Chapter 1: Earworm
The room was fairly quiet, save for the sounds of the light jazz playing overhead, drinks clinking in their glass as Moxxie sat behind the bar mixing a few libations in front of the portly host, the ever so slight creaking of the floorboard from the other guests walking around, and the cards and chips being placed on the table as the guests continued betting away their cash.
Brock took a drag from his cigarette as he watched the others carefully, trying to read their tells. Claptrap idly sat by taking a sip from his drink after having folded his hand, Ash checked his bet and looked rather smug about his cards (a bluff if Brock were to guess), and from across the bodyguard, Sam was muttering under his breath staring at his hand.
“Having a hard time making a decision there, Fido?” Ash questioned.
“Yeah, I don’t even need to use any my special equipment to read your obvious tells that you have a crappy hand.” Claptrap snarked.
"What’s got you?” Brock stubbed out the end of his cigarette, blowing out the remaining smoke. “Short on betting funds?”
“No... it’s not that.” Sam shook his head, tapping his fingers across the table.
“Then what is it?” Ash continued asking.
“Well, it’s just that Max figured out on how to take down criminals without having to lay a hand on them and just sings.”
Brock and Ash raised a brow as Claptrap just leaned slightly to get a better look at Sam.
“That doesn’t sound too bad. Unusual, but not bad.” Ash shrugged.
“That’s not the worst part.” Sam sighed.
The bodyguard lit another cigarette and eyed the freelance officer. “Then what is it? He can’t sing?”
“Is it dubstep?” Claptrap perked up.
“No to the dubstep question, and kinda on the singing one.”
“Then what does he do?” The black haired man pushed.
There was a long silence before Sam folded his hand and kicked his feet up on the table. Brock checked and Ash thought for a moment before grumbling and folding as well, letting the bodyguard win the pot.
“Max just starts singing two lines in a song and doesn’t move forward to the next verse. It gets stuck in your head to the point that it drives you mad. I STILL have the last song he sung three weeks ago in my head and it’s driving me bonkers.”
Before they could ask what the song was, Max jumped on Sam’s shoulders and eyed the table.
“Whoooooa, we’re half way there~ WHOOOA, LIVING ON A PRAYER!”
Sam covered his face as Max grin grew large and hopped off, still singing loudly.
“Whoooooa, we’re half way there~ WHOOOA, LIVING ON A PRAYER~!”
“He won’t go to the next verse.” Sam mumbled dejectedly.
“That... doesn’t seem that bad.” Ash admitted as the new set of cards appeared in front of them.
“Not now, anyways.” The freelance police took hold of his cards and continued playing.
Three weeks went by and the setting remained the same. Ash and Brock remained at the table with Brock becoming the victor this round. Puffing out the smoke from his lungs, he looked at the deadite hunter and couldn’t help but smirk. Ash just growled and in frustration pushed his cards down, Brock didn’t flinch but he tapped the cigarette on the ashtray.
“What’s got your panties in a bunch, Williams?”
“Nnngh...” He tapped his prosthetic hand on the table, muttering under his breath.
“Half way there..."
“You lost me here Will--”
Brock moved slightly back as Ash slammed his fists on the table, causing the cards, chips, and drinks to shake violently.
“THREE WEEKS. THAT GODDAMN SONG HAS BEEN STUCK IN MY HEAD FOR THREE WEEKS!” Ash cried out. “IT’S STUCK IN A GODDAMN LOOP!!”
From the booth, Sam just sipped from his drink while Max smiled and laughed, looking pleased as punch with himself as Ash laid his head on the table and kept mumbling the same two lines.
Chapter 2: Snore
Tycho grumbled up a storm as he folded another hand, loosing badly against Brock, Ash and Sam while already making plans to head to the bar to drown out his misery via an endless amount of drinking (or rather, have it be left on his tab as he was now indebted to the Inventory). He noted their expression of agitation, mainly on Ash's face.
"Rough game tonight, eh gentlemen?" Tycho attempted at a light conversation when he got no reply back.
"There's no way he breathes like that." Sam growled, having already folded a few rounds ago.
The webcomic writer raised a brow, was he referring to him? Or Brock?
Ash rubbed his face after folding, with Brock not even cracking a quip about how they were clearly outmatched or whatever bullshit he loved to mock Tycho with. "That's just not normal." Ash hissed.
Okay, now he was really confused.
"Uh... am I missing something here?" Tycho chimed in, jumping a little when Ash slammed the table. "Sheesh, sorry. What's going on?"
"Just shut up and listen." Brock spoke as he lit a new cigarette.
"Okay, this better not be some like, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon crap you're pulling on me." The webcomic writer shrugged and paid attention, thinking he should close his eyes to heighten his hearing sense and already hearing Strong Bad being that smug smart-ass making a joke about how much of a nerd he was.
The music stopped for the night, guessing they were taking a five. The host- Winslow, was conversing with Max about dinner or... something like that, he wasn't entirely sure and didn't feel like prying into that conversation. The bar that Moxxie controlled was lacking the usual sounds of glass clinking, but that was because nobody was ordering any drinks... at least, not yet anyways. No one to go there out of pity just yet.
And there it was.
That subtle, but clearly audible, sounds of someone snoring.
"What the hell?" Tycho mouthed.
"It's been like that ever since we started playing." Sam explained. "And it's coming from over there."
The freelance dog turned his body around and pointed at the giant lumbering form that was the Heavy, whose back was turned towards them but the snore was as prominent as ever. The three poker players looked at the direction and were unable to look away.
"He's gotta be sleeping, right? There's just no way in Hell that someone breathes like that." Ash wondered.
"I wouldn't be surprised with someone that big but jeez, that's just annoying." Brock puffed out smoke.
"Should... one of us wake him up?" Tycho raised a brow.
"No." The three answered unanimously.
"Last thing I want to do is accidentally get him to use that Iron Curtain of his on us. Max told me the details of that thing and let's just say I don't want to be on the opposite end of that or else I'd be a swiss cheese dog." Sam moved his feet from the table as a new set of cards came to them.
"Mmmmm, swiss cheese dog." Max smiled.
"See, this is why I don't like guns." The bodyguard raised. "Too many trigger happy freaks."
"This is why I stick with my shotgun." Ash agreed as he also raised. "Hits the target straight on in multiple ways without hitting others."
"Isn't that kinda bad in your line of work?" Tycho checked.
"Eh... can't complain."
The snoring got louder and Sam's shoulders tensed as he folded. "Can't focus with that..."
"And it was a good hand too." Max pointed out.
The round continued with various checks, folds, raises and all-ins, but the snoring didn't vanish once as the game began to hit the three hour mark. At one point, Max left the room as he found the noise to continue to be unbearable. Winslow sat in a chair next to their table, unable to stand the snoring sound and found it that it was quieter sitting with the current poker players, albeit not by much. The three of them played the game entirely in a silent rage as none of them knew what to do.
"Fuck this." Tycho tossed his cards in a fold and placed a hand on his forehead, his leg bouncing in frustration. "The entire game I didn't hear it and now it's all I can fucking hear."
Sam fumed silently but looked at Tycho. "While I'm not a fan of such vulgarity under normal circumstances, this time around, I have to agree."
"I third that." Brock stubbed out his cigarette and looked at Winslow. "Can't you do something about it, see if he's sleeping or if he's actually breathing like that?"
"Explain how it's annoying." Ash insisted.
Winslow thought about it and walked over to the Heavy who had a book in hand and reading glasses on. He was hesitant to approach the giant man but nevertheless tapped the Russian's arm, grabbing his attention.
"Yes?" Heavy raised a brow, looking at Winslow. "What can I help you with?"
"Ah, Mr. Heavy I have to ask this as most of the customers here are also wondering... have you... eh... that is um..." Winslow felt himself backing away and shook his head, "Are you feeling alright? It sounds like you may have a stuffed nose."
"Stuffed nose? What?" Heavy tilted his head slightly. "I do not have stuffed nose."
"So that's just how you breathe?"
"Only when it's humid, yes."
"I see. Would you anyways like a tissue?"
Heavy lightly patted Winslow's head and bursted out a laugh. "Ha ha! No thank you, Mr. Winslow, that will not be necessary, I am feeling quite alright."
"Heh, good to hear." Winslow patted Heavy's arm and walked back towards the others who all appeared to have taken a pause to the game to see how the banter between the two would go down, and admittedly relieved to not hear any of the snoring for those few short minutes.
"And the verdict is?" Tycho asked.
"I eh... couldn't tell." Winslow admitted, hearing Brock growl. "Either he fell asleep while reading his book or he just breathes like that, claims it as something that happens when it's humid."
"It's pretty chilly in here though." Ash pointed out. "So either he's lying or he's actually asleep."
"Either way, it's a pain to my tuchas." Sam huffed.
The new set of cards appeared and for a brief moment, they heard silence. None of them said anything but looked at each other wondering if the snoring had finally come to an end, if they were finally free from that ear scrapping noise that was the Heavy's snore as the Russian mercenary sat up straight, looked around and went back to reading.
And it lasted a solid two minutes before the snoring continued and Ash stood up, slammed his cards on the table, and looked over towards the Heavy, shouting very loudly the caused everyone in the room to jump.
"GO TO BED."
Chapter 3: Carpool Radio
The most recent tournament had ended, as the silent poker player walked away with the night's winning. Strong Bad slammed his gloved fists into the arcade as Max watched with a gleeful grin while Sam sat at a table talking with Winslow. Brock, Ash, and the Heavy sat at the bar drinking as Tycho was picking a song from the jukebox.
After carefully thinking it over, a low-tune jazz song began to omit and fill the quiet Inventory and the webcomic writer took a seat at the bar with the others. The Heavy gave an appreciative nod and continued drinking in silence.
"Y'know, I'm surprised that thing still works." Tycho commented, raising a finger to call for Moxxie.
"No kidding, I was convinced it was part of Brocko's set piece." Ash joked and took a sip from his drink.
"That's because it is..." Brock growled and lit a cigarette.
"You don't run out of those?" Ash raised a brow.
A whirring sound was heard as Claptrap rolled by and pulled himself up on the stool next to the deadite hunter, a feat that caught most of them off guard. "Y'know, you could've just asked ME for some tunes. I have over a thousand songs that are the top hits back on Pandora to pick from that you'd all enjoy!"
"If it's that dubstep crap, then you can drop it." The bodyguard remarked with a side-eyed glare. "I'm pretty sure it can make ears bleed."
"That's because it can!" Claptrap gleefully answered, resulting in a sigh from Brock.
"What kind of songs are you gentlemen into, anyways?" Tycho jumped in as Moxxie placed his drink down. He wondered if any of them would answer or just brush him off when Claptrap was the first to speak up.
"Dubstep or bust! It's the way of the future, man!" Claptrap continued to brag.
"Led Zeppelin is usually my kind of jam. Can go nicely into any given situation." Brock gave a small smile.
"I'm all for the King, baby." Ash smirked, "Elvis is a classic no matter the era."
Tycho nodded and looked at Heavy.
"I told you already, it is Huey Lewis." The Russian said. "You do not remember this conversation we had?"
"Right... right. You did." The webcomic artist nodded. He turned his body to look over at Sam and Winslow. "What about you two?"
"I do like me a good sea shanty every now and again, although as of late I've been finding myself enjoying some smooth jazz." Winslow smiled.
"Oh, I like myself some blue grass. But none of those country music. Those grate my ears." Sam shrugged.
"Which is hilarious because I can't stand blue grass in the slightest." Max quickly answered with that comically large smile of his. Tycho looked between the two in confusion before Sam spoke up again.
"His taste in music changes often."
"Oh, I totally love the cool underground hits that your baby nerd ears never heard of." Strong Bad showboated. Tycho just raised an unamused brow. "Y-you know, like... the Grabage Parbage and the Cool Dude Patrol. Only cool folks like me heard of them."
"Because you're lame."
"Okay." Tycho sipped his drink. "Anyways, I take it none of you listen to like, the top 40s or whatever?"
An almost unanimous no radiated throughout the Inventory, save for Sam and Max who both answered an "it depends".
The night progressed and slowly the regulars began to call it in as they one by one began to leave till all that was left was the freelance police, Brock, and Ash. Sam stretched his arms high above his head and let out a yawn, turning to look at Max who looked to be struggling to stay awake. "Well little buddy, I think that's our cue to skedaddle to sleepy time junction."
"All abooooard..." Max hit his head at the table after failing to keep it up, he remained unaware as the six foot tall dog casually picked him and began to leave, but not before stopping to look at the two men.
"You two leaving also?"
"Yeah... I have work first thing in the morning." Ash sighed.
"I'm sure Hank and Dean will start asking questions... they're clingy that way." Brock rubbed his forehead.
The four of them left to the parking lot, Sam gave a wave to Brock and Ash as he and Max drove off in the DeSoto. "See you tomorrow night, Brock." Ash waved to the blond and walked over to his car, when he heard the engine die on him. Brock didn't leave and stared at the rundown Oldsmobile and stubbed out his last cigarette before crossing his arms.
Ash tried again. And a second. And a third. But it was apparent that his car was dead. He slammed his head into the steering wheel and cursed. "Of course it had to go out and die on me." He jumped a bit when he heard Brock place a hand on the roof of the car.
"Need a lift?"
The black haired hunter didn't say anything for a while but let out a mumbled "yeah", getting out of his car and locking it. The two got into Brock's car and Ash stared at the Oldsmobile. "Hopefully it'll still be there..." He said.
"Knowing Winslow, it probably will be." Brock started the car, feeling the low rumble. "How you gonna get to work?"
"I'll take the bus. I did it before so it shouldn't be an issue... probably should call that I'll be late." Ash sighed, watching the streetlights go by. They stopped at a red light and he looked over at the radio when saw a cassette tape. He picked it up and held it to Brock. "Can I turn on some tunes?"
Ash smirked and clicked the radio to life as he placed the tape inside only to stare at it in disbelief as the song began.
"Whatcha gonna do with all that junk
All that junk inside that trunk
I'm a get get get get you drunk
Get you love drunk off my hump~"
Ash turned his head towards Brock who had a realization look in his eyes as the song continued to play. The deadite hunter tried to figure if he was actually hearing what he was and pointed at the radio.
"Um... I... didn't know you liked this kind of song. No judgement or anything, but--"
"It's Dean's." Brock was quick to answer, gripping the steering wheel tightly.
"Oh. Do... you wanna talk about it or--"
With a growl, Brock leaned and closed the radio off.
"No. No you don't. That works too." Ash nodded and remained quiet the entire drive home. "Just to be clear, we're... never bringing this up to the guys at the Inventory right?"
Brock breathed through his nose.
They both swore to never speak of it again.
Chapter 4: Newbie
Tycho grumbled to the bar, having lost his money yet again to the game of poker. As he wandered away from the bar, he noticed the Heavy standing by the stair case railings watching the game with a furrowed brow, and figuring since the Russian had also lost within the same match, some company might be needed. He walked up to the stair where there was a clear view of the poker game going on, now set between Max and the new silent player that joined that day, the only sounds being heard was some inane banter the lagomorph was spewing leaving the player looking incredibly uncomfortable and confused and Heavy's breathing.
"So, what do you make of the newbie?" Tycho asked in a whispered tone.
"I do not know... they confuse me." Heavy admitted, his eyes locked on the game as he watched the two carelessly toss their chips to the center.
"Confuse you?" The webcomic writer raised a brow, "What do you mean?"
"They don't have plan. They just toss their chips willy nilly while looking like a scared bird." He pointed at them, "See?"
As if on cue, the silent player just tossed their chips in and had a ridiculous grin on their face. It didn't read of confidence, but it didn't read of nerves either. It did, however, read entirely of "FIRST TIME PLAYER".
"Maybe it's just their poker face?" Tycho suggested, but then the player lost and slammed their forehead into the table with a groan. "Ooooor maybe that's just how they look."
"It's annoying." Heavy growled.
The two kept watching the game in silence, Max would win a round, the player would win a round. It was feeling like a never ending match. Tycho leaned his body forward on the railing, his head resting on his hand as he watched the match keep going. "Hey... how did you think they heard of the place? I'm pretty sure I've never seen them before and usually the Inventory is pretty particular with their guests." He side eyed Strong Bad who was blabbing his mouth to a very exhausted and very frustrated Brock Samson. "...Usually."
Heavy just shook his head with uncertainty. "I can not say, but I did overhear Mr. Winslow talking about bringing new people to liven things up. Perhaps this new player is that person?" He then looked at Tycho and gave the man a small nudge and a giggle. "But they're terrible player."
"They... beat us both at a showdown, Heavy." Tycho reminded the Russian with a frown
"Oh. Right." Heavy leaned on the railing as well. "It still is funny seeing the deer eye look."
The webcomic artist watched as the Russian attempted to impersonate the player and let out a snort at the failed attempt. The two kept watching the game, at one point ordering drinks to have due to the game that seemed to have never ended until Max spoke up with a delightful glee on his face.
"Same cards! You're just as crazy as I am to place a bet like that with cards like these!" The lagomorph giggled. The player just gave a nervous smile and looked towards Winslow who was shuffling the cards and shrugged.
Tycho and Heavy looked at each other baffled and looked back at the match.
"That's just sad..." The webcomic artist mumbled. The match kept going back and forth for another when an idea sparked in Tycho's head and a mischievous grin appeared on his face. "Say Heavy... humor me here."
Heavy raised a brow and side eyed Tycho.
"How about we make their match more interesting for us?"
"...What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about having a bet on the two of them, obviously."
"But we're both broke."
Silence befell them and the sounds of chips remained.
"True." Tycho nodded. "How about instead of cash, we bet with um..." He looked around the room and noticed the bar. "Drinks. Loser owes the winner drinks for let's say... a month?"
Heavy placed a finger on his chin and contemplated, a grin appearing on his face and stuck his hand out for Tycho to shake. "It is bet. Little rabbit will beat the nervous new player."
"Alright, it's a bet." Tycho grinned and took hold, a firm shake between the two of them as they watched the game. One drink, two drinks, eventually too many to count but after a while the Heavy slapped a heavy hand on Tycho and shook him.
"Look!" The Heavy exclaimed.
The silent player looked scared and frustrated whereas Max just kept grinning. It was fair to say that the lagomorph had probably the best poker face out of everyone in the Inventory. Rubbing their face, they shoved their remaining chips into the center and looked between Winslow and Max. Tycho and Heavy held their breaths as they watched the final cards be played out, but it was hard to see from where they were what exactly those cards were. More then that, Max and the player's expression didn't tell them anything as to whether or not who was winning.
Winslow then announced the play.
"Max has... TWO pairs! The player has... a pair of twos." Winslow looked at the lagomorph. "Max wins the hand and the tournament!"
The player's face dropped to a sadden look and slammed their head into the table while Max clapped his hands in joy. Winslow walked over to pat the player on the back and was about to give them his condolences when all three jolted at the sudden loud noise.
"NO!" Tycho hit his head on the railing and Heavy just gave it out a hearty laugh.
"I like my peach bellinis, Tycho." The Russian laughed and walked away.
"Great... more people I owe money to..." Tycho grumbled, he leaned up and saw the player walking by, giving a sheepish smile to the webcomic writer. "You bet on a pair of twos? Really?"
The player simply shrugged.
Chapter 5: The Bad People
Moxxi sauntered to the other side of the bar, leaning provocatively at Sam and smiled. "And what can I get for you, handsome?"
"Oh, nothing for me please. Just need a place to sit until Max is finished with his side job with Heavy." Sam waved off. "But thank you for the offer."
The bartender gave a nod and walked off. Sam leaned a bit on the counter and looked around, at the end of the table, Strong Bad sat with his cup of apple juice and on the other Brock was enjoying his whisky. The poker match was still going strong between the deadite hunter, the silent player, the robot from Pandora and the webcomic writer.
"SON OF A BITCH!"
Well, just the first three, Sam thought. He heard the angry scrape of the chair next to him with some various profanities under Tycho's breath. Sam watched as the writer called over Moxxi. "Gin on the--"
"Sorry sugar, but I can't get you your drink till you pay up." Moxxi cut off smoothly, Tycho just blinked in bewilderment.
"I was told by some... people, to not serve till you pay."
Sam just watched the complexion on the writer's face drop and him looking horrified. Moxxi, patted Tycho's hand and walked off, leaving him to place his head in his hands. "Un-fucking-believable..."
"Ha ha! The baby writer can't get his baby drink." Strong Bad mocked, "Unlike me drinking my super special macho manly drink."
"That's literally fucking apple juice, you uncultured moron." Tycho slammed his hands on the table and glared angrily at the not luchador.
"Nuh uh. And besides, at least I can still pay for it." Strong Bad took a sip, savoring the growl that he heard from Tycho.
"You owe people?" Sam asked.
"Was pretty sure Max told you..." Tycho grumbled.
Try as he might, Brock stubbed out his cigarette. "I shouldn't ask, but I'm curious. Who exactly do you owe?"
