Chapter 14:

Chapter 14 - Little Bug


Even during her extended stay in the heart of Trigger City, Roulette hadn’t been afforded many opportunities to ride in an automobile. The vehicles were so uncommon that they verged on being mythical; only the super-rich could afford such a luxury–especially in Wesson, where so many of the materials that composed them were spoken for by the continent’s many gun manufacturers. She gawked at the blur of houses and storefronts as they passed, enraptured by the blending of color and light induced by their speed.

Diallo wasn’t driving, of course; the Moukahlas had people for that. He rode in the back with Roulette, watching with amusement as she took in Port Pistola’s sights with fresh eyes. Her gun lay across his lap, and thus far he hadn’t offered to return it to her; a wise choice, she supposed, considering the events of the last couple days. She found herself wondering just how much he knew about all that.

Probably a lot. Probably everything.

Oh well. It didn’t make a difference, anyhow. She’d been granted a chance to recover Morgan’s gun–maybe even figure out where he’d got to–and she intended to make the most of it. She’d only need Lady Luck for the inevitable rush to escape after she got what she needed. Not that she’ll help much in my hands, she thought glumly to herself. That old girl’s as unreliable as I am.

Roulette remained silent, moping the whole ride through. Unlike the handful of automobiles she’d seen back home, this one had no roof or windows to speak of; between the sound of rushing wind and the sputtering of the engine, conversation was impossible anyway. It wasn’t until they pulled up in front of the villa that she finally spoke:

“Golly! That’s where your boss lives?” she asked, whistling in admiration. She ignored the door handle beside her, instead flinging herself up and out of the automobile. Then she moved to stand before the front patio, gravel crunching beneath her boots with every step. “You’re tellin’ me I get to stay here? And all I have to do is get a chuckle out of him every now and then?”

Diallo drifted into place beside her. “Yes,” he replied. He clasped his hands behind his back, waiting for the noise of the automobile’s engine to dissipate as it roared off to its true home in some nearby, unseen garage. “We have several spare rooms available inside. You will have your choice of accommodations.”

“Sounds fine to me!” Roulette declared with a nod. “Why d’you have so much space for visitors, though? Does the boss run a hotel on the side or somethin’?”

Diallo straightened at that, his expression hard. “That is not your concern. Suffice it to say, the villa was once a much… Livelier place. But no more. Perhaps your… Unique brand of humor will do something to change that.”

He cleared his throat, then, and shifted uncomfortably. It was then that she spied something from the corner of her eye, peeking out from beneath the man’s blazer: the pearl-inlaid handle of a beautifully-crafted handgun. Even that momentary glimpse was enough to identify it as a work of art; a weapon fit for a Gunslinger. And not just any Gunslinger–it was Morgan’s gun. She was sure of it.

…But how to get a hold of it, knowing it was carried by a man so highly placed in the organization?

“You will be glad to know that your debut performance has already been arranged,” he said, interrupting her latest round of scheming. “It will be held an hour from now, in the parlor–I suggest you use the time you have beforehand to practice your material.”

“And what will you be doing for the next hour?” Roulette scowled, following him up the front steps as he made for the front door. The implication that she’d be left to her own devices for a while annoyed her. How was she supposed to get her hands on that handgun if he was off puttering around the house until showtime?

“I have much to attend to,” he snapped, “Informing Marka of your arrival, overseeing preparations, inviting our… ‘Special guests’. I will be very busy; too busy to babysit the talent.”

They entered the large, luxurious entryway of the villa to find a pair of curious eyes gazing down upon them from between the posts of the second floor railing. Roulette met the stare with a half-smile on her face, recognizing the telltale signs of childish wonder in those eyes even from a distance.

“Ah, perfect,” Diallo purred, waving their observer down toward them. The girl happily obliged, jumping to her feet and streaking down the stairs with reckless abandon. “This is Beretta–Marka’s daughter. She will be happy to show you around and answer your questions, I am sure. Now, if you will excuse me…”

Diallo made his escape just as the girl arrived at Roulette’s side, literally bouncing with joy. It took a moment for Roulette to turn and regard her, distracted as she was by the sight of Diallo receding into the depths of the house with Lady Luck in-hand. Once they locked eyes, though, an air of infectious glee consumed the two young ladies entirely.

“Hi Beretta!” Roulette crooned, leaning forward with her hands on her knees.

The girl practically exploded in a fit of excitement. “Hi! Hi!!”

“I’m Roulette. That’s a beautiful bow you’ve got in your hair!”

Beretta reached behind herself and slipped it right out from among the silky strands that housed it, presenting it to Roulette without hesitation. “Thank you! You can have it!”

“Oh my gosh, you are so sweet!” Roulette said, closing the girl’s fingers around the bow. “I could never! You keep it, okay? It looks better on you than it would on me, anyhow.”

“Really?” The girl shoved the bow in her pocket, gazing up at her new best friend in disbelief. “You are so pretty, though… Like the Queen of the Fairies!”

Roulette blushed, suddenly mindful of the fact that she was still wearing all the stage makeup she’d applied earlier. “Aww, thanks! I cheated a little bit, though–I’m wearing a LOT of makeup,” she admitted. “Who’s the Queen of the Fairies? Did you read about her in a storybook?”

“Yes! She is in one of the stories father reads to me almost every night!” Beretta lapsed into sheepishness all of a sudden, kicking at the ground with one foot. “...When he remembers to come say goodnight.”

“Oh, darlin’... Don’t you worry about that. I’m sure he tries his best. Daddies get real busy sometimes–I know that better than most.”

Beretta lit up again instantly. “You sound like you are from Wesson! Is that true?”

“It is, I am indeed,” Roulette proudly replied, impressed by the girl’s worldly knowledge. “How could you tell? Have you met someone like me before?”

“No. But father sometimes gives me recordings of the radio plays they make in Wesson–I love them! I listen to them so much that they break, sometimes.”

“Y’know, I was the same way when I was your age. Those radio shows are great, aren’t they?”

“Yeah!” Beretta agreed, wiping at her nose with the back of her forearm. “Do you want to go listen to some together?”

Roulette’s heart sank. She tried her best not to show her disappointment as she reminded herself of her obligations; much as she may have wished to, listening to stories with this adorable little girl just wasn’t in the cards. “I’m sorry, darlin’. I really want to, but I’ve got a grown-up job to do for your daddy and his friends.”

“...Oh, really?” Beretta, well-bred as she was, made a good show of hiding her sadness. She was still a kid, though–10 years old or so, Roulette reckoned–and the emotion that did come through was still enough to make her feel like the worst, most boring adult in the world. After racking her brain for a way to make it up to her, however, Roulette managed to settle on a compromise.

“I have an idea, though, Beretta–what if you help me get ready for my grown-up job?”

“Sure!” the girl cheered, back to bouncing up and down. “What is it?”

“Well, I need to make a bunch of people laugh really loud. So I need a helper who’s very good at laughing–do you think you can handle it?”

“I can do it! I am THE BEST at laughing!” she bragged.

Roulette giggled, physically unable to keep the grin from her face. “Well, alright. Let’s hear it then–give me your best laugh.”

Beretta took a deep breath, screwing up her little face in concentration.


Roulette rocked back on her heels, feigning surprise. “Oh, WOW! Diallo didn’t tell me that a champion laugher lived here! I think you just might be the perfect assistant!”

Beretta positively glowed at that, brimming with cheerful confidence.

“Now, before we get started, I need you to do me a very important favor,” Roulette began, glancing around at the cavernous foyer in genuine confusion.

“Can you show me where the heck the parlor is?”

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