Eleven

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Rags was so freaked out, in fact, he told Curly to go home and stay home, until Rags gave him the all clear. As the older brother, he was always looking out for Curly, and tried to keep him out of the more largely illegal endeavors. Curly was fine with that. He could spend hours lifting weights and listening to tambourine music, while Rags took care of business. Rags knew right where he needed to go - Jimmy's, the floating casino out on the Wetford River. Owned by the legendary Jimmy Kruzel, the old riverboat was where every important underworld decision took place. Fripperone and his gang were, as a rule, not allowed on board due to their lightweight status, but an exception was made for Rags on account of his old man, who had performed some legendary feats in his day.

Nobody saw Mr. Jimmy Kruzel himself, not ever. The highest level you could hope to attain was an audience with his number one, a short but powerfully wide man known only as Dennis, who spoke with a voice so deep and so soft you could never be quite sure exactly what he was saying. He loved nothing more than to speak of his ancestors, who'd been dragged across the ocean against their will so many hundreds of years ago. A meeting with Dennis required at least a half hour preamble of which you could understanding nothing. Rags had expressed the urgency of his visit with such visible anxiety that the crewmen who related his request were ordered by Dennis to let him in.

Dennis' cabin was down at the very bottom of the vessel, deep in the hold underwater. The room was small - barely ten by ten - and half-filled by Dennis himself on a white leather couch he had had personally built for his frame. The little den was thick with smoke from his eternal cigar, penned in by the lack of windows and having nowhere to go but settle throughout the otherwise empty space. A small aluminum folding chair was the only other furniture in the room. Rags remained standing, barely glimpsing Dennis, and hardly hearing him either. Dennis began lecturing the moment Rags had shut the door on his command. What he said sounded to Rags like this:

"Derminuh alubba bub. Forja seph, ookula pair dish! Sem arah slagis nod, ep fertie grass?"

Rags nodded and continued to listen, gradually becoming used to the rumbling murmur, and eventually determining that Dennis was probably speaking a dialect of ancient Arabic. He was an erudite man who enjoyed showing off. He had unrolled a large map of North Africa and was gesturing at it with his cigar. After a time, his monologue petered out and in the resulting quiet, Rags nervously spoke up. He told Dennis about Fripperone's encounter with Davey Connor by the riverside, and then waited for a long time in the stench and the gloom while Dennis considered the tale.

"I thought you killed that boy", he finally grumbled.

"I did kill him", Rags said. "Dead as doughnuts. Buried him too, just like you told me."

"And you sprinkled the grave site with jalapenos and lemon peel?"

"Lemon peel?", Rags stuttered. "I don't remember anything about lemon peel!". 

Dennis was silent for quite some time. Rags glanced nervously about him, wishing he was anywhere but there. He realized he'd screwed up, but the whole thing was a mystery to him. He was extremely superstitious, but even his ignorance had its limits. 

'Lemon peel?' He thought to himself, 'come on, that is just ridiculous'.

Dennis might have read his mind, because he spoke up in a slightly louder tone to indicate his maximum rage.

"Jalapeno to burn his soul, of course. Lemon peel to keep him in the ground!" 

"Keep him ...?" Rags ventured.

"In the ground", Dennis firmly replied. "So now he's back, you tell me. Well, no wonder. Half a job is worse than none."

"How come?", Rags asked. 

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