The world slowly came seeping back as he regained consciousness, confusion fighting with pain as both made their way around his head. Keeping his eyes closed, he tried to figure out what had happened and where he was now from sound alone. The rain still hammered at the unseen ceiling above, so clearly he hadn’t been out that long, and the noise was hardly helping with the throbbing pain in his temples. Behind the driving rain, there was the faint noise of footsteps, someone pacing around the room. It didn’t take a great leap of deduction to figure out the guy who’d jumped him was still present, and after a second he realised he was bound by the wrists to the chair he’d been deposited upon. He tried to move his arms without making it obvious he was awake, though the restraints meant anything beyond a twitch was unlikely to happen. This movement also revealed the lack of weight in his jacket, the bastard had taken his pistols too. This information slowly processed in his mind, trying to form a cohesive plan of what to do next, making him miss the fact the footsteps had stopped several seconds ago.
“Y’know, it’s kinda obvious your awake,” the voice was only a short distance from him, thick with an accent he couldn’t quite identify “y’might as well open your eyes.” A few seconds passed as he tried to keep up the facade of unconsciousness before he did as instructed. The world came into sharp, painful focus and standing directly in front of him, silhouetted by a pair of work lights, was the blonde gunman.
“Shit… figures…” he groaned after a while.
“I have to say, I’m mighty disappointed,” the blonde man started pacing again as he talked in almost half interested tone, revealing a table behind him that had the Englishman’s two pistols sat on, “Ever since I came here I’d heard so many stories about the greatness of a single hired gun, of Weißmann’s bulldog, a man at the top of his game…”
“…always pleased to meet a fan,” came a sarcastic interruption through gritted teeth, earning a vicious side glance from the other man,
“…so naturally I jumped at the chance to face you when it came up. But what can I say? Y’fucked the job up. Twice, even; got yourself captured damn easily, lost your target and even got your partner killed. Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Ah… he bled out?”
“I imagine he would’ve done eventually. Can’t imagine the extra couple of holes I put in him helped none though.” A sly grin led into a long, laboured pause.
“So that’s how it’s going to be, then?” The Englishman eventually replied, predicting where the order of events was heading.
“Well, I was kinda hoping for a worthy opponent, y’know? Someone I could truly test my skills against, and all that. But this,” he waved dismissively at the Englishman, “there aint no skill involved when y’opponent is tied to a chair.”
As the blonde man paced, the Englishman became aware of a table at the rear of the room he was kept in, positioned very deliberately between the two work lights directly opposite him. The table itself was very utilitarian and unassuming, a leftover from the building’s industrial past, but on top of it sat a set of holsters and the steel grey bulk of his two pistols. Instinct urged him to make a break for the guns, but the whole arrangement was clearly a set up, he was expected to try for the guns and get killed for his troubles. As the other gunman said, there’s no skill in killing a man tied to a chair, the bastard clearly wanted to try playing games before the end. Once again the blonde man broke the silence.
“Current disappointment aside, I have to say y’have been something of an inspiration to me. The fact an outsider can come into this city and do so well, what can I say? As one foreigner to another…” Suddenly it dawned on the Englishman where the other mans accent seemed to come from, and started to laugh.
“Foreigner?! Oh, christ, I knew you South Sectors boys were fucking nuts, but a whole other country?! Don’t tell me you really buy into that ‘we’ll rise again’ bolloc-” He was cut short by a swift punch to the gut, making him double over in agony.
“How dare you. How Dare You! I am not one of your soft-ass city boys,” the faux-friendliness and mutual respect routine had evaporated and the blonde man was seething with barely controlled rage now, “I am a proud son of Texas, the damned Lone Star State these assholes abandoned when their precious trio of urban monstrosities decided they didn’t like the looks of each other anymore. You’d think you’d be able to tell the difference, aint you limeys meant to be educated?” The Englishman watched this little display through his own pain. After a couple of seconds seething, the Texan regained his composure and backed off. “I do apologise, that was mighty unprofessional of me. Though while we’re on the subject of professionalism, much like yourself, I was hired to do a job today,” He walked over to the table with the guns and picked one up, “A job which, unfortunately, involves more than simply keeping some weasel datashark safe from the likes of you”
“Ah… I see” the Englishman managed, still hurting from the gut punch. “So you’d be working for-“
“My boss likes to consider himself one of mister Weißmann’s rivals, yes.” The Texan interrupted, a wry smile on his face, “You didn’t seriously think that data our mutual ‘friend’ sold could afford anything beyond dumb street muscle, did you?”
Walking away from his captive, he returned his attention to the pistol in his hands, “These are some mighty fine weapons, I must say. Blake’s Striker 12s, if I’m not mistaken,” he pulled the slide back, “custom action too. Very rare, expensive guns. Not often you see one on the street, let alone a matched pair. Quite the tools for the job” In a swift, well practiced motion, a fresh clip was jammed into the gun and the slide flicked back into place. “Almost poetic, really. Y’see, my current contract is very specific as to how many of the three of us get to walk away at the end.”
