Birds Without Wings
I'm reading the Louis de Bernieres Book, "Birds Without Wings" at the moment. I don't really approve, as he is trying to do a similar thing to his earlier three masterworks (Don Emmanual, Senor Vivo, and Cardinal Guzman) in real life, so as to recreate the success that Corelli garnered.
It has some interesting point so make about Christian/Muslim relations, and this following passage, which cuts right to the core of the problem.
**having talked about the Russian holocaust of the Muslim population of places such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kars-Ardahan and Laz**
"It is curious that the Russians, calling themselves Christians, and like so many other nominal Christians throughout history, took no notice of the key parable of Jesus Christ himself, which taught that you shall love your neighbour as yourself, and that even those that you have despised and hated are your neighbours. This has never made any difference to Christians, since the primary epiphenomena of any religion's foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psychopathy, and the first casualties of a religion's establishment are the intentions of its founder."
Good isn't it. True as well...
- posted by Buntifer @ 9/30/2005 10:54:00 am
I'm not sure when I'm going to blog this...
I feel like making you wait, so more of you might read the story I posted. I know it is long, but I haven't posted anything else for quite a while, so you've had plenty of time.
Thank You Southern Bird who, aside from the Brunette, is the only person to have shown any awareness that I had posted anything. Oh, and The Way of the Writer, who is linked to to the right now.
I am only blogging now because I feel a great deal of shpleurgh in my head, and feel the need to get some of it out. I am still trying to write a summary/synopsis for Legionnaire, and have suceeded in summarising it into three pages, and have also written some half page blurbs. Most of the agents and publishers seem to want half page summaries, and I seem to be unable to summarise it into anything which isn't either 1) a dry as bones breakdown of what happens or 2) somethigng that sounds like trailer man is reading aloud.
I am also sweating over this year's effort. Three strands or four, and should one of my strands be there at all, despite the fact that that strand is the reason another strand is there, so if I cut one I have to cut both...
I missed national talk like a pirate day for the 24th year running. I'm crap, I know. Yar, me earties... yeah bollocks to the lot of you.
I have cotton wool spray glued to the inside of my head, and it is soaking up all the lovely creative juices with which my brain should be flowing. or it could be sawdust.
I have been making mostly picture frames recently. 24 at the last count, most of them measuring six foot by four, or thereabouts in millimetres. I have my new job, you see... and I can tell that i am going to like actors a lot less by the end of the term. They look at me as I circular saw things up with that "poor thing, you probably left school when you were sixteen to pursue a glamourous career in woodworking" look in their eyes which makes me want to punch them. Or circular saw them. Which is fun by the way, not the circular sawing of people, although I imagine that might be fun, but the circular sawing of things in general.
My dvd of Ong Bak has arrived, and I have watched it again. Again, I think you should see it. you should also read "Bigtime" by Mark Blake, it is very funny. You should probably also stop recycling things, because recycling anything bar aluminium is bad for the environment, and stop drinking Stella, although any of you in their right minds will already appreciate the importance of that last one.
Right. I'm off. I shall let this sit as a draft for a while, but might treat you to it by the end of the week.
On Saturday I'm off to do "Death After Dinner" a new immersive murder mystery night that Sianodel and Goulden have cooked up. They have cast me as a hard bitten PI from London's East End. I can tell I'm going to enjoy doing an East End accent all evening without descending into a state of retardation saying things like, "diamond!" and "Alright guv'nor?" and "get off my sister!" or I could go for Michael Caine accent: "Don't you frow vose bloody asparagus spears at me!"
Sianodel usually lapses inot a deep gloom shortly after I begin doing an East End accent, so his evening is going to be great. hehe
- posted by Buntifer @ 9/25/2005 06:26:00 pm
Chow Mein - Final Cut
Notes: This is now completed. It is a great deal longer than I thought it would be. It is the forst story set in 'my world' which I have posted online, but it is not in a part of the world I have written in before.
To clear this up:
a 'skirt' is an district of the central city. Much as Richmond Upon Thames would be a 'skirt' of London, albeit a slightly nicer one.
a 'comstud' is a mobile phone, but small enough to be worn as earstud jewellery.
This is 13095 words long.
I sat at the desk rolling cigarettes. I was planning to go out later, and I found it tiresome rolling one handed in half darkness. I was looking forward to a drink, the day had gone slowly.
In the office the light pooled around the desk upon which my rizla, tobacco and filters lay scattered. Ten minutes more and I would be a free man again, free at least until tomorrow morning. The last show was finally coming out on time and the single figure audiences would file quickly and guilty out into the rain, conscious that the show they had just watched had too much nudity and not enough justification for aforementioned nudity in. I had seen them, limping down the stairs. Watching them arrive in their macs, with their copies of "The Herald" - lonely men, looking for a little excitement. I couldn't figure out if the show delivered or not. I'd only seen it once and not quite grasped the plot. Still, the job paid the rent, and I didn't have to clean the seats.
I looked out of the window, the street far below was busy with clubbers, queuing in the rain to get into a sweaty, loud little hole. I wasn't planning on that one - I had a calmer, cooler destination in mind. The rain meant I would get very wet on my walk over. After a day inside the sweaty little building, however, I didn't mind. It freshened me up, smoothed the frown from my face and probably washed some of the sweat from my arms.
I heard a gunshot. The end of the show - I scooped my pre-rolled fags into my bag and stood up...the punters filed past, looking grubby. I let them leave - they knew where the door was. I think if I hadn't been there they would still have pushed the crumpled notes into the box before they filed in at the beginning. I didn't have much to do, a little tidying, a little admin. Mere presence was enough. The work suited me down to the ground. The management didn't want to know who I was, I was a nobody, a nothing, a silhouette who was paid enough to live on, but little enough to ensure I wouldn't ever save enough to leave. The skirt was on the seedy side of town, in fact, it probably was the whole of the seedy side of town, nobodies like me worked dead end jobs waiting for something, for one big score, or for some stroke of luck that would lift us out of the gutter and make us kings. Most of us would settle for something that would lift us far enough from the gutter to call ourselves men again. Me, I would settle for a heart attack punter with a fat wallet every couple of months.
I couldn't leave, not now, not yet, not until I knew I would be safe outside. This skirt specialised in hiding people from people whose livelihoods depended on finding people trying to hide. PIs and Gumshoes were brutally killed if they were found wandering our streets, any Marlowes who enquired too deeply from without were also dealt with. The gang who ran this ward knew what sold and what didn't, and the depth of anonymity provided here was a commodity worth millions to them. The way we paid for our stay was in the pittance we collected for the jobs we worked here - the scam worked well, and the authorities didn't blink. They had their cut, and the number of administrative facilities based within the boundaries had grown steadily since the gang had begun its operations. I could have been happy here if I had managed to bring any credit in with me. The cost of living was kept artificially low. One of the conditions of entry, however, was that we came in naked, penniless and with no name. Once inside we could make what we could of the situation, although any overly enterprising inhabitants were removed and their operations taken over. The place offered hard work and a dreamless sleep which only tiredness can bring. It offered a redemption bought with time and sacrifice, and a peace that bettered any drugs or medication.
