In the deepest pit of the turrent, a shady dark bar stood under the overpass. The deepest pit was never touched by summer and the winter snow fell with ash mixed from above, drifting from the city’s infernal columns of smoke.
The bar was lit only by candles, electricity never making its way down into the pit. It was dead inside, two men being its only occupants. One was an ancient old man sleeping in a corner, weißbier forgotten in his scafol. The other, burly and trench-coated, sat at a table with his hat pulled down so that between his collar and hat brim only two red eyes looked out, auburn and malicious. Such a pallor of darkness clung to him that the eyes were the only thing about him that could be clearly seen.
Into this came a third, a rashly sick looking man with long dark hair dirty from the snow and wrapped around his neck like a scarf. The wind followed him in but was shut out as he shut the door.
He crossed around and sat by the trench-coated man.
“Aspite, you’re looking down,” the haired man said.
“Aspite,” the other returned. “For well I should be. There are millions of papers in the Reliquary and the equerry is concerned about one.”
“Did you find it?”
“Nerry,” the trench-coated man said. “There’s not a trace and I turned the place thoroughly.”
“No trace is a good trace.”
“Verily, in most cases, but the man says find me a paper of a particular type and so I dig through the Reliquary quarrying.”
The haired man laughed. “I have paid heed to equerries before and nerry good did it cent me.”
The sleeping man in the corner gave a drunken belch and the men looked at him. The haired man gave a glance, the trenched man gave a stare.
“But you didn’t come from Phlegeþon to ask about papers,” the trench man said turning back.
The haired man smiled as warmly as he could with gums black and fetid.
“I come to talk of straw men,” he said. “Of a pretty scarecrow bernt and burning.”
“Burning of words. Fire comes from his lips to light up a crowd.”
The trenched man sighed. His eyes seemed to flicker. “That kind of talk. Oh. I had hoped for something a little more modern.”
“The modern man must suffer an ancient curse. That of Cæsar and the tall man.”
“Scheißekrieg,” the trenched man said. “I don’t do that kind of work anymore. I’ve gadagnared my own freedom.”
“Freedom!” the haired man exclaimed. The sleeping man stirred and the haired man paused waiting for the sleeper to rest again before continuing. “Freedom is a tinpot word. Ne’er has it ever really stepped down to its charges. They talk of Freedom up there,” he pointed at the ceiling, “but when they come down here, they are breathless. What do they really have? Nothing. Nor do you. Do the job. Save yourself the trouble.”
“Not trouble. Difficulties,” the haired man said waving it off.
“It’s only trouble when it’s on your doorstep‽”
“Aye. The so-called NIMBY.” The haired man agreed. “It’s a little thing.” He produced a paper and handed it to the trenched man.
The man looked it over and muttered, “But a little thing. Why don’t you do this?”
“I have no Heckler, no Koch.”
“Very well for you, but I’m the one rambototing through the crowd,” the trenched man said shifting his weight. “These are no easy ‘little things’. They have guards, security. Men with both Heckler and Koch on roofs across from venues. Easy to do little things, but no so easy to escape them.”
“I only need one thing from your jarrow. Yes’r’no?”
“You’re brandskating me. Yes. But only this once more.”
“No stouping here. Once more then never more, all right,” the haired man said standing up.
They looked at each other and then at the sleeping man.
“You think he heard?” the haired one asked.
“Nerry a chance,” the trenched one said.
“You willing to take that chance?”
He got up as well.