It was a cold and bright midafternoon in a city that doesn't know how to shut up. I wished it would, because all the noise was giving me a headache. What I really needed was a cigarette, and that was exactly what I wasn't going to get, because my idiot partner had forgotten to buy any last night, and now we were out of money. Moolah. What I needed was cigarettes. What we needed was a job.
I looked up when the door opened, and what should walk in but a dame. Not the dame who might have a job for us, though - it was just the waitress. Not that Natsumi wasn't worth something. She had legs right up to her miniskirt, and the way she walked made her hips sway just right.
But I knew that deep down inside, she had a hunger. A terrible hunger. A hunger like the hunger of a teenager without a car on the only night all week when his girlfriend has nothing to do. A hunger to see me humiliated. It didn't help that her usual methods involved showing me her panties, because there comes a point in a man's life when wanking off in the bathroom simply doesn't do it anymore, and for me, that point was three months ago, right after we got back from that little hot springs trip.
She sauntered over to me, swinging her hips, and leered. Ginji probably thought it was a grin, but I knew it was a leer. Any woman who can wear a miniskirt while it's snowing outside and not get goosebumps must be some sort of creature from the netherworld, and I should know.
Ginji, of course, grinned right back.
She set down her shopping bag in front of me. It thumped ominously. Thumps should not have undertones, but somehow she managed it. "I bought ice cream," she said, as if it weren't below zero outside. Natsumi has a voice like a dove and eyes like a hawk. Of course she was watching me while she said it.
"Thank you so much!" Ginji told her, except it was more like "Thankyousomuch!" He almost ripped the bag to get at it. He likes ice cream. A little too much. It turned out to be vanilla, in quantity. Enough to feed a small army, or one hungry Ginji with a little left over for his nicotine-deprived partner, although he would get a terrible stoumachache afterwards.
And Natsumi, damn her cute little ass, produced three spoons. With flowers on the handles.
Well, what can a self-respecting man do when a cute little creature from the netherworld offers him a flower-handled spoon? I dug in. No point in going slow, everyone would have cold headahes in a minute. Ginji was eating like he hadn't eaten since the Meiji Restoration, but he always eats like that. He got the ice cream all over his face, too. I should have expected that. Ginji is a messy eater. Always has been, always will be.
Sure enough, I was getting a cold headache. I already had a headache from the noise, so now I had two headaches at once. They seemed to get along just fine.
"Master won't be back until five," Natsumi chipred at us. "So if you don't have any jobs, maybe you can wash dishes for me? I'll take it off your tab!"
The headaches were making kissy-noises at each other. I prayed they wouldn't mate and have lots of little baby headaches, because my skull was getting pretty cramped. On the other hand, we'd just been offered money, or at least something sort of like money, and man does not live by ice cream alone, no matter how much Ginji would like to try. "Sure thing," I said, hoping Ginji would have the wit to shut up and keep eating. "How much?"
"Mmm." Natusmi pretended to think it over, but I knew that behind those big brown eyes lurked the mind of an accountant. "The same as I get," she said. "For the two of you."
Well, that was a rate well below our dignity, but ... What did I care about dignity? I wanted nicotine. Ginji looked up from his ice cream and sure enough, he'd gotten it all over his cheeks. "Ban-chan? What are we doing?"
"Washing dishes," I told him. "As a favor for Natsumi." Yep, the headaches were settling down to start a family.
"Oh." Ginji seemed to think for a second, then attempted to lick the ice cream off his own cheek. It was funny, watching him try, but not so funny that I laughed. After all, I was currently having headache nest built in my head. "I've got ice cream on my cheek," he moaned, giving me a horrible plaintive look.
"So get a napkin."
"You could lick it off," suggested Natsumi, and I looked at her and realized, that wasn't what she meant. What she meant was Lick it off or I'll tell him all about our little bet.
So what's a man supposed to do when a creature from the netherworlds gives him a look like that? Some days, you just can't win.