Everyone at the bar went quite, hearing Tycho's feet shaking at the bar. Eventually the webcomic artist sighed in defeat and looked among the three. "I um... I owe the Inventory a lot of money... like... A LOT of money. More specifically the Owner."
Sam winced. "Oh, that's not good. The owner here tends to be really adamant about getting their money back."
"Tell me about it, they're still on my ass about that ah... scuffle I had a few months back." Brock took a sip from his drink, "So tell us, how'd you find yourself indebted to the Owner of all people?"
"Well... it started like this..."
He couldn't believe it... he lost. Tycho Brahe lost ten thousand dollars. He held his head in his hands and groaned, Gabe was NEVER going to let him live this down after all the shit talk Tycho did just hours prior about how he could not only win, but make double the money he paid with. Sitting at a booth by himself, he contemplated what lie he would tell the webcomic artist when he saw someone standing by him from the corner of his eye.
"Can I help you?" He mumbled, not turning his head.
"Hmm... it seems like the other way around." Winslow spoke. "Mind if I take a seat?"
Tycho gestured for them to take a seat and looked up at him. "What do you want?" Tycho asked.
"Well, you look pretty upset, what happened?" He asked.
"I lost literally of my money, I think that warrants a reason to be upset." Tycho sighed. "I just need one more round, I feel lucky enough to win back some of my money."
"Really?" Winslow raised a brow.
He eyed him again, causing him to feel uncomfortable but then he smiled at him. "Alright, tell you what. You sit here, and I will go see what I can do."
"What do you mean...?"
Winslow stood up and patted Tycho's shoulder, leaving to the flight of stairs. He shouldn't have... but Tycho admittedly watched the portly man as he climbed up to the second floor and knocked on the door, he watched as it opened revealing the words on the glass that read "OWNER" and Winslow disappear. Sitting back in his both, riddled with nerves, Winslow eventually came back with a grin on his face.
"Alright, I opened for you a tab." Winslow smiled as he took a seat.
"Really?" Tycho's eyes widen with joy. "I... I don't know what to say, ah... thank--"
Winslow put a hand out to stop Tycho.
"On... one condition."
"Crap." Tycho sighed. "What's the condition?"
"The Owner agreed to let you back into the tournament. They bought your entry back in. In exchange... the moment you win, just pay them back what you owed them which is a hundred dollars."
"Just a hundred?"
"Yes, should be easy enough for you, right?" Winslow stuck his hand out. "Do we have an accord?"
Tycho looked at the extended hand and grinned, taking hold and giving a firm shake.
"And you agreed to that?" Sam stared gobsmacked. "You kept losing every other tournament!"
Tycho rubbed his face and mumbled, "Don't remind me..."
"So then what happened?" Brock asked, having lit a new cigarette while the story was being told.
"I... met the Inventory's enforcer..."
One hundred dollars being easy his ass. He was a good million dollars in debt and tried to do the math to see how much he would need to win to get back the money to the Owner when he heard a female voice clear her throat next to him.
"Moxxi... please. Not now."
"I'm not Moxxi." A stern female voice spoke.
Tycho looked up and was admittedly caught off guard by the female's appearance. She was well dressed and looked confident, he felt her eyes pierce through him and reading everything about him. For some reason, he felt the need to sit up straight at her sight... something about her read as someone to clearly not fuck with. He gestured with his hand for her to take a seat, she didn't need to be told twice.
"I ah... h-have we met?" Tycho asked.
She shook her head. He rubbed the back of his neck and extended his hand out.
"Tycho Brahe." She answered curtly. "I know."
"That's not scary at all." Tycho mumbled and leaned back, "Ah... how... how do you know who I am?"
"It's sort of my job to keep tabs on the guests of the Inventory... more specifically regarding the finances." She spoke with confidence. The female leaned forward, resting her chin on her knuckles and kept looking at Tycho. "And I know that you owe quite a bit of money."
He gulped. "Is... this the part where you get your goons or whatever to drag me to an alleyway and beat me up?"
"Oh, no. It's not in the Owner's nature. No. This is your final warning that if you don't find a way to pay back the Inventory I will personally find a way to make your life an absolute living Hell." She just smiled coldly.
"To tell would spoil and ruin the threat."
"So, I'm giving you one of two options." The woman leaned forward. "Either start winning these tournaments, or work here and be forced to pay back every single cent. And that's quite a lot of cents." She stuck her hand out, "Do we have an accord?"
He eyed her and her hand, cautiously sticking his hand when she gripped tightly causing him to wince and grip the table, but it did nothing as she pulled him towards her allowing her to lean into his ear.
"Jeez, you have a grip like a fucking bear trap!" He whimpered.
"And if you try and skimp out on town, I will personally track your ass down and I will follow through with the initial threat until you pay back the money." She threatened. "Are we clear?"
She released his grip and smiled. "Then I wish you a good evening. Have fun, Tycho."
He watched her stand up and leave, gripping his hand that felt like a bruise was forming.
"You can't just like, use your web comic to pay back the Inventory?" Brock asked.
Tycho shook his head. "I really don't want Gabe to know about this. It's embarrassing enough that I keep losing, especially so much cash."
"That because Tie-Choo here doesn't have any money, unlike me who has like... a gajillion dollars." Strong Bad bragged.
"Strong Bad, I swear to God, I will beat you behind this alleyway if you keep it up." Tycho growled.
"Well, anyways... you should be halfway through with the debt, right?" Sam asked, only to frown when he saw the webcomic writer glumly shake his head. "So... you owe the Inventory more?"
"How much?" Brock asked.
"Triple the initial amount."
All three reclined back and winced.
"I'm not even sure how you did that, not even Max could pull off a stint like that and he was banned from playing poker here." Sam scratched his head. "So what are you gonna do?"
A female walked over to the bar, taking a seat right next to Tycho and placing a hand on his shoulder. "So... rough night?" She asked. The three didn't need to be told who the unknown female was based on the way Tycho immediately tensed up.
"Y-yeah... yep." Tycho nodded. "I ah... yeah."
"Oh Tycho..." She gripped the back of his neck and a small yelp came out. "Option one is off the table. Mr. Winslow?"
"Yes, ma'am?" Winslow answered as he stood next to her.
"Meet your new assistant. He's going to start paying back every single cent that he owes starting today." She patted the writer's back and moved off the stool. "If he does anything to break the deal, just let me know."
"Yes, ma'am!" Winslow saluted and watched her leave. Tycho soon noticed that everyone aside from just those at the bar were paying attention to what was happening and looked directly at him. To say he was embarrassed was an understatement.
"Ha ha! Looks like somebody just go whip-- OOF!!"
Strong Bad never finished his sentenced as Tycho kicked the stool Strong Bad was sitting on causing him to land hard on the floor.
Chapter 6: Decorations
"And then the customer had the audacity to call me a liar! I know the store like the back of my hand, Brocko, and I know for a fact that I in fact did NOT have that extra frying pan." Ash huffed as he and Brock entered the Inventory.
"Sounds like it was a rough day." Brock chuckled.
"I hate the holidays sometimes and what the Hell?"
The two stopped as they looked around. The usual dark and admittedly dreary at times Inventory suddenly looked like winter wonder land with blue lights strung across the ceiling and stair case railings, snowflakes dangling down elegantly and glistening against the dim lights, white fluff along the floor to give the illusion of snow, garlands attached to the various tables and booth to give it that holiday look and holding on the ladder was the portly host who was watching Tycho finish putting the last of the snowflakes.
"Hey, Winnie ah... what's going on here?" Ash asked, looking confused. "Is it a new theme or something?"
"It looks like Frosty the Snowman threw up all over the place." Brock pointed out.
"Good evening to you too, gentlemen. It's not really a theme that was unlocked or any vomiting that transpired, no... the Owner felt it would be festive to decorate the place for the holidays." Winslow smiled.
"How long did it take you to decorate the place?" The brunet asked, looking at the sight.
"Not that long, just a day or two. Would have taken longer but thankfully I have my assistant to help."
"Assistant?" The two men asked, Winslow pointed up towards Tycho and smirked.
"Oh right... that debt thing." Brock recalled. He grabbed his pack and pulled out a cigarette, lighting it and took a drag before looking back up. "Hey Tycho, I think that snowflake to to your right look a bit crooked."
"Bite me!" Tycho yelled from atop the ladder.
"So the Owner felt it would be festive, great." Ash said. "But what got them to suddenly decorate?"
"Well, they drove by this festival in the park, and when they saw the bright lights and festive decorations, it inspired them to decorate the Inventory." Winslow explained. "Bring some festive cheer."
"They didn't decorate for Halloween or Thanksgiving though." Brock pointed out.
"They weren't in town for that."
"Ah." The two nodded.
"I finished!" Tycho declared and started to climb down the ladder.
Brock took a drag and looked at Winslow. "Humor me here, pirate man. Who's changing outfits to fit the theme? That's always the case with these things."
"Is it the Owner?" Ash sounded a little excited.
"No no no, the Owner isn't going to part take in that." Winslow shook his head.
"Buuuut it was their idea." Brock pointed out. "If not them, then will it be you?"
Winslow just grinned as Tycho touched the floor. "Well, it will be one of you folks, of course."
Tycho brushed his hands from all the glitter and dust. "Who's going to be the sucker dressed as Santa Claus? Will it be you?"
"Ha! No, but I wouldn't mind throwing my hat in the ring to dress up as the jolly old man." Winslow laughed. "However, we do have someone planned to dress up as Santa so there's no need to worry about that."
"Who said we were worried?" Brock puffed out the smoke.
"So who's dressed up as the fat man?" Ash crossed his arms. "It sure as Hell isn't any of us, right?"
"Strong Bad and Claptrap are out of the question for very obvious reasons. You'd need someone big, right? Could be Heavy." Tycho suggested.
"I guess it would be a heavy responsibility, but that doesn't answer who it's going to be." Ash pointed out.
"He meant the Russian, dumbass." Brock sighed.
"...I knew that."
Tycho and Brock rolled their eyes.
"Eh... well, it could have been him. But he declined the offer." Winslow pointed out. "We eh... we found someone else."
"Who?" Brock asked.
The door kicked wide open and Max launched himself onto the bar dressed with the familiar red coat and giant bag over his shoulder. On his face, Max sported a giant white fluffy beard that didn't cover his shark-like grin in the slightest. "HO HO HO DIRT BAGS!!"
"Max?!" Tycho, Brock, and Ash gasped. They all looked to Winslow for an explanation but the portly host just shrugged.
"You crack me up, little buddy." Sam walked in, wearing a suit with snowman patterns all over it.
"You didn't pick SAM of all people to be Santa?" Ash pointed at the six foot tall dog while glaring at Winslow.
"Max and I flipped a coin and he won." Sam explained as he watched Max run around the Inventory laughing maniacally. "Plus red makes me look fat."
"Oh my God..." Brock rubbed the bridge of his nose, hearing the lagomorph threatening everyone in the Inventory to sleep with one eye open, Sam smiling the whole time, showing no signs of stopping the lago, and Winslow shouting for Max to get off the ladder.
Chapter 7: The Guest
With the Inventory closed for the night, the regulars decided to migrate from their usual spot to a bar down the road and sat around at a table after a serious tournament. Brock took his usual drag of his cigarette while Sam and Max were telling their story about the time they rescued Big Foot from the country singer to those who were interested in listening. Ash and Heavy were exchanging tips of cleaning their shotguns as Tycho drank his much earned gin after successfully winning back some money from the silent player who had left for the evening and Claptrap and Strong Bad were in the midst of babbling like children about music.
It didn't take long before Ash looked unease, it took even less time for Sam to notice.
"Something bugging you, Ash?" Sam asked.
The deadite hunter just shook his head. "No, well... kinda? Did anybody else notice that we were short on particular regular?"
"You mean the player?" Brock raised a brow. "Junior left right after they lost their money."
"No, not them. I saw them leave." Ash answered.
"Maybe Glados?" Claptrap chimed in, "Haven't seen my beautiful gal in months!"
"No! Not her either!"
"Maybe it's your self esteem!" Max smiled.
"You crack me up, little buddy."
"I'm serious!" Ash slammed his prosthetic hand hard on the table, earning himself a few of the other guests to look over.
"You're talking about Winslow, right?" Tycho finally spoke up. "Because I didn't have anyone making me do demeaning orders the whole day today and I honestly thought it was just me that noticed that."
Everyone at the table fell silent at the sudden realization, Tycho just stared at them all bewildered.
"You're telling me, NONE of you guys noticed that?" A chorus of no erupted from the table, resulting in a groan from the webcomic writer. "And you're all suppose to be observant."
"Where is Reggie anyways?" Sam asked, leaning forward on the table to look at Tycho.
"I was kinda hoping you would know... you talk with him more then I do."
"I guess..." Sam scratched his temple.
Heavy looked around the room, feeling admittedly curious about where the missing host was the whole night when he tapped on the table to grab all of their attention and pointed at the bar, "I found Mr. Winslow. He is there."
They all looked at where the Russian was pointing and saw Winslow ordering his drink. Ash raised a hand to grab his attention but quickly put it down when a tall lanky male figure walked to Winslow and patted his hand on the host's back.
"Ah... does anyone recognize the man next to Winslow?" Ash asked, a chorus of no came out.
"Could be someone he knows." Brock shrugged. He turned around and waved a hand over, quickly grabbing Winslow's attention who waved back and tapped at the blond to follow. The unknown figure looked pretty young but the beard admittedly made the blond look older, whether or not it was intentional was unknown.
"Gentlemen! What a surprise to see you!" Winslow greeted, placing his drink on the table. "Here I thought you all went home for the night."
"Same can kinda be said about you." Tycho pointed out.
"Where were you man? You're like the jolly fat friend that's in every friend group!" Claptrap finally joined in, completely disregarding the story Max was in the middle of.
"What about Heavy?" Strong Bad asked. "He's..." He looked up and immediately looked down. "...Never mind."
"I suppose I do warrant an explanation." Winslow scratched his cheek. "I went over to the airport to pick up my friend here. He just came back from a business trip and it's been ages since I saw him, figured it was only right to pick him up myself instead of him having to take a taxi."
"Nice." Brock nodded approvingly.
"Hi, I'm Guybrush Threepwood." He waved, hearing a chorus of hi and hellos.
"Guybrush? What kind of lame-o name is that?" Strong Bad scoffed.
"Well, what's your name?" Guybrush asked.
"You never heard of moi? You must be a lame nerd with no lappy."
"Dipshit here is Strong Bad." Tycho cut-off, which resulted in a small snicker from Guybrush. Tycho then turned his body and began pointing at each person. "I'm Tycho. That's Brock, Ash, Sam, Max, Claptrap, and the big guy over there is Heavy."
"Heavy?" Guybrush raised a brow, looking up at the giant man.
"It is short for Heavy Weapons Guy." Heave clarified.
"Nice to see ya, Squinky!" Max greeted as Guybrush and Winslow took a seat after the others made room for the two to join. Brock tapped his cigarette and looked over at Guybrush.
"You're friends with Winslow? Does that make you a pirate too?" The bodyguard asked, took a drag and continued, "How come we never saw you around the Inventory?"
Guybrush took a sip. "Ah... heh, yeah, I guess I still am one. Haven't really been out at sea in a while but yeah... yeah that's my occupation or rather it was. And I haven't really been there because I'm not all that into playing poker."
"Was a pirate? What do you do now?" Brock kept asking.
"Eh... nothing really. Kinda got a few restrictions on me these last few years and I've been trying to talk a deal with this big corporation but um... it's... it's been rough." Guybrush admitted and took a sip from his drink. "It was why I travelled, had to meet them... but that's a conversation for another time."
"Business talk now away, Have you ever played poker?" Ash chimed in. "I'm just curious."
Guybrush nodded. "I have, a handful of times actually."
"You should totally join us next time then, man! What's your poker style? Sneaky style? Hidden aces? Oh! Word manipulation!" Claptrap began listing off, Ash and Brock groaned while Winslow just shook his head. Guybrush however, was chuckling.
"More like 'hope I have a good hand and Lady Luck likes me' kind of play style." Guybrush answered. "I only had to cheat once and it was for a diamond."
"So Max style then." Tycho took a sip.
"It's effective!" The lagomorph grinned.
"Whoa whoa whoa wait, a diamond?" Ash nearly did a spit take, "You're going to have to explain that one a bit more, blondie."
"Well, I um... see what happened was I turned my wife into a gold statue when I proposed to her? Using a cursed diamond ring from my arch-nemesis hold." Guybrush began to tell.
"As one normally proposes." Ash nodded.
"So I was told that the only way to break the curse was to find a diamond ring of equal or greater value, turns out that a bunch of bandits had it and the only way for me to get it back was to play poker with them." The blond pirate continued, "Of course, I had to out smart them, and I did... by using tarot cards. Bunch of idiots really, but I was able to get the diamond AND win the game too. A win-win so to speak."
"Damn..." Brock stubbed out his cigarette.
"You should swing by the Inventory if you're in town." Sam smiled. "Play a round with us."
"Ah... heh... I'm not sure." Guybrush rubbed the back of his neck.
"You seem like a bad enough dude to hang with us." Claptrap sounded eager. "Hey, Reggie, you should invite him to come over tomorrow!"
"Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt." Winslow chuckled.
"I um... I don't really play poker anymore." Guybrush took a sip from his drink
"Why'd you stop playing then?" Ash asked. "Not feeling lucky or skilled enough without cheating?"
"No. Sans the one time, I'm actually not THAT bad... at least, I'd like to think I'm not that bad. I promised my wife that--"
"You have a wife?" Heavy raised a brow. "But you look like a baby... how does baby man have a wife?"
Guybrush frowned. "I'm... I'm not that young. I've been married to her for well over twenty years."
"So since you were a baby?" Strong Bad joked, resulting in just a glare from both pirates and Tycho.
"He gets worst the more you stay with him..." Tycho whispered to Guybrush's ear. He moved back and took a sip from his drink, "So what's the lucky woman's name?"
"Elaine." Guybrush smiled, looking like he was beaming as he said her name.
"Where is she?" Sam asked.
"At home, she was tired and I didn't want to drag her if she wasn't feeling up to it. Wouldn't be fair to her, y'know?" Guybrush tapped his drink. "Besides, I could use a bit of an outing. Been a while since I did it with Winslow here of all people." He smiled and patted Winslow's back who smiled warmly.
"I still have a hard time believing you have a wife, you should bring her with you to the Inventory." Heavy said with his arms crossed.
"Ah... maybe, I'll ask her if she wants to join." Guybrush chuckled nervously. He felt a buzz and dug into his pocket, pulling out a small phone. "Speaking of which... I gotta take this."
They all watched Guybrush leave the table as he answered the phone. Brock took a drink from his whisky and looked back at Winslow, "So real talk, is he actually a pirate or just some hippie living his hitchhiking life with that kind of hair?"
"He's indeed a Mighty Pirate™." Winslow assured. "Just eh... on hiatus. He's been landlocked by this big corporation after a deal going south and he's been trying to get out of it for a while. Been proving more difficult then initially thought."
"Oof... that sounds rough." Brock frowned.
"So are you going to actually invite him over or was that just being polite?" Ash asked.
"I'm considering it, never hurts to ask. Even if he just sits around, I'm sure he'll find something to do. He always does."
"Sounds like a story to me." Sam answered. "Care to share, Reggie?"
"Well, there was this one time where I left him in an office for roughly... an hour? He had some small business matters to take care of with the missus but was falling asleep during the conference so we figured it would be best if he waiting in the lobby. By the time we came back, he somehow managed to grab every pencil and pen and launched it into the ceiling. Made it into a smiley face I believe." Winslow recalled, he looked at the others who looked confused. "What?"
"How did he grab all those pens and do that and when can he start teaching me?!" Max asked, sounding excited and slightly jealous.
Guybrush walked back and took a seat at the table, taking a drink from his mug.
"Everything alright there, Guy?" Brock asked.
"Yeah, that was Elaine. Just asking if everything was alright." Guybrush answered. "I actually need to head back, but it was nice meeting you guys. I'll hopefully see you later, Winslow?"
Guybrush smiled and patted Winslow's back before waving to everyone, leaving the crowded bar. Strong Bad looked at the group who fell silent and shook his head.
"But what kind of lame name is Guybrush Threepwood anyways?!"
"Goddammit..." Tycho covered his face in his hands.
Chapter 8: Grabby Hands
Ash let out a boisterous laugh as he scooped up the massive pile of chips, Claptrap slammed his face into the table with his cursing bleeped out while Brock glared bitterly at the deadite hunter and Sam pouted at the lost of all his chips.
“Sam has been eliminated from play.” Winslow announced.
“Next time I bet, I won’t follow Max’s sign language.” The six foot dog grumbled as he left the table. He looked to his side where Max stood ever so loyally and pouting as well.
“I told you that jumping on foot while twirling and flapping the bird means fold, Sam!” Max huffed and crossed his arms.
“You complicated scamp.” Sam chuckled.
The two walked away from the table as the next round began and went to claim a booth for themselves. Sam eyed the game, watching the others play in rhythm and having those quick witted banters to and fro. “It’s funny how once you leave the game it seems so easily simple.” Sam commented.
