A Merc Series Short Story
Given the choice, Megan Cruise, would have stayed inside to work. While the flood lights gave more than enough light, as did the torches designed to keep the stupid bugs away, the problem lay in the night air. It was just humid enough to make her arm stick to the small stack of folders resting on the glass patio table. Beside them was her laptop and tablet.
She wasn’t opposed to the weather so much as she was over it today. She got all the fresh air she needed this afternoon, not that she could tell anyone about it.
Megan had gone on a hike with Tara Duncan. She was a bounty hunter out in Las Vegas and good friends with both Bobbi and Julie but neither knew about her visit. Tara had reached out to Megan for some help on a bounty she was tracking in New England. Megan had agreed to help in exchange for some information. The hike was Tara’s idea, since she liked to keep on the move. She was like that damn bunny.
“I’m not being held responsible if your stuff gets wet.”
Megan looked up to see her best friend Nick Walker. She quickly looked back down at her laptop.
“Is that necessary?” Megan asked pointing at the camouflage bathing suit Nick wore.
“What? I’ve been waiting to go swimming all day.”
“Swimming or skinny dipping?”
Nick glanced down to see his bathing suit hanging below his hips.
“Whoops, my bad.” He pulled them up and tied them tighter. “That better?”
Megan glanced and grunted.
“Clarissa back with the pizza?”
“I hope you ordered enough cause I’m starving,” Nick said before jumping into the pool.
“You better not get me wet!” She shouted while he was still under the water.
Nick popped up long enough to grin at her before going underneath the water again. Megan watched as he swam under the water the length of the pool twice before coming back up. He tread water quietly as he stared up at her. The backyard lights were illuminating the pool, giving it a nice glow about it and making him wonder why he didn’t go swimming at night more often.
“Yes?” He asked as he lowered himself deeper into the water.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“But you’re going to.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I can see it on your face. You’re thinking something.”
“Thinking something is not the same as saying something.”
“You’re counting to ten right now aren’t you?”
Megan narrowed her eyes at him before saying, “Do you know how much that will cost?”
Nick went under the water again but Megan snapped her fingers at him. He moved to the shallow end and stood up, the water cascading down his half naked, muscular physique. He flexed his right bicep.
“At least it doesn’t hurt though, right? I called Jamie and she stitched me up good.”
“You’re not allowed to call Jamie.”
“What? Since when?”
“Since always,” Megan said and pointed at his midsection. He twisted, to reveal a second gash on his side. This one was worse than the one on his arm.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay,” he said and flexed his six-pack abs.
Megan waved him away and Nick slid backwards until the deep end of the pool swallowed him up.
“I thought you already had this covered?”
“I’m not talking about money Nick,” Megan replied and typed up a secure e-mail on her laptop. “This is going to put you out for at least two weeks.”
Nick frowned and said, “Maybe a week.”
“And if you get injured again?”
“We could just leave it,” Nick said swimming over to her.
“Are you kidding me?”
“What? Chicks dig scars don’t they?”
“From guys who are bad asses. I need to keep you looking fresh.”
Nick winked at her. She ignored him.
“I’ve already set up an appointment for you tomorrow morning for a new skin graft.”
“It’s my body. Don’t I get a say in this?”
Nick stared at her until she would look at him.
“I saw how you treated your body while you lived in Japan for those seven years. The answer’s no. I’m still paying the cost of all those surgeries from when you came home.”
This time Nick knew Megan wasn’t talking about money. He sighed and swam away. She had already moved onto something else on her laptop. He came back after three laps.
“Are you even going to ask how it happened?”
“I’m not sure I want to know,” Megan replied not taking her eyes off her laptop.
“I did it for a girl.”
Megan sighed and looked sideways at him.
“Elizabeth Donatelli,” he said and waited until he saw her eyes light up the way his do with his first hit of caffeine in the morning. She bitdown on her lower lip and Nick swam away backwards.
“Get back here!” She said and quickly picked up her tablet and began using that.
“Oh I’m sorry, were you saying something?” Nick teased.
“Did you sleep with her?”
“No, even better. I gave her a sword.”
Megan stared at him.
“Is this supposed to be like your pie jokes, cause I’m not laughing.”
“Hey. My pie jokes are legen-”
“Stop talking,” Megan said, cutting him off.
Nick shrugged and swam away.
“Silly me thought you wanted to know.”
“I do but I also don’t want this to turn into a Bobbi or Clarissa conversation with 10,000 rabbit trails.”
“Speaking of Bobbi, did you guys have a fun weekend?”
“No,” Megan replied. The sooner she forgot about this weekend and the stupid bag of gummy bears the better she would be.
Nick swam in a circle expecting Megan to elaborate, when she didn’t, he asked, “How long does it take to get pizza?”
“Whose sword did you give her?” Megan asked.
Nick looked over at the house hoping to see Clarissa walk out onto the patio but no dice.
