I promised at the end of Bob Moore: Desperate Times and in one or both of the Behind the Scenes Podcasts (here and here) that I’d post some of the scenes that got cut from the book. If you missed it, you can read the first deleted scene here. This second deleted scene is quite long and really one of my more favorite altercations in the book. This, unlike the last scene, was one I had planned from the very beginning. I always felt like I’d sort of wasted that ember of Cindar’s in the first book and I wanted to use it. I also wanted to use this scene to showcase (again) how Bob will let tippys get away with trying to shake him down without much of a thought. The guys are inept, sure, but I loved them. In my mind, this is a group of gamers (video or tabletop, doesn’t matter) who decide to give a life of crime a shot. It’s a decent plan, I think, though they chose the wrong starting person. This scene took place after the visit by the cops. It was too much. First the packages started showing up, then the cops, then these guys, and then the installers. Something had to go. At the time of writing this scene, the end of the book didn’t involve Cindar’s ember so, when I deleted this, I was free to add it to the end (a much better place for it in my opinion).
* * *
“I’m going to have to go down and handle this. Back in a second.” Nissa waved as she bounced over to the door.
All I could think about was the sandwich I’d left in the other room. I quickly retrieved it and headed back to my office. While I often ate dinner in the living space, during working hours I preferred the office. As I closed the hidden door to the living areas, a large, jacketed figure strode through the front door. He was large in every sense of the word. Probably topping six foot, he surely weighed over three hundred pounds. He had on a pin-striped suit complete with matching trench coat and hat. Behind him were three more guys dressed similarly. They stopped, looked around, saw me, and walked over as a group.
I put my free hand out to stop them, “Listen guys, I’m not taking any cases right now. Got a lot going on.”
“Mr. Moore,” the big guy’s voice sounded like he was squeezing it through an old bellows, “we have a proposition for you.”
I turned and entered my office, “Not interested.”
As I sat, I found them stacked in front of my desk like pin-striped bowling pins. Now that I could see them all, it was clear that they were not dressed similarly, they were dressed the same. It was as if someone had a closeout on pin-striped suits. The only differences were the shirts – each was a different color. On the front of the shirts I could see the creases from where they were recently folded in the packaging. The big guy wore a pink shirt. There were two shorter and much thinner guys that looked like twins. One wore a white and the other a black shirt. At the very back was a tall, lanky fellow with a green shirt. I’m sure when they were all coming up with this idea they thought it would be cool. Since none of the suits were tailored, they hung off them slightly except for the big guy’s, which was too tight. In the end, it looked like someone else had dressed them. To a one, they were all a good five to ten years younger than me and looked like they had just gotten off a shift flipping burgers.
“Mr. Moore,” Mr. Pink rasped at me, “we think you’ll be interested in what we have to say.”
I stared at him blankly. What were they going for? They obviously didn’t have powers. I’d never met a super that wasn’t easy on the eyes and fit. Even the geniuses tended to be attractive…for nerds. These guys looked like they spent all day playing games in their mom’s basement. “Come on, guys. I’m really not in the mood. I just want to eat my lunch.”
The men fanned out across my office as I sat. They looked around, scanning their surroundings. I laughed silently at the display. I took the second bite of my sandwich as the big man spoke again.
“See, Mr. Moore, we know all about you.”
“Mmm?” I queried through a full mouth.
“We know you’ve had a run of bad luck.”
“We want to help change that,” he smiled broadly.
I swallowed, “Maybe it’s your shirt, but you’re not making any sense.” I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. “What, are you guys supposed to be some sort of gang?”
They looked at each other, smirking. The big one nodded at one of the twins who picked up a book from my shelf and dropped it noisily.
“Oh,” the big guy croaked, “look at that. See, your luck is just getting worst.”
“Oh sure, and I’m known for being a bit of a procrastinator.”
“Oh yes. And I’m getting a bit of a procrastination right now.”
I managed not to laugh out loud, “Well, don’t hurt yourself.”
“I procrastinate that your luck is just going to get worst unless you do something about it.”
I took another bite as the second twin knocked a picture off the shelf sending glass skidding across the floor, “Oh, come on.”
“Important to you was it?”
“Not really, picture came with the frame, but you’re making a mess.”
“And there will be a lot more messes in the future if you don’t do something about it.”
I shook my head, “So, what, you guys are the Pin-striped Mafia or something. You guys don’t look Italian.”
The big guy leaned over my desk, he smelled vaguely of potato chips and pine scented aftershave, far too much of the latter, “We’re the mob, Mr. Moore. We’ve been laying low, but now, with all the supers gone…well, it’s time we got back to business.”
“Yeah, right. Okay, this is the deal, you get out of my office and I won’t report you idiots to the cops.”
They all laughed forcefully as the twins continued looking for things to break. Since there wasn’t anything in my office that I really cared about, they could break it all. The only real thing of value I had was the terminal and that was already busted. Now if they broke the bottle of scotch in my desk… well, then we’d have a problem.
