5 min read

You’re Hairy and Insane

Gaze back upon our misspent youth, when bad ideas bloomed like dandelions.

Previously: We killed all forward momentum by flashing back to the early days of Batya and Mina, discussing how they were little pills, and how their parents abandoned them during a night of loosely defined peril.

— 37 —

After working freelance goon jobs for most of their lives, Batya and Mina finally saved up enough bloodstained cash to go into business for themselves. This was about two years ago. They rented a freakishly narrow office tucked between two engagement ring resellers and called their operation Rock Salt Ltd. for reasons that are lost to history and boilermakers. They bought a filing cabinet and a chalkboard they never used. They slept in sleeping bags on the warped wooden floor.

Mina, thrilled at fulfilling her lifelong dream of being the boss of everything, eagerly assembled a marketing plan. She dreamed up a menu of services and put the word out around town. The menu was ambitious—some would say way too ambitious—but she thought having the whole alphabet would look impressive (though it did peter out toward the end):

Artifact • Beast • Conspiracy • Disposal • Escort • Forgery • Ghost • Heist • Impersonation • Jimmying • Keelhauling • Laundering • Mutiny • Narcotics • Offing • Psych Out • Query • Retrieval • Sabotage • Talking About Whatever! • Uh, Usury? • Ventriloquism • We’ll Fill This In Later • XXX • Yeti • Zingers

The idea was that clients would call in with their requests, and then Mina would negotiate the details, Mina would come up with the plan, Mina would tell Bat what to do, Mina would wait at the office while Bat did it, you get the picture.

They had exactly zero inquiries for the first six months. It’s a tough racket to break into when so much depends on trust and nobody trusts nobody. They sold the filing cabinet. They ate popcorn they found on the floors of bars. They fought constantly, just like when they were toddlers.

Then, at long last, a lovely old man got in touch needing Forgery (specifically, a fake will) and that led to a few more jobs: a smash & blind, a triple ouiji, a basic glove-inside-a-glove. Nothing glamorous, nothing lucrative, but it got the Rock Salt name out into the alleys and dens.

The next big one was a tricky piece of business where they set fire to the dugout at Casamiro Stadium—go Hammerheads—and Bat showed up dressed as a fireman w/mustache to rescue a philandering shortstop in order to surreptitiously inject Mina’s homemade tracking fluid into his (godlike, life-changing) buttocks.

It went well. It got them some attention. And it led to the job.

They got on the horn with a prospect and it was one of these: “Greetings, my name is…ah, never mind the name. Just call me an interested party.”

Bat groaned. Do us all a favor, skip the melodrama and get to brass tacks.

Mina said, “What’s got you so interested, Interested Party?”

“There is a sword,” he said, each word hanging heavy with gravitas.

“We’re intrigued, please don’t stop there.”

“‘Tis a devil in the shape of a black scimitar. And my most fervent desire is to claim this sinister weapon for myself, and add it to my private collection. For an eternity have I traveled the world, following its trail, finding nothing but treachery and carnage in its wake. But at long last I have discovered the lair in which it sleeps. Right here in this fetid port town.”

“Lemme guess,” Bat said, not appreciating the fetid. “This sword’s real easy to get and you’re just telling us about it because you want to share the good news.”

Mina scowled at her, and Interested Party made a guttural noise in the vicinity of a harrumph. “I am speaking with the Salty Rocks, am I not? I was told this was a professional organization of elite adventurers.”

“Rock Salt, yes,” Mina said. “And we are very elite and professional, and you can rest assured you’ll have the finest members of our squad at your disposal.”

Bat made a big show of looking around their cramped office, searching for this alleged squad. Then she noticed a half-eaten package of sliced ham on her sleeping bag and went to get it.

“Now then,” Mina said. “Tell us every little thing about this sword.”

Interested Party took a ponderous breath. “They call it,” a pause that lasted three weeks, “the Harmattan. Devious and cruel. Forged by a fire god in a dying volcano a millennium ago. An edge so keen it can—so it is said—cut through light, through love, through the tendons of time itself.”

“Gracious. And it’s here in the Hook?”

“The Harmattan is currently in the possession of a man named Kiepper Frico. Or should I say, Kiepper Frico is currently in the possession of the Harmattan. It tends to…take hold of a man.”

“Then I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a man,” Mina said.

Bat leaned in, chewing ham. “Two quick questions.”

Mina tried to press Bat’s greasy lips together to shut her up but she ducked out of the way. “You chased this sword for, what, an eternity, right? And now you’re in the home stretch, and the thing’s right here. Why not go get it yourself?”

“Madame, I may sound hale and hearty on the telephone, but I assure you my days of gallivanting—”

“And my follow-up question: Is it because you’re very scared?”

There was a long silence on the line. Then: “No, I am not scared,” Interested Party said. “I am terrified.”

Mina said, “Perfectly understandable emotion in this situation. If we were anything less than elite professionals, we’d be terrified, too. Can you tell us where this Kiepper Frico is?”

“I have only his name. But I will pay you handsomely to find him and relieve him of this blade.”

“How handsome, exactly?”

“Two thousand dollars upon receipt.”

In times of celebration, Bat and Mina do this sort of jig where they link ankles and hop around and clap hands in time with a song they made up as kids: You’re hairy and insane! / And I drink your champagne! It’s extremely embarrassing, and after hanging up with Interested Party they did it about a hundred times.

Rock Salt Ltd. then held an all-hands company meeting to weigh the pros and cons of this project and the consensus was: Two thousand clams why are we even still talking about this, meeting adjourned.

“This is it,” Mina said. “This is the job.”

“First thing I’ll buy is a pinky ring,” Bat said, steepling her fingers, gazing off into some golden future. “I’ll get my crest engraved on it so it’ll get imprinted on chumps’ faces when I deck em.”

“It’s not just the money,” Mina said. “This sword sounds legit. This’ll put us on the map. Word will spread.”

“Just like your mom’s legs,” Bat said.

“Yes,” Mina said, not listening. “We do this right, we’re made.”


This has been Chapter 37 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: The Nice Job Award