Joined: 06 Mar 2005
|Posted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:16 am Post subject: Shiczo Jax and the Gambler
|Comments welcome. I know it's not a literary piece of art. In all honesty it's probably pretty bad.
Shiczo Jax and the Gambler
It was a small bar with dim lighting, dirty tables, worn down chairs, and on this particular weekend night it was full of patrons trying to drown their sorrows in a few credits worth of cheap liquor.
Shiczo Jax sat at a table in the rear with his back to the wall, hunkered over a half-empty mug of cheap, almost room temperature ale, wondering what he was doing with his life. He was a large being with broad shoulders and a thick torso; his size, along with his square jaw, beady eyes, and protruding brow made him naturally intimidating. Jax wore a leather biker jacket with patches that had seen its better days. He was rarely messed with. And that’s the way he wanted it.
The bar belonged to Mifkin, and to pay his tab Jax acted as the bouncer when he was there. It wasn’t a good job, as jobs go, but he had somewhere to be, a cot in the back to sleep on, and a garage to work on his swoop.
Across the bar, at the edge of the small dance floor, Jax noticed a couple having an argument. He normally would’ve paid no mind, but the way the man was acting seemed extremely hostile. Jax thought that he was being far more animated than he should be, especially since his female companion, who was much shorter and smaller, seemed to be trying to calm him down.
She wasn’t doing a very good job. Out of nowhere the man pulled his hand back and slapped her, hard, across the face. She just stood there, dazed. The man continued to yell at her. After she regained her senses she tried to say something back; he pulled his hand back again.
Shiczo Jax had been wondering what he would do if it went any further, but before he could make up his mind he found that he was already there.
Jax caught the man’s hand mid-strike, stopping him cold. Jax glowered as threateningly as he could.
Now embarrassed and looking to save his reputation, the man took a wild swing at Jax. The punch was telegraphed and Jax saw it coming, slipping to the side with ease.
Enraged, the man grabbed Jax and they began to wrestle. Jax used his size to his advantage and with the all the force he could muster rammed the man into the bar. Hearing the air rush out of his opponent, Jax buried a fist into the man’s gut, but since he hadn’t inhaled yet there was little effect; it was like trying to bounce a flat hoop-ball.
Jax’s opponent was still dazed, so he decided to chop him down from the top and connected with a right to the head. It only made the man angrier.
In pain and burning with rage, the man took another wild swing, this time connecting above Jax’s eye, causing Jax’s knees to wobble slightly.
Jax regrouped before the man could regain his balance and countered with a combination of a strong right to the gut followed by an uppercut which staggered his opponent. Sensing victory, Jax cocked his hand back for the knockout punch when he felt a flash of pain in the back of his head.
The world went black.
Shiczo Jax awakened to find himself in his cot with a pounding headache and a hangover. He could feel every blood vessel in his head pulsate with every labored beat of his heart. He lay there for a while, wondering if it would be better to sleep, get up, or just die.
He finally hefted himself out of bed and staggered to the refresher. The mirror revealed what he was afraid to see.
His eye was black. He had a few scrapes.
And he had a large, painful bruise on the back of his head.
Jax found two pain pills, and as he swallowed them tried to figure out what he was thinking last night.
“Jax,” he said to himself soberly in the mirror, “You know better.” He jabbed a finger at himself in warning to emphasize the point.
Jax then staggered out through the narrow corridor to the bar. Mifkin was restocking while one of the bartenders swept the floor.
“You look terrible,” Mifkin told Jax bluntly, pulling at his long graying beard.
“I feel terrible. You got anything that’ll help?” Jax plopped down in the chair opposite Mifkin.
“Don’t get hit by a liquor bottle on the head?” Mifkin suggested sardonically.
“The girlfriend,” Jax breathed in painful realization, rubbing the knot on his had absently.
“Rule number one: don’t get in the middle of a couple’s fight.” Mifkin handed him a glass of juice. “You mind telling me why don’t you get a job you’re good at?”
Jax face flashed from anger to embarrassment to understanding. Of course Mifkin was right; Jax just didn’t want to admit it. “You still got the number of that guy?” he murmured almost incomprehensively.