“Mr. Moore, we don’t care about no cops. We own the cops.”
“As the cops were just here a few minutes ago, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree,” more stuff crashed to the ground. “You’re really wasting your time with all that,” I said to the twins who had run out of breakable items and had taken to knocking the rest of the books off the shelves.
The big guy finally started to look concerned. This wasn’t going as he’d planned. “Eventually we’ll find something you do care about Mr. Moore. Maybe this?” he reached down and grabbed the small, cracked box off my desk. “This looks valuable.”
I started to warn him away from it when Nissa entered. These guys were laughably incompetent, but that didn’t mean they weren’t dangerous. Nissa opened the door, saying something about installers, when she saw my office full of pin-striped suits. The tall guy grabbed her and pinned her arms at her sides, covering her mouth with a hand. I stood abruptly, sending my chair rolling back to the window behind me. The group, which had all turned as Nissa entered, returned their gaze to me at the sound.
“Now listen. Put the box down.” I made my voice shake slightly, “You really don’t want to break that.” Nissa struggled to get free, biting at the hand over her mouth, legs thrashing as the man held her off the ground.
I really didn’t want to do this. These guys weren’t criminals…yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the first one they had tried to shake down for protection money. Well, the first since the suit store. Chances were, after I got done with them, they’d rethink their new career plan. I didn’t want to hurt them in the process, but I wasn’t about to let them hurt Nissa.
“So, this is important! I knew it!” The big guy turned it over in his hand. He turned and showed it to his pals, “See, guys, all you need is the right motivator.” He turned back to me, “Now Mr. Moore, we’re going to be back here tomorrow. And I want you to remember this,” he held out the box to me, the little blue ember frozen inside. “You’ll have $500 ready for us.”
“Really? $500? You should have led off with that. This would have all gone a lot smoother,” I swear, in the history of shakedowns this one was the lamest. “Just put the box down.”
“Oh, I will Mr. Moore,” he smiled wickedly, “I will.”
He reared his arm back and threw the box on the ground at his feet. It exploded sending flames all over the ground and up the front of my desk. The big man jumped up in the air, shouting obscenities. His friends, oblivious to everything else, rushed toward him pulling him back from the fire. I sat back down and grabbed my sandwich. Nissa, released, started kicking and slapping anyone near her, getting more than a few good blows in. The men started yelling at me to do something about the fire. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to do anything but eat my sandwich, the Pin-striped Mafia rushed out, hopefully to look into community college courses. Nissa spat at them as they left.
“What they hell was that all about?” she demanded of the door. She turned back to me, face red from exertion and anger.
“Sorry, but, you know, can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“But, what was that all about?” She rubbed her mouth, then spat again, “What is that? Cool Ranch?”
I shook my head, “Bunch of entrepreneurs looking for a new career. Hopefully they’ll reconsider now.”
Nissa nodded toward my desk, “You know that’s still on fire right?”
I stood and leaned over. It sure was. I’d forgotten how sticky Cindar’s little exploding coals were. It must have had its own fuel source as most everything in my office, and apartment in general, wasn’t flammable. A few years ago I helped locate a super that could explode. Well, not just could, would. Like when he sneezed. Wasn’t a bad guy, really, but sort of dangerous to be around. His explosions were small but he’d accidentally hurt a few people during flu season when he couldn’t get off a bus fast enough. I found him in a bar, crying into his beer. When they sent him away to one of those homes for dangerous (but not evil) supers, I think he was actually happy. Found out later The Bulwark and a few of the other super groups would get him out for special missions. I sucked up to his grandma and eventually she’d sold me all his furniture. Pretty nice stuff, probably cost him a fortune.
I turned back to the closet with the terminal and opened the door. Inside, at the back, was, among other things, a fire extinguisher. I grabbed it and handed it to Nissa, “Do you mind?”
Nissa sprayed down the fire as I grabbed the last bite of my sandwich and turned back to the terminal. It still showed nothing but a blank white screen. I hated looking at it, but I couldn’t help it. I kept hoping it would reconnect. That I was wrong and that somehow Mind, and the Network, would still be functional. Without it, much of my information, the stuff the cops wanted, was lost.
“What are you gonna do about that?”
Nissa was standing beside me, the extinguisher in her arms. I took it from her and placed it back in the closet.
“Really? Why not unplug it since it won’t turn off?”
I took the last bite of my sandwich and rubbed the crumbs from my hands, “I considered it but, no. If knowing Ted has taught me anything, it is not to mess with something that’s not exploding.” I turned to her, “You remember that. These geniuses put together these devices, but half the time even they don’t know why it works. If it isn’t smoking, ticking, or counting down, don’t mess with it. At least, that’s my policy.”
She nodded, “Will do.”
I walked around the desk to survey the damage. “Doesn’t look so bad.”
“Yeah,” the intercom buzzed from the front office, “damn-it! There it goes again.”