You are Problem Sleuth and your services are often required. Thanks to this, you are no stranger to waking up in strange places covered in bruises. This time is rather different, seeing as how you wake up with a leg encased in a cast, one eye covered with a bandage, and a distraught mobster hanging over you.
Fortunately, being an old pro, you have worked out a routine for this sort of thing.
“Fuck,” you mumble. The first swear is very important, as it should sum up your feelings on the matter while allowing yourself to find out if you can talk. You note with satisfaction that at the very least your ribs, trachea, and mouth seem to be in one piece, although your jaw is a bit sore.
Slick is staring at you, so you try the next bit of your line up.
“How long was I out?” you ask.
Slick scowls, twirling a butterfly knife. “Dunno. Hours.”
You breathe in deeply. “Ah. Fuck. You patch me up?”
“Course I did, dumbass,” he growls.
Carefully, you try sitting up. Your head spins a bit, but you seem to be okay. “Ah. Anything I should worry about? I mean, ‘s cool that I match you eye-wise now, but I don’t think it’s a good look for me.”
“It’ll heal,” Slick says shortly. “Don’t take the patch off,” he snaps as you lift a hand to your face.
“I wasn’t going to!” you say. “I’m just trying to check everything over.”
Slick subsides, glaring balefully as you carefully run a hand over you face and torso, gently poking at sore spots. Apart from the leg and the eye, it seems like you got away with mostly bruises, albeit very large and painful ones. There are a few cuts on your arms, and your hip is all tore up. You probably hit the concrete hard, then.
You poke the bed you are sitting on. “This yours?” you ask.
“Yes,” he growls.
“Oh,” you say, pushing yourself towards the edge of the bed. “I should, uh, be getting out of here, I think.”
Quick as a wink Slick slaps your arm out from under you and you collapse. A knife plants itself on your neck.
“Uh, Slick,” you say, smiling a bit frantically, “Threatening someone doesn’t actually help them get better faster.”
He glares at you. “You’re not leaving.”
“Slick!” you protest. “I have a case!”
His soundless one-eyed glower bores into your soul.
“It can wait?” you try weakly.
“Good,” he says, pulling back. He throws himself into a chair by the bedside and continues staring at you, once again moodily flipping his knife through his fingers.
“So, uh, how did I get here?” you try, when you get sick of the metallic clicking of his knife.
“Took you this long to ask?” he inquires rhetorically. “You got messed up priorities.”
It is your turn to frown. “I’m a hard-boiled sleuth, Slick. Stuff like this happens.”
“You got dumped,” he says.
You blink. “What.”
“You got dumped in front of our hideout,” Slick says. “Someone knocked and the car went screeching off.”
“Huh,” you say. You mentally add a small tick to your checklist of hardboiled clichés that have happened to you. Some of them have been quite painful, but at the same time you feel a bizarre sense of pride over those incidents.
“So, uh, do you not want me knowing where your hideout is?” you ask. “Because if that’s the case, just give me some pain meds and I’ll be right out. Or blindfold me or something.”
Slick takes a very deep breath and closes his eyes. “You. Are. Not. Leaving.”
You nod slowly. “O-kay then. The pain meds option is still open,” you add hopefully.
“You can’t have some for another two hours,” Slick growls without opening his eyes.
“Oh,” you say, deflated.
The next few minutes are filled with the sound of Slick’s knife.
“Maybe you could just call Pickle and dump me on a street corner-“ you begin.
The knife flashes overhead and slams into the wall. “What part of you are not fucking leaving do you not understand?” Slick hisses, shoving his face up against yours.
“The part where I don’t get what the hell you’re doing!” you explode, shoving him away. “Demimonde, Slick! Why the hell are you so insistent on me staying here? I can recover just at well at home! Hell, I’m probably better off at home!”
“You fuckwit,” Slick snaps. He slams a hand down on your chest and you bite off a whimper of pain. “Do you have no brains whatsoever?”
“Apparently not!” you snap. “Get the fuck off me.”
“You fucking idiot,” he growls. “Do you even know who the hell beat you up?”
You falter. “No,” you admit. “It doesn’t matter though!”
“Like hell!” he roars. You take advantage and shove him off. As he staggers back you sit up and manage to swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Slick responds by full on tackling you and pinning you down.
“You are not helping me recover!” you protest, trying to throw him off.
“Deal with it,” he snaps. “Because you are not taking one fucking step outside this room until Droog comes back!”
You freeze. “Why Droog?” you ask cautiously. Diamonds Droog has always struck you as a hard customer and not someone that you want to tangle with lightly.
Slick snorts. “Because he’s the one out looking for the fuckers who did this to you.”
