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The Hitman’s Tale – 1.01 Hitman for Hire

Far away from the City of Light, a man in a white lab coat panted heavily in fear as he ran along a traditional dock1, the lapping waves of the water creating an otherwise serene scene. The big black leather bag the doctor carried jingled as the instruments it held clinked together inside. He was sprinting for his life.

He had to get out of town, fast. They were catching up, he could hear their van screeching to a stop, meaning that they had reached the bollards blocking the alley that led into the docks. He had to keep running. He didn’t want to die.

He could hear the sound of footsteps, the pitter-patter of a thin man’s light step running at speed and the slow thumping of a larger man taking big strides. They were coming for him and weren’t far away now.

The doctor looked around as he ran onwards. The dock was empty, no ships to run on to, but a ship would have been a dead end anyway, dead being the key word. Large crates and a forklift truck; hide or drive? No, they weren’t that easy to hide from or fight. He opted for the towering ship containers rusting on the end of the dock.

Running down the thin gap between the containers, he suddenly heard the voice of the thin man yell behind him, and he promptly ducked around a wall of containers as a small fireball flew past. It hit the opposite container wall, spluttering into a black smear of cooked metal.

Don’t stop, the doctor thought. Keep running. His feet hammered along the concrete as he weaved and meandered around the tall walls of stacked containers.

A hiss. Steam. There was a train nearby. An escape! But it was behind a dead end of containers. The door on the front of one ground level container was ajar, so the doctor took a chance. Feeling around inside the container, he managed to locate the bars of the door at the other end of the container, the train’s hissing just beyond. He could hear footsteps behind him outside, but as he went to leave the door resisted. It was stuck.

The doctor opened his bag and felt around for a vial. As he found it and brought it out, it emanated an orange glow from within. He threw it at the rusted door, it cracked open with a tinkle and the liquid reacted, causing what was once a rusted door to become thin air in a puff of smoke.

The noise of the glass and the chemical reaction was just loud enough, attracting attention and causing the pace of the footsteps behind him to accelerate, but so did he. The train was there, right in front of him, pulling away. He pushed his legs forward, adrenaline pumping and blocking out the exhaustion.

They were out of the container and just behind him. The thin one yelled the order to “grab him before he can get on the train!” but it was too late for them.

The doctor smiled as he leapt and grabbed on a handle on the side of the train, securing his footing on the step just under the doorway at the end of one of the carriages. He managed to open and close the door before some more fireballs impacted against the train, sizzling as the cold air rushed past the train as it began to speed up.

The two men watched as the train left them behind. One was tall and extremely thin, contrasting the huge ape-like man beside him.

“…They got away, Acheron,” the large one groaned.

“I can see that Tartarus!” the thin one growled in response. “Let’s get back to the damn van, we’ll follow the train tracks. We’ll find him again, he can’t get that far.”

Acheron and Tartarus

The alarm was shrill. Joe groaned as sleep escaped him. He groggily shut the alarm clock off and set about getting up in as slow a manner as possible.

Night had passed since the end of the Dalminetti mafia. Joe had since been working on entering his new career with little luck so far. He had gone about inserting something in the ‘wanted ads’, which equated to a small leaflet that circulated the criminal underworld of the City of Light, a fresh copy of which was lying on his living room coffee table along with the latest edition of the newspaper ‘The Lantern Gazette’ and a pile of junk mail.

Joe’s apartment was slightly on the cramped side and was a bit too close to the city’s monorail tracks for most people’s liking but Joe had managed to get a good deal on the rent, something he expected to go up now that he was no longer associated with the mafia. The apartment itself looked like any other belonging to a bachelor in their early thirties. The place was a mess with dishes, clothes and magazines thrown around for that ‘homely’ feel. There wasn’t much in terms of decoration; only parts of walls were painted and some of the wallpaper was peeling off in places. The only obvious attempt at decoration was a picture placed on top of the TV, of a smartly dressed woman with big hair poised in an alluring pose. The only reason it was still there was because Joe didn’t have the heart to take it down, or possibly because it was a reminder that a beautiful woman was perfectly capable of completely tearing a person’s heart out2.

Joe walked into the living room whilst slipping on his grey jacket, an odd fashion choice given that he was only wearing his vest and pants. He made his way to the small kitchen area in the back corner of room and set about making some coffee, flashing the picture an annoyed stare.

