Soft morning sun caressed the waking Rubacava and made the Sea of Lament shine, and if you stared at it you had to cover your eyes. Dead seagulls hit the air with the bones of their wings and flew around the docks letting out piercing shrieks.
The docks had waken up few hours before the rest of the city and the voices of the sailors and workers could be heard everywhere. A ship was being loaded somewhere and someone was fixing a broken jetty. The atmosphere seemed to be fine, but if you looked close enough you would notice few figures -- who didn't seem to have anything to do -- here and there.
Not everyone was part of the maritime union and they didn't want to have anything to do with the casinos in the upper town. These rebels formed their own quiet group and everyone knew they existed, but no one paid them any attention.
Velasco sat on his pier and kept an eye on everything that happened. No one else knew the maybe even notorious docks of Rubacava as well as he did, and he was very proud of it. Life after death in Rubacava wasn't what it had used to be, everything had changed so much when Maximino had extended his business and brought all kinds of crooks with him. Nowadays it was dangerous to be outside at night, you never knew who you might face and what would happen.
He raised his gaze when a gull flew above him and he gave it a snort. Some people considered the birds to be annoying pests, but he liked them. Without them the sea wouldn't have been sea and he didn't want to even think about that.
A sudden surprised shout drew his attention and Velasco stood up from his chair. Had someone hurt himself or fallen to the sea? It wasn't dangerous, but sometimes they had nastier accidents. Once the pillars of a shipwreck had fallen down and the wreck had crushed four men.
He doubted anything that serious had happened, big accidents were rare after all, but it was still the best to know what was going on.
He hurried his pace when seeing a big group of workers and seamen who had stopped their work and gathered to stand on a long pier.
"What is going on? Why did you stop working?" Velasco asked when arriving there and as an answer they pointed at the water. The old man turned to look and at first he didn't see anything.
Then he could barely see the blue flowers floating on the surface. He shook his head gloomily and sighed.
"Someone draw him up and take to Membrillo," he ordered when it seemed no one else knew what to do. Then the dockmaster turned his back and started to walk away. Membrillo had had quite many customers lately.
"Calavera! You still haven't swiped that floor?"
Manny raised his gaze from the floor when hearing the annoyed voice of his boss, Eduardo Juelo, and sighed. He was absolutely sure that the man was closely related to Don Copal, who also had found it entertaining to make him feel as miserable as possible.
"I'm on it. This is very careful work," he defended himself. Juelo shook his head angrily.
"You are just lazy! Gods curse the day when Celso left to track down his wife, he was a good worker," he muttered and cursed everything else too.
His lunch bar wasn't very successful; when Rubacava could offer the great Cat Track and fancy clubs no one found it interesting to have a sandwich. He wanted to expend or change his style too, but didn't dare to take the risk. Only someone who had flying imagination and the natural talent to survive could make something out of the place.
"Whatever you say, Juelo," Manny commented and concentrated in swiping the floor. Not that it was dirty or anything, no one ever walked on it, but it was better to look like he was busy or he might be forced to actually do something.
"It's 'mister boss' to you Calavera," Juelo remarked and turned on his heals to return to his small room in upstairs. If there by any weird game of fate were any customers Calavera could take care of them, he wasn't completely stupid after all.
Manny watched his boss go.
"I should have asked if Copal had a brother when I had the chance," he muttered in thought and put the mop away when he heard the bang of the door. Juelo wouldn't come back any time today, he would probably sulk with himself like usually.
And that meant an extra break for him.
He hurried out closing the door carefully after him and took a glance around. No one, just as he had expected. This cafe would go down sooner or later, no one bothered to come in at all and Manny didn't find it surprising. The boring style of the place drove everyone away and he knew they needed something big to save the place.
And yet he should have been grateful for this job, it could have been worse. At least he had a place to stay, that was something not everyone in Rubacava had and he didn't have to get involved with the nasty business.
Everything wasn't fine though, Celso had been right when saying there was room for boss and one worker, but for no one else. They might have been able to put a small person somewhere, but a big, orange and loud demon just didn't fit anywhere.
That was why Manny and his best friend had to live separately. Manny's home was now in the cafe in the upper town when Glottis lived near the docks in the same warehouse where the Bone Wagon was.
It annoyed the heck out of him, it would have been so much better if he could have lived with the car loving demon and maybe even show off a bit, not everyone had a demon friend. But then again, he couldn't really complain, without Velasco Glottis would have been forced to live on the streets.
The dockmaster had given the warehouse to their use and promised that Glottis could live there as long as needed. Manny hoped he'd come up with something to offer his loyal friend a better place, but he hadn't had any luck.