Mifkin just nodded. “I’ll tell him you’re on your way.”
“One more thing,” Jax pointed to the ice bin. “You got a towel?”
Shiczo Jax, a large man who threatened most beings physically, almost never had fear even in the most dangerous places.
He felt afraid here.
It was a run-down block in a bad part of the city; the part of town where every business has bars on the windows and the glass is still broken out. Law enforcement is nowhere to be found, and, if they are called, wait until their sure the suspects have gone before they arrive.
There were scary looking individuals everywhere. You had to be tough to exist here. Or insane.
And there were a lot of folks who looked like both.
Jax parked his swoop on the curb and glanced around as he pulled off his helmet. A group of poorly dressed drifters in the alleyway across the street watched him with apparent fascination; he glared at them as he lit a cigar.
They just stared.
Jax slowly walked to the building he had been directed to go, looking around as he opened the door to enter. He felt a burning in the pit of his stomach about leaving his bike like this. He didn’t like it at all.
The door opened into a dimly lit waiting room that was furnished in faded thirty year old chairs. A receptionist sat behind a sliding glass window.
She made no effort to open it when Jax walked up.
That bad, huh? Jax thought. “I’m here to see Teevin Blith.”
The receptionist didn’t even look up from her datascreen. “Name?”
“Have a seat.”
Jax looked around at the empty seats and sighed.
The office was cramped, dimly lit, and cluttered with files and boxes. “So Mifkin tells me you’re a bounty hunter.”
Jax took a seat across the desk from the man named Teevin Blith and wasn’t sure what to think. He was short, fat, and had a round face. “I guess I am,” Jax said over his cigar.
Blith stared at him for a moment, apparently taking him in as well. “Well, since I’m not sure how good you are so I’ll give you an easy one to start. He’s a gambler and owes too much money to the wrong people. Bring him in and you get fifteen percent of what he owes.”
Jax blew out a smoke ring. “You mind if I ask how much he owes?”
Blith checked his terminal. “Five thousand.”
Jax scratched his head; he had never been good at math. “So that’s what…?”
Jax took a deep puff from his cigar as he considered the offer. It probably wouldn’t be dangerous, but there could be expenses. And since he was flat broke…
“Make it an even thousand,” Jax countered coolly.
Teevin scowled and stared at him. “Deal. But you’d better not foul this up, Jax.”
Shiczo Jax shrugged innocently and cocked his head to the side with a cocky grin. “I do what I can.”
The amount of data Blith had given him was just enough, Jax decided as he took a break from the computer screen, stretching his legs in his cramped sleeping quarters. He had been sitting at the computer for a while now and wondered why, with a ship of this size, did he have his computer in his sleeping quarters? He shrugged his large shoulders; every time he thought of moving it he was using it and he never thought about it if he wasn’t using it. Oh well. Maybe he’d think of it later when he was cooking.
That made him realize how hungry he was. He shook his head. There’ll be time to cook and eat in a little bit, he told himself. Time to concentrate.
There were two solid leads that Jax could identify: Jeons Clarelt stayed with his parents a lot and he played a lot of sabaac in his favorite cantina.
Satisfied with the effort, Jax decided that it was now supper time.
Shiczo Jax looked around the Tall Grass Cantina and shook his head in disbelief. Jax at a cantina was normally an easy blend-in; but here he stood out like a sore thumb. His leather biker jacket, tall riding boots and riding pants, not to mention the sawn-off stun shotgun across his back, assured that Jax would not fit in with the stuffy, well-dressed clientele that he saw; matter of fact, a lot of them wore neck ties!
The Tall Grass Cantina, the name itself, Jax realized, should have been a tipoff to the fact that it wasn’t the low-rent danger-filled den of scum he was used to. He would need to hobnob with professionals and white-collar workers instead of the criminals and lowlifes he was used to.
Jax suddenly felt uncomfortable.
This bounty hunter thing was going to take some getting used to.
There was nothing he could really do about it except complain, so Jax shrugged, jammed his cigar into his mouth, and began to look around for the bouncer, the only person who would be a help to him. Working as a bouncer early in his life, Jax knew that a bouncer was the only person in the place whose job not only didn’t interfere with knowing what was going on, but was to know what was going on by watching everyone in the joint.