“Like a long and convoluted Japanese RPG.” Max added with his sharp grin. “Just when you think you got the rules, BAM! A new set of zippers and spiky hair pretty boys come in and mess up your fun.”
“That’s… not what I had in mind, little buddy.” Sam scratched his forehead, seeing Max having already forgotten the conversation at hand when his stomach grumbled. “Oof, didn’t realize I was so hungry. Do you have any snacks on you?”
“Do you want my snacks?”
“On second thought, probably not. Who knows where it’s been.”
“Well that’s fine. Cause I ate it all while you were playing.” The Lagomorph beamed. “I’m gonna go grab some more snacks. You have any change?”
Sam just stared in silence before it clicked for the second half of the Freelance Police.
“Oh yeah. You crash and burned.” Max chuckled. “Be right back!”
Hopping out of the booth, Max made his way along the Inventory. He walked by the table where the Heavy snored reading his book, lowering his ears slightly due to the grating nature of the sound but still giving a small wave to the Russian mercenary who spotted the small lago and returned the gesture. It was nice to be on good terms, Max figured.
He sauntered by Strong Bad who looked to be struggling with Buster Blaster and a passed out Tycho by the bar.
That was a story for another day, Max decided.
“Hey Moxxi, where’s the vending machine at?” Max asked, spotting the oddly dressed bartender mindlessly reading through what appeared to be a magazine. “I want to get my fritos on.”
“Up the stairs by the bookshelf, sugar.” Moxxi cooed, giving a small wink. “But are you sure you don’t want some of my cooking? It's extra spicy.”
“Eh… not today.” The lagomorph shrugged before venturing towards his destination. He wasn’t kidding when he made mention of the horrible bag of chips and by jove, he was getting those chips. Walking to the more desolate section of the Inventory, hearing only the muted sounds of cheers, yelling, and off-key singing behind the closed off doors, the Godly vending machine awaited him in all of it's florescent light glory.
Grinning, Max reached into his pocket (or a loose definition of it) searching and managing to pull out change, surprising even himself that he had any form of currency on him.
"Now let's see why my gluttonous tummy would like..." He mumbled, looking at his options. Lays chips that looked to have been expired, Rice Krispie treats that looked questionable, Ruffles, and... "There you are!" Max smiled at the familiar Fritos chips. Eagerly, he dropped his change into the slot and punched in the three digits for the chips. Rubbing his hand greedily, he watched the machine slowly work. "Come to Max, you scandalous bag of chips."
The machine whirred and hummed and just as the bag was ready to fall.
"Huh." Max blinked in silence, seeing the bag get itself caught between it's once captive shelf and the glass. He walked up and banged at the glass, but the chips didn't budge. The lago scratched his temple and punched the glass once again, but no dice. "Oh c'mon..."
He pulled out his gun and attempted to shoot the glass. It was frowned upon and he got his ear chewed out by Winslow for doing it once (well, five times really, but who was counting), but lecture be damned, he wanted his chips! Firing twice, the bullets deflected off the glass, forcing the lago to duck as it flew by him and into the crates behind him.
"Curses, foiled by bullet-proof glass!" He snapped his fingers, frowning. "Guess Winnie wasn't kidding when he said the Owner would do some drastic..."
Digging into his "pocket" he looked for more change but frowned when he fell short.
"No worries, I can think of something..." Max muttered, seeing the bag taunting him in it's prison. He could have gone downstairs and ask if anyone had change, but he didn't want to leave the chips for anyone else to grab. He didn't have any means to get in touch with anyone. Out of good measure, he tried banging on the glass a third time, but more violently.
"Give me my chips, you harlot!!" Max yelled, slipping to the floor groaning.
The lago saw the slip that his reward would have otherwise fallen through and a thought came. Why not just grab it?
He slipped his hand in and pushed himself further in, trying to grab the bag of chips. It was taunting him how his finger could brush against it but couldn't grab it. He scowled and furrowed his brows. "Curse my fuzzy butterfingers!! Hnnnnnngh!!" Max pushed himself closer to the point his entire arm was inside the vending machine and his cheek was up against the glass. "Come... here... you scandalous-- huh."
Turning his head, his shark-like grin returned when he saw in his hands was the chips.
"Yay! Time to-- Hm. Hmmmmmmmmmph... oh crud." Max mumbled, his ears falling behind his head, realizing his hand was stuck in the vending machine. He tugged but all it did was hurt him. "You have to be joking..." He slid to the floor with his arm still stuck and grumbled.
He didn't know how long he was there for or if anyone noticed, but his ears perked at the sound of footsteps. Max looked at the source of the sound when he heard whistling. "Hello?" Max called out.
The whistling stopped and from around the corner, Ash peeked his head.
"Oh, hey there Bugs." Ash greeted.
"Don't call me that." Max squinted his eyes as Ash approached closer.
The deadite hunter saw the ensnared lago and scratched his cheek. "What the hell happened here?"
"I was trying to reach for Excalibur but it appears I'm not the chosen one." Max remarked dryly. "However, the machine has happened to take a liking to my otherwise questionable but adorable arm. The wedding is in July."
"No spare change?"
"You wouldn't happen to have a key on you, would you?" Max asked.
"No, but I have a chainsaw. Messy as shit, but it does the job." Ash shrugged, bending down to show the iron hand. "But you get a neat hand if you go to the right blacksmith."
"Williams, where are you? Winslow is asking for--" Brock stopped in his place and saw the two. All he could do was raise a brow. "The Hell happened?"
"Rabbit season happened, Brocko."
"I will kick you." The lago threatened.
Brock walked up and couldn't help but snicker. "That's pretty hilarious."
"I will kick you too!"
"Any suggestions?" Ash asked.
"Did you try letting go of it?" Brock asked.
"Over my dead fuzzy body will I let go of the Fritos." Max growled.
"Okay. We can try greasing up his arm, slip right out with enough tugs." Brock pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Pulling out a stick and a light, he inhaled and puffed out the smoke. "Just need some grease. Moxxi might have some."
"How do you know that?" Ash raised a brow. Max looked equally curious. Brock just smoked quietly.
"I'll ask her." He muttered and walked off, leaving the two alone.
After a long silence with the sound of someone yelling behind a door, Max spoke up.
"So who won the tournament?"
"Sure. Neat." Ash grumbled.
As more time passed, the smell of Brock's cigarette came back to the hallway followed by Sam as well as Winslow.
"Hi, Sam!" Max greeted enthusiastically.
"What in the Bluebeard tangled at a hair salon on Easter Sunday happened to you, Max?" Sam asked, bewildered.
"Well, I tried reaching for these delicious chips as I've made mentioned before and ended up being smitten by this accursed corporate vending machine." Max retold.
"You crack me up, little buddy."
The six foot tall freelance police officer dug into his coat pocket and pulled out a jar of crisco grease and began slathering Max's arm with it.
"Mmmm... I will taste delicious."
"Don't eat your arm, you rascal." Sam mumbled.
Winslow crossed his arms while Brock and Ash stood beside him, watching the procedure, "Max, what have we been telling you about that vending machine?"
"Take it out to dinner first?"
Ash snorted and Winslow sighed.
"No... not that. To-- oh you know what, never mind." The portly man rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Sam stood up and patted his hands on his pants, "Alright, that should do it. Mind giving me a hand pulling Max out?" He asked, looking at the three gentlemen in the hallway. The three nodding, they all gathered around and grabbed hold of the lago.
"Careful now, I'm extra ticklish." Max teased. Already feeling the annoyed, confused, and unamused glare from Brock, Ash, Sam and Winslow respectively.
"Okay, on three." Sam ordered. "One... two... THREE!"
With a hard tug, the five of them crumbled hard against the wall as the vending machine shook from the sudden yank. Groaning and rubbing the back of their heads or backs, Max looked at his hand and saw he was still holding the chips.
"Pop goes the lago!" Max laughed.
"I hope it was worth it, little buddy." Sam muttered, readjusting his hat.
"Let's find out." He opened the bag, grabbing a fried treat and taking a bite. After a moment of hearing him chew, he handed the bag to Sam who also grabbed a treat, eating some but then frowning.
"What's wrong with it?" Brock asked.
Sam pouted. "It's a little stale."
"Want me to grab another?" Max asked, wiggling his greased fingers eagerly.
"No!" Ash, Winslow, and Brock shouted.
Sam just laughed and ruffled the top of Max's head.
"You crack me up, little buddy."
Chapter 9: The Room(s)
The tournament ended for the night, but the guests were all sitting around the area minding their own business. With Sam and Max sitting in their booth yammering to a curious Tycho, Brock and Ash drinking away at the bar to an ever flirtatious Moxxi, and Heavy and Strong Bad casually conversing over the many uses that boxing gloves possess.
Winslow sat quietly at a table, scrolling by on the phone for any updates and frowned when he saw no news of what he was searching for. Another fruitless endeavor. Switching out from reading news feed to finally answered the various texts from Guybrush, Winslow remained unaware of a particular robot wheeling on over and hopping in the chair adjacent to the portly man.
"GAH!" Winslow jumped and nearly dropped his phone, quickly grabbing it before it met it's demise on the floor and sighed, looking at the Pandorian robot. "Yes, Claptrap?"
"I have a question about this place, and you're the man who knows what's what!" Claptrap said gleefully.
"Er... yes, I suppose I do. What would you like to know?" He pocketed the phone before anymore mishaps could happen.
"I only know of two rooms, the entry way and this place." The robot began to explain. "I can only guess that in that room over there is the Owner's because it says blatantly 'Owner' on the door. As well as locked, like, ALL the freakin' time!"
Winslow looked over his shoulder at the aforementioned door. "Yes, that's correct."
"But what about those other rooms?"
"The ones behind the books." Claptrap pointed at the specific bookshelves that opened up to regulars. "I roll by there all the time and I noticed all these doors. Usually, those are locked too. What are they? Are the torture dungeons? Oh! Maybe it's one of those fifty shades of gray kind of thing! Oh! Oh!! Does Tommy Wiseau live in there?! Oh my God, I would lose my CIRCUITS if he does! Does he? Please tell me, the suspense is killing me here."
The host merely stared at the robot and laughed. "I thought you had x-ray vision, Claptrap."
"Yeeeeeeeah, well... it's... busted. Right now. Needs maintenance repair."
"Like that 'bad call-o-tron' of yours?" Winslow smirked.
"...Yes. Just like that."
He shook his head, "Well you see, not everyone wants to play poker. In fact, the Inventory, while it does pride itself in all things poker-related, is first and foremost a place where others are free to play games that were at least at the time out-lawed. But in today's day and age, with that law lifted, various of people come by to play all sorts of games." Winslow pointed at the bookshelf. "Naturally, those rooms are where those other games are."
Claptrap gave an impressed whistle, or at least an audio file of it. "What sort of games are there?"
"We have everything; from board games such as Clue or Monopoly to rooms to play video games in. We even have a karaoke room there too."
"Karaoke?! And you never thought of selling it out like a bad prostitute?!" Claptrap slammed his robotic hands on the table, causing the patrons of the Inventory to all turn around and look.
Winslow looked around and placed a finger over his lips. "Claptrap, please, lower your voice!"
"You have a karaoke room?" Sam raised a brow.
He sighed, "We do indeed. We also have empty rooms if you would choose to bring your own games."
"So like, Dungeons and Dragons?" Tycho chimed in, sounding slightly gleefully.
"Nerd!" Strong Bad coughed.
"Yes, even things like Dungeons and Dragons, Mr. Brahe." Winslow answered. He turned his attention back to Claptrap. "Does that answer your question?"
"You have NO idea." Claptrap stated. "So... a question to that... if I were to bring my own game. Could I possibly--"
"You cannot recreate fifty shades of gray. The Owner had that banned when Max attempted to 'role play' to unassuming guests." Winslow said bluntly.
"A ban that I spit at, I say!" Max yelled and turned to look at the Owner's door and shook a fist. "You hear me? SPIT!"
"You whipped the player into unconsciousness." Sam said quietly, Max just pouted.
Brock stubbed out his cigarette and turned his attention at the host, "What about Russian Roulette? Is that alright?"
The Russian Mercenary beamed and looked at Brock hearing the mention of the game. "Oh, that does sound like fun game to play."
"Knowing you... it's probably a no. But I suppose I could check to see if that's banned or not..." Winslow scratched his cheek.
"So how would one go about getting to those other rooms?" Ash asked, sounding interested. "I mean, Texas Hold 'Em is great and all, but a nice change of pace of games doesn't hurt either. Less money grabbing too."
"Just speak to me at least three days in advance, that way I can speak with the Owner and see if it's not reserved or occupied." The portly man explained.
"Sweet." Tycho grinned. "I think I have a few games in mind."
The patrons spoke with one another, talking about the different games they could all play sometime later on as they all felt too tired to play that specific night. Winslow noticed Claptrap glancing over the bookshelf door.
"Who occupies the rooms anyways that it requires to have reservations?" Claptrap asked.
"Tommy Wiseau." Winslow answered as he stood up and left.
"Wait... HE'S HERE?!" Claptrap shouted but got not answers. "Winslow! WINSLOW YOU CAN'T JUST LEAVE A CONVERSATION WITH AN ANSWER LIKE THAT! WINSLOW!" The little robot looked at the others frantically, "Do any of you know about this?!"
Sam and Max looked at each other and shrugged. "No idea, but I wouldn't be surprised." Sam answered.
"He's up there with Keanu Reeves." Tycho chimed.
"Isn't he like a cryptid or whatever the kids call him?" Brock asked.
"Possibly. He's up there with Big Foot." Ash added.
"YOU ALL SUCK!" Claptrap cried out as the others laughed.
Chapter 10: It's A Misconception
It was a Friday night when Brock walked over to the bar and lightly knocked on the counter for his usual pack of cigarettes from Moxxi. He found it to be almost tradition to do so before a round of Texas Hold 'Em with the rowdy usual and while he would find it slightly dull, the people (creatures?) he was surrounded with made it worth coming back on routine.
"For you, sugar." Moxxi winked.
"Thanks, babe." Brock nodded and took a stick out and a ten. "Keep the change."
The bodyguard gave a small chuckle and moved to the table where he imagined the game would take place for the night. He looked around, seeing Winslow entering the Owner's office, Tycho fiddling around with the loud arcade machine, and Claptrap's friend-- Steve, looking to be engaged with something on what he recalled Dean mentioned was a gameboy of sorts. Probably occupying his time until the loud robot came about. He couldn't blame him.
Taking a seat, and lighting the cigarette finally, Brock puffed out the nicotine when he heard the sounds of footsteps. It was heavy, but not the usual drag that Sam had or the weight Heavy had. He turned his head and found Ash, still in his S-Mart uniform stomping bitterly to the table. He didn't need to say anything, the look on his face showed nothing but pure, unfiltered aggravation and while under normal circumstances he would just let the deadite hunter be, he actually enjoyed talking with him... mildly. But out of the crowed, Ash was the most "sane" in Brock's eyes.
"Rough day with the undead hoard?" Brock asked.
"Feh! I wish! At least THEM I can handle with a quick shot of my boom stick and a swipe with the chain saw." Ash answered bitterly.
Brock raised a brow. "New love interest?"
Ash stared ahead at the wall and shook his head after a moment.
Sighing and placing the cigarette in the ash tray to pick up later, Brock leaned on the table. "What happened, Williams?"
"Do you really want to hear?" Ash turned his head to Brock, a cold harsh glare in his eyes. "Do you really?
"We have time to kill."
"Ha. Funny, Brock-o."
"I know I am."
The deadite hunter then raised a brow and a smirk. Shaking his head once more and rubbing his face, Ash took a deep breath. "Where do I even start?"
"From the beginning." Brock picked up the lit cigarette and took a drag.
"Okay." Ash nodded. "Spell fourth of July."
"Spell. Fourth of July."
"F-O-U-R-T-H." Brock answered deadpanned.
"Good, excellent, you know how to spell. Anyone with a basic grasp of the English language can spell that."
"What does that have to do with what happened?" The bodyguard asked, not sounding amused and borderline irritated.
Ash just turned to look at Brock with a horrible shit-eating grin. "Oh, I'm getting to that."
"I'm sorry, what?" Ash questioned.
Customer feedbacks are not unusual where he worked, in fact he was perfectly aware that customers always had something to say, whether they were compliments, complaints, or just general advice. Whether they were good or bad was up for debate, but still, he was always intrigued by those felt compelled to open their mouths to say anything. But this one... this one was special. The customer in front of him had a haughty air around her as she clutched to her purse with her chest puffed out like a peacock ready to flirt.
"You heard me." The customer huffed.
Ash opened and closed his mouth, for once at a tongue tied situation as he had no witty retort, and was just dumbfounded. He glanced up at the giant banner he was hanging up at the front of the store. It was promoting a sale for all things related to the upcoming Independence holiday, ranging from a buy one get one free deal and half off deals. Frankly, the design looked like that Uncle Sam stared at a paper and threw up the American flag all over it but he wasn't in charge of how it looked and just where to place it.
"I just... I don't know what you want me to do about that, ma'am." Ash answered truthfully.
"I want you to tell your manager that it's spelled wrong!" The customer looked more frustrated.
"Okay, ma'am? Where is the typo?"
"There!" She pointed. "Fourth! It's spelled wrong!"
Ash blinked. "It... it is?"
She huffed again and rolled her eyes, "It's a common misconception that you spell it like that, when really it's withOUT the 'U', it's spelled F-O-R-T-H."
No. No it's not. Ash wanted to remark but bit his tongue. "Is it, now?" He said instead through gritted teeth.
"Yes. Now tell your manager, otherwise you and everyone at the store will look foolish!" The customer snarked, tossing back her hair and waltzed inside.
The deadite hunter just watched her vanish and stared at the eye-popping sign and raised a brow, blinking in confusion.
Brock stared, not having taken a drag the entire time as he listened to Ash regale his day.
"So, the whole day, I couldn't stop thinking about that." Ash admitted. "I asked my co-workers, I asked customers, I even asked my goddamn manager and they all told me it was spelled the same way! F-O-U-R-T-H!"
"You make this sound like a Gray-Grey situation." Brock mumbled. "You were right with how it was spelled, not her."
"I KNOW THAT, BROCK." Ash yelled before sighing and rubbing his face. "I just... it baffled me. I knew it was wrong, my gut instinct knew it was wrong... even common sense knew it was wrong! And yet... AND YET..." He covered his face and let out a muffled yell.
Heavy walked down the stairs where he saw the two men sitting at the table and walked over to join them, he raised a brow at the frustrated deadite hunter and looked to Brock, pointing at the brunette. "What is wrong with Williams?"
Figuring this was an opportune moment, Brock stubbed out the cigarette and looked up at the Russian. "Heavy, I have a question for you."
"Yes?" Heavy nodded. "What is it?"
The Russian blinked and crossed his arms. "F-O-U-R-T-H."
"And what was your first language?" Brock kept asking.
"Russian. Why are you asking such baby questions?"
"He had a rough customer." Brock answered in his usual calm tone. "Insisted it was spelled F-O-R-T-H and Williams here has been asking anyone and everyone to spell it for him. She ah... questioned his sanity."
"Oof." Heavy winced. "I am sorry to hear that. Sounds like customer was a spy."
"She probably was..." Ash said through muffled hands.
Tycho moved from the arcade over to the table, taking a seat and sighing. "What are we talking about here?"
"Spell fourth." Both Brock and Heavy asked, taking Tycho aback by the unison.
The webcomic writer jumped as a loud muffled scream emitted from Ash.
Chapter 11: Telemarketing
It wasn't like he was intending to play a round of poker, but Guybrush did promise to swing by the Inventory and see the scene. What he was expecting was a table with a bunch of random characters, the sounds of chips tossed at the table and ice clinking in the glasses as they all tried to guess each other's next move.
What he was not expecting, however, was a bunch of grown adults sitting around the table, a cell phone in the center of it all and the rest covering their mouths as the webcomic writer... what was his name? Oh yeah, Tycho, was grinning.
"What's going on-- MMPH!" Guybrush asked, immediately met with a series of shush and a massive hand belonging to Brock over his mouth and a finger over his lips. He looked towards Sam who just mouthed 'listen'.
"I'm sorry," Tycho asked, "What?"
On the other end of the line, an exhausted and frustrated voice spoke. "I said, we're offering a--"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I SAID. WE. ARE. OFFERING--"
"Would you mind being placed on hold?" Tycho asked.
"NO! NO I DON'T--"
"Thank you, please hold as we transfer you to--"
The table erupted with laughter to Guybrush's confusion. Were they drunk? He wondered.
Sam and Max spotted the blond and gave a wave, "Hiya, Squinky!" Max greeted gleefully.
He gave a wave back to the lagomorph and then went ahead moving the bodyguard's hand from his mouth, Guybrush placed his hands on his hips and looked around at the table. "Okay, mind filling me in on what happened?"
