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The Lurkers

[Chika wrote:]

It was all very confusing. Madoka had never mentioned these folk before, yet here they were, large as life and twice as ugly. This bar just gets stranger. Miyuki picked up a glass and a cloth, and called Chika over. "So who are they?" Miyuki asked, somewhat befuddled. She had expected a certain regular clientele but these folk were... well... different.

"Don't worry about them," Chika replied. "They seem to pop in when they feel like it. A little like lurkers that never moved on to the wide wacky world of Nerima, but never made it around here either."

"You mean like those caribu that you mentioned."

"Something like that, except that the caribu carry on through."

"Hey! What are you talking about?" Elyssa demanded.

Miyuki started to take great interest in the glass that she had previously been polishing absently, while Chika started humming Duvet.

"And you don't seem to understa....and..." Elyssa stomped off after another order, muttering curses about various deer-related mammals. Miyuki sighed heavily. It seemed as though her sake intake was doomed to rise again...

[Dare wrote:]

Time: 10:30am

The three came within an hour of the Lurker's Retreat opening for the day. In fact, they were the first three customers to arrive. Miyuki didn't know why people came to bars in the morning. But she wasn't one to argue with business.

The girl was young and pretty. She had short brown hair and big eyes. Her fuku was clearly modified. Miyuki didn't think schools allowed skirts to go that short as hers just barely covered her thighs. The fuku's sleeves were cut short and the only thing that remained unchanged was the red bow at the front and back.

The first man was probably in his early to mid twenties, Miyuki guessed. He had wild reddish hair that just hung in sharp bangs around his forehead. His heavy brown trenchcoat whisked behind him as he walked in, giving a glint to the sidearm he carried at his waist. The smirk on his face and glint in his eye worried Miyuki. She hoped he wouldn't cause any trouble.

The other man was almost a giant compared to the girl. He stood over six feet tall and his frame was a rectangle with broad shoulders and a thick trunk for a neck. His hair was cut short in a crew cut style and he looked very serious. Miyuki wondered who did the tailoring job for he wore a designer suit that fit him with ease. Miyuki was relieved the chair didn't break when he sat on it. She hoped it would withstand.

"I would like a coffee, please," Denson's deep voice rumbled. It almost sounded like an order and not a request. Miyuki scampered away to get a cup. Denson stretched his large arms. "Nothing like a good coffee in the morning. I could use a donut though."

"Those things'll make you fat," Clay, the red haired one said.

"Like there's any fat on his body," Suzumi pointed out.

Clay edged closer to her. "You know, if you check mine, you'll find no fat either."

Suzumi decided not to dignify a response. Clay continued, "A beer's what I need to get jump started." Denson remained quiet as well. Clay decided to probe. "Hey, I heard you were last working for that scumbag Carlos down in Columbia. The guy's into drugs, y'know?" The last sentence he directed to Suzumi.

"Honto ni?" [Really?] Suzumi asked with a bit of shock. "How could you work for someone so evil?"

Denson shrugged. "It's just money. What my client's hobbies are don't concern me."

"Shit!" cursed Clay. "The man's got no morals. Now, as for me, well damn, I've hunted down my share of bounties. All scumbags, if you ask me. I did the world a favor, y'know?" He winked at Suzumi.

"Should I be impressed?" Suzumi said indifferently.

"Ah geez, Suzumi-chan!" Clay whined. "Aren't you gonna stop playing hard to get with me? You know I only give you the attention 'cause you're my special gal."

"Urusai," [shut up], rebuked Suzumi. "I'm not your 'gal'"

Clay waved her away. "Ah, women. Go figure. Your right. The only girl for me is Clarise. Now there's a woman. Long and lean. She never talks back and always does what she says. Mmm-mm-mm.."

Suzumi rolled her eyes. "Are we talking about a human being here?"

Clay reached into his jacket and pulled out his gun. He caressed it almost too gently. "Hey, don't insult 'Clarise'" He spoke to the weapon soothingly. "There, there, she's just jealous." (Suzumi almost gave him a cross look)

"Never cared much for guns," Denson said, sipping his coffee. "I like smashing my enemy's heads with my bare hands."

