Bazooka 12

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.  

Bazooka 11

“You don’t know what a man pushed to the limits is capable of.” I said stoutly.

“With all respect, neither do you.” Pouring a glass for himself the bartender raised it to the lights, examining the amber liquid sway back and forth. Finally he sighed. “I know this guy,”

“And I didn’t even have to ask,” I smiled. Bartenders are great connections. They know everyone.

He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t take the situation so lightly.” He glanced around at the empty bar and drew closer once more. “Look for Ricardo. He’s a dealer who works with a lot of bounty hunters who aren’t looking to work directly with the police, if you know what I mean. He gives tips, tricks, and info on which rock to look under. They bring him the bounty, he turns them in and they split the reward. Not a bad gig really… But he doesn’t work with just anyone.”

“Where’s he at?” I asked, looking for a pen and paper.

“Tisk, you do your own leg work. Be the brains and the brawn. But keep your eyes to the ground. He doesn’t like new faces and if he decides he doesn’t like you he’ll act on that. Shoot you right then and there and collect the bounty all for himself. The first rule of street smarts is don’t be stupid. Got it?” I nodded. “If you’re lucky he’ll work with you. Maybe. If he likes you.”

“How do I make him like me?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Same as you get anyone to like you. Just walk in, explain what you’re after, buy a gun, and leave. Don’t pussy-foot around.”

Sheepishly I looked at the bartender. “Do I have to buy a gun?”

“Jesus, you really are stupid.” He touched his forehead to his palm. “You want him to like you, yes?”

“Yes.”

“You want him to talk to you, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Money talks but only if changes hands.” He leaned in close. “So go talk with money.”

Sighing I stood from the bar and headed towards the door. “Hey, what’s your name?” I stopped and asked. Funny, I’d frequented the place for months and he was the only one ever working, but I didn’t know his name. Seeing as he knew so much and was helping me, a complete stranger, I felt it only right. But also, maybe if I did some name dropping, Ricardo would warm up to me a bit easier.

“I have no name,” the bartender drained his glass. “Don’t think about telling him I sent you. I have a reputation to uphold and I can’t have people knowing I associate with guys like you.”