The dark-haired man leaned back, lighting a cigar.
“So, how can I help you?”
Around them, the other occupants of the dingy bar very deliberately ignored the two men; whenever the blonde-haired man came, it was wise to.
The blonde haired man looked at him impassively. “Pelar is dead,” he said, no sadness in his voice, just surgical notation of fact.
The dark-haired man was only a little more moved. “That’s the third this month,” he said, leaning back and sipping his wine with a frown—insofar as the bar had any sophistication, it was all offered to these two men. “You people have run into something too hot for you, yes?”
“That’s not your business.”
“He was a good lad,” the dark-haired man continued. “Damn sharp, and knew his business. Streets made him, didn’t break him. He was one of the few in that respect.”
“He always served with remarkable skill,” the blonde conceded. “And remarkable self-interest.”
“You can trust the self-interested,” the dark man said.
A fractional nod of agreement. “That is correct.” For perhaps the second time in half an hour, he sipped is own wine. Perpetual tension was his given state of existence- it was nothing new.
“Well, he knew the risks,” the first man said. “So, how can I help you?”
The mere arc of an eyebrow was his only reply.
“I know you wouldn’t trouble yourself to come all this way just because one of my commissions was dead,” the dark-haired one said simply.
Those almost babyish yellow eyes weighed him up. Physically, the blonde was uninspiring, lanky and excessively long-fingered. But that meant nothing. Truly, nothing at all. Those child’s eyes couldn’t be read. That was enough.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he said softly. He stretched the silence out for a few more moments, then spoke again. “I believe you have a commission in progress.”
“That is so,” the dark-haired one said. “But I always do. I presume you refer to the one close to completion.”
“Naturally,” the blonde-haired man replied.
The dark one leaned back. “The word is close. Close, not finished. I’d want another two months before that commission would be ready for service, and even then I’d recommend another six in your establishment before she’d be ready for basic fieldwork. You may be pressed, but compromising the quality of your applicants will achieve nothing except hand them more of your men.”
“I know that,” the blonde one said. “That’s one reason why I need her to do one thing, ahead of time. This is a domestic assignment only.”
The dark one frowned. “I don’t like it.”
“You don’t have to,” the blonde one said bluntly. “If she succeeds, she has talent. If not, she would have been no use to us anyway.”
“I understand. Now talk the goal.”
“Twelve and a half thousand to her for taking it on,” the blonde said, ignoring the question for the moment. “Twenty five thousand for each of you, upon
receipt of the package.”
“Then I’m not going to like the goal,” the dark one said slowly.
“No,” the other one said slowly. “You aren’t.”