(continued from the intro…)
“Call this my observational critique because to simply sit here and bash men is not productive. The fact is, many people have come through our organization and stayed, washed out and to be frank, some died. None have earned the right to be a ‘November’ – haven’t even come close. Believe me, I’ve been keeping my eyes open.
“There are too many game junkies. A few high scores and witty comments on a video game doesn’t make you a November. Neither does an imaginary mission with some other group of confabulators – there’s no risk. And guess what? You all come back alive with no consequences to bear. My favorites are the big-mouthed tough guys. A few bar fights, maybe you were in a little street gang and you were the enforcer… Well, by all means seek out the Rayne clan because that’s exactly what we need! You’d be wrong – on both counts.”
Her words would prove prophetic but at the time Boris only had one thing nagging him. He could no longer stand the agony of not knowing and broke down, “Excuse me, who isLot’s wife?”
“Stop the car,” RazDivine said.
“Oh boy,” the guy sitting behind him chuckled.
“This is amusing? OK then, please inform us all whoLot’s wife is,” she said to “Chuckles”.
“I don’t know. She’s… I just…” he replied. He wasn’t laughing anymore, Boris reflected.
“Genesis 19:26,” came from the seat behind the driver. “Lot was told to leave before the Lord was going to destroySodomandGomorrah. Once they got out of there the Lord set forth his wrath; as they made their retreatLot’s wife turned around to look and was turned to a pillar of salt.”
“We got us a Pastor on our hands,” Chuckles said.
“So when you’re making a quick get away,” said the person sitting next to the Pastor, “you don’t look back.”
“Yay! There’s hope yet.” RazDivine cheered. “Eve,” she said giving the driver a signal.
A tall, quiet woman, also dressed in form fitting black, with her hair pulled back in an Afro-puff exited the driver’s side of the car. While outside her hands moved fluidly, slipping on the surgical gloves. Boris knew because he heard the familiar SLAP! of rubber hitting her skin. His door flew open.
“Out,” Eve said.
Boris was crestfallen – why couldn’t he have kept his mouth shut?
Suddenly, Eve’s arm flew by and she yanked the man sitting next to him out of the car and down on the street. Her slim, lightly muscled frame belied her strength – Chuckles was twice her size. None of the other guys saw the syringe of the powerful sedative and within seconds Chuckles was knocked out, left for whomever to find him on the side of the road.
“Get in and close the door,” Eve said to Boris climbing back in the car. Boris made sure he slammed the door shut and locked it.
“And there lies lesson number two. Never be afraid to ask for assistance for what you don’t know! I’d rather have you ask me what I mean when I say, “two-and-two” than assume I mean four and get us all killed.”
“Or worse,” Eve added. “Pinched!”
“Gentlemen, there’s only you three – two more than usual who make it to the car. If you keep your wits about you and listen to your mentors, you can be tremendous assets. Eyes open, ears open, show humility. I am RazDivine, you don’t know me well enough to call me by any other name, so don’t. Stick with me boys and you’ll become part of a family who are the most coveted Chess Players around.”
He found the term amusing but it fit. She’d never incriminate herself or her clan. And, like chess, there was always a plan within a plan five steps ahead of the rest, to protect the interests of the king – the king being their clan in this case.
Every word was careful and thought out, most of all the part about them doing something stupid to leave the safety of their pond.
The man sitting next to “Pastor” didn’t make it past the two-week mark. His final lesson was “Eve”, who wasn’t just a driver, was a truncated version of “Evil”, as in Evil Rayne. Her lithe figure and fluid movements made him over confident when he challenged her in hand-to-hand combat. His weight only served as a hindrance, Eve tossing him about the ring like he was a big sandbag rag doll.
We were never supposed to say his name again, Boris thought. Then again, doing things he wasn’t supposed to do is what had him the pickle he was now.