“I figured that,” the Englishman sighed.
“Mister Quine, can you come in here please” Announced the Texan, and as if on cue a door opened at the back of the room and the Datashark entered, his ill-fitting blue carbon fibre suit glinted in the dull light. He walked across the room to stand directly behind the Texan, almost as if to hide behind him, then flashed a cocky, yet slightly nervous, grin across the room at the Englishman.
“Y’know something,” the Englishman began, cynicism dripping from his voice, “Amoral professional murderer I may be, but I never felt the morbid need to call in my own audience”
The Texan chuckled to himself. “Don’t think of it as an audience, more a… witness. My employer was very specific on that part.”
“Sorry you got mixed up in all this, Limey” Quine piped up, with a tangible insincerity in his voice, “You and the sniper. Didn’t mean to get anyone killed. You guys could have just let me go and we’d be done with it”
“You think this’ll just end here, Quine?” From his chair the Englishman glared up at the Datashark, “I won’t be the last to come after you, you can count on that you turncoat little shit. Don’t think you can ever rest easy, Weißmann’s gonna want your head on his desk one way or another”
“Yeah, well, if you’re the best of the best looks like I’ve got a fighting chance, don’t you think?” Quine grinned an overconfident grin and paced around the room. “Killed with one of your own guns, pretty powerful message if you ask me.”
“This is all very fascinating to watch, gentlemen, but I’ve got a contract to fulfil,” The Texan raised the Pistol and flipped the safety off, “Say goodbye to our friend, mister Quine”
“See ya next lifetime, Limey!” The Datashark gave an exaggerated sarcastic wave across the room, chuckling at his apparent good fortune. The Englishman closed his eyes, ready to accept his fate. He heard the pistol’s hammer click back…
…A single shot rang out.
A body hit the floor followed by a silence punctuated with the distant sound of the driving rain. It took a few moments for the Englishman to realise he wasn’t dead, and the total absence of pain suggested he hadn’t even been shot. He replayed he preceding events to himself in a state of confusion before finally deciding to open one of his eyes to see what had happened. In front of him the Texan stood alone with his back turned, smoking pistol still in his hand down by his side. Curiously, Quine was no longer beside him. Still confused, the Englishman opened his other eye and looked down. The datashark was on his back on the floor in a slowly expanding pool of blood, the same overconfident, smug grin now permanently etched on his face underneath the distinctive entry wound left from a 12mm pistol round in his forehead. Before he could do anything, the Texan had turned back around to put the gun back on the table.
“Not quite what you were expecting, huh?” came the texan drawl from across the room. The Englishman could only shake his head in response, still trying to figure out what had happened. “I suppose an explanation is in order”
“It would help”
“Well, as much as my employer was grateful for the data our dear departed mister Quine sold him,” he waved dismissively at the corpse behind him, “the fact he screwed over Weißmann showed he couldn’t be trusted. So, it was decided to have him whacked.”
“But why go to the effort of hiring you? Why not just leave it to us to do the dirty?” after a pause the Englishman quickly added “No offence.”
“They needed a guarantee it’d get done. Mistakes get made, jobs go south, people fuck up,” The Texan laughed, “You are tied to a chair, after all. But using your gun to do the job, well that,” He flashed a cocky grin, “that was a neat bit of theatrics on my part. Makes it look like you managed to pull it off, your boss is happy, my boss is happy, every one wins. Except Quine, anyway.”
“And my colleague in the car”
“Well… Yeah. Anyway, I hope this squares things with Weißman” The Texan returned the used pistol to the table and picked up it’s twin, while the Englishman shifted his weight in another attempt to free himself from the chair.
“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled,” the restraints clanked against the chair, “any chance you’ll be letting me go any time soon?” The Texan laughed again, then reached into his coat with his free hand.
“That wouldn’t be too smart of me, now, would it?” he produced an old fashioned brass key from a pocket and set it down on the table, “not that I won’t provide you with the tools to do it yourself… somehow.” He started to walk to the door, “Do give my regards to your employer.” The Englishman glared, before noticing something significant.
“My other gun. I do expect it back at some point,” This was greeted with another short laugh.
“Let’s call it a trophy,” The Texan didn’t even slow down to respond, “I’d say ‘until next time,’ but if we ever meet again one of us’ll end up dead, I’d wager” From behind him, the Englishman heard the door slam, leaving him alone with the sound of driving rain. He waited until he was sure he’d been left alone to make an attempt for the key on the table. Under his breath he swore vengeance to himself. The Texan had humiliated him and someday, one way or another, he’d get even the only way hitmen knew how.
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The Century23 setting, names, characters and associated imagery is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. (CC)2015 Dom Barlow, Some Rights Reserved.
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