by Greg Mitchell -
Trebs led the way through the clatter and chatter of Maddie’s Pub. Dressler trailed behind uncertainly, nodding a friendly “hello” to the madam of the bar. She was a mother to all the rugged workers who came here after hours and Dressler usually spent a while visiting with her, but today Maddie would have to wait.
They were here to save Edilyn.
At Dressler’s question, Trebs answered, “Yeah.”
In the corner of the pub, a bear of a man sat alone. He had an old prospector’s hat on his head, a pair of dark green goggles over his eyes, and a great bushy white beard covering his cheeks, chin, and the better part of his chest. Presently, his head was leaned back against the wall, his mouth agape. A foul odor emanated off his gargantuan bulk and flies buzzed around him.
He didn’t appear to be breathing. Dressler hesitated. “He’s . . . not moving.”
The two inched closer to the old man. Not a snore escaped his lips. His chest did not rise or fall. No, this isn’t happening. Dressler worried. We need him to save my daughter. Dressler reached one hand towards his throat, intending to check his pulse. “I think he’s dead . . . ”
“Nope,” the man barked, sitting straight up, suddenly alive. Dressler jerked his hand back, startled. “Just playin’ dead. Tryin’ ta keep the lowlifes away. You the guys got a job for me?”
Dressler shared a hesitant look with Trebs, but his partner simply nodded with a knowing grin. Trebs seemed a lot giddier since his brush with death and the angels of the seas. He had a perpetual glow about him these days that Dressler had to admit was a little creepy at times.
“I need someone to take me below,” Dressler said, still standing.
The burly man raised his goggles and eyed the bug hunter suspiciously. “Let me guess. Angels, huh?”
“You one of them jelly rollers? This some kind of spiritual thing to you?” Before Dressler could answer, the man banged the table, carrying on. “Used to be a time folks stayed away from those critters. Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to take a box a’candy down to them squid heads and learn about ‘em.”
“No,” Dressler corrected. “That’s not why I want to go.”
The scruffy brute swatted at one of the flies hovering by his nose. He snorted and glared. “Then what is it yer after?”
“I was . . . invited.”
Dressler shifted uncomfortably. “By them. The angels. They want to cure my daughter. But, I need a tub to take me down there. Trebs says you’re the best pilot.”
“Ha!” The man threw his head back, roaring. “The best. The cheapest, you mean!”
“That, too. I don’t have a lot of money, but if this saves my kid, whatever I’ve got is yours.”
The pilot snickered a bit more. “Angels don’t often take too kindly to our kind poking around in their habitat, invite or no. It’d take a crazy man to drive you down there to the deep to find ‘em.”
Dressler nodded. He knew the risks. But Edilyn was worth it.
The other man looked him up and down, but Dressler remained determined. “Will you take me?”
After a moment’s pause, the pilot stood to his full height; the hairy ogre was more monster than man. He swelled his barren chest, looking down on the two tiny mortals that sought his help on their foolish quest. At last he thrust out a hand the size of Dressler’s face, offering a shake. “Call me ‘Crazy’.”