Suzumi went wide-eyed. "You're joking, right?"

Denson almost smiled. "I hardly joke."

Time: 2:00pm

Miyuki wiped the bar although it was hardly dirty, yet. She watched the table where the three were sitting. They had been here all day. Usually her customers had places to go, eventually. Those three seemed content to sit back and relax. At least they were paying for their drinks.

"Dammit, I'm bored," Clay moaned with his arms pillowed under his head. He snapped his fingers. "I know just the thing!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a worn-out deck of cards. "Anyone care for some friendly poker?"

Denson shrugged, which meant he didn't care. Suzumi didn't have much of an expression so Clay took this to mean she wasn't enthusiastic. "What's wrong, hon? Never played before?" He inched his chair over to her. "Let me show you how to play..."

Instead, Suzumi said, "Can I shuffle?"

"Well sure, hon," Clay obliged and handed her the deck. He watched as she shuffled very slowly. He was ready to roll his eyes in disgust but pretended to be interested.

"Okay, I'm just warming up. I'm not very good at this shuffling." With that Suzumi placed the deck on the palm of her hand. Then, with lightning speed, she cut the deck, one-handed, shuffled it with a bridge, did a little fancy fan, did another one-handed shuffle and dealt out the cards in mid air. She dealt them face up.

Clay's mouth nearly hung open as the cards landed in front of them. Both he and Denson had absolutely nothing but Suzumi had dealt herself three aces and two kings. "Darn, I never get a full house!" Suzumi complained dramatically.

Clay grabbed all the cards and gave her a mean look. "You are NOT allowed to shuffle anymore."

Suzumi just beamed.

Time: 3:30pm

Miyuki watched the three play poker for a good hour. A few patrons walked by and stopped to observe for a few moments but Clay brushed them off with a glare or a snide remark.

Denson looked at the top corners of his cards. He had a pair showing and a pair buried. But he had no chance of getting a full house.

Clay's cards were varied but they looked to form an inside-out straight. In reality, Clay had nothing in his hand to complete that straight but he bluffed on.

Suzumi left her cards on the table. The four face up were all hearts and between two and seven. She had a possible straight flush. Clay and Denson knew the odds of that were extremely unlikely.

"I'll bet 400", Suzumi put some chips in.

"400!" Clay shouted. "Holy shit, you think you can outbluff me?! You don't have a straight flush!"

"It will cost you 400 to find out," Suzumi put it delicately.

Clay grumbled something under his breath and threw his cards down. "I fold."

"Me too," Denson followed.

"Yatta!" [Yay] Suzumi cheered and pulled the pile of chips towards her.

"She's got the best fucking poker face!" Clay complained to Denson. "That smile of hers, who can tell what she's thinking! Damn."

Time: 7:30pm

Elyssa walked over to the table, still tying on her apron. She pulled out a little notepad. "So, what can I get you guys?"

"I'll have an orange juice, please," said Suzumi.

"Tea," Denson said simply.

"I'll have a nice cold beer," Clay said with a wink. "Say, what's your name, darlin'?"

Elyssa gulped. "Elyssa," she said.

"Why don't you come sit with me when you come back with that beer." Clay patted his lap slyly.

"Um, I have other tables to wait," Elyssa said stiffly.

"Don't worry hon, you can wait on me all nigh--ow!" Clay grabbed his shin and shot a look over to Suzumi who just smiled innocently.

"I'll be back with your drinks," Elyssa said, seizing her opportunity to escape. She gave a friendly nod to Suzumi for helping her and left.

"Sheeet that hurt!" Clay seethed and rubbed his leg.

"Serves you right! You can't go around talking to girls like that!"

"Since when do you care how I talk to girls?" Clay barked. "I'll talk to them however I damn well please. Besides, you never complained. Getting jealous, eh?" His smirk crept back to his face.

"Whatever," Suzumi replied.

Time: 1:00 am

Miyuki yawned. It had been another long but profitable day. The bar's patrons were slowly leaving. Weekdays usually meant the customers left early so they could get a little sleep before heading to work in the morning. However, her three strange customers were still at their table.

