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Wrong Groceries

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October 5th

 

Twas an average afternoon on an average day, which had little to recommend it to the annals of history other than its remarkable averageness. In a city like Freedom City, however, that meant pretty much anything could happen. 

 

Cassidy Collins was in for a non-average day. 

 

But it felt, right now, pretty average. Picking up a delivery of groceries around the back of the shop. The driver, Amy Small, was not small. A woman of Cassidy's age, she was a complete gym freak, and knew Cassidy from their local iron-pumping facilities. She was a lithe and tall and sweaty, and kind of beautiful, bar a nasty set of scars, broken cheek and eye patch that were testament to a childhood accident. Her smile was crooked, but cool. 

 

She was hauling out heavy boxes from her van. Cassidy was not sure if she had a crush on him. She did tend to smile a lot around him. 

 

"Another day, another dollar, huh?" she grunted, shifting another heavy box out of the van full of, this time, tinned soup. "Not how I thought my life would go!" she laughed, although she didn't sound bitter. 

 

"We had a major mix up on monday, you know. Whole heap of stuff got screwed up. Not our fault, but just to let you know that if you find any mummies or meteors in these boxes, dont say I didn't warn ya!"

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"I hear ya." Cassidy wasn't a fan of the job, but it paid the bills, and it helped his parents, but he liked when Amy showed up. There were much worse drivers out there, and at least she tended to help. Some people just dumped everything in the middle of the road, and then he had to scramble to get it out of the way before any other trucks got here. He'd always liked her, but ever since the incident at the desert he'd found himself looking at her in a different way. He was changed, he knew that. He was pretty sure that she had noticed too. He could've sworn he had seen her looking at him different when they met in the gym. For a brief moment he considered using his newfound powers to haul the groceries inside, just to show off a bit, but it was probably better that he didn't.

 

The mix up news brought him out of it. "Mix up? What happened?" He eyed the box he was carrying suspiciously for a moment before setting it down. Without waiting for a response he opened it to inspect the contents. "Sorry, gotta make sure we got all the right stuff. Pops'll kill me if he finds any mummies or meteors in here." He flashed a short grin at Amy before turning his attention back to the box. Damn, he would have to check everything here.

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"Some screw up with the delivery system. Rare goods, rare spices and herbs, that kind of stuff. Look, to be honest with you, I can't swear the people we deal with are always 100% legit, you know?" she explained, rather embarressed. "Not criminals, just people who deal with legal highs, you know" she added. "They get mushrooms and leaves from around the world, all natural like, so its not exactly illegal, even if it isnt legal..." she added, akwardly. 

 

"We don't deal with that stuff, its just we got mixed up in their mix up. No dont worry, if the Cops or anyone comes down on you, its all honest mistakes. We got that covered. Its not like we are drug dealers. Just got the bad end of someone mixing up this order with that. As far as I can tell, nothing got shipped wrongly, its just its a mess and we don't know what happened!"

 

She was genuinely embarressed, even shameful. Cassidy knew Amy and the delivery company - they weren't bad people at all, at least as far as he knew. They did deal with local retailers and farmers, and the way she said it, well, it sounded plausible, even probable. 

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So, potentially legally questionable organic drugs in the crates. Cassidy frowned again. Yeah, he would have to check on everything. Still, it wasn't Amy's fault, and he knew that. "Don't worry, I know you're clean." He really hoped so, at least. "I mean, except for that Dave guy down at the distribution center. Pops swears that he's on something every time he gotta call him." Cassidy added the last with a grin, before he turned to carry the box in, while Amy continued getting the things off the truck. He had to at least try to make sure that nobody would try and open the boxes before he got them sorted, though. Better safe than sorry. He could just imagine old Granny Sanchez getting her hands on some Vietnamese mushroom or something like that when she tried to find something to put in her stew.

 

After a quick sidetrip to the office to get some big red markers, Cassidy returned outside. He had marked everything he'd already put inside with big "DO NOT TOUCH" and his attempt at a skull. That would hopefully do the trick. "Alright, got anything else for me?" 

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"I think thats about it..." said Amy, hauling out the last crate of...well....who knew for sure given the mix up? Ostensibly, it had "Pasta" on the side. 

 

"Excuse me"

 

It was a polite, well spoken voice with a touch of inquisitiveness. It belonged to a well groomed young man. Maybe twenty, who was wearing expensive clothes in a casual style. Jacket, turtleneck, italian shoes, sunglasses, and well groomed short black hair. 

 

"Could you help me out? I think we had a delivery mix up" he asked, remaining polite. There was a slight slur to his voice, a sing song quality that was over and above the normal. 

 

"I think you got our delivery...."

