Home > Hijacked (Licking Thicket : Horn of Glory)

Hijacked (Licking Thicket : Horn of Glory)
Author: Lucy Lennox








If I’d known I was going to walk into a reaming, I would have downed a few shots of whiskey first.

“Who in the fucking fuck takes a private client call in front of their Grindr hookup?” Champ raged.

I knew he didn’t really want me to answer, but I did anyway. I was no shrinking violet. “He was in the bathroom, ah, taking care of some… things. I didn’t think he was listening.”

My boss’s broad shoulders made his wingspan look even bigger than it was as he waved his long arms around our office reception area. “You didn’t think. That’s what I hear when you flap your fucking jaws. You didn’t think. No shit, Sherlock. What would have happened back in Ghazni if you’d simply ‘assumed’ Azim was preoccupied with his douche routine while we were trying to break in and disarm the bomb?”

I tapped my lips with a finger. “I don’t think Azim was gay. And if he was… the dude was putting off major toppy vibes. At least before the, ah… bomb thing happened.”

“Riggs, damn it, shut the fuck up.” The vein on Champ’s temple that sometimes bulged enough to worry me was making an appearance, so I shut the fuck up.

I respected Percival Champion more than anyone else in my life. (Which was why I’d never call him by his first name.) He’d been my commanding officer through some seriously sketchy moments, and he’d always gotten us out of the shit. Sometimes it seemed like magic. Where Champ led, I would always, always follow. And I hated that I’d let him down. So if he wanted to ream me over one relatively insignificant mistake—which, yeah, okay, had led to the loss of a pretty significant client—then I was gonna take it and be quiet.

Mostly quiet.

“If you’d underestimated Azim, we’d be dead,” Champ said, continuing his tirade. “But yet you had a whole convo with the guy from HOG Corporate about their massive upcoming personnel reallocation—”

“Layoffs,” I corrected under my breath. I didn’t think the dozens of graphic designers and programmers that the HOG CEO had wanted me to escort out of the building the morning after that fateful call felt “reallocated.” They felt unemployed.

“—where your Grindr hookup could hear every damn word and then relay those words back to the lead developer, who, upon hearing that he was one of the people about to be reallocated—”

“Fired,” I interjected, ignoring Champ’s glare.

Champ ground his teeth together so hard they squeaked, which could not have been good for his oral health. “—then took off with a mission-critical software access code, a code he could use to disrupt gameplay for Horn of Glory, the world’s largest and most popular video game, and potentially put HOG out of business. And now it seems like the man has been trying to sell that code to the highest bidder, and no one can get in touch with him because he’s left town. And HOG understandably fired our asses and only chose not to prosecute us for violating the nondisclosure agreements we’d signed because they didn’t want the publicity. Sound about right?”

“Buck Nutter and his Magic Seed,” I said helpfully.

Champ blinked at me. “I… what? What?”

“The lead developer is Buck Nutter. And the code he took is known as his Magic Seed. Apparently they call it that because—”

Before I had a chance to explain further, a woman came blasting through the front doors. She had on slim-fit hot pink pants, a flowy white blouse that didn’t do much to hide a zebra-print push-up bra, and at least four-inch stiletto heels that click-click-clicked across the marble floor. I expected her to bite the dust at any moment.

“I need to speak with Percival Champion,” she wailed. It was only then I noticed the smeared makeup, tear tracks, and bird’s-nest hairdo.

Champ’s jaw tightened. “There’s no one here by that name.”

When I say Champ hated his name, I mean he really hated it.

The young woman wailed even louder. “I’ll talk to anyone at Champion Security, it doesn’t matter who. I need any strong man! Won’t somebody please help me?”

Champ and I looked at each other before looking back at the hot mess in front of us. I took a chance. “Are you here for the receptionist position? Because I’m afraid it’s been filled.”

It hadn’t been filled. We’d had a string of horrible people using the position as a high-speed revolving door. But I wasn’t taking any chances with this one. I could tell she was nothing but a soap opera in high heels.

“No, I’ve lost my brother. Not lost so much as… oh my heart!” she said, pressing her cleavage. “I can’t stand it. The forces of evil have taken my brother. They have him in their clutches.” She collapsed into sobs.

The theatrics echoed off the walls of the nearly empty reception area.

Champ and I had a silent conversation where he communicated with a series of increasingly violent head nods that he expected me to take care of this situation, and I blinked back at him innocently like I had no idea what he was talking about.

I’d take a bullet for the man, but weeping women gave me hives.

Finally, Champ stepped forward. “Who’s your brother, Miss…?”

“Nutter. Kandi Nutter. Buck’s my big brother. And they took him!” She wailed again, this time throwing herself against Champ’s chest as she did so.

Champ turned to glare at me, like just by saying Buck Nutter’s name, I’d conjured his sister and that somehow this whole situation, including the mascara stains on his shirt, was my fault, which it wasn’t.

“What makes you think someone took him, ma’am?” Champ asked, guiding her to the lone chair in the lobby and handing her a tissue from the box on the desk.

“Well, he’s gone, isn’t he? Just up and left town without telling me or anyone in the family.” She sniffled. “And he wouldn’t do that. Not Buck. He’s the kind who doesn’t go so far as the front porch without tellin’ everyone he knows.” She blew her nose, not very delicately. “Never been one for keeping secrets, our Buck.”

I gave Champ a look that said, Are you gonna explain to her that her totes-not-secretive brother’s probably on the run in a secret location with his secret stolen intellectual property, or am I?

Champ rolled his eyes.

“And what possible motive could someone have for kidnapping him?” he asked with a perfect poker face. “Who’d want to do such a thing?”

The waterworks stopped on a dime, and her expression turned hard. “If I knew their names, I’d have already taken care of the situation. I’m a Nutter. I have resources. All I know is, Buck was trying to sell… er, something,” she said cagily. “Something on the internet. He changed his mind in the end, but it was too late.”

“Something?” I repeated. “Like… collectible figurines?”

“Well, no. They wanted to get their greedy hands on his Horn, obviously.” She blinked up at us. “Like from the game Horn of Glory?”

I’d been afraid of that. Except it probably wasn’t his Horn they wanted; it was his Magic Seed.

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