“Sir?” The young man watched nervously as the bounty hunter pulled a long, black rifle barrel out of the box.
“Yes?” responded the man, in a walking-on-thin-ice tone that made his employer's representative jump.
“We just wanted to let you know that the phantom has been spotted...”
“Phantom?” he interrupted, without looking up. He looked down the barrel, and snapped it onto the rifle as he continued. “You seriously believe there's a phantom.”
“Well, we don't quite know... I mean... Um... Well, yes.”
“A phantom. As in, ghost? As in ectoplasm and the disembodied spirits of dead people? Or is it more of a hobgoblin, some sort of mysterious monster, a creature yet undiscovered by science?” Cain LeStram looked the man in the eye. “Let's get something straight. Whatever is in that forest, it's not a phantom.”
“Well, I don't quite care what it is,” came another voice. Both men looked up to see a man in a gray suit walking down the shattered sidewalk towards them. “We're paying you to shoot it.”
“Now that I fully intend to do,” said Cain, leaning the rifle against the truck. “You'll have yourself a dead whatever soon enough.”
“Mr. Miller! What are you doing here... I mean, I can take care of this, Sir. You didn't really have to come down.”
“I'm fine, Brant. I wanted to speak to Mr. LeStram myself. You can go.” Mr. Miller adjusted his tie as he spoke. “If you really need something to occupy your time, I'm sure the janitorial staff could use some help.”
“No Sir. I have plenty to do Sir. I'll go now Sir.” Brant backed away before half walking, half fleeing up the hill towards his small black car, which currently looked fairly meek next to the elegant limousine that had pulled up next to it.
“What's with him?” asked Cain, pointing a dirty thumb in the direction Brant had fled.
“Chronic Lackey Syndrome,” responded Mr. Miller with a chuckle. “Symptoms include mindless obedience, over the top respect, and power ties. Fairly common, I'm afraid.”
“Ah.” Cain smiled. “Is it deadly?”
“Not particularly. Completely incurable, though.”
“Too bad.” Cain coughed a bit and leaned against his pickup truck. “But I suppose you didn't come down to talk about him.”
“No. There's been another report of the phantom.”
“Yes, yes, I know. It's completely ridiculous. But let's just call it that for the sake of clarity, alright?”
“Hey, you're the boss. You say phantom, we go with phantom. So what did it do this time?”
“Badly scared three surveyors. They reported that it actually came out of the trees and attacked them.”
“You sure it isn't one of the 'it flew, it flew, we saw it' reports that you get so often?”
“Quite. They report that it actually touched the ground, and one claims he saw it's face.”
“Well, the face thing is nothing new, but the touching the ground thing we might want to look into. Nobody's reported that before, am I right?”
“Correct. They're in the hospital building at the main camp if you wish to speak to them.”
“Hospital? Don't tell me the thing actually attacked them.”
“I doubt it. From what I've been told, one or more of them fell while he was running. He's fairly scratched up. I didn't pay much attention to that part.”
“So I'll go have a chat with the surveyors,” said Cain with a grin, “and we'll find out what they saw.” He put the rifle into the back of the pickup and pulled out his keys. “You want me to follow up on whatever?”
“Yes. Please do.” Cain climbed into the tattered leather drivers seat and slammed the door shut, but opened the window when his employer continued. “Also, if you find the phantom, I don't particularly care for it alive.”
“Already understood. You pay me to kill things.” Cain rolled the window up and drove off.
“You don't have to put it that way,” muttered Mr. Miller. “But at least he's direct.”
'Ello everyone! I had this written a long time ago! I just never bothered to post it. But now, you all can read it! And critique it! Or whatever! But seriously, feedback of any sort is appreciated.