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Noir (Please be gentle)

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The candle had burned to its inevitable conclusion. That meant only one thing, midnight in Ironforge. It was the time of the day when the undesirables took to the alleyways. My people. The type of people who would look the Gods of Darkness square in the face and spit in their eyes if the mood struck. Fearless, that’s the type of people we were. Fearless.

“Lao, I am heading home for the evening, Mr. Buttons the Teddy is under your desk.”

“Thank you, Janice.”

Alone again. Not for long though, the wind carried the smell of human perfume. I was about to have company of the female type and soon. She walked in the door with gams for days. A pair of breeches cut so high on her thighs it made me wonder why she even bothered at all. A pair of soft leather sandals framed her feet like a canvas. She knew she was a knockout too, the way she stood there expectantly. Not saying a word. With a dame like this, I knew I would have to play it cool.

“Hey Lady, you think you could bend down a little bit? I can’t see anything past your legs!”

“Oh, there you are,” she responded in a cool tone, “for a moment I thought the place was deserted, though now that I’ve seen you, I rather wish it was.”

So she wanted to play it tough? Well that was fine with me; I had been in the racket for a long time and had honed my wit to a razor edge. Ripping someone apart with your bare hands was easy. Destroying someone mentally and emotionally took real talent.

“Oh yeah? Well you’re stupid!”

Her mouth dropped open, agape in wonder. She hadn’t seen that coming. Dames. They were easy enough to get to if you just knew what buttons to push.

“Clever retort,” she replied, her words so heavy with sarcasm they practically crashed to the floor.

I was about to counter her with a rejoinder so scathing, it may have reduced her to tears, but in that moment she raised her hand.

“I have not come to banter with you Mr. Lao; I’ve come because you are the only one who can help me now.”

Just like all the rest. They came to me when they had no one else to turn to. They came to me when hope had died and turned to ashes in their mouths. They came to me because I was the best. This one would be no different. No doubt she’d have a story that could turn a statue into a snivelling mess. It wasn’t the first time, it wouldn’t be the last. I’d heard them all. It had turned my heart to stone and my tear ducts into arid wastelands.

“My daughter...”

“That’s awful! *Sob* You know I had a daughter once…Ok well not really, but I had a cat, which is kind of like a daughter. Well, actually it was a boy cat, so it was more like a son I guess. Except, we played together all the time, so maybe it was more like a brother. I’m not very fuzzy though so…hey wait, I think it was a dog.”

I could tell by the confused look in her eyes I wasn’t reaching her. So much for the soft touch. I should have known better, you didn’t get a dead eyed stare like mine by being touchy feely. I sat back and let her cry out her tale. It was her daughter’s birthday and something was missing. Something was always missing.

“Can you find it Mr. Lao?

“Sure! Hey you don’t know where it is do you? Because that would make finding it a LOT easier.

She dropped a sack of coins on my desk as she got up. Looked like I was hired, not that there had been much doubt right from the start. It was fine with me though, I was running low on White Lightning, my last bottle barely had a swallow left.

“Hey do you want some milk? I think I still have a little left.”

“Thank you, no. I must be going now.”

I watched those legs saunter out my door. Trouble with a Capital T, but it was my problem now. I’d never dropped a case before, I wasn’t about to start with this one. I opened the drawer and pulled out my magic wand. No doubt she’d see some action before the night was through. I gulped the last dregs of the White Lightning, if anything went wrong tonight; at least I’d die knowing the bottle was empty.

“Bye Mr. Buttons!”

The Forlorn Cavern had a stench to it that was recognizable a mile away. You couldn’t help but be repulsed by it. Garbage, both human and otherwise was strewn along the streets. I wasn’t the only person in my racket that had contacts among the Underworld, but the head of the guild dealt with me and me alone. He was a hard man to find, unless you knew where to look. I did. My mechanostrider had me at the door to his secret hideout in moments. The reason that Guildmaster Zhakir would only work with me was simple enough, he valued subtlety over all else and when it was called for, there was no one more cunning than me.

“HEY ZHAKIR ARE YOU IN THERE?!?! Oh, excuse me Sir, do you know if this is the secret hideout of the…URK!”

“Get in here you moron,” said Zhakir, his powerful hand closed around my throat.

Struggling to draw a breath I turned my head to look at Zhakir in the dim lamplight of his abode. His face was the color of the sun at day’s end, a bright fiery crimson. His mouth was drawn in a tight line across his face and both his hand’s, even the one with my throat enclosed therein, clenched. Someone had obviously upset him, just my luck. It was going to take some fast talking to remind him I was his friend.

“Acrp Glghr Merhack!”

“I ought ter kill ye and do all of Azeroth a favor,” Zhakir said, releasing my throat from his vice like grip, but still not dropping his gaze, “if’n only ye weren’t me best customer.”

Having deftly defused the situation, I explained my plight to him. If anyone could get his hands on the missing item, it was Zhakir. He flashed a cruel smile full of broken teeth at me. He had something all right. This is where the negotiations always got tricky. His eyes got greedy as he rubbed his thumb back and forth against his grime-encrusted fingertips in a universally recognized manner.

“Wow, are your fingers dirty too? I have only been here a few minutes and already my hands are filthy! I think it’s because there is so much garbage everywhere. No wonder no one ever comes down here. And not only that, the name certainly isn’t helping tourism much either. The Forlorn Cavern? Who wants to go visit that?! It should be the Happy-Cavern-of-Fun-And-Games! See, now that’s a place people would want to go se…”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up! COIN ye hare brained gnome. I need coin te tell ye where it is!” said Zhakir.

I handed over a lion’s share of the money I had gotten from the human. Zhakir was pricey, but he was worth it. He was the main reason I had yet to fail in my endeavours. I headed over to Thelsamar and it was right where Zhakir said it would be. I threw it on the back of my mechanostrider and headed back to the never ending heat of Ironforge. The next morning, I made my delivery to the human. The look in her eyes made it all worth it. The work was never easy and usually dangerous, but my wand had kept things on ice. I headed back to the office with a new bottle of White Lightning. I deserved it. This case had made my stomach turn and that wasn’t easily done.

“I hate Strawberry ice cream! I hope next time I get to deliver Chocolate at least.”

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