Some people used it as detox. Drugs were available here, but the low cost of living did not extend to them, which made them hugely unaffordable. Alcohol was scarce, and other than the pumping music of the clubs or the seedy "theatres," recreation was largely based around the cable vision network that had been installed when the skirt had been a better area, and the prostitutes who supplemented their meagre income with the pennies of others. Others were running from something, from the Police, the Disease or from more personal problems like myself. Protection was not provided once inside the skirt, but the lights were always low, most businesses operated at night, and the smog in the streets meant that most people shaved their heads and wore three quarter face masks, so finding someone, even with the resources that some of the gangs had, was next to impossible. If you worked enough during your stay you might be able to get yourself snuck out when you decided to leave - that meant that if you thought those looking for you might be waiting and watching the skirt for you wouldn't notice. As a result of this people didn't bother, so only the most paranoid of punters would be sneaking themselves out.
I was seriously considering applying to have my exit kept below any surveillance radar. I wasn't paranoid, I knew what was out there waiting for me, and I knew that they would be waiting, watching, unblinking and unsmiling, waiting for me to crack. That was the genius of the skirt. Nobody could stand it for ever, few bore it more than ten years, so the endless supply of cheap labour kept renewing itself. Nobody wanted to stay, nobody could afford to. Ten years of working like you had to and you are a changed man or woman, no longer healthy devil-may-care and handsome, but stooped, drawn and careful - always aware of the value of time, and the price of freedom.
People considered it no better than a prison where the convicts interred themselves, I was beginning to think they might be right. Some gangs were happy simply to keep people inside, even the gang who ran it were happy to chase someone inside, and then work them to death. It might take a long time to find out who people were, but the guys who ran the skirt were patient people.
I looked up, there was a figure standing in front of the desk, watching me. Probably one of the punters, left his watch or wallet in the space. I tore my gaze away from the window and stepped closer to the desk, toeing a switch which lit the figure from above as I moved. The figure shied out of the light, a common local reaction, and even more frequently seen in venues like this.
"Can I help you?" I tried, wondering whether this was the same way the person who had had my position before had met his end. He'd been beaten to death and thrown from the window. Investigating officers had decided he had been dead before he had been thrown from the window based on the fact that he had been thrown out of three different windows, in different directions, legs from one, torso from another and head from the third, and highest window. He must have done something wrong, but as far as I knew I hadn't worked here for long enough to have done something wrong. I hadn't even begun thinking about ways I could skim off the top of the cash box. I've always found that one needs to know a job before the holes in the system open up and become visible.
"You." He grunted, raising a hand. I was relieved to see it was empty. He was observant, I'd give him that. As far as I could figure out, it was indeed me. The fact that he didn't know who "me" was comforted me.
"Yes?" I kept my voice politely enquiring.
"I know you."
I tried to keep my face as impassive as possible. Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit.
"I don't think so." I kept my face in shadow.
"You're Levy, Theo Levy. We used to call you Lucky." He was gesturing with his finger now, and getting angry.
"I don't think so." I wondered if he would persist much longer, and felt behind my back for the bat we kept in the office. It was a crappy bat, bought because no ball would ever touch it, and the core drilled out easily enough leaving plenty of space for lead.
The figure stepped back into the light. I didn't know him.
"I'm gonna fucking rip your arms off you fucking fag."
The figure kept his voice even, but it didn't feel like he was joking.
"You do that to my sister and then think you can hide in here? Fucking not good enough my son." The figure stepped to the office doorway and took one pace into the room.
"If I was a fag I surely I wouldn't have done shit to your sister? You should go...now." I gave the figure a final chance. The bat was in my hand and I tightened my fingers around the rough taping.
The figure raised his hands and kept moving forward. I stepped backwards, whipping the bat up and around my body, losing my balance slightly to the weight pinned in the centre of the bat. I was going to have to clean the walls now. My frustration with the thought of cleaning, and with the job, and with hiding in this shitty part of town slid down the bat, adding momentum, and as it connected with the figure's head I closed my eyes and felt the spray hit my face. I could smell the blood as I heard the crunch and crackle, and opened my eyes in time to see the figure fly away from me and into the shelves, which did more damage to the corpse, shattering teeth. An eye made contact with a protrusion and burst. I was going to be up all hours cleaning this shit off the office. Punters didn't like their venue smelling rotten, and whilst the spaces upstairs often smelt fairly ripe, especially after a busy day, I didn't want my office reeking of dead men. I stood for a second, watching the blood pool, and let the bat slip from my hand to the floor.
I locked the building and powered down before switching on the office light. The place was a mess. Blood had pooled on the floor and found its way between the linoleum tiles, and the corpse was still twitching gently. I found the mop from upstairs and borrowed a hefty glug of bleach and some rubberised gloves from the cupboard and set to work. It took three hours, and I spent the last half an hour looking for bits of tooth which had scattered down behind the cassettes on the shelves, but after a while the office looked like nothing had happened, and the corpse and all its component parts was bagged and ready to move. I hadn't yet figured out what I should do with it, and from the window the dawn was beginning to remove any chance of a disposal in darkness.
I sat and smoked one of my cigarettes, thinking. I wasn't supposed to smoke in the building, but then I wasn't supposed to kill the customers either, and I had a definite idea which one I would get in more trouble for. In the end I figured the easiest way to dispose of the body was to bag it in official bags and let the garbage men take it away. I needed the body in smaller pieces for that, so after I finished my cigarette I dragged the remains of the body to the building's now long defunct kitchen and after a little searching, found a rusting knife in the back of one of the drawers.
I was up till the garbage men came round, but was alive enough to greet them with a cheery wave and watch them hurling the fellow into the back of the truck, bag by bag. Then I locked up and went home. It was early and I had things to do before I came back to work. I pondered calling my boss to let him know what had occurred, just in case of things being discovered. I wasn't that worried about it, people disappeared in here all the time, either leaving or just offending the wrong person. The problem with being so anonymous was partly that nobody cared when you stopped being around, and partly the fact that nobody knew who you were to begin with...
It was a short day, I ate, slept, showered and left the house, with two hours to go before I had to re-open the theatre. It struck me that I might have just downed one of our customers, who grew fewer and fewer as the prostitutes grew cheaper and cheaper. The gang running this skirt might almost have been conducting a social experiment of sorts. A nasty twisted sort of experiment, but I found myself interested in how little people could live on, and what would turn out to be the things people absolutely could not do without.
I ached with tiredness. I had only been here a month and I was beginning to feel the need to sleep, to sleep for a long time, to sleep for days. The skirt did not recognise any holidays, days off or religious periods of rest. As one abandoned ones identity, one abandoned ones creed, beliefs and any sort of human rights, other than those that could be fought for tooth and nail. Existence was the only right I had, and I tenaciously clung to that.
"Got a smoke?" A bum looked up at me from a doorway. He was dressed in rags and stank. I fished a roll-up from my pocket and offered it to him. He would be dead inside a week if he didn't work. The gang that ran the skirt did not put up with freeloaders, and nobody had the money to offer to strangers in charity.
"Cheers guv." I shook my head and walked on through the rain.
I needed to find out what was going on outside. How real life was progressing without me. From within finding information on the real world was expensive, but I had money from the dead guy in my pocket, and the sooner I didn’t have it the better. I didn’t want to be traced for something I had no choice about doing. I knew I was safe, to a certain extent, within this skirt – at least from my pursuers, but there was the worry that they might have been better prepared, the worry that they might care that much. The worry that they might find me. I needed to know what they were doing.
