Dark Confidant in ‘The Case of the Missing Minus, Part Five’

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by KingRamz
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Previous installments:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Dark Confidant  

The Case of the Missing Minus,
Part Five

When I came to, I found myself chained to the wall of a dark, dank dungeon that smelled vaguely of swamp gas.
Which wasn’t that surprising; that’s par for the course after a night with Liliana. What was surprising
was seeing Chandra Nalaar down there. She and Liliana had set up a table with some folding chairs maybe ten feet
away from me. They appeared to be playing some kind of card game I wasn’t familiar with, and they were so intent
on it that they hadn’t noticed me waking up.

“Thundermaw hellkite,” said Chandra Nalaar, laying a card onto the table and pumping her fist. “You’re dead.”

“Hey, your hair is on fire,” said Liliana Vess. Chandra gasped and reached up to check. While she was distracted,
Liliana scooped up a card she’d apparently had in her lap this whole time.

Chandra glared at Liliana suspicously. “My hair’s always on fire.”

“Yeah, sorry, my mistake. Snuff out your hellkite.”

Chandra flipped the table, scattering all of their game pieces everywhere, and screamed in frustration. “I HATE
this game!” She stood up and began to pace back and forth while muttering, her hair flaring up in bursts.

Liliana righted the table. “Why don’t I go upstairs and get us some more wine?” She disappeared around a corner.
Probably smart to give Chandra some time to cool off. Might even give me enough time to get some answers out of my
“client.” I waited until I thought Liliana would be out of earshot.

“So, Chandra. Fancy meeting you here. Did you know that Garruk Wildspeaker and Elspeth Tirel are out for blood
because of this thing you’ve got going on with Liliana?”

She paused and turned to look at me. “Oh, you’re awake. You knew about this? About us?”

“I took a few beatings yesterday because they wanted to interfere with your plans. Would’ve been nice to have a
heads-up about the angry planeswalkers on your tail. It would’ve saved me some heartache. And a lot of headache.”

“It’s important to keep you on your toes, Bob.”

“I can do that fine on my own.” I was starting to get pretty irritated. It’s important to keep that in check
when you’re dealing with someone that can incinerate you with a thought, though. “You don’t seem particularly
interested in my progress on your case. Don’t you at least want to know what kind of bill you’ve racked up so far?”

“Oh, that,” she said. “I know who took my missing minus ability now, so I won’t be needing your services any more.”
She grinned at me. “You’re fired.” That was another one from the short list of things red dames love to say. I flashed
back to the fights my ex-wife and I used to have and braced myself for the usual firebolt followup to that phrase,
but it didn’t come. Chandra, at least for the time being, wasn’t interested in killing me. Unlike Jaya. But it wasn’t
the time or place to be thinking about old flames.

“I was feeling pretty good about quitting anyway,” I said. “So who was it? That stole your ability.”

“Oh, it turns out it was me.” Another one of those unexpected answers. Planeswalkers are just full of surprises.
I was baffled.

“It was you? Why would you do that?” If I could keep her talking, maybe I could get a chance to test my
bonds without her noticing. And if I made it out of here, maybe I could sell the information to interested parties.
I value client confidentiality right up until a client screws me over and stiffs me on the bill.

She sighed. “No matter how well it would’ve worked out, they would’ve always compared me to Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
I wasn’t going to settle for being the second to do something. The second best. Not when I had a shot to really
make history.”

“Make history, huh?” I wasn’t strong enough to pull the chains out of the walls, and the shackles were enchanted.
Any significant physical or magical exertion and there would be some very bad mojo that I likely wouldn’t survive.
Lily’s handiwork. She was thorough.

“If M-Fourteen failed, the Wizards would have to turn up the heat. Take bigger risks. And Liliana and I would have
the perfect idea ready for them. Instead of the second planeswalker with four abilities, how about the first dual
planeswalker, a female-female couple?”

“You and Liliana. But there’s one thing I don’t get – why did you hire me to find out who stole your minus ability when it was you?”

“That’s easy,” said Chandra. “I forgot.”/p>

“You forgot?” At that moment it was hard to say which I was feeling more: livid, or incredulous.
But there was a healthy amount of both. “I took multiple beatings and pissed off two planeswalkers because
you forgot?

“Bob, you’re not thinking about the big picture here. A female-female couple. Think of all the
posters we could sell. And not just to Jace! With that kind of money, we could buy all the scrolls or chain
veils or whatever MacGuffins that we want. And imagine the typeline – ‘Planeswalker – Chandra Liliana.’”

“Or ‘Planeswalker – Liliana Chandra,’” said Liliana as she came back into the room holding two glasses of wine.
“Chandra, dear, could you tell me exactly why you decided to tell Bob all about our plan? You know he’s just going
to sell that information to the highest bidder, right?” I shrugged and nodded. No point trying to pretend it wasn’t true;
Liliana knew better. She’d do the same thing in my shoes.

“Who cares? Aren’t we just going to kill him anyway?” Chandra snapped her fingers, creating a spark
which proceeded to dance across her knuckles.

Liliana actually seemed surprised. “What? I hadn’t been planning to. Why did you think we were going to kill him?”

“If we aren’t going to kill him, why did you bring him down here and lock him up in the first place?”

Liliana was getting agitated. “I just… it’s just a thing I do, okay?” She sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“I guess we have to kill him, now.”

You could say I was dismayed at this turn of events. “Wait!” I said. “It’s true I’d have no qualms about selling
information about your plan, but I actually really pissed off the only people I know of who might be interested,
and I’m pretty sure they’d kill me before I got the chance to make an offer.”

“I’m sure you could come up with something,” said Chandra. “Plus I think killing you would be fun.
What else you got?”

It was time to play my last card. “The information’s only worth anything if the plan’s actually good,
right? But this plan doesn’t even make sense. If Chandra, Pyromaster wasn’t good enough to move M-Fourteen,
what makes you think they’d be interested in using you for their next big push?”

“It’s very simple,” said Liliana. “The reason they’d be interested is the tagline, of course:
‘We’re not bad, we’re just drawn that way.’”

And then it hit me. “Steve Argyle,” I said. “Son of a bitch. It’s been him this whole time, hasn’t it? He’s behind every-”

“I’m bored,” said Chandra Nalaar. “Hey Bob, check out this sweet minus ability!”

It was no big surprise, really. I was shocked.

As I closed my eyes on the way to the graveyard, I could faintly hear Liliana’s voice.
“Come on, I only have like four of those guys.”

Everything went black.


When I came to, I found myself in a pine box. I could see a little bit of light coming in through
the cracks between the boards. Either I hadn’t been buried yet, or someone had seen fit to unbury me.
And I had a pretty good idea of who it was.

I balled my hands into fists and thrust them upward, putting a little magic behind the blow.
The coffin lid shattered, leaving me looking up into a pale, moonlit sky. And into the face of
Liliana Vess. “Good morning, Bob,” she said. “I wasn’t finished with you, yet. I have a job for you.”

I got to my feet and dusted off my robes. “What does it take for a guy to be able
to get some sleep around here?”

She smirked at me. “Stop complaining. You can rest when you’re dead. Oh – sorry.”

Of course she’d say that. She always says that.

What does Liliana have in store for our hero? Will Elspeth and Garruk ever catch him? How drunk is Jace going to have to get him before he’d be willing to take Phage, the Untouchable out for a night on the town? Find out… some other time, because this story’s done.

Oh, and Hans got eaten by the tarmogoyf back in Part One. So he’s dead.

The End