I didn’t say anything. The Mountebank was wearing what I presumed to be a very stylish and expensive black suit. His black silk tie alone looked like it was worth more than my truck, though the tie-pin, which looked like a faithful silver replica of bird-poop, was not to my taste.
“Hi,” he said again, with a little wave. He was on the slim side, not quite what I’d expect from the Harlequin’s enforcer. He leaned forward. “Hello?”
I raised an eyebrow at him. Behind me, the cleaver stopped, to be replaced by a saxophone doing the theme from ‘Bewitched.’
The Mountebank looked over my shoulder. “He can talk, right? I was told he could talk.”
“He was talking earlier,” Donald said from behind me.
“Huh.” The Mountebank turned back to me. “Playing it tough, I see. Well, I can respect that.” He fished inside his coat and pulled out a shiny silver corkscrew. “However, I should tell you that the last guy who didn’t talk got this,” he waved the corkscrew at me. “We played ‘Places You Don’t Want a Corkscrew’ for almost an hour. Granted,” he continued, “he was a Mime which should have been a huge clue.” The Mountebank snorted. “He kept making these hilarious facial expressions until I got bored and just screwed this into his skull.” He tapped me on the knee with the corkscrew. “What about you? Should we start making Monopoly pieces out of you? Seriously, we’ve got a board around here somewhere.”
I did a head nod over my shoulder at Donald.
“And you’re nodding at . . . him?” The Mountebank pointed over my shoulder. “Did you whack him on the head or something?”
The saxophone missed a note, which sounded strangely like a duck farting.
“No, sir,” Donald answered. “I just told him to shut-up.”
“Huh.” The Mountebank turned back to me. “Really? And here I thought you were some sort of ninja stomping badass. Fine. You’re free to talk.”
“Well,” I said. “He asked nicely.”
“I see.” The Mountebank stroked his chin. “A polite one. Mommy taught you well.”
“When your Mom can kill a bull with a rolling pin, you tend to pay attention.”
“Indeed.” The Mountebank was suddenly on his feet. “Now, you’re probably wondering why I had you brought here,” he said, as he paced in front of me.
The Mountebank paused, looking sideways at me. “Really?”
The Mountebank put one foot up on the chair he had just been sitting in. “’I’m confused. ‘Really’ as in you really are wondering or ‘really’ in that you really don’t care.”
There was a pause. “Is that the first one or the second one,” the Mountebank asked. “I can never keep it straight.”
“The second. ‘Latter’ rhymes with ‘later’ so it’s the second one. It’s a little mnemonic device.”
“Nice, I’ll have to remember that. Now then, why don’t you want to know?”
“Simple,” I said. “I already know.”
“If you’d wanted to kill me, you’d have just done that. If you’d just wanted to torture me, well, I’d be screaming a lot right about now. So, that only means one thing: You’re coupe didn’t go quite as well as you wanted and now you want me to help you.”
The Montebank stared at me, his blue eyes wide and unblinking. “Very clever,” he said, slowly. “I’ve heard that about you.”
“I’ve also heard that you can be incredibly stupid.”
My brain went from fourth to first without the benefit of the intervening gears. “You didn’t,” I finally said.
“Oh,” said the Mountebank, smiling. “I did.”
The fly on my head took off and circled around me, before landing on the Mountebank’s shoulder.
Next: Part 3