#5.3

This is a short chapter from the novel I’m currently proof reading and editing. It’s originally in Swedish, but I translated this part. I know it won’t make much sense without a context, but I couldn’t help myself. Enjoy! 😉


 

The same kind of darkness, the same night. An entirely different room. The walls of the office: stained wooden paneling. The desk: dark oak, probably antique. The style otherwise: so super modern that the wooden details felt like stylish design decisions. Getting inside had not been difficult; the man who owned the office had paid well for his murderer’s education. Soon he, too, would be dead.

Malcolm hadn’t even bothered to hide. This time he had removed the light bulb from the lamp in the ceiling, and the shadows along the walls did the rest of the job. When the sounds of traffic from outside were joined by those of footsteps on the stairs and the rustling of keys, he didn’t even feel nervous. If any feeling at all pierced through his concentration, it was excitement.

The man who opened the door didn’t even look around. With hurried, purposeful steps he moved over to the desk and started unlocking one of the drawers. His movements were stiff, irritated. He had received a call about an hour ago, the higher ups wanted a report. Tonight. He didn’t like being ordered around like this – if they only knew who they were dealing with. He would have liked the situation even less had he known who was really behind that call – and who was now slowly shutting the door behind him.

A click. The man turned around.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Malcolm smirked at him from the shadows. “I’m here to report. Samuel Edmunds is dead, just as you ordered. In his hotel room after the conference. No surviving witnesses.”

The man just stared at him for several seconds. Then he took a step forward. “Are you out of your fucking mind? You cannot come here. You’re not supposed to come here. You know perfectly well how our communication is supposed to work. Are you aware of the risk you have put me in by –”

Malcolm calmly cocked the gun he was holding at his side. The man stopped dead. Something in his eyes changed.

“Take it easy”, Malcolm said. “I’m perfectly aware of the risk I’m putting you in by coming here tonight. The question is, are you?”

The man cleared his throat. Struggled hard to retain his authority. Failed fatally. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you threatening me? Do you have any idea what I could do to you? You are nobody, and I know everything about you. Everything. If you try to pressure me in any way, I will –”

“I’m not here to pressure you for money”, Malcolm replied. “But you do have a point. You know way too much about me, and that is why we are standing here.”

“Does Nicholas know that you are here?” Fear now, in his eyes and in his voice.

Now Malcolm laughed, he could not help himself. “I strongly doubt that.”

One second of silence. Hesitation, insecurity. He cannot read me. Has no idea what I am planning.

”Listen”, the man said finally. The voice was mimicking that of a confident man, but not very convincingly so. “Nicholas doesn’t need to know about this. In fact, nobody needs to know. If you want to talk retainer, then let’s do that. A phone call or a middle man would of course have been better, but now that we are–”

Malcolm slowly shook his head and the man’s voice trailed off. “We are not going to talk retainer. Actually, we are not going to do anything together at all. I am going to shoot you in the head, and you are going to drop dead on top of that overvalued carpet. Then I am going to take that sheet with account information that you are holding in your hand and walk away.”

The man swallowed hard. His eyes darted nervously. ”This is insane, and you know it. My colleagues will send people after you. You’ll not stand a chance if you do this.”

“Well, yes I will”, Malcolm said. “But only if I pay them a visit as well.” Then he raised his gun and did exactly as he had promised.

With the bloodstained and unbelievably valuable sheet of paper tightly clutched in his hand he then hurriedly left the office. He had two more men to visit before sunrise, and several bank accounts to empty. He still wasn’t entirely sure that he knew what he was doing, but it was too late to back out now. Come morning he would be free, but before that he would have to file a letter of resignation signed in blood. There was no time for hesitation – Nicholas had taught him that.

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A Dream In Blue

It was late. Jonathan was late. He parked his car by the curb and drummed impatient rhythms on the wheel. Completing his errands had taken too long, and he had barely had time to get properly dressed before hurrying here. When she showed up in the doorway, however, he instantly thanked himself for sacrificing those extra moments in front of the mirror. She was a dream in blue and deserved far better than him, but at least he had given it his best.

He hurried out of the car and opened the door for her. Was awarded with a little kiss in return. He smiled, said the right things. He wanted her, had wanted her since they first met six days ago, but it was impossible and he knew it. It was part of who he was, of who she was. If she found out… No, he would be gone before she did, if she ever did. He wouldn’t be able to look into her eyes when that happened. Better enjoy it while it lasted and not think ahead. He returned to the driver’s seat and started the car again.

