Jaidour, 1521 AW
Thievery isn't the life I would have chosen for myself. But then again, I always make bad decisions.
My name is Daat Praen. Nowadays, if anyone asks, I tell them I'm a writer. But I haven't written a thing in years. No one asks a writer why they spend so much time alone at home, or why they keep such strange hours. Writers, like some artists, seem to get a pass from the prying detective eye of society, the self-regulating forces of "politeness" that keep check on the weirdos and make sure everyone knows just what exactly everyone else is doing. After all, we can't let anyone deviate too far from the accepted way of living, can we?
You'll have to excuse my bitter attitude. I was starting to tell you about how I got wrapped up in this life of crime. You could say it was a hundred different small decisions, or that fate chose my path and I had nothing to do with it, but I know that the main reason I gave up my gig as editor for Dog Lovers Magazine was my meeting with Bull Mayday. Bull was a hell of a man, taller than any other and twice as strong. And he was persuasive, too.
So there I was, collecting my groceries off the sidewalk after their bag had split open. Some of the snotty-nosed neighborhood kids across the street were laughing at my misfortune, and an old woman was hollering at me about cluttering up the walkway in front of her house when I first saw Bull's car. I remember it distinctly, because when the gold and green machine appeared, all the probing eyes of the neighborhood fell on it and the busy mouths stopped their chatter. The vehicle with the perfectly mirrored windows and spotless, shining body came to a rest along the curb directly next to me, crushing one of my stray apples as it did so. When the door then swung open, it knocked kneeling me over and sent my groceries spilling again onto the ground.
"Hey, watch it!" I said. And then Bull began to rise from the car doorway, grasping the top of the car with his huge, fat hands so as to better pull his hulking frame through the threshold.
"What?" Bull barked, scrunching his meaty face up into an annoyed grimace.
"You knocked me over," I said, swallowing hard. If I had seen him first, I'd have never called Bull out on his rudeness.
"Oh?" Bull asked. He seemed genuinely surprised, which helped to put me at ease. "I'm sorry there, pal. I didn't see you."
"Oh," I said, picking my last stray can of dog food up off the cracked pavement, "it's okay, really."
"Here," Bull said, breathing heavily as he reached his thick fingers into his purse. He produced a three goldquartz bill, and handed it to me.
"What's this for?" I asked.
"For knocking you over," he said.
"Well it didn't cost me anything," I said. "You don't owe me anything."
"Huh," Bull said, raising an eyebrow. "So you don't want it?" he asked.
"Well," I said, fumbling for words. I didn't not want the three goldquartz. Dog Lovers Magazine had recently seen a drastic reduction in its subscription base, so the boss had cut our pay. It was our fault, he said, that people weren't buying our magazine anymore. Surely it had nothing to do with the increase in other, more exotic pets that had taken the fancy of so may Jaidoureans. Right. "Really, keep it," I told the man in the black jacket, waiving away his charity. His leather jacket that must have taken five or six cows to make.
"Well you're a rare breed, aren't you?" Bull asked with a laugh. "Take it anyways," he said, cramming the bill into my shirt pocket. "And watch my car. There's more goldquartz in it for you," he said, and then began to lumber up the short stairway to the apartment building.
"But I have groceries to take home!" I protested.
The fat man turned around when he reached the door and flashed something approaching a smile. "Just wait, okay?" he said, panting, and then he entered the darkened hallway of the apartment building and the door closed behind him.
I waited for about five minutes, after closing the car door that the mysterious man had left open. The inside of his car was full of fancy electronics and cheap food wrappers. It smelled sort of funny, too, like a gym bag. And there was music playing, electronic music. I hate electronic music.
Ten minutes later and I wonder what the hell I am doing. Marv would be hungry for dinner, certainly. I always fed him at five. I was sure he'd be howling, which meant I'd hear about it from the neighbors again. They had said that the next time would be the last, that they'd sue for my eviction if Marv kept barking. Too bad our landlord doesn't care when I complain about how noisy their kids are. If only the pound would come and take them away. Though another few goldquartz would have been nice, I simply couldn't wait any longer.
Just as I was ready to leave, the stranger with the fancy car reappeared.
"Thank you," he said, "I had to check on my mother."
I was surprised. Of all the things I thought he may have gone inside for, a visit to his mother was the last. A drug deal, a weapons exchange, those would make sense. But checking on his mother? I was surprised by the gentle giant. "No problem," I lied. "I really have to get going now, though."
"Right," he said, producing some more goldquartz bills and handing them out to me.
"Really," I said, "I don't need any money."
"You're a good man... what's the name?" he asked.
"Daat," I answered. He didn't need to know my last name.
"Daat, eh? Name's Bull," he said. He then shook my hand, almost crushing my thin typing fingers with his bone-crushing grip.
"Nice to meet you, Bull," I gulped. And with that, I gave a little half-bow and started to leave.
"You live around here?" he asked as I walked away.
"Uh," I stuttered, wondering how familiar I should become with the stranger. "Yeah."
"Great. Maybe I'll see you again sometime. I'm going to be around here more often, now that my mother's sick," Bull said.
"Okay, then. Maybe we'll see each other again sometime soon," I said. I didn't really believe it. Nor did I have any idea that Bull and I were about to become friends. Thick friends. As thick as thieves.
Next Time: Unbelievable Wealth or Dog Magazines?