“Yeah, you just keep smiling, Ms. Career…” he muttered to the smiling face before turning his back. He was slightly annoyed that no messages had been waiting for him when he awoke. The smiling face of his ex-girlfriend just seemed to rub in the lack of business coming his way. He had expected to be bombarded with calls after a minute of the ad being printed. This was the City of Light after all, a place where there was always someone who needed someone else dead.

He nearly choked when the phone began to ring. He quickly put the mug down and engaged a hunt for the cordless phone which had once again escaped its docking charger. Joe knew it had to be a potential client already; he only had one living relative, his old mother who had been put into a retirement home years ago and seldom had any reason to call, not that she could anyway. His friends, his remaining friends, also had no obvious reason to call, not that Alfie or Fingers ever had anything much to do with him anyway. Joe came to the conclusion that the call was definitely about the advert – he just needed to find the phone before whoever it was hung up.

The ringing was coming from the table in the corner. Joe ran to it and started rummaging through clothes until his hand felt the phone’s casing. The would-be hitman grinned as he clicked the answer button and raised the device to his ear.

“Hello?” he asked, making his way over to the sofa as he listened to the slightly disturbing breathing sounds of the person on the other end. Right when Joe was sure that the person had hung up, a raspy voice spoke.

“This the assassin bloke? The one with the page four ad?”

“Yeah, that’ll be me,” Joe replied, quickly flipping the leaflet open to check the page number and if there were any other hit-men on that page.

“Do any job if the cash is right? Hit man for hire? No questions asked?” the voice quoted.

“Yes,” Joe again responded.

“Good. We’ve got the dosh so name the price. Our little gang’s got somethin’ for ya to do.”

Joe listened carefully to where the hit would be and the money arrangements before the phone clicked as the caller hung up. A few minutes later and Joe had finished sorting out the rest of his grey suit and his black tie. His clothes were cheap, almost obviously so, but they were comfy. Joe had paused to look at the only different suit in his wardrobe, the only one that cost more than all his other grey suits put together, the one wrapped in diamond-studded satin. He stroked the plastic launderette cover holding it and sighed. He’d wear it again one day, once he felt ready to wear it again.

Once in his suit, he opened the drawer of his beside unit. Inside was foam, specially cut to house weapons. Once, quite a while ago, it had kept five revolvers in pristine order. Now the foam lining remained hollow, holding only two old battered revolvers. The original five revolvers had been sold on long ago, when the magic of the mob had disappeared, leaving behind only a dusty hollow shell of foam crusted with dead insects and dust.

Retrieving his holsters from the drawer underneath, he slipped one on under each arm, placing one revolver into one holster and spinning the other around his finger before holstering it in the other. He then eased on his jacket, ran his fingers through his greasy hair, opened the door, went out and locked it behind him.

Walking down the street he counted three alleyways and turned down the long passageway. Just past the rusting skip there was a door that had corroded just as much. Joe smiled at just how far down the road the raspy voice said the meeting place was. Tapping on the metal door briskly, a hatch opened to reveal the end of double-barrelled shotgun.

“Hello?” Joe chirped, trying to hide the lump of shock in his throat. The gun hesitated, there was a grunt and the barrels slid away, to be replaced by two bloodshot eyes.

“You the guy?” the eyes muttered. Joe cleared his throat and tried to think how to phrase his answer.

“Er…yes,” was the only thing he could come up with. It was surprisingly hard to sound like a hitman. He was new to all this. What was a hitman supposed to sound like, exactly?

“You were quick,” the eyes replied, one narrowing with suspicion.

“…Sorry?” Joe suggested in apology. “I only live around the corner” didn’t seem to cut it as an answer. He didn’t want to be branded as the friendly neighbourhood hitman.

“No, ‘s okay. The boss likes punctuality,” the eyes replied, before the hatch slid closed and the door echoed as several bolts and locks were opened. The door creaked open, wafting musty stale air into Joe’s face.

He stepped into the darkness, remembering to look confident, to look professional. There was the clink of bolts and locks sliding back into place behind him, but he resisted the urge to turn around. It would have made him look nervous. Instead, he peered around the corner into the light.

If there had ever been a definitive hive of scum and villainy, the large dimly-lit room before him would probably been a close relative. There was a pool table with a large lamp hung above it just low enough to constantly bang your head on, as is traditional with all pool table lighting. There was a mini-bar too, complete with mini-barman – a dwarf in a greasy apron wearing a moustache and a general expression of ‘mess with me and you’ll suddenly need some new kneecaps’. To complete the atmosphere of attempted fun, there was even a jukebox. Joe harboured the distinct feeling that there was a large knife stuck in its top it for a reason. Joe didn’t want to look at the various people around the room too hard, just glancing at them made him want to wash his eyes.

