TW: Swearing, guns and black mold.
Esmerelda banged a sack of skulls down on the bar. The barman looked at her with disgust.
“You know we don’t conduct business here Es, take them through the back.” He pushed open the door beside him printed with the words STAFF ONLY. The door creaked on brass hinges. Behind it was a room of kegs and bottles. Behind that, another door.
Hammering the reinforced door with her steel toe capped army surplus boot, she waited. “Who is it?” The voice from the slot was low pitched, a boy fresh from his balls dropping and working on some peach fuzz facial hair.
“Its mom, Darren. Open the door.”
“How do I know it’s you?” Asked her son.
“Same as always. Do you never pay attention? Stab me with the silver needle and watch the monitor.” She pushed her hand through the slot and winced. Out came her palm with a fresh puncture wound.
A bolt slid back. A lock clicked. Gears turned. A handle creaked. Darren strained to open the mighty door.
“Those skinny arms of yours need to come into muscle. Merl not getting you exercise? He used to work me until I was sweat on a skeleton.” The door opened slowly, Darren struggling with the weight. She pushed with her free hand, outdoing the efforts of the boy.
“We do boxing and firearms practice every morning but he’s always busy on the phone in the afternoon.” Darren pulled up his shorts and cracked his neck. The Linkin Park T-shirt emblazoned with Chester Bennington hung off him like a wire hanger.
“You could beef up one arm watching porn?” She smiled, giving him a gleam from her gold tooth.
“He only gets straight porn on the TV here.” Darren huffed and picked up a glass bottle of coke from the table by the door. Without the soda bottle, the shotgun on the cup marked table looked lonely. Skinny fingers locked and bolted the door behind her.
“2022 and there’s no gay porn on cable? What is the world coming to?” She teased him, ruffling his buzz cut hair. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you a cheap laptop and some headphones, you can download stuff when we go out.”
With the luminescence of the New York Christmas tree, he hugged her. “Thanks mom. You’re the best.”
“I always thought you were going to grow into that shirt, maybe not.” They walked to the stairs and down concrete steps.
“What did you get?” He thumbed an arrow at her sack as he led the way.
“A few werewolves, enough to get myself more ammunition and my gun fixed.”
Her boy stopped dead on the stairs, reaching into her black denim jacket. Out came the gun from her holster as if easily charmed telekinesis had held it in place.
“How did you do that?” She asked.
His grin was the same mischievous one he’d given her as a baby, running around the place naked instead of putting on his diaper. “Ace was back for a few days, he showed me how he picks pockets in Vegas.” The boy aimed as he walked, he knew the stairs blind. “Doesn’t seem too bad, what’s wrong with it?” Light from above made him look completely bald.
“Pulls a little to the left when I fire, can’t fix it. Merl will know what to do.”
Darren put his palm down on an iPad. The door clicked and opened. “He just had that installed. You’ll need to scan your palm for it.”
The mine that the monster hunters had made their home was a paradise for fans of skulls. Big game hunters could only dream of a collection like Merl’s. He hadn’t killed them all, but it was his collection. He was the ghillie, the boss.
“Ah, black mold, farts, and whiskey. I’ve missed this place.”
“There’s whiskey?” Darren joked. “Merl must be hiding it.”
Regulars in the bunker came to welcome Esmerelda back. Some nodded. Some hugged, one grabbed her ass and got an elbow to the nose.
“Don’t do that again,” said Darren. “I don’t want to have to defend my mom’s honour.”
The man with the burst nose and the dragon tattoos on his naked arms backed away with his hands raised. The bar beneath the bar had as much drink as the one upstairs but for prices no civilian could pay. Teeth, skulls, and ash were the currency.
“What can I get you Esme?” Asked Juliet, the bartender. She also sold guns.
“Cash this up for me please Jules.” She slammed the sack of skulls down on the counter. “And get womb spawned reprobate another of whatever non-alcoholic beverage he wants.”
“Wouldn’t want the beer anyway, it tastes like piss.” Darren guzzled down his black syrupy caffeine and slammed the bottle down as if he was chugging beer.
“It is piss, handsome, but these losers drink it anyway,” she said. Kissing his forehead, she took her gun back from him. “Can you get Merl to look at my gun, it’s not firing straight.”
“Every bad builder blames their equipment,” said Juliet. She had blue hair and the tattoos of the girl from Arcane: League of Legends. Esmerelda could never remember the name, that was more Darren’s thing. Unlike the twiglet character, Juliet was curvaceous with brown eyes.
“Nothing wrong with me, ask the dick with the broken nose.”
“Fuck you Esme, said the man bleeding into a handkerchief.”
“Nope. Keep dreaming cowboy. I’ll take a lemonade and vodka Jules.” Behind the bar the drink was the easy stuff to get at in illuminated fridges. Ammunition was locked away in cages above it, filling the wall.
“You brought five skulls,” said the barmaid. She poured lemonade from a tap into a glass and then switched to vodka. Darren was already sipping another coke. “That can get you a sack full of pistol rounds, unless you’re after something bigger?” The white bubbling bliss slid across the bar.
Cooling Esmerelda’s hands, it was magic. Her eyes were drawn to the high calibre guns on display, assault rifles and huge pistols. “Nah, unless you’ve got silencers to go with them it’s not worth it. Low cal means accurate. You don’t need power if you hit the mark.”
“That’s what she said,” Darren smirked.
“You been watching The Office again?” She asked as if she was angry. “Without me?”
“You were gone for a week,” he shrugged.
“A working week.” He pulled out his phone. She could see he was sexting again, he liked to send long, sordid stories to boys all over the state.
“Anyone cute?” She asked.
“Would I message if they weren’t?”
“What do you tell them I do?” She asked and put her favourite gun down on the bar. Pulling the other from her ankle holster she slid it to Juliet, who pushed them though a slot in the wall, to Merl’s room.
“I don’t mention you, obviously.” Darren didn’t look up from his composition. It looked long enough to have chapters.
“If they show up with fangs, that’s when you mention me.” She patted his back and left him to his messages.
Corridors snaked beneath the world. Concrete held back stone from collapsing in on her. Sliding her key into the lock for her room, she heard the click and threw herself down on the bed. “Goodnight boys,” she said to her poster of Sam and Dean from Supernatural. They’d inspired her to go into that line of work in the first place. She was thankful that her world wasn’t as grim as theirs, climate change notwithstanding.