 

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Pasta? Yeah, that helped with the legality here. Cassidy paused when the younger man spoke, turning to look at him. Expensive clothing. Not the kind of guy that normally showed up in Southside. In contrast, Cassidy was wearing a pair of worn in jeans and a t-shirt at least one size too small with the shop's logo, a cowboy riding a soup can like he was at a rodeo. Cassidy shot a quick look at Amy, wondering if she knew him, before turning to the stranger.

 

"Sure, that might've happened." There was something about the other man's voice that annoyed Cassidy. Still, he tried to remain polite. He was at work, after all, and Pops had come down on him for being rude more than once in the past. "What're you looking for? We can check if it fits with our shipping manifest or not." Rich kid. Could be he was the one that had the questionably legal things. Maybe worth looking into.

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The Rich Kid stepped forward, emboldened by the politeness. 

 

"Its some...stuff...." he said, vaguely, his boldness taking a hit. "Vegetables. I mean. Leaves...."

 

His voice trailed off, and he seemed to glaze over. 

 

"Its...outa this world man. The smoke. You see the past, and the future. And. Your Body. Like Cosmic Dust...." he mumbled. 

 

He snapped too. 

 

"I saw it. Here! You Unloading it! the Visions! GIVE IT TO ME!"

 

He was agressive, now, something snapping in his mind. He stepped forward, fists clenched - although whether he would use them or not was another matter. Cassidy knew Amy could handle herself. But the rich kid was approaching for her right - her blind spot...

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Cassidy had heard people ranting like this before. He was on something, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what. Cassidy's friendly face quickly hard. As did the rest of his body as he stepped in between the rich kid and Amy. She could handle herself, but he'd seen her get tripped from that side before. What the hell was that drug? Someone getting high and going out of their mind, he could deal with. But how did that kid track it here? And all the crap he spouted? 

 

"Back off, kid. I'm not gonna ask you twice." 

 

Pops would get pissed if he got into a fight here, but Cassidy didn't really care. At least it wasn't out front.

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"What? Shut up, you. You don't know nothing" mumbled the rich kid. "You should learn you...frikkin...place!" he said, louder, just as Amy turned. 

 

But it was too late, for the rich kid had stumbled forward and given her a - well, clumsy but effective - right hook. If had been a little more co-ordinated, it might have knocked her out cold. As it was, it was still a mighty clrunch to her head, and she went over, falling to the grown, dazed and confused. 

 

"What...what..." she said, as the cobwebs in her head span around and around, and span more webbing from one side of her skull to another. She wasn't getting up just yet, no matter how furiously she told her knees to move. 

 

"Give me the damn leaf! I know it got sent here! Abdul gonna be pissed if he dosen't get it back" he sang, lips rubbery and clumsy as he spoke. 

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How did the kid move that fast? Before Cassidy could even react he had clocked Amy in the head and sent her falling over. "What the ☠☠☠☠ was that?" Cassidy wasn't about playing or fighting dirty, but just sucker punching someone like that? Not if he could help it. The rich kid ranted about some damn leaf and someone named Abdul, but Cassidy really didn't care in that moment. He would figure it out later, after he had taken down this creep and helped Amy. 

 

A few weeks before, he would never have done something like this, but in the moment, Cassidy didn't think as he let a punch fly aimed at the rich kid's face.

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Even without magic super powers, Cassidy was a strong fellow (as Amy could testify!) the Rich Kid almost lifted off his feet, and landed on his backside, completely stunned. 

 

"Wha-wha-what-what happened?" he mumbled, his eyes operating independently and his mouth even more lax than normal. 

 

A moment or two passed until he became at least semi-coherent, whilst still completely beat, physically. 

 

"You hit me! How dare you! I'm going to make sure you pay for that! I hope you have a good lawyer!" he said, humiliated. 

 

"Self - defence, right, Cassidy? You got me as a witness. And, from the sounds of it...you don't really want an investigation" said Amy, bluntly, rather pleased with the situation and completely sticking up for Cassidy even if she was (literally) blind sided to the action. 

 

"Nuu-nuuh---noooo...." mumbled the rich kid, cautious now. 

 

"But we are going to get the leaf, one way or another!" he said, brain to dazed for subtle thought. 

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As soon as he had taken the kid down, Cassidy turned to Amy, kneeling by her side to help her up. "You alright? Looked like the creep got a good hit in." He ignored the rich kid's babbling for a moment, while he made sure that Amy was alright, and at least until the little creepy started getting coherent. And of course he immediately started going on about suing them. Just like every other rich kid that bit off more than they could chew.

 

And then he mentioned the leaf again. Not exactly good at keeping his secrets hidden. Might be because of the potential concussion, might be because of the drugs, or the kid might just be an idiot. In either case,  Cassidy decided that he should figure out just what the leaf was. If nothing else, the kid had hurt Amy. That alone was a good reason to get involved. So, play dumb. Hope that the kid would just spill everything without too much prompting. "What leaf? How about giving us a chance to find out what you want before you jump someone?" He wasn't about to let the kid off the hook that easily, but he needed some information here, and then he could check if they had the leaf in any of the boxes.

