Spy tutted as he flicked through Mannly Hats Quarterly. It was a Smissmas special edition issue, but it was the same old common nonsense. Ugly, crumpled top hats, ugly, stupid bandannas, ugly, horrific hats made out of scrap metal, ugly, pointless banana hats… Worse, half of this edition consisted of ugly Smissmas decorations. All tasteless and poor and pathetic.
Throwing the magazine down, Spy decided to get himself a drink. He had half a bottle of fine red wine, stashed away in a hidden compartment of the chair he was sitting in. There were little hidden compartments everywhere, all containing the essentials – alcohol, glasses, cigarettes, lighters, balaclavas, knives… all the important stuff. Just in case.
Spy shouldn’t have been so paranoid. Smissmas was coming up. Like every year, there’d been a Smissmas truce, and despite the hatred between them and their enemies, the truces always, always held. That was the true miracle of the Badlands, not these pointless fields of gravel, coal and hats. There was some faith left in humanity. Not enough to calm Spy’s nerves.
That being said, he was enjoying his break. He’d decided to leave the rest of the team behind and stay in his private quarters, alone. They didn’t need him, they were too busy getting drunk on the cheapest fire water they could find. Well, the less classy ones were, at least. Heavy only ever seemed to drink bellinis and other light cocktails. They could party all they wanted downstairs and to their credit, they’d left Spy alone.
Spy opened a new bottle of wine, cutting off the plastic wrap with his knife and using it as a makeshift corkscrew. He then emptied his glass of the whiskey that had been in there previously and filled it generously with the smooth, red wine. After a few sips, he picked up a second magazine. It was a Gentlemann’s Quarterly magazine. Yet another stupid Smissmas edition, going on about being a gentleman for the holidays. As if Spy didn’t already know how to be a gentleman.
With a sigh, Spy threw the magazine across the room and got up, carrying his glass. He inspected each painting on each striped, tastefully wallpapered wall. Something felt ever so slightly off. As if someone had been in there before him. One of the pictures by the door was slightly crooked. It was straight earlier. As if someone had gone and poked it.
Standing by the crooked painting, Spy’s eyes stared down at every object in the room, one at a time, starting from the door and panning round. The door had been closed for hours. The last time Spy had left the room (he’d had a little too much to drink, perhaps), he’d closed it and left a sign for it to remain closed.
Finally, his eyes rested on what looked like a box, covered in a silky cloth. That was certainly new. Why hadn’t he seen it either?
Spy drew his knife. That hint of paranoia was sitting there, in the back of his mind. Truces, after all, were like rules – made to be broken.
Cautiously, he pulled the fabric off the box. It was a gift box. Wrapped up with a red and blue bow. There was a label on it that indicated it was for Spy, but it didn’t say who it was from. Spy opened it up and had a look.
Inside were several intricate, decorated containers. Fine, aged whiskey, a fifty year old wine and a miniature barrel of brandy. Alongside them was a small note.
“Happy Smissmas, Spy. Best wishes, your team.”