Darkening Skies… Part 2

Dear Avid Reader…
        As promised Part 2 and the final instalment of the Shadows series of stories. As ever I hope you enjoy and if you’re still around I’ll have a word with you afterwards…

(If you haven’t read any of the others you really need to read Part 1 and possibly the rest of Shadows, there’s an awful lot of referencing going on in this one!)

FtF

________________________________

The panic spread through the crowd like a virus, though it didn’t affect everybody in the same way. Fight or flight was the common reaction in almost all and a good number obeyed their instincts and quickly left the area suddenly remembering pressing appointments. A large proportion, whether in possession of an unhealthy fascination with death or just glad of something to break the monotony of their humdrum lives they alone knew. Apart from the man lying atop the recently deceased who was shouting incoherently the general level of noise was much lower than that of the street normally. A traffic jam was rapidly forming as three Yellow Cabs had already pulled up near to the rapidly spreading pool of blood in front of the skyscraper. Their ‘fares seemed’ equally happy to sit and stare at macabre tableaux.

There were three people who had not reacted in the same ways as the ‘herd’. Two stood on the corner fifty yards away looking across the growing number of cars and only turning to each other once their view was completely obscured. “He is some boy!” stated the man in a simple shirt and black jeans glancing up along the street to the artificially high skyline. “Okay, what the…” began the tall black woman. She paused and looked back down the street at the café that was opposite the Late W. Burroughs (P.I). her hand went to her chest and scratched at the scar tissue atop her left breast.

“What is it?” asked her husband following her gaze.

She shook her head, “Not sure… I thought I heard something, saw something…” There was nothing untoward on the east side of the street as the sidewalk was now almost empty. Those that had chosen to stay had drifted through the stationary traffic to try and get a better point of view and the table and chair spilled outside the café was probably caused by a “rubber-necker’ in a hurry. She pulled her gaze away and grasped her husband’s hand to lead him around the corner and in the direction f the tallest building in the city.

Iz had almost seen him. He looked at her from where he stood beside the upended chair and studied the couple on the corner who had not been surprised by the turn of events across the street from him. He scratched his beard, tugging at it as he fought to control his anger. His control had slipped, he couldn’t actually remember the last time it had, it was easily a century ago if not longer and still to be seen by someone who he didn’t want to see him was a first. He felt something new and it took him a good thirty seconds to put a name to it.

“Shit” he breathed as he recognised fear within his own being. It had literally been millennia since he had felt that and only once. Here in this modern world with its ability to torture, maim and kill on an industrial scale and just be cruel by ignoring the needs of the many he hadn’t experienced it. It wasn’t exactly pure fear like his ‘Pet’ Damian was feeling across the road that was rapidly sending him down the road to insanity; it was fear of the unknown. Someone had killed the Private Investigator and someone had been aware of him even if just for the split second when his anger had been expelled through his shout.

He shook his head and thought about the tall black woman as she had strode past the café only minutes before; the way she had walked had been full of self-assurance, the way she had dismissed him with the briefest of glances, full of knowledge and confidence in herself (which of course had been fine at the time) and yet only appeared to be in her early twenties. “Fucking vampire!” he almost laughed. That much overrated Homosapien aberration whose only saving grace was that they killed lots and lots of people; he’d almost forgotten about them as the world had moved on, they really only brought pain and horror on an individual level. The Breed never embraced Globalism like he had.

He wondered was it another vampire atop the building four hundred yards away and, if so, why had he killed Burroughs so impersonally.

*****

Sean was whistling happily to himself. His target was already in sight and he was fully prepped, actually had been for an hour before Towne had shown up. He wondered again if O’Neil ever fancied being his… Facilitator; that was the word he’d been searching for all day. He felt like a demi-god, maybe just a tiny deity from the back of beyond but still; he knew absolutely everything!

He looked down at the machine and felt that was the only ‘fly in his ointment’. It wasn’t a necessary ‘evil’ he supposed and it wasn’t really the weapon of choice for a serious sniper, someone who considered himself a purist! He looked down at the fully loaded and primed Barrett 50 and felt a surge of affection. He could still use it, the ‘shot’ was easy and simple if he went with the Barratt but he wanted something special, something a little grandiose.

It was definitely going to be that and he wished he could be standing beside Towne just as he received the device from Burroughs; just as the callous bastard thought he had the world exactly where he wanted it only for it all to be taken away from him. O’Neill’s words were working in his head again; he could hear that strange accent telling him that revenge wasn’t always the solution. He knew that his fellow Irishman didn’t speak the words with any amount of conviction but had obviously felt that he needed to say something.

Of course without O’Neill he wouldn’t be here, probably would never have got here but he was and he knew the exact position of Towne and Burroughs and on the small military grade Laptop the exact position of every mobile phone within two miles if he wanted. All the CCTV’s that were connected by any type of server were also at his beck and call but he’d only brought on-line the ones in the reception and covering the main entrance where Towne was now walking impatiently.

Ferrying the not inconsiderable amount of gear up to his rooftop eerie had been child’s play as the buildings security system had happily ‘shook hands’ with the laptop and if it was capable would have been only too happy to bear its children. No camera’s saw him and no alarmed doors announced his passage and with the phone tracer he was able to ensure that another living soul was within twenty metres of him or separated by re-enforced concrete walls. The spot he had chosen was between two immense air conditioning units behind a nest of pipework with the only access to the roof chained and padlocked behind him. Almost takes the fun out of it he thought to himself.

He looked at the machine again. It didn’t strictly speaking have a name as he’d built it himself using parts from lots of different sources. In effect it was a remote operated small bore cannon. Though someone who didn’t know about these things at first glance would guess it was some sort of directional microphone or hi-tech if slightly ugly outside broadcast camera.

In effect it sat on a circular plate 600mm in diameter although he had built a ground spike version for use on soil or sand. A tiny vacuum pump kept the device secured to the patch of roof that he had cleared of protective stones. On top of the stand were six micro-servos that angled the main body in a vertical arc of 60 degrees and a horizontal one of 30 all controlled via the laptop to within a 50 microns tolerance (or as his new friend had suggested it could be linked to an I-Phone and he could dial it in from the other side of the planet). For a moment he studied the hi-res image on the laptop being sent from the ridiculously expensive camera affixed beside the barrel within the large cylinder of acoustic insulation that did indeed look a lot like the sound boom used in acoustic recording; the baffling didn’t make the gun silent by any means but down at street level it’d be like a dog barking somewhere in the distance.

Whoever had developed the RGS platform at BAE systems wouldn’t have recognised their bastardised offspring from the parent machine normally mounted beneath the CV-22 Osprey. It had been the inertial/wind-correction sight that had sold it to Sean; of course it hadn’t been sold to him at all, it had been conveniently misplaced and he’d been in the right place, conveniently, to ‘re-cycle’ it. Two years previously a client had requested a ‘spectacular’ hit in order to drive home his authority within his criminal empire.

 Sean had been toying with a notion for some time. He’d hated having to replace the barrel on his Barrett after each job in order to confound police forensics; it always took some time before he felt comfortable with the replacement so he wanted a ‘magic’ bullet that was totally untraceable. This was only the second time he used it but like the previous client he wanted to make a point.

On the screen a pair of red crosshairs hovered over Towne’s torso.

