The One Stop
The War ran like a man demented. Arms pumping, spittle hissing against the flames on his back, he resembled nothing so much as a demon from Hell coming to drag Nobody down to its darkest depths. A parked motorcycle didn’t even slow him down.
Nobody readied a throwing star, knowing it probably wouldn’t do anything to the giant. Unless his eyeballs were vulnerable. Nobody wondered if he could hit the giant’s eyes from this distance. He didn’t notice the headlights until the last second. A car sideswiped The War, knocking him down and came to a swerving stop in front of Nobody. The door opened and there was Mr. Bell in the driver seat.
“Holy shit get in!” a wide-eyed Bell yelled. Nobody jumped in and barely had the door closed before Bell peeled out. The War shot at them, taking out the rear window and driver side view mirror, until he ran out of shells. Then he spat in frustration. This night just got a little longer.
Nobody slowed his breathing and made sure not to focus on the pain. He checked behind them to make sure they weren’t being followed and then turned to Bell.
“You came back,” said Nobody.
“Well technically I never left.”
“You were in the parking lot?”
“Everyone was trying to leave at the same time and I didn’t want anyone crashing into my car so I waited and then I saw you guys so I hid.”
“You didn’t have to risk your life like that for me. Or your car,” said Nobody.
“Eh, it was time to trade it in anyway. The new 2011s are going to drop any day now,” said Bell.
“Thank you,” said Nobody.
“So I guess this means we’re even now,” said Bell.
“I suppose it does.”
Bell drove for a little bit before realizing he didn’t know where he was going.
“I should probably take you to a hospital,” said Bell.
“Not an option,” said Nobody.
“Aren’t you basically all broken bones right now?” Bell asked.
“I know a place. It’s a very limited clientele so I’m putting a lot of trust in you by taking you there,” said Nobody.
“I can keep a secret. I keep plenty for you,” said Bell.
Nobody directed him to a deserted intersection a block off Main Street just outside downtown proper. Jet City had a lot of deserted streets, but they weren’t concentrated enough in any one place for it to be noticeable. The city could pretend to be relevant for a little while longer.
“Park here,” said Nobody.
“There’s no parking here between 8 p.m. and…” Nobody gave him a look that stopped the words from coming out. “You got it, boss.” Bell parked and Nobody moved to exit the car. “Hey, you’re in no condition to move.”
“Then come here and give me a hand,” said Nobody. Bell got under his arm and helped him hobble down a darkened alley. “There. Up ahead.”
“What, that cargo elevator?”
“Yes. Press the up button, then down, then up twice and then down.” Bell did so. Nothing happened.
“Is this some kind of secret elevator to a hidden lair?” Bell asked.
“Not quite,” said Nobody.
They waited. Bell looked over his shoulder nervously.
“Whatever’s happening has to happen quicker,” said Bell.
“Here it is.”
The cargo elevator dinged and opened to reveal a shop nestled entirely within its confines. A sign in the back read “One Stop”. The man behind the counter gingerly put a book mark into a thick paperback and clasped his hands together.
“Hello, shoppers, welcome to… Oh dear. Is that you, Nobody?”
“Oh you look awful. Please come in,” said Lloyd.
“What the fuck is a shop doing in an elevator?” Bell asked.
“Hiding in plain sight. Now come on,” said Nobody. They entered and the door shut behind them.
“Pretty snug in here,” said Bell.
“I prefer creating an intimate environment for my shoppers. Although, I guess you’re not technically a shopper,” said Lloyd.
“I can vouch for him,” said Nobody.
“Very well. So, what are you in the market for? We’re having a sale on Chupacabra venom,” said Lloyd.
“Chupa-what?” asked Bell.
“I’m looking for something with the prefix Osteo- and the word repair somewhere in there,” said Nobody.
“Those are pretty steep these days. I can put you on an herbal regimen that will promote bone growth. How soon do you need to be up and running?” asked Lloyd.
“Tonight,” said Nobody. Lloyd whistled.
“That’s a radical physical demand. It’ll put a lot of stress on your body and degenerate your telomeres. As your shopkeeper, I recommend more recovery time.”
“I appreciate that, Lloyd, but I’m on the clock here,” said Nobody. Lloyd tapped his chin.
“I might have something off book, but as such there are no guarantees attached. I assume the risk is acceptable?”
“Yes,” said Nobody.
Lloyd ducked behind the counter. Bell looked around the shop. It was as if a curiosity shop merged with a spice market from another dimension. The labels were written in so many languages. And the smells. The colors! Customized ammunition. Handbooks of every variety. Vials of Fairy Dust. Faerie Dust? Self sealing body suits. Infrared spectrum sunglasses. Compressed Calorie brand food bars with flavors like Steak Dinner and Cheese. A bottle of spirits. A bottle of Spirits. A tiny man in a bird cage that Bell assumed was a doll or figurine until it turned to look at him. A rack of knives made out of something called Perma-Ice. And hats. Hats from places Bell had never heard of. One hat read, “Hello from ShitMeat, AL!” That had to be a typo. Lloyd returned from behind the counter holding a container that looked like a tiny briefcase.
“That’ll be double the usual fare, plus hazard fee,” he said.
“How about regular fare plus one favor,” said Nobody.
“Two favors. One big, one small,” said Lloyd.
“What’s happening right now?” Bell asked.
“You never been to a flea market? We’re haggling,” said Nobody.
“Okay, but, what?”
“Two small favors and one birthday party appearance,” said Nobody.
“Make it a Quinceanera and we have a deal,” said Lloyd.
“I didn’t know Livia was almost fifteen,” said Nobody, handing him something that wasn’t cash.
“I know. The world moves too fast for me now. Soon she will be married and have little ones and I’ll be a granduncle,” said Lloyd. Bell was utterly confused. The little man in the birdcage shrugged.
“One more thing while I’m here. I’m going to need access to my storage locker,” said Nobody. Lloyd paused and swallowed hard. Then he nodded.
“We’re going to have to make another stop.” He took a ring of keys from his vest pocket, found a long brass one, and moved a stack of paperbacks to reveal a keyhole set in the wall.
“Oh the One Stop Shop. I get it now,” said Bell. Lloyd sighed.
“Going down,” he said, turning the key.
The elevator dinged and began to descend.