Five minutes later and I'm on the phone, calling Bill.
"Hey, Bill. Got anything for me?"
"Jesus, Jack," he says. "It's been, what--two hours?"
"Yeah. You got something, though, right?"
"Well, yeah, of course I do. Just sayin', though."
"Good. Meet me at your mother's house."
"My--huh? Wait, what?"
"I need new digs. My current apartment is compromised. Also, I need more armanents, fast."
"My mom's not a gun-runner, Jack."
"No, but she's got a garage, and tons of old junk."
"She doesn't like you, Jack." He pauses, then adds: "Says you're a bad influence."
"Smart woman. Tell her the life of a teenager hangs precariously in the balance."
"She won't buy that."
"Tell her I'm in trouble with dangerous people and need to lay low."
"She'll buy that."
"Good. See you in about fifteen." I hop into the car I stole earlier. Before I start it up, I dial up Marlowe's number.
The armsdealer sounds groggy and displeased. Just how I like 'em.
"Hey, buddy. Just wanted to call you about that girl. You didn't mention she had other suitors."
Speaking in code is a good way to keep outside listeners guessing. More importantly, it builds credibility--criminals trust you if they think you're just as worried about getting caught.
It takes Marlowe a moment to catch on, but he's a fast learner. "I didn't think that was important."
"How the hell do you expect me to woo her when I've got to deal with a legion of pick up artists?"
"Is that a problem?"
"Yes, it's a fucking problem. Some shithead just screwed up my approach. Made a mess of things. She's gone to stay with her family." Family, in this case, means Vanguard. Marlowe's a clever boy; he'll figure it out.
"I see," he says. "Will that interfere with your ability to win her heart?"
"No. It's still on. Just changing some of the details," I tell him. "For starters, I was just doing this as a favor--but I assume these chucklefucks are in it for the dowry."
There's a long, dreadful sort of pause. "Yes," he says. "I suppose they were."
"In that case, I think I want in."
"I see," he says. "And how much do you think her dowry was worth?"
"I'll just have to find out," I tell him. "And when I do, I'll probably figure out a way to triple it. Let's call it the 'Dealing With Chucklefucks Tax'."
There's nothing quite as lovely as the sound of a bad guy choking on his own spit.
"You think that'll be a problem, old bean?"
"No," he says, "No, I'm sure you're quite capable of securing that amount." His voice is raspy. Whatever he's offering these other assassins, it must be a hell of a lot.
"Good to know. I'll call you after the honeymoon." I hang up and start the car.