Sean picked up the Barrett, it felt as if it was a ‘security blanket’ to him and he laughed before lifting it up and aiming at the unsuspecting man down on the sidewalk. His finger twitched against the trigger guard even though he knew the safety was ‘on’. “Not yet, not yet” he breathed.

He let his senses be taken by the gun in his hand, felt the stiff breeze up here on the rooftops, noted the flags ruffling down at street level and the awning on the café opposite rippling lazily. This was the stuff that no amount of programming on a silicon chip could give you; this was what being a sniper was about. Long ago he’d figured it was some sort of spacial awareness he had, about understanding the world and the environment about him, knowing how the wind bounces like a billiard ball of the large glass panes of skyscrapers but wears to nothing the further along a rough brick wall it traverses. A child of the wind he wondered?

Sounded like he had flatulence problems, the grin that twitched along his mouth failed to form as he studied the patrons of the café. A tall black woman walked past, the slit in her skirt exposing a tantalising glimpse of a muscular thigh, he quickly moved back to Towne across the street as he easily imagined following the woman and his target having got into his limousine and driving off. The man was excited as he began pacing up and down the short stretch of pavement outside the building where Burroughs had been working for the past two months and (Sean glanced at the laptop) had been somewhere about the centre of the building on the fifteenth floor in very close approximation to someone else, almost on top of them at times although he assumed the location of the phone signals was give or take two metres rather than O’Neill’s insistence that it was accurate to less than fifty centimetres.

Sean looked through the telescopic sight once more and zeroed in on Towne’s nose; breathing deeply and then letting the air slip from his lungs slowly till they were empty. In that moment before light headedness would set in he found the shot, his forefinger stroked the trigger and squeezed it back till the safety stopped it. He breathed deeply once again. Looking up at the heavy storm clouds he hoped they would hold their cargo till after Burroughs came out or he’d have to resort to the Barratt. His ‘gun’ or rather the shell was far too unstable to be fired through rain.

Maybe soon he’d sit down with O’Neill and talk about the intricacy of his work. Without a doubt, even though nothing had been said he knew his new friend was a killer and somehow he suspected the man wouldn’t be shocked at his sniper tally of 37. The loneliness was the only thing about his life that ever got to him. In his urge for professionalism and not wanting to be caught he had severed almost all of his ties, the one exception being his mother now in a high-end care facility back in London.

He put the Barrett down and thought idly can you really talk about assassinations over a pint; he adjusted the targeting on the laptop, bringing a green crosshair out from behind the red set on the screen, lifting a pair of powerful binoculars from the ground to look at the excited face of Damian Towne once more directly.

“Little shit!” he remarked. If he’d had any doubt about his motives or intentions they had been assuaged after O’Neill had given him access to the Share Dealers computerised data. The man had indeed been the architect of numerous ‘aggressive take-overs’ which had left numerous people, particularly small investors like his mother, with greatly reduced or non-existent savings. The Wormwood collapse, Towne’s biggest con yet, had wiped out over seven thousand people’s accounts world-wide. A short trawl of the internet that had taken less than sixty minutes had revealed at least a hundred families put on the street, fifty divorces and seven suicides as a direct result of his embezzling.

Of course, without O’Neill, he would have killed the ‘fucker’ anyway if he’d been able to find him, but with his strange new friend who seemed to have ‘back-doors’ into every computer network on the planet he had more than enough proof that Towne had to pay for his crimes.

The laptop ‘beeped as it indicated that Burroughs was finally on the move. Sean put down the Barrett and made a quick final inspection of the remote controlled weapon, one eye watching the icon on the laptop that represented Burroughs now descending in an elevator down through the building that was the central headquarters of Towne’s next ‘mark’. Sean pressed a button on his own phone.

The problem with revenge, especially killing a man, is it doesn’t satisfy” Sean heard O’Neills voice in his head, “it’s just over too damn quick!

“You could be right” answered Sean to the memory as he watched Towne twist around as Burroughs came up behind him. He pulled up his ear defenders and felt the cold icy calm descend over him as he held his breath unnecessarily.

A few moments later and the ‘Magic’ bullet was flying towards its target at three hundred metres per second and arrived with an explosive impact just 1.3 seconds after leaving the barrel. Sean already had the fire extinguisher to hand as the acoustic dampener caught fire and the smoke had barely time to rise three feet from the barrel before he had put the flames out. Down on the sidewalk Burroughs knees had only just started to buckle as they realised a sizable portion of the mind that had been controlling them was missing.

Sean adjusted the scope and watched the look of shock infect Towne’s face as he stared at the remains of the man’s head in front of him. The annealed glass projectile had taken Sean four months to perfect; inside it was nothing more than Argon gas although under considerable pressure, it was the tiny fault that was placed at the tip of the bullet that had been key that caused it to shatter and explode with considerable force when it met an object. The bone in Burroughs cheek had been more than capable of doing the job. A body shot involving even a leather or heavy coat wouldn’t guarantee a fatal wound as the bullet had no significant penetrative capabilities but the soft fleshy construction of the face and the numerous holes in the bone structure were perfect for it and so much more dramatic. The charge that had propelled the bullet had been placed within the barrel with a padding of gun cotton much like an eighteenth century naval cannon although this one was ignited by an electrical spark. When the bullet exploded the glass was shattered into a thousand minute particles acting like a tiny flechette grenade and only leaving nothing more substantial than a silicon based powder which with the amount of blood and brain matter it displaced wouldn’t be noticed and if it showed up in a toxicology report which was unlikely to be asked for the forensics expert would assume it was just dirt or sand, contamination from the crime scene.

“Try an’ work that one out!” he challenged. He watched as a police cruiser pulled up, edging its way through the gawkers to the two men seemingly locked in an embrace on the paving. “Gotta love the boys in blue, always prompt!” he commented glancing at the cloned phone that had sent the pre-recorded message to 911. He allowed himself one more look at the scene and wondered how long it would be before Towne was searched and the two items that he had placed in the man’s pockets fifteen minutes earlier were found. The simple memory stick that had un-encrypted files explaining his illegal dealings and a woman’s thong which they would find had Towne’s dead ex-wife’s blood on them. O’Neill’s passwords had also allowed him to access the man’s e-mails and there would be a couple of messages found in his ‘Trash’ that would further incriminate him.

 Sean laughed; it had probably been the right decision not to suggest Towne had hired a ‘cheap’ assassin to kill Burroughs once he’d completed his task. The cops weren’t that gullible!

He released the pressure on the suction plate holding the gun to the roof and began to dismantle his creation when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He glanced at the small mirror he had placed within the nest of pipes in front of him and saw the small bearded figure standing just yards behind him. In a single swift movement he had spun around lifting his old, but reliable, silenced Mauser from its hiding place and drilled three shots into the central body mass of the stranger. Sean remained motionless as he watched the head drop and remain motionless for three or four seconds, the smoking gun rock steady in his left hand. When the face came into view again the assassin didn’t hesitate in firing a fourth bullet straight through the man’s forehead.

“Now that’s ne’er happened before!” commented Sean and lowered his gun. He sucked on his bottom lip for a second before leaning from his hips to peer around the figure who was studying him with a wry grin. His sharp eyes spotted the four pockmarks in the wall beyond, the group of three lower ones all within a half an inch of each other. “Well, it isn’t my aim!”

