Disclaimer: I don't own any characters except Irbis and several innocent short-lived bystanders; everything else is Marvel's only.

1. Business

Creed was annoyed. He did not like having to wait for anyone, and the asshole who wanted his services was already forty damned minutes late for their meeting. If it weren't for the fact that he had gone to New York deliberately because of this one meeting, he'd have already got up and left. Now, he was just wondering if the job and pay would be worth letting his would-be-employer live long enough to apologise.

"Mr Creed," he looked up at the dark skinned secretary, who had kept him under a conceitedly subreptitious watch, and decided he'd have her for dessert after finishing the prick she worked for, "I'm sorry for the delay. Mr Adams has just arrived and will receive you shortly. If you'll follow me…"

Mr Adams was not a happy man. Creed could tell that from the corridor, where he could hear the guy threatening to have somebody chopped up alive if the investigation wasn't shelved in a couple of days. The blond wondered briefly what kind of investigation it might be, and if his pay cheque might be endangered if it weren't shelved soon.

"Ah, Mr Creed." Short, fit, blondie, blue eyes. Small and big statuettes all around the room, some looking Egyptian, other Mayan or Inca, others yet Greek, Chinese… And then a hat and a whip decorating a wall. "First of all, my apologies for the delay."

The man motioned Creed to a chair while he picked up a brown envelope from his trinket-covered desk and took out a photo.

"This is Andrew Olson. He receives certain goods from all over the world and then distributes them within the States to their rightful owners. I'm interested in a particular artefact," Creed accepted the photo of a crude little gold image of a gazelle. "My sources guarantee it has already been shipped to him and that it is to arrive in ten days."

Creed looked at the unconspicuous guy in a second photo: smart dark eyes, tanned skin, medium height, slim, well dressed. "Any particulars on how he's ta die?"

"Die? Oh, no, no. Olson is not to be killed. No. As a matter of fact, you are to pay him the moment you come in possession of the artefact."

"Now, hold yer horses," Creed got up and threw the photos onto the desk. "If ya don't want nobody snuffed, I ain't doin' nuthin' here but wastin' my time. And my wasted time's gonna cost ya."

The man seemed even shorter, with the blond towering next to him, but he didn't stutter for more than a couple seconds.

"I meant that Olson isn't the one to be killed." Creed crossed his arms and the man cleared his throat before continuing. "I've been after certain artefacts for some time but someone has always got his hands on them first. This particular artefact, for example: I made all the contacts, but just before I could get it, it was paid for someone else and sent to the States via Olson. According to my sources, the artefact is to arrive in ten days exactly. And when Mr. Olson receives the artefact, you will have to persuade him – as civilly as possible – that you represent a better buyer and, most important of all, you'll have to find out who the original buyer is. That is the man I want dead. Him and everyone else involved."

"Now ya're talkin'. But let's hear 'bout the pay cheque 'fore I accept anythin'."