Deciding to walk by and get to know her paying customers, Miyuki approached their table. "Konbanwa," she said politely. "Everything going okay?" Miyuki got nods all around. She decided a little braver approach. "I was just wondering, since you three have been here all day, don't you have any places to go?"

"Go?" Denson asked.

Miyuki shrugged nonchalantly. "I dunno, any where? No regular routine?" She turned to Suzumi. "For example, don't you have school? I mean, you're all dressed up for it."

Suzumi looked at her clothes. "You mean these? Oh, no, I think you have it wrong. I just like these clothes. I don't go to school."

"You don't?" repeated Miyuki.

"Nope! I don't like school. Never been and never will!" Suzumi poked Clay who was half napping. "What about you? Ever been to school?"

Clay snorted and sat up. "Huh? School? Oh geez, that was a complete waste of my youth. Between sleeping in class or reading comics or getting into detention, I found absolutely nothing useful about school. What about you, Denson?" His voice turned sarcastic. "Tell us about the practical applications of your academic studies." Clay chuckled.

Denson had his arms folded across his chest in a very foreboding way. "I graduated with a degree in corporate finance and a double major in economics and nursing."

Clay tilted his chair upright and stared. Suzumi was equally surprised. Clay began laughing. "You're joking me!"

"I hardly joke."

Clay kept laughing. "You?! A registered nurse?! Now that's a fucking funny picture! Imagine you in a little nurse's outfit." His face went a little serious. "Oh damn, that's more information than I wanted. Fuck, now I have an image, too. Yuck!"

Denson drilled his gaze back at Clay but turned to Suzumi. "School is a worthwhile pursuit. You should really think about it."

"You sound like a goddamn infomercial!" Clay heckled.

Denson ignored that remark and waited for a response from Suzumi.

"What's the point?" she finally said. "When I turn 24 I'll inherit Masushita Corporation and just run that. I have all the money I'll ever need."

"Money's not the most important thing in life," Denson lectured, "You should always think about bettering yourself, mentally and scholarly."

Clay put his elbow on the table. "Since when did you not care about money, Mr. I'll-work-for-whoever-pays-me?"

"I'm not saying money isn't important," Denson countered. He stumbled over some words and gave up.

"I'm sorry," Miyuki cut in. "Did you say Masushita Corporation? You mean, you're Mikage Suzumi? Daughter of the founders and presidents Yosunoru and Suzuka Mikage? The ones that died in the car accident a few years ago?"

"Hai!" Suzumi said in a loud voice. She didn't seem bothered by the mention of her parents tragic death.

Miyuki blinked and regarded each person at the table. A retired bounty hunter, an out-of-work but well-financed body guard and the daughter of a multinational corporation that was worth billions. She smiled. Miyuki had three of the most richest people hanging out in her bar. What did she care if they did nothing but waste away their lives? At least they spent their money at _her_ bar.

Clay watched as Miyuki skipped away. "What's she so damn happy about?"

Time: 2:30 am

The bar was completely empty save for the three of them and Miyuki. Even Elyssa had gone home, having to wake up early for classes. "Hey, as much as I love having you guys here," Miyuki chirped, "I really do need to close up."

"No problem," Denson said and rose, his towering figure shadowed everyone else.

Clay and Suzumi got up as well. Clay stretched his arms and tried to sling it around Suzumi as she headed for the door. "Need an escort home, hon?"

Suzumi removed his arm from her shoulder. "No, thank you, I know my way home."

"You sure?" Clay persisted. "It can be very dangerous for a young lady to be out by herself at night."

Suzumi stopped and waited for Denson to catch up. "Don't worry, I've got protection."

Clay stared up at the big man. "Him?" He put a hand over his shocked face. "Oh my god, you're paying him to walk you home?" He slid over to Denson. "Or maybe you're paying her--OW!!" Clay hopped on one foot, grabbing his other.

"BAKA!!" Suzumi yelled furiously.

"Ow, I didn't mean it like that!" Clay shouted. "Really, I didn't!!" Their voices faded out as they exited the bar and into the early morning.

Miyuki sighed. She sure got the strange ones.

[The End]

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