“No, it’s not” replied the stranger with a cold neutral voice, “Your aim is not in question!”

Sean felt a need to look back at the melee he’d caused almost a quarter of a mile away less than thirty seconds previously but he stopped himself. Whoever or whatever (a strange thought) this man was he wasn’t the type you took your eyes off even for a moment. “You don’t like my work?”

The bearded man stood with his hands in the pockets of the smart and expensive looking suit looking completely relaxed as if he was out for an afternoon stroll, “Normally, yours is the kind of work I appreciate but today I’d like to know who ordered this hit!” Big dark round circles began to appear on the stone covered rooftop between them as the clouds gave up their burden.

Sean ignored the heavy splashes bouncing off his closely cropped scalp not even bothering to divide his attention to pull up the hood of his black sou’wester. “Hmm…” he hesitated, “I guess you’d have to call it a charity hit… possibly a sponsored kill, if you will.” He watched as the man’s eyes seemed to darken.

“I can make life very hard for you… Sean Murphy!”

“And why would you wanna do a t’ing like that?” he deepened his accent purposefully, not knowing why he wanted to rile the man in front of him but he’d never responded well to threats; you’re just an auld ignoramus, Sean me boy he heard his long dead father’s voice echo in his head when commenting on his son’s streak of stubbornness. He found himself smiling which in turn seemed to drain any humour that had been in the bearded man’s face. The lips above the beard whitened and narrowed to a thin strip.

“Why did you want Burroughs dead, Sean?”

“I didn’t, seemed a bit of a parasite to me, can’t imagine anyone hating him enough to want him dead or liking him enough to care whether he was alive!” Rain was beginning to run down his face and he succumbed to the annoyance and lifted the hood up over his head with his right hand. The Mauser coughed once again and the bullet should have exploded the strangers’ knee but instead just kicked up a handful of stones behind his left foot.

“That was just plain rude!”

Sean shrugged his shoulders and placed the gun on a control panel to his left, still within easy reach although whatever stood in front of him he knew ‘it’ was immune to bullets. He doubted a rocket would have any effect either, “Well, I’ve had people who have been hard to kill but never hard to hurt!”

“So this was personal and aimed at Damian Towne!” stated the short man.

Sean stared into the dark eyes and for the first time in his life felt unsure. He lifted a crumple packet of Camels from inside the Sou’wester and struggled to cover the cigarette from the rain as the disposable lighter took an age to ignite. He looked back at the stranger who hadn’t moved and oddly didn’t seem to be getting wet, “Oh, sorry I thought you were being rhetorical. What’s Towne to you, anyhow?” Even though he felt he was on unstable ground he also sensed that the stranger was unused to the way Sean was reacting as well.

“Did Mr Towne steal from you…or was it… a loved one?”

The remark bit into Sean and that stubbornness he’d father had seen in him reared up again, “Aye, sure your right, I’ve destroyed his life for the princely sum of five thousand” he saw maybe the smallest of flinches in the man’s right eye, “Pounds… Sterling if that makes you feel better? He was a shit and now I’ve made his life shit and if he gets off, rest assured he’ll share the same fate as his pal. What do you reckon; should I pass a message onto his solicitor, let him know if he goes free he dies? There’d be a dilemma for him.” Sean sucked heavily on the Camel as he watched the little bearded man tilt his head in puzzlement.

“You are a strange one, Sean Murphy-”

“Tell me, you somehow know me, would you do me courtesy?” Sean interrupted.

The small man laughed and Sean felt icicles that had nothing to do with the rain run down his spine, “I’ve been known by so many names but you know who I am already, just look in the shadows and you’ll see me.” He paused to wait for a reaction and was disappointed, “Mr Towne was a pet project of mine and he could bring so much unhappiness to people, wholesale! In your professional capacity you tend to end peoples unhappiness except for this time, quite the work of art. He’s still down there covered in Burroughs’ blood and brains, almost catatonic, with complete loss of bladder control. If he snaps out of it long enough to realise the hole you’ve left him in as far as his latest enterprise is concerned he’ll probably end up in a padded room.  Really, quite a masterful piece of workl. Bravo!”

“So… you’re the Devil, you’re telling me?” the stranger gave a short bow, the first real movement of any significance that Sean had witnessed, “Or what is more likely is that I’ve had a psychotic break, the boys at Benning suggested it might happen, seems in my profession it’s almost inevitable, something to do with being a borderline sociopath. We make the best snipers it seems” A raised eyebrow was the only response; Sean noted that his cigarette was soaked and wilting, at odds to his normal professionalism he dropped it on the ground and squatted down to begin dismantling the his weapon. “I’m kinda busy so if you don’t mind I’ll just carry on while we…I talk to myself.”

Sean had to pull his eyes away from the stranger which was a lot harder than it should be; it wasn’t his natural predatory instincts if he was honest with himself, it was definitely something that wasn’t within the natural order of things or just some cobweb strewn part of his mind fucking with him. “Let’s get this straight then, the Devil, you, knocks around getting people to do bad things like old incontinent down there, stealing people’s life savings and making them miserable? Not your most impressive work!”

“True, but the wars, the suffering, the killing and all is all very good, but once there dead, well let’s just say Towne’s brand of cruelty lasts so much longer and with the right inspiration he would have gone global. A few buttons pressed here and there and a hundred million people are all sad and desperate, suicidal, homicidal, angry, bitter, all the emotions I love.” Sean had separated the charred acoustic baffle, slipping it into a kitbag, from the weapon finally exposing its true form. For a moment he admired his work before donning a thermal glove in order to hold the barrel while he unfastened it from the stock.

“Still not really up to your usual standard, Nick?” he replied with a mocking tone.

The devil or his psychosis ignored the man’s childish remark, “Ahh, but when you add it all together, with all my other pets, the suffering goes on and on, far greater than a mere World War and there’s so little chance for man to fight back, be honourable, be a hero. To do the right thing!” said the stranger puffing out his little chest

“I see what you’re getting at.” Sean could hear the pride in ‘his’ devil’s voice, there was anger there too and vanity. Even if this was just his mind snapping there wasn’t any reason he shouldn’t enjoy himself. He stood up and walked towards the man whose eyes followed him till Sean had walked past and picked up the wheeled crate that he’d brought up with him. He noted the padlock and chain seemed to be still locked on the access door as he turned about, he’d vaguely hoped that the apparition had disappeared but he was still there; his suit bone dry in the heavy downpour. As he dragged the crate past he deliberately brushed his shoulder against the small man; he almost stumbled as his body sense had expected an impact whereas his rational (or irrational) mind hadn’t. Whatever this was it had as much substance as a cloud of smoke.

He squatted back down beside the weapon and disconnected the hi-res camera before unscrewing it and carefully placing it in the foam slot within the crate. He worked methodically and efficiently even though his mind was all over the place. “So, I guess I’ve really screwed up your plans then. Even with a good solicitor and all that crap they come out with, illegal searches and such, it’s going to be interesting when they find his dead wife’s panties in his pocket and such a great motive as well!”

“So that’s what happened to Lillith. I did wonder, seemed unlike her to be so clumsy; Cuferi went missing at the same time, you as well?”

“Aye, with a little help from my friends and took me right to the top… of course I wasn’t expecting Satan himself to be pulling the strings,” Sean paused in his work and looked the Devil in the eye, “seeing as you seem to be very ethereal I guess there ain’t no way I can kill you, is there?”