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The rich kid started mumbling again. It was impossible to tell if his brain was misfiring from drugs or the solid right hook Cassidy had given him. Either way, he was rambling and in the midst of his ramblings were some clues!

 

"Abdul found the leaf. Makes your head swim. Through space and time. Whistling flutes. Yellow sigbs. The turk rises in the east. The Red Dawn in the West. Yeah...turns your body and mind to cosmic smoke! We are going to transcend the universe! Abdul found it....majors in philosophy and he knows his stuff..."

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What the hell was that kid on? Even after a punch like that he was still out of his mind, rambling about everything and nothing. Everything that the leaf made him feel and think. And all of it seemed to because of this Abdul guy, who was a major in philosophy. What a pain. Cassidy was the first person to tell others that he wasn't the sharpest person around. Even after he had started with the whole crime fighting thing since the incident in the desert, he didn't do detective work. He found bad guys. He beat them down. End of story. Now he had to get all investigative about this? 

 

Well, first time for everything.

 

"Alright kid, Abdul sounds like a great guy. Any chance you could tell me where to find him so I can give him the leaf if I find it?" A long shot, but it might work.

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"Abdul? Sure...he hands a round a jazz bar called the the Yellow Horn. S'where we hang out. The smokehead  club. Abdul set it up..."

 

His head began to clear and in doing so home started to stop his tongue from wagging so freely.

 

"Not that you would be welcome... you little guttersnipe! It's not really your class is it?"

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The Yellow Horn? Shouldn't be too difficult to find, now that the creep had been this helpful. Cassidy glared at the kid for a moment, then turned to Amy. "Can you watch him for a moment? Gonna go make sure we don't have the damn leaf he's raving about mixed up with our stuff. I don't want more of these guys coming running around. I'll know its for self defense if he get knocked around a bit." Knowing Amy, she'd probably say yes. Not that she would hit the guy without a reason. 

 

Still, he should hurry. Without wasting any more time Cassidy began sorting through the boxes to try and find anything that seemed out of place. He knew the stock of the store pretty well, so it should be easy to spot. Especially if it had "Pasta" on the side of the boxes. Pops would probably get pissed about the boxes everywhere, but hopefully he would understand why.

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"Sure, I can watch him" replied Amy. "And maybe i might just clean my boot on his face. By accident" she said, winking with her one eye at an angle that the socialite could not see. 

 

It took a bit of time, with more mumblings from said socialite, and Amy shaking his f ist at him whenever he did, but searching through the crates and packages, together they found the misplaced item. 

 

Wrapped up in cellaphane was a most peculiar leaf. Coloured purple and yellow, thin and slim and very long, unlike any plant either of them had seen. 

 

"Thats it! Give it here and we can forget this ever happened!" suggested the socialite, eyes glinting. 

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Cassidy was the first to admit that he had little interest in plants or anything like that, but looking at the leaf, even he could tell that it didn't look normal. Holding the plant up, making sure not to unwrap it and touch it, he stared at it for a moment, even if he wasn't sure quite what he was trying to understand from it. The rich kid's suggestion brought Cassidy back to reality.

 

"Yeah, sounds like a plan. It'd be smart to give it to ya, right?" Cassidy walked over to the kid. He bent down, getting ready to hand it over, but just before the kid could take the leaf, he pulled it back. "On the other hand, for all I know, you could be looking to steal this. This leaf here, its the property of whoever it was supposed to be shipped for, right? Can't go handing it out to just anyone. If Abdul's the owner, then tell him to contact the distribution center, yeah? I'll make sure Amy takes it with her on her return trip." 

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"Steal? What do you mean! It's mine...I mean ours...in the first place!" 

 

"Ill be sure to tell Abdul! We need...we want that leaf!" he half-shouted, angrily. 

 

He tried to get up to his feet. Too fast. He slumped onto his backside again. He tried again, more slowly this time, and whilst he was unsteady he did manage to stand up reasonably straight and stagger off, mumbling something about the Snake Gods and the Queens of Tomorrow. Gibberish, surely. 

 

"Well, I guess that's the mix up" sighed Amy. "I bet Adbul's pretty livid about a recieving a dozen dried noodles" she laughed. "Look, I am sure they can do this legally, but they sound pretty desperate for that leaf and tried to do it without the fuss. Maybe he thought some intimidation or money would get it back fast" she wondered. 

 

"What do you want to do about it? I don't want you getting in any more hot water. Although I'm glad you socked him one rather than he socked me!"

