Tony Mandolin Meets Sam Nero 1 of 2
by Robert Lee Beers and Jane Jago
When two private eyes are lured into the same bar by a supernatural entity, things go sideways fast.
This is a crossover short stories involving characters from the fiction of both Robert Lee Beers and Jane Jago
Contact info for Robert Lee Beers
* Website – http://asmbeers.wixsite.com/robertleebeers
* Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Beers/e/B00JCRVS3U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1505455713&sr=8-1
* Audiobooks – http://www.graphicaudio.net/a-tony-mandolin-mystery-1-a-slight-case-of-death.html
Contact info for Jane Jago
* Website – https://workingtitleblogspot.wordpress.com/
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Jagos-Books-676861115818501/
* Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Jago/e/B01CYLND2O/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0?tag=geolinker-20
* Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15097829.Jane_Jago?from_search=true
* The Last City – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079JW6F6K/ref=sr_1_6?tag=geolinker-20&ie=UTF8\
It’s just a bar, like any bar, on any street corner, in any universe. It’s perpetually twilight, and the bartender nurses a sawn-off ten gauge should he venture out from behind his bulwark of scarred mahogany. The mismatched tables are a little sticky, and the barstools may not all have the requisite number of legs. In one corner of the room, a skinny old guy coaxes something approaching a melody from the stained keys of an ancient upright piano. Even the waitress has seen her best years and she walks as if her feet hurt, but she still manages a smile for the long, tall drink of water sitting in a booth alone. He smiles back showing two rows of excellent teeth.
“And one for yourself beautiful,” he says genially as she brings him his bourbon (straight up).
The waitress knows better than to outstay her welcome and she shuffles off just as the street door opens to admit another man cut from much the same cloth as the one in the booth. The first man stands and holds out a hand.
“You must be Tony Mandolin,” he said, “I’m Sam Nero. Pleased to meet you.”
Mandolin, dressed for the weather in a well-worn trench coat with the collar pulled up to meet the brim of his dark brown fedora, looks down at the hand and then shrugs as if throwing off an impulse of habit.
He takes the hand and shakes it, squeezing enough to let the other man know he could go further if needed, and then releases the grip, “We’ll see. Frankie didn’t say what this was about, only that it was important. I’ll let you know up front, I don’t do cheating spouse cases, regardless of the down payment. If it’s one of the weird ones… well, that can get expensive.”
Mandolin looks down at the table and sees the drink. “How’s the scotch in this place?”
“Foul,” Nero replies, “It’s either bourbon or beer. Neither of which is too bad at all. And now I have a confession. I have no idea what the job is either. I’ve just been paid a big fat wad of credits to come to this bar and have a chat with a guy called Tony Mandolin. I wasn’t gonna do it, but Sugar said I should.”
He looks Mandolin in the eye for a moment then comes to a decision. “Nice handshake Tony, but I’m mostly ‘droid so I never felt a thing.” He holds up one big hand and the waitress shuffles over.
“Mostly droid, huh?” Mandolin sits and says to the waitress, “Beer, Anchor Steam if you’ve got it.” Then he leans back and looks Nero over, “Hmm…” He murmurs, “Whoever did the work, it doesn’t show. So, you don’t know either, but you got paid. All I got was a rushed shove out of my door by an agitated drag queen,”
Holding up a hand, he added, “Don’t ask. You know…” He shifted slightly exposing the butt of a highly efficient and illegal handgun, “You may want to have whatever you’ve got ready just in case. I don’t know the bar, but I know the neighborhood, and I’m getting that old itch.”
“Hmm yeah,” Nero replies, his eyes shifting around the dive, “ Me too. You reckon somebody wants the pair of us dead?” Sam’s smile is as cold and vicious as the grin of a swamp alligator and the gun that appears in his big hand is big and rather strange to the eye. “It’s a blaster,” he explains. “Now let’s have a think about who has a hard-on for a pair of private dicks. Do we even know any of the same people?”