"Easily." Ash moved over and draped an arm around the pirate's shoulders. "Brahe has been getting a bombardment of telemarketers over the last, how many months was it?"
"Three." Tycho answered, taking a swig of his gin and tonic.
"Three months. And he figured that instead of constantly blocking the number and constantly arguing, why not just screw with their heads a bit?" Ash gestured to Tycho. "We WERE in the middle of a game when his phone went off and we've been at this ever since."
"Wait, ever since?" Guybrush raised a brow. "That would imply you get a call ever hour or so."
"Well, it's not just him that's been getting the calls." Sam said as he walked over to blond. "Max and I have been getting spammed as well."
"Yeah, and we have our friend the roach to help entertain us!" Max beamed.
"Roach?" Guybrush mumbled.
"So we've been basically handing Tycho our phones anytime we got a spam number. It's... heh heh, it's pretty entertaining, not gonna lie." Brock smirked.
"I liked the bit with the monkey sounds." Heavy recalled fondly.
"Basically, Sir, " Winslow spoke up patting the blond's back, "They've been harassing Stans all night."
"Oooooh, I get it." Guybrush nodded. He looked over at yellow robot and scratched his cheek. "Do you get any phone calls um... Clacktrack?"
Brock and Ash snorted at the name.
"Claptrap! And no. I don't, because I have the top of line spam-block system in my hard-drive to put all those pesky telemarketers in their place!" The Pandora robot pridefully boasted.
"More like being a walking telemarketer." Brock remarked.
"ANYWAYS." Claptrap spoke over, "No. I don't get and phone calls, and if I did, I would be answering them internally like I do most of my conversations."
"Ah." Guybrush nodded. "So what kind of things were you telling these telemarketers?"
"Hmm... let's see..." Tycho leaned back trying to recall his best ones. "I just straight up yelled at the phone once to the point that the person panicked and hung up. Then there was just now where I pretended to be customer service, that one is my favorite." He pointed at Ash. "He did a funny one not too long ago."
The pirate merely looked at the deadite hunter for a story.
"Well, it was like this..." Ash begun
His phone buzzed in the middle of a game, he was low on cash but high on adrenaline. Frustrated, he pull out his phone to see who was bothering him.
"Goddammit, another one of those telemarketers." Ash cursed. "Bastards are more persistent then demons and last minute shoppers."
"Why not just screen it and turn it off?" Sam asked.
"That's what I'm about to do, Clifford."He said, moving his finger to shut it off when Tycho who was in the game quickly placed a hand over the one holding the phone, giving a puppy dog look to the brunette.
"What the hell are you doing?" Ash glared angrily.
"Before you pass the call, remember the story I told you literally ten minutes ago?" Tycho spoke urgently.
"Yeah?" Ash's eyes then widen. "Oh... okay." He let out a mischievous snicker and clicked to accept the call, staying quiet.
"Hello?" The voice spoke up.
"Yellow." Ash greeted with a southern drawl, placing a finger on his mouth indicating to the others to stay quiet, spotting Max quickly hopping on Sam, grinning.
"Hello, sir. How are you?"
"I'm fine as a fiddle."
"Good." The faux perkiness of the voice emitted through, "I have a special offer for you today sir, if you book an appointment today with you local dentist, I can offer you free teeth whitening!"
"Free teeth whitenin' you say?" Ash smirked, "My, that's a fine deal you gots there."
"But what happens if I have only one tooth?"
Tycho, Max and Sam snorted and covered their mouths quickly to hide the snickering that was trying to escape.
"I... don't think I..." The line went quiet, the sounds of someone talking behind the telemarketer being heard before the phone clicked off and he let out a loud laugh alongside the others.
Guybrush meanwhile was laughing at the imagery. "Oh man, that's amazing."
"So now they've been at it for..." Winslow checked his pocket watch, "Roughly two hours now."
"That's some serious dedication..." Guybrush crossed his arms, amused.
"Anyways, what brings you by this part of town?" Brock asked, stubbing out his cigarette. "Been a while since we last saw you which was, what, a few months ago or so? Whatcha been up to?"
"I was in the neighborhood and Winslow wanted to catch up on things with me after the trip I had." He shrugged, "Figured I could kill two birds with one stone and see the hype of this place."
"And an excellent rock-tossing, bird-pelting toss at that." Sam adjusted his hat. "Granted, we seemed to have stopped playing but that's fine."
"This is way more entertaining!" Max hopped on the table.
"Have you been getting unwanted calls?" Heavy asked, towering the blond with absolute ease but his voice radiated no harm.
"I mean," Guybrush rubbed the back of his neck and not wanting to come off as someone who was pretty much intimidated by the Russian Mercenary, "Yeah, once or twice maybe, but I usually just let it go to voicemail. If it's important, they'll call me back at a later time. If ah... if at all."
"Like me!" Claptrap gleefully raised his arms, even going so far as to give a small hop on his wheel. When he noticed no one agreeing, he crossed his robotic arm and muttered in a low voice "*Beeping* *Beep*holes..."
"I suggest giving a tease at them, if I remember right, isn't making smart-ass remarks sort of your speciality?" Sam recalled, almost fondly.
"In a way. Not to brag or nothing but..." Guybrush gave a small chuckle and shook his head, " I haven't done that kind of thing in years, I might be a little rust-- YIPES!" He let out a yelp and jumped as his phone started to ring loudly.
"You scream like a girl." Tycho snickered.
"I do not." The pirate pouted, digging into his back pocket and pulling out his phone. He only stared for a moment before smirking and showing the "Spam Likely" number flashing. "I think I got a telemarketer."
"What are you waiting for, man? Answer it!" Claptrap begged. "I wanna hear this wit of yours!"
The regulars gave a chorus of yes and goading him to do it, Guybrush looked at Winslow who just smiled and gave a shrug. "You heard the crowd, sir."
With a sigh, Guybrush accepted the call and moved to place it in the center of the table, making sure it was on speaker. He stayed quiet.
"Hola, como estas?" Guybrush greeted.
"I didn't know you were fluent in Spanish." Claptrap faux-whispered but was quickly nudged by Brock to stay quiet.
"Ah... oh-lah!" The telemarketer greeted, already getting a few whispers from the others. "Um... yo habla english?"
"And this guy clearly doesn't know." Max snickered along side the robot.
"Ehh... un.... eh... little..." Guybrush smirked. "No es bueno en ingles."
"Terrbile." Ash snickered.
"Ah... r-right. Okay. Um... you're eligible for um... for--" The poor telemarketer never got a chance to finish his sentence as Guybrush slammed his hands on the table and looked dramatically at the phone.
"Madre de Dios, El Pollo Diablo!! Ayuda!!" He yelled frantically, admittedly getting the Heavy to jump. But the telemarketer gave a yelp and hung up the phone before Guybrush could and the table fell silent... and then quickly loud with laughter.
"Holy crap, man!" Tycho laughed, "That was incredible! Hats off to you, my good Sir!"
The regulars applauded Guybrush who, while still laughing, took a bow in front of the others. "You can add that to your repertoire." He smiled, pointing at Tycho.
"You best believe I will." The webcomic artist pointed back at the blond.
"Sam, we need to bring our roach friend, we gotta!" Max desperately shook the dog. "Please Sam, please please please!"
"No need to tell me twice, little buddy!" Sam agreed eagerly.
"What's this about a roach?" Guybrush asked, adjusting his jacket and taking back his phone before a grabby Max or Claptrap could take hold of it.
"Guybrush," Max leaned and batted his eyes to the blond, "Have you ever heard of the movie The Exorcist?"
Chapter 12: Carpool Sing-A-Long
With his own car in the garage for maintenance, Ash's car broken down and Tycho asking already in advance for a ride, Brock Samson never imagined he would be sitting in the car with the police, let alone with the Freelance Police. Then again, they were known for doing what they do best: driving quickly and, admittedly, recklessly. But it would seem that bumper to bumper rush hour traffic jams was the only thing stopping the Freelance duo from doing as such.
"Uuuugh, Sam, I'm doing of old age here." Max groaned, his feet resting on the dashboard who just moments earlier was suggesting on breaking the rules 'just because they wanted to see how many pile ups they can cause' on a bet.
And yet, Brock thought, in a way, he was relieved that it was the six foot dog driving and not the shark-grinning lagomorph.
The bodyguard looked to his right where Tycho was sandwiched between himself and Ash, staring down at his phone. "Whatcha lookin' at there, Brahe?" Brock asked.
"The GPS to see what the fuck is causing the accident."
"Language!" Max shouted from the passenger seat.
"You said more words that would make the vilest comedians blush twenty minutes ago, little buddy." Sam pointed out.
"Yeah, because I can say those words." Max huffed.
Tycho just rolled his eyes and continued scrolling through his phone before finding the source and frowning. "Well Gentlemen, I found the source of what happened to our situation."
"Do you have to speak all fancy all the time?" Ash grumbled.
"...Yes." The webcomic writer just glared.
"So what's the hold up then?" Ash stared back. "Zombies? Deadites? Old Lady Beatrice driving twenty miles per hour? What is it?"
Tycho merely showed his phone to Ask. "Ten car pile up taking up two lanes. Most likely caused by Old Lady Beatrice driving twenty miles per hour."
"AND WE DIDN'T CAUSE IT?!" The lago sounded appalled.
"Guess not." The dog sighed. "Next time though."
The three in the back gulped at the idea.
"Anyways, how about we turn on some tunes till we passed this jam?" Tycho suggested.
"Careful now, wouldn't want it to be-- OW!" Ash felt the back of his head slapped hard by Brock who just growled at the deadite hunter. "Never mind then, just gonna shut my mouth up."
"A good decision." Brock glared.
"Nah, I like the idea of music." Sam turned on the radio, fiddling a little with the knob.
"Sam, I swear to God, you put on any of that Blue Grass crap, I will personally fling myself out of the car again." Max threatened.
"It was one time and by accident, Max." Sam muttered. He went through the various static stations, a couple of radio stations, souls screaming for help, some speaking in languages he couldn't understand... he didn't want to admit the guests in his car that he almost never uses the radio for various of reasons.
"....viva la vida loc... baby I'm sorry, not sor... today's forecasts calls for heavy... someone please dear God sav... in other news, today Presi... havanna ooh na... I am dripping in fin... my soul is on fire ple... despac..."
"Wow, there is literally nothing good." Tycho sounded surprised. "You'd expect at least ONE good song to listen to."
"Top forty, my ass." Brock grumbled.
It was then when Sam landed on a radio station that all five of them went quite, looking intently at the radio as they all knew the song simply because of the first few notes of the synth piano, the words coming to mind.
"I hear the drums echoing tonight" Tycho started, "But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation..."
Sam lightly tapped the steering wheel and continued. "She's coming in 12:30 flight. The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation..."
"I stopped an old man along the way..." Brock continued, "Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies..."
Ash soon joined in, "He turned to me as if to say..."
Soon, Max sung alongside Ash. "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you!"
Sam slapped the steering wheels as a drum before all five of them sung loudly and on top of their lungs, proudly and happily.
"It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you! There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do! I bless the rains down in Africa!
Gonna take some time to do the things we never haaaaaaaad!!"
"Oh oh!!" Max added, bopping his head alongside the song.
They stopped for a moment as the song played an instrumental beat, looking at each other before breaking into a laugh.
"Holy fuck, did we have a moment just now?" Tycho realized.
"We sing like freakin' angels!" Ash laughed boisterously.
"Angels that are off key, but yeah." Brock agreed, chuckling alongside the deadite hunter.
"Who's off key? I'm totally on key!" Sam protested.
"Says the guy who broke someone's glasses just BY singing." Max jabbed, snickering. "Oh! Next verse!" He leaned forward and turned the volume up.
The riders in the car began to sing the next verse, no longer thinking of the horrific traffic jam they found themselves in.
Anyone who stepped foot into the Inventory could quickly tell that the air felt off. And not in that usual musty way like that time Max had left the AC off for a week, no. This was more along the lines of dread and gloom that felt suffocating.
If Tycho was make a wager tonight, it was most definitely because of the latest news that came out. And more to that, if someone like himself who practically lived in the social media world heard of it, then there was no doubt that those who have actually been affiliated with that company have gotten word. He wanted to strut up to the usual poker table, try and be as arrogant and cocky as possible in hopes to maybe even slightly lift the mood, but hearing the deafening silence of the Inventory quickly and effectively knocked the winds out of his sails. Instead, a somber walk with his feet occasionally dragging against the carpet was all that could be heard.
He glanced at the bar table where Claptrap and Ash sat with Moxxi, no sounds of drinks being concocted or horrible dubstep. It was odd seeing even that being silent.
Already at the table, Sam and Max sat, with the Freelance dog being the one sitting in place of Max (he was still banned from playing if he remembered correctly), uncharacteristically silent instead of the usual inane banter between the duo. Next to Sam, Strong Bad quietly poked and realigned his poker chips, not even grumbling under his breath, but his shoulders stiff instead of slouch. Next to him, Heavy sat there, looking not as miserable as the other three, but still solemn... almost sympathetic and finally, next to the Russian was Brock Samson, inhaling yet another nicotine stick. Tycho looked around, wondering where the remaining two usuals were.
"So um... where's the Player and Winnie?" Tycho asked, finally shattering the silence that was dominating the Inventory.
"Player called in sick... said something about catching a flu or something." Brock answered, tapping lightly on his cigarette over the ash tray. "As for Winslow... he said he was going to a meeting with that uh... what's his name, Guy Rush- Guybrush about something. Guessing it was about the news since he's not here still."
"Oh." Tycho rubbed the back of his neck, taking the Player's seat for the night. "So word is out, huh?"
There was a sadden sigh heard among the group and Tycho didn't even know where to go from there when the sound of an elevator door opening was heard, they all looked upwards where the entry was and soon saw the portly host and the tall lanky blond with a look of dejection and misery all over his face.
"Nice of you to swing by, Guy." Ash greeted from over his shoulder.
"Yeah." Guybrush muttered, his hands clenching and unclenching before he cursed under his breath and took long strides to the bar and gestured to Moxxi for a drink.
"What happened?" Claptrap eventually asked, his usual boisterous voice sounding oddly sadden. It creeped Tycho out.
"I..." Winslow sighed, placing his hands on his hips. "Where to start?"
"How about this." Guybrush spoke up. "News is true. They're shutting all of it down. Just like that. Not even a preemptive warning of any kind. Just..." He snapped his fingers before dropping his hand back to his side and took a sip from his drink.
"What?!" Heavy widened his eyes in shock.
"Ouch." Brock frowned.
"Whoa..." Ash looked back down.
"Dammit." Sam grumbled, clenching a fist while Max lowered his ears, looking away.
Tycho jumped when Strong Bad slammed his gloved fists into the table, rattling the chips off their neat stacks.
"Huh, I always pegged you as the type that would be rejoicing in the news." Tycho said to Strong Bad who just stared bitterly at the webcomic writer.
"Listen, chumprumpski, just because I have some personal beef with those losers doesn't mean that I wanted THIS to happen." Strong Bad explained, catching almost everyone off guard. "Don't get me wrong, I hated their business approach for not using ME as their cow to milk off."
"Ew." Tycho frowned.
"But that's still crappy news for everyone else. Besides, NOW who am I going to ridicule relentlessly for not releasing MY favorite game? Which is MY OWN GAME?!"
He thought for a moment and gave a small chuckle. "Point made."
Brock and Heavy glanced at the Freelance Police, remaining silent throughout the whole thing sans Sam's mumbling outburst. "You two alright?" Brock eventually asked.
"I eh... no. Not really." Sam admitted, not noticing Max leaving his booth to hop near him. "I mean, technically Max and I weren't really next in line for a new season or anything like that so it's not like we were going to be screwed over like that Bigby guy, but still... we were there when it first got started. It's... hmm... what would you say it is Max?"
"A massive kick in the crotch." Max answered dejectedly. "With a spiked iron boot on fire and a voice going 'hi there, I would like to use this boot on your crotch. Repeatedly' and then doing as such."
Guybrush raised his cup in agreement and took a swig.
"No... but that is a mood." Sam scratched his temple before snapping his finger. "Surreal." He sighed, crossing his arms and having it rest on the table. "It doesn't feel like it's happening... I guess that's how you feel, huh Guybrush?"
Guybrush remained silent and placed the cup down. "Yeah. But if I'm going to be totally honest? It pisses me off, like, they kept toying at things and pulling and pushing me around and..." He clenched his hands tightly around the cup before his shoulders sagged. "Sorry. Didn't mean to blow up like that. Just... give me a few days. It's still raw."
"Fair." Heavy nodded in understanding. "I know that feeling all too well back at Red Base."
"I bet." Guybrush sighed.
"So what's gonna happen to the Inventory?" Claptrap asked, looking at Winslow. "Are they coming for here next?"
Winslow took a breath and placed his hands together, rubbing it slightly. "No. They're not." Winslow finally answered, "The Inventory remains off-limits to them as it no longer belongs to them but rather to the Owner of the Inventory by law."
"Was he there?" Tycho asked.
The host nodded. "He wanted to see what was going on himself, make sure he wasn't being eh... what was the word that was used? Ah yes, tossed under the bus. So while the Owner is making sure all is clear, it's safe to say that the Inventory will remain open for all those who wish to play some poker as well as seek for sanctuary in these trying times."
"So that's why you're here then." Ash realized, looking at Guybrush. "For some sanctuary."
"In a manner of speaking." The blond answered.
"Damn, blondie." Ash placed a sympathetic hand on Guybrush. "Sorry about that."
"Eh, it happens." Guybrush gave a sadden smirk. "Kind of a motif in my life."
"So, just to be sure, the Inventory is going to stay open? It's not going away?" Claptrap asked for clarification.
"Yes." Winslow answered.
"It's going away?!" The small robot gasped.
"No." The host frowned.
"Is it doing the hokey pokey?!" Max jumped, sounding a little bit better then he did a moment ago.
"What? No! I... ugh." Winslow rubbed the bridge of his nose as Guybrush chuckled.
"Let me answer." Brock stubbed his cigarette. "The Inventory is open. Company that is shutting down isn't taking this place down with it. That about the gist of it?"
"Yes. That. Thank you, Mr. Samson." Winslow sighed.
A chorus of "Ooh" was heard from the crowd.
"Well, if that's the case." Ash slammed his drink down, wiping away the remaining booze from his chin and turned to the others. "How about a game of poker?"
"Yeah! What better way to express out frustration and grief then to mindlessly toss our well, hard-earned cash at an illegal game in an illegal establishment?" Claptrap beamed.
"You read my mind." Brock chuckled.
"Now that sounds like an excellent idea." Sam smiled.
"I'm in!" Max jumped.
"You're still banned." Winslow reminded the lagomorph.
"Oh. Right. Then I'm the scandals cheerleader you'll find dead in the bathroom in two hours!"
"You crack me up, little buddy."
"Wait, what?" Guybrush looked horrified.
"Yes! Let's play the poker!" Heavy danced a little in his chair.
"Finally! Thought we would never play." Tycho sighed in relief.
"Gonna make all you losers eat it!" Strong boasted.
"Right then," Winslow moved to the group, giving a quick glance at Guybrush who looked to have been talking to Moxxi to make the drinks for the crowd... most likely on his own tab looking more like himself again and beamed.
"Gentlemen... and Claptrap. Let the games begin!"
So. Telltale, eh?
I was planning on a more goofball chapter (in fact... I'll post this up another time) but this one, well, it hit me like a bolt of lightening to write instead.
The news about Telltale is rough. And speaking for only myself, it was like a gut punch because I've been with this company since ye ol' Sam and Max season one. It's been with me through high school, college and beyond. I even applied to them several times in hopes to work with them (and, y'know, MAYBE try and convince for a season 2 of Monkey Island).
But seeing as it's not gonna happen and seeing as it's still a very hard pill to swallow... this chapter needed to be written.
Anyways, thank you Telltale Games.
Chapter 14: Social Pains
About two hundred and fifty dollars worth of chips were tossed haphazardly at the center of the table, the smell of cigarette and booze lingering around the four of them as, yet again, the Player was kicked out for loosing all of their funds. Max sat by the Buster Blaster playing away as Winslow kept a close eye at the poker players to make sure no one was cheating while Sam tap the table lightly to check.
"Nnnngh... fold." Claptrap shoved his cards away bitterly.
Ash raised a brow while Heavy chuckled and tossed more chips in. The Freelance Police sighed and tossed the chips to match.
"You're more bitter than usual, Claptrap." Sam noted. "Everything alright?"
The Pandorian robot sighed. "Ugh, no. I've just been having this really cruddy time with all these haters."
"Hey! Don't hate on me for kicking your robotic tin-can ass!" Ash glared bitterly.
"Not you, Williams." Claptrap quickly retorted. "Haters on the INTERNET."
"Oh... I knew that." The deadite hunter mumbled and went back to his cards.
"So who are these haters?" Heavy asked. "Are they spies?"
"Might as well be, all they do is talk all sweet-like to you and bam!" He slammed his metal claws to the table. "They just proceed to backstab you when you least expect it!"
