The Artful by Wilbert Stanton
(Shadows of the City #1)
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: May 27th 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Cigar turned his head to the side until his neck cracked, then again to the other side. He reached for one of his guns. I knew my face went pale, my hands began to shake, and the prospect of throwing myself through the glass window seemed more and more inviting. He put the gun on the counter with a noticeable thud, taking care to aim the muzzle at Dodger.
“Now, now, Fred, we’re all friends here.”
“Name’s not Fred, and you’re no friend of mine.”
“And here I invite you into my place of business and offer you my liquor, thinking we shared the bond that comes with supply and demand―”
“I’m beginning to wonder how you came to own this place. Last I been here, the bartender was a lot older.”
Dodger slammed a cup down on the counter. Prying the whiskey bottle from my frozen fingers, he poured a drink and chugged it down. “Maybe you don’t want to find out.”
This made Cigar laugh, a slow chuckle. “You got a set on you, huh? Now why don’t you tell me where this vault is, and pray to God that there’s more value in it than in turning over a couple of Gutter Punks!”
The game was over. He knew who we were. Frankly, it wasn’t surprising. Dodger and I had made quite the reputation for ourselves, but this, this wasn’t in our favor. And the threat was on the table in the form of a shiny gun.
Dodger held up his hands in mock surprise. “Ahh, you made us. Fine, maybe we can help each other. I tell you where to find the vault, and you walk away?”
“I’ll decide on that when I see fit.”
Dodger looked at me and winked. I knew the look. It meant I had to stay on my toes. After taking a swig of the whiskey, he went through his pockets and produced the lighter I stole at the Empire. I sat on the tip of my stool as he held it out to Cigar, who smiled in turn.
“Smart boy,” he said, holding out his cigar in Dodger’s direction. Dodger opened the lid and flicked the wheel, causing the flame to spark. As soon as Cigar leaned in close enough to light his cigar, Dodger spit the whiskey at him, and the lighter’s flame in-between ignited the flammable liquid, shooting a hail of fire into Cigar’s face.
He yelled, clawing at the flames. His beard caught on fire; the smell of burning hair was instant. I used the distraction to my advantage and jumped for the gun before his wild hands could find it, training the muzzle on him before he could regain composure. Dodger and I tensed as he got up, brushing the last of his scorched beard from his face.
“You boys really made a mistake. What you fixing to do, huh? Shoot me? Look at you, ain’t no man in you! Shaking like a leaf. What makes you think I think you have the balls to shoot me? You got the fear of God in your eyes, but you know what, boy? I ain’t God… I’m the Devil.”