The Cleaners

Mike looked at the plain wooden door. There was no sign to say this was Yeltza’s Cleaners. He pulled the doorknob and strode in.

The white counter showed a cash register and a metal pole holding various clothes wrapped in plastic.

“Just a minute,” sounded from the depths of the back.

“At least no one else is-”, Mike’s words stopped on his lips as he looked to his left at the row of seats. One other person sat, holding a ticket.

“Don’t worry,” the guy pointed to the items hanging on the pole. “You can’t see through the plastic. Custom made.”

Mike looked at the hanging clothes. Staring directly at the rack revealed a grey blob with shadowy colors.

“Good to know,” Mike muttered, rocking back on his heels.

“First time?” The seated figure placed on of his ankles over a knee.

“No,” Mike answered. “I get my ummm…uniform cleaned here all the time.”

“So do I,” the seated man smiled. “I take it you have someone else that takes care of it.”

“OK, you got me,” Mike said with a smile on his face.

“I used to have that,” the seated man said nodding towards an empty chair. “Then she left me.”

“Oh,” Mike moved to sit in a chair. “That’s too bad. Tough break.”

“Yeah,” the other man sighed. “Better all around, though.”

“Here ya go, Kevin. Good as new.”

A small man approached the counter. He climbed a stepstool, and placed the two items on the hook at the top of the pole.

“Thank you, Nate,” Kevin, the man in the chair, stood and took the hanger off the pole. He flipped the bag open on the bottom. A heavy jacket with a bright red skull emblazoned on it flashed into view.

Mike’s eyes went wide. “Skullcap,” he whispered. Mike’s mouth formed another word but it never left his mouth.

“See ya,” Steve waived then opened the door and left.

“You got yer ticket?” Nate held out a hand to Mike.

“Yeah,” Mike stood and handed the paper over. “That was Skullcap.”

“Who cares,” Nate read the ticket. “He’s a good customer. Comes here all the time.”

“He’s one of the leaders of the Bridge,” Mike looked at the door again.

“I don’t care. He pays picks his cleaning up on time,” Nate tossed the ticket on the counter. “Unlike you. Your stuff’s here. Been here for a week.”

Nate reached for the clothes on the pole.

“Oh, I’ve been busy,” Mike said as he reached for the hangers.

“I don’t care,” Nate waved a hand. “Pick your stuff up on time and pay your bill. That’s all I care about.”

“Fine.” Mike reached for the covers. “Did you get the burn marks off?”

“Of course,” Nate growled. “This is the cleaners. We clean clothes.”

“Good,” Mike let the plastic flow over the silver sickle on his costume. He pulled the small fold of bills out of his wallet and handed them to Nate. “Thank you.”

Tossing the clothes over his shoulder then walked outside. “Glad Skullcap didn’t see my costume. I’m gonna have to find a new cleaner.”

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