"Those are the worst spies!" The Russian agreed.
Sam stared at his cards and folded, Winslow placed the remaining cards on the table. "Ash has... two pairs. The Heavy has, a full house! The Heavy wins this round." The host declared. The Russian beamed and took the winning pot as Winslow shuffled the deck and tossed out a new set to the remaining contenders.
"So like I was saying," Claptrap stared at his cards and tossed a claw-full of chips. "Right?! They're totally spies."
"How so?" Sam asked, tossing some chips at the table as well.
"At first, they act like my beloved fans, showering me with nothing but compliments and admiration. Sometimes even asking me for advice for their day to day life... but recently I've been getting the cold shoulder and like an insult compliment." Claptrap began to explain.
"Ooooh... a PAC." Ash nodded knowingly, checking his cards.
"A what?" Sam asked, tossing some chips in.
"A Passive Aggressive Compliment." The deadite hunter explained. "A bunch of co-workers and I came up with that term one day during a massive sales event and there were always these types of customers that it always felt like they broke their wrists in the process of complimenting our services. We called is a PAC because it sounded less obvious then us saying that they basically insulted us."
"That's pretty clever." Heavy complimented. "Like RED team name."
"What's it stand for?" Claptrap asked, tapping the table to check.
"Reliable Excavation Demolition" The Russian threw some of his chips in.
"Huh." The robot nodded.
"So Claptrap, why stay online if these hater spies bother you so much?" Sam asked.
"Because that's where I can see how my business is booming." Claptrap explained.
"Then why are these particular haters bothering you so much?" He kept asking.
"Uuuuugh... it's not always bothering me, Sam." Claptrap leaned his body back as if to mimic a head roll. "Just... this one particular hater."
"What he do?" Heavy then asked.
"Well, this jerkspam--"
A grumble was heard from the bar where Brock was.
"...This JERK" Claptrap corrected, "Was at first one of my biggest fans but then I found out recently that they blocked me. ME! So I obviously looked into it to see why when I found out that apparently they were trash talking behind my back, saying things like I'm narcissistic and self observed."
"It's not entirely wrong though..." Sam folded and kicked his feet up.
"Well, WE all know that. And besides, when you all have issues with me, you have the decency to say it to my face." Claptrap bitterly tossed some chips in. "This guy didn't! Compliments one day, the next just a single post how I'm the devil and that anyone who follows me will be blocked."
"Ouch." Ash remarked, checking.
"Seriously! Like, dude, it's okay to unfollow me, no foul. I'll always get more followers. But jeez! Take a step back from all that crap or at least don't compliment only to shit-talk behind my back a year later." Claptrap heard Heavy checking.
"Maybe you take your own advice." Heavy advised. "Perhaps you do the blocking and moving on? You sound hurt."
"OF COURSE I'M HURT!" Claptrap yelled, silencing everyone in the room that only a cough was heard and Heavy scratched his forehead.
"...You know what? Point made. You got me there, Heavy Man"
"It's just Heavy." The Russian corrected.
"Well anyways, taking your advice startiiiiiiiiiiiiiing now." Claptrap sounded pleased.
"Um... how?" Ash raised a brow.
"I just blocked him after making a nasty post." The robot beamed, shoving all of his chips into the pile. "You're right, I DO feel better! Maybe my luck will finally change for the better!"
The Heavy looked like he wanted to correct the little robot but decided to refrain since it seemed that it wouldn't have made a difference. Winslow tossed the remaining cards in and began. "Ash has a flush. The Heavy has a straight. Claptrap has... two pair. Ash wins the round." Winslow declared.
"SON OF A--" A series of bleeps were emitted loudly throughout the inventory as everyone ducked and Claptrap tossed his cards into the air out of sheer frustration.
Chapter 15: An Assault on the Senses
The snow outside fell quietly down the streets, almost no sounds being heard save for the occasional laughter or honks. The stores around the block were all closed for the night save for the few shops that had last minute shoppers or people who just wanted to buy the basic necessities such as milk or eggs.
But in the Inventory, it was business as usual.
Well, as usual as it could get.
Moxxi sat at the bar cleaning the whisky glass, listening admittedly reluctantly to Strong Bad and Claptrap get into a heated argument about whether or not Tim Allen could fly on a make shift sleigh made entirely out of duct tape in one night... and argument that stemmed from Max who just as quickly left the debate as soon as he started it.
Sam was fiddling about on his banjo at an empty table, humming to himself a song that was undoubtedly stuck in his head... again, probably because of Max. The lago in question was busy chewing at the table mindlessly to the annoyance of Winslow who was side eyeing the lago from the bar. Brock sat with Heavy across the Inventory, finding themselves unable to handle the noises of the banjo, the bickering, and Max's endless chewing.
The elevator doors opened and Ash walked down the stairs, his arms stretched high over his head as he saw the sight below and very quickly opted to sit next to Brock and Heavy.
"Long day at work?" Heavy asked.
"Too freakin' long, my Russian friend." Ash nodded, leaning back and kicking a foot up on the table, letting out a sigh. "Too freakin' long."
"I thought you were suppose to have time off now that it was the holidays." Sam asked.
"You'd think but no, everyone called in sick suddenly so I had to cover every one of their sorry asses." The deadite hunter grumbled, although soon giving a sly smirk. "But it's fine. Cause I have now the rest of December off."
"Ah, that's good!" The mercenary smiled.
"Damn right! Two weeks of paid vacation."
"Sure it's not a two weeks notice?" Brock let out a puff of smoke.
The room fell silent as Ash muttered a series of curses under his breath before slamming his head on the table. "Anyways... are we playing poker or not?" Ash asked in a muffled voice, not lifting his head up from the table.
"Hate to break it to you but we wrapped up a half hour ago." Claptrap explained. "And Sam was the champion this time."
"Lady Luck favors a stud in a suit." The Freelance officer beamed.
"God-freakin'-dammit." Ash growled.
"Hashtag mood!" The robot agreed.
Soon the sound of the faux library door opened with Tycho emerging and leaning on the railing with a smile on his face. "I have it all set up!"
"Have what set up?" Strong Bad asked, "The Nerd-a-thon?"
"Eat shit." Tycho pointed a finger at him before turning back to look at the others. "The Console room, I have it all set up!" Tycho's smile turned into a sly one as he leaned on the railing with one arm. "So you wanna come up and have a look?"
"Oh my..." Winslow looked up with a slightly lewd smile on his face.
Ash looked up from the table to the host and gave a disgusted look. "Ew."
"But I take it you have it set up properly, Mr. Brahe?" Winslow asked.
"Very well, I'll inform the Owner." The host nodded and made his way to the Owner's office, leaving the others to be on their own.
Not seeing anything better to do, the group sans Moxxi all gathered and ventured upstairs where Tycho opened the door proudly. Admittedly, there wasn't much to it in comparison to the main floor, but with a nice L-shaped couch, padded walls for noise cancellation and big screen TV making the whole room glow, it wasn't that bad of a hang out. "Gentlemen, the Console Room... freshly refurbished."
"Whoa whoa whoa wait, you actually managed to get a room?!" Claptrap gasped. "Was Tommy--"
"No. No he wasn't. For the last time it was a joke. But yes, I did manage to book a room and it's all up to date and ready to go."
"Sweet!" Sam smiled. "What kind of game do you have there?"
"Any of you fuckers up for Smash?" Tycho then said with a devilish grin.
"Smash... why does that sound familiar...?" Brock muttered.
"Smash... Smash... OH! The beat 'em up!" Claptrap gasped. "I heard of it! Isn't it suppose to be like, an assault on your senses?"
"Sam's coat is an assault on the senses." Max sneered, hopping on the couch.
"Can't argue with that." Sam agreed reluctantly, taking a seat alongside the hopping lago.
As the others took a seat, Tycho handed out to everyone their controllers.
"The hell is this?" Brock looked at the tiny contraption.
"This is smaller than my finger." Heavy frowned.
"It's a temporary solution... I can get better controllers later." Tycho waved off, taking a seat with the others and taking the reigns, setting up the match. "Alright Gentlemen, pick your fighter."
A collected voice of confusion was mumbled from the group as they all looked down on their controllers. Tycho sighed and lifted his controller. "Okay, this button? That's the confirmation button. This one is to jump. This one is to move, got it?"
"No?" Ash answered. "But I guess I can learn on the spot."
They all moved their cursor around to pick their fighter. Some decisions making more sense then the other. As the announcer declared with each decision, Sam couldn't help but notice who picked what.
"Did you pick the blue spike thing?"
"Yes I did." Max nodded.
"Uh, why else, Sam? I gotta go fast!" The lago rolled his eyes. "So obvious."
"Why'd you pick the giant gorilla?" Claptrap asked, looked at Sam.
"Because he has good taste in neck ties." Sam answered as if it was obvious. "What about you... did... did you pick the robot?"
"Robot representations matter, Sam!" Claptrap sounded offended.
"Well I picked this guy here because he has boxing gloves like me which makes him automatically cooler then all of you chumps." Strong Bad bragged to Tycho rolling his eyes.
"Oh, that's a clever pick." Heavy approved.
"Who'd you pick?" The non-wrestler asked Heavy.
"Oh... I picked the king alligator. He looks strong." The Russian smiled. "What about you, Brock? Who you pick?"
"Uuuuuh... the blond guy that looks like He-Man." Brock shrugged.
"He kinda looks like you, Brocko." Ash chuckled.
Brock squinted and tilted his head before give a dry scoff. "Yeah, I guess."
"Who'd you choose there, Tyke?" Ash then looked over the webcomic writer. "Sam...as?"
"Heh, Sam should've picked that one." Claptrap snickered.
"But I like the monkey's neck tie..." Sam frowned.
"Well, naturally I picked her because she has the best stats and offense that can easily land--" He stopped short when all eyes were at him and they all read a unanimous look of disinterest and confusion, resulting in Tycho to just sigh. "I picked her because she makes big laser bombs."
"Why'd you pick who you picked, Williams?" Brock asked as he took a drag from his cigarette.
"Who, the pink ball? I dunno... kinda looks cute." Ash shrugged.
"Huh... would've pegged you to pick one of the more buff looking fellas." Sam scratched his temple.
"Anyways..." Tycho cracked his neck. "Let's get started on this."
With the press of a button, the announcer began to count down, revealing all eight fighters as they landed on the battlefield. And before the others could grasp what was happening, the big and loud 'GO' sign blared and the room became nothing but a cacophony of loud screaming and characters falling of the stage. Even Tycho who should have, in theory, been the top fighter to go against, found himself lost in the chaos that the others were in while thankful he had added sound cancellation padding to the wall.
"Wait, stop what's going on? Why do I have a flower suddenly?"
"I'M GOING TOO FAST! AND I LOVE IT!"
"How am I off the stage already?!"
"HOW DID I GET HERE?!"
"Stop shooting at-- I said sto-- STOP SHOOTING ME GODDAMMIT."
"Who the hell is pounding the ground?!"
"That's what she said!"
"BURN IN A DITCH?"
It was most definitely an assault on the senses.
Chapter 16: Post-Valentine Stories
The chips were tossed and the soft jazz rendition of a top forties hit was being played softly through the Inventory. Tycho was in the process of taking down the heart themed decorations as Brock tossed in another hundred dollars or so worth of chips to the pile as he felt Lady Luck was on his side this round.
Sam pondered for a moment before tossing his cards to the center and grumbled, followed shortly by Heavy and Ash.
Claptrap, however, felt smug and added an equal amount of chips to the center, willing to call out the Bodyguard's bluff.
"Brock has... four of a kind." Winslow spoke. "And Claptrap has... three of a kind. Brock wins the hand!"
"SON OF A--"
"Heh heh... that'll teach ya to bet against me." Brock grinned, pulling in the chips that he won as the robot started to go off on a censored tangent of profanities.
Heavy chuckled at the antic and looked around the Inventory, pouting just slightly. "It is shame that the red hearts are going away..."
"You like Valentine's Day?" Ash asked, putting down his cup after drinking from it. "I never pegged you as mushy gushy type... that's more Sam and probably Tycho anyways."
"Hey!" Tycho shouted from the ladder. "I heard that!"
"You're not entirely wrong." Sam admitted.
"Yeah! Sam is ALL mush, see?" Max poked at the back of Sam's neck.
"Hey, quit that, Max!" The freelance officer pouted but soon smiled as the lagomorph hopped off of him and back to the booth.
"No, it's not so much the romance." Heavy admitted. "The hearts reminds me of the battlefield on RED team."
"Red as in the color of your team or...?" Brock braced himself for the worst answer.
"That too. But red like the blood of my enemies on the floor and their hearts blown out of them." The Russian Mercenary recalled fondly, unaware of the grimace and disgust he caused at the other players at the table. "Ah... good times."
"That's... one way to celebrate Valentine's Day..." Claptrap murmured. "Actually, how did all of you celebrate that lovely time of the day?"
The table went quiet as they all tried to recall what happened.
"I went and had a picnic with my lovely partner." Winslow recalled, shuffling the cards before dealing out to the others. "We spent the night under the stars and had a couple of wines and--"
"I think I don't want to hear the rest of that..." Sam cut him off, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"What'd you do, Fido?" Ash asked.
"Oh, well Max and I were just out patrolling the streets while eating on some chocolate that a bunch of thugs robbed from couples." Sam recalled. "It was quite decadent!"
"Don't say decadent, Sam." Max grumbled.
"You didn't think of returning the chocolate to the couples?" Brock raised a brow.
"No. We were taking it as commission." Sam shrugged. "We gave them back their wallets that was robbed at the same time though, so it was only fair."
"Damn." Ash snickered. "Nice date though."
"What date?" The freelance dog tilted his head.
"What'd you do there Crimson Chin?" Claptrap asked. "For Valentine's Day?"
"Oh, I was spending the night at a bar and then... heh, it really was red themed after a bunch of Deadites showed up and trashed the place. Had to take them out before any more havoc could go on and I um... well..."
"Yes?" Claptrap and Sam asked.
"He came here." Brock answered with a drag of his cigarette. "I should know cause I showed up here. Dean and Hank were going on and on about the spirit of love and how one needs to embrace it. Doc was already plastered so I just tucked him to bed and figured I could kill a few hours here before the other two passed out as well."
"So no fighting?" Heavy asked.
"...I beat up a few of those thugs Sam was mentioning about."
"That does explain why I found some passed out in an alleyway."
"Hey! Those were my kills!" Max pouted.
"So Claptrap, what'd you do?" Brock stubbed out the last of his cigarette. "You asked so it's only fair we get to ask too."
"Oh, man... you don't even want to know! I was running down the streets--"
"Running?" Sam and Max asked, sounding confused.
A grumbled insult and sigh. "Rolling. I was ROLLING down the streets from my admiring fans as they were chasing me non-stop, shouting praises at me and admirations and even proposals!"
"You sure it was admiration, praises and proposals and not hatred, insults and plans to harm you?" Ash asked.
"Hey, don't be a hater, I'm just a player!" The robot bragged.
"Stop." The bodyguard glared bitterly.
"Anyways, I spent my entire night running-- sorry ROLLING away from them. Even breaking a few hearts along the way." Claptrap saw Heavy looking at him, beaming and 'scratched' his temple. "Ah... metaphorical hearts. Not literals... but who knows, I could have done that."
"That would be awesome." Max admitted. "I wish I could just stare at someone and BAM there went their kidneys!"
"You crack me up, little buddy." Sam tossed some chips to the center.
Winslow looked down, his brows in focus before staring up at the robot. "But... I could have sworn Ms. Moxxi said she saw you here that night."
"Well yeah, because I had to hide from all my admirers!" Claptrap exclaimed. "And this was the only place that had, like, ultimate security."
There was a moment of silence.
"...And the only place that would let me in with no questions."
There was a murmur of agreement on the last sentence.
"I take it you didn't do much for Valentine's Day, Heavy?" Ash looked at the Russian.
"No, I came here and enjoyed the quiet." He admitted, sounding unashamed.
"So... I guess we all did something, yeah?" Sam realized. "Spent time doing the things you love?"
"Oh, I spent doing things to those I love." Winslow gave a lewd grin.
"Aw, Winnie... no, c'mon!" Ash winced in disgust.
"Heh... same here." Brock gave an equally lewd smile. "All night."
"AWWW!" Claptrap covered his face. "That's a visual that won't leave my brain!!! Delete! DELETE!!"
Brock and Winslow snickered and gave a high five as the table groaned in disgust and cursed the two out.
Chapter 17: Working Like A Dog
Moxxi was cleaning up one of the various mugs, paying no attention to the few paying customers that were sitting around playing a small round of poker or drinking the night away. Placing the rag down for a moment, Moxxi glanced up, trying to spot any familiar faces.
She saw the Heavy sitting in his usual seat reading his Russian literature, she had to remind himself that the man was intellectual. At the booth, Tycho was sitting and bumming around with his gin and tonic while staring mindlessly into phone doing God knows what. Hearing the various beeps and clicks, she didn't need to look over to know that Strong Bad was playing at the arcade, unsure why he was there when the game room upstairs was unlocked and open... though she'd imagine it was because of, as Winslow stated, the horrid smell.
But the rest of the people? She couldn't exactly recognize. They looked to be new residents and last she recalled overhearing, there were a few new people who decided to be regulars.
It was just then when she heard the elevator doors open and hearing the sounds of the elevator doors opening.
Ah, so the Owner had it fixed, it seemed.
"And I'm tellin' ya, it was a big load of horse shit!" Ash bellowed, walking alongside an exhausted from the conversation Brock. "I specifically said I was takin' my day off-- not even two weeks off, just five goddamn days!!"
"Mm-hmm." Brock pulled out his pack and saw it was empty, growling under his breath and walked over to Moxxi's bar, lightly knocking on it like a secret language.
"Five days! FIVE DAYS!" Ash still went on. "I mean, c'mon! How hard is it to say sure, Ash, get those days off! You earned some of that hard rest after doing the work of ten people who were off on vacation for TWO WEEKS?!"
"Aren't you the manager?" Brock mumbled.
"It's the principal of the matter!"
Moxxi shot a sympathetic to the bodyguard who looked ready to chuck the deadite hunter.
"Look, not to shit on your ah... issue." Brock said, "But I really don't have the mental capacity to handle it now."
Ash huffed and took a seat at the booth while Moxxi was digging around from behind the counter looking for it. "So what's going on, sugar? Haven't seen the lot of you in months." Moxxi began speaking.
Brock shrugged. "Been playing chauffeur for multiple people. I was busy with Doc on his latest endeavors that featured a lot of... explosions. Ash was... shit, what were you up to again?"
"Trying to dismantle the bullshit monstrosity that is retail."
Brock snapped his finger and pointed to Ash with the answer. "That. Also I had to give him a lift for a week since he totaled his car and it's in the shop getting repaired so... yeah."
"That's nice." She stood back up and placed her hands on her hips. "Looks like we're outta packs. Sorry."
He huffed, but didn't hold it against her and waved it off. "How about a drink instead?"
She gave a small wink and walked off to get his drink ready as Brock took a seat, not paying attention who he was finding himself next to until he saw from the corner of his eye a cigarette stick up from a pack. Raising a brow, he followed the hand to see who it was offering him the nicotine stick and found it belonged to broad individual with a cigarette hanging from his bearded lips, his brown hair loosely slick back, wearing a white button up shirt with his sleeves rolled up, his tie just barely being tightened up properly and black slacks.
Brock sensed something about the man, but not a threat. More of an equal.
Smirking, he took the offer as the man gestured to light up his stick, not saying no to the offer and taking a long drag from it as well as a nod of thanks.
Moxxi soon came back and placed the drink down in front of Brock before making her way over to give the drink to Ash, hearing the elevator doors close and work once again as it was preparing to bring in more gusts.
Brock watched is leave and exhaled the smoke, glancing over at the individual next to him. "Not for nothing, but I don't recall seeing you around these parts. You new?"
The man shrugged and took a sip from his drink. "Not exactly. Just new to this... establishment." His voice was low and raspy. "Nice joint."
"Thank you." Winslow said as he walked by them and made his way up the stairs.
"So what's your name?" Brock asked, spotting Ash walking over to sit opposite of the man to join in on the conversation and extended his hand out for the man to shake. "Name's Brock."
He took out his cigarette and tapped it's ashes into the ash try before placing it back to his lips and shaking the body guard's hand firmly. "Bigby."
"Bigby, huh? Sounds familiar." Ash said and extended his hand out as well, seeing Bigby turn around to shake his hand as well. "I'm Ash."
"You heard of me?" Bigby quirked an eyebrow.
"Yeah, but I don't remember from where." Ash admitted.
"His memory is all screwy." The bodyguard smirked. "Too many hits to the head recently."
"Hey!" Ash pointed an accusing finger at Brock, "I wasn't expecting to fight a tentacle looking asshole!"
"Poor word choice." Bigby remarked.
The deadite hunter looked startled as Brock tried to cover a snicker.
"Who's fighting a tentacle?" Moxxi asked as she walked back.