Bartenders and servers were too busy with drinks and tips and orders.
Ask a bartender what someone looks like and they can tell you. Ask them what they were doing or what they were up to and you get a blank stare. They can tell you what they drank and how much their tab is, but that’s it.
Ask a bouncer, however, and you get a story.
Jax spotted him almost immediately; he was a large being with grayish skin and a hook nose leaning against a support column in a corner, watching quietly with a stern look and an air of importance. His face read ‘leave me alone’.
Jax approached him with the friendliest smile he could muster. “Hey, you got a second?” he asked casually.
The bouncer eyed him suspiciously and grunted.
Jax took that as a yes. “I’m looking for a gambler,” he said, holding up his datapad with Clarelt’s picture. “You seen him?”
The bouncer squinted at the picture. He nodded slightly. “Yeah, I seen him in here before, plays sabaac in the back,” he muttered.
“Don’t know,” the bouncer shrugged. “He’s not regular about it.”
“But you recognize him, so he’s a regular?” Jax asked, unsure of the bouncer’s meaning.
“Yeah, he’s a regular.”
Jax let that roll around in his mind for a moment. “So he’s an irregular regular?” he asked with a whimsical grin and a cocked eyebrow.
The humor was lost on the bouncer, his eyes narrowed and he jabbed a finger in Jax’ direction. “You getting smart, pal?”
Normally ready for a fight, Jax raised his hands innocently to avoid trouble (for now). “Just askin’. Thanks for your time.” Jax almost forgot. “Oh, yeah,” he said quickly. “Where’s the back?”
Jax awoke in his bed aboard his ship, unable to recall how exactly he made it there. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t even recall much about the cantina.
The splitting headache told him what he already knew, that he’d had way too much to drink.
Jax, if you’re going to make money on this you really need to cut down on the drinking, he told himself.
Like that was going to happen.
Jax, tired of accidently scratching the painful knot on the back of his head, scratched his cheek instead. So if Clarelt didn’t show up at the cantina, where else would he be?
It was a nice little house in a nice neighborhood in a nice subdivision in a nice suburb of a nice little city on a planet Jax didn’t entirely hate.
Jax chuckled to himself as he walked up the sidewalk with the neatly trimmed hedge; he took smug delight in the thought that the neighbors would be wondering what was going on with a swoop parked at the curb and a cigar smoking biker hanging around.
Jax prepared for two possibilities when he knocked at the door: mom or dad. Sympathy or threats.
A middle aged woman answered the door. Sympathy it was.
“Mrs. Clarelt,” Jax said politely, “I’m Shiczo Jax; I’m a bounty hunter.|
Her face fell. She was obviously confused and afraid. Her mouth moved but now words came.
“Its okay, Mrs. Clarelt,” Jax soothed, “I’m here to find your son, but I also want to help. There are others searching for him, and if they find him before I do they’ll harm him.”
Mrs. Clarelt’s eyes went distant. It was a lot to take in. “Is Jeons in danger?” she asked quietly.
Jax nodded his head. “These people will get their money, no matter what it takes. If they don’t, they will kill to send a message. They must make sure that no one thinks they can get away with it.”
She pursed her lips. “And you want to help? No offense, but how can I trust you?”
Jax nodded as if he understood. “I can only give you my word,” he said solemnly. “And I’m in it for money,” he admitted honestly. “But the bounty is for alive only.”
She looked down and remained silent for a long moment. “You have to promise me,” she said at long last, looking up at Jax with teary eyes, “to keep him safe.”
Jax almost felt like crying with her. Who could lie to a crying mother? “I promise to keep your son safe,” he said as earnestly as he could.
“You promise?” she asked again.
There was something in her voice that tore at Jax’s heart. “Yes,” was all that he could manage.
Parl Kervin, doorman, stood at attention at his post at the entrance to the Grape District Arms Apartments building with pride. His job was to maintain order and ensure the safety of the residents and property of the GDAA, and he took that job seriously.
It was a fairly busy street with lots of passerby, but the alert Parl took pride in the fact that he watched like a hawk.