He looks at Mandolin and lifts one black eyebrow. “It isn’t as if we move in the same circles. But what we do have in common is that we chase the bad guys.”
“I don’t know…” Mandolin said, grinning an equally cold smile back, “Have you had any dealing with necromancers, trolls, vampires or demons?”
If Sam is surprised it doesn’t show on his face. He seems far away as he idly watches the sloppy waitress bringing Mandolin his beer. In her other hand, she clutches a big bowl of beer nuts which she puts down on the table.
“Fresh,” she whispers, “I opened a new bag, but don’t tell Bernie.” She indicates the cadaverous bartender with a hitch of her chin.
Sam gives her his best dame-pleasing smile and she giggles almost girlishly. He passes her a folded note and says, “You buy yourself something, you hear.”
The money disappears as if by magic and the woman goes about her business.
“I would imagine,” Sam says quietly, chuckling, “That our new friend knows all the exits should we need a way out.” Then he sobers. “I don’t have any dealings with supernatural creatures, and I don’t reckon you have a lot to do with human mobsters or mad scientists. So we have a problem. Who wants us here. And why? Any ideas Mister Mandolin?”
Mandolin’s chuckle gets him a raised eyebrow. He says, after sipping the surprisingly good beer, “I don’t know, does having the various Bay Area crime families think you’re a made man for the head boss count? As for mad scientists, eh, I’ve dealt with a few. The last one put together a regular army of clones of my partner.”
He drinks again and then grabs a small handful of the nuts. Then he adds,“So it seems, Nero, that we have more in common than you think, and if you’ve spent any time in these stomping grounds, you may have trod on the same toes I did.”
Mandolin leans backs and looks up at the ceiling, “I’d say we’re either here for a case involving one of those toes, or for potential revenge. As for me, I’d prefer the case.”
He pops a peanut into his mouth and chews. “But,” He said, smiling, “It’s been one of those weeks, so frustrating revenge is just fine with me as well.”
Before Sam gets the chance to formulate whatever answer he is prepared to give the street door swings open and a woman stands silhouetted against the sickly light of the lamp over the bar door. She is blonde and curvaceous, and expensive, and about as out of place in this dive as it’s possible to be. She smiles at the two men in their booth walks towards them with a pout on her shiny red lips. Walk is a word, but that isn’t at all descriptive of how this woman moves across the beer-stained planks of the floor. You could say she flowed, but that doesn’t take too much account of the bits that sway and wiggle with their own erotic rythm as she comes towards them.
Sam whistles under his breath, then stiffens. “Mandolin,” he says out of the corner of his mouth, “This ain’t no lady. I’m not too sure what it is. But human it’s not.’’
Tony Mandolin moves just his eyes to catch a glimpse of the figure. He nods, and finishes his beer. Looking back at Nero, he murmurs, “Yeah, figured that. You ever have any dealings with the ladies of Tir na Nog?”
The look Nero gives him says volumes.
Pulling out his gun, Mandolin places it carefully on the table, then he turns and stares at the woman.
“Honey,” he says, “Maybe you know me, and maybe you don’t, but in what looks to be your neck of the woods, the name Mandolin gets batted around. This weapon,” he taps the gun with a fingertip, “Has been… umm, enhanced by the wizard Landau Bain, and with some additional help from folks so high up you’d need a starship to get there.”
He holds up both hands and adds, “I’m not making threats now, this is just information. So, what do you want?”
The woman doesn’t speak, and Sam gets the impression she can’t actually speak.
“Do your ladies of Tir na Nog usually talk? Because I’m getting the vibe this one can’t. That and a sense of confusion. I think we need help.”
He rolls back the plastic skin that covers his right wrist and fiddles with the keypad that is revealed. The air in the booth shimmers for a second and the seat next to him fills with the lush curves of a platinum blonde. She is the kind of woman men make fools of themselves over. And she knows it. She looks at the other blonde and wrinkles her cute pert nose.
