“Thank you for that riveting story,” Bats said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Anything you can tell us about the masked man? Height? Weight? What was his voice like? Skin color? Eye color? You gotta give us something to work with.”
Handsome Dave thought for a moment before answering.
“He was tallish. Probably not as tall as you Bats, but tall enough to fit everyone else at this table. Average weight, nothing special. His mask covered his face and eyes, and he wore gloves. I couldn’t see his skin color or eye color or anything like that.” He paused, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “But there was something special about his voice. He spoke softly, like he was used to having people obey him.”
Bats nodded, then turned his attention to Sunny.
“What’s your story then?”
“Same as Handsome Dave,” he said quietly. Sunny always spoke slowly. If it was worth hearing, he reasoned, people would wait. “In case you didn’t know, weed’s still illegal under federal law. Banks don’t want to run the risk of aiding and abetting or laundering. They prefer not to do business with weed companies. Most of those companies make their sales in cash, and have to store the cash somewhere. I got a tip on one of those storage units, and decide to do a little solo job. I broke in, cracked the safe, stole a couple of bags of cash, etcetera. Got back to my apartment, and I walked in with my bags, and I find a goddamn idiot with a clown mask sitting on my couch with a gun.”
He shook his head in disgust. “He didn’t even say anything, just pointed his gun at me and ushered me in. He stood up, took a bag out of my hand, and walked out.”
Bats shook his head, then looked at Handsome Dave.
“See? That’s how you tell a story. Keep it short,” he said pointing his gun at Sunny. “Alright, any details on this guy? Besides the clown mask?”
Sunny shrugged. “I didn’t see his face, and he didn’t talk. Not much to work with.”
“We’re running out of time,” Flippy said. His eyes darted around nervously, and he tapped his phone with his index finger. “We have to get out of here soon. This location won’t be good for long.” He fixed his gaze on Bats. “How do we speed this up?”
Bats looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. “I was hoping one of these two geniuses would give us a clue, but their stories are useless. I have no idea,” he admitted.
“I do,” said Daniel. “We debate, then vote on it. Anyone here ever play Werewolf? Or Mafia?” The men around the table all nodded. “Good. Exactly like that. Who wants to start?”
No one said a word. Their work was built on trust, and each man was reluctant to break that trust by accusing another. What if he was wrong? The relationship between them would be ruined, and they’d never work together again.
“Flippy should start,” Bats said, turning towards him. Flippy was still clutching his phone. “You want to get out of here fast, you should be the one to cast the first stone.”
“Fine then,” Flippy snapped. He pointed at Daniel. “You’re too young, unless you started doing jobs when you were twelve.”
He gestured with his head at Bats. “You’re too tall, too built, too loud, too aggressive.” He emphasized that last word, and gave him a pointed stare. “Their stories suggest a man of average height, with a soft voice.”
He paused. “And I’m not Proteus. That leaves Sunny and Handsome Dave. Next.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest, and waited.
“I don’t think it’s Handsome Dave,” Bats said. “The man’s got a jagged line across his face, and when he says he got it from Proteus, I believe him. That leaves Sunny.” His eyes narrowed, and he turned suspiciously to Flippy. “And you. You’ve been whining about getting out of here for the last thirty minutes. Why? There aren’t any sirens going off nearby. My votes are Sunny and Flippy.”
“Looks like I’m on two shit-lists,” Sunny said on cue. “Fine then. Seems to me the only person we can’t possibly be suspicious of is the kid. So I suspect the kid. Final answer.” He arched his eyebrows inquisitively at Handsome Dave.
Handsome Dave didn’t say anything for several moments. The silence stretched, and he muttered “I need another beer” under his breath. He stood up, took a beer from a small cooler bag nearby, and returned to the table. A few long chugs, and he was ready.
“I don’t like accusing anyone,” he said. “It’s bad for business. I don’t think the kid or Bats are involved, for obvious reasons. I’ve worked with Sunny for a long time, and he’s never ripped me off before. My vote is for Flippy.” He took another long sip of his beer and nodded.
“But Flippy brought up this whole debate,” Daniel said. “If he was really our guy he would’ve kept his mouth shut. Why put suspicion on yourself when you’re almost home free? My money’s on Sunny.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “What the hell does Proteus mean anyway?”
“It’s the name of a Greek sea god, known for constantly changing his shape,” Flippy answered. All eyes turned to him. “What? I read it in the article, it’s right here.” He showed them his phone.
The press says I’m a master of disguise. But that’s not true. I’m a master at blending in. Masks only go so far. Changing your walk, changing your voice, that’s where the true skill lies. I remember the first time I tried this I was fifteen, and wanted to buy beer.
I added a moustache, and several lines on my face. I placed a pebble in my shoe to help me develop a limp. I purchased some old second-hand camos, to complete my persona: an injured soldier.
Everyone respects the troops. The clerk behind the counter didn’t spare me a glance as I dropped the beer on the counter. She didn’t even ask for my ID. It was almost as if she couldn’t see anything past my mediocre facade.
Let me tell you, I enjoyed that beer immensely.
“Well now, that’s not good, is it?” Bats said. He silently tallied up the votes. “That’s zero for me, one for Handsome Dave, one for Daniel, two for Flippy, and three for Sunny.”
He pointed his gun at Sunny. “Looks like you’re on three shit-lists buddy. Got anything to say in your defense?”
I dislike having guns pointed at me. But I’ll admit it does add quite a bit to today’s proceedings.
TO BE CONCLUDED!
That’s right amigos, we’re almost done.
Tomorrow, all will be revealed!
Tune in for the final chapter!