“You know that Elizabeth received a ‘Burn Notice’ by Italian Intelligence right?”
“I do. I also know which one specifically.”
Nick stuck his tongue out at her. “Did you know she came up against a member of the Yamato family on her mission and that’s why she failed?”
Megan covered her left eye as she could feel it twitch.
“Are you telling me you stole a katana from one of the Swordsmen of the Yamato Family?”
Megan let out a breath. “Whew.”
“I claimed the katana after I killed a Swordsman of the Yamato Family."
“Are you fuc-”
“Shove it Steve Rogers. Do you even understand…” Megan growled.
“Specifically, I killed the man that almost killed Elizabeth. I gave her the katana as an ice breaker to our introduction.”
“That’s a hell of an ice breaker,” Megan said sitting up straight, her back cracking as she did. Her mind was already running through scenarios.
“How did you even find a swordsman?”
“I asked Kat for a favor and she came through. The guy was still in New York taking some R&R.”
“You know I didn’t really fail Ranger school right?”
“It’s a Swordsman of the Yamato Family!” Megan said throwing up her hands.
Nick tread water while biting his tongue. When he was younger, Nick heard stories about his mother going up against the Yamato family. No one ever gave him specifics but he knew it was those battles that made her a legend.
And her training of him was how he became a great knife and sword fighter. He never told Megan any of those stories and tonight wasn’t the time to start.
“Are you all right? You’re acting awful Oscar like and I didn’t even touch your trash can. And surprisingly, that’s not code for anything.”
Megan let out a smile as she momentarily played with her ponytail. “Yes. I guess I’m still annoyed because of Shane.”
“What happened with Shane?”
“You don’t know?”
Nick made waves with his arms.
“Did you miss the part where I’ve been in New York for two weeks?”
“It’s already been two weeks?” Megan asked. Was time going by that fast?
“Yep. I’m suppose to go back and see Elizabeth. So you’ll have to hold off on that skin graft.”
Megan glared at him.
“You couldn’t tell me that before?”
“You wouldn’t let me talk.”
“So you spent the last two weeks in New York with Elizabeth Donatelli and didn’t once think I should know about it?”
“I was taking care of that other thing you wanted done and this landed in my lap.”
Megan scowled as she thought back to Shane.
“Plus,” Nick added, “You were suppose to be on vacation with the girls for the weekend. No computers, remember?”
“Some vacation,” Megan mumbled.
“Nothing. So did you do the thing to her?”
“I started the process. I should finish by next week after my visit with her. Assuming it will work.”
“It will work. I have faith in you,” Megan said and smiled as she typed on her tablet.
Nick did four more laps before swimming up to the edge. He pushed up out of the water.
“What are you doing?”
“Not here you’re not. Go over to that side.”
“You’re so bossy,” Nick said and sunk back into the water.
“You going to tell me about Shane?”
Megan rolled her eyes and turned in her chair to face him.
“All he had to do was watch over a twenty-three-old birthday girl and her best friend while they partied in LA for a few days. Is that so frakking hard?”
Nick shook his head slowly. He was concerned at how bad it had been if Megan was still this fired up from thinking about it.
“But instead of an easy babysitting job that he says and I quote ‘how hard can they be if Nick is always doing them bro?’ I now have to put out a raging fire because he literally fucked them. And was it an ‘oops we got drunk and made out’ type of thing? No, it had to be a full fledge movie from the living room to the bathroom, to the shower and finally, the bedroom. This is why he can’t do jobs like this. Once his thing is out, it stays out.”
“Do I want to know how you know all this?”
“Because our well-endowed but dim-witted giant let himself get filmed.”
Nick raised his arms up out of the water. “Flag on the field. Total over share on your part.”
Megan ignored him and continued. “The client’s father is a well enough known business man on the West Coast and guess what he found waiting in his e-mail?”
“Was it along the lines of pay me X amount of dollars or else your daughter is the next Kim K? And you become the laughingstock among your peers. Plus as a bonus, you lose tons of money because of this scandal?”
“Correct. And now for our double Jeopardy question. Guess who got blamed for it all?”
Nick pointed a finger at her.
“You got it.”
“Obviously everything worked out okay, right?”
“The outcome could have been more favorable.”
Nick remained silent when he saw the look on Megan’s face. He swam over to the other side and went under. He wondered if he should talk to Shane about what happened. Seeing that Megan was still this upset about it, he couldn’t imagine her being too kind to the guy during it. But he also didn’t want to pick at the scab. It wasn’t fair for him to be gone for periods of time then come home and meddle in things that had already been resolved in his absence. Plus they were all adults here and responsible for their own actions. No one needed him as a babysitter for every little thing. The fact that Shane’s actions weren’t much different from his wasn’t lost on Nick.
He swam back to Megan. She was back to working on her laptop. He came up slowly, barely disturbing the water, his nose just above the surface as he watched her. Even after all these years, Nick found it amusing to watch her. The speed that her fingers worked at was almost supernatural.