"I wish I had my own club," he muttered to himself taking the elevator down. Own place was almost the first thing on his wish list, the first place still belonged to Meche.
The woman hadn't arrived to Rubacava and Manny was starting to get worried. Maybe a demon had attacked her? Or maybe she wasn't even going to come to Rubacava, maybe she had decided to stay in the Land of the Dead forever?
Manny shook his head, the Meche he had known for the short while would never have liked a place like this. She surely wanted to get to the Ninth Underworld and Eternal Rest, it was usually the only wish of everyone.
Though that didn't seem to be true in Rubacava, more people arrived every day and only part of them left to cross the Sea of Lament. And most of those who stayed soon found their places on the casinos and clubs and not all liked the direction Maximino was taking this.
But Manny couldn't do a thing about it so he didn't let it bother him. He himself had enough problems and he wanted to concentrate in them.
The elevator hit the ground with a bang and Manny hurried out. He was faced with the salty air and stylised bridge that was built over the water. At the other side of it stood the blue building where Olivia Ofrenda's club was.
The Blue Casket was closed this early in the morning, light and cheerfulness didn't fit its style, but everything would be woken up when the night placed the curtain of darkness on the city. Manny didn't really visit the club too often, he just didn't like the atmosphere.
And he didn't like poems that much either.
When Manny arrived at the warehouse the big orange demon didn't even seem to notice him.
"Remember me?" Manny asked after watching his friend's working and Glottis turned around.
"Manny! Nice to see you too!" he exclaimed and waved an adjustable spanner at his friend. Manny stepped in and looked at the tools and pieces of metal in interest.
"What are you doing?" he asked and Glottis watched his work in pride.
"Velasco was very nice and brought me some things to fix. They don't beat cars, but this way I have something fun to do," he said and threw the tool on the floor.
Manny felt really bad, it was wrong that he had a place to stay and a job when Glottis had to settle with this.
"Are you happy here?" he asked and Glottis flapped his ears. Then he nodded.
"Sure. It's good to live here and keep an eye on the Bone Wagon," he said pointing at the car on the back. "Though it would be better if I could live with you," he added after a while. Manny sighed.
"Yes, Glottis, I know. I promise that I'll come up with something and you can move away from here," he said. Sure, Glottis said he was fine, but Manny wanted to at least try to do something.
"Oh well, all right, if it makes you happy. I can't stand to see another face that sad," Glottis said. Manny tilted his head.
"Another? What do you mean?" he wanted to know.
"I saw Velasco today, he seemed to be very depressed about something," the demon said. His ears flapped. "Hey Manny! Maybe you should pay him a visit! That might cheer him up!"
"Could be," Manny answered and watched as Glottis concentrated in investigating a metallic item. It seemed the demon didn't need him at the moment and he sure didn't want to return to the cafe yet. So he had a good reason to see Velasco. "I think I'll go to see him right away. I'll come again tomorrow," he stated and Glottis waved his hand.
"Bye Manny!" he shouted after his friend.
Manny returned to the bridge and took another direction, this time to get to the docks. He visited the place quite rarely, those who weren't part of the union weren't welcome there.
Seagulls flew above him and he glanced at them while walking. He could smell the sea now and stopped for a while to enjoy it.
"What are you doing here, son?" Velasco asked stepping next to him. Manny glanced at him in surprise, he hadn't heard the old dockmaster coming.
"Nothing actually, just came to pay a visit and thank you for letting Glottis to live in the warehouse," he answered.
"Again? I've already told you it's nothing," the dockmaster pointed out. He crossed his arms behind his back and seemed to stare somewhere far away at the sea.
"Something wrong?" Manny asked like it was nothing. Velasco turned to look at him.
"What do you mean?" he wanted to know. Manny shrugged.
"Glottis mentioned something like that," he stated and Velasco sighed.
"Yes, Glottis... He sure is a memorable demon," he said. They were both quiet for a while. "But he is right, I could be more cheerful at the moment. This city... I don't like the way things are now," the dockmaster continued.
"What happened?" Manny asked. He didn't believe that just the corruption of this place was enough to affect someone as experienced as Velasco.
"A soul was found sprouted at the docks this morning. I knew him, he was a good seaman and we once served on the same ship," Velasco said.
"I'm sorry," Manny said unsurely. Of course he too had heard Rubacava was more dangerous than it used to, but he hadn't actually seen anything yet.
"It happens more often nowadays. And completely without a reason. This man, he had nothing to do with the casinos where all this is coming from," the dockmaster muttered. Manny didn't say anything to that, he felt like there was nothing left to say.
When the silence had lasted quite a while he turned and left the docks.