“Metro Police,” a large man said to Parl as he flashed his badge. “I’ve got an interview inside. Someone reported damage to their speeder at work. Need to get some information to nab the perpetrator.”
“Go on in, officer,” Parl said kindly, opening the door. No one would dare damage anyone’s speeder at the GDAA, Parl thought proudly. “Good day, officer,” he called out as the man walked in.
Parl prided himself on the job he did. He was important and the people inside depended on him. No one would slip past him. No one would get by on his watch.
Shiczo Jax put the fake badge back into his pocket and smiled to himself as he made his way to the elevator; he finally had something to show for his earlier, brief stint as a police officer.
It was a short ride to the tenth floor and apartment 1021 was just around the corner.
Jax knocked on the door. “Paka bread delivery,” he called out.
There was a rustling inside. “I didn’t order Paka,” a voice said hesitantly.
“Sorry pal, but I got a delivery for 1021,” Jax said curtly. “This is 1021, right?”
The door opened. “Yeah, it’s 1021, but….” the young man trailed off.
Jax pressed the barrel of his stun shotgun, which he had drawn and ready, close to the young man’s face. “Jeons Clarelt?” he whispered with a sadistic grin.
The man swallowed hard and his face went white. “Uh…” he stuttered.
Jax took that as a yes and pushed his way in, careful to close the door behind him. “Have a seat, Mister Clarelt,” he said with conviction. He motioned to a chair while he quickly scanned the room.
Jeons Clarelt stumbled to the nearest chair and plopped down. “Are you going to kill me?” he asked, panic evident in his voice.
“I’m here to help you settle your debt,” Jax said plainly.
Clarelt’s mouth dropped and he slumped in his chair. “I’m dead.”
Jax shook his head. “You’re going to be fine, kid. I promised your mom I’d take care of you and I keep my promises.” Jax relit his cigar and took a puff. “This is what’s going to happen: we go to the loanshark, you make a payment plan, we leave, you pay them back, you live. I get paid. Mom’s happy.”
“I'm dead,” Clarelt wailed. “Its not going to work. I think I’m going to be sick.”
“You’ll be fine. I promised your mother,” Jax said with a reassuring nod.
“You said that already.”
Jax took a drag off his cigar and winked. “I know.”
It took a bit for the gravity of the situation to fully hit Jeons Clarelt. When it did, he sighed. “What do we do?”
Jax grinned at him. “You have two options. One: you come with me peacefully.”
Jeons Clarelt looked up at the large man and blinked. “What’s the second option?”
Shiczo Jax grinned, cigar hanging out of his mouth, and patted his shotgun with his free hand while he winked
“Why do you have a jail cell in your spaceship?” Jeons Clarelt asked.
Shiczo Jax raised an eyebrow. “Cause I’m a bounty hunter.”
“And what are you cooking?” he asked, suddenly hungry.
“Sautéed tan fish, steamed lorlen greens and a baked potato with shacti sauce and burlen cream with a braisberry tort for desert.”
Jeons just stared at him in disbelief. “You’re kidding me.”
“I like to cook, “Jax explained with a shrug. “I figured the least I could do is cook you a nice meal. Always wanted to own my own restaurant. Figure this is good practice.”
Jax disappeared around the corner and reappeared with a tray and slid it through the slot in the bars.
Jeons was surprised at how good it looked. “It looks and smells like something from a fancy restaurant,” he admitted.
“You have to be honest and tell me what you really think about the taste,” Jax said. “If there’s some way I can improve it I need to know.”
Jeons took a bite. “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten!” he exclaimed.
The two security guards, one tall and one short, led the way through the corridor; Jax looped his arm protectively through Jeons’ arms which were bound in the front.
“You sure this is going to work?” Jeons asked worriedly.
“It’s going to be just fine,” Jax reassured him.
“I’m not so sure.”
“I promised your mother.”
“Would you stop saying that?”
“But I did. And I meant it.”
The guards opened an ornate door and walked through. It was a large office, lavishly decorated with art on the walls, rare plants in pots along the walls, and a huge desk cut from a single piece of rare wood. A well dressed woman with dyed hair and aged skin sat behind the desk; she had an air of authority.
“We’ll take him now, bounty hunter,” the tall guard ordered.
