Nixon had insisted Manoloff hire the toughest looking bunch of Streets that he could afford on his quickly dwindling credit. Most creditors in Madrid were plugged in enough to know Manoloff was a sinking ship, but Durham had located a few suckers.
Under Nixon’s direction, Nick Manoloff had found and hired three that looked like they could give even Dragon’s thug a rough tumble. Each was covered in body mods, with the dog-headed one being the most unsettling to look at. However, as uncomfortable as Nick was, it was the woman that made him the most nervous. She was beautiful, symmetrically perfect, but the scars of the many surgeries that had sculpted her amazing shape still remained across her skin like dental floss lines. While it didn’t mar her attractiveness it left one with the anxious feeling that she might fall apart, slide into different pieces onto the floor at any moment.
The leader, or at least the one that talked the most, was a boy named Thai who didn’t look a day over 14, but whose subdermal layer was punctuated by a series of rings as if he were actually a squid seeking to return to his true form. He spoke impatiently in strangely outdated jargon. “So when is this shylock supposed to show?”
Manoloff’s idiom chip didn’t translated what a shylock was, but he was distracted from that by a brief moment of confusion regarding Thai’s sexuality, for out of the corner of Manoloff’s eye the diminutive thug looked more like a girl. Terrified of possibly offending him, Manoloff quickly shook it off, crossed his legs and sat, twitching slightly, in his Garbisch chair.
“I don’t know. Dragon said I had until the end of the week. It’s the end of the week.”
“So,” Thai rolled his eyes, the gesture emphasizing his appearance as a young teenager, “We’ve got to sit in this dodgy old place with all the doors locked and shutters closed until his guy shows up?”
Manoloff’s irritation at having his home called dodgy, his home which he had gone to great lengths to select and restore, briefly overcame his nervousness at having the three in it. “I believe that I’ve paid you well enough for your time. Perhaps you should just do as you’re told.”
“That’s fine, you got bank,” smelling a possible confrontation the boy turned to Manoloff, “but it don’t make no sense. Why wait in here for him to come get us?” He smiled, a brief glint of metal showing. “You know what he looks like, you know where he works – let’s go get him.”
“No!” The idea simply terrified Manoloff and, as he quickly pointed out, “That’s not our plan.”
“Our plan?” Manoloff looked over at the woman, who had just spoken for the first time. She stepped up behind the boy, facing Manoloff as a suspicious expression replaced her usually idle one. “You just told us what to do, we didn’t talk about any plan.”
One of the ribbons of dental floss white detached from her shoulder, rolled down the length of her arm until she held it firmly between thumb and forefinger. It happened without a sound and the ribbon seemed to possess no weight at all, but the gesture greatly increased Manoloff’s anxiety. It didn’t help when she leaned forward to speak a pointed question. “Who else is in on this?”
Manoloff’s standing phone rang at that moment. All eyes shifted to the antique rotary device. After a second ring, the woman looked at Thai, and the two exchanged some wordless message. Time seemed to dilate between each of the rings.
When Thai nodded Manoloff reached for the antique cradle, putting the handset to his ear. “Yes?”
“Manoloff, tell me you’re not this stupid.” Stupid or not, Manoloff did recognize the voice of the man who had damaged his fireplace, the voice of the man Durham had called Butcher. “Because right now I’m standing outside your place and I’m seeing four thermal images. That’s three more than I want to see.”
“Well, surely you can understand,” Manoloff blubbered slightly, looking at the other three, “certain security measures.”
“If you had paid Dragon like you were supposed to, you wouldn’t need security. And if you had the money, you would have paid Dragon.”
“Please, why don’t you come inside and we’ll talk about it?”
“I don’t think so.”
That’s when the fireplace exploded.