She told him about today’s rehearsal. She was a singer of some renown, and that was also how he had found her. He had heard her in concert the previous week and instantly known that she was the one. Long, dark hair, pale eyes and a voice to kill and be killed for. He knew the right people and they were introduced at a party two days later. They had met a couple of times since then. Coffees, dinners, even a movie. He had needed to get close to her, and as the days went by he had found himself wanting it as well.

He told her about his day, his work and his thoughts on tonight. The first consisted of vague generalities, the second of believable half truths and the last of outright lies. But she didn’t call his bluff and he found himself, again, enjoying talking to her. She didn’t judge, she didn’t measure and she didn’t demand. He had money, sure, but so did she and something told him that she wouldn’t mind overly much having to make due on a far more humble income. Everything about her was so different from what he was used to. He bit his lip and took a deep breath. He could not let himself fall in love with her. There really was no way.

As they approached the house he could see that several limousines and cabs had aldready been parked in the spacious driveway. All the windows were lit and through them could be seen glamorously dressed people mingling, drinking and dancing.

”Oh my god”, she laughed as he parked his car next to another of the same make. ”I can’t believe that you invited me to come with you here. This is amazing, thank you!”

”Don’t thank me”, he said as he opened the door on her side and helper her out.

”Don’t be humble”, she smiled and kissed him again, obviously misinterpreting his tone of voice. ”You’ll have to introduce me to everybody, I can’t imagine that I know anyone here.”

”I’ll introduce you to those who matter”, he said truthfully and tried not to feel, but it was hard.

They entered through the tall double doors and were instantly greeted by smiles and welcomes and enthusiasm. All fake, of course, and all according to the rules of play. He smiled back and shook hands and answered politely. They knew him very well, knew that he was below them but also that the one he worked for was not. Nobody would dare to touch him, but many would love to touch her. Luckily for him, she didn’t know this. Yet.

And she was lovely. She conversed delightfully with anyone she was introduced to, asked the right questions and laughed in the right places. She caught the attention of many, but it was when Albert Limestone – a corpulent man with a fondness for art and artists – began talking to her about potential bookings that Jonathan knew he had to get to the point with all this. He made an excuse and pulled her away from the crowd, and tried not to listen to her thrilled voice as she told him how happy she was to get to know all these new contacts. He had to do this before she killed his resolve entirely with her lovey smile and entrancing voice.

Jonathan found him at the top of the stairs. ”Tanya, here’s someone I’d like you to meet.” He led her to him, felt his pulse quicken at the sight of the predatory smile on the man’s lips when he looked at her. At the hunger and the fire in those dark eyes.

Stefán MacCormach took her hand and kissed it. ”It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tanya. My name is Stefán. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.”

She smiled and blushed and Jonathan knew what effect those eyes must have on someone not used to meeting their gaze. Terrifying and exciting and deadly, and she had no idea.

”Nice to meet you”, she said. ”Are you a friend of Jonathan’s?”

Stefán laughed humorlessly. ”Not quite. Rather of his… employer, I would say. Now, if you would be so kind as to come with me, I will tell you everything about how I know Jonathan.” He grabbed the hand he had just kissed and started leading her away.

”But… Jonathan?” She tried to turn, but Stefán just shook his head and whispered something in her ear, and she followed him.

And Jonathan remained where he was, following them with his eyes until they were gone in the crowd. These people always got what they wanted, and he hated himself more than ever.

Dawn was approaching and the party would soon be over. People were leaving, and Jonathan was hoping to be allowed to drive Tanya back home. She would hate him, of course, but she would be safe. He had never harbored any illusions, he knew he would never see her again after tonight. There was no room for her in his life, anyway. But then he was called to the basement, and that’s when he knew.

She lay on the floor, unmoving and silent, but he saw that she was breathing. He felt sick as he stepped out of the ancient elevator and approached her. They were alone, but escape was not an option. Other things than fear prevented him from leaving this place.

Stefán had wanted a singer for the party, a dark haired beauty, someone whose laughter was clear and would be interesting for him to break. Jonathan had obliged, searched and delivered, as was always his job. Now the people above had decided that she had seen and heard too much and must be dealt with accordingly. That was why Jonathan was holding a knife.