“Excuse me, I think the meds are making me hallucinate,” you say. “Droog. Is out looking. For the people who beat me up. Me, the guy that Droog despises?”
Slick rolls his eyes. “He doesn’t hate you,” he says tartly. “At least, not much more than he hate everyone. But yeah.”
“Um,” you say. “Why?”
He looks you over and apparently decides that it would be all right to release your hands. You immediately cross your arms over your chest and glare up at him as he ponders.
“You’re sitting on my bruises,” you say.
“Good,” he says. “Think about that the next time you wanna be stupid. I don’t think you can even walk on that leg, you idiot.”
“I would have managed,” you say. You silently cheer for that hard-boiled line which might actually be true. You have been beaten up before, and you know how to cope and still make quick escapes. Besides, this time around you have been patched up and had a few hours to recover.
“Look, why the hell would someone have dumped you outside of my hideout?” Slick asks.
You stare up at him in confusion.
“Detective my ass,” Slick mutters. “Someone went to the trouble of beating you up. They dumped you right on my doorstep. They stuck around long enough that I know who did it. Now why would they do that?”
“I’m going to hazard the guess that this is about you,” you say.
“Ding!” he says sarcastically. “And also wrong. This is about you, too.”
“I don’t even know who jumped me!” you protest. “I was tracking down a runaway kid!”
“You got jumped by a rival gang,” Slick says in a voice that is a bit too calm. “And those little shits beat you up and left you for me to find as a message.”
“Why?” you ask.
“Why the hell do you think?” Slick snarls, control evaporating. “They. Think. We. Are. FUCKING!”
You recoil. “What the fuck!” you yelp. You shove at him ineffectively. “No no no no no! The fuck!”
Slick snorts, staying solidly planted on your torso. “Thank you for that reaction, you ungrateful fucker,” he says.
“Why do they think that?” you wail.
“Stupid detective who regularly drinks with a famed mobster but is still alive. We get into fights in public, fights that involve a lot of puns and jokes,” Slick says. “What the hell do you think people think?”
“I think that people aren’t that perverted!” you howl. “What the hell is wrong with them! I had a girlfriend, for GPI’s sake!” This is not hardboiled at all, but you feel you have a decent excuse, as most of the time hardboiled detectives only have to deal with femme fatales, not… homme horrible, or whatever.
“Had,” Slick says. He seems amused. “Look, you’ve survived three fights with me. Only the Felt have a better record, and they fucking cheat. ‘Sides, people like a bit of gossip.”
“Enough to beat me up over it?” you ask, bewildered.
Slick shrugs. “Yep.”
You whimper. “But, why is Droog out looking for them? I mean, I’m not actually your… ergh.”
Slick’s grin disappears. “Because,” he growls, wrenching his knife out of the wall, “This was a direct insult to me. It doesn’t matter if you’re my whatever or not. They thought you were, and they thought they could use that to get to me.”
You swallow. “Any chance I could just, y’know, arrest them? Not have you involved at all?” If you take care of this yourself, you can keep your reputation in tact while distancing yourself from Slick.
Slick smiles at you fondly, running the knife’s edge along your cheek. “Ain’t that sweet,” he says. “But no. Those coffin stuffers are going six feet under in concrete overshoes.”
“Don’t mix metaphors like that,” you say, batting his knife hand away. “It’s just… eurgh. Also, you know I should technically stop you from doing this?”
Slick raises an eyebrow and gestures at your overall situation.
You wince. “Point taken. But, uh, won’t this kind of, y’know, encourage rumors that the two of us are…” you wave your hand vaguely.
“Fucking?” Slick asks, taking great satisfaction in seeing you wince. “Probably. And?”
You want your hat just so you can pull it down over your face. “Slick, you are literally the worst friend ever,” you say, burying your face in your hands instead.
“I’m also your enemy,” he reminds you. “Mobster, remember?”
“You are a mobster who is essentially publically affiliating yourself with a detective,” you hiss from between your hands. “Fucking. Terrible. Friend. I mean, Demimonde, do you know the flack I’m going to catch from this? Hell, just think about the flack you’re going to catch from this!”
“You mean how I still viciously dismember anyone who challenges me, now with the added threat that I could call in the law on anyone I don’t like?” he asks blithely, putting the knife away. “Or how I can imply that you just gave up on arresting me because I am such a tiger in the sack?”
“I gave up on arresting you because it never works!” you snap, flailing your arms. “Lack of evidence and your fucking lawyers get you out in a week!”
Slick just grins at you. “Your lack of persistence and competence is not my problem,” he says smugly.
“Then what is your problem?” you snarl. “You couldn’t just wake me up and kick me out? Why the hell can’t I leave?”