Robert had been banished from the pond. He accused Eve of cheating, not fighting fair and throwing him around like a “goddamn pussy” – that was all a skinny bitch like her could do. Then he compounded his mistake by shouting his frustrations at RazDivine, demanding that he be allowed to fight men of his own caliber.
Perhaps if he would have used a more humble tone to plead his case or maybe if didn’t call the women he’d seen thus far of being nothing more than gatekeepers for the real bosses, who he’d concluded had been giving him the runaround; perhaps if he wouldn’t have taken that last cheap shot at a woman who’d been throwing him all over the place without much effort only moments before – and was reborn as Evil…
RazDivine’s unaffected face (dubbed, “the stupid look”) was the last thing he saw before Evil stabbed both his eyes out with the scorer’s pencil. It was the hard way to learn you don’t mess around with Evil Rayne; Robert was left to the same fate as Chuckles, out of the pond for the rest of his sightless life.
“And what of me?” he asked himself, dashing from behind his hiding place toward another. He spied two buildings that created a welcoming alleyway, which would lead him to a higher (no pun intended) and better vantage point. If he could make it there without being shot in the back his pursuer would be in a world of trouble whether Boris was on drugs or not.
It was unfortunate for Boris, his circumstance. He could never have known he was doomed from the moment he took the unauthorized gig and that none other than the legacy – November Rayne, was chasing him. Boris was headed to his light at the end of the tunnel, exactly where November wanted him to go.
There was a conspiracy afoot that he’d placed himself smack in the middle of.
His hubris clashed with Evil Rayne too; she looked so cool as if nothing in the world bothered her. He’d wanted a grenade or a motion activated mine, something loud that goes, “BOOM!” for his next test and Eve handed him the most basic tools, the makings for a Molotov cocktail. Boris was insulted.
“It’s a training exercise, dude. Damn, y’all are down for a couple months and you think you can nuke anything without showing what you got with the building blocks,” she’d said. “Let’s see what you can do with this before you get those big boy toys.”
It was evident now that she was right but at the time – and when she said, “Good luck,” with that wicked smirk on her face it was too much. It made no difference that he did considerable damage to the façade of the test building (an abandoned factory in the very neighborhood he was fleeing for his life) with a mere Molotov cocktail, Boris’s ire had been stoked. So when the buzz circulated pertaining to a strange guy pestering the Pastor about a game any junior Chess Player could tackle, and the Pastor refused, Boris sought after that man – and his first hit. He reasoned it would put him closer to a November than any of the others, and by “others” there was only the Pastor.
If Boris had suspected it was a test, as the Pastor had, he would have saved himself the enormous crapstorm he’d stepped in. For in a conspiracy, as in a game of chess, the pawns are expendable.
In his haste to make a name for himself Boris had forgotten his second lesson: Never be afraid to ask for assistance for what you don’t know! It didn’t occur to him to ask how this anonymous man knew the Pastor was a newbie or how he new where to find him? There were proper channels for such things yet the client never used them. The Pastor’s paranoia saved him; Boris’s pride sent him to his doom.
The hit was messy.
His marks were where the client said they would be, in a piece-of-shit motel off a major thruway.
He knew the place, the parking lot was always swarming with activity as the night workers made bids and conducted negotiations before entering rooms anxious tricks were ready to sneak in. Anyone looked like everyone, as amber street lamps cast shadows that played with what you saw and people were careful not to be pointed out.
Something nagged at him until he reached the pea soup green door with the oversized plastic gold colored “9” on it – there was only one car in the parking lot. It was primetime on a Friday night and only one car sat in an empty parking lot?
“Get yourself together now,” Boris said tapping his forehead. He dismissed the feeling as nerves; it would be his first time – to kill someone up close and personal.
Maybe he should kick the door in, he remembered thinking, just in case they’d used the deadbolt. A dump like that wouldn’t have the best locks; he could skip the keycard altogether.
Boris decided it would be better to use stealth. He’d walked in the door using a master keycard, hesitated for a moment as he and a well dressed gentlemen sitting on the bed locked eyes. Boris killed him, his silencer prevented any concerned motel dwellers from coming to investigate.