“No, I don’t believe there is, after all I have been around longer than the infection called humanity has been. Of course, as you are already thinking, it’s not as if I would tell you anyway!”

“I suppose not,” Sean resumed packing away the weapon, “so here we are or just me maybe? So, what are you gonna do? I assume you’ve got some of that fire and brimstone… hold on that was God’s gimmick wasn’t it? Sorry, such a long time since I was reading the bible even if those Gideons keep leaving them all over the place.”

“I could throw you off the roof but I’m thinking I could use a man of your talents.”

“Sorry, try to avoid the religious types, they pay well but damn they always make you feel like you should be doing it for free or for the greater good or some shit like that!” Sean closed and locked the crate and sat down on top of it, lifting the laptop up to check with all the distractions that there was no one else in the vicinity. The rain ceased as quickly as it had begun and he pulled down his hood and shook another cigarette from his pack. Inhaling deeply on the aromatic fumes he looked across at the Devil, “Actually… I reckon you couldn’t throw me off the roof..”

The Devil smiled in answer.

“Ahh, you’re full of shit! That’s it, isn’t it? You’re just a whisperer, that’s why I can’t kill you and you can’t even take this cigarette from my fingers.”

“Are you sure, Sean Murphy?” the small man began to grow quickly equalling Sean’s height and surpassing it till he was over eight feet tall.

Sean sat there and took another lungful of smoke before blowing three smoke rings in the direction of the ‘giant’. “Yep! Reckon I am. You’re all just smoke and mirrors… you slip yourself into people’s heads when they ain’t looking, a quiet word, a suggestion of some sleight by another; that sort of shite.”

The huge figure moved towards the seated assassin, “But, you fucked up today didn’t you, that emotion you love to inspire in others got the better of you, didn’t it?” still the figure closed the distance, “I guess if I was a normal Joe, this might work, but I told you already, borderline sociopath, very little empathy and very little fear! And there’s still a bit of my head that reckons this is a psychotic break although I’ll admit I never figured to be this rational when I went gaga!”

The huge hands reached out and were about to close around the Irishman’s neck and he still didn’t flinch. One moment he could see the hairs on the back of the huge fingers and the next the small man was standing exactly where he had been earlier. “Very good, Sean… but do you think your mother would be so fearless?” The cigarette dropped from Sean’s fingers and he was striding towards the figure, “Not totally lacking in empathy, are we?”

Sean stopped six inches from the man or Devil, “I would not go there if I were you!”

“What could you possibly do, little man?”

Sean stood still and expressionless for almost half a minute as the bearded man’s smile grew wider and then the assassin mirrored the expression. At such a close range Sean saw a flicker in those dark eyes, “To you? Nothing, nothing whatsoever.”

He turned about and walked back between the AC units and picked up his Mauser before turning back to the figure. He held the gun at hip level and squeezed the trigger; if the shot had been effective it would have separated the devil from his testicles. “Nothing to you, but I’ll get you where it hurts, where you don’t actually live.” He turned his back on the devil and looked down at the myriad of flashing blue lights in the distance, “I’m sure there are other Towne’s out there, other people doing your bidding, making other people’s lives a misery. People who can die” Sean burst out laughing before pulling himself back together, “who’d have thought it, it’d take the devil to make wee Sean Murphy a hero?”

No answer came from behind him and when he turned the devil or apparition had gone. He chewed on his bottom lip, “You just remember, no one touches my Ma or I will become that thing you fear, a hero. A fuckin’ avenging Angel, you hear, Nicky?” His voice echoed back to him and all at once he felt quite foolish, pointlessly he looked about to see if anyone was about.

“You just keep outta my way and I’ll leave you be” he whispered.

*****

Sean sat at the bar in Demsey’s looking at the pint in front of him. The creamy white head had settled over five minutes earlier and he still hadn’t touched it. Tiny pockmarks were beginning to form in the otherwise smooth top as he watched the reflections from the windows of traffic and the heads of pedestrians passing by mirrored in the dark body of the liquid. It was over two hours since he had killed Burroughs and talked to the devil. Fuck, he thought, you argued with the devil you ignoramus!

“Are you looking to drink that by osmosis?” asked a sultry voice from beside him.

“Possibly?” answered Sean before turning to the woman who had sat beside him. Her skin was a dark ebony that matched her eyes and for a brief moment he thought of the hollow eyes he had seen up on the roof. Two slender fingers adorned with a deep blue nail polish stroked the stem of her cocktail glass as she looked back at him. “I see you’ve got a full glass, maybe-”

She lifted the glass to her immaculately painted lips and downed the drink in one go, Sean watched her throat undulate minutely as the liquid passed within. She placed the glass back on the much worn bar with the faintest of ‘clinks’; “A gin and tonic, with Bombay Sapphire please.”

Sean nodded to the barman whose attention seemed to be centred on his ‘new’ friend and he knew he wouldn’t need to call the order looking at the obvious lust in the man’s eyes. The voice that he always listened to in the back of his head chimed in; ‘A new friend?’ after the day or rather the strange conversation he’d had his semi-swollen cock wasn’t going to lead him astray this evening. “If you don’t mind, I’ve had a bit of a day and far too much excitement already, enjoy your drink and I’ll return to my contemplation of the liquid dynamics of this pint” he reached for his glass and began to rise when he felt those slim fingers rest gently on his arm.

“Don’t be like that… Sean”

His eyes narrowed as he turned back to the woman, “You know there’s been far too many people today who seem to know me and I don’t know them” he replied.

The woman smiled and looked down between them, “It’s an old line but are you pleased to see me or is that a gun in your pocket?”

Sean couldn’t help but smile at the old adage but still pressed the thick silencer of the Mauser just below the woman’s ribcage, “To be honest a little of both, now what’s your business with me?”

“You wouldn’t listen to me, Iz!” For the first time in a very long time Sean had let himself be outflanked as the voice from behind him proved, “I told you that even with your charm and looks, Sean here wouldn’t be seduced… at least not just after he spread yer man’s head all over the sidewalk!” Even though the last part was said in a whisper so only the three of them could hear, Sean recognised the unusual accent.

Still looking at the beautiful young black woman he asked “So would this be your better half then, O’Neill?”

 “That it would be, Sean meet Iz, Iz meet Sean.”

“Pleased to meet you, Iz, sorry about the…” his eyes flicked down between them.

Iz looked down again to note that the gun within Sean’s jacket had disappeared as quickly as it appeared, “No need to apologise, I like to inspire erections and that one looked as if it might be quite sizable!”

Sean blushed deeply like a thirteen year old and he reckoned it probably was the last time he had been completely stumped for words. “Ahh, Iz, you’re such a flatterer, where charm fails just tell ‘em they’ve got a big knob, is it?”

“Well, it worked well enough on you, O’Neill!”

His friends’ laughter broke the spell upon the assassin, “For fuck’s sake, are you two playing here all week?” finally Sean swivelled in his chair dragging his eyes away from the sparkling ones of Iz to see O’Neill for the first time lifting his own untouched pint to his lips. “You know there are quite a few bars back home where that sort of thing leads to fights!” he said pointing at his glass as the dark liquid flowed into O’Neill’s mouth.