“Oh. Oh,” she says quietly, “I think this one has been sent to pit you two against each other, Sam. I’m guessing its maker didn’t think it would need to speak.” She swiveled her gaze to take in Tony Mandolin. “Mister M,” she said in a breathy little girl voice, “Now might be a good time to call in some of your weird friends.”
Mandolin sighs and shakes his head as he mutters, “Sweetheart if you knew thing one about me, you’d know that technology and me are not on speaking terms. If I need to get hold of someone, I go knock on their door or write a letter. However, since you mention the weird…”
He says to the empty air, “Hey, Willit, you interested in a shot of decent bourbon?”
As the blonde next to Nero gasped, something that looked almost like a giant dragonfly buzzed into the bar. At closer examination, it was a small man with wings, pointed ears and a sharp nose below two very bright blue eyes.
The figure lands on the table and looks up at everyone sitting there. He says, “Hiya, high pockets, what’re you doin’ hanging around with the cyborg and the floozie?”
The ‘floozie’ giggles momentarily then looks severe. “You mind canning the insults and telling us what you think that thing in the doorway is. My money is on an afrit. But I ain’t no expert.”
Nero looks pained. “Sugar, honey, what’s an afrit?”
“Basically it’s a demon,” she replies, “And if that’s what we are facing we are in deep crap…”
Nero fingers the blaster in his big hand and Sugar cuddles his arm. For a moment their interdependence is so naked as to be almost obscene. Then she speaks in that disconcerting little girl whisper.
“If you have to use that, honey, blow its head off.”
Mandolin looks at the pixie and says, “Willit, how about you take a good look at the other blonde and tell me what’s under the skin? There’s a double of decent bourbon for you if you can do it in, say a second or two.”
Willit looks disgusted, “A second or two?” He sneers, “You trying to tell me I don’t know a afrit mute when I see one?”
He steps closer to Mandolin and leers, “You try hitting the sack with that one and she’ll be using your meat and veg in a fry up, bucko.”
Mandolin nods with a grunt and, in one smooth practiced motion takes his gun from the table and fires. The three shots almost blending into one continuous sound.
The gun’s report seems comically quiet in comparison to the result. The afrit stumbles backward and then stares down at the hole in its chest. The light coming from the streetlamps outside shines through and creates a macabre gleam on the floorboards of the bar. Then the thing opens its mouth as if screaming and slowly dissolves into a bubbling mess, which then crumbles away leaving only the stink of sulfur behind.
Willit stares, and then says, “Damn. Uh… about that drink you promised?”
Sugar gives Mandolin an appraising stare, then smiles her most adorable smile. “Sam,” she breathes, “Why don’t you order these two gentlemen a nice drink?”
Even before she finishes speaking something unsettling begins to happen around them. The whole fabric of the bar begins to warp and twist as if it is both melting and being pulled hither and thither by gigantic hands. Sam grabs the edge of the table and looks down into Willet’s frightened eyes.
“Wormhole,” he says, “Artificial by the feel of it.
“I hate science. It gets In the way of real magic.”
They all look toward the warping doorway. Standing there, unaltered by the twists being applied into the fabric of spacetime, a man in a stained overcoat with bloodshot eyes glowers at the table. He raised his hand and points, “Stop it!”
His voice thunders through the bar, shattering the mirror and sending the few remaining patrons and the bartender sprinting into the street.
The effect of the wormhole snaps off as if a switch has been thrown.
The pixie drops to the table and squeaks, “The wizard!” Then he is out the door as well, his wings a blur.
Mandolin shakes his head, trying to clear it, and then says, “Thanks Bain, I think.”
Landau Bain sniffs the air, “I smell bourbon and not the cheap crap. Get me a bottle and then tell me why you’re in this dive consorting with a known fugitive from the future.”
