Zerrex R. Narrius
The city is his city; and the closer you draw to his home, to his territory, the more apparent it becomes. The buildings become less stylish, less new, and less rich, despite the fact that the poverty rate here is surprisingly low – no, it’s not lack of money that keeps these places looking forlorn and old, in need of restoration. It is the very air of the place, the sense of… loss, and destruction, and the fact that sorrow seems to permeate the air, dancing hand-in-hand with cruelty.
Baskin’s Grove is a small place, housing only thirty-thousand people in its abodes and stumpy apartment buildings, and maybe a handful of the homeless that wander the streets and live in the park or the recessed nooks of alleys and industrial buildings. It is divided into three major sections; the industrial district to the north, sprawling but stocky, a seemingly-impenetrable catacomb of steel containers, warehouses and storage sheds, the perfect place for a gang hangout or even a mob, had the place been big enough for the latter… but even the former didn’t exist within the normal scope of things. After all, he didn’t like gangs or any other kind of criminal organization. Besides which, it was also too close to his territory for comfort, with one side of the triangular sprawl resting against what everyone called Comfort Town.
‘Comfort Town’ wasn’t the real name of the district; that was Beaux Fields, another cutesy name taken from some old farming story, from what the place had once been. But the people of the city all preferred their own name for the place, because in ComfortTown, you could get a stiff drink, sex, drugs and whatever else you wanted. A regular parade of sins, even for a small city… but there was no violence, and once you looked close, you realized that the whores were all a bit too clean to just be walking around by themselves without some pimp – and then too devoid of bruises or other signs of being abused to have one – and the drugs were all moderately light, more pot than LSD or PCP. Someone was regulating this area of town… and if you walked deep enough, to one of the more rustic bars near the woods that sat on this side of the city of Baskin’s Grove, you could find out why everything was so clean despite being so dirty.
After all, he was a more-than-sometimes customer of Elliot’s, showing up whenever he liked and staying however long he liked; as with most of the businesses in Comfort Town – and even a few in the high-class area across the way, where the politicians and the richer people lived to get away from him and to pretend that he didn’t own the town – he had one of the keys to the shop, as well as a clone of the master key of the business that would let him into any door once inside the place. The boss came and went as he chose; and no one dared to defy him or fail to meet his expectations.
It all sounds ridiculous; after all, the main police precinct for the town sat in the high-class district across from Comfort Town – and with a large wall separating it from the industrial zones, the rich would absolutely not stand for their eyes to be defiled by such disgusting sights as smokestacks – but then you had never met the Master of the city, as he liked to be called. The police were both afraid and awed with his presence, as, unlike a crime lord, he detested crime of all sorts. And the one time they had attempted to bring him in for questioning, he had taught them that he was not fond of crime, but he certainly had no aversion to using violence to solve his problems.
The boss was, in a word, dangerous. Another good word to describe him would be psychotic; another, perhaps, entrepreneurial. After all, he had spent five years here… and it had only taken him two to take over Comfort Town… install his own rules… and then the other three he’d spent lounging about the third of the city that was indisputably his while the politicians cried and made statements against him and yelled and slung mud… what little mud there was to sling that wouldn’t end up having them eliminated in one of a variety of ways.
Not to say that the boss didn’t do any work himself, though… he was what you would call someone who you went to when you had a problem that you needed to be fixed by other than legal means. A repairman; a mechanic. Or, in plain words, a mercenary. He chose the jobs he did… and his price was expensive… but the job was always completed to a more than satisfactory level. From scaring to killing, he did everything, and he did it well.
In short, he owned the town… and he loved his work.
The reptile sat at one of the tables, his arms on the cheap laminated wood surface as he rested back in his corner seat, his head bowed as he allowed his mind to take in the usual and soothing clutter around him that came in from his other senses; touch, the feeling of resting back against the padded, high-backed bench that was big enough to give even him some privacy… smell, cigarette smoke, booze… taste, the whisky he’d just had… sound, the soft talk of people in the bar and the click-click-click of heels from the one waitress that wandered the area.
