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Buy A Magazine, Get A Gun
The wooden gate opened with the tug of Apricot’s pale hand. Cars and well-kept shrubbery lined the streets around the Signa family home. The shadows from the fixtures under streetlights purpose a constant suspicion of danger. “They are coming to my house now,” Apricot whispered under her breath, her eyes darted towards every strange shape. Stretching her fingers through her hair, she tugged at her roots, the pain stealing any hope that this was a bad dream. The cool night breeze made her shiver as it brushed against her skin. Strangely enough, this brought her comfort, as the air was not frigid.
Apricot had concluded these phantoms cause phenomena in their surroundings. Arctic temperatures followed them along with electrical disturbances. These two signs satisfied her as guiding stones to identify when these beings were near. Moving through the night streets, Apricot could not help but notice how empty her quiet burrow seemed. As if the civilized world had vanished with the night, like crossing some forbidden threshold. All the talk of terrorist attacks must have people scared of going out, she figured.
She stops in the middle of an intersection. A convenience store lights the night street, shining like a glowing beacon, and there it was, the subject of her curiosity. Peering through the large store window, she noticed the magazine rack with a stack of Erie Truth’s Monthly on a lower shelf. The store door opened with a synthesized bell. “I can’t believe I am doing this,” she mumbled under her breath as her heart pounded with embarrassment. Behind the counter, an elderly man gave her a quiet nod, acknowledging her presence. She waved back at him, a simple but kind gesture of reciprocation. She passed by several assorted racks of junk food, a fixture displaying new gum, and a cooler filled with various soft drinks. Glancing over the magazine rack, she considers grabbing several, hoping to mask her intended purchase. Instead, she looked through the issues pages. She held the copy reading over the embellished cover as a bead of sweat dripped from her nose onto the magazine’s face. “Well, I can’t go back now,” she said as the splotch seeps into the paper.
Apricot tossed the magazine onto the counter, flashing a smile at the gruff-looking old man. “Will this be all for you dear?” he inquired with professionalism from a time past Apricot admired.
“Yes, weird thing to get at night huh?” Apricot submitted.
The old man chuckled. “I have seen stranger things, hun. These can be quite the entertainers. I read the Daily Notes myself.” The Daily Notes, Apricot, grunted in her mind. No one but the most desperate journalist wrote for that one. Then again, the same could be said for Eerie Truths, and yet she looked for answers where she knew better not to.
“You don’t say.” Apricot sensed the heat around her getting more intense. “You like this place kept warm, huh?” she commented. “Perhaps, maybe… no, that is not the pattern.” She thought to herself.
“The place gets a little chilly every time that door opens. So I like to keep it at a solid 75 degrees,” he said after ringing up the magazine. “Your total comes to five Marks, my dear.”
Apricot drew a plastic card from her pocket, swiping against the reader. The little screen displayed the number of marks being taken out of her account with a short animation to show the transaction going through. “75 degrees, you say.” Apricot hesitated, feeling as though the heat was well over a blistering one hundred and twenty.
“You know now you mention it. It is feeling a little warm in here.” the old man offered. He raised his hand to his head, removing several beads of sweat. He walked over to a beam behind the counter looking at a small white box. “Nope, the heater is set to 70. It seems cooler over here. Must be my dang computer system overheating again.”
“Yeah, the computer system,” Apricot added, reassuring herself. “Maybe temperature changes are a signal.” Apricot considered. “But if that is the case…”
The older man doddled back over to the counter. “Young lady, I am sorry if it caused you any discomfort.” He apologizes, handing the magazine to her in a white plastic bag.
“Oh, not at all. It is fine. I feel bad for you having to work in this kind of heat.” Apricot commented. “Thank you, sir.”
“No, no, thank you. Now you go enjoy that magazine of yours.” the man said before lowering behind the counter grumbling about unclogging the dust from the computer’s fan system.
Apricot could not get home fast enough. As she left the man’s store, she was close to a full sprint. The heat seemed to follow her. Through her front door, she snapped the locks shut and up the stairs, she went. Once in her room, she jumped onto her bed, flopping on her stomach, flipping open the magazine. As she rested on her bed, she glanced over at the window. “It’s locked. It’s not open.”