He sat down beside her and stroked her hair. He couldn’t help himself, he had fallen for her. He didn’t want to do this, but when she looked up at him and screamed he slit her throat anyway just to silence her. Now she would never sing again.

Jonathan held her as she trashed and turned and fought and bled out. He had blood all over his hands and clothes when it was over and he just sat there for a moment, realizing what he had done. But it was late now, and his masters expected him to be done with this before daybreak. So he picked her up and carried her through the basement, past the boiler room and into the small corridor with the hatch and the secret room beneath it.

And it was not until he had lowered her body into the darkness and watched it disappear amongst the floating shadows that he sat down and cried. She had been a dream in blue, and he had betrayed her and killed her. He had known somewhere that Stefán would not let her go afterwards, that was not his way. He was merciless and impulsive and hungry, just as all the others of his kind. And Jonathan could have done nothing to save her, once he had led her into the predators’ den. He was just a servant, bound by blood to do his masters’ bidding. And now he would never hear her voice again.

But then the time came for the sun to rise, and Jonathan dried his tears. There was much to be done, and he could not afford to dwell on these feelings. He had to clean the basement, sleep briefly and then wake in the afternoon to prepare the house again for tomorrow night’s guests.

The Kindred were terrifying and deadly, and their world was a banquet where lives were served each night to quench their undying thirst for blood. Jonathan was their servant, and not just fear but also greed and hunger and ambition bound him to this place. There was no room in his life for regret, and there definitely was no room in it for love or for dreams in blue. The sun rose and life went on.

A Late Night Distraction

I like writing prompts, as you might have guessed by now. Here is another text inspired by one, and you can find the prompt here.


The night was late and silent. Outside her window the large city was going to sleep and inside her office she was alone. A security guard had passed her door half an hour ago, but since then nothing had broken her solitude. Good. She didn’t like being interrupted in her work, and she had plenty of it. Running a country this size was not a full time job; it was a life. She hadn’t gotten to where she was by wasting her precious time on such petty trivialities as sleep and other useless things.

The clock struck midnight. She looked up. She didn’t have that kind of clock in her office.

”You had me killed.” The voice came from the chair in the corner, now draped in shadow. A tiny glow pierced the gloom and revealed the end of a cigarette.

She remained seated, her eyes struggling against the darkness until she could make out the face of the man staring back at her from across the room. ”Oh, it’s you”, she said and turned her attention back to the screen. She didn’t like being interrupted in her work.

Quiet laughter, not really amused but almost. ”So I’m not the only one? There are others? Jesus, you’re cold.” He rose and walked over to her end of the office. Leaned against the window and continued smoking his cigarette.

A distinct scent of old tobacco smoke started spreading in the room. It had not been easy to get that same scent out of the walls when first she had taken over this office, and now she would have to do it all over again. She sighed. ”What do you want?”

”Sharp words from a vice president towards her superior, don’t you think?”

She almost lost her temper, and abandoned her work to stare at him. ”I would think that, yes, if I hadn’t been promoted and you hadn’t been dead. Now go back to resting in peace or whatever it is that you people do, and let me do my job.”

”Wow. I had expected at least some little show of remorse from you. But I’ll tell you what I want. I want retaliation or an apology, or at least an explanation. I won’t leave until I get one of them.”

She resumed typing on her keyboard, ignoring him. ”Then I’m afraid you’ll have to make yourself comfortable, because you’re not getting any of them from me.”

”I suspected as much”, he said and returned to the chair in the corner. ”That’s why I deliberately chose tonight for my visit.”

”Is that so?” She only listened with half an ear now. She didn’t have any time to spare for ranting, vengeful ghosts. She had to work on her next promotional speech.

”Yes it is.” He blew out some smoke and put one leg over the other. Leaned back. ”That’s quite some campaign you’re running there. Water proof, even. Your opponent won’t stand a sorry chance.”

She met his eyes, surprised and somewhat disarmed. ”Thank you. I guess. That actually means something, coming from you. I know I won’t be losing to him.”

The ghost nodded, a vicious smile playing at the corners of his moth. ”And he knows that too. That’s why I’m not your only visitor tonight.”

