Chapter 22:

Setting the Table - Part 3

Gloudhaus


“A rat?! You mean what I think you mean, Anna?” Colette asked as she was very unsure of what was happening.

“Probably, yeah… We goin' fer a classic witch hunt, y'see?”

“That’s no fun at all! Thinking is not my thing.”

“We’ll have time to fight fer sure, don'tcha worry."

“I don’t get it…” Karim interrupted with a displeased tone in her voice. “Of all people in all islands, why tell you about it?”

“Fair point… We ain't in the best place fer this talk.”

Annabeth took a look around the random bystanders walking around as if anyone of them could be a spy in disguise, although it was just because she wanted to do this kind of thing once.

She still had a valid point even if for a bad reason.

As long as she was talking seriously, it was possible that someone would hear something they shouldn’t.

“I know a place...” Karim answered in a serious tone, which only backfired on her reliability with Anna when the inquisitor noticed where they were going.

“Ain't paying fer ya, shorty.” The redhead added while the trio walked towards the hidden restaurant that had once tried to kill Anna's wallet.

“I don’t need you to pay for me.”

"If you say so."

“Why are we walking towards a fucking market, you two?” Col asked while half-distracted by the smells of the Spice Quarter. “Weren’t we going to somewhere quiet or some stupid thing like that?”

“Weird as is, we goin' to somewhere quiet right now... That place is real good and very empty at the same time.” Anna explained as she tried to avoid looking around and getting too hungry, which prompted her short partner to add her own explanation.

“Treasures are always hidden.”

“It explains nothin', but I'll give ya this one, shorty.”

“I don’t get what’s happening here anymore...” Colette stared in a weirded-out way at the inquisitor acting friendly with a spirit, but her point seemed to hit flat.

Be as it was, the trio eventually reached the small cantina on a random corner of the quarter, and then, Col got stuck staring at the devil with a pink apron for a while. Only after she had given up on understanding the situation that they finally took a seat.

“What exactly is the theme of this place?” The toned girl stared in confusion at the small menu, and at the random items thrown around it. “There's no freaking sense in these options!”

“They’re properly chosen to synergize well with each other when you decide to go for a full course and get all of them.”

“Nah, they random. Either that chef there likes these dishes or shorty made him use 'em.”

Karim’s stare went to the side as she pretended to not have anything to do with the menu’s state. Just like her, the chef was also staring at nowhere and whistling, which made Anna note that he had very good hearing.

“Hey, boss, get us some appetizers, ‘kay? The deep-fried kind that goes with privacy.” Annabeth shouted to the pink-apron devil who, weirdly enough, nodded to them and went to the kitchen. His silent compliance kind of surprised her though. “Not gonna lie, didn’t think it would work, y'know?"

“I said this place was awesome. Even the condominium wouldn’t be that easy to get a good place for safe talks… The floor is very thin there too.”

“THE FLOOR IS WHAT?!!!” Annabeth shouted as she thought about the dangers that came with thin floors.

“Thin, you know? You can hear people from below sometimes, so they should be able to hear us too.” Karim didn’t seem to notice what was her partner’s point though and instead went on about privacy. “It’s not a perfect place, but it’s big enough and cheap enough. What’s the problem then?”

“Y'know that place is lotta meters above the ground, ‘aight?! Thin floors are real bad!”

“Stop with this fear of heights already…”

“I don’t have that!”

“Anna,” Col joined the talk and held her friend’s shoulder. “There’s no problem in…”

“Shut the hells up, Col! My worries are all ‘bout safety ‘ere, 'kay? No fear, just safety.”

Both other girls glared at Anna with no piece of trust in her words, which in turn made the inquisitor go for her gun in anger.

“I’m gonna pop ya asses if ya both say anythin’ more!”

Colette rose her hands in surrender in answer to the empty threat. Her smile didn’t match that at all though. Karim, on the other side, just started to glare at her partner in annoyance.

“Don’t go drawing a weapon here, Annabeth!”

“That’s… That’s fair.” She locked the revolver back in its holster and somehow managed to clear her mind enough to reach the real subject. “Anyway, 'bout the witch hunt and all... I’m kinda playin' with suppositions 'ere since we just got that ‘hunt the rats’ message. I guess the boss lady found some lead, but can't act on it, so she asked us, y'see? The photo guy should be working with an insider.”

“It doesn’t explain why auntie choose you to help with that…”

“Ah, that… That’s 'cause it's convenient. Tell her how the deal goes, Col.”

“We get diplomatic immunity and permission to move around freely, but have to help to out best solving any public disorder around the islands. You archipelagans will get in trouble if you kill us, but dying in the line of duty is not only fine but also expected. The contract ends in one year and any diplomatic blunders that happen during this period will be erased.” Colette recited a small piece of the massive document she was forced to carry during most of the trip, even though she shouldn’t do so.

Some points were missing and she barely remembered the basics, but that much was enough.

“Can y'see now?” Annabeth continued with a smirk. “She can throw us into the hardest task and, even if we fail, ya lose nothin'. Also, if we fail or mess up, y’all can claim we’re subversive agents and kick us out with no problem.”

“This… This sounds like a terrible deal to you both…” The petite girl answered with a worried expression. “Why would you accept doing so? Be it for your own people or getting aunt’s assignment.”

“Well... I could say that we lack choice since we banished and all, but that’s a lie...” The redhead answered as the smell of something frying filled the air. “Fer now, just say that free reign on how I act is too big of a plus to ignore, 'kay?”

“Everyone around here is soft too. The way you solve crimes and fight is way too ineffective… Acting for your cops is bothersome.” Colette added her view on the situation as the talk was going on. “Punching your problems is faster and easier, right, Anna?”

“I say there’s more to it, but yer kinda right, Col.” Both girls put on some dangerous smiles as they said so, but Anna soon dropped it and went on. “The way things are though, we’re stuck patrollin' until trouble arrives…”

“Why so?” Karim asked while still recovering her cool after the information she had just received.

“Didn’t ya hear? Our role is support. Snoopin' 'round with no reason would be way too suspicious.”

“We can always hunt some random criminals though… Or get a new date. What about finally going for an outing with me, Anna?”

“Take shorty with ya if a wing is that needed, 'kay? Ain't interested in stupid things like relationships 'ere... Even the dumber ones are too much trouble fer little worth.”

"You're lacking in experience and that's all. Give me a few hours and I can have a full buffet for you."

"This is a time loss and losin' time ain't my thing. Have yer fun, but leave me out."

"At least try once, dammit!"

"Nay."

“What are you two even talking about?” Karim cut the two inquisitors back and forth as she couldn't understand what was happening.

“I’m talking about popping this vir...” Colette went silent as, in a somewhat unexpected way, a bullet went flying just a millimeter away from her cheek. It was such a close call that even Karim was shocked.

“Shut it, 'kay?” The girl holding a revolver ordered before getting up. “I’ll go apologize to the chef, but don’t say anythin' unnecessary anymore.”

She then went to the kitchen and properly apologized for the damaged property caused by her bullet.

The two other girls stood there silent for a while until Colette started to force herself in order to hold her laughter. She wasn’t courageous enough to keep going after that menace though, so the subject ended up dying there while Karim was still confused.

Eventually, Annabeth returned with some trays filled with a variety of fried things, many of which neither inquisitor knew by name. Weird as it was though, in the end, the trio still had a good time after the food arrived.

Satan’s food was simply that good.
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