"And is it being livestreamed?" Tycho then chimed in from his booth.
Ash looked irritated between the misunderstanding and not grasping what a livestream was that all he could do was fling his head back in aggravation as Bigby smirked and took another drag from his cigarette.
"Anyways!" The Deadite hunter slammed a hand on the counter. "How'd you find this place? I thought it was invite only."
"It is." Winslow walked back to the counter and looked at Moxxi. "Reserve room five, please. Anyways, as I was saying, the Inventory is invite only, but after the eh... fiasco of last year with that company, the Owner thought it would be only fair to extend the invite to those who were let go. Mr. Wolf here was part of that."
"Wolf... company... OH!" Ash slammed his hand once again at the table and pointed a finger at Bigby, not paying attention to the fact that he jumped slightly from the sudden gesture, as Ash's eyes were lighting up with recognition. "That's where I heard you from! From the company let go!"
"And Sam making mention of him one round." Brock took a sip from his drink. Bigby just quietly growled.
"Anyways, the invite was sent out and Mr. Wolf decided to join us tonight in a round of Texas Hold 'Em." Winslow confirmed.
"Well I'd be a monkey's twice removed cousin's uncle." Sam said as he came down the stairs, "If it isn't Bigby."
Bigby looked over and gave a cocky smirk. "Sam. And still without the glamour?"
"You know it, wolfyman!" Max boasted, hopping onto Sam's shoulder and giving his signature smile.
"You three know each other?" Brock asked.
"Yeah, well, sort of. We ran into each other a few times at the company and even outside of it." Sam explained. "We had some good laughs."
"I'd hardly call me having to yell at you to get glamour as good laughs." Bigby remarked. "But he's right. We did meet plenty of times. How's the Freelance gig?"
"Boomin' with questionable basement dwellers and occasional space invading aliens!" The Lagomorph hopped off over to the bar. "How's the detective agency? You never call us anymore! The children miss you."
"Never called you to begin with." He took a drag from his cigarette.
"You crack me up, little buddy."
"Anyways. As Van Winslow has been saying, I was invited--"
"Don't rat us out!" Max yelled, but ended up snickering as Bigby gave a glare at him.
"I was invited." He growled and tapped his cigarette. "And I had a long and very annoying night dealing with assholes who call me for the most bullshit reason. Figured that I would come for some drinks since this is the one place that wouldn't recognize me and try to beat the shit out of me for doing my goddamn job. Van Winslow offered me a round of poker and the rest as they say is that."
Ash's eyes lit up. "You deal with bullshit at work?"
"Irritatingly enough, yeah." He saw his hand being cupped by Ash's mechanical hand and quirked a brow.
"Kindred spirit." Ash smiled. "Whiny people who can't make up their mind and or horrid abominations that try to rip you to shreds on the daily basis?"
It was Bigby's turn to have his eyes light up, his expression softening. "Yeah... and sometimes they just shout at you when you tell them the truth."
"You just described my goddamn Tuesdays, Bigby."
"Do you also get told how horrible you are?"
"I get told that they wanted my head on a stick because that's the only good use of my brain."
"I was told I was worthless."
"I was lower than dirt!"
Bigby held his hand and the two look at each other, relieved to find some form of similarity with one another.
"Would you look at that, you might have someone to complain together with." Brock smirked. "We'll let you two be."
The two began to go on and on about their similarities as the other gathered their things to play a round of poker... no need to interrupt a moment.
Winslow was boarding up the last of the shutters, wiping the sweat off of his brow one the final nail was hammered into place. He looked around the Inventory, making note of the change in atmosphere.
Where the poker tables one were, were all moved to various corners of the main floor with sleeping bags and temporary cots taking the places of the aforementioned table. The various regulars were going about making an inventory check on all the necessities while helping around setting up the other shutters and other guards as well as sitting and watching the television for any updates on the brutal storm ready to make landfall.
"You're good up there?" Tycho's voice called out.
"Yes, all is secured." Winslow looked down, seeing the young man holding the ladder looking at him and answered back. He climbed down the ladder with ease and placed the hammer down into the tool box. "Thank you, Mr. Brahe."
"Don't mention it." The webcomic writer clapped his hands of any dust once he let go of the ladder. "Need anything else secured?"
"Hmm... I don't believe so, Mr. Samson and Mr. Williams have been securing the outside and it would appear that Ms. Moxxi and Mr. Wolf have the guests taken care of." The host placed his hands on his hips. "You may take it easy."
Tycho nodded when he heard the door open, Brock walked in with the ladder over his shoulder and Ash by his side per usual with the hammer in his hand. "At this point I might as well start chargin' for these things." The deadite hunter proclaimed towards Winslow who just merely smirked.
"What else did you board up?" Heavy asked, placing down two cots.
"The S-Mart. All the kids there had no idea how to cut the plywood, so your's truly had to do it." Ash explained.
"It probably also helped that you're the only one they know that has a chainsaw attached to their wrist." Brock remarked deadpanned.
"What? No, I-- um... hmm..." Ash placed a finger on his chin, lightly tapping it before mumbling under his breath. "That makes sense."
Brock shook his head and placed the ladder next to the other and patted his hands, pulling out a cigarette carton and tapping a nicotine stick out, placing it in his mouth. "I didn't expect the Inventory to open up and be a shelter like this, Winslow. Kinda nice of the Owner to do this." He lit the cigarette.
"Of course, we at the Inventory must always make sure that are guests are well taken care of." Winslow smiled.
"Right! Because without us, who else will hoard off the legion of overly enthusiastic and incredibly smelly fans?" Max proclaimed as he hopped up and down from the cot.
"Max, for the last time, get DOWN." Bigby pointed an accusing finger at the lagomorph who just giggled and hopped off over from one cot to another all the way towards Sam who was placing down the blankets. Brock and Winslow watched the antics in silence as Ash and Tycho looked at each other in hopes for one of them to explain, but unfortunately were met with equal confusion.
"Okay than..." Ash muttered and shook his head. "Anyways, who do you guys plan on shelterin'?"
"Well, let's see." The Host tapped his temple trying to recall. "There's Claptrap, apparently he was unable to 'board a rad ship' back to Pandora, Heavy is here too due to being in-between jobs and travels, Strong Bad said something about needing to feel protected for his brand, Mr. Wolf is also here to make sure everyone is safe and Ms. Moxxi is here to serve libations if needed and of course, Sam and Max. Apparently their apartment is still blocked off from them due to... something."
"Sam used the bathroom and made it radioactive!" Max shouted once again.
"No, knucklehead." Sam glared before crossing his arms and looking away. "...I didn't know ten year old doughnuts could get mold and become sentient."
Bigby stared, dumbfounded. "There is so many things wrong with that sentence, I honestly have no idea where to start."
Winslow looked to the three. "I don't believe I know why you three are here, though."
"My place got trashed by a bunch of Deadites, and it just so happened to be the exact same time this storm is hittin' us so, y'know, a Tuesday for me." Ash answered. "What about you, Brahe?"
"I'd rather not get into the details." Tycho mumbled. "Basically it involved the internet, Gabe finding out, and now the place is also being fumigated. I'll let your minds wander on that."
Brock made a face and exhale some smoke. "I was suppose to be on vacation and much like Williams it... got detoured."
They collectively ah'd.
"Anyways, aside from you bunch, we also have some of those from the let go that needed to find some residence during the storm." He gestured over towards a bald man in his business suit with his coat placed to the side sitting in one of the cots, fiddling around with a Rubic Cube. In the next cot was another man with a robotic arm watching the news through the hologram and a woman with her hat to the side watching as well. A few cots down was a teenager dressed in what could be easily described as something straight from the Eighties listening to music from his tape recorder, lightly bobbing his foot to the rhythm of whatever song he was listening to. "But that's just some of them." Winslow said.
Moxxi tapped on Winslow's shoulder, grabbing the portly man's attention. "Phone's ringin', hon."
"Right, gentlemen, if you'd excuse me?" Winslow followed Moxxi to her booth to pick up the phone, leaving the others where they were.
"I'm gonna go place this back into the storage." Brock said, picking up one of the ladders, "Williams, mind grabbing the other one?"
"Sure thing, Brock-O." Ash, with a slight grunt, picked up the other. "Lead the way."
The Bodyguard stared and then began to lead the two to the storage, walking pass the various guests and not bothering making eye contact with any until they made their way behind the hidden Book Door. For the most part, they walked in silence, the only sound that can be heard is the clanking of the ladders and their footsteps. It also, of course, didn't take long for Ash to be the one to break the silence between the two of them and cleared his throat.
"You think more people are going to show up to the Inventory?" Ash asked, seeing Brock briefly glance over his shoulder to look at him with a quirk brow. "I mean, I would hope that the others are safe... even if it IS survival of the fittest."
"Not the term I'd use." Brock muttered. "But what are you getting at?"
"I mean, aside from us regulars, Moxxi and Winslow, we got all these new folks coming to the Inventory and taking shelter here and--"
"Get to the point." The bodyguard put the ladder down as he found the door he was looking for, digging into his pocket to pull out the key to the room.
Ash pursed his lips, lowering the ladder and figured to just ask point blank. "Is the Owner going to be here?"
The key, stuck in the keyhole, didn't move as Brock looked over at Ash, grabbing his attention with that question. "What?"
"Is the Owner going to be here? It's their place, right? And the people who come here need to either be from the Company Let Go or invited directly by the Owner, right?" Ash tried explaining. "So if this is a safe place to be at, wouldn't it make sense that all workers of the Inventory be here? Owner included?"
"Hmm... it kind of does." Brock turned the key and opened it, picking up the ladder and headed inside. "Unless they're one of those asshole types that let everyone fend for themselves."
"I doubt that and I think you doubt that too, Brock-o." Ash followed him with the other ladder.
"Hey, if I had a safer place to be aside from my workplace, I would take that over being around customers. Wouldn't you?"
"Well, yeah... but at the same time it would calm the hell out of said customer if the boss or manager was here."
"Winslow and Moxxi are pretty calming to be around."
"Why do you care so much about that?"
"Because I want to see what this Owner looks like!" The deadite hunter declared and saw Brock stare at him, his expression reading for an explanation. "It' just... we hear little to nothing about the guy or gal or whatever and the few things we DO know about is that the they're someone who likes to give to charity or whatever and is also a debt collector."
"You lost me, Williams." Brock turned to him with his arms crossed. "Why not just ask Winslow? I'm sure he'd give you an answer to this predicament."
"I did, you saw me." Ash shook his head. "He just avoided the question."
"Okay." Brock lit another cigarette, Ash had no clue when he finished the last on. "Then why not just ask for his name?"
"No dice." The deadite hunter leaned against some crates and crossed his own arms. "I tried that a few weeks ago and his answer was that the Owner would prefer to remain anonymous or some bullcrap so that the clients wouldn't pester them."
"Sounds reasonable, I can respect that."
"Listen, the Owner just wants privacy and anonymity, if that's the case then drop it." Brock said as he turned to leave.
"But aren't you just a LITTLE bit curious?" Ash said, seeing Brock stop in his tracks. "I know you're just a little bit curious."
There was a long lingering silence, save the sounds of the drag of the cigarette and Brock eventually exhaling. "What are you getting at then?" He spoke in a lower and almost threatening voice.
"Help me figure out who the Owner is. God knows I've tried, but all I've reached was a dead end. And with your help, maybe we could figure it out! And tonight might be our best bet at solving this mystery once and for all." Ash proposed and extended his hand out. "What do you say?"
Brock tapped the ashes to the floor and turned to look at the Deadite hunter. "I'm not a detective, Williams. Just a bodyguard." He saw Ash's shoulders sag slightly. "But, I know of two detectives that might be able to help out."
"So are you in?" Ash asked, hand still extended.
The blond looked at Ash and his hand, stubbing out his cigarette to the floor and took a hold of it in a firm grip, a smirk appearing in the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, screw it. Got nothin' better to do during the storm."
This has been something that I've been SUPER eager to write since I started this fic, I was just waiting for the proper time to get to writing it. With all that said, enjoy the mystery!
Chapter 19: Mystery at the Inventory - Part Two
The last of the patrons joined and the storm raged on based on the sounds of the shutters slamming against the window. Those that were staying in the Inventory for safety were trying to distract themselves from what was going on outside with anything, ranging from listening to music, reading a book, solving puzzles or even just straight up sleeping. Ash and Brock sat on one of the cots, listening to the news reporter giving an admittedly over-exaggerative forecast of the storm, but both knew that neither of them were in the position to doubt the reporter otherwise.
Brock took a drag from his cigarette, savoring the nicotine before blowing out the smoke above him as Ash looked around the room eyeing each person. "Relax, Williams." He mumbled. "You're looking more paranoid than usual."
"I'm not paranoid!" Ash complained, seeing Brock quirk an eyebrow. "I'm just... keeping a look out."
"A look out."
"Yes." A pause. "No?"
Brock shook his head slowly.
"Anyways, who are these two detectives you were talkin' about, Samson?" Ash asked. "You're not counting Fido and Bugs, are you? Cause no offense to them, they don't seem the puzzle solving type. They're more along the lines of destroying things in their paths until they get their solutions."
"Heh, you're not entirely wrong." Brock chuckled. "But I wouldn't view them like that. At least not entirely. Sam is pretty good with puzzles so he might be a good bet." Another drag. "That, and I view those two as one unit over individual... never seen the two separated."
Ash frowned and crossed his arms. "Okay, so the Freelance Police are one. Who's the second detective?"
The bodyguard tapped on his cigarette to let the ash fall in its respective tray and pointed to Bigby who was currently talking to the bald man with the Rubic Cube, but about what, he wasn't sure. And, honestly, didn't really care.
"Wolfman?" Ash looked uncertain. "He's a detective?"
"Bigby. And yeah, he's a detective. Pretty good at solving things and being the quote unquote bad cop in situations. At least, that's how he explained it to me."
"Hmm, I dunno... I like the guy, but I don't really trust him. As for the Sam and Max, what makes you so sure that one of them won't snitch behind our backs to the Owner?"
"Because snitches gets stitches! And possibly Nintendo Switches!" Max said gleefully as he leaped onto Brock, hugging him from behind.
"I don't think that's how the saying goes, little buddy." Sam said as he stood next to Ash.
The Deadite hunter looked mortified that the two were able to sneak up on them, but one look at Brock and his smug expression was enough for him to realize why he said that these two would be good enough for the job at hand. "Uh... how much of that did you hear?" He asked hesitantly.
"Just enough that Max and I shouldn't be narcs for the Owner." Sam answered.
"Also, what are we snitching about?" Max asked gleefully. "I wasn't really paying attention."
Ash just stared at Brock who simply shrugged as Max hopped off of him and onto the cot, hopping a bit in place while Sam took a seat next to the Deadite hunter. "But seriously, what's going on?" Sam asked. "I didn't really get all the details."
"Ash wants to find out who the Owner is." Brock put it bluntly, taking another drag from his cigarette.
"Smooth." Ash muttered. "Ah, neither of you would happen to know who it is, would you?"
Max stopped bouncing and Sam raised his brows, both of them looking at each other and, for once, not having their usual comical expression. "Ah... I'm not sure how to answer that." The Lagomorph admitted.
It was now Ash and Brock's turn to look surprised.
"Like, do I know them personally or through word of mouth or online dating profile? That's a big question." Max went back to grinning.
"Obviously we mean personally!" Ash proclaimed.
The room stared in confusion at the outburst, but slowly went back to their usual business when nothing of interest happened. Brock, naturally gave a small kick to Ash's shin and tapped the cigarette ash in the tray. "Wanna keep your voice low if you don't want others in on this?" He grumbled.
"Sorry." The deadite hunter mumbled.
"Anyways..." Sam cleared his throat. "We don't, at least, we don't remember. We've been here for a long time that it's sorta hard to remember. Still, I wouldn't mind finding out who the Owner is."
"We charge by the hour!" Max went back to hopping.
"Oh, you scamp."
Brock and Ash huffed in annoyance but figured this was a small victory. "Fine, you can help us, but only if you swear to not tell a soul what we're up to!" Ash said sternly.
The Freelance Police Officers looked at each other and shrugged. "Sure, we're game." Sam agreed.
"Alright. So... where would be a good place to start?" Ash asked.
"Well, normally Max and I would ask around if we try to get a lead on anything." Sam scratched his temple. "So we can start with that. The question is just who do we go asking."
"We could try asking the regulars at the Inventory. Start small so as not to raise suspicions with the new folks." Brock figured. "I'll ask Tycho."
"Then I'll ask Heavy!" Max smiled. "We're friends!"
"I guess that leaves Claptrap and Strong Bad." Sam realized, looking at Ash. "I call dibs on Claptrap."
"What-- no! Agh!!" Ash covered his face, realizing that left him with Strong Bad.
Brock smirked and stubbed out his cigarette, leaving the small group to go speak with the webcomic artist, followed shortly by the others who also stood up to ask the others.
"The Owner? Can't say I spoke with them personally." Tycho shrugged. "I just know of Winslow and the uh... the muscle. But not the Owner, sorry."
"I only receive letter from Owner, but never actually seen Owner." Heavy frowned. "Would like to meet the Owner though to thank them for their invite."
"Nope. I know nothin' of the Owner." Strong Bad continued playing the arcade. "Just know that they're tryin' to make themselves be all like... I dunno, a ghost or somethin'."
"Owner... Owner... hmm... nope! I'm getting nothing about the Owner in my otherwise infinite knowledge about everything." Claptrap shrugged. "I can tell you though about Founder of the Inventory if that helps."
"No, but thanks anyways." Sam said, tipping his hat slightly before heading back to where Brock and the others were. And seeing their expression, it was enough to see that they also reached dead-ends. "I'm guessing you guys got nothing too?"
"Got nothing except from the possibility that the Owner is polite and possibly a ghost." Ash grumbled. "What about you? What did you get?"
"Nothing, but Claptrap knows who the Founder is." Sam shrugged.
"We could just ask Winslow about that." Brock muttered.
"Why not just ask Winslow?" Tycho then spoke up, causing Ash to give a small yelp as Max instinctively jumped and latched onto Sam with his ears lowered. Following Tycho were Heavy, Strong Bad and Claptrap who joined in the group circle. "What are you four up to?"
"Up to? Who's up to? We're not up to anything!" The deadite hunter began defending and deflecting. "I don't know what you're talking about with these baseless accusat--"
"Might as well tell them, Williams, cat's out of the bag." Brock lit another cigarette.
Ash sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "We're trying to figure out who the Owner is. Thought maybe one of you guys would know." He looked at Claptrap. "Kinda surprised you don't know what with bein' a robot."
"My thoughts exactly." Sam mumbled.
"There's only so much I can know before assholes put up firewalls that make it hard for me to look through." Claptrap glared with his robotic eye.
"Sorry." Sam and Ash apologized.
"Anyways," Brock exhaled, "You're all in on this. Goes without saying but don't go and talk about it to the others."
"Obviously." Tycho crossed his arms. "Still, why not ask the right hand man himself about the Owner?"
"Ash here tried, but Winslow dodged the question." Brock explained.
"So we're sleuthing!" Max grinned, still clinging on to Sam. "Like a ghost hunter! Looking for clues and think the wind is talking to us giving us cryptic messages from beyond the grave."
"You were so close with that analogy." The webcomic artist sighed.
"Why don't you just go to the Owner's office?" Strong Bad asked, feeling all eyes on him now. "Seriously? None of you thought of doing that?"
"I mean... I sorta did." Ash mumbled. "Kinda. It was locked."
"So break in." Heavy then said. "You want to get inside somewhere, use full force."
"Isn't that illegal?" Sam then said, feeling now everyone staring at him.
Claptrap placed his robotic arms on his side. "And you suddenly care about the law properly because...?"
"So when do we break the law?" Max asked devilishly.
"Tonight, once everyone is asleep." Ash then said, smirking. "Meet me by the staircase at midnight. We're going to find out who the Owner is."
Chapter 20: Mystery at the Inventory - Part Three
The clocked ticked a half hour passed midnight and the storm continued to rage outside. Ash stood by the staircase as promised and waited for signs from the others when one by one they all started to show up. He couldn't help but feel proud of himself that a plan he devised was coming together. Brock stubbed out a cigarette as Heavy held Claptrap up as as his gears wouldn't wake the other snoozing patrons, Max sat comfortably on Sam's back and Strong Bad and Tycho caught up with the rest.
"Alright, this all of us?" Ash whispered.
"Seems about." Brock said.
"Do we have the tools to break in?" Tycho asked.
"I have a lock-picking app if that helps." Claptrap attempted to whisper before mumbling somewhat under his 'breath' about turning down the volume in his voice module.
"I think the gears will wake the others." Heavy muttered, seeing the others quietly agreeing.
"Well, the offer is there." Claptrap crossed his robotic arms.
"I think I have something from my last trip with Doc." Brock then said, digging into his back pocket and pulled out a battered looking lock-picking tool. "Better than nothing."
