Dowton Street. March
A stagnant haze hung in the
air after the hustle of the day. The electric lights flickered
and buzzed in the otherwise silent streets and shadows played
hide and seek in the deserted alleyways. Upturned rubbish bins
paraded the grime covered walls and rats scavenged through the
Amidst of the silence came the
heavy panting of another victim of local gang crime. Arching
his back, he held onto the greasy brickwork and gasped before
continuing on his escape from his predators. As he ran, he made
a silent prayer to whichever God society hadn't killed yet,
to spare him the fate of being another headline in the next
day's papers. He looked over his shoulder. He couldn't outrun
them. He took his chances hiding in the shadows of an alleyway.
As he entered, the sole inhabitants responded with fear and
screeched as they ran, giving away the stranger's intentions.
In a last burst of despair,
the man looked about him determined not to let this gang take
him without whatever fight an average pencil pusher could muster.
He found a broken leg of an abandoned wooden table and clung
to it like it was his proverbial thread keeping him attached
to the world that he knew.
There was nothing but a silence
a deceptive silence
an evil silence that he knew was the
sign of an inevitable encounter. Those moments of stillness
tore in his mind. His blood pumped in his veins like torrents
in a tornado. It burned in his cheeks. Sweat began to pour freely
down his face. His pulse resonated in his ears. He began to
So determined was he not to
be caught off guard, that he forced his lids to remain open,
bringing tears burning in his eyes. He bit his teeth together
and began to tighten his grip on the leg even more, pressing
splinters into his paling skin, drawing thin streams of blood
out of his trembling hand... Still nothing.
For the briefest of moments
he thought they had forgotten about him, but the sudden sounds
of footfall told him his wishful thinking was false. He levered
his weapon in his hand.
The sounds grew louder. Now
just around the corner. Beads of salty water began to run down
his pulsing temples. The thought of never returning home brought
a sudden shock of realisation to him. He was going to die. The
fear of hopelessness took his last streaks of manliness from
him and he began to cry in hysteric gasps. They all appeared
From both sides of the alleyway
entrance, the midnight prowlers came. The red bandannas were
their calling cards; red for danger, red for blood, red for
death. It was all he could do to shout abuse at them. He knew
nothing would deter them but no options were left to him. One
youth, wielding a club, stood against six hooligans armed with
knives, maybe even guns. What more could he do?
They blocked the only way out.
He cursed for leading himself into this god forsaken hole. The
smell began to turn his stomach and bile rose to his throat.
He swore at them again and they laughed at him. He would have
laughed as well if he was in their place but he cursed nonetheless.
The first one stepped up to
the pathetic wretch and drew out a flick knife. He waved it
to see the fear in the man's eyes turn to fresh tears. Now the
cries for mercy came.
Offering all he had and more
the man begged to be let to live. He was wasting his voice.
The youth came at him and grabbed his hand in a mid swing. With
a quick jolt, the chair leg was on the ground and the man's
wrist was broken. He cried all the more but it was hopeless.
His last tears faded under the laughter.
They kicked him until he could
cry no more. They beat him all over his body, leaving his face
intact: his mouth to scream, his nose to smell the defecation
of his body, his ears to hear the sound of each kick, each break
of his own bones, his eyes, to see the disfigurement of his
frame and form into a hopeless mound of flesh.
When they were done, the leader
took his knife and scored the man's skin around his otherwise
untouched head. He was just another statistic now; the newest
victim to wear the red bandanna.
Ray's Bar. March 4th, 21:45
'Just give him your wallet,
you dumb shit!'
'Hey! Shut the fuck up. Or do
you want a cap in your ass? Now give us your wallet bro or I'll
give ya a facial!'
'Hey! What's taking so fuckin'
'This punk thinks he's bein'
'Sure thing. Now you've done
it, you dumb fuck... Y' gonna die now!'
The stranger didn't move. He
just sat on the torn leather bar stool not even flinching as
the thug approached him with the Berretta, like he didn't even
know he was there.
The barrel pressed against his
neck and still he didn't move, he just took his glass and finished
the last drops. Then
it was all over.
Three gangsters lay in separate
pools of blood on the cracked tile floor while the stranger
strode past them, head down, fists clenched inside his tracksuit.
The hostages cowered in fear, unsure if they had just been rescued
or exposed to a new and worse threat. The owner followed him
with terrified eyes, keeping his hands firmly behind his head.
Then he was gone.
Caracord Scrap Yard. March
Don't shoot the messenger. That
was the prayer that the kid was reciting over and over in his
head. Standing in front of the boss was an honour, yes, but
one he would have rather reserved for a another time, if he
knew what that even meant; being taken from the streets at the
age of eleven, he had no real concept of 'reserving' anything:
'take' and 'now' were really the only etiquette he knew.
