Walking into Ricardo’s “shop” was like walking into a medieval witchdoctor’s hut─
“I don’t think they actually had those…”
“Whatever,” I waved a hand. What I hoped weren’t dead things hung from the ceiling while certainly dead things sat in rows of jars on high shelves. An unidentifiable species of large bird perched on a willow stick in a corner, glaring down at me with an evil eye. “Hello…?” I called in barely a whisper. Clearing my throat I straightened my spine and called out louder.
“So you are the one who is having the identity crisis.” Behind the counter piled high with papers and merchandise sat a weathered looking man, smoking a heavy cigar. He blended into his environment exceedingly well. Looking at me through the purple smoke the man looked amused at my wide eyes.
Nervously I laughed. “Identity crisis? The only crisis I’m having is being empty handed.”
“Don’t pussy-foot around,” Ricardo said. “I know all about you. Shorty was in a bit ago. Such a nice girl. Told me about this “lame-Jane” fool everyone was after on account of you and Mike having the same name. Tough luck.” Over my head the sound of flapping wings made their way to his side. The giant bird, carrying the charisma of ten Godfathers, doubled the pressure you only feel when under a critical gaze. Swallowing, my mind blank, I stood in the shop without a single idea of what to say. Thank god Ricardo loves to hear himself talk. He looked me up and down and took a long drag from his cigar. “You’re the most pathetic looking piece of blubber I have ever seen. I tell you what. You must prove yourself to me. Catch a low life and I give you permission.”
“Permission to what?” I asked.
“To hunt.” He said simply. “Nobody moves without my say-so. You must prove yourself to me before I give you what you want.” My expression must have betrayed me. “Know you are after this man as well as every other soldier on my roster. You want a gun with no questions, no strings attached to ride off towards a fairytale ending where the good guys never lose. Sorry boy, that’s not how I work. You look disappointed. Not what you were promised? Don’t take Georgie boy’s word for anything. He’s a good lackey, the bar is a cover, but that’s all he’ll ever be.” Ricardo took another long drag from his cigar and stroked his bird. “So you wanna be a bounty hunter?” He chuckled.