"So are we done yammering like Homestar at a sleep over or are we doing this thing?" Strong Bad huffed.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with him." Tycho then said.
"First one there is a rotten egg in Sam's coat pocket!" Max gleefully giggled before he hopped off of Sam's back and bee-lined up the steps and to the Owner's door as the others slowly followed him up the stairs, leaving Sam behind who only pouted slightly.
"It was only one time..." Sam grumbled to himself and went upstairs. Once there, he saw the others crowding around Brock as they watched him pick slowly at the lock with an intense focus, occasionally letting out a small growl whenever the lock pick slipped and he would have to start from scratch. Tilting his head slightly, Sam placed his hands in his pockets, watching the site. "Not that I'm on the fence about this, but something about all of this is bothering me."
"Is it the fact that this is technically illegal?" Tycho snarked slightly.
"That too. But no, it's not that exclusively." Sam shrugged. "Shouldn't we have a look out? And more to that, what if the Owner is already inside the room?"
Brock stopped picking and all eyes looked to Sam as if he suddenly grew another head. "I hate to say... but he has a point." Brock then said.
"But we can't stop now, we got this far!" Ash looked desperate. "The answer to who the Owner is is right behind those doors! Ugh... it's times like this I wish I could shotgun blast this door open and get it over with."
Heavy looked around and then placed Claptrap down. "We can have little robot man use his cheat ray."
"X-Ray!" Claptrap glared. "And I don't have one."
"That's odd, you said that it was because of your x-ray malfunctioning that you lost to the guest player two weeks ago." Tycho cocked and eyebrow.
"I... well... w-why don't you just look through the window and find a silhouette or, y'know, the keyhole?" The Pandorian robot countered. When he saw that nobody was volunteering to look through the window, he leaned as much of his body back as if he was leaning a head backwards, let out a frustrated sigh, and peeked inside the room through the key slot that Brock had kindly removed his tools from. "Well, I can't see much but it looks empty. So that's good. And I can keep look out for any body else coming to look at our latest antics."
"Like a giant doorstop!" Max grinned, unflinching when Claptrap turned to look at Max completely unamused.
Brock shook his head and went back to picking the lock with the on-going crowd watching like a live show of sorts. He was just about ready to tell them to back off and let him do his work when he heard that one satisfying 'click'. "Hmm. Looks like we're in." He figured, standing up and pocketing the lock pick kit. Looking over to Brock, he gestured for the Deadite hunter to enter first.
"Don't mind if I do." Ash smiled and placed a hand on the door knob, feeling admittedly excited about entering but hesitated.
"Well? Lets go!" Claptrap said. "What are we waiting for?"
"Please don't tell me you had a speech in mind or something." Tycho remarked deadpanned.
"What? No, of course not... it's just... um..." Ash shook his head. "Ah screw it. Keep an eye out, Clappy."
"Well how else would-- Oh, you're referring to me having one eye. Ha-freakin'-ha." Claptrap crossed his arms and proceeded to stand to the side of the door as Ash opened it, noticing him entering first, followed by the others with trepidation. He decided to let it slide Heavy patting the top of his head. Just this once.
As Ash entered the room and looked around, he couldn't help but feel slightly underwhelmed. Still, he was in. And now all he had to do was find the name of the Owner and the mystery will be solved... well... if only it was that easy. Just at a glance, he could see that any hints of the Owner's name was hidden from sight, whether intentional or not, it was upsetting.
"The Owner keeps their office cleaner than we do, Max." Sam noted as he looked at the drawers with various knick knacks on the top.
"That's because they're not using it as target practice like sensible office owners, Sam." Max hopped onto one of the two chairs across from the main chair that undoubtedly belongs to the Owner. "Look at all the potential!"
"Hmph, not as many trophies like MY office has." Strong Bad crossed his arms.
"Or mine!" Claptrap said, Brock, Ash and Sam to all look at him.
"Claptrap?! Aren't you suppose to be outside keeping watch?!" Ash gripped the sides of his head. "What are you doing here?"
"Investigating, of course! It's not like I'm gonna let you guys get all the fun." Claptrap looked pleased with himself.
"I think I'm getting a headache..." The deadite hunter covered his face and let out a groan.
The Heavy looked at some of the pictures that were hung, not recognizing any of the people that were hung except for one picture that had Winslow and a group of other people in front of the Inventory. Maybe it was just those random decorations like he saw in the RED Base? "Tycho, you recognize anyone?"
"Hmm..." Tycho leaned and looked at the picture. "Except for Winslow there with a tall woman, not really. Then again, it's kinda hard to see in the dark."
"Here." A voice lit a lighter between Heavy and Tycho, the two looked and jumped back, hitting their backs against the walls and causing the pictures to shake just slightly.
"Bigby!" Tycho gasped. "H-hi! W-what brings you up here among us?"
Everyone in the room turned around and some gasped at the sight of Sheriff of Fabletown. Bigby looked around and closed the lighter, pocketing it before placing his own hands in his pockets. "I could ask you lot the same thing." Bigby began speaking and walking around the room, looking at Sam. "You of all people should know that this is textbook breaking and entering, right? Actually, you all should really know." He glanced at Max and Strong Bad. "Okay... maybe not all of you."
"Look, we can explain." Ash began speaking, ready to get into fight but instead was left silent when Bigby just looked at him, ready to hear the explanation. "Um..."
"Well? Explain away." Bigby said.
"Ah... see, we were trying to figure out who the Owner was and--" Ash stopped and looked like he had an idea pop into his head. "Actually... you wouldn't happen to know who the Owner is, would you? I mean, you're technically the newest member and Winslow said they sent out an invite to those from that company thing."
Bigby couldn't help but smirk and instead scratched his neck, letting out a bit of a chuckle. "Interesting deduction... but no. I didn't get the chance to meet the Owner. I did, however, meet Winslow since he was the one who personally handed me the invite."
"Dammit!" Ash cursed.
"What brings you up here anyways, Wolf?" Brock asked, his arms crossed.
"You're not very quiet." Bigby answered. "And I'm just doing my job making sure everyone is okay. Instead, what I find is a group of people breaking and entering into a room that was locked to begin with."
"Ah... you're not gonna tell Winslow are you?" Tycho asked.
"No need to." The Sheriff shrugged and pointed at the door where the host stood with his arms crossed. "He's right there."
"Ffffffffuck." Tycho cursed under his breath. "Um.... Hi, Winslow."
The Host just stared at him, somehow rendering the Webcomic Writer to quickly shut up and look away to the floor. "In all my years as the host of the Inventory, I have never seen such a display of recklessness and thoughtless tact! What were you all thinking?!"
All eyes fell on Ash, realizing he was the one tossed under the metaphorical bus. He sighed. "We just wanted to see who the Owner was, that was all. Just a quick in and out and that was about it."
Winslow crossed his arms, glaring at the deadite hunter when suddenly they all heard footsteps coming their way and saw the figure standing in the door way. They tilted their head and looked around the room, clearing their throat and spoke.
"What's going on?
Chapter 21: Mystery at the Inventory - Part Four
All eyes fell towards the figure standing in the doorway. His lanky arms held bags underneath and his hair was tied up into a lose ponytail, the perplexed expression was on his face as he looked around the crowded office space and cleared his throat just slightly. "Um... did I miss a memo to something?" Guybrush asked. "What's happening?"
No one in the room was sure how to answer it, or rather, no one was sure who was going to be the one to spill the metaphorical cat out of the bag to the confused former pirate.
"Well, we could ask YOU the same thing!" Claptrap then pointed an accusing robotic hand at Guybrush. "What are YOU doing in the Owner's room!"
"Erm... following the noise." He answered. "Also was looking for Winslow because I kinda needed the key to get into the kitchen so I could drop off the food I was able to bring before the storm kicked in and I'm too tired to break into said kitchen and--"
"You're rambling." Bigby pointed out.
Guybrush pursed his lips and blushed a little. "Ah, sorry." He cleared his throat once more. "But yeah, I was looking for Winslow and thought I would find him here. Turns out I'm right on that regard, although apparently everyone else is in here. So, my turn to ask. What's going on in here?"
Eyes turned from Guybrush to Ash and Winslow in hopes maybe that they could be the ones to explain things instead of themselves. God knows, almost everyone in the room were tried of trying to explain it to one another.
"Would you like to do the honors, Mr. Williams? Or should I?" Winslow asked, his voice sounding exhausted as he crossed his arms and leaned his weight onto one leg, looking towards the Deadite hunter.
Ash sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "This is payback, huh?" The room was heavy with silence. "Yeah. Okay it is. So uh... I may have kinda roped everyone in here to find out who the Owner is. But in my defense, I only asked Brock initially. And then he asked Bugs and Marmaduke over there and then it spilled out to those guy there and then somehow Bigby overheard and well, yeah, half the Inventory is in on it. But I didn't intend that! And now you're in on it too, Blondie."
Guybrush looked blinked in confusion, and slowly placed the bag down to the side, his arms growing heavy. "I uh... I see. Wow. So how'd you guys get into the room? Could've sworn Winslow told me it was locked?"
"Under normal circumstances, yes." Winslow said. "However... they ah... they pulled a you."
"A me?" The blond former pirate mumbled. "In what sense?"
"Year one." The host pointed.
"Pulled a Guybrush?" Sam quirked an eyebrow and looked to Max who shrugged.
"Year one?" Brock sounded confused.
"Eh... committing a felony and botching the job at it." Guybrush stood back up and sheepishly chuckled.
"Oh." The room sounded embarrassed.
"Yeah, but it happens." Guybrush shrugged. "Practice makes perfect though I'm kinda surprised that Brock slipped."
"I didn't." Brock crossed his arms and scowled.
"Rrrrrrright. Sorry." Guybrush placed his hands in his pockets and looked away from the angry stare of the bodyguard as he decided to walk into the room passed the others. "So like, did you guys have anything like uh.... like uh..." He looked to the Freelance Police and Sheriff and pointed at them. "What's that thing you have when you're solving mysteries that's suppose to lead you to something?"
"A trail?" Sam answered.
"Evidence?" Bigby added.
"A body!" Max gleefully jumped.
Sam and Bigby both looked at Max with slight alarm but otherwise not surprised by the lagomorph's answer.
"Leads?" Tycho answered quietly, jumping when Guybrush snapped his fingers and pointed at the webcomic writer.
"That! That one! Leads. Thank you, Tycho." The blond smiled, hearing him give a quiet 'you're welcome' back to him. "Leads, do you have any?"
"Not a lot of good ones..." Heavy admitted. "Too many random information."
Brock squinted his eyes at the former pirate, something about it all didn't sit right with him. And looking at a glance to Ash and even Strong Bad to his surprise, they noticed something being up as well. "You wouldn't happen to have any clues who the owner might be, would you?"
"Hm? Me?" Guybrush scratched his cheek. "Ah... not anything in particular, no. But I do enjoy a good mystery and I feel like I walked in on a good time. For once."
"For once?" Claptrap asked.
"Yeah, usually it's like... ah... curses or trials. But not something like this. This is fun." He grinned and continued walking around the room looking at pictures and then to Ash who he noticed was eyeing him suspiciously. "What?"
"I think I know who the Owner is." Ash stated.
"You do?" Brock, Bigby and Winslow asked, each sounding surprised for three very different reasons. Bigby crossed his own arms and looked at the deadite hunter with suspicion. "Well, who'd you think it is?"
"And you better sound all noir-y, otherwise you'd be insulting the investigative community!" Max declared.
"Pipe down, little buddy." Sam nudged the lagomorph. "...But he is right."
"Right." Ash cleared his throat and started walking around the room. "The first clue we have about the Owner is that they're someone who has extremely high connections to other people and the second clue that goes with the first is that with such a strong connection, that they are knowledgeable on all sorts of trivial facts such as the Inventory, social affairs and other fancy shit INCLUDING the people who come to the Inventory."
"Or a quick google search can do that." Tycho muttered but got elbowed by Heavy who promptly shushed him.
"The third clue we have is that no one knows who the Owner is... but here's the thing. We all have know someone who is AFFILIATED with the Owner." Ash continued. "And I think we all know who is affiliated with the Owner at all times."
"Moxxi?" Strong Bad asked.
"No." Ash shook his head.
"The Monkey limo driver?" Claptrap chimed in.
"The Postman?!" Max gasped.
"The postma-- what are you-- No!" Ash answered curtly and pointed an accusing finger at the portly Host. "I'm talking about Van Winslow!"
The room let out a small gasp, with Winslow standing there wide eyed at the accusation. "I'm sorry, are you saying I know who the Owner is?"
"I'm not saying you know who the Owner is. I'm saying you ARE the Owner!" Ash continued pointing. "Why else would you be pissed off that we're all inside here and you brought in Bigby to investigate?"
"Because it's breaking and entering." Bigby responded deadpanned. "And I don't know how much more I can stress that doing that kind of shit is illegal. That, and the Inventory still has Winslow as its employment so--"
"Well, technically... not really employed. Sort of family owned." Winslow shrugged sheepishly as he saw Bigby look over and saw the Detective was now trying to piece the mystery together for himself. "Although, yes, it's still breaking and entering as well as an invasion of privacy in the matters of the Owner of the Inventory. So, y'know, there's that. But ah.... as for your theory, Mr. Williams, as impressive as that is, I am not the Owner. However, I do know who they are and I shall respect their decision to remain anonymous."
A clapping sound was heard and they all looked over the grinning former pirate who was applauding them. "Gotta say, you weren't that far off." Guybrush complimented with a grin as he went and turned the lights on, stunning the people in the room for a moment as he made his way to the table and took a seat on the Owner's desk. "I'm impressed!"
The room was silent for a while as everyone was trying to piece things together. "I believe..." Tycho spoke up, breaking the silence but not the tension in the room, "I speak for everyone in the room when I say, what the ever flying fuck is going on?"
"Hmm? Oh, isn't it obvious?" Guybrush casually leaned over and placed an object on the table, revealing it to be a plaque with the words "G.Threepwood" engraved on top of the bold words "OWNER" and leaned his chin on his hands for a moment, giving them all a smirk that for some ran a slight chill down their spines as he pointed towards himself and said three simple words:
"I'm the Owner."
Chapter 22: Mystery at the Inventory - Part Five
The room fell silent as all eyes went to Guybrush, his arms crossed on the table as he looked at the crowd that seemed to have been tongue tied at the moment as if trying to process the new found information that was too hard to digest. He couldn't fault them for that, really.
Guybrush glanced at the Deadite hunter who had his hands balled into a fist. "Huh?"
"No freaking way that YOU'RE the Owner." Ash stated through gritted teeth, marching on over to the table and slamming his fists on the wooden top, shaking and knocking things out of place in the process... all besides Guybrush who just tilted his head just slightly. "I'm calling bullshit!"
"Does the plaque not give it away?" Guybrush asked. "Or perhaps the picture of Winslow, my wife and I standing in front of the building that's hanging on the wall not enough?"
"Don't be a smart-ass with me, Blondie!"
"I'm not!" Guybrush smirked with a slight chuckle, leaning back slightly in his chair. "I... okay, maybe being a little bit of a smart-ass. But I'm serious!"
Neither of them paid attention as Brock and Tycho turned their heads to look at the aforementioned. The two looked at each other before looking at Ash pointing a metallic accusing finger at the sitting pirate and not paying attention to the Host who moved himself to stand besides the blond. "Should I tell him or you?" Tycho asked.
Brock sighed. "Ash, you might want to look here."
"Not now, Samson! I'm trying to rub it into this hippie's face that he's pulling my... OUR goddamn LEGS!" Ash slammed a fist again on the table, this time knocking a picture that Guybrush quickly caught and placed back nicely on his table, smiling for a moment until Ash slapped it back down mostly out of sheer spite and pouted.
"Smooth." Strong Bad snide at the Deadite Hunter.
"You. Shut it." Ash threatened.
"The one time I agree with him..." Tycho mumbled, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Williams." Brock growled. "Seriously."
"I AM being serious!" He looked to Brock and pointed a finger dangerously close to Guybrush's nose. "This guy ISN'T the Owner!"
"But he is the Owner!" The Web-Comic writer shouted. "Look at the fucking wall, you dip-shit!"
"Language." Sam crossed his arms.
"Read the room." Bigby countered.
"Hey! You don't get to talk to Sam that way!" Max furrowed his brows. "Only I can!"
"Loud noises!" Claptrap almost shouted.
Heavy walked passed the various arguments to where Brock was and looked at the picture, examining it closely for himself and letting out a small 'oh' in realization. He glanced at Guybrush sitting in the chair looking at Winslow who was giving the blond a sympathetic pat on his back for a moment until the two noticed the Russian Mercenary. He gestured at the picture and mouthed 'May I' to them, which was met with a nod of approval from the blond and carefully the Heavy took the picture off of the wall, making his way back to the table, placing it down in-between Guybrush and Ash.
"Not now, Heavy." Ash snarled. "I don't have time to do any of that puzzle solving bullsh-- OOF!" Try as he might, Heavy's entire hand was roughly the size of Ash's head, if not a bit more, making it easy for the Mercenary to forcefully move Ash's head down to stare down at the picture before him no matter how much the hunter struggled to get out of his enormous grip.
"Stop being babies!" Heavy's voice boomed, causing the room to fall silent. He then leaned closer to Ash. "Look at the picture."
Reluctantly, Ash stared down at the frame picture. His scowl slowly melting away as he spotted the people in the image: One of them he recognized easily as Winslow, wearing an entirely different outfit... but still him. Beside him was a taller red-headed woman sporting a fairly large diamond earring and right beside her was--
"That... this has to be fake." Ash mumbled, unable to take his eyes off of Guybrush standing there and smiling in the picture.
"Are you being serious right now?" Winslow muttered, watching as Heavy took his large hand off of Ash.
"I... you..." Ash looked around the room, suddenly noticing the pictures of either Winslow, the Red Head, or Guybrush with either of them hanging all over the wall before looking at Guybrush, who was sitting upright in his chair and had long since dropped his smiling and witty front. "Y... you had to have over heard me, right? I-- apparently, I'm loud? And... and you overheard and planned this out. Which is why... why Bigby is here...?"
Bigby shook his head. "This ain't it, chief."
Brock leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, shaking his head as well as Ash looked over to him to back him up with his theory. "We were as discreet as we could get. Gotta face the music, Williams."
His shoulders sagged as he started to think back on all the past encounters he had with him. From the first time meeting, the layoff meeting, how Winslow regarded the Owner as well as Guybrush... everything. It was all just... he shook his head and Ash looked to Guybrush, taking a seat across from him thanks to Max having long since hop off the chair in favor of Sam's back. "You know... you'd think playing this much poker you'd be able to tell when someone is bluffing." Ash spoke quietly, slowly looking at the blond pirate. "You're bluff is too good.
"Ten years of running this place would do that." Guybrush said as calmly as he could, unable to hide just a hint of bitterness to his voice.
"Ten?" Tycho raised a brow. "Wait, you were the Owner of the Inventory for ten years?"
"Going strong." The blond gave a small smirk and an even smaller fist pump.
"Sounds like you have a story." Sam said, disregarding Max hopping off of his back. "And I think we're all due for one, honestly."
Guybrush contemplated and nodded. "Right... where to start."
"How about the beginning?" Bigby suggested, joining Brock with leaning on the wall. "That's usually a good place for any story."
"You'd know?" Guybrush jabbed slightly, hearing a scoff from the Sheriff. "So uh... let's see. So, remember a while back when I first met you guys, Winslow and I said something along the lines of me coming back from a business trips of sorts?"
"You were landlocked." Heavy recalled.
"Right. Cause these group of businessmen put some sort of rule that basically had me and my ship on semi-permanent lock-down. And I was trying to bargain with them to perhaps lift it considering they permitted a bunch of OTHER pirates to go roaming about, but not me or my crew." Guybrush began explaining. "Thought it would be an ideal time to ask considering, y'know, they were going on and about promoting it and didn't help that Elaine-- ah... my wife, pointed out that they had someone look a little bit like me."
"It wasn't a little bit, Sir. It was dead on." Winslow corrected. "It might as well have been you."
"That's bogus!" Strong Bad huffed. "Bunch of snooty stuck ups thinking they know what's best for themselves.
"And full of crap!" Claptrap added. "In that order! Bogus crappy snooty stuck up [beep]!"
"Heh, agreed." The blond laughed, ignoring the beep. "Anyways, it's been like that for a long... long time now. And roughly ten years ago, I was able to catch a break for a moment..." He glanced at Bigby. "With them."
"That's why you were at that meeting." Bigby realized.
The blond nodded. "Them going down was my last chance at any potential of getting the lock-down lifted. But... you never know, right? Maybe someday someone else will, but..." He shook his head. "Anyways, I spent a year with the lock lifted and it was just the greatest of just... just being out there, without any worries and savoring everything about it. Got to meet Winslow in the process to boot who shockingly stayed by my side even after all of that."
"I have no regrets, sir." Winslow smirked.
"And then you went on your honeymoon and lived happily ever after?" Max asked.
"No." The two pirates answered.
