What if the best way to get in contact with a big mafia Don was to shoot down a couple of his goons? Dani Botswana certainly thought it was a sound idea.
On the Reyel Ring Station on the Yangtze River, stood a bubble house where mafia folks were known to hang out. When Dani entered the premises, the front clerk had his mind absorbed by the comparison of two photos of a space lion that looked identical to Dani. He served Dani without taking his eyes off the pictures.
“Changing rooms are to your left,” said the clerk, extending an arm out of his kiosk in the according direction.
Dani went right, following a sign that read ‘fürdö.’ She slid her fingertips across the large, printed letters.
“Fürdö, that’s a funny word. Fur-do. Fur. Furry. Must be related to ‘furry’. Must be a lot of hairy folks in there. Or is it ‘fury’ as in ‘berserk’?” Dani weighed on both possibilities. She drew her gunblaster and waltzed inside the baths. The men and women inside wore nothing but short towels and heavy weaponry. Most patrons had kept their gunblaster’s belt on, some had knives strapped at their ankles.
Dani entered the bath area fully clothed with her gunblaster drawn and pointing at the people taking care of their ablutions or lazing around.
“Anyone here belong to the mafia?” asked Dani.
Two women washing their arms by the large room mirror exchanged a look followed by a giggle.
For lack of a proper answer, Dani drew out her second gunblaster and pushed it against the back shoulder of a woman sitting on a bucket in the middle of the bathhouse. Her towel lay in a heap on the floor, and she made no effort to hide her chest or the long scar that split her back in two horizontal halves. She held a knife out and used it to scratch a patch of red skin between her toes.
She did not seem overly concerned by Dani’s threat. “D’you mind not pushing me? Wouldn’t want to take one of my toes off. I mean,” she held the knife up for Dani to see. “These bad girls are sharp. They’ll take a finger off. Or a knee out in a jiffy,” she said eyeing Dani’s kneecaps.
Dani backtracked to safety as the steam density doubled. Someone playing with the room controls, she guessed.
The bather with the rash on her toe got back to rasping her infection away.
Most of the room disappeared in a blurry white fog. Dani could only hear the sounds of water running, towels rubbing and gunblasters drawing. The mood had shifted quickly, but it did not put a damper on Dani Botswana’s confidence.
“Lady,” said a man inside the hot pool. Dani could hardly see him because of the steam.
“It’s Dani. Dani Botswana.”
“No matter what you want. Get into a towel or get out.”
Dani squinted against the steam, hoping to get a better look at the man, but to no avail. “I’m… thanks for the advice, but I’m looking to get in touch with Don Lino. Got something to sell. Know if any of his goons are here? Hey, folks! Any of you work for Don Lino?”
The man swam toward Dani, his splashes the only indication of his movement, and when he stood erect, Dani Botswana found herself face to face with his enormous gunblaster.
“What if I told you I was one of the Don’s men?”
“If you were, I’ll ask you to introduce me to your boss.” Dani sized him up.
He put a hand on his gunblaster. “What if I refused?”
“Then I might have to shoot you,” said Dani, aiming her gunblasters at the man’s chest.
The man tapped on his gunblaster’s cross. “That’s a grade eight.”
“I see that. Must be heavy to carry,” said Dani.
The man made a fast move for his gunblaster. Dani shot him twice in his right arm before the man could get the gun out of its holster. The man winced and growl, dropping knee-deep into the steaming water.
“And slow to draw. Or should I say, ‘rise up’?” Dani laughed. No one joined her or reacted to the altercation.
“My arm! You b…”
“The name is Dani Botswana. Tell your boss I have something of immense value for sale. I’m sure he’ll be interested. I’m heading to Gensac Ring Station, Gondomar’s way. Tell your boss to dock a train ticket for me to wherever he wants to meet. I want to trade with him directly.”
Confident that her plan had worked, Dani Botswana rode to Gensac Ring Station in open space. Out there, the purple mist of the Yangtze River ran through the donut rings of each station along the way. The trains running up or downstream exponentially enhanced the beauty of the river. Single gray or black lines ran through the purple mist, disappearing into a donut ring, carrying on their way the lives and adventures of many a gunslinger or space merchant.
