Tartlet: Like a Fish
“You don’t drink.”
Benedict turned his head to see who had spoken and found himself looking into the brown, almond-shaped eyes of one of the most powerful women he’d ever worked with.
“Abigail,” he said, looking her up and down. It was freezing outside but she was in ripped jeans and a t-shirt that looked like she’d stolen it off the corpse of a has-been rock star in the seventies. “Long time.”
She slid onto the stool next to him, her gaze rolling to the bartender as he attended to a gaggle of twenty-somethings in skimpy clothes at the far end of the bar. Realizing she was going to have to wait for the girls to stop giggling and start ordering, she focused on Benedict.
Benedict smiled at her response, considered tossing out another cliché, but took a sip of his drink instead. Abi waited until the glass was on its way back toward the bar before snatching it out of his hand. She took a small sip and gave a nod.
“Thought so,” she said in response to the fact that he’d ordered a Jack and coke, hold the Jack.
“You drink?” Benedict asked, swiveling to face her full-on. She snorted.
“Like a fish.”
Despite the bad pun, he laughed. Tipping his head slightly to the left, he indicated the three men crammed into the booth in the corner of the skinny, smoky dive. Abi, despite being a full decade younger, had been in the mercenary business nearly as long as Benedict; she made her glance toward the men subtle.
“You’re in town to see friends?”
“I am. We have some issues to work through. One of them took something from my lady.” Benedict took another sip of his drink as Abi considered his words. After a few moments, she gestured behind him.
“It’s clear I’m not getting a beer any time soon. You want some help? A mediator, perhaps?” She smiled winningly. “I can talk anyone into anything.”
Benedict grinned at the sarcasm, knowing it wasn’t Abigail’s smooth voice that made her convincing. When you speak for and act on the orders of the fairy that rules half the world’s seas, you don’t really waste time saying, ‘please.’ Benedict slid his glass across the counter toward Abi and nodded.
“How did you want to play it?” He lifted a brow, teasing. “You’ll sashay up, bat your eyelashes, and ask the tubby one on the end to follow you into the alley for a good time?”
Abi snorted and sucked down the last of Benedict’s drink.
“With a face like this?” She circled her finger in the air toward her round, shorn head. “Please. What do you need back?”
“Velvet necklace box. Think Pretty Woman, but not big enough to snap off more than three fingers.”
Abigail nodded and, without a single word, slid off the stool and stormed toward the booth. She was small but impressive with her tattoo sleeves, her buzzed hair, and the pure rage she communicated through her walk. When she opened her mouth to spew a series of angry syllables, Benedict lifted a brow. The men in the booth all jumped simultaneously and Benedict wondered how they’d managed to get jobs as thieving muscle when they were startled by a woman Abigail’s size.
It took a full minute for Benedict to wonder if she wasn’t just spewing nonsense but spouting fake Korean. He hid a laugh.
It took three hard pokes to Tubby’s chest, a lot of wild gesturing, and three slaps to the table for Abigail to finish her performance. The men remained frozen, too shocked and confused to realize she was playing them or try to calm her down. She wasn’t hurting them, only making a spectacle of herself. The nonsense language and Abi’s almond eyes had them convinced it would be useless to try to talk her down.
Benedict had only seen her sneak her hand into Tubby’s sport coat because he’d been watching for the action. When she turned to walk toward the front door, putting her back to the men, she slid the pilfered necklace box into the front of her jeans and dropped her shirt over it. Then, just for good measure, she turned back to the trio for one last round of outraged screaming.
The entire bar had gone silent and it stayed that way as Abigail stomped out the front door and disappeared into the night.
It was a full minute before anyone started speaking and none of the meatheads joined in. After two minutes, Tubby jerked his thumb toward the door.
“What the hell?” he demanded of his friends, loudly enough to let the rest of the bar know that whatever the skinny Asian broad had been angry about, he wasn’t a part of it.
Benedict slid a ten out of his pocket, tucked it under his drink and left quietly. He found Abi down the street leaning against a wall in a pocket of darkness. He approached silently, held out his hand, and waited for her to hand over the box. She did so with a proud smile.
“What were you saying?” Benedict asked after the box was secured in his hip pack. He knew several languages, but Abigail’s position made it possible she’d been speaking one that very few humans would ever learn. Abigail shrugged.
“Absolutely nothing. I never learned Korean, but white people usually don’t notice that part if I’m yelling at them loud enough.”
Benedict chuckled, patted his hip pack.
“Thanks for this. I was just going to follow him into the john and smack him around some. You need anything before I go?”
“My work here is finished. I really just wanted a drink.”
“On me,” Benedict said, digging his money clip out. He handed Abigail a twenty but held onto it when she tried to take it. “I wouldn’t go back into that particular bar.”
“Good call,” she said as he let go of the bill. They parted ways, neither bothering with a proper goodbye.