She begins by flipping through the first few pages, spreads of various advertisements for survival equipment, something with a man with a taped-up face. She was not entirely sure what it was about and some other uninteresting text plastered pages. Once she found the table of contents, she scanned the magazine for anything that might explain things. “I can’t believe I am doing this,” she thinks to herself while browsing the page.
Paranormal Experiences Of Eastway Park And The Eastway Monster – P. 04
Religious Cult And Ritual Performance On Stage At Matsume Theater – P. 15
Tricked Into Initiation By Vampire Club – P. 28
Man-Eating Leeches Found In Okabe Sewers – P. 33
Boy Claims To Be Alien From Another Planet – P. 40
Claw Fingers Linked In Ikijoji Murders NEW PHOTOS – P. 42
Mental Travel And Astral Projection – P. 51
Woman Claims To Have Caused The Blue Ash Crisis – P. 57
International Conference For Paranormal Studies Blocked By Okabe Government – P. 62
After looking down the list, she chuckled to herself, “What am I doing?” Apricot flipped to page 42 to see an image of “Claw Fingers” caught on surveillance footage.
“It appears wherever disaster strikes, Claw Fingers appears. Many people have theorized that Claw Fingers has caused disasters around Okabe since he appeared several months ago. Claw Fingers was first photographed during the subway disaster in Tsungdung, appearing inside the subway tunnel while crews were removing the wreckage of redline 45.”
Some grainy images showing what appeared to be the reaper standing accompanied the text of the article. However, it is hard for Apricot to tell considering the images are so blown up and manipulated.
“He has had several sightings around the city since then. There were reports of him watching from the rooftops at the mysterious Bokohara antique shop attack. Still no information on what that was about. Now we have new reports of him being sighted on Ikijoji street last week before and after the murders had occurred. What we can say is that Claw Fingers is not going away and is being increasingly sighted. Authorities have refused to comment on the sightings but have suggested that this is some kind of mass public hysteria. I think they know something and they are not telling us. What do you think?”
Apricot stopped reading the article by putting it down. “He said something about being a reaper. Maybe he is there because that is his job or something.” Apricot let out a laugh. “Listen to me. I am theorizing about a freaking urban legend,” her giggle frenzy came to a halt with a sober acknowledgment, “One I saw.” With a hard toss, she sent the magazine flapping across the room. It struck the wall and landed on the floor. With one glance at the open page of Claw Fingers, she turned away and leaned back in her bed. “They are as clueless about everything as I am. I was crazy to think one of these magazines could hold the answers I was looking for. This Claw Fingers is not my threat right now, though. It’s these phantoms. I can’t keep running away from the truth. The reaper said something about having to stop them. What is he crazy? I can’t fight those things on my own. I can’t even see them. And I can’t tell the police, that is for sure.” Apricot mused. She let out a sigh, placing both her palms atop her eyes laying against her pillow.
She glanced back over at the magazine on the floor. On the other page next to “Claw Fingers” is an advertisement for a pistol. “A gun,” she said aloud, removing her hands from her face. “I need a gun.”
The next morning, Apricot made her way across town. Two subways, a bus ride, a bite to eat at a small restaurant called “The Blue Lady”, window shopping and still she could not find the nerve to purchase a weapon.
She had passed Bullseye’s several times. The shop window was plastered with flyers for ammunition and new tactical gear along with Ready To Eat Meal specials. She watched as a young lady about her own age strolled out of the shop with two bags. “Well, maybe it won’t seem so strange to them,” Apricot assured herself, rousing what little courage she had.
She crossed into the storefront until she noticed her fingers tingle. The unoiled door opens with a creak, greeting her with walls overspread with every kind of black tactical weapon she had ever seen and even some she hadn’t. Her eyes grew wide as it struck her with intimidation. Several glass cases displayed various knives, along with some decorative swords. Survival gear and backpacks with an assembly of accessories line the other walls. As she looked around, she was overwhelmed. “You look a little lost, hun. Whatchya in here for?” commented a young man at the counter.