Plenty of skyhorses traveled every which way. Downstream, upstream, side stream, “to the dark,” meaning getting away from the planets and the Two Rivers to one of the rare ghost moons of Larragon space. A gun fight in space broke out behind Dani and her stead. Although she could not hear gun blasts in space, her sixth sense kicked in. She dared a look back. Four riders in blue and red uniforms chas and shot at three gunslingers. Even at a great distance, Dani recognized the postal office workers’ uniforms.
Another postal robbery, no doubt. Better get a move on, I’ve had my share of postal troubles .
Gensac was one of Dani’s favorite Ring Stations. It had great pubs and saloons; the Goliath was one. It dominated the promenade with its endless rows of outside tables and tiny wooden chairs so small and frail she was afraid they’d break under her weight, but oh so comfortable. Dani stopped there first.
The waiter who came to take her order on the terrasse had a hard and pained face, showing he was having a bad day
The boy deserted the terrass and was gone for a long time. Even when four other tables filled up, he did not show. When he finally brought his long face along to serve Dani’s whiskey, she could not resist a cutting remark. “Were you distilling the stuff yourself?”
“Pardon? Why would say that, ma’am?”
Dani consulted her inner clock, which never steered her wrong. “You’ve been gone about ten minutes.”
“No, I wasn’t,” said the boy with the sincerest look on his face.
“What…you’re kidding me, right?” Dani asked, smiling at the oblivious waiter.
“No. I took your order, went to the bar, called up your order, picked up your bottle and came straight back to you. Thirty seconds tops.”
“Thirty, eh? Then how do you explain all these people sitting around us, waiting to be served. They just magically appeared in thirty seconds tops?”
“Must be. Now if you’ll excuse me,” the boy said, before pocketing Dani’s coin and sliding to the nearest table to take the orders of two burly men with matching mustaches, a thin line above the lips. Their lips were tight and barely moved as they placed their long overdue orders.
Dani felt their resentment at the dishonest waiter. She readied a cutting remark to engage in conversation when the waiter would be gone, but someone tapped her shoulder before she could ley it out.
Behind the tap was a sturdy woman tailored as a wardrobe. She wore a useless pair of black sunglasses and a gray costume over her skinsuit, which was well-ironed and neatly buttoned.
“Something tells me you don’t get out riding in space much,” said Dani.
The woman in the gray suit ignored Dani’s comment. “I represent Don Lino from the Lino Pascale family. I am told you are in possession of an item that could be of interest to us?”
“You bet! Not just an item, but a whole treasure. I got the feels the Don is really going to dig it.”
“I shall be the judge of it.” Her firm tone and closed-book approach was enough to make Dani understand this woman was to be the negotiator of Dani’s potential transaction.
“You’re not taking me to see Don Lino?”
“I am a representative of Don Lino. Consider myself as a proxy.”
“But I can’t. ‘Cause I’ve met the Don and you’re not it. You haven’t got half the stones he’s got.” Dani stood up so she towered over the woman.
“Yes, the Don does remember you. Hence why he sent me.” The negotiator clenched her fists and nervously tried to hide them behind her back.
Dani picked up on that detail and made it a point to take full advantage of the negotiator’s lack of poise.
“You’ve upset the Don? Is that why he sent you to me? Did he send you to die?” Dani drew her gunblaster and tapped it against the negotiator’s forehead.
“Really?” The woman tried a forced laugh, but it was hardly convincing. “You would shoot a mafia member in public? With dozens of our people surrounding the place?”
Dani pressed the tip of the gun against her skin, the negotiator pulled her head back, but Dani followed her with the tip of her gunblaster until they locked themselves into a standstill.
“Maybe,” Dani said. “I’m just that crazy.” Dani flashed her toothy, demented smile at the negotiator. “Now, how about I put this bad girl back in her holster, and you can stop acting bigger than you are? We’re going to walk to the train station, and you’re going to buy my skyhorse and me tickets to see your boss. You can come, too. Send a message to your boss ahead of our arrival, that Dani Botswana is coming to sell him the moon treasure. He’ll know which, I’m sure.”
Dani Botswana concluded her long tirade with another victorious smile.
### End of Part 3 ###
Continue to Part 4