The Beast, Pt. 62 (Chapter 17h)

We bid the women goodbye and begin the delicate process of sobering ourselves up just enough to maximize our enjoyment of the night. Nanite shots and stims and pep talks and suits and ties. Your belt’s supposed to match your shoes. Don’t wear straight black, you fool, you’re not going to a funeral. That tie with that shirt. Pocket square yes, suspenders no. You hate that outfit? I hate it too. Let’s have the concierge bring up another.

An hour later, we’re standing in front of the absurdly large vid screen in the living room, using it as a mirror, navy suits and grey and a single charcoal suit so dark it’s almost black (but it’s not, and the semantic distinction is important.) Our eyes are bright, our skin looking healthy, our hair impeccably styled.

“Gentlemen,” I announce. “We look pretty damn good.”

Papa Chub smirks. Googe nods appreciatively. Monk winks at his reflection. Even Erb gives the mirror an appreciative little smile.

“Alright. Let’s get the Hell out of here!”

“Where are we going ?”

It’s an excellent question. One I don’t have an answer to. But we need to act while we still have momentum. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. We’re going to go downstairs, we’re going to get in a private car, we’re going to tell the driver to take us somewhere amazing, and wherever we wind up, we’ll make the most of it.”

Everyone agrees and quietly whooping and cheering (relative to the night before,) we file out of the apartment and into the private elevator. We head down, but after a few seconds, the elevator stops with a chime and the doors open and there’s a man and a woman standing there, both of them visibly drunk although the man much more so. Both group’s conversations stop as the couple pour into the elevator, bringing with them a stink of alcohol and drugs stronger even than our own. It’s a rude reminder that we are not alone in the world, and we are far from the most unpleasant people in the hotel.

My eyes run over the couple. The man is older, middle-aged, the woman in her late twenties or early thirties. A trophy wife, perhaps. She is pretty, in an obvious sort of way. Surgically and genetically enhanced, with hints of her her natural anatomy showing at the seams. It’ll be time for a re-up soon, likely. The man, in comparison, is loathsome, balding and sweating and flushed, his clothes expensive but ill-fitting. His gaze slides along each of us petulantly, as if he were sizing us up for a fight.

“Nice suits, boys,” he says, his voice every bit as thick and greasy as his complexion. He either needs surgical treatment for macroglossia or some nanites to sober him up.

“Thanks,” Papa Chub responds, the most comfortable of us all when it comes to dealing with unpleasant strangers.

“Why are you all dressed up?”

“Going out.”

“Business or pleasure?”

“We’re hit men,” I say, cutting in. The drunk man just laughs.

“Huh?”

“Hired assassins.”

“Who?” he says, somehow managing to slur a word without an S-sound in it. Hoosh, almost.

I turn to face him, smiling wide and looking him in the eyes. “We kill people. For money.”

He laughs uproariously at this, as if the idea were the most absurd thing he’s ever heard. “Hah! Well, I hope you kids don’t kill me!”

“Don’t worry,” I say still smiling. I clap him on the back and he puts his arm around me as if we’re life-long friends. “No one’s paid us to.”

The smile disappears from his face. His face loses a bit of the flush from drinking and whatever other drugs he’s been doing. His wife or girlfriend or mistress or whoever is still smiling, though, and given that she’s a bit more sober, I imagine she’s been dealing with his drunken antics for long enough that she doesn’t mind seeing him taken down some.

I put my hand on the back of the man’s head and pull his face close to mine. I am staring into his eyes, and I can see the dawning of fear there, see his discomfort and his uncertainty beginning to rise through the haze his brain is in. “Your other girlfriend couldn’t afford our rates,” I say in a stage whisper.

The elevator stops. The doors open with a melodic chime. We step out into the lobby, and behind us the man is pale, his wife or girlfriend or mistress or whoever is beginning to question him. Erb hisses in my ear, “Is it going to be that kind of night?”

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