“There’s supposed to be a woman here too,” he whispered.
He tried his best to swallow back the panic that was making its way up his throat. The last thing he needed was to scream and bring the whole thing crashing down, get himself arrested before he could spend his bounty – or gloat. Who would he tell first, Evil Rayne or that goody-goody Pastor? After this, he’d get all the “big boy toys” he wanted but not if he didn’t finish the job.
The panic stopped at his armpits as he felt rivers of sweat running down his sides. He turned to leave the room, wait outside for the woman to come back, when he heard water running in the bathroom sink – someone turned it off. Sweat broke out across his forehead and on palms; Boris squeezed as close as he could to the tiny closet door for an easy shot.
“I think we have enough for… Oh my g- ”
Some say when you’re blind all your other senses are heightened. It is the same when a person knows, somewhere deep in their carnal brain, that they are about to die. It was the silent exhalation from Boris’s mouth that sounded like a windstorm to her and made her whip her head away from the mess on the bed to the exact spot Boris stood trying to hide – gun aimed right at her head.
“FIRE!” she cried, because to scream anything else would go ignored. Lovers, freaks, they say everything in the throws of passion.
Boris stood frozen when he saw her face. Panic had overcome him but not the kind of paralyzing fear of not being able to finish the job. He’d come to the realization that this was bigger than he’d bargained for. Boris stood face-to-face with one of the leading independent investigative journalists in the Western Hemispheric Block, perhaps the world!
Ms. Jacinta Scottford was the lead reporter on a very popular news blog No Investigation No Right To Speak! She tangled with the corrupt Troika on many occasions; she took on greedy corporations and she was relentless in trying to expose the powerful Braithwaite family’s ties in government corruption – and she always received death threats. Boris never thought he would be the one carrying out the execution; the heat on him would be tremendous. There was no gloating on this job, in fact, he wished there was some way he could transport himself out of the room.
When she screamed, “FIRE!” a second time he swung into action, letting off two shots to her gut. He missed.
Jacinta did something unusual which made a smile spread across his face recalling it – she fought back.
It was obvious no one was going to come rescue her from the musty little room that she refused to be her coffin so she ran toward a shooting (and missing) Boris and thrust out a right jab to his mouth. He knew the familiar salty taste and felt warmth coming down his chin a lot quicker than he expected. She’d split his lip open.
“Ow! Son-of-a-bitch!” he said and slapped her across the face. He watched her fall to the floor, took aim and was surprised again when she rolled between the two beds near the nightstand.
“C’mon, it’s a damn room,” Boris said, frustrated, “there’s not many places you can hide.”
She popped up from between the two beds brandishing something shiny.
“Where the hell did you get that?” he asked, scared. This woman was not going down alone.
“Who do you work for, Philip Braithwaite? You one of his goons?”
“Lady I’m independent, just like you.”
“No one is independent.”
“If you think so, you’re a lot dumber than you look,” she said as she flew over the bed with the dead man on it, and thrust herself at Boris.
He spun but not quick enough; her blade caught the side of his cheek opening a fresh cut just below his eye. Jacinta’s forward motion caused her to land awkwardly on her face – right near the unlocked door. She could hear her inner voice screaming to run for it, get to another room and call for help. But the reality of her situation kicked in, her journalist’s voice prevailed and she concurred that she’d be shot in the back before her hand turned the knob. She’d hit the career slam dunk story of the century! She was close to knowing everything. Like a whisper behind the cloaked faces, and they sent a hired gun to make sure no one found out how close she was.
If they would kill one of their own…
Jacinta had to fight this man! He was hurt and an obvious amateur as evidenced by his hesitation. It made him sloppy which was just the opportunity that she needed.
She felt Boris standing over her and spun on her back thrusting the blade up until she couldn’t see any more of the shiny metal in her hand.
