Welcome to the Wicked Muse Tavern, Jaleta Clegg

Many’s the word that ends up deleted when editing a novel. Some scenes, though great fun, just don’t fit in the final story. This is one of my favorite deleted scenes from Poisoned Pawn.

poisonpawn

The thug caught up to me and took my arm in a grip that reminded me of grappling clamps. “You pay or we make you pay. You choose how much pain you want to suffer.”

“Then let’s go to the ship. The money’s there.”

“You call your ship and have them deliver the money. To the Golden Lantern, right here.” He dragged me into a restaurant that favored red carpet and dim light. No one outside paid the slightest attention to us. He took me to a table in the back and pushed me onto the bench behind it. Another man was already there on the other side. I was trapped.

“Have a drink while you wait, captain,” the first man said. “Call your ship, and watch what you say.”

I pulled my com out of my pocket. I hit the call button.

“Dace?” Clark answered.

“Is Jasyn back yet?”

“She just arrived. Gruder and his trucks are here. He isn’t very happy with you.”

“I’m not happy with him either. Can you meet me at a restaurant called the Golden Lantern? Bring a transfer chip with you.”

“Dinner for the crew? How novel, captain. Be there soon.” He clicked off.

I hoped my message had gotten through to him. I didn’t know him well enough to be sure. I hoped Jasyn wouldn’t follow him.

“Not smart, captain,” the first man said. He was now holding a gun, just under the table. “You cheat us or cause us trouble and we will shoot you.”

“Why would I want to do either? Just because you’re the scum of the galaxy doesn’t mean we can’t do business.”

The second man slapped me across the face. “Watch your mouth.”

I knew what they were, if not the exact organization. I’d heard about the syndicates, crime groups that controlled shipping among other things. You either paid them what they demanded or you didn’t get cargo. Or you ended up dead with your ship damaged. I doubted these two worked for the Targon Syndicate. If they did, they should have known me. And I would either be dead or on my way to somewhere where I would shortly be dead. I was surprised to find a group out here. The syndicates usually only operated where there was sufficient profit, not out on the fringe of the Empire where Talus was located. Either way, it was pay them off or get in a really messy fight.

Clark came in the restaurant, stopping to talk to the greeter at the door. He looked good in his new shipsuit, green like mine. He smiled at the greeter and came back to the table where I sat hemmed in by thugs. He stopped a pace away, eyeing the men on either side of me. “I see you have company, Dace. Drinks are on you this time?”

“This time?” the first man asked. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. He jabbed me with the gun.

“There was this other group last time we were here,” Clark said, scratching the back of his head. “We paid them and they said we were good to do business here.”

“Liar,” the second man said and hit me even though he was staring at Clark.

I tasted blood. The man with the gun jabbed me in the ribs. “Explain this.”

“Explain it to the gentlemen, Clark,” I said.

“Watch your mouth,” the second man said and backhanded me again.

“Who did you pay?” The first man jabbed me with his gun again. I was going to have bruises.

“Big ugly guy, bald on top,” Clark said. “He warned us scum like you were trying to take over his territory.”

“Liar,” the second man said. I ducked away from his hand, tried to anyway. He connected with my forehead. My head bounced back and slammed against the wall.

“There isn’t any such person,” the first man said and gave me another bruise in the ribs.

“He’s right over there,” Clark said pointing to one side of the room.

They looked, only for a second but it was long enough. Clark had a very small, nasty looking gun out when they looked back.

“Put your gun on the table,” he said to the first man. “Slowly.”

The second man raised his hand.

I took the gun from the first and jammed it against the second man’s face. “Hit me again and I’ll remove half your head.” He dropped his hand. “Move. Now.” He slid out of the booth.

I climbed after him. “It’s been nice doing business with you. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

***

jaletacleggmedJaleta Clegg loves to spin yarns with plenty of action and adventure. She writes everything from science fiction adventure to silly horror to high fantasy. Find more about her and her stories at www.jaletac.com. Find out more about Dace and her crew at www.altairanempire.com. Book 3 in the series, Poisoned Pawn, releases on April 19 at http://journal-store.com/fiction/poisoned-pawn-the-fall-of-the-altairan-empire-book-iii/

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