Main Menu (edit)
“Welcome to the Midway, my name is Leilani, is there anything I can get for you? Soda, cigarettes, snacks, or --” The young girl paused in her rote recitation, actually looking at the man and woman standing before her. From the direction that they had come, it seemed to the girl as though they must have walked in from The Scrubland Beyond, but with the way they were dressed? She shook the thought away. "Sorry. I'm Leilani; that's a really pretty dress, ma'am. What can I do for you two?"
The ma'am in question smiled. "Hello, Leilani; and that is a very pretty name." She then gave her name and that of her companion, in return.
Lei-lei's brow furrowed. "Kate and... Percy?"
The dark man made a noncommittal sound. The woman gave her another smile, this one even broader. "Close enough. Can you direct us to the diner? We've an appointment."
The woman in the amethyst gown took the lead as the three entered the diner, heading directly for a booth along the row of windows; one that held a single occupant, a middle-aged man wearing a slightly rumpled, dark blue suit and aquamarine tie. "Hello," she murmured. "Sorry to be late."
The man looked up, puzzled. "I'm sorry?" The woman's companion slide into the booth across the table from the businessman and busied himself with the condiments.
By way of response, the woman half-turned back to the girl. "This is Leilani. Leilani, this is Mister P... C... Donnelly, owner of Trident Shipping." She sounded impressed, if you didn't listen too closely. "You can call him Phil. Philllllll," she turned back to the man, flipping up the end of his name with her voice, "do you know Leilani?"
The businessman's eyes slid away for a second. To Lei-lei, he looked almost embarrassed. Then he put on a wide smile that changed his expression and half-stood up in the booth, automatically smoothing his jacket with his left hand as he extended his right. "We haven't met," he replied. "Really pleased to meet you."
"Umm." She shook his hand. "Thanks." The smiling woman slipped into the booth next to her friend. "Did you need anything else, ma'am?"
"Oh no, Leilani." The woman spoke to her, but her shining eyes were locked on the man in the blue suit. "You've been a delight."
"Ohh-kay." The girl hesitated, then turned to leave. "Thanks."
The woman in purple kept her eyes on Mister Donnelly as the girl left them. "Lovely child."
"I suppose." Phil didn't look like he supposed.
"Leilani," the woman mused. "Hawaiian."
Phil's jaw worked. "Yes."
"Hawaii's an island, Phil." The woman smirked. "Like Atlantis."
Phil stared at her, eyes narrow.
"Of course," she sat back, "Atlanis is gone, swallowed by the ocean."
Phil continued to stare, then shrugged and looked away.
"The ocean must have been very hungry to swallow a whole island, don't you think, Phil?"
"She has a kind face." Her shadowy companion interrupted, apparently not even listening to the exchange. He tore a sugar packet into even strips, shaping the contents into a neat cairn on the diner's table. His voice was a surprising, whiskey-roughed tenor. "She'll do well."
"Seems likely," the woman's smile turned a bit sour. "Eh. Heroines." She shook her head, bemused.
A waitress ("Eileen" according to her name tag) appeared at the booth. "So your appointment did show up." She grinned.
"Not really." Phil watched the shredded packets accumulating across the table from him, as though expecting them to do something unpleasant.
Eileen blinked, but didn't follow up. It wasn't her nature. She turned to the woman. "What can I get you, hon?"
"Well, Eileen," the woman winked, and the waitress blinked again. "It's been literally ages since my father here has had The House Special."
"Ohh-kay." The dark-haired man didn't look like he was old enough to be her father, but Eileen wasn't going to argue with the customers. That never went well. She scribbled on her pad. "How about you?"
"I'll have what he's having." She nodded with her chin to the man with the Unicorn's Skull tattoo on his bicep, sipping from a tall glass.
Eileen turned to follow the nod, and her eyes widened. "Oh." She said in a very small voice. She made a mark on the pad and gathered up the unused menus. "I'lljustgetthatrightouttoyou."
None of the three in the booth watched her go.
"So... Phil." The woman (sallow skin not helped at all by the light of the fluorescents above) folded her hands in her lap, prim and proper and blazingly out of place. "What shall we talk about?
Their orders had come, and still the businessman spoke.
"... was told that you two could find something for me. Maybe a Unicorn. Maybe Mr. Oberst."
"Perhaps." The woman took a drink, and her eyelids sagged for a moment at the pleasure of it. "There is, of course, the subject of payment."
Donnelly scowled. "The property is mine."
"Will be, Phil." She reached across the table and patted the man's clenched and folded hands. "Will be. We have less grand desires."
The man's eyes narrowed. "Yeah?"
She set down her drink, trailing a finger along the rim of the unusually fine crystal. "There is man coming here, with his mother and his daughter."
"The girl is mine." She said. The man next to her made a noise, and she her eyes flickered to him, then back. "Ours."
The man in the blue suit smirked. "Didn't think you went in for such things."
"Oh, we don't, Phil." Her eyes were innocently wide and not at all comforting. "We want to raise her." She patted her companion's forearm. "As our own." She looked back to Donnelly. "You keep this place and your nascent chance at Yggdrasil, and we'll have the girl. Deal?"
He considered for only a moment, then nodded. "Deal." He took his napkin from his lap and wiped his mouth it with (habit, surely, since he'd had nothing to eat), then stood. "How soon?"
"We will call on you," said the shadowy man. His tone did not invite reply.
Neither of the two watched the businessman leave; both had turned their full attentions to their meal.
After, the woman spoke: "We need a hunter."
They rose and left, a pile of cash where the strips of sugar packets had been.
The high-pitched whine of the tattooing needle tailed off as the pair entered. The artist was just fishing up, wiping away a bit of blood from a complicated wreath design on the meaty shoulder of a female trucker. The woman paid and left, and the three (the pair, and the tattooist) regarded each other in silence.
"This place," Kate remarked to no one in particular, "is a marvel."
The man turned to clean his tools. "Wouldn't know. I just work here."
"That's excellent, Paul," the woman moved to perch on the edge of the tattooing chair. "Since we have work -- real work -- for you."
The man's painted shoulders were tight. "I don't do that sort of thing any more. Moved on."
"Ahh." She gave her companion a look. "You are a lover, not a fighter."
"Sure," the man shrugged, turning back to them and crossing his arms. "Fine."
"That's ideal," the shadowy man said.
The woman raised her eyebrows in mock surprise and turned to regard her companion. "Whatever do you mean, Percy?"
He ignored the name. "Lovers are the most cruel of hunters." His eyes were on the far wall, tracing the lines of an intricate, framed drawing while his velvet voice wound through the room. "Apollo was a lover, and when Daphne the nymph fled from him, he turned her into a laurel tree." His darkened face turned toward the man called Paul. "He is often depicted with a wreath of laurels around his head."
"My goodness." Kate's eyes were wide, like a child listening to a fairytale. "It sounds as though he chopped up his lover and wore her for a hat!"
"That's not--" Paul cut himself off, his jaw clenched, teeth grinding. He looked from one to the other, as though searching for a escape route in their faces, but the man's was shadowed beyond discernment, and the woman's smile knew too much -- showed too many teeth.
He seemed to deflate, and for a moment, he looked very, very old. "What do you want me to do?"
Bibliography/Cast of Characters