Word Count: 1258
Prompt: This set of GIFs: http://herebetrouble.tumblr.com/post/66995491421
A/N: Written for musemuggers. Challenge #526, Option #4. This is the third in a set of linked stories, but can stand on its own. For those who wish to read more, the first story can be read on my LJ here:Down to the Filter and the second here:Down the Road
“Knew a guy named Harvey once, looked a little bit like you. Especially around the mouth.”
It wasn’t the voice that woke Beau, but the constant tapping. He opened his eyes, but he was alone in his apartment. The sun filtering through the broken blinds meant that it was probably well past noon. Beau grunted and turned to his stomach, hoping to fall back to sleep, but the tapping started up again. He rubbed his face and sat up in bed, trying to ignore the throbbing in his temples. “Shut up, will you?”
“You must be Russian, with a nose like that. Harvey was. Funny name for a Russian, but what do I know? Anyway, you look just like him. You Russian?”
Beau ignored the voice and reached for the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand. The rush of nicotine helped settle his nerves.
“Come to think of it, Harvey might’ve been Polish. Ah, it don’t matter. We’re all American now, that’s what I say. Melting pot and all that. Isn’t that right?”
Beau exhaled a stream of smoke and didn’t answer.
“You’re not much of a talker. Geez, I’ve had longer conversations with houseplants. Can you cut a guy a break? You invite a guy and then you ignore him. How’s that for manners?”
That got Beau’s attention. “I didn’t call you,” he said. He swung his legs to the floor and winced at the jolt of cold. He was late again with the rent, so there was no extra for heat. He shoved his feet into a pair of ancient slippers and padded to the kitchen.
The voice followed. “I didn’t invite myself, buster! You’re the one they said to talk to. You’re the one they said could—”
“They?” Beau spun around, but there wasn’t anyone to see. “Jesus fucking Christ, you guys are talking to each other now. Great.” He held the coffee pot under the water, but yesterday’s dregs were burned onto the glass. He filled the carafe anyway and didn’t mind the murky water.
“What am I supposed to do? I need help.”
Beau tipped the last granules of coffee into the filter and flipped the switch to start the brew. His headache worsened. “So do I. My going rate is one thousand, cash. You find the means, we got a deal. Otherwise, fuck off.”
There was silence.
Beau relaxed and massaged the back of his neck. He had one helluva hangover. Then, “But that’s not fair!”
“Look, Mr. … whatever … this isn’t my game,” Beau said. “I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but you want Ganson for this kind of thing.”
Beau cracked an eyelid, forgetting for a moment that there was nothing to see. “What?”
“Florian. My name. You said Mr. Whatever? But I don’t stand on ceremony, never have. You can call me by my Christian name.”
“Are you shitting me?” Beau stood over the sink and spat a glob of sour mucous into the drain.
“No,” Florian said. “I also know that I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want this ‘Ganson’ bloke, whomever he might be. I want you. I’m not leaving.”
The hairs on the back of Beau’s neck tingled, the primordial instinct to fight trying to engage. Beau reached for his coffee mug instead and poured himself a cup. He knew better than to argue with the dead. They had a lot of time and nothing to lose, so they could be a problem if they decided to be stubborn. He tried a different tack. “Fine. You want my help. How do you know you can trust me if there’s no skin in the game?”
“Oh, I know you’re a worthy man,” Florian said. “Now, let me just tell you—”
Beau snorted. “You don’t need to tell me. You said you had to have me. Me. Don’t you know what I do? How I operate? You don’t need to tell me anything, Flo.”
“It’s Florian. But I don’t think—”
Beau held up a hand. “Let me guess. It’s too easy, really. You were murdered and you want to know where your body is.”
“No, that’s not what—”
“You want to know who murdered you?” Beau guessed.
“You want to know how many people attended your funeral? Where Aunt Sally has your ashes stored? If the family followed the will to your stipulations, which no one gives a shit about. And by no one I mean anyone with a pulse, just to be clear. Unless you’re a millionaire. Which I can tell by looking, Flo, you’re not.” Beau took a sip of coffee, avoiding the chip in the rim, and picked an errant ground out of his teeth. “You want to know if your wife remarried and if that guy’s dick is smaller than yours. But if it’s not, you want me to employ ‘professional courtesy’ and lie. Am I getting close?”
“I want to know your wi-fi password.”
Beau choked on the coffee and coughed to clear his lungs. When his eyes stopped watering, he peered into the gloom, but he still couldn’t see anyone. “Huh?”
“I just can’t get online. So what is it?”
“I … don’t ...” Beau frowned. “What the hell, man?”
Beau bit his lip. He hadn’t been flustered in a long time, and he didn’t like the feeling. “You’ve been hanging around here for the last few days, tapping and groaning and rattling your proverbial chains you finally materialize to ask me my wi-fi password?”
“That’s the long and short of it, yeah. So can you spit it out already?” Florian asked.
“What … why do you … ?” Beau shook his head. “You know what? Never mind. I’ll give it to you on one condition: no running up charges. I’m serious. If I see so much as a penny to a Namibian prince or to some porn site for old-timey Victorian fetishes or whatever you’re into—I do not want to know—I swear to God I am going to reach through the veil and kill you again. I know how to do it. You got it?”
“No. Yeah, absolutely. I just want to send some e-mails, check my calendar, stuff like that. It’s so much easier than writing messages in the steam on people’s mirrors and stuff like that. I’m a ghost in the machine type guy, you know? No porn. I’m not that kind of guy.”
“Sure you aren’t. I don’t care. Just don’t cost me a penny. And erase your browser history. Because, damn. I just don’t want to know.” Beau shuddered. “The password is ghostbuster—”
“That’s really nice. Thanks.”
“The o is a zero,” Beau continued. “Remember what I said about the rules. And if I’m on, don’t suck my bandwidth, yo.”
“Sure thing. See you.”
Beau finished his coffee in silence. Then he reached for his phone and tried to remember the number for a man he hadn’t talked to in over a year.
He picked up on the first ring. “Been a long time, Son.”
Beau nodded, even though he knew no one could see him. “Ganson, I’m in trouble. I think I’ve got one of yours. Florian is here. He showed up this morning.”
A pause, then, “I’m on my way. I’ll be there in three days. I have to get out of the Sierras. Don’t let him leave.”
“But how can I—”
The line went dead, and Beau was left staring at the lost connection to the only person in the world who could possibly help him.