Faye sauntered into a stupendous square room, tracing her fingertips along the silhouettes of the marble statues. It would have cost the owner a fortune to obtain such an art collection on Earth, she thought. She loved art but had never had the heart to spend her funds on things other than her life mission—which was not pretty in any way.
Pexami, the most notorious gang leader in the outskirts of the submarine dimension, entered the room abruptly and walked straight toward her. “We agreed never to meet in public!”
She smiled and gestured widely at the room. “I consider this location private. Don’t you?”
“Is this how you usually treat guests?” she asked.
He sighed to refrain from showing his frustration and punched a button on the wall. “Pure water for our guest,” he ordered.
Shortly afterward, the door slid open, and a man with a seahorse body walked in on two legs. He set the water down then respectfully bowed and withdrew.
“You have a very interesting staff,” said Faye.
“They’re pets. Not staff.”
“You mean slaves?”
Pexami chuckled. “Mere terminology. They do their job. That’s all I care about.”
Faye took a sip of the pure water. She glanced at Pexami, knowing he was waiting for a compliment.
“The best and most expensive water available,” he said. She smiled. Pleased with himself, he drank his water.
She praised some of the artwork to ease his mood. It worked.
Then he said, “What do you need? I asked for an extension on the job.”
“Then you’ll have it. A forever extension.”
Pexami waved his arms. “I can’t give you your deposit back.”
She smiled. “I’m not asking for the money back. But I’m afraid I have to cancel the job.”
“Come on! I know the key means a lot to you, and I’m the best you can get here.”
“Exactly. Here, in this submarine dimension. But when the key floated to the human world, you were no longer the best person. As the results have shown—”
“Sonya is—or was—my best soldier. Her loss caused much damage to my business.”
“You wouldn’t have a penny of my money had I known you would use her. She isn’t a soldier. She’s a witch. And I told you the artifact attracts interest from the toughest players in the submarine dimension, didn’t I? Spells and magic won’t cut it. If she’s your best bet, then seriously, you have no hope of getting the key. So I am canceling the job.”
“But Sonya didn’t die in vain. There was an incident, an explosion of some sort, and I know for a fact that the key had been sent back into our dimension—on my turf. All you need is a bit of patience. If the key is here, I’ll find it for you.”
“Patience is something I don’t have. Instead of canceling the job, I’m swapping it for a new one. What do you say?”
Pexami contemplated. “It depends. What do you need done?”
“I need you to get someone out of the Heating Ducts.”
Pexami stared at her blankly for a brief second. His reaction didn’t surprise her. The Heating Ducts was the informal moniker of the nastiest prison system in the submarine dimension. “That’s a totally different kind of job.”
“You can’t handle it?”
“I didn’t say that. It’s just very different—”
“You’re not getting another penny out of me.”
“There are two things that might make the job difficult. The Heating Ducts doesn’t house ordinary petty thieves. Whoever it is you want me to yank out of there has to be a big deal. Second, to break into the Heating Ducts, I have to get the right pets, and they don’t come cheap.”
“No pets are getting into the Heating Ducts!”
“Exactly. You need high-end pets, and a master of my caliber. That’s what you’re really paying for.”
“As I said, I won’t pay you any more money than what we’ve already agreed upon. If you can’t do the job, I have someone else in mind.”
Faye smiled and turned as if to leave.
“Can I think about it?” he asked to her back.
Without turning around, she said, “No. As I said, I have no patience. If you accept the job now, and get it done by tomorrow, you will get the money, and I’ll even throw in a ten percent bonus. If not, I’ll get someone else. Others may not be of your caliber, but they’ll get the job done—when and where I need it done. No questions asked.”
“All right. I accept. Ten percent extra for the rush job.”
She stopped, turned around, and smiled at him.
Faye exited Pexami’s house as quickly as she could. When she was safe and sound in a carriage used by her trusted dolphins, she opened her purse and checked the tubes of potion she had inside. A row of ten pockets, with two empty now.
She knew she had put them to good use. One for Lorcan. One in Pexami’s water.
A few days were enough for Pexami to finish his task for her. Then he would vanish for good. Nobody cared about the disappearance of criminal of this submarine dimension.