Our little strategy meeting petered out after a while, when it became clear everyone was just chatting. Ling went off somewhere, while the others went home.
I was sent to collect lunch.
“Why didn’t Huntsman come himself?” the butcher, a barrel-chested man with baseline eyes but what appeared to be vampire fangs, asked suspiciously. “That’s what he’s always done before.”
“Look man, I don’t really know,” I apologized tiredly. “I’m new in the city. He probably just wanted me to get to know the area more or whatever.”
The…vampire? Are they even vampires without the nighteyes? He looked at me suspiciously for a few moments more, before shrugging. “I guess if you’re willing to pay, I’m willing to sell. Besides, only an idiot would get on Huntsman’s bad side.”
“Good thing that’s not what I’m doing, then.”
The butcher barked out a laugh, then started tapping at a nearby pad, probably looking up Derek’s order.
“I was curious,” I said after a few minutes of silence. “Why he sent me here to get his lunch.”
“What do you mean?” the man replied without looking up from the pad.
I waved my hand around to indicate the butcher shop, which consisted of nothing but a wooden counter blocking the way to the back room, where the meat was presumably stored. “I mean…there are sandwich shops and fast food places and so on. This seems too much for lunch.”
He stopped tapping at his pad long enough to eye me warily. “This isn’t really a lunch shop, baseline.”
“That’s exactly my point. Don’t you sell in bulk?”
“Kinda. A few pounds at a time minimum.”
“Right. And that’s not exactly what two or three people can eat in one sitting.”
The butcher chuckled, then turned back to his pad. “I see the misunderstanding now. He’s buying meat for his mom, for a whole week. About twenty pounds at a time.”
“Oh.” That made a lot more sense. I wasn’t really sure if twenty pounds was a lot for one week or not, but I had asked enough stupid questions.
After what seemed like an eternity, the shop owner grunted. “Found it. He wants…” he peered closer at the pad. “A boar. You mind coming back and helping me?”
“Uh, yeah, sure.” I slipped behind the counter. “A whole boar, or what?”
“A whole one,” he confirmed, leading me through a few hanging strips of plastic that acted as a door, and into a much colder area of the shop. “Normally he just asks for a rat. Special occasion?”
I shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s…been a rough couple of days.”
The vampire who might not have been a vampire nodded. “Yeah, I hear ya. All that crap about Lizzy getting pinned as the Composer…” he shook his head. “I don’t know what to make of it.”
“So you don’t think it’s really her?” I asked as he tugged open a large steel door, blasting me in the face with a burst of cold air. Luckily, we were heading into winter, so I was already wearing warm clothes.
“I only met the girl once,” he admitted as he stalked inside. I followed him, figuring he needed me to carry something heavy. “But she seemed sweeter than sugar. It makes more sense that the real Composer is setting her up.”
I didn’t bother trying to change his mind. I had tried that with a couple people, like Yolanda from my gun class. It hadn’t worked in the slightest.
“Here we are,” he grunted, as he lifted a paper-wrapped object that seemed half his size. “Thirty pounds of boar, freshly killed.”
I held out both my arms and accepted it with an oof of effort. It felt like more than just thirty pounds. “Boar, huh? Is that imported?”
The butcher stared at me oddly for a minute. “Are you…right, you’re not a native.” He shrugged and headed back to the front, closing the freezer behind him. “You have to kill boars the second you see them. They breed faster than rats, and they’re more aggressive, too.”
I grunted. Hadn’t seen that one coming. I had heard something like that from my aunt in Texas, but…I guess I just never thought it would be a problem here. Wasn’t it too cold for them here?
Whatever. I thudded the meat onto the counter and fished out my wallet.
“I’m not going to be able to carry this by myself,” I muttered after I finished paying.
“Huntsman has a car.”
“It’s his mom’s, but yeah, I’ll call…” I patted my pockets. “Crap, I must have left my cell somewhere.” NHQ, maybe?
“You can use mine.”
“Nah, it’s not that far. I’ll just walk.” I hefted the frozen meat again, wobbling a little unsteadily. “Thanks for the food.”
The vampire looked a little worried as I left, but he didn’t follow me or try to stop me, so I guess he thought I was fine.
I wasn’t, of course. I dropped the thirty-pound meat on my foot about twenty feet down the street.
Behind the Scenes (scene 129)
The boars, of course, are modified by the fey.
Extra update Wednesday.