Now he opened his eyes and added sight; with his head bowed, the first thing he saw was the half-empty bottle of whisky and the clean ashtray in front of him, then he stretched his arms out a bit to settle himself and knocked against the empty glass he’d been drinking from, chattering the ice cubes within. Then he sat back and crossed his arms, gaze roving over the area to take in the moodily lit bar, lighted from above by dying bulbs in metal hoods that reminded him of those things you put around the necks of unevolved dogs.
There were other benches against this wall, but they were mostly empty… then, at the front of the bar, across the front window, was a series of small, round wooden tables with chairs around them… these inhabited by a few patrons, including a group of students. The window itself had the glowing neon word “Elliot’s” across it, but some of the light had died from the tubing, making it look more like “El ot’s.”
The reptile mused a bit as he sat back, then he glanced over the mostly-empty space in the center of the bar – not saying much, since the barroom was relatively tiny – and the jukebox that sat by the door leading in, to the actual bar at the back of the tavern, with the long, L-shaped counter that wove into the wall, surrounded by plain red-padded stools upon which a few patrons sat, sipping beer as they rested against the surface of the wood tabletop. But currently the reptile couldn’t see Cindy or Elliot working bar… just the shelves upon shelves of booze that sat before the mirror that rested in a long, rectangular recess, and the single cash register to one side. The lizard sat back a bit, frowning faintly. It meant that both of them were in the kitchen, and he’d told them time and time again he disliked it when they both went to work in the small, stuffy kitchen at the same time… he wasn’t their personal security service, after all.
But likewise, Elliot and Cindy were one of the few patrons of his fair city that could get away with ignoring him… or even, on some rare occasions, saying no. Normally, when someone said no to him and didn’t have a damned good reason for it, he made sure that they never would be able to do whatever he’d ordered… generally by breaking limbs, wrecking the shop or simply beating the crap out of the person who’d defied him. But with Elliot, he just snarled and threatened, then sulked, little as he liked to admit it… and Cindy, on the other hand…
But now here she came, pushing out of the two-way door with a circular plastic tray balanced artfully in either hand, wearing her sexy, short little miniskirt, an open, short-sleeved blouse with her name on it and a tight-fitting, white dress shirt below that... but despite her choice of clothing, her smile and eyes held a strange innocence as her shoes click-clicked against the floor, walking carefully over to the party of students with her load of foodstuffs.
He allowed his eyes to gaze over her, his frown disappearing back into his usual plain, if unpleasant, poker-face… but it was hard to resist a smile as he watched her. A lizard, a Drakkaren, to be precise, like himself… with scales of evergreen that turned to a slightly-yellow – but it was a golden-fall yellow, and not a faded or ugly color – on her chest, which he knew more from seeing her in other ways than serving. Her eyes were a sparkling, intelligent blue, and her smile was radiant, which was more enticing to the boss of the city than her shapely form or good-sized but not huge bust. He knew she worked out, and he knew that she had muscle too, in that slim figure… and that was another attraction for him. He liked people who could take care of themselves, even though Cindy Delacroix was probably too nice to ever hit anyone for any reason whatsoever.
And now she was serving the students, smiling all around despite their slight rowdiness, and the male reptile leaned forwards a bit, narrowing his eyes as he watched them. Then Cindy was turning away, and he was just entering the stage of relief when one of them reached out a hand and gave her a hard slap just below the tail, making Cindy cringe and jump forwards, eyes startled and teeth grit as she rose her hands in the air and the college students howled with laughter.
Her features flushed deeply, and she began to turn towards them when she caught sight of the other reptile, now glaring beyond her at the students. Her features went from flushed to pale almost instantly, and she quickly walked over to him, doing her best not to run; halfway across the room, the boss of the city caught the eye of one of the teenage students, the one who’d gotten anxious with his hands, and the reptile pointed towards the door in an obvious pantomime of get out.
In return, however, the kid just sneered, then the cat held up his hands and flipped him off, head tilted upwards and eyes glaring. The other four or five around the table turned to look… and only one of them went sufficiently white enough to let the reptile know that he was a townie – the others must be out-of-towners who’d traveled here from the high side of town for some adventure.
