need to have something on hand to warm myself up.” It’s mostly true anyway.

“Really?” He asked. Why can so many people master that technique while I struggle with it?

But I pressed on with the fabrication, “It’s a condition I’ve had since childhood. And while it’s gotten better over the years, it does seem to crop up at the most inconvenient times. So I have learned never to leave home without a few of these stowed in my pockets.” Finished with my explanation I turned my head back around to face the thug who had taken the hand warmer out of my pocket and asked. “Could I please have it back? I would hate to need it and not have it.”

For anyone else a hand warmer would be nothing special. But for me, it was like a triple shot of espresso laced with amphetamines. Fortunately no one here had any idea what I was capable of. Presumably the head gentle-thug gave his man a nod because a hand was thrust into my pocket, with more than enough force to rock me slightly. The thug behind me chirped a feigned apology, “I’m so sorry about that, sir.”

Apparently the tone I had been using was working, since the rented muscles stopped searching me. With that boon I should have just moved on. After all I had clearly rattled them enough that they forget to fully do their job. There was no reason for me to insult them further. Of course my big mouth ignored this logic. “It’s quite alright my dear man, I know how the uncoordinated fair in life.”

I could see the face of the lead man change from casual dislike to fierce animosity, I doubted that anyone ever dared insult him or his men. And with a man like that there was always sure to be a reckoning. Lucky for me his leash would keep anything from happening right here and now. Fortunately, he remembered this just before his rising temper exploded. With a stiff gesture he wordlessly pointed at the door while someone hurriedly spoke for him with an altogether shaky voice. “Your fee was accepted sir, welcome to the game.”

Just as the one man spoke another reached for the door and opened it wide. I took in the visibly shaken men and spoke a few kind words, which only served to make them angrier. “Well, thank you all for the pleasant conversation not to mention you’re attention to detail.” Striving to not look like I wanted to run for my life, I walked through the door and into the warehouse.

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