They both looked at each other with surprise – Boris being a little more of the two. Jacinta had done it and was slowly on the brink of laughing hysterically. His face was a mask of disbelief that resembled a Saturday morning cartoon, bulging eyes and mouth agape. She could hear the funny bells in her head and when the final “boing” brought her back to her senses, Jacinta turned to run for the door. Boris’s final attempt stayed true and sent the intrepid reported crashing into the front door. It was done.
His stomach started to churn; Jacinta he’d shot clean but the man had a head wound. A .45 might make a pretty hole going in but the back of the man’s head, the bed he sat on, and some of the old tube television told an entirely different story. He stayed away from the guy and decided he’d search Jacinta for any perks she might have on her – like her watercard. He sized up the tiny little room noticing it was a lot smaller and way messier.
“I’d hate to be the schmuck that has to clean this,” he said and clutched at the handle protruding from his body.
“You,” he grunted pointing at Jacinta’s corpse, “are just like the lady I see on TV, tough as Hell. I’m sorry I had to be the one to do this. I shoulda never taken this job. Please excuse my behavior.” Boris searched her with as much respect as he could and found the thin blue card he was looking for.
“Bingo. This should have some major credit on it,” he said with a grimace. The knife wound was beginning to hurt. He was slipping the card in his sock pocket, when he noticed his peripheral fill with the familiarity of the dead man’s face; nerve endings tingled all over his body.
“It can’t be possible! Holy… I’m friggin dead! It’s – he’s from the Troika,” Boris gasped. His hands started to shake while he finished cleaning the corpses of whatever valuables and credits they had on their person.
And then, as if he’d heard nothing any of his mentors and “co-workers” ever said, Boris opened the case.
He walked to the bed without the dead body on it and picked up Jacinta Scottford’s tablet. It was still on, undamaged, and it hadn’t been set for sleep mode. She was conducting an interview with this man, Thomas Nguyen, President of the Afro-European Block – the second block of the Troika. Here was the most powerful man in it with some of his grey matter smattered over the TV screen of a cheap motel. Why did he have to conduct this interview here instead of in the posh offices he had available to him anywhere he wanted to go?
Boris touched the screen of Jacinta’s tablet to find out.
Scottford: “You’ll have to give me a lot more than that, Tommy.”
Nguyen: “Don’t worry, you’ll get it.”
Scottford: “What about it airing? You know they’ll shut the whole station down before they let something like this get out to the people. You can’t keep underestimating the power of Philip Braithwaite.”
Nguyen: “And you can’t keep underestimating my connections, Ms. Scottford. There is a great interest to see that this gets told. The Braithwaites are stepping on some powerful Multinational toes. All you need is a signal.”
Scottford: “Yeah, but can you make sure they don’t shut down my blog?”
Nguyen: “I can guarantee a signal.”
Scottford: “Multinationals want to help the people? Hmph! They must be losing a lot of money on this deal.”
Nguyen: “Ms. Scottford, your feelings for Multinational Corporations and our Government aside, you must admit when we pull this off it will be very beneficial to your career.”
Scottford: “Let’s not act like you don’t – ”
Nguyen: “Stop right there, Jacinta. When I leave here, I’ll have to tenure my resignation and disappear before they kill me. Please take me seriously when I tell you the enormity of what’s going on here. It’s terrible! You are the only reporter that would listen to this story. The rest of your tough-as-nails colleagues are children who either ran scared or refused to believe me!”
Scottford: “No offense, Tommy, but you’re the President of the 2nd most powerful Block in the Troika, it’s kind of your job to tell us tales. Maybe I wouldn’t have believed you either.”
Nguyen: “But you did. And you’ll have all the proof you need to expose this. And make no mistake, Jacinta, you have to expose this. The 49 Project, if allowed to come to fruition will be catastrophic for our planet. Do you understand? Billions of people will be wiped out and our generous benefactors, the Braithwaites, will have complete dominion over all.”