Apricot sheepishly walked to the counter. Each step was small and deliberate as she scrutinized the room with her eyes. “I want a gun. A pistol,” she said.
“A lady that knows what she wants. I like that in a girl.” He chirped. “A pistol, huh? First-time buyer?”
Apricot nodded, looking at a rather menacing long-barreled rifle. “Is that a sniper rifle?”
“Why yes honey, that is a rifle. Why this is a Maji-O’ B15A112, a pretty little girl isn’t she? If you got the right sights, you can land a shot dead center from half a mile away. Gas piston, so she needs a little more love than your spring variant, but she is hell’a more accurate.” the man told her. He bent behind the case, picking up a small pistol from the back. “Since this will be your first gun, I suggest the Markov C14, also known as Justice,” he chuckled, admiring the short-barreled silver polished weapon in hand. “This little gun is a standard issue for civil servants. It has a carrying capacity of seven 9mm rounds, plus one in the chamber. Lightweight, easy to carry, and won’t break the bank either. You don’t need to clean it as often, but she still needs love from time to time. It is good for first-time buyers because she is easy to care for and the recoil won’t be breaking your wrist.”
Apricot’s stary eyes could not be missed. “Yeah that. That will work. How much?”
“Well, tell you what, normally I would sell this to you for 400 but since it’s your first gun, how about 250 Marks?”
Apricot drew several Jade cards out of her wallet, placing them on the counter. “Done,” she said.
The man smirks at her. “I like your enthusiasm. I do. But you need a background check first.” he said, drawing several papers out of a folder. “I need you to fill out these forms and then we can send it on in.”
“How many hours do I have to wait?”
“Eager, heh, well, it takes about a week. Sometimes longer depending on how many are sent in.”
Apricot shakes her head. “No, no, I need that gun today.”
The man shakes his head. “Sorry sister, that won’t be happening? Gun laws, you know. Did you get into trouble? If you do, I would suggest going to the police before taking things into your own hands.”
Apricot nods. “I am a student reporter, sir. I need a weapon for protection.”
“Heh, you think that will convince me to break the law? Honey, do you understand the amount of trouble I could get into if I let you have this gun without a proper check?”
“I do, but this is different. I really need it. I can’t explain why but I need it.”
“No. I am sorry hun,” he said, taking back the papers. “I don’t feel comfortable selling this to you. Like I said, if you are having trouble, go to the police. I can’t help you. Sorry.”
“Fine, I will do the background check. Look, I need this, OK.” Apricot retorted.
The man turned his back on her. “This is not something I’m comfortable with. I will have to ask you to leave my store. Since you are searching for an article, I won’t report this to the police. However, I would suggest you don’t do this with anyone else. You got it.”
“I just want to buy a pistol.” Apricot fumed turning away from the counter and out the front door.
Apricot relaxed on a bus hunched over on the small window sill ridge. She watched the buildings and cars below pass by as the bus continued down the long stretch of roadways. Deep in thought, her mind spiraled with worries and fears. She realized she sure as hell was not getting her hands on a gun, not legally, that is. However, even illegally, it is not like people advertise that sort of thing. She thought about wandering around the more shady parts of town. However, without knowing what she was doing, she figured she would be in danger of being trafficked. She could ask Cortez, but she was positive he wanted nothing to do with her after the whole camera incident.
Her thoughts turned to identifying people she may know that know something about illegal firearms. That is when her mind landed on Solenne. She is an officer. Traffic cop most of the time, but an officer nonetheless. Though she considered her reaction to asking her about getting a firearm illegally. If she were to do something like that, she may find Solenne handcuffing her. She had to uphold the law, after all. But being a journalist, she could offer the idea of being for an article. Apricot smiled to herself, taking out her cellphone.
“So why did you want to have tea with me at this hour?” Solenne asked sitting back in a private secluded corner. The fabric of the lounge chairs in the teahouse was gray, matching the carpets in the cafe’s center. The floors on the raised platform where Apricot and Solenne sat are warm hardwood. Above them hung large red ball lanterns with golden tassels hanging from their light. The cafe had a conic shape for it. A live pianist serenades the air with background music.