The reptile was about to stand, but then Cindy was beside his table, her slight five-five barely having to lean down to look into his eyes as she said urgently, sapphire eyes full of misplaced anxiety: “Zerrex… please… don’t be like this, don’t go off on them, you really don’t have to, it was just a little nudge…”
“It was a slap I could hear from here.” Zerrex said mildly, then he closed his eyes before motioning with one hand for her to sit. He heard her do so immediately, then he tilted his heard towards her and looked into her eyes with that same calmness. In her blue eyes, he could see himself reflected… and it made him pause as he gazed at her, who was staring at him with such intensity that it seemed looking into her eyes was merely looking at himself.
He was big… well, okay. That was an understatement. When you stood at eight feet and two inches, were about twice the width of most people and had muscles that were roughly comparable to tires, you were more into the category of ‘huge.’ His scales were a taunt hide that seemed to stretch to the point of breaking when he flexed, a lustrous emerald that was only a shade darker that his eyes… except for the scales on his chest, there being a deep navy blue that covered his masculine breast and powerful, chiseled abdominal muscles. He was an oddity in his size, and in another thing as well.
The reptile reached up to brush back his hair – one of his few untamed gestures that always made him feel strange, especially in the presence of other reptiles. After all, he had hair, and not just any hair but shoulder length, ivory-white hair when most Drakkaren had nothing up there… and then his was natural, making him nearly unique. It came from his mother’s side… a biological virus that went from when she’d had her own hair implanted into her head while that was popular. But that was a long story, and Zerrex hated both thinking of his past and his family.
So instead he merely sat, looking at the female with slight irritation now but… also a strange sort of tenderness. The Master of the city was not one who was often thought to be anything but callous and cold… but with a few like Cindy, he could be gentle. Or he could try, at least, until something like this happened.
He sat back, merely looking into her eyes as his hands now smoothed out his plain blue dress shirt, left with the top few unbuttoned, and he stretched his legs out under the table as much as he could without pushing against Cindy, his polished special forces grade combat boots tapping against the ground, more lustrous than the same-color jeans he wore. After a few more moments of staring, Cindy dropped her eyes, then merely asked quietly: “Can I get anything for you then, Zerrex?”
The reptile shook his head slowly, then he reached out and grabbed the bottle of whisky, pouring a bit of the stuff into the glass before pushing it towards Cindy. She merely looked at the glass, then glanced up at Zerrex, biting the inside of her cheek before she sighed and nodded, reaching down to quietly take the glass and tip it back, drinking the half-shot as the male nodded, looking at her with seeming impartialness before he tilted the bottle of whisky back to his muzzle and took a long, deep drink of the amber liquid, feeling it spilling down his muzzle a bit as his throat worked, eyes watering a bit at the burning sensation it caused as he guzzled the fluids inside before holding out the empty bottle to the waitress.
“That’ll kill you one day, sir.” Cindy said quietly, then she took the now-empty bottle, marveling a bit as she always did as Zerrex sat back; she glanced at him, as she always did, to make sure and to wonder again how he did that without becoming the slightest bit tipsy… then she headed behind the counter and into the kitchens, probably to fetch her so-called father as Zerrex turned his attention back to the students.
Two of them had left… and now there were three, including the leopard that had first broken his laws and then challenged him. He didn’t know that this was his court, his territory… but the Drakkaren was more than happy to remedy that as he got up and walked over to the table, taking the direct route instead of doing what he usually did, which was to wander out and wait for the offender to be alone. Right now, however, the others were equally guilty for having laughed… and for not having run, even after their friend had warned them.
One thing Zerrex had learned was that people always thought he was smaller when at a distance, not believing their eyes… so the complete shock and the sudden wilting of all three, including Spots, wasn’t exactly a surprise for him. What did surprise him was when the leopard’s teeth began to chatter and he fainted. This made things easier for Zerrex at least… with a look at the other two, he decided to withhold their eventual judgment as the girl and guy clutched each other like children, staring with wide eyes at the giant as he reached down, plucked up the unconscious leopard, and then threw him easily over his shoulder before walking out. The other regular patrons of the bar didn’t so much as throw more than a glance at this; they, unlike the out-of-towners, had seen this all before.