Thirty minutes later and I'm in the back of a limousine, sipping sherry besides one of the most well-connected armsdealers on the east coast. Blockhead--with his forehead thoroughly bandaged--is driving.
"I've heard of you," Marlowe says. "An assassin who specializes in killing superheroes. I must admit, I assumed you were a myth."
"Most people do," I respond. "Not big on the whole celebrity thing, really."
"I'd also heard that you've switched teams. Work for the good guys, now."
"I've played both sides of the game, if that's what you mean. But at the end of the day, the only person I work for is my bank account."
"You are a businessman, then," he says.
"More or less."
"By the way. Your dead man switch. If you wouldn't mind...?"
I've been holding the device from earlier in my hand the whole time. When he mentions it again, I raise my eyebrow, smile, and produce it for him to inspect.
He scowls. "That is... a ballpoint pen."
I push the top down again, reproducing that distinctive click. "So it is," I tell him. "I didn't claim otherwise. Just asked you if you knew what a dead man's switch is."
"You are a very confident man," Marlowe says.
"In your line of business, you can use a man with a bit of gumption," I reply.
"Very well. Then to brass tacks--precisely what is it that you want from me?"
"Just like I said. I want to work with you," I tell him, folding my arms behind my head and leaning back. "I've been thinking about it for a while--doing the research. In this business, it pays to work with the man who can get you whatever technology you need."
"Ah," Marlowe says, smiling. "Do you have something specific in mind?"
"Not at the moment," I say. "But I did hear you have a bit of tech you're having trouble moving--something special. A piece of powered armor. I might be able to help with that. For a cut."
Marlowe's eyes narrow. "And where did you hear this?"
"See, Marlowe, this is why you and I need to work together," I tell him, giving him a pat on the back. "When your organization has this many leaks, you need a guy who can plug them up."
"Fair enough, Jack. But the fact of the matter is that I don't quite yet trust you."
"You wouldn't have been in business this long if you trusted easily," I respond. "But I'm willing to earn it."
"You're offering your services, then?"
I refill my glass with more of Marlowe's blush-red sherry. "Sure. I'll toast a problem or two of yours, show you that my offer is legit, then we can talk about doing some serious business."
Marlowe smiles. "I actually have something very specific in mind, Jack."
"Oh? What are you thinking?" I take a gulp of my drink.
"I want you to kill Nova."
I fake choking on the sherry, forcing a cough and making a show out of not spilling the precious liquor all over Marlowe's expensive suede interior. "Kill who?"
"What? Do you have a problem killing teenagers, Jack?"
"I don't have a problem stomping on a basket full of kittens if the price is right," I tell him. "But Nova? She's a member of Vanguard--"
"An honorary member," Marlowe interrupts.
"Honorary or not, she's a card-carrying member," I tell him. "I stomp on her, Vanguard's on my ass faster than flies on dogshit. Do you really want me to take on Sovereign? I mean, I'm good--I'm real good--but I'm not the goddamn Batman."
"If this is something you can't handle--"
"I didn't say I can't handle it," I cut him off. "But it's going to be tricky as hell. Making it look like an accident won't work--Vanguard'll be on it tighter than a proctologist on my prostrate."
"Figure it out, then," Marlowe says. He knocks on the window between us and the driver; Blockhead takes the cue and pulls up to the curb.
"Why do you want her dead?" I ask.
"Does that matter?"
"Might be important. Kill her the wrong way, it could screw up your plans."
"I didn't like her last album," Marlowe responds.
I grin. "Fair enough. Alright. I might need a few things, though. Things I can't acquire through my normal channels."
Marlowe produces a business card. "I can provide that, within reason. Keep in touch, Jack."
I take the card and step out of the car.