Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Twenty-One

Urban emerged onto another wide street, flanked by squat betting shops that seemed quaint amongst the surrounding skyscrapers, the third in a long row of shops had the official support of the family: Na Creidmhigh’s seal. A scarred, silver emblem rested at the center of the door. It depicted Oki, detailing her various forms splitting off to fill the world, emerging from the sea as well as returning to it.

The lights from Amin’s Lighthouse poured out onto the street, a beacon for the lowlifes to throw away their money. Alone on the street, Urban let a grim smile settle on his face for the first time in what seemed like months. He didn’t despise his position, but hated how profitable Na Creidmhigh had found the business. Digital screens served in place of windows flashed ever changing odds, highlighting a host of names linked with debts. The displays had settled in on final odds as the title fight came to a head.

The bell tinged as the door opened.

“You must really have it out for the Kid,” Sern commented as he joined his boss, lighting a cigarette.

Urban peered inside, caught a glimpse of the raucous gamblers. They stared at the screens, gripping their cards, drinks in hand, their light ribbing turning vulgar and scarring.

Then the door shut, giving them their privacy, leaving him to contemplate the task ahead.

Keir wouldn’t like his methods.

Urban let his warm smile slip into place. “The odds simply favor Dawber. He’s a beast.” All rehearsed, not even reasoned out as he spoke. He didn’t let it slip that the whole thing was rigged. Sern had a horrible poker face.

“Regardless, we’re making a killing in there. Just as long as Dawber bites it.”

Urban nodded. “Speaking of which, we really should be inside.” He pushed off the wall, opened the door for Sern.

Sern took a long drag, then stubbed out his cigarette. “Wish you would’ve said something.”

“Just be thankful you get a break.” While he was smiling, he ran over his plan, preparing himself for what needed to be done.

A cheer rose as the fighters squared off, prepared to fight. His gamblers were clustered around one screen despite the myriad of displays that all showed the same fight. He started, “Now, listen up, boys—” Urban’s voice disappeared in the myriad of shouts. He yelled once again for everyone to pay attention, but no one heard him, lost to the electronic glow of the fight.

He turned, noticed Sern had stopped paying attention to anything but the screens. Swearing, Urban crossed to the backroom, past the terminals, to the breaker box and hit the switches, flipped them all, one after another, dousing the small shop in darkness.

For one blessed second, the place fell to silence.

Then the hollering started again.

Footsteps rushed to the back room. “What happened—” Sern began.

“I’ve got it all under control,” Urban said in a flat tone. He hit the first of the switches, turning on the computers in the back, then the lights throughout the building. He paused before hitting the screens, thought better of it, headed for the front. As he suspected, his clients waited, ready for a lynching.

Urban emerged with his hands out, palms patting the air down in a soothing gesture. “Take it easy guys. We need to talk.”

“What about the fight? I got a lot of money riding on that,” a regular shouted.

“Dawber lost,” Urban said without thinking. Before he could say anything, one of the slower betters cut him off.

“But it just started.”

“It was a sure thing,” Manal muttered.

“Doesn’t matter now,” Urban said.

The shouts started up again. Urban couldn’t stop himself. Anger swelled in his chest. It spewed out in a loud and forceful voice. “Shut the fuck up! It’s done. Dawber’s dead. Get over it. Move on.” The boom echoed in the sudden silence. He paused and cleared his throat. His normal quiet tone returned and he continued, “I’m prepared to wipe anyone’s debt here who agrees to help me find Raine.”

“Just like that?” Another man’s voice came from the back.

“No qualms, no questions. A clean slate by Na Creidmhigh’s books.”

A low murmur crept through the crowd. Rather than wait for them to bail, he sweetened the pot. “And it’ll be a personal favor to the Family.”

The mumbles cut short and Manal stepped forward. “What do you need from us?”

“I know you guys don’t work for us, but I’m sure you hear things. I’m just looking for Raine. You hear or see anything, you find me.”

“What about Na Creidmhigh?”

Urban shook his head. “Trust me, boys. You’ll want to come to me on this one.”

The group muttered assent.

“Anyone not looking for a clean slate?”

No one said anything.

“Then consider it done,” Urban said. “Go find Raine.”

After the men had filed out, Urban walked to the back and reluctantly flipped the last of the breakers on. The screens flickered back to life, revealing Dawber’s body being dragged out of the ring. On the charts, the names still proudly revealed his most wanted debtors. Urban collapsed into the chair, staring at the tablet containing all their debtors. Sern leaned against the doorway. “Are you sure about this?”

“No, not really.” Urban ran a finger across the screen. The debt charts flashed clean.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.