She frowned, opening her mouth to ask him what he meant. But then the door to her office burst open and all that escaped her lips was a scream in fear before everything became pain and chaos.

And he did just as she had asked him to and made himself comfortable, as he revelled in the violence that played out before him. She stopped screaming eventually, and the killer left the office as soundlessly as just another phantom.

”Retaliation it is, then”, the ghost of her predecessor laughed quietly from his chair. Then he drifted back into the shadows and the late night became silent once more.

And all that remained was blood and a fading scent of old tobacco smoke.

Nobody Quits

Another new story in response to a writing prompt. A shorter text this time, though. Feel free to leave comments.


Saturday night. A slow paced ordeal in this sleepy backwater town. A lazy rain raps listlessly at my window and the cheap coffee in my cup is too weak to keep anyone awake. Apart from the rain the only sound is made by the Freddie Mercury clock sitting on the wall, overlooking all.

The news pieces in today’s paper are old, having already taken several beats around the net before at long last reaching the printing press. I read them anyway, savor them, even. I am able to read subtle truths in the short notices that I can never find in modern crime novels. However, being in the know is probably the only perk that comes with having led my kind of life – especially since I decided to leave it all behind.

I have almost reconciled with this existence. It’s the price I have had to pay for breaking free of all the things that once weighed me down. That, and the disgrace of soon standing in front of a jury, testifying against my old allies. I just wish living within the federal witness protection program was not so goddamn boring.

The rapping of the raindrops on my window is suddenly accompanied by a far more substantial rapping on the door. Freddie Mercury looks just as surprised as I when I turn to him for an explanation. It’s almost midnight, and I expect no visitors. I seldom do nowadays. Slowly I fold my paper and walk towards the door to look through the peephole. I’m not really afraid of strangers, I don’t think the people who want to hurt me can find me here. But even so, the sight of the man outside the door makes me freeze. I know him very well. He knocks again. I open the door.

”I see you weren’t expecting me”, he says as he lets himself in.

I close the door. ”No, but I don’t see how it is logically possible that I weren’t.”

He is wearing a hooded sweater with its sleeves rolled up. His arms are covered in large, dark tattoos and his face in metal. He also has a huge tribal across his entire back, and an ugly scar disfigures his left thigh. I know this only because I had that very tribal tattoo painfully removed five months ago, and that old knife wound still pains me after long walks. The rain composes a monotonous backdrop to our silence as I stare at him. As he stares at me. Then he walks into my living room.

”So this is what I’ll sell everything out for? I don’t believe it…”

I stand in the doorway, watching him as he pulls out my books and scrutinizes my sparse furniture. ”It became too much. You will see in time.”

He looks up at me. ”No, I won’t. This will never happen.”

I shake my head. This young man has much to learn. ”How old are you? Eighteen?”

”Nineteen, actually”, he says and I suddenly remember getting that snakebite piercing on my birthday that very year.

I nod knowingly. ”Many things can happen in seven years. Feelings change. People change.”

”I won’t change”, he says. ”I refuse to change. I refuse to become… this.” He makes a gesture that encompasses the entire room, and it’s not until now that I realize that he is holding a gun.

I take a step back, but he reacts faster. I stare at the cold piece of metal in front of my eyes just as intently as he stares at me. Fear. All I can feel is fear now, and my entire body is starting to shake.

”They told me that I am going to rat on them. That they can’t let me into the organization for real because seven years from now, I will sell them out. Don’t you see that you have ruined everything? I’ll never be anything, and it’s all because of you!” He puts the gun to my face and forces me to my knees.

I almost cannot breathe, let alone speak. But still I force myself to say something between the panicky sobs. ”But… I am you. For fuck sake, can’t you see that? My choices are your goddam choices. You can’t be serious about this. Please…”

”They have given me one option, though. If I find you and whack you before you go to that fucking trial and ruin everything, they’ll let me in. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Nobody quits.”

I wonder who ”they” are. I wonder if this can really be happening. I wonder what will happen to me, to him, if he pulls the trigger. ”Fucking idiot”, I say as he readies the gun. ”Don’t you rea –”


The echo slowly dies. Only Freddie Mercury watches on in shocked silence as the impossible unfolds, but being a clock he will never be able to tell anyone. And the slow paced Saturday night wears on in that sleepy backwater town.