The doorman shuffled up alongside him. The bloodshot eyes were part of a complete set of facial blemishes, including wrinkles, crow’s feet, bags under the eyes, mange, and scarring. Your ideal hive of scum and villainy doorman, in fact.

“If you’ll follow me,” the doorman murmured, shuffling away at top speed. Joe quickly followed, his eyes darting around the room to count the people and guns present. One shotgun, five pistols and two Uzis spread between 9 people, he finished counting in his mind. Strictly small time. Half the people here don’t even have their safety catches off on their guns, for crying out loud. Amateurs. Joe sighed but kept smiling. As long as they had the money he’d do a hit for them.

The doorman led him into another dusty dim room, the bosses’ office. He was sat behind an antique desk, featuring almost-real green office leather, and held a general air of small time money-maker around him. He was also quite fat.

“You must be the page four hitman I sent for,” the boss stated as he sucked on a cigar the same way a baby sucks on a bottle of milk. The boss lingered on his inhaling of cigar smoke a bit too long for Joe’s liking. Even Joe knew that you weren’t supposed to take cigar smoke back into your lungs on account of it being too acidic. The boss grunted out a breath of misty smoke with a smile.

“Yes. That’s me,” Joe replied, eyes stinging in the cigar smoke that engulfed his face.

“You’re punctual. I like a man who likes to be punctual.”

“I aim to please.”

“Haha, a little hitman humour, eh?”

“I’m sorry?”

Aim to please? No? Maybe not then.” The boss took another exceedingly long drag of his cigar. “You’re Joe Vekowski, aren’t ya?” he continued.

“Yeah,” Joe answered, considering that anonymity was an advantage after he’d answered, much to his own annoyance.

“Hmm. Ex-Dalminetti. Shame what happened to them. Good news for me though,” the boss commented. News travelled fast, speeding across Lusinia towards the City of Light like metal towards a magnet. “Ol’ Crazy Fingers working for contract now, eh?”

Crazy Fingers? It had been a while since anyone had called him that, Joe considered. He hadn’t been called that in a long time. Occasionally the name followed him around and resurfaced like an ex-girlfriend. The boss leaned forward and clasped his hands together, his cigar now comfortably seated on his lower lip.

“I’m Alphonse Drago. Small-time smuggler but living comfortably, thank you. Pleased to meet you,” he stated, offering his hand. Joe took it firmly in a brief handshake.

“What’s the job?” Joe asked, getting to the point.

“People muscling in on my turf, getting’ in the way,” Drago muttered in reply, leaning back in his chair. “A small yardie gang making a noise down on the dock front, think they can mess with me, real personal like. So I’m gonna mess with them. Well, you’re gonna mess with them. I want you to take out their leader, guy with blonde dreadlocks.”

“I know who you mean. Drives a purple low-rider?”

“Yeah, that’s the guy. You know him?”

“He drives downtown past the Dalminetti Restaurant a lot with his radio turned up. Can’t miss the guy.”

“Ha, can’t miss the guy,” chuckled Drago, appreciating the hitman’s choice of words. Joe stared blankly.

“Er…yeah, that’s what I said.”

Drago paused. He shrugged at Joe’s wordplay blindness and continued.

“Good. Okay. I don’t care how much noise you make. They’ll know who did it.”

“And the money?”

“Two grand. It’s not much I admit, but respect goes a long way around here. I’ll put in a good word for ya to some of my associates if you come through good. Come see me once the job is done.”

“Cash, right? I don’t do plastic or cheques.”

“Ha haa, yer a funny guy, Vekowski. You’re my kind of guy.”

“Right,” Joe replied, completely unsure of what had been so funny about what he’d said.

  1. There’s an intentional distinction here; ‘traditional’ dock refers to the fact it is next to water, in contrast to the docks for airships and space vehicles that are just as equally popular for the age.
  2. We’re talking in a metaphorical rather than literal sense here. Either way, it just compounds the notion that the recipient of said heart theft would not have the heart to dispose of a picture of the thief, possibly literally in some cases. Love is complicated.

Post by | April 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm | The Hitman's Tale | No comment

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