Just don't take it out on me.
So three of the lads were dead. Shit happens. They all knew
that. Accidents happen. Gang wars are inevitable, so what. They
were the toughest gang in the whole of Cityscape. Any threat
made to them, they'd just visit it back tenfold, twenty, a hundred
They weren't the most dangerous gang because they killed whoever
crossed them, they weren't the most feared because they scored
a bandanna into their victim's heads. They were the best because
they never let anything go. No insult went unpunished, no challenge
went unmet, and no-one, fucking no-one killed a bandanna and
lived to talk about it.
The boss sat behind his desk.
Not quite the businessman he wanted people to think, he wore
a leather jacket, riddled with tears and scratches. He had a
tattoo down his neck, an Oriental dragon holding a sword. His
eyebrow had been pierced once; now just a scar that hadn't been
allowed to heal testified to it. On the desk were a few documents.
No-one quite knew what he spent his time doing; their job was
terror and crime, not trade and commerce. Still, no one questioned
the boss; he had a 45 Magnum on him at all times, after all.
It was the very presence of
the Magnum that instigated the youth's fear of his own message.
That and the silence that followed his report. Three dead, no
trace of the man who had done it and no chance for retribution.
This was a bad day.
The boss raised his hand to
his chin and brushed his fingers against his stubble before
putting his hand into his jacket. The appearance of the mobile
phone set the youth at ease. A false sense of ease followed
by a blow to the head by one of the boss's body guards.
'The river.' Following the boss's
command, the youth was carried out and he was left alone. The
phone flipped open and key '1' was held. The screen read BOSS.
'Evening. Sir. It's him again.'
Ray's Bar. March 4th, 22:37
'What do you mean you don't
know what happened?'
'Like I said, one minute he
was just sitting on the stool and the next the three guys were
'And this stranger just killed
just like that?'
'And you didn't get a glimpse
'I described him to the other
'Oh, yeah: "Medium height,
medium build, man between 15 and 50 with dark hair"; a
'That's all I saw.'
'Fine. Just sign the statement.
We'll get back to you if there's anything else. And if you remember
anything else, his shoe size, whatever, call me on this number
and this extension, OK?'
Yeah. Sure. Thanks officer.'
The witness turned away, slipping
the business card into his back pocket. He'd probably only remember
about it after he collected his clothes from the laundry.
'I don't get it. Ten witnesses
and this is the best description I get. And how the fuck does
one guy take out three gangsters with semis, and nobody even
catches a glimpse of his face? Shit
I don't need this.'
'Do any of us?'
'What does the coroner say?'
Not much more than we already
know. The one near the bar took a pretty good hit to the temple.
The one near the door took a bullet in the throat and the third
one was hit in the forehead. Hell, this guy's good.'
'You know, I mean, he's a good
shot, hell, three dead and not even one returned fire. So what
d' you want to do about it
'What do you mean?'
'Well are we gonna to look for
this vigilante or are we gonna shut the case?'
'These bandannas have been pissing
in my pool for the last seven years. I'm gonna take 'em down,
don't you worry about that. But how can I get a fucking lead
if these pricks keep on capping them? How the fuck am I supposed
to question a corpse!?'
'Ease up, sir.'
'You watch your fucking mouth!
We're gonna find this shit. He's been jerking me off for months.'
'What? You think it's the same
guy as in that O'Reilly incident?'
'What the hell d' you think?
Same shit different day. One guy, who no-one seems to be able
to describe, wipes out six gangsters, and nothing's taken. It's
the same vigilante alright.'
'But there's no proof.'
'It's the same guy.'
'How do you know?'
'Are you questioning me? I've
been fighting gun crime in this town for'
'For fifteen years, I know.'
The lieutenant took a packet
of cigarettes from his coat pocket and tapped it against the
back of his hand until one appeared amidst the others. He raised
it to his lips took out his Zippo lighter. It had the Playboy
symbol engraved on it. He lit the cigarette and then stuffed
both lighter and packet back into his pocket.
The police had taken their time
to arrive. It had been a busy night. A contraband firearms bust
had been taking place at the docks, the other side of town.
Three officers dead and most of the shipment escaped. Dobson
was in no mood to deal with his protégé's disillusions
of importance. 'So how are we gonna find him?'
'We'll find him.'
'So where do you want to start?'
The tobacco burned steady as
Dobson inhaled. He held the smoke in his mouth for a few seconds,
waiting for Dovet's patience to wear down. He breathed the smoke
out of his nostrils and watched as the two pillars of smoke
dissipated into the night's chill. '...O'Reilly's.'