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Cassidy looked down at the leaf as the brat finally made his getaway. Good riddance. He'd probably run off to Abdul and tattle on them, but that was good. He sounded creepy all the way off, not that it surprised Cassidy at this point. Holding the leaf in his hand, he turned to Amy. He didn't like this next part. Hated it, really, but he couldn't get her involved in this. Not if the Dust Devil were going to pay Abdul and the rich kid a visit. 

 

"Better go through the official channels, right? I'll let Pops know about the leaf and what happened, then he can get in touch with your office and we figure out how to get this back to you guys. Otherwise that creep's just gonna go on about how one of us stole it, right?" There you go. Hero of the year. Already lying to his friends and family. Uncle Ben would so proud. 

 

Of course, soon as Amy he'd hide the leaf. Might be used as leverage. A bit later he could tell Pops all about it, and that the kid had returned and actually succeeded at stealing the leaf. And as soon his shift ended, it would be time to find Abdul.

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GM

 

And so, in the evening, same Dust- day, same Dust - channel...

 

The merely magnificent dust devil flew over head on a dark, overcast autumn night, with only a pale hint of moon to be seen in the sky. 

 

Below him, the Yellow Sign! 

 

'Twas an old brick building, crumbling, speaking of dust and history, not well advertised, not well lit, not well attended, by the looks of things. From what the Dust Devil had gathered, it was a small Jazz bar, serving drinks, with a reputation for musicians that liked drinks. A lot of drinks. Tonight some minimalist three piece (Drums, Bass, Sax) was playing some slow, melancholic style. The Yellow Sign had a bit of reputation for exlcusivity, turning its crumbling architecture into a pull. Lots of rumours and stories about its histories, from ghosts to mafia hideouts. Even some stories about sorcerous pirates! as if...

 

 

 

 

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The mask still felt odd on Cassidy's face, but it served its purpose. His grey costume wasn't easy to see in the night, which was just how he prefered it. Pops had bought his white lie, and he had brought the leaf along. Might not be the smartest choice, but it was the choice he had made. 

 

So, he approached from above. Southside didn't have the most heroes, and people rarely looked up. There was something about the name of the place that rubbed him the wrong way. He wasn't sure what it was. It might have been something he had read or heard at some point, but he honestly couldn't place it.  Landing on the roof, Cassidy begun to search for a way inside. Anything small enough for sand to slip through.

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GM

 

With masonry this old, seeping into the Yellow Sign was easy. There where almost too many choices!

 

With no particular clue as to which one would be better, or worse, the Dust Devil chose one and seeped in. 

 

And ended up...

 

In the lavatories!

 

Well, aside for the ignobility of entrance, and the faint whiff of unpleasant aroma, it was a boon. For said toilets where currently unoccupied, and poorly lit anyway. And if he felt the call of nature, from excitement or anxiety (or just the ebb and flow of biological parameter) well, he had certainly come to the right place - for as fortune had it, they appeared to be the gentleman's. 

 

The Dust Devil could hear the sound of slow and sexy Jazz coming from nearby. There was the faintest sound of conversation. He guessed that the stage was nearby, possibly even next door. Peeking through the door, his suspicion was confirmed! The stage was on the other side of the door, but fortunately nobody was looking - they were captivated by Jazz!

 

The audience was not large, maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen. A mixed bag of bohemians. And a small group of rich kids dressed like Bohemians, all looking rather dazed and confused, and almost hypnotised...

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Not the best place to enter, but beggars can't be choosers, and at least no one were around. Materializing from his sand form, Cassidy could hear the jazz. It was never really his thing, but fine. He could peek through the door and see the stage, and most of the audience. Not exactly a full house. Again, maybe a mixed blessing. He took a moment to scout the crowds from his hiding place. No sense in just rushing in without a plan. Not that it took Cassidy long to find a group of kids that stuck out, even as they had tried to dress like the rest. They had the same odd look as the rich kid from earlier. If Abdul was here, they would know.

 

Cassidy turned into sand again, his non-corporal form moving over the audience until he began pouring down in front of the group of rich kids where he took physical form again. "Where is Abdul?" He put on his best growl. If nothing else, he hoped their shock at the sudden appearance of a masked man would help.

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As surprising as the formatio of the Dust Devil Was, the group of bohemians response was rather muted. Of the five of them, one appeared in a trance, one appeared unconscious, one stood up and declared himself Lord Emporer of Dune (giving a salute), his eyes fixed in the distance, and one of them mumbled something about "see...told you...I saw him coming!" to the others, her head down, studying her shoes. 

 

The last one, a rarther portly woman wearing black tie (and bow tie), with a big grin on her face, seemed more with it than her four friends. 

 

"What! Who are you! Whelp! Abdul is at the Mesa!" she blubbered, before putting her hand over her mouth. 

 

The band, engrossed in their music, kept playing. 

 

A peppering of gasps came from the dozen other audience members. 

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