His friend had drunk about an inch before he placed the glass back on the bar, “And I believe there’s an equal number where unattended alcohol falls under the remit of ‘Finder’s Keepers’!”

“Now boys behave” scolded Iz. Sean shifted back on his stool so the three of them formed a loose triangle as the barman arrived with three fresh drinks.

“Still… good to see friendly faces, here’s to the two of ye’!” toasted Sean.

O’Neill looked at his fellow countryman quizzically briefly before raising the glass to his lips and taking a further sip. “Here’s to… street entertainment” he proposed with a wink, “A Jackson Pollock… although after the rain came it could have been a Picasso in red.” Iz shook her head at her husband while Sean stifles a laugh.

The bar was starting to fill with patrons as the working day came to a close, the three of them shifted to one of the booths with a fresh round of drinks that lined the far wall away from the bar affording them some privacy. Sean sat between the couple as O’Neill quizzed him on his day’s work especially fascinated by the custom shell he had used, “So, you took out Burroughs rather than Towne?” he asked.

“Well, I listened to what you said, no mean feat according to my Da, I’ll add”

“Incriminating evidence about his person?” put in Iz.

Sean grinned and nodded, it had taken him a few minutes not to find it odd that Iz wasn’t repulsed by his profession let alone apparently genuinely interested; “Not only did he have the ‘worm’ programme on the USB drive Burroughs had just given him he appeared to be carrying another containing all his recent financial activities as well as an apparent memento! I imagine he has no idea how they got into his jacket” smiled Sean.

“A memento?” questioned O’Neill.

Sean’s grin broadened, “A keepsake of his dear departed wife it seems.”

“The woman in London?” asked Iz to which O’Neill nodded, “I can’t see the police going for that?”

“Aye, you’re probably right but it’ll certainly stir things up and if that doesn’t make Towne paranoid I don’t know what would. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t blab straight away about his finances rather than a possible murder charge, I suppose it depends on how quickly he gets lawyer-ed up.”

“So a lengthy term in the Big house for our man while he ponders the error of his ways and wonder who exposed him in such a dramatic fashion? A far longer penance than the straight kill” summed up O’Neill.

“Aye, I reckon, might even see about getting him a message that there’s another bullet waiting for him when he eventually gets out” Sean took a sip of his pint; “but I’d love to try a shot at him before he left the prison, now that’d be a challenge!”

You’re nothing if not ambitious, Murphy” O’Neill praised as he lifted his own pint.

Iz twisted her cocktail about by the stem, just the finger pads slowly twisting it about, her eyes focused on the slowly swirling liquid within, “You know what you need to do? Simply tell his lawyer what’s waiting for his client and if the knowledge goes beyond that confidentiality clause that the lawyer will also get a bullet.” Sean studied the young woman beside him wondering just how cold and calculating she was. She pulled her gaze from the glass and the sweetest and most innocent smile appeared on her lips, “Just a thought!”

Sean shook himself within his own head, “One I reckon I’ll use…” he raised his glass, “Here’s to lawyers and there unerring ability to save their own skins!”

“Slainté!” the couple echoed in unison.

O’Neill considered his new friend for a few moments before Sean asked “What?”

“There was a moment earlier when you… seemed unsatisfied. Did something not go according to plan?”

The smile faltered on Sean’s lips, “I’m…” he hesitated knowing what he was about to say would sound foolish at best and utterly insane at worst; “I think I had… an episode, ‘bout the best word I can come up with, up on the roof after I took the shot and was clearing up.”

“An episode?” asked O’Neill, no hint of humour in his voice.

“Fuck me but it sounds… it is psychotic!” he took a long draught of his pint before placing it carefully back on the table noting a tiny tremor in his hand. The O’Neills waited patiently for the assassin to continue. He looked from one to the other before saying “I was up there… the usual sense of euphoria after making the shot when I started…” he gulped loudly, “I started talking to myself…”

“To yourself?” questioned Iz. Her slim hand rested on his and she squeezed it softly.

“Well… not exactly, I imagined I was talking to…” another loud gulp, “fuckin’ hell. I was talking to the devil!”

O’Neill’s eyes goggled slightly and he was at a loss for words. Sean couldn’t blame him but when he looked to Iz there was just compassion behind her dark pupils, “Tell us about it” she said.

He roughly explained the strange conversation and how he had ended up threatening his imaginary devil, he finished the account with “The one thing was it all seemed so real, still does… I can’t shake the idea that it actually happened… after he’d disappeared I checked the clip in my gun and stuck my fingers into the impact craters the bullets had left… even picked up them up.”

He dipped his hand inside his coat and pulled out six battered bullets and placed them on the table watching as they rolled around in odd ellipses caused by the dents where they had impacted with the concrete walls and roof of the building. The three friends stared at the small lethal objects, O’Neill broke the silence “Yeah… definitely a psychotic break, but at least you’re in good company.”

“Considering how old you are O’Neill there’s some things that you’re not very well informed about!” reprimanded Iz gaining a raised eyebrow from her husband, “There’s plenty of accounts about Lucifer appearing, have you read any of our history? You remember William the… boring bastard, from Munich?” O’Neill nodded knowing that Iz had been talking about William the Bloody a fellow vampire, “Well, he swears that he met him… had to find other avenues for his interests it seems. Come on O’Neill you know well enough that there’s always some substance to myths and monsters!”

“True, I suppose,” he nodded to Sean, “but I wasn’t fool enough to argue… to threaten the Devil! For fucks sake, you’re a Gabaloon, Murphy!”

“Aye, maybe you’re right, it’s just… I feel like I didn’t win the argument, doubly annoying if it was simply with m’self! Thought of so much I could’ve said that would have seriously pissed off the asshole, I’m truly gutted.”

“Go on, such as…?” asked Iz.

“You a Taig, O’Neill?” asked Sean.

“Once a very, very long time ago…” answered the older man with slightly sad tone to his voice. He felt his wife’s fingers gently squeeze his knee beneath the table.

“Well, it’s the entire powers thing. Y’know the way he’s always portrayed in the movies, especially the slice n’ dice variety, loads of superpowers and stuff, well I got to figuring something about what I said up on the roof. He is just an idea… a pervasive one, I’ll grant you but still just an idea. I mean if the fella does exist it’ll follow that the big fella exists too and if that old book we were shown back at school O’Neill is anything at all to go by, yer man is stuck down in hell.” O’Neill went to interject but the assassin was now in full flow, Iz leaned towards him listening intently, “Hear me out. There’s some things I figure the Good Book got wrong or more likely was perverted by power-mad priests back in the day; so old Nick is cast out of heaven and sent down to Hades and everybody has the idea that he is the God of the underworld, well that’s just daft! I mean hardly a punishment being given your own little kingdom or deity-dom or whatever is it? Nah, I reckon he’s there all right but it’s angels who are the screws in charge, poking him for eternity with the red hot pokers… sorta makes you look at those heavenly messengers a little different that image, I tell ya!”

Sean paused to take a sip of his pint and again O’Neill wanted to interrupt but Iz’s hand resting on his knee signalled him to remain silent, “So, there he is sufferin’ eternal torment and what better way to piss him off than to just give him a taste of freedom, to see what he might’ve ruled if he’d beaten God. Maybe they just let his mind out a little bit, let him have a little rope and it sorta works with the ‘man having free will’ shenanigans and God working in mysterious ways shite too. So we’re given the choice, be good or go over to the dark side… fuck!” he looked at the couple, “I’m fuckin’ rambling here good and proper aren’t I?”

