Bib Blackrain popped open the crate and began to take stock of the bottles inside, as Underby relit his cigarillo grandly, watching the two cloaked figures standing just inside the side door of the Bucket of Blood. Both kept their hoods pulled down so only their noses and mouths were visible… standard Ravila scum.
Underby blew his match out, as Bib stood back up. “It’s all there, boss.” he confirmed. Underby nodded and tossed a small bag to the closest cloaked figure. The bag jingled as it flew through the air. The cloaked figure caught the bag, weighed it briefly in his hand, and nodding to the other figure, slipped out the door, which Bib shut behind him, revealing again the dart board.
“Where d’ya think that shipment came from?” Bib asked. “A bar burned down? An old lady’s bridge club?”
Underby answered truthfully: “I don’t give a damn, provided it comes to me cheap.”
Bib snorted. “Like the glasses?”
Underby sat down at the end of the bar, gazing at the skull wearing Dr Sonnerstein’s hat. “Mr Mannonen will never miss those.”
Bib nodded. “I’m gonner go check on Miss Star b’fore my shift.”
Underby nodded and continued to smoke. He looked at the skull again. “Mother, why did I not think of this ages ago? Who knew that running a saloon was the easiest way to achieve goals? It’s baffling.
“After all, what is magic?
“Laziness, is it not? When one gets beyond all the rigamarole, pomp and ceremony it is simply attempting to attain something for less. One can attempt to woo a woman: dress sharply, speak politely, feign interest in her mundane dreams, finance her lavish tastes, attend the opera, rub her feet, kiss her forehead, pet her pussy, walk her puppy… or. Or… or one can create a charm. A charm which will woo her to the very core of her being. Which is the more attractive option, Mother? Mmm, well perhaps you are rather biased in that regard, but change the wooing for something which does interest you and the better option becomes more evident.
“But, unlike some, I do not belittle the concept of laziness. It is the very nature of the world. Isaac Newton has proven this, of course, but one need look no further than the world around, for does water run upstream? Do we witness cube-shaped bubbles floating on the top of water? Of course we do not. Nature is lazy. And why would someone willingly go against nature, mmm Mother? Least of all your son.
“Did I seek out magic because I enjoy indulging in the mystic and the esoteric? Ha. That may be a mask I wear for some, but not for you, my dear. I desire things, and it is my wish to gain these things in the manner that nature would approve of, and early on it became obvious to me that magic was a means to an end.
“Of course, that is, until I moved to New Babbage. It became very clear early on that whatever had worked for me elsewhere was not going to work here, and yet the lawless nature of the city attracted me. Dazzled me, one might rightfully say. Here was a city unlike London, and New York, and Steeltopia… here was a city I might be able to shove a foot in the door… even without magic.
“And then, the answer was thrust onto me. When Our Dark Friend came to the city and demanded that I find him a place to create a room I do so at first only begrudgingly. Then I decided to make some money from the operation and decided on a saloon… good Hades, if only I had known… the sheer easiness of the operation, Mother. It is only one step from clubbing them over the head, taking their money, and tossing them out into that canal out back. Easy. Lazy. Efficient.”
Underby took one last drag from the cigarillo, and crushed it out on the cheekbone of his mother. He smiled.
“As you know, dear Mother, it is my very nature.”