I ducked down a side street through the rain, leaping over a deeper puddle and sliding past two or three drainpipes that were sluicing themselves into the street. There were various ways of contacting outside from here. All were expensive and not all were reliable. I didn’t need to get a message out, so mine was more reliable, but no less expensive. My method also had fringe benefits. I only needed news one way, and I knew someone who was watching the same group. Evie.
She loitered in a doorway, looking far too pristine for this weather. She looked cleaner than most people in the skirt, and less haggard, but still tired.
“What can I do for you, Fella?”
“Hi Evie. I’m looking for some more of my special pleasure.”
The phrase sucked, but at least it sounded like I was a dumb mug out for some pussy, and she was my ‘special girl.’ Her face broke into a smile. Fifty percent of the smile was grimace, but nonetheless I could see laughter beyond that and greed lurking in the background. I paid what amounted to a great deal of money in here to Evie for these sessions, and she liked me for that.
Evie was a hooker, a ‘lady of the night’ as some might be tempted to put it. She had a long slim body, toned by the amount of sex she had rather than by any fitness routine. Her face was long also, and slightly equine. She didn’t quite have the stretched and hungry look most of us in here acquired after a month or two, but she was by no means pretty. She made up for that with experience, that and a propensity for being fucked from behind.
She threw up an umbrella to protect her make-up, and stalked towards her pad, a room the size of a small car, with only just enough room for her to stand upright. She walked unerringly up a steel grill staircase in her stiletto heels, her ass swaying in front of me at eye level. She wore a small blue dress, which looked as if it undid down the side and would fall away from her when opened. Her legs were not sheathed in stockings, but I recognised the slight sheen of permanent depilatory surgery. The permanent removal of all hair from a body part. People who had this done had to oil themselves to make up for their new lack of sebaceous glands. I imagined that in Evie’s business, oiling oneself was almost par for the course.
We ducked through the doorway and stood as much as we could. Evie kicked off her stilettos and was able to stand normally, I was half crouched, head on my chest.
She kicked the door shut and knelt in front of me, stripping my trousers to my knees deftly. I looked down at the top of her head as she took me in her mouth and rolled her tongue around the head of my cock. Her fingers crept up between my legs until I felt her long nails tickling my balls. They were followed my sudden warmth as she encircled my balls with a finger and thumb and cupped them in her palm. She tugged gently as I hardened in her mouth.
After a second or two more, she stood, reached out, and hit the dispenser on the wall, which squirted lubricant into her palm. She stroked each hand over the other and reached down with both. One for me, and one for her. Evie didn’t get wet for men. Not for me, leastwise.
I felt her palm slip round my cock again, cold gel followed by warm flesh. She massaged me as I grew harder and more slippery, as she pushed her hand up under her dress and parted her legs slightly. Her face was expressionless, a state I had learned not to take personally. I preferred knowing she was showing me her honest feelings than having to watch her pretend to be getting kicks from this. What she was hiding from in here was between her and God, and I wasn’t convinced He knew. There were rumours that Evie liked prostituting herself, and that here was the only place where the competition didn’t put her out of business. I couldn’t believe anyone enjoyed prostituting themselves for less than the price of a beer outside, especially to the sort of client one came across in here. I knew Evie had the vaccine against STDs, as did I, but I knew at least a dozen guys in here who didn’t.
She stood up, turned round and bent over, her hands finding the catch on her dress quicker than sight. The blue fabric crumpled to the floor. I looked down her body in appreciation, as she bent over her breasts hung low over the bed, her waist pushed her ass out towards me, and I could just see the darkness between her legs. I pushed myself forwards and entered her, her heat banishing the last of the cold from the lubricant.
Once we had hit a rhythm, Evie started to speak, “So what is it you want to know this time?”
“I’m just wanting to know whether anything has changed since last time? Are they still looking for me?”
“Fella, you are the most wanted person on their list since me. I’m hoping they’ll forget about me and concentrate on you. Is there anything specific? You know our deal. I’m starting to think you just do this to fuck me.”
“If only I could afford that, Evie. I need to know if they are sending anyone out, or more importantly, if they are sending anyone in here.”
“Fella, the answer to both questions is they are.”
I pulled out of her and span her round, looking into her eyes for confirmation. “Evie. They’re sending people in? Are you sure?”
She looked back at me and reached down for my cock. I grabbed her arm. “Evie, I’m not interested. Are they sending people after me?”
She nodded. I could feel myself go soft as the realisation sank in.
She held up three fingers, looking sad. “Are you done with me?”
I looked down at her. She looked smaller than usual, shrunken in worry, naked on the bed looking up at me. “I’m sorry, Evie, but I have to get back to my pad and make sure these guys won’t find me. Do you know when they came in?”
She shook her head, still looking up at me from the bed. I could see the fear in the back of her eyes.
“If they catch me, Evie...”
She nodded, grabbed a towel from the end of the bed and began to wipe herself dry. I zipped up and left the room, taking the stairs outside three at a time and landing in a puddle running. I had an hour before I had to be at work – I couldn’t afford to lose my job unless it was truly that or death, and I needed twenty minutes at home to make sure I had covered my tracks well enough on entering. Only Evie knew who I was, and even I didn’t know who she was, just that she had connections with those who were after me.
I ran, sweating and worrying. Down the stairs and across the wet street outside. I felt Evie’s eyes on my back, watching me as I ran. I didn’t feel good about leaving her. If they were sending in people to find me, then she was at risk, whether they were looking for her specifically or not. I had little compunction however, in leaving her. She had survived in here much longer than I had, and wouldn’t have managed that unless she had a few tricks up her sleeve.
My flat was empty and quiet. I threw as much as I could into a bag so that if it was not safe to come back here later, then I could run and live from what I had with me. A little cash, spare clothes, a torch and two knives I had acquired in the skirt. I secreted one along my belt in the small of my back, and the other strapped with tape along the outside of one forearm. My living quarters were small, and it took only minutes to make sure I had left nothing out which could help identify me. I closed all the windows and turned all the lights on. I knew I could see into the rooms from the balcony of the flat opposite if I climbed slightly upon my return.
I broke open a box I had been saving for this kind of emergency and constructed both the devices inside, which fitted nicely under the floorboards. I backed out of the room cautiously, wedging a scrap of paper into the hinge of the door, which would fall, unnoticed if the door was opened in my absence. My heart was racing as I belted down the stairs and out into the street.
Halfway to the theatre I realised that if I had been spotted leaving my flat then I was likely being followed, and if so, I had to lose that tail before I got to work, otherwise I would be sitting waiting for them to arrive and pull my arms off, which was not something I wanted. I ducked down a side road, almost colliding with a motorcyclist who was riding down the pavement, avoiding the larger chunks of debris which covered the road. The rain still kept coming, and it was slowly draining the light from the sky as evening neared.
I ran down the alleyway, ducked into a doorway, leading with my shoulder and smashed my way into an abandoned warehouse. Fragments of crates told of previous looters. The thick layer of dust on the floor hinted at how long ago this had been raided. I knew the only reason that would keep it from being squatted in was if it belonged to the gang that ran the skirt, so I was anxious to spend as little time as possible in it. I kicked the door shut behind me and barricaded it roughly with some of the crates and an old refrigeration unit someone had left tipped up against the wall and turned on my torch.
I kept the light hooded with my palm, away from my face, and angled away from any windows in the building. It was the floor I was looking at anyway. I needed a way underground, and I knew that most warehouses had industrial sewers running beneath them. I took ten minutes of searching, but eventually I found an access grill in the corner of the main space. It took all my strength to heave it up far enough to crawl in, and I wedged it with a plank of wood as I slipped underneath the heavy steel grate. Once I was inside I swung my bag at the wood, knocking it from place and scattering it across the warehouse floor far enough that hopefully its use would not be figured out if it was found.
The sewer was eight foot round, and dry, for which I was profoundly grateful. Industrial sewers carried waste which was usually lethal to humans if ingested and could produce anything from nasty bleeding rashes to limb-like tumour growths upon contact with the skin. I scouted down it, using the light sparingly, looking for cracks or other exits. The one disadvantage with the industrial sewer system was that it was theoretically a sealed unit, designed solely to pump waste to the disposal stations, however in practice I knew most of it had torn open through the minor quakes the city experienced from time to time. I was also aware that there were hatches between the industrial and domestic sewer systems to enable access from one to the other by workmen.
Two hundred yards into the darkness I found a hatch, mottled with rust and heavily clad in spider web. I swiped at the web, and ended up collecting it around my hand, as it stuck to me. I scraped most of it off against the wall and noticed the occupant of the web sitting atop the circular handle of the hatch. The spider was as large as my hand, and in the light of the torch I could see its eyes shining black as it eyed me malevolently. It tensed slightly, and I felt shivers run down my spine as I noticed uncountable other sets of gleaming pinpricks, which I identified as smaller spiders, only a third of the size of the first, but in greater numbers than I was prepared to deal with. I flicked the beast two fingers, at which it tensed further, causing me to abandon any thought of fighting it for passage, and try further down the sewer.
Soon enough I found a fissure running from the large sewer I was in through to a smaller tunnel with a walkway along one side. It stank badly of faeces and worse things, but I was thankful to find my way back into an active section. I judged from the direction in which I had been heading that I should be nearer my workplace than when I had climbed down into the sewer, and I knew if I could find a manhole cover up into a side street I could find my way there, and should have managed to shake off anyone watching my movements.
The first iron cover I found opened into the centre of a busy thoroughfare, and I stood for seconds watching vehicles whiz overhead before the wheels from one slammed down on the cover, just missing my fingers. I had noticed a side road which should yield what I was looking for though, and I headed down the tunnel shining the torch upwards as I sought another cover. I found one, shinned up the ladder and rolled out onto the road, chest heaving with relief.
I must have smelt worse than the majority of our customers I considered as I limped the rest of the way. I certainly looked as bad, although they rarely saw me lurking in the office. I could use the showers to clean up whilst the show was on. I let myself into the back entrance, after looking round to see if I could spot anyone watching me. I didn’t imagine I would see whoever they had sent in. Nobody would send anyone who wasn’t experienced in to this skirt knowing that in this area of town, people looking for people wound up dead real quick.
I slipped through the door way and clicked it shut behind me before I realised what was sitting on the desk in a pool of light.
The head from yesterday’s man, complete, or rather incomplete with chunks missing and congealed blood dripping from the wound, the head’s eyes, remaining ear and nose.
I swore quietly to myself and gripped the knife in my belt as I slapped the lights off in the hallway. As the room went dark I heard a voice.
”Turn the lights on again you fucking asswit.”
My boss. Quality timing, and just before payday too. I reached out cautiously and remembered something just before I turned them on.
“Are you alone?” I called.
I heard a snigger in the darkness. “Well if I wasn’t then I wouldn’t fucking tell you would I you dim fuckpig? Turn the damn lights on, I’m not gonna kill you right away.”
Hearing the boss’s voice swearing at me almost felt comforting, but I knew that “not right away” did actually mean that he wouldn’t kill me as soon as I turned the lights on. After that though, I knew I was anybody’s. I turned the lights on and took another look at the head.
“Where the hell did that come from?” I asked.
“Why? You thought it was buried in a day’s worth of rubbish did you?”
I felt myself sag slightly as he revealed that he knew where it had come from. I had no reply. “Uh.. I… What?”
“You know the council supply the bin bags we put our rubbish out in?”
I nodded slowly, not realising what this had to do with how the head had come back.
“They are coded to our building, you fucking penis. So when the truck dumped a body in several of our bags out onto the municipal dump they knew exactly who to send the head back to.”
I sat down abruptly on one of the couches. How could I have been so stupid? I still couldn’t see my boss, he was bathing me in light and standing in the darkness, my trick.
“What… who… what… Am I fired?” The most salient point to me at that particular moment in time. If I lost the job then I was out on the street, which might sound good as far as running away goes, but it meant that pretty soon one of the gang’s squads would come and do the job the three had been sent in to do. I needed an income.
A hand appeared out of the darkness, beckoning me towards the office. I walked slowly, small voices in the back of my head shouting things like, “RUN YOU FUCKING IDIOT. THE BAT’S WAITING FOR YOUR HEAD NOW!” but I clenched my teeth and trusted in someone inherently untrustworthy.
No bat made contact with my head, no bullets were fired at me. I was alive, and looking my boss in the face, which was interesting, as I hadn’t seen his real face before. He was much older than I was, but that was to be expected for someone in his position. What surprised me was that, while I had pictured him as one of the ruling gang, from the lines on his face it looked as if he was an inmate, simply one who had been in an awfully long time and risen to the level of being able to live without working, to be an employer.
“You’re not fired provided you can give me an explanation of why this gentleman ended up in our bin bags.”
I swallowed. Whether he would accept the truth was another matter. I tried it.
“He thought he recognised me and was attacking me, so I used the bat.”
“Was he right in recognising you?” I shook my head. I had never heard the name Theo Levy before last night, and while his sister might have been great to do things to, I hadn’t done anything to anyone’s sister, leastwise not while I had been outside. I didn’t know if Evie had siblings.
“Did he have a weapon?” I shook my head again. I was slight, and it was fairly clear, just from the head of the man that he was large enough to have taken me apart in a nasty way even with his bare hands.
“Did he have any money?” Finally, a difficult question. How much should I admit to him having? I had spent the larger part of it on Evie already, but I didn’t want to lose the rest of it, especially as I was planning on staying alive with it in the near future.
“A little.” I shrugged. “Not a huge amount.”
A hand outstretched. I felt in the pocket of my jacket, trying to separate three of the notes from the other two without making it obvious that I was doing so. After a moment or two I dropped three notes into the outstretched hand, which closed around them without looking at them and disappeared into a pocket. It reappeared with an envelope.
“Your pay.” I nodded and took it swiftly. “You better open up.”
The boss took the dismembered head by the hair and dropped it into a cardboard box from which it had obviously come. “I’ll get rid of this. If something like this happens again come to me. Provided you have a reason it’s not a problem. Try not to make a habit of it, though, especially paying customers, and if they look like a gang member you just let them do whatever they want to you, or you disappear and don’t come back.” I nodded. “Keep the rest of this one’s money.” He nodded towards the box he now held. “Buy yourself a woman.” He winked and strode out of the door.
I blinked. I hadn’t expected that. I didn’t know whether to trust him or to run now before it was too late. While I considered this problem I found myself unconsciously mopping the floor and loading the show in preparation for opening. It couldn’t do too much harm for me to remain here for one more night, provided I was able to prepare my self mentally and physically for the next few days. The theatre was closed for a day tomorrow, and I figured I could risk one day away from work provided all my trouble was sorted after that day. If I pleaded enough and offered to work a few weeks at a lower rate I thought the boss might bend. I would sit through the night and then aim to be back in two days time. If I wasn’t back, I needed to have left the skirt, otherwise it meant I was dead.
I threw open the doors with a lightness in my heart which I had not felt for a while, and smoked a cigarette outside as I waited for the first of the regulars to turn up.
“Evening, Sir.” I offered as he entered. I had nary a grunt of acknowledgement in reply. The man simply buried his head further into his collar and stuffed his note into the little box before stomping up the stairs.
Slightly discouraged, I returned to the office and thought about what I was planning to do. I didn’t know how someone would go about tracing someone in this skirt, as the accepted method on the outside was to ask around, and in here that would lead to death, swift, silent, and messy. Unless the guys chasing me had enlisted the aid of the gang running the skirt, I couldn’t think of an easier way of finding me than to wander around looking at people’s faces until they saw me and then they could kill me. They wouldn’t go down as easily as the guy who had been looking for Theo. A large piece of lead in a baseball bat still loses out to a small piece of lead in a gun, and these guys would have brought hardware, even if they had been forced to purchase it inside, they wouldn’t come looking for me with their bare hands. They weren’t that stupid. I wasn’t counting on luck. In fact I was counting on it that luck would be set right against me. If luck was with me they wouldn’t find me, and if they had sent three people in then they must have found a way to find me quickly and without too much effort.
I took a hand drill and some thick wire and set about making some alterations to the baseball bat. I cleaned it first. There was a surprising amount of gunk still worked in between the wood. It reminded me of cleaning a paint roller, you can clean for half an hour, and think you have everything out of the damn thing, but let it sit for five minutes and try again and sure enough, there’s another half a litre to contend with.
I sat and smoked as I tinkered with the bat, the boss was unlikely to return this evening. He had other business interests, and hadn’t seemed at all concerned about my homicidal tendencies beginning to manifest. The evening passed peacefully, the shot went off, and the men filed out. It was almost disappointingly uneventful. I cleared up with a knife in my hand and the lights off, but nobody came. Nobody accused me of being Theo Levy, and I locked the doors for the night feeling more jumpy than I had been at the beginning of the evening. Now I knew there were people in here looking for me I needed to see them, or for them to see me. Action was preferable to sitting waiting for them to turn up and shoot me or worse. I would rather be running for my life down the dirty wet streets than drinking shitty coffee, smoking bad tobacco and waiting for them to appear, point and shout “There he is! He’s the one!”
I had purloined the bat on an extended borrow from the theatre. It was a useful weapon, made more useful by the fact that with the top clad in some rags I had found, it fit in my bag and didn’t look like anything offensive. The knives were still in place and I was ready to beat seven types of shit out of anyone who fucked with me. Problem was, no one was fucking with me. I decided to give them more of a chance, spurred on by my slight apprehension of going home, and went to a bar I knew.
The bar was loud and dark, stinking of vomit and stale beer, but it played rock music and had booths to one side in which one could relax and watch the world go by. I bought a beer with a spirit base and leant against the bar peering into the booths. Most of them were full, mainly with hookers plying their trade and the punters that followed them, and there were none containing three suited men, which was what I was expecting from the guys sent in to get me. I drank, and smoked, and avoided the attentions of the pros in the room while still maintaining enough presence to catch the barman’s eye when I needed a refill.
I stayed for two hours, in which time I watched five groups refused entry, three fights started, and one homicide, which I was fairly sure had gone unnoticed by anyone but me and the unfortunate man. I made a mental note not to try and pick up any hookers in this bar, especially red haired ones in green dresses, and reminded myself always to check that particular spot for knives before burying my face in breasts. If I had more to drink I might start thinking that the redhead looked like a goer, she was still loitering around the booths, and I would also hit serious trouble if whoever was looking for me found me while I was drunk. I left the bar, popping a couple of crystals from my emergency stash, which should keep me alert enough to stay safe, despite the alcohol.
I was on my home street as I felt the beginning of the drugs creeping out of the bitter taste at the back of my mouth and up into my brain. I slipped from shadow to shadow, making for the block of flats opposite my own. I could make no shapes in the street from where I was, and I ditched my bag at the base of the block behind a pile of rotting junk that looked as if it might once have been a dog. I reached up to a crack in the concrete above my head and braced my feet, working my fingers in far enough to take my weight. Before I pulled myself up I cast a final glance over my shoulder. I had been climbing a wall whilst being shot at before, and it was not a pleasant experience. There was no movement on the street to suggest that anyone was aware of my presence. I pulled hard and felt the muscles in my back protest at the same volume as the bones in my fingers as they came tight in the crack and began to bear the weight.
I pulled my feet up high enough to wedge a toe against the crack and freed one hand to reach higher, this time reaching for the tiny ledge above a window fitting. My fingers found it without too much problem and I was able to transfer my weight onto that, keeping my feet against the crack. If the thick wire I could see slightly above my hands would bear my weight for a moment then I would be able to launch a jump at the nearest balcony. I reached up and hooked a finger around the wire. As I worked more of my hand around it I felt it begin to give slightly. I tugged hard for a few moments, feeling it give an inch or so, simply giving me a better grip, and then caught. I transferred my weight to it gently, aware that while a fall wouldn’t kill me, it would make running away from anyone an impossibility for a week at least. It held. I gathered my feet to me, curling as much of my toes over the tiny ledge as I could, and then stood, my body beginning to fall backwards as soon as I was forced to release, the wire, but as I came fully upright I jumped up and out, reaching for the railing around the balcony. My hands hit and jerked painfully, but I was up. I clambered over the rail swiftly and set about making my way from balcony to balcony, which was a case of making similar jumps half a dozen more times. It was tiring, but I made it, thanking anyone who might be listening to my thoughts that it wasn’t raining any more.
Once I reached the balcony opposite my rooms I crouched, waiting for my breathing to calm down. I wore dark clothes, and was not afraid of being seen. I knew the occupants of the flat would be asleep by now, and I had made little noise gaining this ground. I raised my head slowly and peered across the road into my rooms. There were only two visible, the toilet having no windows. I could see no one in the bedroom, but the lounge looked as if it contained something more than what I had left it with. A figure lay on the floor. My toys had done their work, and whoever was looking for me was not taking their compatriots with them.
I raised an eyebrow. I was surprised that they had not taken their fallen companion, unless only one of them had come looking. It would be a mistake to assume either course of action. It was possible to hide in the flat in such a place that would not be visible from the window, and from there to leap out and confront me. It was also possible that the figure had nothing to do with the three who were searching for me, and was just a petty thief. I dismissed that thought quickly. In this skirt there was no breaking and entering, because there was nothing to steal. Crime happened against the person, because the occupants of this skirt walked around with their earthly possessions upon them.
I flipped over the edge of the balcony and dropped. Repeating this several more times returned me to my bag. I withdrew the bat and crossed the road, still staying to shadows. I checked the doorways down and up the road from the entrance to my block. Nothing but the stench of urine.
The lights were off in the stairwell approaching my rooms. It had been on when I left, although I knew that the caretaker had a habit of turning it off once he thought everyone was inside, and if men had entered my rooms and not left he would have assumed that was me. It crossed my mind that this might have been why the man had been left, but if my assailants knew the routine in the skirt that intimately then they were being fed information by the gang running the skirt and that meant I was fucked, one way or another. I hadn’t done anything to piss the ruling gang off, to my knowledge, unless Theo Levy’s girlfriend’s brother had been with them.
I scaled the stairs in the dark, the bat cocked over my shoulder ready to swing at anyone reaching toward me. I knew the stairs well and there were no unexpected obstructions. My door swung open at my touch, and I could see that the man who had been caught in my trap was alone in the room. I moved inside quickly and shut the door behind me. A quick glance into the toilet and the bedroom proved that the man was alone in the rooms. I locked the door and stabbed the man in the leg with my knife. No movement. He wasn’t faking.
“Left you behind did they? I expected better…” I knew the man wouldn’t reply. Mainly because he couldn’t. The needle that had shot up into his foot through the crack in the floor board had injected him with a rapid acting industrial strength muscle relaxant. He wouldn’t walk again, ever. The muscle relaxant caused the muscles of the body to relax their grip on the bones to which they were anchored to a lethal extent. I was lucky to arrive back before the man was dead. It was one reason why the poison worked well from a needle to the foot, it took a little while before the intercostals on the ribs stopped being able to draw air into the lungs.
I rummaged in my bag and produced a tiny vial. I pulled it out and turned the man over with my foot. I could see his eyes moving rapidly as he scanned me. He wasn’t wearing a suit, which surprised me, but he had an empty shoulder holster. I guessed his companions had taken his gun when they left him. I would search him in a moment or two, but first I wanted some answers.
“Antidote.” It wouldn’t save him, but it would allow the muscles which weren’t irreparably damaged to move again, which would mean he would be able to breathe and talk, but not move much. He would feel better though, and if he thought he might walk again he might tell me something. I could see his eyes moving.
I snapped the top from the vial and dripped the contents onto his tongue. I could see it working as he gradually became able to swallow.
“It’s going to take a while, and I can still cut your throat if you don’t level with me, but I want answers, so I’m prepared to leave you alive. Are you prepared to answer my questions. Blink twice if you don’t feel able to talk just yet.”
The man blinked twice, looking earnestly at me.
“Right, answer me these as soon as you can talk. If you shout for help then I’ll cut your throat, but not before I have popped your eyes with this and made steak ‘aché of your manhood. I waved my blade in front of his eyes. He blinked rapidly.
“The nice thing about what has stopped you moving, is that it doesn’t impair your capacity to feel pain does it? I imagine you feel that hole in your leg quite nicely don’t you? Just remember when you’re answering my questions that you can’t move, and that I have a knife and a nasty imagination.”
The man was blinking rapidly again, he looked as if he was trying to make noise in his throat, but not quite managing yet.
“How many of you are there looking for me? Who do you think I am? How did you find me? And what are you to do with me?”
I wandered over to the fridge and pulled out a pint of milk substitute. I wasn’t as sober as I would like to be, and while I could feel the crystals still working their magic, making the lights brighter and focussing me, I could also feel the alcohol telling me it was time to go to sleep, and that I was safe here if they had already been here.
The man coughed. “Sruuurgh…” he dribbled onto the floor. “Sr… Thrgh…Three. You are…” he coughed again, blood this time. The poison might have been more advanced than I had thought. “You are John Pain. We came in yesterday with your flat’s address and a name of a girl. Found you through her first, then lost you. Came here. We are to kill you and bring proof of your death out with us.”
I thought about this. They knew about Evie. “Does the girl have anything else to do with this? How are you getting out? Where are the others?”
The man struggled to move his arms. “Yeah, girl’s wanted too…” Shit. I had to get to Evie before they did. “Hey.. this isn’t helping my arms.”
“It will take a little longer. Where are the others? Have they been to the girl’s yet?”
The man began to laugh. “This shit isn’t going to save me. You fucking bastard.” I started to move forward, knife out, but I was too late. “GET IN HERE YOU FUCKER!” He screamed to the roof, then rolled his eyes up and saw me coming, “GET AWAY FROM ME YOU FUCKING PSYCHOPATH!”
I slashed out with the knife across his throat, just enough to rip the vocal chords out. Then I turned and grabbed the bat and flicked it upwards, taking out the light. The others were coming, or at least one of them was, and I had to be ready. I had a little time, and the locked door should buy me at least warning. I tore my torch from my bag and flicked it on, pulled my battered armchair across to the man and heaved him upright against it. I could hear him breathing rapidly, the blood sputtering in his ruined throat.
“I promised, motherfucker.” I whispered as I turned the knife so that the serrated side of the blade was facing his face and drew it across his eyes, one by one. They burst, and the jelly inside started to seep down his cheeks. I could hear his breath catching in sobs of pain, and I pushed the knife slightly further in, just tearing at the optic nerves. As the point went in I heard him lose consciousness, and the first shoulder against the door. I reached down with the knife and roughly carved a hole in his groin into which I pushed the torch, making sure it was shining up against his ruined face, then stepped away, back against the wall to one side of the door. I let the bat drop down into my hands and limbered up slightly, preparing my shoulders for a swing.
The door caved on the third barge, and I waited for a second after the door had opened, to make sure the man had seen his comrade. I heard a muffled exclamation, then I stepped out and swung. I had misjudged the effect of the mutilated man, hoping simply to surprise his companions into a momentary pause, enough for me to take the head from a further one, I found myself swinging the bat through the air above the head of someone being sick on my floor. By the time I had the weight of the lead back under control I was facing someone, who despite looking pale and shocked, was preparing to defend themselves.
I swung the bat at him again. This one was wearing jeans and a t-shirt under a long coat, which was closer to standard issue than the other, but still a way off the suits I was expecting. I wondered if they had been subcontracted in. I could understand someone being reluctant to send their own men in here. Plus, if you hire mercs, then you can take your money back if they don’t come back. It annoyed me that I might be saving them money, but not as much as the ease with which the man in front of me evaded my swing. I was tired, and the alcohol was making me sloppy, whilst the crystals were making me overenthusiastic. I had killed too many of the ‘sloppy but enthusiastic’ school to be a huge fan myself, and I clamped down on my muscles, trying to pull everything back into control again.
The man cursed at me, “What did you do to him, you monster?” He moved one hand towards what I could only presume was his shoulder holster.
I tried to shrug, a manoeuvre made more difficult by the fact that I was also trying to aim a lead cored baseball bat at the guy’s head. “You’re supposed to be his damn partner. You left him paralysed in the flat of a psychopath. I’m not feeling the love here.”
The man had his gun half out of his jacket as I flung the bat at him again. He took another step backwards, out of the range of the head of the bat, and I pressed the catch I had placed in the bat earlier that evening. The lead core slid out as the bat flew through the air, lengthening the bat by a good eighteen inches. It caught the man just below his ear, and I watched as the weight of the lead smashed his jaw from his face, shattered his cheekbones and ejected his left eye onto his cheek. The man crumpled to the floor, still breathing, but not moving. The gun span out of his hand across the floor.
I stepped back, breathed deeply, trying not to inhale too much of the blood cloud that was settling, and kicked the door shut. The next ten minutes were spent in semi darkness, with two bleeding bodies for company. I managed to take the second man’s coat before it became too stained, and I put my knife into his heart in case he decided to wake up as I was rifling his pockets. The first man I left as was. He woke up briefly as I went through his pockets, but abruptly passed out again when I gave the torch a poke.
They had one gun between them, which went into my bag, two comstuds, which must have been smuggled in to the skirt rather inventively, and what amounted to five times my annual salary in this skirt in cash. I had no idea how they had managed to get hold of so much. Outside, in the real world, cash had bowed to the ever present and much more convenient credit system. This skirt used cash so no tracks could be left. I began to worry about the involvement of the ruling gang in this. They could have allowed the comstuds, the cash and the guns – but unless they had a reason, a reason that went beyond money, they wouldn’t have done.
I stamped on one comstud, and thought about keeping the other. I knew I could track the third guy using it, and I had to assume that if he realised I had it, he could track me also. I scanned its memory for names and numbers and came up with four, one of which was the comstuds own details, and one was the one I had just stamped on. The other I presumed was the third. The names gave me pause to think. Gustav, Peter, Celine, and one other which I recognised. The fourth was a gentleman in this neighbourhood who could procure anything for anyone, provided they had the money. I breathed a little easier as I realised that these three probably purchased their kit from him. It also meant that the third of these people was not another guy, as I had chauvinistically been supposing. It was a woman. I disabled the comstud and pocketed it.
I left the two men on the floor and locked up, inspecting myself for blood flecks in the light from the hall light, which was now on. I looked respectable enough. There was one patch I had to scrub with dirt from the street to cover, but other than that I would not stand out wearing the coat. The question in my mind was whether to get to Evie first or to visit Mr Atto, who was the supplier. I plumped for Evie, reminding myself that she might need protecting, and started running. I ran with enthusiasm, aware that I had a huge amount of money in my coat pocket, more than enough to buy myself and Evie out of here, and to buy a fair amount of credit on the outside to start up with. People coming in here gave up everything, so the exchange rate of credit for hard cash weighed heavily in my favour. I could do a lot worse than running right now, only I had to check that it had been Mr Atto who supplied the equipment before I landed myself in worse trouble. I needed to make sure Evie was ok, and hide her somewhere, and then I needed to see Mr Atto.
I slowed down as I reached Evie’s neighbourhood. I couldn’t fight if I arrived out of breath, and if Celine was waiting for me to make contact with Evie then I was going to need my wits about me. My one consolation was that if her pistols were the same as Gustav’s, then she would need to be close to me before she could use it effectively. I had been forced to leave the bat with the bodies, as the lead core had bent as it made contact with Gustav’s head, and would not go back inside the bat. I still had my knives, and a needle full of the muscle relaxant which I had removed from the second trap in the room. I hoped I could take Celine at least somewhat by surprise.
I hit the district where the ladies hung around the corners of the streets, and began trying to find out if Evie was on the streets tonight, or whether she had gone home already. This was the one area of town where you could ask after someone and not arouse suspicion, provided you were willing to fend off the unwelcome attractions of every whore you asked a question.
She wasn’t out, but the girls reckoned she might have taken the night off. She hadn’t been seen at all this evening, and they hinted at a big payoff yesterday. I knew that Evie had taken enough money from me to justify two or three days off the beat, and if she knew these guys were on the streets looking for me she might have chosen to lay low in case her face was seen. I hoped she had left some hint as to where she had headed if she had not remained at home. She wouldn’t be expecting me so soon after my last visit, but at the same time, I thought she would have realised I might need to get in contact with her given the circumstances. I dived down a side street and looked out into the darkness of the main street in case anyone was following. I could see no movement other than the back and forth movement of the girls hips as they looked for trade.
I continued down the alleyway and climbed a sidewall onto a rooftop. I could make my way along the thieves highway to Evie’s place, which I hoped would either avoid Celine entirely, or enable me to spot her from my vantage point. If I was her, I would wait on the roof for my quarry, then drop down behind them and bullet in the back, so I felt confident that one way or another, if she were here I would find her. I moved cautiously, half crouched for balance, climbing the ancient tiles and traversing the peaks of the roofs.
I found myself above Evie’s pad sooner than I had figured, having seen no sign of anyone on the roofs or loitering in the streets below. I spent an extra few minutes scouring the streets below, hanging over the gutter as I searched for Celine. There were two whores within sight, one of whom I recognised, the other of whom could have been my mystery woman, although I doubted she would have ditched quite as much of her clothing and equipment. I lowered myself onto the stairs up to Evie’s room, and took out the gun from my bag.
When I reached her door I realised something was wrong. It hung open, a crack of darkness showing through. I turned off the landing light, not wanting to silhouette myself in the doorway as I opened the door, and pushed the door open. I could see nothing. I moved inside, crouched below the light switch, readied the pistol, reached up and flipped the switch on.
I froze, crouched on the floor. Celine was not in the room. Evie, however, was. Most of her anyway. I couldn’t tell if all of her was here. It looked as if someone had been butchering her for disposal, and then decided it wasn’t worth the bother. Her torso lay upon the bed, still bleeding. Her limbs were in sections on the floor. From the look of the wounds they had been removed while she was still alive. I pushed myself up the wall, trying to stay as far away from the spreading blood patch on the floor as possible and noticed her chest moving. She was still alive.
Two paces took me to her, and I dropped the gun on the bed and cradled her head. Her eyes were open, but glazed with pain.
“I’m sorry, Evie.” I looked down into her face. It was blank, and I recognised it as one from which emotion has been banished by pain. I expected no response, but I saw a flicker in her eyes and her lips began to move.
“Don’t be. I deserved this. It is what I was hiding from.”
“Nobody deserves this, Evie. Even I know that.” I felt a lump welling up in my throat. I hadn’t know Evie, I didn’t know her real name, and the only times I spoke with her was to check on the safety of my own hide, but she had been my one link with the outside world in this place.
“Just find her and kill her, John. For your own sake. Before she does this to you. She’ll be waiting at the theatre.”
I bowed my head over Evie’s torn frame and said a prayer to a god I didn’t believe in. Not to hasten her soul, but to bring the woman who had done this within my grasp swiftly. My hand, which had freed my knife from my belt, swept it across Evie’s throat, holding in position at the end of the blow, slightly turned, so that she bled out as quickly and painlessly as possible.
I laid Evie’s corpse out on the bed, arranging her limbs as they would have been in life, and then I ransacked the room for alcohol. I found a bottle of bad vodka underneath the bed. Something which I imagine Evie used to sterilise any cuts of grazes she incurred in the course of her work rather than for drinking. I emptied the bottle over the bed and found in my pocket a cigarette and a lighter. I lit my cigarette and a vodka soaked rag, and dropped the rag on the bed, remaining in the room for long enough only to make sure that the fire had caught properly. Then I walked out of the main doorway, stopped in the alleyway outside to finish my cigarette and watch the fire take hold of the entire building, and then, head down against the rain which had started again, I headed for Mr Atto. I needed to know exactly what I was up against before I walked into the next fight.
It took me five minutes to get to his building, three minutes to incapacitate the doorman, and then a further ten before I identified which cupboard Mr Atto was hiding in. I dragged him out, a small European man with scraggly facial hair which he thought gave him an air of wisdom.
“Mr Atto, I need to ask you some questions.”
He cowered, “People who do that to my doorman don’t ask questions, they steal things or beat me up.” I sighed. The man, for all his ability to obtain things from the outside world, was an idiot.
“Mr Atto, I assure you much worse things will happen if you do not answer the questions I ask.
I threw the remaining comstud on the floor at his feet, along with the gun. “Did these come from you?”
He whimpered and covered his eyes with his hands. I kicked him in the chest, just hard enough to move his hands down there.
“Now you can see, Mr Atto. Did these come from you?” He nodded gently to himself.
“They left your number on the comstud. How many of each did you supply, and how much cash with them? With whom did you believe you were dealing?”
“Three guns, one magazine for each. Three comstuds and eight thousand pounds in cash.” He coughed, “I was told not to ask who they were, but they hinted that they were working for the disease.”
“If they were, then they were mercenaries, unless the Disease has gotten a whole lot more serious than when I left the country. Have they permission from the gang? Do the gang know they are here?”
Mr Atto shook his head, “No, they left dire threats behind about what would happen if I was to let the gang know they were operating inside.” I frowned, I didn’t understand what they could threaten him with other then death, and that shouldn’t frighten him, doing what he does.
“What did they threaten you with? Surely you are not afraid of death? You have lived here for twenty years, death would be a release.”
He shook his head some more, “They would destroy my contacts outside. That would leave me in here, worse then death… worse than death.”
I looked around. There was nothing worth stealing in sight, and I didn’t want the gun. Celine had two, and her comstud. I picked up the third comstud and pushed the power source back inside. I wanted her to know I was coming.
I crouched down, “Mr Atto. I may want to leave soon. Remember I kept my word about the questions. I may be back.”
I considered apologising to the doorman, but if I had the measure of Mr Atto the doorman would be dead by morning. Anyone who puts up that little resistance to a man armed only with a knife is no security. Mr Atto had no idea how persuasive I can be with a knife, but I didn’t think replacing the doorman would be a bad move.
I borrowed Mr Atto’s vehicle, a motorised bicycle which, while old, put the streets behind me at a rate of knots. As I hit halfway I tapped the comstud. A voice answered calmly.
“Gustav? Where have you been.”
I grimaced to myself. She sounded pretty. “Not Gustav. It’s John. I’m coming for you.”
The sounds of surprise were minimal, but she said nothing. I poked the comstud off my ear and let it fall to the gutter. I loosened the knife in my belt and made sure the needle of muscle relaxant was capped and ready in a pocket of the jacket. As I arrived I leaped from the bike, letting it skid to a halt by the side of the theatre. The building was open and lit from within. Windows which had not been open before in my tenure were flung wide, and I thought I could see a figure flanked by flames within the auditorium. I pulled the knife from my belt and approached the doorway.
The sky was beginning to get light around the building as I entered. I was dimly aware that I probably had only half an hour before the first people started walking the streets. Around an hour before my boss had been called and was over here, trying to find out what caused the fire.
The entrance hall was bare. More brightly lit than it had ever been in my experience. I could see into the office, over and under the desk behind which I sat. No Celine. I made absolutely sure, then bolted up the stairs. I was expecting a barrage of bullets the moment she caught sight of me. I had to get past them. I was confident that after the guns were empty, I could take her apart with a blade.
The toilets on the central floor were empty. I kicked in the doors, rolling into the centre of the room, knife up for throwing and ready to dodge flying lead. Nothing in either. I noticed that I had forgotten to empty the bin in the gents, something I felt could probably wait until slightly later.
I approached the top floor with care. The auditorium was burning. There was no doubt about that now. I could smell the smoke from the seats, foam padding soaked with years of grubby clothes and semen stained hands burning, producing a foul black concoction. Nevertheless I felt the smoke should aid me rather than my enemy. I needed to be close enough to touch to do damage, and the smoke would not prevent that, but I could evade her bullets in the smoke if I was fast enough. I could hear the sprinkler system going, making the smoke worse with clouds of steam, but saving the surrounding buildings from fire.
I dived through the doorway and into cover. Bullets followed me. As I found my feet once again I counted. She had fourteen shots by my count, and had released four. She was firing with both guns at once, and as such I knew she had barely any chance of hitting me unless I was right in her face. She should assume that I have seven shots, the gun I took from Gustav. I looked through the smoke in the direction the shots had come from. It parted for a moment and I saw her, back to the screen, guns up in her hands. She fired two more at me, but I didn’t draw my head back. She wasn’t going to hit me. Behind her played the feature, two phalluses pumped in and out of various female orifices. Projected onto Celine’s face at that moment was the woman’s perineum. I suppressed a smile and stepped out into the room. She released her final eight shots at me quickly, but with no accuracy. I felt one dig into the wood underneath my feet, and one slammed into the doorway beside me, but none touched me. I walked forward slowly.
“Celine. I’m going to kill you. Painfully.”
She looked at me in horror, then threw the guns at me, one after the other. She was a better shot with them than she had been with the bullets. I had to duck one. I continued coming.
“Where are Gustav and Peter?”
I shrugged. “Back at my flat I guess. They won’t be coming to help.” I stepped sideways and disappeared into the smoke. I could see the exit, and I knew that eventually she must try for that. I crouched and moved towards where she had been a moment ago.
A chair slammed into my side suddenly, felling me and knocking the knife from my hand. It skittered across the floor and I rolled quickly anticipating another attack. Celine was not visible in the smoke, and I realised she must have hurled the chair into the smoke where I had disappeared and got lucky.
“I got you there didn’t I?” She called through the smoke.
I looked up to see her standing over my knife. She stooped and grabbed it. I rolled again, looking for the invisibility the smoke had granted me a moment beforehand. I found it for a fraction of a second, which enabled me to get to my feet, tearing the second knife free from my arm.
I came up in a fighting crouch, turning, waiting for her to appear from behind something. I saw a flash of movement in the corner of my eye and dived into the aisle, narrowly avoiding being hamstrung as Celine dashed out of cover and came up facing me, knife held for fighting. I smiled. We circled. Behind us naked bodies were thrashing together on the screen, bracketed by the burning edges of the screen.
I held my knife forward, blade sideways, facing inwards. I prefer to hook my opponents in toward me than to slash them away from me. My left hand was holding my coat open, half wrapped around the forearm ready to take any thrusts I couldn’t dodge. Celine circled me, knees bent, arms out, blade constantly moving.
She kicked out at my leg as I passed an overturned chair, trying to push me backwards and overbalance me on the wet floor, but she missed and I was able to stamp down on her leg. We kept circling. As she came to face the projector I tried to stab down at her from within the beam, blinding her in the process, but she watched my arm and turned as the blade came down, arm snaking out gashing my side instead.
I gritted my teeth and leaped towards her, driving her back into the flames. I could feel blood soaking my side, and I dragged my hand free from the pocket of the coat. I stumbled, left hand down, right hand up to parry as she came in for the kill. As I made contact with her knife arm with mine, parrying the blow I swept my left arm into her torso, squeezing the ampoule on the needle as I do so. I managed to get in a full dose. More than the trap delivers, and then I stood.
I watched as she stood for a second, feeling first her hips go, then her knees, her breathing weaken, her ankles go and she’s face down on the floor.
I used the toe of my shoe to turn her face up so she doesn’t suffocate too fast. My knife lay on the floor just beside her, so I picked it up and crouch down next to her.
“I just came from Evie’s room. I saw what you did to her.”
The terror in Celine’s eyes looked beautiful with the flames reflecting in them. I smiled at her. “I’m better with a knife than you are.”
I had twenty minutes before I had to make myself scarce. The sprinkler system was beating the fire now. I can do a lot in twenty minutes.
- posted by Buntifer @ 9/17/2005 10:22:00 am