Louten Avenue. March 5th,
The back door of a Chinese restaurant
burst open and a lone figure ran out colliding with the opposite
wall. His left arm broke his fall, scraping against the jagged
bricks. He clutched his right thigh and fell into a broken run
towards the faint streetlights at the end of the alley, past
heavy fumes emitting from the vents, blood imprinted with every
other step. Hearing the sound of pursuit, he gritted his teeth
and looked back, the road so close.
As his head turned a dark figure
ran towards him, bringing his right fist in his wake, ready
to strike, but as the wounded man made a fist to block, the
aggressor withheld and raised his left foot instead, pounding
on the bloodied thigh. The man screamed with agony. A quick
jab in the ribcage and he doubled over, his hands outstretched
on the dirty ground. A knee met his face and he fell back again,
blood now running freely from his face. He tried to clench his
fists but they wouldn't hold.
The dark figure stood over him,
a grimace of satisfaction on his face.
The old man reached down and
took the young man by the hair pulling him up to his knees forcing
his head back.
The victim struggled against
the heavy wrist but to no avail. The grip tightened. The youth
riled as he saw his captor raise an open palm before him. His
exposed neck seemed so fragile then, but that wasn't what was
in danger. He raised his hands to protect his nose, but the
old man just kicked them out of the way and planted a hard foot
on his wrist.
The drum of his pulse filled
his ears. The hand raised again. The
Light. Blinding light
flooded over them. Noise. Sirens blared out in their direction.
A loud speaker. A command, an order. 'Stand back! Hands on your
head!' Moments of confusion. The old man covered his eyes. His
Hands shot to the aggressor's
wrist and twisted. A breath later he was halfway up the fire
escape in the alleyway with wiry police voices calling him back
and firing into the black.
They turned their attention
back to the second man and met nothing but a spotlight amid
shadow. No sign. No sound. Vanished.
Flat 7, Nirvana Apartments.
March 5th, 21:26
'You need a doctor. You're lucky
you didn't bleed to death. Look, are you gonna say something?'
Carol withdrew the damp cloth from his thigh and huffed in frustration.
'That's it? Thanks? How about
telling me what the hell is going on? Last I saw of you, you
were going out for some Chinese food, next thing I know you're
lying outside my door, clothes torn to shreds and blood staining
the carpet. You know I'm going to lose my security deposit because
of that. I'm not your own personal nurse, you know.
'Sorry. I'll find somewhere
else.' He made to stand but she pushed him back down onto the
'Don't be stupid. Where else
would you go?' She went on to clean the wound, taking care not
to sting him too badly with the antiseptic. 'So how did this
He remained silent, preferring
to keep the story inside his own head.
'Huh? You get into a fight with
a dog? No
too clean... You haven't been picking a fight
with gangsters have you? She giggled to herself, the thought
almost too ridiculous to contemplate.
'It's a long story.'
'Fine, if that's how you want
to play it. But just don't expect me to always be here to sew
you back together. I have a life too, you know.' Carol placed
her patient's hand on the damp cloth and took out a needle and
thread from a medical kit she kept in her room. Closing one
eye she placed the thread carefully in the eye before raising
his hand again and removing the quickly bleeding wound. He winced
as he saw the needle approach. Carol smiled at his reaction.
'You're not scared of a needle, are you?'
I just thought
there'd be another way of doing it.'
'There is, but it doesn't always
hold. This is a guarantee. Besides, I don't have any clips for
this kind of injury. If you want I can call the hospital, but
you'll have to explain what happened.'
'No. It's ok.' Carol proceeded
to sew the wound together, wiping away any excess blood as she
did so. He cringed with each piercing but didn't make a fuss.
When she was done she cleaned
the skin again and took out a fresh bandage and wrapped his
thigh. She tied the knot a little tight just to make him take
notice. This wasn't the first time she'd found him bleeding
from a wound that he wouldn't explain and she doubted it would
be the last, though she didn't understand how he could lose
so much blood and still be standing. 'Look, Nick is coming round
this evening; bringing a bottle of red. I was going to make
a casserole.' She waited for a look of rejection or a reply
of unreasoned jealousy, but neither came so she went on. 'Now
I'm gonna have to settle for frozen steak. Look, are you gonna
hang around here tonight, 'cause if you are tell me now so I
can change plans.'
'Don't bother. I'll take care
of myself.' He made to rise again and this time she didn't stop
him. He clumsily fell onto his good leg, still clearly suffering
from a spell of dizziness. His trouser leg fell at his side
like an abandoned swab cloth.
Carol watched him walk off with
a hunch. His tight back was carrying far too much unseen weight.
As he walked he reached over to his shoulder. One of two symmetrical
scars ran under his fingers, down his collar bone. They seemed
to pain him. He never spoke about them, so Carol had no idea
how they were sustained.