Iz’s hand released O’Neill’s knee, “Sure you were a bit, still I kinda like the idea of joining auld Nick in a debating club, wouldn’t trust him in game of Poker or to buy his own beer, though!”

“Off my effin’ head, I am.”

Iz’s left hand settled on Sean’s knee drawing his eyes down to stare at her finger, “Maybe you are or maybe you’re not? You sure sound rational in dealing with the irrational!”

Sean shook his head, still bewildered by the events on the roof and the way these two had taken the story in their strides without a hint of judging him. He figured he’d never be half as understanding if someone else had told him the same tale. “Ahh, fuck it, let’s have another drink, GARÇON!” he shouted to the bartender.

“That’s the spirit!” agreed O’Neill.

Two rounds of drinks later Iz looked up at the large clock behind the bar and downed the remainder of her drink, “Well, boys, I’m gonna have to love you both and leave you, I’ve got a plane to catch.”

O’Neill pulled an exaggerated look of a sullen child, “No fair” he mumbled.

“Oh poor baby… but you know I have to be in Paris in the morning and we’re due to meet up with Norma in London on Saturday, I know you don’t want to miss that and I won’t be able to be there if I’m not finished in France. She told me she wants to bleed you dry and throw away the empty shell… you know that sounds fun!”

“Sounds like Orleans” he replied cryptically.

“Well, hopefully without the unwanted guests”

Sean looked from one to the other with a grin of bewilderment on his face, “Definitely a double act!” he remarked.

“Oh we’re very good by ourselves but when we’re together…” Iz rose and instead of making her way around the outside of the table she slipped her long lithe legs around Sean’s knees, the split in her skirt catching and exposing the full length of her bare leg all the way up to the hip. Sean made to move aside so Iz could sit beside her husband. “No need for that my sweet Irish boy” she said and sat down on his lap. Sean coughed in surprise and his cock stirred within his jeans unbidden.

“I thought I was your sweet Irish boy?” asked O’Neill.

“Oh you are mo ghrá, you are. I’ve just got two now” she said as the fingertips of her left hand tilted up O’Neill’s chin.

Sean was at sea as Iz ground her ass down sensually onto his growing bulge and locked her lips onto her husband’s. He looked about the bar, noting at least one couple and the barman watching the three of them, he shook his head and closed his eyes succumbing to the woman’s movements. He half sensed Iz’s right hand slip inside his jacket and stroke the Mauser hidden within, his normal reaction to stop it forgotten; his cock hardened instantly beneath her gyrating hips, an abnormal and not to be deconstructed reaction he thought vaguely as her long finger slid further down and entwined themselves in his own.

He was lost in the sensations, his normal single mindedness and control gone as he felt his fingers guided between the woman’s thighs and stroked along the damp gusset of a pair of silky briefs. She moaned into her husband’s mouth as she urged his finger around the edge and beneath pushing it deep inside her slick pussy. He almost felt like a puppet on her strings as his finger responded to the rhythm she dictated and his thumb allowed itself to be positioned to roll her hard clit around clockwise.

“Ohh…fuck…” he breathed. He’d never known Demsey’s to be this good he thought with a grin.

“Oh fuck indeed!” Iz said quite loudly as she broke the kiss with O’Neill; “Damned flights and there fucking check-in shit!” she stood up swaying for a moment before slipping past her husband’s legs and stroking a sticky finger along his lips. “I’ve just teased this sweet Irish boy mercilessly; will you make it up to him?”

O’Neill stuck up two fingers, “You’ve teased two boys, mo ghrá! I guess I’ll have too, it’ll be a hardship but I’ll do my best.”

“I know you will, remember that meeting of your own tomorrow, so do everything you know I wouldn’t do, tonight!”

O’Neill cocked his head, “Unfair! That’s such a short list!”

Iz laughed lightly and sucked her finger for a moment glancing at Sean, her eyes dropping almost as if she could see through the table top and his clothing to his naked erection, “And you’re so good at limiting yourself, O’Neill. Look after him Sean… my two Sean’s… hmm… got to get myself a Sean sandwich sometime soon… see if you can’t get ‘not so wee’ Sean here to London by Saturday, you know Norma would love him!” with that she swivelled easily on her heels and strode out of the bar attracting numerous glances of lust and jealousy in her wake.

Sean knew there was definitely something odd about the two of them, Iz was definitely in her early to mid-twenties and there was no way O’Neill could be more than forty and yet the two of them had that complete intimate knowledge of each other that you rarely even saw in couples that had been married for fifty years. Of course diamond anniversary celebrating couples rarely acted like they were a couple of teenagers on heat either thought Sean.

The assassin looked at his new friend, surreptitiously straightening his cock beneath the table, “Sean?” he asked having only just realised he’d never known O’Neill’s first name.

“Aye, I’m sure I’d mentioned it… maybe not. Anyway we’ll ignore Iz’s suggestion of only doing things she wouldn’t do ‘cause of the top of my head I can’t think of a single one!”

“And Norma in London?” the assassin asked.

“Oh you fancy Norma, I’m sure” he replied with a mischievous wink that told him nothing nor did he divulge any further information on a night that lasted well past the dawn till the older man dragged himself away to clean up for his meeting leaving Sean barely able to stand even with the aid of the two ‘ladies of the night’ (as O’Neill preferred to call them) that he left him with.

*****

He lifted the plastic bottle to his dried lips and sipped a tiny amount of the tepid water into his mouth. Tiny grains of grit and sand drifted across the small hill blown up by a tiny dust devil just below him. A couple of the particles stung his cheeks below the shaded goggles he was wearing. The sun was rising behind him and its rays were beginning to warm the Ghillie suit that made him almost invisible amid the rough grass that struggled and yet managed to survive on the arid terrain. He twisted his hand resting on top of the Barrett and studied the watch on his wrist. Still a good thirty minutes to wait.

He allowed his mind to wander thinking about the day in New York seven years previously. The afternoon on the roof and parts of the fifteen hours he spent with O’Neill were etched in his memory and he figured he would cherish them till the day he died. His wife, Iz, came very easily to his mind and never failed to have side-effects on his person. She had made a serious impression upon him to the extent that when he met Joy three years ago, who reminded him of the woman in Demsey’s, and he’d done something he had long suspected he wasn’t capable off. He’d fallen in love!

Of course the evening in the Big Apple was quite hazy as more and more alcohol had been consumed the recollections episodic and unfocused. Not completely as he still remembered Simone and Raquel, though which was the blonde and which was the brunette he had no idea and he wasn’t sure which he’d fucked first and which he fucked after O’Neill. He did remember the laughter the four of them had shared in the large bed when they found out how ticklish Simone, or was it Raquel, was. He was almost positive it was the redhead who had thoroughly enjoyed being ‘tortured’ by the three of them.

He still wondered what had become of the O’Neills as the next day or at least late on in the evening when he had tried to call there had been no answer, no tone, not even a message telling him that the number he was calling was unobtainable. He didn’t have a number for Iz and even the e-mails he sent bounced back un-opened.

Had the ‘Devil’ got his revenge?

