Ten

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Fripperone couldn't wait to catch up his gang on the night's discovery. They all assembled by the pier for their regular midnight meeting. Here they would share whatever spoils they'd acquired from previous activities, and make plans for new ones. There was no formal agenda, but everyone got their turn. Princess was the unofficial secretary, the final arbiter of who said what and when, despite the facts that her memory was often faulty and her inclination was generally tilted towards the boss. Fripperone himself was both President and Treasurer.

The Right-Hand Man was even taller than Rick, and much more fit. He was a world class bully to be reckoned with, but as dumb as a wet rag. He was an Irishman known only as Jockstrap. The name actually referred to his odor and not his parts. Jockstrap's favorite maneuver was the fake push followed by the real push, whereby he'd pretend to knock you over, like a quarterback's pump fake, draw back slightly, then actually push you down. If you winced, you lost. If you didn't, down you went in any case.

Another two were brothers, Curly and Rags. They had the same dad, a Filipino mechanic named Manny, and different moms. Curly was thick, dark-brown-skinned and nearly bald (you get the joke) and Rags, who was lighter in every sense, wore heavy flannel shirts unbuttoned all year round, with a torn up t-shirt underneath the flashy fake gold chain around his neck. Both of them were strong as anything and fairly quiet. It was always thought they'd go their own way sooner or later, form a gang of their own, why not, but they never did. The two remained close to Fripperone for reasons nobody understood. He continually undermined them, appropriated their money, and heckled and badgered them no end. They might have been gluttons for punishment, or maybe it simply never occurred to either one that they didn't really have to put up with it.

The "Cinco Banditos", as they liked to call themselves, were among the more incompetent thugs in town. Their "mission statement" was "the big score", which they were constantly planning and never pulling off. Instead, they settled for truly small potatoes, knocking over such minor establishments as Hairpiece Hut and taco vendor vans. Curly and Rags were always suggesting hitting St. Anthony's. They believed there were vast amounts of gold buried underneath the floors of the downstairs soup kitchen and mission. They went every night (for dinner) and examined the tiles for telltale cracks.

They also tried to make and sell magic potions. This was Princess' specialty. She had devised purplish liquids that smelled like peach melba and were guaranteed to snag a real man - her own being the pudding of her proof, which may have been one reason why sales were slow. She stored her potions in small glass vials ripped off from the community college science lab, and marked them with various colored twist ties to keep them straight. All of this was more or less an elaborate ruse disguising a secondary trade in liquid euphoria (also known as L.E.), the source of most of their actual income.

"You must be crazy", was Curly's reaction to the news that Rick and Princess had just seen Davey Connor in the flesh that very evening.

"Man is dead as man can get", Rags said emphatically.

"Well then dead men can run away pretty fast", Rick told them. "Little Davey always was pretty quick."

"Died quick too", Rags snorted, and spat a good twelve feet into the fountain. "One thrust and he just plain crumpled up."

"Stone hard fact", Curly nodded.

"What I know", Jockstrap put in, “That Connor boy was delivering the wrong packages to the wrong addresses, know what I mean?"

"Point is", Rick said, "Davey Connor's walking around right now like you and me."

"If he's walking around", Rags said, "he's got to be a zombie or something. That boy is a corpse."

"Okay, okay", Rick waved his arms around. "You don't have to keep repeating it. Zombie, ghost, wounded, whatever, the point is, what are we going to do about it?”

"You know where he is?", Curly asked.

"Not right now", Princess had to admit. "But we can find him. I know it. He said something about Cookie Marquette, and she knows everything about everybody out here."

"Damn do-gooder", Rick muttered. "Probably won't help us, but it's a start. Princess will check with Cookie. Meantime we can split up. He was going along the river, probably haunting the waterfront. Huh, haunting", Rick laughed at his joke.

"Laying low", Princess added. "He better know he's a dead man if the wrong people find him."

"Guess that makes him a dead man for sure, because we are the wrong people!", Jockstrap chortled. Nobody noticed Curly and Rags were crossing themselves. They were not at all happy with the idea of going out and tracking down a living dead man.

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