He stumbled in to the bathroom.
The doorbell rang. Carol glanced at her watch and swore for
letting time fly past her. She ran to the door, taking out her
hair stick, letting her tresses tumble about her shoulders.
As she opened it, she threw
the blood stained cloth aside and grabbed her purse. Nick smiled
and handed her a wrapped bottle of wine. '
She placed a hand on his chest
and pushed him out of the doorway before he could get his foot
in. 'I need to get out of the house, I feel awful; can't cook.
Take me somewhere.' Carol took hold of the door and called back
before closing it. 'See you later, Hun.'
With slight puzzlement Nick
stepped backwards, 'Hun?'
Akatoy Tower. March 5th,
'Fifty thousand now and another
fifty thousand when you bring me his head.' The old man slid
a briefcase across the desk to his guest, who reached for it
with good grace. He didn't lose sight of his host, not even
when he unlocked it and checked the contents.
Closing the briefcase again,
the man rested it next to his seat and nodded.
'Just one mark.' He slid a photograph
to a waiting hand. It was a perfect portrait of a young Japanese
man, black hair brown eyes, well built with a patterned tattoo
on his arm. 'Do not underestimate him. He is a devil in disguise.
I've lost many men on his trail already.'
'Mr. Akatoy, I am sure that
your men are well trained and formidable, however, please, you
would do well to leave this to me.'
'Your reputation is formidable,
that is why I am hiring you. However, you would do well to remember,
I too have a formidable reputation. Fail me and you will see
what my reputation stands to. Interfere with my business or
ventures and the like will occur. You are being hired to eliminate
a mark, not to stalk me.'
The man slid the photograph
into his jacket pocket and raised his brow in humoured offence.
'I have no idea what you are getting at, Mr. Akotoy.'
'As I said, you have a renowned
reputation.' Akotoy proceeded to take newspapers from a hidden
source and to throw them onto the table. 'G. F. Garrison, murdered
by hit-man. D. Aaronsby, assassinated by unknown villain. There
are more, but I am sure you are aware of each and every case.
You enjoy targeting businessmen, big targets. Trust me, Mr.
Kiv, you are being assigned a job by me. If I discover that
your loyalties are being tainted, I will have no issue with
reconsidering our arrangement. Understood?'
'Understood.' Kiv made to stand.
His black shirt and suit collar shimmered in the faint light.
He picked up his case and tucked his chair in.
The room was long and it took
him some moments to reach the door, but when he did Akotoy called
him. 'Mr. Kiv, he is more deadly than he appears. Be careful.'
'I am always careful, Mr. Akotoy.
That's why I'm still alive.'
Flat 7, Nirvana Apartments.
March 6th, 00:47
The door creaked open ajar but
stopped there. Carol's handbag found its way past the barriers
of wood and darkness and rested on the key table in the hallway,
but the owner remained outside in the hall for a few more, silent
Once emotions had been shared
and future arrangements had been confirmed, Carol allowed herself
be swallowed back into her home where she had left her stray
hours before. There were no sounds and no lights. A frustration
that perhaps he had gone again covered her, then she heard a
She walked towards her bedroom
and the sounds grew louder. It wasn't fear, it was confusion
mixed with anxiety. She wanted to know what was going on, she
wasn't scared of it.
She pushed the door open until
she could see who whole room before her, but all she saw was
darkness and a silhouette on her bed. 'Jei? Are you okay?' She
reached to turn on the lights but was interrupted by a panicked
voice to refrain from doing so. She paused, a little unsure
of herself. Why was she taking orders from someone in her flat?
No, she would turn on the light and see what he was doing in
her room, on her bed.
As soon as the light was turned
on she wished she could turn it off again and with it the image
the lay before her. Blood, so much blood, staining her duvet,
her carpet, her walls even. A massacre and yet no victim. A
horror and yet no corpse. 'What in the name of God happened
'Please, don't let me go, please
don't let them take me.' The words came out broken, like unsure
cries from a child to his parent asking not to be made to go
to school, or to a place where they would be without constant
care and attention. 'Don't let them take me, I
survive out there, not without
Carol was at his side, but found
it difficult to find ways to comfort him. He was stained with
blood all over his shoulders and back. There was so much blood
and yet he was still conscious, still in congress of himself.
The blood was running from his collar bones, where the scars
were. They seemed to be fresh and new, they seemed to be only
just healed, still red and sore. The blood must have come from
there, but how, why? What was Jei not telling her, except everything?
He fell against Carol's arm
and seized it like a child. His pleas for help made less and
less sense until he was half asleep, shaking in irregular spasms
of pain or tortured memory. Carol hushed him and lowered her
lips until they were brushing against his hair. 'I'm here for