Apricot sipped her tea with a flushed smile. “You don’t waste time.” She chuckled.
Solenne grinned. “Rarely do we go out for tea, just the two of us? So I got enough intuition to know,” she said lowering her gaze to Apricot. “What exactly do you want to know?”
“To know?” Apricot said innocently.
“Well, your text kind of made it obvious. Solenne, I am so stressed about my next article. I can’t think of anything to write about,” she mocked Apricot, rolling her eyes. “Want a scoop?”
Apricot nodded. “I kind of want something specific. I was looking through the official reports about that bank robbery.” Solenne smiled. “Well, they had illegal firearms. How does a criminal get an illegal firearm here?”
“Oh, there are black markets all over the place girl.” Solenne gestured with her hand. “You would not believe how many there are. We have an entire department dedicated to busting up illegal markets and almost all of them have firearms.”
“Yeah, so how do you guys find those guys?” Apricot asked.
“Well, they don’t make it easy. It’s not impossible to find them, but as I said, it is difficult. Especially for police. They know who is a cop and who is not normal. A lot of our officers get messed up looking for them. We use undercover cops. Infiltration is the best method.” Solenne explained, taking a sip of her tea.
“So, how do the undercover cops find these groups?” Apricot set her tea down, grabbing her notepad from her side.
Solenne chuckled, seeing the notepad come out. “Oh, I am being interviewed now.”
“Something like that,” Apricot said. “Completely anonymous, of course. Just for my research.”
“Well, the first thing to look for is their calling card. It’s normally a bar with a crown with a pitchfork going through the crown. That is how you know it is an illegal arms seller. However, you just can’t ask to buy a firearm. They won’t like that. So we have to find these spots. The symbols can be hard to find, but normally the pitchfork’s base is the arrow pointing in the ship’s direction. You can search all over town until you find the specific shop.” Apricot bobbed her head as she jotted down Solenne’s words.
“So how dangerous are these places normally?”
“Hey, you’re joking, right?” Solenne said smirking. “Dangerous. I know I would not want to be on assignment anywhere near those types of people.”
Apricot frowned. “I know, right? I can’t imagine having to do something so dangerous daily.”
Solenne pauses, straitening her posture. “Apricot,” she said in a firm tone, looking her in the eye. “Don’t do anything crazy with that knowledge. I think that is enough to give you an article.”
“Plenty,” Apricot punctuated. “Thanks, Solenne.” She puts down the notepad, placing it back into her coat pocket. “So, tell me, how are things with you and Arjun?”
The constant clatter of the decorated glass plates and small teacups and the murmurs of distant conversation filled the room. A group of men sat in a distant corner of the teahouse. A house servant poured their drink from a large kettle. She bowed as the men raised their drinks to her with a smile. With a chirp and a giggle, she made her leave to the men in their private section of the room.
“Now we are alone. Let us begin the proper conversation. Something needs to be done about Kyo. She has no respect for the order.” A man with short, fading black hair said. “We all watched her murder my brother and everyone celebrated because of old stories written by a senile woman. I can’t allow this to stand.”
Another man nodded his head, his head a field of gray. “Yes,” he coughed. “I agree, Naju. Yet, what can we do? She has the support of the lesser order. If we were to remove her, people would blame us for the failure of the rituals.” He took a sip of tea.
Another man spoke up. “The four of us know what needs to be done. Ujima, don’t act innocent. We need to kill her. The question is who will carry it out?”
“I will,” Hegia stated. The other men turned to face him. “I already planned to speak with her. We are going to the theater to discuss plans for the future. I will push her off the balcony. The fall will kill her for sure. I will do this, in Mitsura’s honor. He did not deserve that death. May his soul find peace.”
“Then it is settled,” Naju said. “We must keep this meeting secret. If anyone were to find out our discussion took place, it would be rather ill-received. Do we have an agreement?” The other men nodded their heads. “Good, then let it be considered no more.”
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