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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
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Goosebumps shot up along Nick's arms, hairs snapping to like a squadron of soldiers even while his face was burning with anticipation. Whether this would be the end of the road for him or just another regrettable speed bump would be decided within the next few seconds... he held his breath, hoping Maf would make his move and not just hold him there for 15 seconds, a minute, 62 seconds, whatever. That nameless ethereal horror was bearing down on him, but if the giant squeezed his throat he'd have something to fight against. He'd claw and kick and tear and rip the collar off his stupid neck, let him pay for his indiscretion, while he, Nick could finally die on his own terms...

And then he was free. He spent an awkward second just standing there, just watching the gloomy dark shape turn its back, tasting the freedom he'd longed for but finding it sour. It was over, and the kid hadn't even said anything. Just stopped. Walked away like Nick was some galling yet inconsequential spider on the wall instead of who he was, a living, breathing, human who had killed an armed man with his bare hands in that very cave-

Or maybe there was something else. There had to be a reason he'd been left alive yet again. How many times was this now? First, there was Alex, and Maxwell, and then Ivan... Nik, Maf, heck, Nick himself, they'd all had more than their fair opportunity to wipe him out. And they weren't bundles of sunshine, either. Ivan had gotten a BKA, he had three two three people die at his own hands, and Maxwell has far from innocent. It had to be more than chance. There was something out there, some cosmic thing that wanted him alive, something with a twisted sense of humor, maybe, but something inestimably potent. That was why Maf had turned away. He had to. There was no choice. There was no killing someone made invincible by providence!

He unfroze. There was Maf, bent over his bag like fate's big, fat marionette. He'd die eventually - they all would. But there was no need to rush things. The flywheel of fate was hooked up to the cogs of destiny, and once the car battery of really crazy coincidences started to send the electricity of something or other to the capacitor of...

Well, there was no point in rushing things at any rate. He'd done his deed for the day. He stepped past the prone form oozing onto the floor, daubing the walls in red, marking the cave so that the angel of death would pass over him for another day. Then, picking up his bag and his sword, he turned towards Maf.

Go teabag a bear trap.
"Thank you, good sir."

And then he was off to the races. The blood trickling lethargically down from his forehead crept down his nose, uncomfortably close to his mouth. He wiped it off roughly on his shoulder, but did no more for the present. He'd clean himself up later, when he wasn't rushing down a black hellhole with a flashlight in one hand, a four-foot instrument of death in the other, and a couple of angry ghosts to outrun.

((Nick Reid continued in All the Untested Virtue))
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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