A wise man once asked, “What’s in the case?” He was lucky enough to be the kind of a man who could deal with the answer.
The time Boris lived in, the acquaintances he chose to make, did not afford him the same luxury. His circle of “co-workers” advised him to never ask what was in the case – a job stayed a job when one didn’t make too many inquiries.
Boris never really had much good sense.
The burst of lysergic acid diethylamide cocktail he was given traipsed across his synapses and RazDivine’s famous look of disapproval flashed before his eyes in vivid color. Boris felt himself falling in the slowest of slow motion to the ground. Of course he knew he was tumbling faster than his drugged up brain reasoned but if he didn’t hit the ground soon, he’d be done for – the hurried steps behind him were getting closer. Dankness and grime surrounded Boris and he didn’t need any working streetlamps, which were rare down in these parts, to see his scraped palms weren’t just covered in street muck, blood was there too. He sighed, his wound was worse than when he first checked it.
“Dead fish,” he said.
Isn’t that what RazDivine had called them? His epiphany under the influence made him agree without hesitation.
Boris laughed turning over on his back, the ice-cold ground caressing his body, as he prepared to get up and run again. For a moment he just stared at the night sky and smiled. You could see the stars from here, not like in the city with all those tall buildings and damn lights.
The stars looked so beautiful…
This would have been the perfect night for him to be reborn.
“I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t have someone stitch me up with a rusty needle and make me scrub out toilets for the rest of the year.”
Boris laughed again.
“‘Rusty’. That’s what she’ll call me. My rebirth will be as Rusty. ‘Boris Jacob Price’, she’ll say, ‘I dub thee Rusty Toilets’!” and he allowed himself a loud, long guffaw.
When the last echoes of his laughter stopped he could hear the grit of his pursuer’s shoes – trying and failing to be as silent as possible, vying for a closer look at the prey.
Boris reached in his jacket for his holstered Beretta and squeezed off three rounds. That, he figured, would buy him a little time to get up and slip into the dark labyrinth of Commercial Row, which held the key to his escape. There was a series of abandoned factories that were overrun by squatters, indigents, and addicts, which he found amusing, as no one would be able to make the distinction between him in his current condition, and a nodder who’d been copping for years. He’d hoped to lose his predator in the maze of alleys.
Another drug induced epiphany occurred.
“I was just like they called the rest, a chauvinist jackass,” he said crouching behind a dumpster. “A little smarter but not smart enough.”
Boris remembered it was unusually cold for mid-September as he studied the potential apprentices he found himself a part of. All 11 of them were competitive Alpha males who refused to be bundled up in warm clothes as he was. Some of the men wore nothing but the traditional blue sweatsuit, while others thought it more impressive to wear shorts. Whatever the attire, Boris knew they were all waiting in the drafty hangar sized room to become men of influence, a Chess Player – an assassin. These people were a feared system of governmental checks-and-balances; the Family Rayne being one of the more lethal groups…
And none of the men hid the shocked look on their face when a woman walked to the front of the room and announced herself as the Family Rayne representative. In Boris’s drugged haze he recalled it as if he were standing there and not hiding amongst the trash.
She sure did look the part.
RazDivine met every gaze; she was wearing a deep blue leather coat that almost touched the floor. The collar obscured her face just enough that a witness, if called, could never be reliable to any law enforcement official. He didn’t know if the others noticed but her black leather boots (“They were 3 inch heels; why do I know they were 3 inch heels?”) had a dull sheen that Boris guessed she kept that way. No shiny surfaces attracting attention to her. RazDivine was a specter blending in with changing shadows, a phantom memory one could forget they ever saw.
“I like to get to the point, gentlemen,” she said, every action deliberate and cool, even the removing of her black Rekanize shades, “so I will – please don’t speak until you are permitted.