“Can I help you?” She asked after several minutes had gone by.
“Nope. I’m just chilling.”
“It’s looking like we’ll have a job to do in Miami next month. Keep that in mind when planning your extracurricular activities.”
“Plus I have design changes for here that I need to work on with Clarissa.”
“Did someone say my name?”
They both looked over to see Clarissa walk out carrying two large pizzas with several brown paper bags on top of them.
“Well it’s about time,” Nick said and hopped out, getting Megan wet in the process as water landed on her.
She took his towel and used it to dry up the drops that landed on her and the table.
“Woah, hey boy. How you doin?” Clarissa said holding the food out in front of her.
“My suit slipped again, huh?”
“I ain’t mad at cha,” Clarissa replied trying not to stare, especially when she saw Megan looking at her.
She stuck her tongue out at her while Nick retied his bathing suit. Megan responded with her BRF. Clarissa pouted only to quickly smile as Nick took the food.
“This smells ah-maze-ing.”
“Really?” Megan said.
Nick smiled and sat it down.
“I thought we were swimming and chilling tonight girl?” Clarissa said when she saw Megan’s work all over the table.
“Did you bring a suit?” Nick asked while grabbing a slice of supreme from the first pizza box.
“I’m wearing it,” Clarissa said and started to take off her baseball jersey to reveal a shiny jade green bikini top.
“Put your shirt down,” Megan said while moving her stuff to one side, away from the food.
“Party pooper. Woah, are you okay?” Clarissa asked touching Nick’s arm with the cut.
“Oh look, someone who’s concerned with my well being,” Nick said.
Megan glared at him.
“I’m fine, just don’t ask about the other guy.”
“Damn,” she said and moved both her hands down his body to look at his side.
“Did you see I ordered your favorite Clarissa?” Megan asked and opened the second pizza box that was half Hawaiian and half chicken, tomato and extra broccoli
Clarissa looked at Nick, who was already going for a second slice of supreme.
“Ah, thanks girl,” she said while giving Megan a WTF look as she did.
“I’ll go grab us some drinks,” Nick said and headed in.
Clarissa sat down across from Megan.
“You know what,” Clarissa said and nodded at the pizza as she took a slice and took a big bite.
“Guess you’ll have to keep your hands to yourself tonight McGrabby. Unless you picked up some scented candles while you were out.”
“How you gonna do a Mcjoke on your girl?” Clarissa pouted. “I thought this was supposed to be a fun night.”
“I’m having fun. I’ve gotten a lot accomplished so far,” Megan said and pulled out her chef salad from one of the brown paper bags.
“But it’s hot out. Wouldn’t you rather be in the pool?”
“Okay, I was with you when you bought that bikini remember? So I know what the bottom half looks like and I don’t need to see your booty hanging out of it tonight.”
“Don’t be jelly.”
“Better than gassy,” Megan countered and smirked at the pizza.
“You know, I think there might be some gummy bears in that bag too girl. You should check.”
“I will cut you,” Megan said holding up the plastic knife that came with her salad.
Clarissa let out a laugh.
“So for reals. Is he okay? Those cuts look hardcore. What did it?”
“Would you believe me if I said a samurai?”
Clarissa finished her slice of pizza and said, “After all the stuff we’ve been through girl, hell yes.”
Megan smiled and said, “I’m looking into a job in Miami next month and need you to help, so keep your calendar open. Plus I want to make upgrades to the property here.”
“I’m all yours girl. Whatever you need.”
“Did I miss anything?” Nick asked walking back with a Mountain Dew in one hand and a six pack of Corona Extra.
“Nope,” Megan said.
“Thanks Nick,” Clarissa said and opened a beer.
Megan undid her ponytail and took a beer too. Nick sat down between them, his back to the pool and took a sip of his Dew before grabbing a slice of Hawaiian.
“So, Netflix and chill?” Clarissa asked with a grin after several minutes of them eating in silence.
“Fine with me,” Nick said before receiving a text. He looked down to respond.
Megan took her plastic knife and ran it across her throat while giving Clarissa her bitchy resting face again.
Clarissa started to laugh but had to stop to stifle a burp or risk unleashing a horrendous belch. A look of discomfort washed over her.
“That’s what you get,” Megan mouthed at her.
Nick put his phone down and reached for some fries.
“So who’s ready for some Marco Polo?”
Clarissa raised her hand.
“Put your hand down. We have work to go over.”
“I will throw you in the pool if I have to, bathing suit or not.”
Megan looked at Nick with her BRF.
“Or, we could go over a few jobs first,” he said and went back to eating his fries.
Megan wiped her hands and picked up a file folder and read out loud to them. Clarissa slowly slid her sandal off and reached under the table to touch Nick’s leg with her toes.
Nick smiled and grabbed his sixth slice of pizza. His injuries not withstanding, his trip to New York had been an enjoyable one.
But nothing ever beat a night home with family and friends.
The Merc Series