Friday, March 25, 2011

The Heat is On

Into the bustling nightclub struts an officious looking man, dressed in the sand-colored uniform of the local police force. He sports a thin mustache on his upper lip and his dark eyes sweep the room with purpose from the entryway. Alighting on Harrison behind the bar, he smiles and begins to wade through the clientele, eyes fixated on its owner.

"Good evening, Harrison," he says with a hint of an elven accent.

Harrison nods a reply. "Captain Renault, so nice to see you. What'll it be? The usual?"

"That, and then some," the Captain replies cryptically.

Harrison turns his back on the policeman and begins mixing a drink. Pouring several liquids deftly together, he shakes the entire concoction vigorously before pouring it into a delicate glass. With a smooth and practiced hand, he spins and slides the glowing green beverage beneath the long nose of Renault.

The man takes a deep drought and closes his eyes. A contented sigh escapes his lips. With one hand, he reaches up and removes his starred cap, placing it on the bar before him. His dark hair beneath is slightly damp, evidence of the heat outside.

Harrison glides away to serve several other of the bars patrons, favoring them with a smile and a bit of witty conversation. Renault is content to sit alone at the end of the bar, drinking in peace and letting the cool notes of the piano wash over him. Several of the patrons regard him warily, obviously cognizant of his station, but their worry is unnecessary. There are bigger games afoot.

Eventually, the bartender returns to the Captain's end of the bar. Carl, the waiter, has turned up with another empty tray. As Harrison is refilling and replenishing, Renault decides it time to get down to business.

"Harrison, we need to speak of... official matters," he mutters, loud enough for only his intended recipient to hear.

Carl, being in the same vicinity, raises an eyebrow and quickly departs. In contrast, Harrison seems unhurried. He finishes a few last drinks, sliding them deftly down to his customers, before finally paying his attentions to the policeman.

"What is it Captain? Another scoundrel on the loose?" Harrison asks casually.

"This is in regards to some papers," Renault responds, fixing the barkeep with a stare. "Two Schnottz officers were murdered, their papers stolen."

Harrison shrugs, "And what has this to do with me?"

"Harrison, there are many papers sold in this cafe, but we know you've never sold one." The Captain holds his nearly empty glass before him. "That is the reason we permit you to remain open." With a smile, he slowly brings the glass to his lips for a slow sip.

"Oh," Harrison responds smoothly, "I thought it was because I never make you pay for your drinks."

The Captain pauses with the glass in his mouth, and then downs the remaining contents. "That is another reason."

Harrison takes the empty glass and swiftly refills it. "I stick my need out for nobody," he says firmly, returning the glass. He stares openly at the policeman with clear, blue eyes.

The Captain runs two fingers along his thin mustache, hiding his smile. He always did enjoy dealing with Harrison, who was so much more than he seemed. It was a challenge, and he respected the man.

"What in heaven's name brought you to Uldum?" he asks.

"My health," Harrison replies. "I came to Uldum for the waters."

The other man's eyebrow ticks upward. "The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."

Harrison smiles. "I was misinformed."

"The rogue is dead," Renault throws out.

Harrison doesn't miss a beat. "Captain, patrons of mine sometimes wind up dead. These are dangerous times, you know this. Why the interest? Does Schnottz really worry you that much all the way up here?"

Renault takes a drink and smiles warmly. "My dear Harrison, you overestimate the influence of Schnottz. I don't interfere with him and he doesn't interfere with us. In Uldum I am master of my fate! I am..."

A uniformed officer bustles up to the bar, eyes on the Captain. "Major Strasser is here, sir!"

It was Harrison's turn to grin. "You were saying?"

Renault puts down the drink and snatches up his hat. Shoving it back on his head, he straightens and brushes off his uniform. "Excuse me," he says, and then marches away.

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