He doubted it as he imagined both of them were very capable and really didn’t seem like a visit from the Prince of Darkness would faze them in the slightest. Sean suspected that Iz would have grabbed him by the balls, even if he was ethereal, and ripped his sac from his short little body and happily watch him scream and squirm. Even the various ‘internet back-doors’ that O’Neill had provided for him had yielded nothing at all. He imagined whatever had happened to the two of them had been huge for them to seemingly disappear of the face of the earth.

Or fatal?

He still remembered sitting between Simone and Raquel watching a very happy and hearty O’Neill struggle to find his clothing in the chaos of the hotel bedroom, giving up completely on one sock. Waving goodbye from the door he promised they would meet up later at Demsey’s and see if they couldn’t drink the same amount or more again in order to find his errant sock or at least lose the other one.

Of course he hadn’t turned up, nor has the sock thought Sean wryly and to all intents and purposes had never even existed before or after that day as far as he could tell. Of course after his first meeting with O’Neill with the luckless Sal Cuferi and Lilith he’d endeavoured to find out more about his ‘friend’ and had failed completely then as well. There’d been a time when he thought that maybe Iz and O’Neill had also been part of his ‘episode’ and although it was probably wishful thinking the taste of Iz on his fingers when she had sashayed out of the pub that day was all the memory and proof he needed to bring him back.

For seven years he had led a ‘normal’ life, no different from all the other people on the planet except for the fact he didn’t really need to work for a living and possibly that he mostly slept with the Mauser concealed close by. Since Joy, the gun had shifted to behind a false board at the foot of his bedside cabinet (delaying his response by several seconds his professional psyche knew full well) and wasn’t a part of his day-to-day outfits as it had been. Sometimes it rankled him but as the days and the months and the years had progressed that sensation lessened and recently he’d actually not remembered to ‘forget’ his gun when heading out of his flat beside the Liffey arm in arm with the girl he loved.

Occasionally, even in the multi-cultural metropolis that is Dublin City prejudice and racism would rear its ugly head when he was arm in arm with his black girlfriend and although his first instinct had been to reach for the holster that used to hang from his shoulders in the small of his back he had defused the situations with his words and not a gun or his more than capable fists and feet. In the back of his head he had figured if I can argue with the Devil I can surely discourage racist eejits!

Whatever happened that day the Devil or his hallucination had never come back to haunt him, his mother had regained some of her old self and had died peacefully in her sleep four years later, perhaps happy in the knowledge that her only child had finally found someone to share his life. Only a couple of days before she passed on she’d confessed to him that she had suspected he might be Gay and although she would have loved to have seen some grandchildren she was more than satisfied to see his face light up whenever Joy was about. That night he had proposed to his girlfriend and she had accepted; sadly he never got to tell his Ma the good news but if his hallucination hadn’t been one he knew that she was up in heaven and was shouting down at him that it was about time, he imagined the Archangel Gabriel was probably telling her to quieten down. He felt his lips crack slightly as he smiled at the thought.

Just over a thousand yards away there appeared to be some movement.

*****

Two thousand, eight hundred days, over sixty one thousand hours and he’d be out of here in under thirty minutes. His heart had been beating hard for the last week and it had ramped up even harder when he’d woke an hour before morning roll call. He still wasn’t sure what he’d do when he got out. He was unsure if every single one of his accounts had been frozen all those hours ago; the police (of more than one country) and the IRS as well as the Internal Revenue had been very well informed before and during his sentencing.

After the initial shock of Burroughs brains being splattered all across him it had taken him over a day to pull his act together by which time most of his options had disappeared. When they showed him the plastic bag containing Lilith’s ripped underwear and that they were re-opening the investigation in London he’d capitulated to lesser charges of embezzlement and fraud. Only after the judge had handed him the nine year sentence had the prosecutor told him that the UK investigation had turned up no new evidence.

By that time he didn’t care because his lawyer, who’d been sweating profusely, had given him the message from whoever had killed the Private Investigator.

He had behaved and had gotten time off for good behaviour and up until a year ago he’d been intent on ‘going straight’. However over the last twelve months thoughts of revenge and going back to his old ways had played more and more often on his mind. It seemed that prison wasn’t a bad place to make contacts with clients who had money they needed to invest ‘under the table’. Even with his out of date knowledge of the money markets he reckoned he knew of a dozen ways that he could launder their money easily making them a huge profit into the bargain as well as a very healthy three percent for himself. And these boys knew just the sort of people who could find out who had framed him and exact a very painful revenge for him.

It hadn’t occurred to Damian in the past six months that he hadn’t been framed just exposed.

As his exodus neared he was taken to get the Saville Row suit he’d entered the institution in after his sentencing along with the rest of his effects. The guard who was on duty noted an almost physical change in prisoner 4522912 as he donned the suit, not that unusual but apparently far more pronounced than was normal for an inmate getting paroled. By the time he was dressed and informed he was to visit the Warden before he left it was as if Towne had simply been visiting the prison and had not been incarcerated there for the previous seven years.

He strode before the two warders who had to almost jog to keep up and didn’t even wait to be invited in to enter the Warden’s office. He barely heard the old man’s prepared speech for parolees as the smile grew broader on his face and his eyes kept veering towards the distant scrubland beyond the prison walls that the office afforded.

“Well, I hope that we won’t-” the warden grunted as the phone on his desk trilled loudly, he picked it up, “Yes?” he said gruffly. After a couple of moments he added “This is most irregular… well, yes he is, but… Don’t worry I will be bringing it up with the DA!”

He picked up a glass of water from the mahogany table in front of him and took a long sip before he turned to the prisoner, “It’s for you… the assistant DA it seems would like a word!”

Damian turned to the warden and smiled as he took the phone from him completely confidant that this was how things should be and exactly how things were going to be. “Damian Towne” he said into the mouthpiece.

“Ahh…Mr Towne, this is assistant DA Thorne, I just needed a quiet word with you, if you could just make sure that I won’t be overheard” said a nasally American accent.

“Sure” answered Damian and moved away from the Warden’s desk as far as the telephone cable would allow towards the window, he grinned as he looked out past the guard tower, “Go ahead Mr Thorne.”

“That’s perfect!” for the first time since he had woken up the smile faltered on his lips as he noted that the American accent had disappeared to be replaced by an Irish one. “You remember the message that shyster lawyer passed onto you?”

Damian’s smile disappeared completely and his mouth opened and closed, he turned his head towards the Warden who had noted the man’s change in demeanour.

“No point looking at him, Towne, no point at all! Say goodbye ya’ fucker!”

Damian turned back to stare out of the window…

*****

Sean watched through the scope as the window in front of Towne cracked in a spider’s web and a deep red halo seemed to surround his head before he fell backwards out of sight. He clicked off the earpiece and severed the connection with the prison. He watched the two guards and the warden dive out of sight as the fresh smell of cordite began to disperse around him in the stiff breeze.

A few seconds later and he was shuffling backwards down the small hillock to the Jeep parked at the foot. In under a minute the gun and Ghillie suit were secured and he was speeding away from the scene and almost three miles from where he fired the shot when he heard the dispatcher on the police scanner announce the ‘incident’ at the prison.

He was on the interstate, the hardtop rolling beneath him at just a fraction above the speed limit when a voice beside him said “A masterful piece of work Mr Murphy!”