“Hold on a second,” Shiczo Jax said. “I need to know the plan.”
The shorter man grinned gleefully. “We kill him, of course.”
That didn’t sit well with Jax. “What about repayment?” he asked, confused.
The tall man, the shorter man, and the lady behind the desk began to laugh out loud. It wasn’t a pleasant laugh and it made Jax feel uneasy. Poor Jeons looked like he wanted melt into the floor.
“He can’t pay us back,” the short man said with a shrug. “He’ll be an example.”
Jax held up a finger. “I made a promise to his mother that I’d keep him safe,” he explained. “And I don’t break my promises.”
“You did this time,” the lady said pointedly with a sour smile.
Jax, confused by the lack of patience, continued his argument. “But he’ll pay you back. With interest. Isn’t that what you want? Money?”
“Nah,” the short man said. “He dies.”
Jax let his hand wander to his shotgun. “I said…”
The short man cut him off. “Leave now or die with him, bounty hunter.”
Jeons had such a pitiful look on his face. The old lady had a smirk. The guards were laughing.
d*mn the kid and his pathetic mother.
“Take him,” Jax said, shoving Jeons forward.
It wasn’t much, as far as a distraction goes, but it was all he had and he took as much advantage of it as he could.
Jax swing his shotgun into his hand and took a shot at the tall man, hitting him directly in the chest; he fell limply to the ground.
The lady behind the desk and the guard to her side took cover.
Jax grabbed Jeons and shoved him behind a chair.
The short guard opened fire with his pistol, spraying the area around Jax and Jeons with reckless, rapid fire. Jax felt a sharp pain and a burning sensation in his arm; he’d been shot. Debris rained down from the wall behind them.
Jeons was in cover behind a large chair, hands bound but apparently healthy. Jax tossed him his pistol. “Here, take this,” he yelled over the blaster fire.
Jax flexed his arm, it hurt but everything seemed to work well enough. He rested his shotgun on the chair in front of him, bracing it for maximum effect and fired a shot at the short guard. The shot hit him dead center and he dropped like a sack of grain.
Jeons popped off a few shots in the remaining guard’s direction and managed a hit on his right arm which made him drop his blaster and cry out in pain.
Emboldened by the lack of guards, Jax stood, picked up his shotgun in his left hand, and slowly walked toward the lady behind the desk.
Jeons, after a moment to collect himself, was disturbed by the violence.
“You killed all those guys!” he yelled in shock.
“Nah, it’s a stun shotgun,” Jax told him.
The lady behind the desk righted herself and sat back down in her fancy chair. She looked completely calm.
“Let’s try this again,” Jax bit out, aiming his shotgun at her head from across the desk. “This young man is going to pay you back.” Jax turned to Jeons. “You are going to pay them back.” He turned back to the woman. “You are not going to kill him.”
Everything was silent.
“Are we clear?” Jax asked loudly.
The lady smiled. “And what if I do?”
Shiczo Jax cocked an eyebrow. “I’m a bounty hunter who has nothing but time.”
“Is that a threat?”
Jax narrowed is eyes. “You’re d*mn right it is.”
“I promised his mother.”
The lady looked at Jeons. “You owe five thousand. The interest is five hundred per month, anything over that goes against the five thousand. Fail to pay the interest and I send a bounty hunter. My bounty hunter. Are we clear?”
“Then I believe our business is concluded,” she said matter of factly.
“Actually,” Jax said with a cough, “there’s one more piece of business. You owe me two thousand for the bounty.”
The lady’s eyes narrowed. “I owe you one thousand for the bounty,” she corrected.
Jax licked his lips and shook his head slowly. “No, you owe me two thousand.”
“And just what makes you believe that?”
Jax looked down at his shotgun. “Because I have a shotgun and you don’t.”
She stared at him for a very long time. “I don’t like you,” she stated flatly, “but I will give you the two thousand.”
Jax nodded courteously. “Kid, let’s go.”
As they walked out of the office, Jeons made an observation: “you’re not very nice.”
Jax shoved a cigar in his mouth, wincing at the pain in his arm as he did so. “Yeah, but I’m good at it”
Blasted rules. Why can't they just be perfect?