Petty Hunter

“What do you mean, ‘he’s my problem now’?” Cliff asked. He glared at the young woman behind the bar. She owned the run down saloon and Cliff was already anxious to get out of there before customers started filing in. She shook her head and returned the glare.

“I just wanted to see if this no good, lying, worthless piece of cow dung was alive with my own two eyes.” The bound and gagged man trembled on his barstool with every insult. “Now that I know he didn’t die on me and his son I can move on with my life. I sure as hell don’t want him back. You can toss him in the trash out back or go and put him back where you found him for all I care.”

“Listen lady,” Cliff leaned over the bar. “I don’t take on any problems without a fee. You paid me to bring him here, I brought him here. You want to make him my problem, you pay me for that too. Otherwise, I’m walking out of here without any problems.”

“How much more?” she narrowed her eyes.

“Well, that all depends on what I can do with him.”

“I don’t care what you do with him,” she replied sternly. Cliff reached to his belt and unsheathed his hunting knife.

“You .. sure you don’t care what I do?” he asked as he absent-mindedly scratched at his neck stubble with the sharp edge. The woman thought for a minute. She swallowed hard, but nodded.

“I don’t care,” she said with a cold edge in her voice.

“Then it’ll be cheap, 20 more gold pieces.”

“That’s it?” she brightened immediately and pulled the coins out of her apron. Compared to the 200 she paid initially, 10 was a steal. She placed them on the counter. “There, now we’re square. Get him out of here and do whatever you’re going to do. And make it hurt if you can,” she added.

Cliff nodded and moved the knife away from his neck; he stepped closer to the prisoner.

“Problem solved,” he said as he slid the knife downward behind the man and cut him loose. The first thing he did was reach up and pull the gag out of his mouth.

“Thank you,” he said.

“What’s going on?” the owner asked. “I thought you were going to kill him!”

“What?” Cliff laughed as he grabbed the coins off the bar. “Hell no, murder’s expensive.”

“So what the hell did I just pay you for? If I wanted him free I could have done that myself.”

“You could’ve, but you didn’t. You paid for the convenience of having me deal with a problem you were trying to avoid. Next time, try being more specific with what you want.” He turned and patted the former prisoner on the back.

“No hard feelings, I was doing my job.” He handed him the 10 gold pieces. “Get yourself a drink, on me.” He smiled at the bartender, then walked out.

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