Sean didn’t even bother to turn to look at the sudden appearance of his fellow traveller, “I was wond’ring if you’d turn up?” he indicated and pulled around an eighteen wheeler.

“You were?”

Sean reached to the old battered cassette player slotted into the dashboard and pushed the tape sitting within it home. A scratchy recording issued from the speakers.

“You’ll find him hard to recognise ‘cause he won’t dress in black,

 He wears a suit of gold and lame with velvet front and back

 But he can touch your trembling heart can touch your very soul

 Take the rhythm when he leaves and make your dreams turn old”

 

Sean popped the cassette and glanced at his dark passenger, “I guess those Horslips boys couldn’t spot a good cliché when they saw one?”

“Very cute” replied the man.

“So here you are again, what can I do for you this time?”

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world” replied the short bearded man.

“Your pet looked a lot like his old self in the warden’s office… well just before I had a word. You?”

“Well, I had invested some time in him all those years ago and the boy has… had natural ability that would have been a shame to waste.”

“And now?” Sean pulled around another haulage truck, “Are you going to distract me and have me end up ‘neath one of these rigs?”

“You’re own talents would make that… difficult, of course I could just be saying that to put you off your guard.”

“Of course” replied Sean pulling back in to the slow lane and reducing his speed.

“So this was pure and simple revenge, or are you coming out of retirement?” a foul smelling cigarette appeared from nowhere in the stranger’s fingers, the tendrils of smoke twisted inexorably towards Sean’s nose and eyes.

“A cheap shot” he stated and indicated pulling off the next ramp before driving into a lay-by and mounting the kerb to park up on the grass verge beyond; a very safe distance from the traffic.

As he turned off the engine the cigarette disappeared. “I figure you left my Ma well enough alone and I was as good as my word regarding your ‘pets’ but tell me… did you have anything to do with the O’Neills?”

“The O’Neills?” pondered the Devil, “It’s not as if you’d believe me, is it Sean?”

“Probably not, but still…” Sean wondered if he really could physically feel the dark strands of this man’s psyche invading his own; whatever he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stood up straight as if he was drawing current from an electrical source.

“Ahh… the O’Neills… the two vampires!” the Devil exclaimed.

“Pardon?” replied Sean genuinely bemused.

His passenger grinned broadly, “Yes, you didn’t know? Some people are just so secretive! I imagine between the two of them they have despatched ten, twenty maybe thirty times the souls you have been responsible for sending me over the last few centuries!”

“Fuck off out of it!”

“Your choice, Sean, those two have been preying on the weak and lonely, draining the blood from pathetic souls to satisfy their own lusts and desires whenever they wanted. You got to love a vampire, so full of instinct and no silly conscience to bother it. But, as to your question their disappearance had nothing to do with me, the O’Neill’s had their own demons!”

Sean didn’t believe the half of what this apparition had just said but that still left fifty percent. He thought back to how the couple had behaved, almost as if they could literally read each other’s minds but the one thing he was sure of was that having seen O’Neill in action he wasn’t the type to pick on easy prey and the devil had let slip that the ‘Vampire’ had sent him plenty of souls that if they were headed down generally meant they deserved everything they got.

“Hmm… vampires… I’ll take that one under advisement. So, now what?” Sean asked the bearded man.

“Nothing at all, just popped by to catch up. Take care Mr Murphy, be seeing you!”

The figure was gone, Sean was slightly disappointed there was no puff of smoke or sulphurous odour of brimstone. He reached for the ignition key, “By the by” he said to the empty air, “I figure your still lurking about, probably have been on and off for the last seven years. For your information I’ve probably got two dozen targets on a list, reckon at least five of them would be your ‘pets’ and they’re all characters you’d just love and when I die or even earlier if I decide, contracts will be automatically issued on them all.” Sean looked up through the windscreen at the rapidly shifting clouds skittering across the blue sky, “That’d be some day wouldn’t it, a whole bunch of evil fuckers getting their ‘just desserts’… who knows might make the rest of us believe there’s a higher purpose, make us behave just that little bit better, what do you think?”

Sean’s grin was stretching his cheeks as no answer came, “Oh and it’s a rolling contract, fully automatic, search criteria and all that, stuff that O’Neill, your Vampire gave me, with a huge, quite a vulgar amount of money to keep it going for a few years. So, just in case you’ve got any ideas Nick, just think on that and your big ledger with all those pluses and minuses, I reckon it’ll be slim pickings for you for at least a decade if not more. My Ma always told me I shouldn’t make no deal with the devil but I was never a very good listener, still this one’s being signed in the blood of your ‘pets’ , not mine. What d’ya think?”

Sean twisted the key in the ignition and the old reliable engine rumbled into life, he turned his head towards the passenger seat and looked at where the Devil’s eyes had been and laughed.

“Cat got your tongue?”

The End

______________________________________

Well, there you go Dear Avid Reader…

    All ’cause I wanted was an argument with the Devil!

Easily one of my most self referential stories. And the germ of it started so long ago. I mentioned before in the Pastor’s Wife I think, what a fun character he was and of course he made his initial appearance in The Box although the earlier published story was written or at least started before I’d scribbled the latter. Sean, the assassin as opposed to the Vampire O’Neill appeared initially in Waiting and Killing Time whereas a few of you will know O’Neill and Iz’s entire story (so far partially presented in ‘The Tales of… and Curiosity) and will have worked out exactly when the day in New York takes place (If only Murphy had been able to rise earlier he would have met O’Neill one more time!).

Even now I reckon there’s more references in there than I can remember, personally I think it adds to the detail but I wonder what’s it like for an outsider, would there be too many unanswered questions if Darkening Skies was read by itself or would it seem to have depth??? Still it was fun and a pain to write, hope it was the former for you and not the latter.

Will I scribble more about these characters? Hard to say as far as my assassin goes, I think he’s pretty much retired though of course there’s an entire novel behind my vampires, as for the devil, well I reckon you should never turn your back on old Nick!

FtF

______________________________________

                      ….. He stood beside the lay-by as he watched the Jeep pull away and down the On-ramp, the Horslips tune playing once again, a sulphurous cigarette held between his thumb and first finger. “You be careful now Mr Murphy, I’ll see you and your Joy around!” A large RV pulled into the lay-by in front of him, a bumper sticker proclaiming that ‘Christ is our Sat-Nav’  displayed in the corner of the windscreen as behind it a dumpy wife unfolded a map for her hen-pecked husband as two kids shouted from the rear.

The bearded man took a drag from his never-ending cigarette and smiled unseen from the shadows beneath the trees, “Can’t be lolly-gagging around here all day… no rest for the wicked!!!” he grinned.

The man behind the wheel shivered and a moment later there was a crash of broken china from behind him; his knuckles whitened like tiny bird skulls on the steering wheel……

~ by ftfagos on October 12, 2012.

3 Responses to “Darkening Skies… Part 2”

  1. Well if I am duplicating my comments I apologize! I allowed myself some time to catch up with your blog today. Oh the intricacies in your writing. It took be a bit to catch on to what you were doing with Darkening Skies, but I loved how you did it. Does you mind every rest at all….you know how I loved the Tales of O’Neill all the references and links to your other stories very nicely done my friend…..You have amazing talent!

  2. A very enjoyable series. I am sad that there will be no more of them.
    Or will there…?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: