Fiction

Not Safe

“I’m not a gun-slinger”, he hissed at me, “I’m an assassin. It’s not a predilection, it’s a service.”

“Either way, you kill for money”, I said. “If they had money, you’d kill me.”

He stared through the grill where the window had once been, and out into the dark. His hangdog face gave away nothing. “Oh, they got money. This is different.”

“So you’ll help?” I asked.

“Help?” he replied, “You think this is help? Kid, this isn’t help, this is preservation. They’re coming for me just as much as they’re coming for you.” Then he turned to me and grinned, the first I’d ever seen from him. His face didn’t look like it did it often – or even liked it, “They just want you a little more.” He nodded to the corner, then turned back to the dark, waiting, “Don’t you have something to do?”

I had thought we would be safe out here, quietly existing among the dusty mix of trees and rocks, minding our own business. But I was wrong, and we weren’t safe. They were coming for us now, and I realised that despite all my efforts, there was simply no escape – the past was about to catch up with me very quickly and very violently.

I moved across to the small bench in the corner, took a breath, paused, and let it out slowly. Then I set to work on the pipe bombs. Just as I’d learned all those years ago.

A Reluctant Visitor

She eventually found out the man she was looking for. He was squatting tight-lipped in a high-backed wicker throne, his furtive eyes dancing, avoiding any direct contact with the eyes of those/others around him. His hairless arms dangled aimlessly between his knees, as he shifted the weight on his haunches over to one side. His olive skin and gaunt face with its strong aquiline nose gave him a vaguely aristocratic appearance, whilst his bright, but deeply set green eyes made him look quite alien somehow. At Louise’s approach, he arched his back slightly, his mouth widening as he bared his broken and darkened teeth in an obliging grin. Louise gently shuddered as she saw his tongue quickly flicker almost imperceptively across a second row of small and pointed, but perfect teeth behind. He slid from his chair and passed a knowing glance to the shadows behind his shoulder, as he ushered her into the back room, the room reserved for private audience.

Louise felt her body temperature drop dramatically as she entered and immediately moved to one side of the room; at the same time a feverish sweat broke suddenly on her brow as she trembled. Centred beneath an exposed light bulb stood a dirty, low crooked table with one short wooden stool on either side. The bulb swung gently, causing the whole room to sway as if at sea. Shadows from the peeling paint flickered and ran back and forth across the cold, dirty walls, making Louise nauseous. She crossed and sat down harshly on one of the stools – the jar to her spine sending splinters of pain up into the base of her skull. On the table sat a small rosewood bowl with two half-finished joss sticks. As they burned, they gave off a pungent, colourless no-smell of death, which served only to telegraph the way she felt.

The man quietly closed the door behind him and moved delicately across to the stool opposite Louise. He lowered himself onto it and manoeuvred his knees under the table, his eyes never once moving away from her. She could not find it within herself to return his stare.
“Look at me.” His tone was beautiful, it commanded and questioned at the same time. Her gaze travelled beyond the twin spirals of smoke from the joss sticks, where her eyes focused on another place, reluctant to comply. Suddenly a cacophonous dirge of cathedral music droned in Louise’s head; her throat seemed choked, her belly tight. She tried to cough, but found no air. Once seated, Louise had found herself totally paralysed, only her eyes in an almost surreally perfect focus, could move. They did so and travelled the room once more, coming to rest on the man’s chin. As her eyes moved upwards, they met his gaze, and Louise’s body was allowed to relax. She gasped. The realisation then came that, from the point of them both entering that room, He was in total control of all that was to follow. His will would be obeyed at all times, reluctantly or otherwise.