“Let’s go, then,” said Nectra, moving to the Phantom Matador’s legs and picking up his shoes.
“Not just yet,” said Zack. “One piece of business first. This guy’s got a bad habit of vanishing right when we think we’ve got him. I say it’s high time that I see what he looks like without his mask.”
“Ooh, yes,” said Nectra, dropping the feet. “Yes, you should do that. He looked friendly to me.”
“Wait, you saw him without a mask?”
“Yeah, back on the asteroids.”
“You were on some asteroids?”
“Oh, yes, following you. It was exciting.”
Zack held his chin, and thought. Asteroids were be a viable way to travel between worlds if you had a method for making sure they had an atmosphere and heat, and more than a little thought put into making sure that changes in direction didn’t fling a person off into space or kill them from the sudden increase in gravity. He thought he could remember a starry night sky on top of a mountain while he climbed a great chain or vine to another mountain top. The mountains were moving? Had he been on an asteroid? He shook his head.
“Great,” said Zack. “You can point him out in a line up. He says that I said I knew who he was… I’m not sure what happened that made me figure it out. Maybe I was bluffing. Either way, time to erase any doubt. Mister Matador, it’s time to figure out who you really are.”
Zack grabbed the mask with his left hand and the hat with his right hand. He took a deep breath and, in one fluid motion, pulled down the mask while pulling off the hat. The man had black hair, which had always been partly visible, and a thin, surprisingly kind face. Zack stared at the figure and sighed.
“Well then,” he said. “Now we can both pull him out of a line up.”
“You mean you don’t know who he is?” said Nectra.
“He looks familiar. Face like that, I’ve probably seen him on a movie poster somewhere.”
“Wait, no,” said Nectra. “No, you seemed so sure that you’d know who he was.”
“Well, the Matador said I’d be sure,” said Zack. “I wanted to believe him… and honestly, old Matty probably wanted to be caught and recognized on some level.”
“Beats me, but they say that about these flamboyant cases. They want attention, to be remembered. Usually, I mean.”
“You think he might be a special case?”
“No such thing as a case that isn’t.”
Nectra looked at the Phantom Matador’s face and shook her head.
“No, I know who he is.”
“You do?” said Zack. “Who?”
“He’s the guy we’re about to drag through miles of jungle so that we can turn him over to the Sthenites.”
Zack stared at the shangmerian assassin until she broke into a nervous smile with her too-wide mouth. Zack caved, shook his head, and smiled.
“You’ve watched too many of humanity’s bad movies, Nectra.”
“Was it good? Was it a good tough line?”
“Not bad for a first attempt,” said Zack, picking up the Matador’s arms. “You’re right, though. Time to get moving. I don’t know why he’s out like this, but we’d better take advantage of it before he wakes up. I think we go… that way, toward those three spongey tree things.”
“Great!” said Nectra, picking up the Matador’s legs. Together they carefully lifted the Matador and started to walk him out of the clearing. As they neared the tree line, Nectra watched the face of the Phantom Matador and cleared her throat.
“Zack, I’m sorry that you don’t know who this is.”
“Don’t worry about. He said I’d already claimed to know who he was, and that’s good enough for me, at least until I figure out why I can’t remember things anymore.”
“Good. So… is this the best way to move an unconscious human?”
“Honestly, it’s not come up for me very often,” said Zack. “We can switch it up after we take our first break.”