Sugar regards the unkempt figure with some disfavor, “Who are you calling a fugitive, mountebank?”
Sam looks at her, “Big words, honey. You know this gent?”
“Know of him? He’s a liar. And a cheat. And in some realities, he’s a wizard.”
Sam shrugs before getting up and ambling over to the bar. He abstracts two bottles from the wreckage before sitting down again.
“Bourbon is here wizard,” he says lazily. “Come and take the weight off your feet.”
Nobody moves and Sugar clicks her tongue against her insubstantial teeth.
“What’s the matter Bain? You scared of a hologram and an android?”
Bain stares at Sugar, and shrugs, muttering, “You renege on one little proposal…” Then he snaps his fingers and Sugar screams briefly and her image blinks.
“That’s better,” Bain murmurs as he sits, “I prefer real to holograms.”
Sam leans over and picks the wizard up by his throat.”Do you really have a death wish?” He asks as He shakes Bain. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t rip your head off.”
Bain snarls back at Nero, “Try moving your hand, or any other part of you.” Then the wizard smiles, it isn’t nice at all, “Do you want me to leave you that way… forever? Or do you want to act older than a spoiled two-year-old?”
Sugar reaches out and pushes on Sam with her insubstantial fingers. He has not moved or even blinked since he said the word ‘off’.
“Sam!” She screams. But nothing happened. Nero may as well have been carved out of stone.
Mandolin reaches out and calmly screws off the cap of one of the bottles. After pouring a couple of fingers into a glass he says, almost as if to himself, “Lesson one, never piss off the wizard.” Then he drinks.
Unfortunately for Bain, nothing is simple when you are sitting in a time slip. The chair he is sitting on suddenly grows hands, many hands and those hands grasp his body in many, many places. Then they squeeze. Hard. Their clawlike fingernails sink into the yielding areas of his flesh. The wizard yells,“If you don’t want to wake up one morning as a polka-dot elephant, stop this, now!”
Nobody even seems to hear him, although the stasis that holds Sam snaps and he picks up his bourbon. He clinks his glass against Mandolin’s.
Bain‘s eyes scan the table and then he utters a vile profanity and the wooden hands burst into flame. Part of Nero’s right forearm also flares and Bain catches the shot glass before it can hit the table.
As Nero uses a built-in extinguisher to put out his arm, Bain murmurs, “We can do this all night until you wind up as a collection of spare parts, or you can tell me what in the hell is going on. And by the way, I did not lie to your assistant. Matters far more pressing than her emotions called me away, or do you want to no longer exist?” He glances at Sugar and drinks.
Mandolin grabs another glass and pours, handing it to Nero, “Lesson two,” he says, “Never think you can get away with pissing off the Wizard.”
Sugar laughs softly, “Bain. Get your head out of your ass and think. Do you really imagine the chair thing was down to Sam? And do you really think I have been carrying a torch for you for however many years it is? Fraggit Bain, I died since then…”
Sam takes up the narrative,“Truce Wizard. Somebody somewhere is fragging about with us. We can carry on fighting among ourselves or we can sort out who thinks it is funny to mess with our heads.”
Mandolin raises his glass and says, “I’ll drink to that.” Then he throws back the bourbon, “Y’know, this may even be better than scotch…”
To Bain’s sour look, he adds, “Sam, one thing about this particular Wizard… when I ran across him he was a stumbling down the stairs alcoholic and even then he still scared the crap out of every power that be there was. Maybe it was his temper, maybe it was because he didn’t care who he went up against… including,” He points downward, “the Devil himself, or maybe it was because the guy is simply scary. However,” He says as he poured another shot, “If he signs on, your backside is covered, period. Name your weapon, its protected. I know, he took me through Hell itself, and I am not using a euphemism here, believe me.”
Bain glowers at Mandolin and mutters, “Nice speech, did you work all night on that?”
He holds out a glass toward Nero, “Truce. I have a thing about pranksters.”