Deliver the Goods
A Newton's Gate Series
Series: The Delivery Mage
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Kurt Carter checked his datapad one more time. He sat in his classic ethanol-electric hybrid red sports car in the parking lot across the street from a seedy biker bar on the outskirts of Baltimore. This was the right place.
His contact gave him this address as the prearranged meeting place with a representative from the Hell’s Gate clan. The hope was to discuss payment to settle a blood feud with the inter-dimensional biker gang so he could relax and get back to work without always having to look over his shoulder anymore.
A few weeks before Kurt had been on what should’ve been a routine delivery through one of the nearby portal gates. While there, he got into a fight with several members of the gang and had to make a quick escape.
That didn’t warrant the blood feud, though.
No, it was the four gang members killed by his partner and gate mage, Marci. She took offense at being shot at in the last parts of the escape. She returned fire with a military-grade weapon that literally shredded the four gang-bangers advancing on them.
It was their deaths that brought the blood price down on his head.
So far, he’d successfully hidden Marci’s involvement in the deaths. He wasn’t just doing it to protect her life. It was also to prevent the possible series of running firefights that would erupt if she found out she was being hunted with a price on her head.
Kurt figured he could handle this without raising the body count.
Since returning from the delivery gig, he’d wound up caught in several altercations with members of the gang. He’d avoided just as many potential fights by spotting them before they saw him.
He was tired of it all. It was time to talk about payment and what it would take to bring them down from seeking his head on a stick.
Kurt hoped to try and work out a payment plan with regular installments. It would cost him more in the long run but he didn’t have the cash flow right now to handle a big payment.
He’d initially hoped to pay off the blood debt in one shot after working a single high-priced delivery job. His broker, Trent, had worked hard to line it up for him.
That all fell through the cracks when his ex-wife turned up needing him to help her out of a jam. He lost the opportunity to pay off the clan when another delivery specialist took the job in his stead.
On top of that, there hadn’t been any other jobs for the last two weeks. Trent was pissed off at losing the commission on the delivery he’d lined up. One of the broker’s competitors had gotten the gig instead. Since then, Trent hadn’t answered any of Kurt’s calls.
Trent would come around eventually. They’d worked together for too long for him to stay mad at Kurt forever.
Still, this meant that he’d reached a bit of a dry spell when it came to income and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
So, here he sat outside a biker bar, near midnight, waiting to go in all by himself. Kurt shook his head and put the datapad down. It had taken him the better part of a week to track down a reliable source with contacts inside the Hell’s Gate organization.
Usually, Trent handled these types of negotiations and if they’d been speaking right now, he would’ve dealt with this one, too. Instead, it was left to Kurt to figure out on his own.
The guy he’d been able to find only talked over cryptic text and email messages. After several tries at arranging a meetup, the contact told him to be here this evening at midnight and they’d arrange for him to meet a representative from the gang who might, and they stressed the word “might,” be willing to work out some sort of a deal.
Kurt checked the envelope tucked in his leather jacket. It held five thousand dollars in crisp twenty dollar bills. That had been the arranged price to begin paying the installments he owed. The one thing he hadn’t been able to find out was how many of these installment payments was he going to have to make.
Kurt got out of the sports car and shut the door sliding the thick bundle of cash into the special cargo pocket sewn into the back of his black leather jacket. His hand fell to his side where he checked to make sure the stun baton was still clipped to his belt.
He didn’t like guns and preferred the baton as a non-lethal alternative when it came to a fight. Hopefully, he wouldn’t need it tonight.
As he walked towards the bar’s entrance, Kurt wondered why they insisted on cash payment. It would’ve been much easier to do a credit transfer using electronic funds. He’d had to actually go into a bank and draw out the cash from the electronic teller while he explained what he needed over a holo-vid link with a customer service rep at the bank’s headquarters.
The teller on the holo-vid was confused as to why he needed so much when no one used cash anymore. Kurt had shrugged and told her he was just old-fashioned. It was one more thing about this meeting that had his suspicions raised. He reminded himself to keep his eyes open.
Kurt watched several patrons enter and exit the bar. His outfit of blue jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black leather jacket should blend in pretty well, even though his close-cropped brown hair marked him as ex-military, or worse, a cop.
Pulling the door open and stepping into the dim interior of the bar, Kurt winced as the screeching chords from a duo of electric guitars coupled with a heavy drum beat blasted out at him from the entrance as he walked in. A live band played in one corner of the bar. The music assaulted his ears.
Standing in the doorway and looking around for a few seconds, Kurt didn’t see anyone matching the description he received in the last text message. He was told to look for someone wearing a purple scarf and an eyepatch, of all things.
Kurt thought it strange anyone would be wearing an eyepatch in this time of high-end prosthetics. It didn’t matter why they wore it. He looked around and saw no one matching the description he’d been given.
He decided to take a seat at the bar. There was an open stool on the opposite side of the bar from the band. It offered him a decent view of both the front and back entrance to the club. If his contact came in from one of those entrances, he’d spot them before they spotted him.
At least, that was the plan.
The bartender, a heavyset bald guy with steel rings lining his earlobes from top to bottom on both sides, leaned over the bar to shout at him over the clamor of the band. “What’ll it be?”
Rather than trying to shout over the noise of the band, Kurt pointed at the guy next to him drinking from a beer bottle and held up one finger.
The bartender nodded and headed back down the bar to a cooler case. He slid open the lid and pulled out a bottle of beer. He returned, popped the top and raised an eyebrow as he held up a glass.
Kurt shook his head and held his hand out for the bottle. The bartender smiled and handed it to him, putting the glass back on the shelf next to the others.
The bartender held up five fingers spread wide and Kurt nodded. He handed over his credit chip and the bartender slid it into the wrist comp he wore. Kurt glanced at the plain metal band on his own wrist. A holographic number popped up. Kurt reached over and tapped in a two credit tip to add to the five credit cost of the beer and closed out the transaction. The bartender handed his chip back to him and Kurt returned it to his back pocket.
He leaned back against the back of the bar stool while the band continued to thrash and scream from the stage. He could pick out no discernible melody from the song and their skills with their instruments were lacking.
Every member of the five-person band including the two guitarists, the bass player, drummer, and the lead singer all shouted the unintelligible lyrics into their microphones. Kurt was about to look away and scan the bar one more time for his contact when something caught his eye. The drummer was hidden behind his kit, but he caught a glimpse of purple at one point.
As the drummer went through his gyrations pounding on his instruments, Kurt leaned to the left to try to see more. One of the cymbals obscured the top half of the drummer.
He waited a few seconds for the guy to move forward and come into view again. The drummer moved around quite a bit during the song, shifting just enough for Kurt to get a good look at the purple scarf around his neck.
No, scratch that, her neck.
So, it looked as if he was going to meet his contact after all. Kurt hadn’t seen an eyepatch but maybe she left it at home. All he had to do was wait until the band finished their current set.
Kurt settled back and finished his beer while he waited for the band to stop screaming.