"So then what?" Tycho asked.
"The lock came back on. And... I was upset because, y'know, being landlocked as a pirate is like clipping a bird of its wings. It's not right." He shrugged. "So the three of us stumbled over to the Inventory by chance and found the original Owners."
"Whoooa... that's rad! Did you raid the place? Held them hostage and demanded their gold? Pillage their loot?!" Claptrap rolled slightly closer to the table. "Please tell me you looted them of their things!"
"Ah... not exactly." Guybrush scratched his cheek. "Well. Unless you count the Inventory as a whole as loot?"
"What?!" The group shouted, immediately met with Guybrush and Winslow shushing them and pointed out the window to the sleeping guests.
"How the hell did you loot the Inventory?" Tycho pressed. "That's not just some random knick knack or whatever, it's an entire business!"
"I asked the same thing." Winslow admitted.
"Well, how'd you do that? Forgery on the estate?" Sam asked, fully invested into the story. "Oh! Did you do that classic item swap of the real item with a fake one?"
Guybrush shook his head. "Nope. No item swap or any of my usual antics. Just... basic Texas Hold 'em and luck."
"How?" Brock then asked. "How'd the play go?"
The blond looked around the room, feeling the shock and anger that was once hovering and suffocating the room being replaced with interest and curiosity... if not with a dash of absolute confusion. He took a breath rested his forearms on the table, looking at everyone in the eyes (or... eye-like considering Claptrap).
"So it happened like this..."
Chapter 23: Mystery at the Inventory - Finale
It didn't take much for Guybrush and the others to find the Inventory. In fact, they were told of it by someone who was wishing them well as they packed their things and left the building. More to that, the were relieved it wasn't as complex to find, though they supposed it would've been a lot harder to track down if they were to find the Inventory all on their own.
Placing her bags to the side, Elaine took a seat by the bar, sitting alongside Van Winslow who quietly sat and noted the vacant bartender and drinks.
"Kind of sad to see a bar be so empty." Winslow commented.
"Can't tell if that's suppose to be a metaphor." Elaine admitted. "But yes, it's a bit of a sad sight..."
Guybrush leaned his body against the bar, his mind going at a million thoughts trying to think of what to do next and how to go about it when he heard a couple of plastic chips hitting the table. Turning his head to look, he noticed a group of people playing a card game with the dealer watching intensely before placing the final cards down. He didn't really hear what the announcement was, but he did notice three of them groaning in frustration to the one victor who claimed the pile for themselves.
"Sounds like it was an intense game." The first mate noted, joining in at the viewing party.
"I hope it doesn't end badly." Elaine mumbled, glancing at the blond. "Guybrush? Everything alright?"
Upon closer inspection, he recognized who the winner was and stood straight.
"Yeah... be right back." He muttered and walked over to the table, passed the newly dubbed losers. Slamming his hands down on the table, he glared at the winner who didn't flinch in the slightest. "Hey, you!"
"Hi me." The winner looked up at Guybrush. "And who might you be?"
"Who might I-- are you kidding me?!" Guybrush nearly yelled. "I'm the guy you just laid off!"
The winner squinted for a moment, disregarding Elaine and Winslow's collective gasps before their eyes lit up. "Oh! Guyburn Thriftweed! What a pleasant surprise to see you here, how are things for you?" He only leaned back slightly as Guybrush shook with rage and was about to lunge over the table only held back only in due part to Elaine and Winslow quickly rushing over and placing their hands on the captain, pulling him slightly away from the table of the winner. "If I didn't know any better, I would assume you were mad at me."
"Gee, I wonder why." Guybrush snarked.
"Why is that? And calmly, we're adults here."
He hated that the winner had a point. "You promised us security, that we would only be waiting for a short period of time between work before being able to sail out again. But not only back-peddled on the promise, but we got kicked out without so much as compensation for all three of us. And now insult to injury, you don't even care!"
"Well, I do now."
"Do you?" He glared.
The winner just shrugged. "I'm sorry you're in this situation. Though there isn't much I can do to help."
"That's an understatement." Elaine then mumbled.
"But tell you what, how about you play a round of poker with me? Get your mind off of things and who knows? Maybe score a buck or two." The winner suggested, playing nonchalantly with the chips.
"Yeah, yeah... you were made and they're a sleaze." Claptrap said. "Booooooooring! When are you gonna get to the good juicy details?"
"Clam it, you rolling tin." Brock glared.
"I'm getting to it." Guybrush mumbled.
All eyes looked to Winslow for truth, but the host merely shrugged. "He likes exposition."
The room groaned.
"Anyways... where was I? Oh yeah."
True to the winner's word, Guybrush's mind was taken off, but only for a moment. It was only when he started to win that the winner's cocky demeanor start to slip into frustration and that the blond couldn't help but feel nervous... if not slightly good with himself for wiping that smug grin off of their face.
"What's the matter?" Guybrush asked, noticing the chip pile diminishing from his opponent. "If I didn't know any better, I would assume you were mad at me."
"Oh, just shut it." The winner-- soon to be FORMER winner, grumbled. They glanced at the chips, their cards and eventually around the room, sighing. "Do you know the history of this place?"
The opponent nodded. "Founded in 1919, it used to be a speakeasy during a time when they banned alcohol. The eighteenth amendment, I believe. Did you know that along with that ban, games were included? Supposedly they believed games would ruin the workforce, yet people would come over and play all types of board and card games right underneath the law's noses. Even though the law has been lifted, this placed has remained opened just in case the law decides to turn its back on us."
"That's... quite the history." Guybrush said.
"Indeed." They nodded, placing their cards down. "Tell you what, since we're on my last line of chips... and I don't have much to lose, lets make things more interesting."
"How so?" Elaine asked.
The opponent, smirking, dug into their pocket and pulled out a folded up piece of parchment. "This... is the deed to the Inventory. The one who gets handed the deed is the newly appointed Owner of the Inventory."
"But... wait, how did you get your hands on it?" Guybrush asked. "You having it would mean--"
"I'm the Owner of this facility."
Guybrush and the others leaned back in shock, not noticing them placing the paper on the table.
"What do you say? Everything in, including the deed?"
"I..." Guybrush looked at the parchment, feeling a sense of dread.
"Well? Did you do it? Did you go through with the horrific and life-ruining deed?" Sam asked, leaning on the table.
"Erm... I mean, considering?" The Owner gestured his office.
"Get on with it, man! You can't stop in the story there!" Ash said.
"This is just as bad as that one show with that one guy doing that one thing!" Max nearly yelled, hopping on the table and grabbing Guybrush's shoulder only to shake him. "Don't go on that seasonal hiatus!"
"Right, sorry." Guybrush cleared his throat after being freed of the lagomorph's grip.
"I'm in." Guybrush decided.
"Guybrush, are you sure?" Elaine asked, placing a hand over his and preventing him from moving it forward. "That could easily be enough to find a place to stay, not to mention that if you lose, we'll lose all of our savings."
"I know, but..." He sighed, look at the redhead. "It's worth a shot."
"Are you saying this because you genuinely believe you can win this? Or being spiteful?"
"Eh... little of column a, a little of column b."
Elaine stared and sighed. "At least you're being honest." She looked at the table and moved her hand away to let him push his massive pile of chips to the center, watching as the game went. It was as if the air was too thick with tension for them to breathe as Guybrush and the Owner stared each other down, watching the dealer placing the final cards on the table. The Owner looked at their hands, glancing between the cards they held and the cards on the table as Guybrush did the same for his own... feeling his heart freeze for a moment.
The Owner placed their cards down as well as Guybrush, both looking at the dealer.
"The Owner has..." The Dealer spoke, glancing at aforementioned fellow. "a Straight Flush." They then looked at the bunch of pirates. "Mr. Threepwood has... a Royal Flush. Mr. Threepwood wins the Tournament!"
"I what?" Guybrush gasped as he felt arms hug him.
"You did it!!" Elaine squealed.
"Excellent game, Sir!" Winslow complimented.
The Owner... or rather, the former Owner, sighed and stood up, extending their hand out for Guybrush to shake. "Good game, Mr. Threepwood. Or should I say, Mr. Owner?"
"Erm... Threepwood is fine." Guybrush mumbled.
"After that," Guybush reclined back into his seat, "They signed the paper work and legally gave me full reigns on the Inventory and, as you can see, business has been booming since with Winslow as the Host, Elaine in charge of finance and myself as the Owner."
"So SHE'S the reason the price went up?!" Claptrap gasped.
"I think it had something to do with you breaking the windows that one time with your dubstep." Brock pointed out.
"It was karaoke night!" Strong Bad protested.
"Dang, Blondie... that's a hell of a tale." Ash remarked, leaning back in his own seat. "But why the secrecy?"
Guybrush shrugged. "I didn't want to risk the position being taken away for whatever inane reason. Besides, I like to keep certain things private. But, y'know, was nice while it lasted."
"I just have question though..." Tycho spoke. "Actually, two questions."
"Shoot." Guybrush looked at the Webcomic Writer.
"One, who was the Original Owner to get you that pissed off? And two..." He glared at Sam and Max. "How the fuck did you two NOT know?! Aren't you, like, from the same company or some shit?"
"The Owner was the one who had the Company shut down." Winslow answered. "As for the Freelance Police..."
"Memory of a dried and rotting trout!" Max grinned as he hopped onto Sam's shoulder.
"And to be fair, it's been a while since we saw each other... kinda forgot that detail." Sam admitted.
"But you saw each other RECENTLY!"
"Eh." The Freelance Police duo shrugged.
"Anyways..." Guybrush called for attention again, "Mystery solved? Everyone got their fix on a bedtime story?"
The room mumbled an awkward yes where as Max yelled for a sequel story. Winslow glanced out at the window, hearing the shutters slowly stop banging against the window. "Well, I believe the storm is quieting down a bit anyways, perhaps we should get some sleep, eh?"
"This sounds good." Heavy agreed.
"Good. So with that said..." Guybrush stood up, smiling warmly. "Get the hell out of my office."
Bigby stood to the side of the door, watching them all leave in a somewhat orderly fashion line before looking at Guybrush. Giving a nod, he closed the door behind him.
The only thing keeping the gold sprinkle-splattered decor in the Inventory was a few loose strings and sheer determination.
Well, maybe not determination, but whatever it was that kept a good portion still up in its rightful place did raise a few eyebrows to some of the customers that strolled on in and going about their day, disregarding the few guests that were at the Inventory the night prior celebrating the beginning of the New Year. Tycho's face laid flat on the bar counter's surface, groaning slightly from the pounding headache. Beside him were Ash and Claptrap, the both of them almost copying him at grumbling and moaning at the aching headache, but the difference being with Ash holding himself up just barely and Claptrap gripping tightly to the counter. They didn't need to say anything, but there was solidarity in knowing that they were feeling the wrath of the morning hangover.
By the booth, Sam gripped his head and had his eyes shut, trying to will away the headache while also attempting to tune out the ringing noise buzzing about in his skull and Max laid on the cushion curled up into a ball looking deceptively peaceful... on-goers knew very well to avoid the booth, less they decide to be in the front of line of the Freelance Polices' guns and a threat by Max who would eat their faces.
Strong Bad laid carelessly on the stage, groaning, but otherwise still very much asleep from previous party.
Sans for Moxxi and Winslow who were going about their day and trying to clean up any of the left over cups, drinks and plates, the main room was filled with knocked out party goers.
"Should I go about and wake them, sugar?" Moxxi asked in a hush voice. "We could always use a helping hand."
"Hmm... tempting. But no, I'm sure dealing with them hungover will be a poor decision on our part." Winslow admitted. "And by our, I mean mostly me. We'll have them take down the decorations instead when they do decide to wake up."
The bartender nodded in understanding and continued collecting the clues to the party when the sounds of the elevator doors dinged, causing an eruptions of groans and angry slurs from the passed out guests. Winslow placed the dishes over the bar and looked to see Brock and Heavy walking down the stairs, holding in their hands a few bags and various drinks before placing it alongside the dishes. Winslow couldn't help but tilt his head in a slight confusion as to what was just placed.
"Ehm... mind if I ask what this is?" Winslow asked, looking at the burly two.
"Hangover recipe." Brock said as he took a seat. "Figured it might help deal with the ah... pesky head problem. Though the credit goes to Heavy for that."
"Does it now?" The host leaned slightly on the bar.
"I brought some homemade recipes to help. Medic told me how to cure these problems." Heavy added, looking delighted. "He also wrote it down so I can understand and not eh... explode anything. Again."
"Again?" Winslow quirked a brow.
"It is a long story. Save for later." Heavy brushed off.
"Hmm... Does this remedy of yours involve surgery or any bodily harm?"
"I asked the same thing but according to him and his medic, no." Brock answered, watching the Russian mercenary pull out various ingredients and a piece of paper before going to Moxxi to hand her the aforementioned paper who delightfully took hold of it and skimmed the parchment quickly. "I'm guessing none of them woke up?"
"Please shut your mouth hole..." Tycho groaned.
"I'll bite your knee caps..." Max threatened, unmoved from his booth.
"[Bleep] you, you loud [Bleep Bleep Bleep Bleeeeeeeeeeep]" Claptrap grumbled.
Brock just smirked. "Guess none of them can hold on to their liqueur, huh?"
"I suppose not." Winslow chuckled.
Moxxi grabbed the rest of the ingredients and started following the instructions of the letter, trying to not be loud but couldn't help it when she had to use the blender and a sudden burst of colorful languages gathered from the hungover patrons also shouting and demanding for the blender to be either chucked or shoved somewhere that it didn't belong.
"What the hell did you give them to drink anyways?" Brock asked, looking at the bartender.
"Nothin' out of the ordinary. Just the usual favorites of theirs." Moxxi explained, going about behind the bar with ease. "I just think the boys had a bit too much. Too much excitement, y'know?"
"This is understandable." Heavy nodded. "Do you need help getting the drinks ready?"
"Hmm..." Moxxi looked about. "Perhaps finding me some clean mugs? Might have a few spare ones up by the game rooms."
With a nod once more, Heavy went to look for the cups, leaving the three non-hungover be. Winslow eventually took a seat and let out a sigh, resting his chin on his hand. "How are you not hungover, Mr. Samson?" He asked.
"I just usually need a quiet night to myself, and fortunately for me, Doc and the boys were out with their neighbor and his daughter so that allowed me to sleep in a bit." Brock answered. "How about you?"
Winslow shrugged. "I don't usually suffer terribly from a hangover. Besides, the Owner has an incredibly hangover recipe that he prepares every New Year, so I just had that before I went to sleep."
"Nice." The bodyguard nodded, enjoying the quiet for a moment until the Heavy came back with an armful of cups and placing it down for Moxxi.
"Thank you, honey." Moxxi cooed. Organizing the glasses slightly, she poured out the concoction and handed a few mugs to the three. "Mind passing it to the others? I'll get the food ready."
"Of course." Winslow smiled and grabbed two mugs for Sam and Max, leaving the other three to Tycho, Claptrap and Ash. Brock took the other remaining cup to Strong Bad as Heavy took a seat with the other two joining him shortly after. They sat in silence and watched, almost as if documenting nature's wildlife, as the guests drank their remedy and slowly start to wake up once again. "Huh, guess the recipe worked." Brock commented.
"Of course it works, it is the Medic's medicine!" Heavy crossed his arms. "Medic ALWAYS comes with good way to heal team."
"Noted." The bodyguard mumbled and pulled out a cigarette.
Tycho and Ash sat up, rubbing their foreheads as they felt the headache subside while the Freelance Police just laid their heads on the table, sighing in relief. Strong Bad, however, just grumbled five more minutes. "Welcome back to the world of the living, Gentlemen, and Happy New Year!" Winslow greeted.
"Ugh... not that loud." Ash hissed. "Headache is gone but loud noises is still painful, man."
"Oh, my apologies."
"The Hell happened?" Tycho grumbled. "All I remember was cheering and something crashing and then just... nothing." He looked over to the booth. "I think Max was involved?"
"The only thing I was involved in was having uh... um..." Max placed a finger on his chin. "Huh. Don't remember. Ah well, might've not been important."
"I think you were having a race, little buddy." Sam pointed out.
"So, yeah, like I said. Not Important."
"Max and Strong Bad were having a drunken race by using the banners as swings. It ended about as well as you'd image." Claptrap slurred. "I have it on footage."
"You do?" Ash looked at him. "Can we see it?"
"I don't have holographic capabilities yet, man. You'll need to plug me in or somethin'."
"That's your cue, nerd boy."
"Shut up." Tycho grumbled. "I don't have it in me to moOO--WHOA!" He gripped tightly as Heavy casually lifted both him and Claptrap up. "W-what the Hell is going on?!"
"Where do you need to go?" Heavy asked. "I want to see this footage of yours. I don't really remember last night and wish to see this race."
"Perhaps the Video Game Room?" Winslow suggested, "No one is renting it out at the moment."
"Perfect." The Russian Mercenary said, leading the way alongside with the Host to the aforementioned room with the others following them. Once by the room, Winslow unlocked it, allowing the guests to enter in first before walking in himself, shutting the door behind him so as to not let Tycho be interrupted by any passersby. Taking a seat alongside Brock, he watched as the Webcomic Writer and robot bickered slightly before the television that Claptrap was hooked up to illuminated. They all watched in silence as the footage began to play.
"Is it recording?" Ash asked.
"Duh, like I'm gonna miss this soon to be incredible fail go off and make me bank once I upload it to the internet for fame and glory!" Claptrap's voice was heard.
"Didn't you already have the glory and fame?" Sam asked as the footage looked to him.
"You say that like I wouldn't want to be more rich, you poor fool."
"Well, can't really argue with that. I'm both poor and a fool." The Freelance dog admitted.
"Preach." Tycho raised a glass in agreement.
The footage moved from them to the top of the staircase, catching just quickly Brock and Heavy sitting by the bar drinking and watching the small television behind Moxxi's bar. For one reason or another, Winslow wasn't shown... but that wasn't a concern for the robot that was filming.
"Alright!" Ash yelled, the footage zooming into an abnormally giddy Max and highly competitive Strong Bad gripping tightly two banners that were strung across the Inventory. "Remember the rules, first one to swing from that side of the Inventory to the other withOUT slipping and falling off the banner wins twenty bucks!"
"Bring it on!" Max proclaimed. "I fear nothing and I shall swing from this year to the next with reckless abandon!"
"You already do that, Max!" Sam shouted.
"Come at me, fuzzball!" Strong Bad gripped the banner. "I'm going to wipe the floor with your smug sharp fuzzy face!"
Tycho was giggling. "This is going to get him so banned."
"Ready!" Ash raised a hand. "Get set! SWING!"
The two leaped off the banister clumsily as they spun and swung about. The footage zoomed out to catch the full sight of it with all that could be heard is some yelling at the sight and others laughing incredibly hard... Tycho's and Ash's voices being the most prominent with their laughter. Once they neared the stage, Max found himself swinging into Strong Bad, knocking the Web Star off his banner and plummeting into the stage below, followed shortly with the lagomorph landing hard on top of the other. With the sounds of footsteps rushing over and Claptrap's wheel rolling him quickly, Sam hopped onto the stage and lifted Max up, gently shaking him.
"Max? Max are you with me? Max?! Say something, little buddy!"
"Hrngle... twofa..." Max slurred.
The camera panned to Strong Bad who remained unmoved from the fall. "Uh... should someone check on him?" Claptrap asked.
"On it." Ash said.
"No, Max was on it." Tycho snickered, Ash couldn't help but chuckle a little and moved to examine Strong Bad.
"Did I win....?" Max asked.
"Uh... considering you knocked the poor bastard out cold, yeah, you won." Ash answered.
"I'm the best!" The lagomorph lifted his fuzzy fists up before passing out once again.
"You rascal..." Sam laughed and casually lifted Max over his shoulder.
The footage cut quickly to black and the room was silent, all trying to process what they just watched when Tycho started to giggle quietly... and slowly but surely getting louder and louder until he went into a full blown laugh, gripping his sides. The laughter continued on to Ash, then Sam and eventually the rest of the room. Everyone but Strong Bad who was pouting with his arms crossed.
"Wh... what's wrong?" Ash asked between laughs. "W-what got your pants tied into a twist?"
"The fact that I'm humiliated and lost to a freakin' bunny." Strong Bad muttered.
"I would view the loss as an honor for going up against moi." Max teased, ignoring Strong Bad's growl.
"Oh, lighten up!" Tycho playfully punched him. "It was funny!"
"To who? You, ya dingleweed?!"
"Yes. Yes to me." Tycho nodded, "As well as to the rest of the room. And besides, you could still win that cash back."
"Really?" Strong Bad looked at him with hesitation. "How?"
"If Claptrap submits it to one of those funny found footage shows."
Tycho jumped as Strong Bad launched at him while the rest of the room laughed even harder, enjoying their entry into the New Year.
A belated New Year chapter I've been wanting to do but didn't get around to... anyways, happy belated New Year! Hope it'll be filled with good antics, good company, and plenty of laughs!