“Why do you want to leave?” Slick says.
“I’m in the hideout of violent mobsters that I used to try and track down!” you yell. “Why the hell do you think I want to leave? The decorating?”
“You are fucking precious,” Slick says. “Like I’d harm a hair on your head.”
“I have scars that say otherwise!” you say.
Slick waves you off. “Mhm. So does my Crew. And?”
“I do not buy your bullshit answer for why you should affiliate yourself with me!” you say.
“Oh, do go on,” Slick says, amused. He starts shuffling his deck on your chest, but his gaze never leaves your face.
“Look, if you wanted to be able to call the law on someone, I know you have corrupt cops on the force. You don’t need me. And that struck me as the single strongest point in your whole damn argument. Hell, it was your only point!”
Slick bridges the cards and then neatens the stack. “Point being?”
“Would you get off of me!” you snap.
Slick grins. “I dunno. You’re pretty comfy.”
“I hate you,” you say.
“Already taken,” Slick says. “By someone much hotter than you, damn her eyes.”
“Look, can we just have like, a public fight and break up?” you ask desperately.
“Sure,” Slick says. “If you wanna let it be known that you are no longer under my generous protection. I’m sure the other gangs will be quite understanding when they snap you up to see what you know.”
You groan. “GPI.”
Slick grins viciously. “Love you too, sweetie.”
“Get off of me,” you say.
Slick stands back up with boneless grace, slipping his deck back into its slot. You make a dive for the pillows and pull one over your face.
“How in the hell are you a detective if you’re this easily flustered?” Slick asks.
“I’m not flustered,” you say, voice muffled by the pillow. “I’m in shock.”
“From what, that people actually think a scrawny little idiot could actually get with me?” he says.
“Exactly who are you describing there?” you snap, pulling the pillow down. “Besides, you’re apparently willing to actively keep up
this façade! I’m an innocent bystander!”
“Make lemonade,” Slick says. “You’re just bein’ whiny.”
“You could kill my career!” you argue.
“Only if the rumors get more evidence,” Slick says. “Eventually, everyone will move on and we won’t have to do anything.”
“No, it’s not going to die down!” you exclaim. “You fucking took me in and patched me up and sent your fucking hit man out to find the ones who did it! You’ve as good as said I’m your… thingamajig!”
“You’re on pain meds and clearly it’s interfering with your thinking,” Slick says. “Maybe you should get some sleep.”
“No!” you snap. “I want to know what the hell you’re planning!”
“I can’t be concerned for a friend, is that it?” Slick scowls.
“You said we were enemies!” you argue.
“We are but we aren’t,” Slick says. “Pretty simple to me.”
“Friends do not kill people for other friends!”
“I cannot believe a detective just said that.”
“Enemies do not kill people for their enemy!”
“Sure they do. ‘S called truce or a show of power.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I’ll sit on you again,” Slick threatens.
You throw the pillow at him. “Go away.”
“My hideout, my room,” Slick says. He settles down on the bed beside you.
“You’re the worst nurse doctor person ever,” you groan.
“I’m sorry, should I have kissed you better?” he asks.
When Droog arrives, he is greeted by the sight of Slick sitting on top of you, tying your hands to the headboard with a pillowcase.
“If I might interrupt your… activities,” Droog says, with the tiniest quirk of an eyebrow, “Things have been taken care of. Slick, if you want to, a few of them have hidden themselves in a warehouse not too far from here. Sleuth will most likely be able to walk himself home safely, although I do have my doubts about that on the best of days.”
Slick thinks this over. He smiles, and pats you on the head. “Sorry, sweetie, business. Why don’t you stay put and recover and once I get back I’ll make it up to you.”
“Slick, I swear to GPI that I will kill you,” you growl.
“You flatter me,” he says. “See you in a bit.” He walks out the door with Droog without a backwards glance.
Immediately, you begin to work your hands free. “Fucking shit-face idiotic mobster,“ you chant to yourself, trying to remember the trick to this. “Ha!” you crow, working your hands loose.
You hobble to the door and wrench it open.
“You shouldn’t be walking on that leg,” Boxcars rumbles, blocking the doorway. “’S only cracked, and yer gonna break it.”
“’Sides, boss’ll be sad if you leave while he’s gone!” Deuce exclaims, poking his head around Boxcars legs. “It’s really bad if lovers walk out on each other!”
You slam the door shut.
“If you kiss ‘em, watch out for the teeth,” Boxcars calls with a laugh.
You flip the bird at the door and sit down on the bed in a huff. Fucking Spades Slick and his fucking mobster buddies in this fucking town. You cannot wait to explain this one to your team.