“You will be given a number of names by your, let’s just call them ‘mentors’ for the sake of saying so. ‘Freshmen’, ‘fresh fish’, ‘fresh meat’, ‘bait’ – you see what I’m saying? More often than not you will hear me refer to you as ‘dead fish’. Because you’re all fish in a pond and it’s been my experience that you will do stupid things to get yourself out of the aforementioned pond, thereby causing your death. Don’t bother disputing this; I’ve seen my share of dead fish to know what I’m saying is not subjective. What can be, is the number of you who will stick around long enough to become part of a distinct few that get on my nerves, on a regular basis.”
“Exactly what will our classes be?” someone asked, his face riddled with skepticism.
She sighed, “Excuse me, what now?”
“You use the term ‘freshmen’ like we’re in school or something. OK, I’ll bite, we’re in school, we supposed to be studying in this?” he asked waving his hand around the drafty room. “And what about the ‘November’, what do we have to do to get one?”
That guy should have listened RazDivine’s instructions – don’t speak!
“You have to walk out the door, make a right, and take the elevator to the 2nd floor. Room 205. Tell the man there that the lady downstairs sent you up.”
Later, Boris learned, the dissenter was a rookie cop. There were plenty of them, operatives trying to infiltrate Chess Player clans, their nervous bosses hoping to get the jump on catastrophes they left in their wake. He speculated the overzealous rookie probably got bounced to the basement. No fast track for that guy, no name in the papers for his great undercover work; he was walking a beat in a neighborhood like this, handing out tickets to nodders in the streets.
He remembered the guy walking out the door, even had the gall to say “thanks” and all but five of the so-called Alphas followed to their regret.
“And there is lesson number one,” she’d said. “When I give instructions I expect you to follow them. It’s so much easier when you do – I’m right, often – it’s scary how often. For instance, those idiots followed a man I’m certain is a brand new, probably first time, undercover. They’re going to a gentleman up there who’s going to tell them, ‘Sorry, you failed, no need to ever look us up again’. And it will be each one of those individuals own fault.
“Now our fine young undercover has to give his superiors something since he didn’t complete his objective, so all those fools are going in for processing and we know this room isn’t filled with a bunch choir boys, don’t we? The only thing the investigators will have on the rest of you are the words of a drunken old man from the 2nd floor who will tell them the truth: a woman paid me to stay up here and say ‘sorry’ if anyone walked in the room. Etcetera and so forth.”
“Yeah, this all sounds great and, no offense Sweetheart, but you’re pointing out the obvious,” another one of the men stated. “Look, you seem like a good rep and everything but November is the reason most of us came here,” the rest of the men nodded in agreement. “When are we going to meet him?”
“Out that door and instead of a right you make a left then a left again. Knock twice before you open the door.”
Another tough guy sent on his way and she never lifted a finger. Boris thought the likelihood of him ever seeing RazDivine get her hands dirty was slim if she dealt with morons like them.
“Like me,” he whispered.
She asked, “Did you see that? It never becomes less unbelievable. I mean he just saw me, not only seconds ago, tell a – I can’t take it…” She sighed again, shook her head and addressed the final four, “I guess it’s just you all then. We have to move in haste so follow me, gentlemen, and let’s not be Lot’s wife about it.”
Who on Earth was Lot’s wife? Boris wanted to ask, unsure whether or not it was another test. He decided against it, keeping as quiet as he could, observing the other three men.
“Never assume anything,” she’d warned once they were in the comfort of the black Cadillac STS. “If you don’t obtain key facts before you embark on anything you may do for yourself, unnecessary grief will be the outcome. I don’t like the unnecessary, you understand? It’s also important that you keep in mind your mentor may be a man or a woman. I know you came here because you’ve heard many anecdotes about the Family Rayne, particularly November. I wonder how many of the men that seek our clan would be so vigilant if they knew their hero was a heroine? You saw what went on back there? Disgusting. Our original November left quite the legacy that our family won’t allow some hyperactive dead fish tarnish….