Best Friend For Hire, Entry 177

As Maxine and I ate, I answered her questions about how my business got started. “I really find the idea of your business fascinating. I wouldn’t have guessed that such a business could sprout up out of nowhere and get success so quickly.” she told me. I shrugged and said, “I never thought my business would prosper quickly either, but I do enjoy helping old friends and meeting new ones. Plus, I get the diversity in work that I craved.” I couldn’t really take any credit for my business’ success when Aaliyah did so much work for me, and I was aware that Alma had arranged a number of my earlier jobs, though I wasn’t certain how many. What was Maxine after? “You’re just so charming, James. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to see you again after meeting you?” she asked. I couldn’t tell her that any perceived charm came from magic beyond my control, so I said, “Thank you, but I’m really just another guy who’s had good fortune of late.” Smiling at me, she asked “Is meeting me part of that fortune?” Considering that she knocked me to the ground with an explosion, I most certainly couldn’t say I felt fortunate to know her. Still, she was my client, and I couldn’t offend her. I told her “I assure you that this is far from my worst date.” With how she pursed her lips, I wondered if I did offend her.

I was so accustomed to looking into someone’s eyes when speaking that staring at sunglasses was throwing me off a bit when trying to gauge her emotions. Maxine then inquired “Do you ever worry about needing bodyguards? Given how much you and some of your clients are worth, someone might attempt a kidnapping eventually.” I shrugged uncomfortably, uncertain of what to make of that statement from a known villain. Realizing she couldn’t see me, I admitted “I never really considered it. I do provide my employees with defensive training, having had a considerable amount myself. Besides, a decent kidnapper would probably plan for bodyguards if I was seen with some regularly.” Her smile seemed villainous as she said, “Then the decent kidnapper would attempt to plan for a competent combatant, which is more difficult without knowing what sort of training regimen you use. Would you protect me if someone attempted to kidnap us today?” I nodded and told her “Of course. I can’t standby as someone hurts my client, after all.” Pouting a little, she replied “Don’t you mean your date?” I restrained from sighing as I said, “Yes, of course. My apologies. Why the sudden interest in kidnapping?” Laughing, Maxine told me “Sorry. I suppose that might seem strange to you. I heard mention that the crime rate in this city was considerably high, so I was reading about recent events.”

“Oh? I didn’t realize the crime rate was that high.” I confessed. I was accustomed to this city and its suburbs. I never really thought of comparing such things with other places. “Oh come now. You were recently quoted in an article for having been at some sort of robbery.” she claimed. I remembered talking with the police, but I didn’t know there was a reporter present. She went on, saying, “Apparently, you witnessed some man in a giant robot crashing through a wall.” I couldn’t believe she, of all people, would bring this up. “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was a man, but there was some sort of mechanized suit. What sort of person would blow up a wall without knowing who was on the other side? If I had been just a little farther ahead, I would have surely died.” I told her, watching for a reaction. She didn’t seem to be troubled at all, even knowing she had almost killed me. “I’m actually somewhat familiar with a few ways the alleged criminal might have checked for people through the wall. That must have still been quite the ordeal for you.” she admitted. “Yes. It really was. Would you believe some sort of caped crusader attacked the criminal?” I asked her. “Several witnesses claimed as much, but I can’t see how anyone would’ve survived being hit by a machine that can easily break through brick walls. The journalist who wrote the article didn’t seem to buy that either.” she claimed.

“Having been there, I can confirm it. I was certain the hero was dead when she was hit, but she kept fighting till the criminal flew off.” I claimed, knowing good and well that Portentia didn’t even show signs of injury, save for the blood on her costume. “I’m not even certain the one in the suit should be called a criminal. According to my sources, the man stole weapon plans before they could be sold on the black market. Isn’t someone who risks arrest for the greater good supposed to be a hero?” she asked, catching me off-guard. I inquired “So the police know what was stolen? I hadn’t heard of this.” Maxine paused for a moment before saying, “I didn’t get that information from any official source, but I am well connected.” I rubbed my chin as I told her “Oh, so you don’t know if that criminal might be using the supposed weapon plans for something even more nefarious.” She paused again before telling me “I was just meaning we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the man’s motives. He could be fighting a battle most people know nothing about.” I waited a moment before saying, “While we’re not making assumptions, we shouldn’t be set on the person’s gender either. There’s no telling who is behind a destructive machine. Maybe aliens even.” The last I said to lighten the mood as I reminded myself that Maxine was a client, which earned me a laugh.

“Aliens, James? Really? I suppose that technology does seem pretty impressive, but I’d believe in this restaurant’s alien origin first, considering it is the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.” she replied, smiling more beautifully than a vicious criminal should. I jumped when Evanna was suddenly removing the dishes. “I hope you’re ready for dessert! You two are going to love this.” she claimed. “Evanna, how do you feel about the idea of this place being created by aliens?” I asked. She shrugged and told me “I wouldn’t rule it out. The universe is a big place. You wouldn’t believe my delivery range if I told you.” The matter-of-fact delivery struck me so funny that I started laughing. Evanna was obviously making an attempt not to smile at that point. Failing, she said, “Man, I was doing good up until you laughed.” I glanced at Maxine, since she was being silent during the exchange. With her head cocked our direction, I’d say she was watching if she could see. “So what’s for dessert?” I asked as Evanna placed multi-colored, tall domes in front of Maxine and me. She didn’t reply, simply lifting the domes away to reveal large, crystal goblets that appeared to be holding countless, miniscule gems of various hues. “Enjoy!” exclaimed Evanna before pushing the cart of used dishes away. I was looking after her when Maxine asked, “So what is it?”

“Well, I have no idea to be honest. There are these goblets with tall spoons to the right. The goblets and spoons appear to be made of some sort of crystal while the contents looks to be multi-hued, tiny gems.” I explained. Maxine started grinning during my explanation, found her spoon, and tasted the strange dessert enthusiastically. Her grin only seemed to enlarge after she ate. “I’ve heard of this, though the restaurant doesn’t give it a name. If heaven were a taste, this would be it.” she claimed. At that, I simply had to try the stuff and wondered a moment later if I was consuming a drug. My senses seemed sharper, not dulled, and the beautiful surroundings seemed all the more awe-inspiring to me. If the substance had a flavor, I couldn’t really tell. Each bite was like being overwhelmed with a joyous emotion too vast to fully comprehend even as my senses seemed greatly magnified. The soft breeze tickled my skin in a way I never noticed before. I could hear the conversations from the distant tables around me, see strange animals in the forest below, and… make out electronics in Maxine’s glasses. The sensation seemed to fade just seconds after each bite, and I found myself at the bottom of the goblet far too quickly, still uncertain what I was seeing in Maxine’s eyewear. Was I being recorded? If so, for what purpose? Something was up.

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