The Mountain Man walked up to the passenger's side door of the parked car with the two men inside and leaned over. His deep, gravelly voice startled the men somewhat, "I was hoping to buy some apples."
Dice Morgan, a cheap thug in an expensive suit, chewed on a toothpick and scowled as he heard the sudden voice from outside his window. He turned to the source of his irritation and his broad features did a double-take as he found himself staring at more gold than he'd ever before seen in one place.
After his eyes popped back into his head, Morgan turned to the man sitting behind the wheel. "Hey, suit. Looks like another one a yer mooks made it." His grin was like a razor on velvet as he nodded towards the newcomer's costly gear and muttered under his breath, "How ya like THEM apples, suit? Least he ain't wearin' tights."
Morgan extended a hamlike hand to the man outside the window. "Dice Morgan. Pleeztameetcha."
Tommy pulled into the parking lot. His sloppy parking job gathered more attention than he liked, going in and out three times. Once he was satisfied, Tommy hopped out of the car and looked around. He saw his contacts, realizing the apple basket on the hood meant the men he was looking for thanks to the classified ad that had reached him in Detroit. He got out, then doubled back again to lock the car. As nonchalantly as he could, Tommy sat on the car next to his contact, grabbed an apple and began to munch on it.
It was likely that none of the men out front of the Comeback Motel even noticed the small brown squirrel jumping off the rear bumper of a passing car. The animal bounded across the parking lot towards the mountain of a man standing alongside the Ford Roadster and scurried under the car. One might think it was dropping eaves, if that wasn't such a ridiculous notion. After the second man arrived and loudly crunched into an apple, the squirrel made its move.
Darting out from under the car, it pounced onto the hood, next to the most recent arrival, leapt into the bucket of apples and then back to the ground, at the feet of the gold-laden man, a piece of the fruit held between its tiny arms. The animal stood there a moment, looking up at the men peering down at him curiously, when suddenly there was no squirrel anymore. Instead a small Chinese man was crouched on the ground, holding the apple in his left hand.
Rising to his feet, he looked at the suited man in the car and said quietly, "I am the Daoist."
Lao-Tzu, the Daoist, was garbed in loose fitting black pants and a white coat that was tied together by a cloth belt. He wore no mask, for he found that Americans were wholly incapable of telling one Chinese man from the next. He had come from Minneapolis, summoned by a classified ad just as the others had been.
A taxi cab pulled up to the parking lot less than a minute after the Daoist's startling transformation. A man with a mustache and goatee, wearing a long black scarf over a black dress suit, climbed out of the back of the cab and paid his driver. The man looked over the group assembling in the parking lot and walked towards them.
"Well, well," the man said. "What an interesting group of people. Dare I trust that we are all here buying apples? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Gandor the Great."
When the four would-be heroes had all made their presence known, the driver of the Ford put down his paper and motioned for Dice to get out of the car with him. The driver grabbed the remaining apple and took a bite out of it. He was a tall, lean man of about 40 years old. "This is my favorite part of this job so far," he said. "I'm not the guy you need to speak to, but I can lead you to him. Follow me." With that, he led everyone around to the side of the motel and the storm doors to a cellar. Still eating his apple, he gave a secret knock on the doors before opening them. The stairs below led to a small, concrete-walled cellar being used for mundane storage, but there was a door at the rear of the cellar that the man went to and gave the same knock. This door led to a narrow, bending corridor that required everyone to go single-file before it emptied into a larger concrete-walled cellar. There were some appliances down here, including a refrigerator, and three men in suits rose from sitting around a folding table when they arrived. Two of them kept their hands tensed, as if ready to go for concealed guns. The third man, shorter, with a roundish face, acted more cordial.
"Nice work, Saul," the third man said to their escort. Then he addressed the assembled would-be heroes, saying, "You want Saul to fetch you anything from the diner while you're down here? If not, that's fine. We've got Coca-Cola in the fridge too." He opened his jacket pocket and produced a badge to show you. "My name is Fletcher, we're all FBI here, and I'm the Agent in Charge. As I'm sure you can imagine, contacting vigilantes and bringing them into a case is not standard operating procedure for the FBI, but we have an ongoing situation that requires unusual reactions. Have a seat if you want," he said, waving towards some spare chairs and stools. "I have to give you a short speech soon, but first, I have to tell you that the FBI knows something about each of you that would help us track down your true identity – if we wanted to. We're not interested in that today, so I want you all to introduce yourselves to each other, but you don't have to say a word about who you really are, unless you really want to. You already met Saul. The man with him is 'Dice' Morgan. Make no mistake, he's a two-bit crook – but he's going to help you do what we need you do and that's gonna’ wipe his slate clean. And my other agents are Rob and Steve here.”
"I am The Mountain Man," The Mountain Man said to anyone in the room who did not know that. And to those who knew anything about such things, they realized that on closer inspection his golden gorget was of crude, perhaps ancient construction. Indeed, it was of pre-Colombian origins.
"Ah, no sank you, I have eaten arready," the Doaist replied in his thick accent to Agent Fletcher's offer of food. "But I woud rike a Coca-Cora. Your American beverages are very tasty. You cahn cawr me the Daoist."
Comic Recap: A Needfest Story
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