Here is my entry for bekindrewrite‘s Inspiration Monday Challenge for 09/05/11. I hope you enjoy it. The characters in the story have appeared in another story of mine. I use the setting for all of my writing challenges.
Bernard held still, pressed into a dark recess in the alley wall, watching the guards walk past. They had cigarettes dangling from their lips, the bright cherry at the end ruining any night vision they might have had. He could have killed them before they even knew what was happening, but that wasn’t the plan. He waited until they rounded the corner before he took a breath and checked his watch, a rare bit of technology that had survived the apocalypse. Two minutes late. Damn Felix never could keep a schedule even when it was important.
The sound of a cat digging through a pile of refuse drew Bernard’s attention to his right. The scruffy creature was chasing down a mouse or rat most likely. The damned rodents had proven to be almost as resilient as the cockroaches. There were rumors that some of them had mutated to the size of dogs in the hot zones. Bernard had never seen one much larger than his forearm and he really didn’t care to. He tried to stay out of the hot zones as much as possible. He was pretty sure the radiation wouldn’t kill him at this point, but the wastelands and the people, if you could call them that, made him uncomfortable.
He checked his watch again, four minutes late. Fuck it. No more waiting now. He would have to have words with Felix once they were done, assuming Felix survived. Bernard had to suppress a laugh as he moved across the alley and started climbing the wall of the ten story apartment building. No matter how bad things got, Felix always managed to find a way out. Perhaps this would be the time his luck ran out.
The apartment building had been nice in its hay day, but time and war had diminished its status. It was one of the few buildings in Lansing, Michigan that still stood that tall. Most everything else had collapsed or burned in the years following the war. It made for a good strong point and it was considered impregnable, a modern fortress impossible to break. Would-be assassins an marauders had failed time and time again to get beyond the first floor. Killing the target within was every hired murderer’s Mount Everest, but they said it could never happen, that he was too well guarded and too well loved by his people. Whoever “they” were, they had never met Bernard.
Scaling the building was hard, but not impossible, at least not for someone trained as Bernard had been. The pitted surface of the building had been smooth and glossy at one time, but they had started to show signs of wear before the bomb had dropped. It took the better part of an hour to reach the eighth floor, which was where the target was rumored to spend the majority of his time. Bernard peered into the window of the store room he had scoped out as his point of entry and found it dark and unoccupied. Weeks of observation from a distance had paid off.
The distraction that Felix had been responsible for had never materialized, so there would be more men in the building, but that only meant that more people had to die. Bernard pulled the window open, grateful for the false sense of security the eighth floor imparted on people, an slipped inside. He closed the door and watched the patrol from an hour earlier pass below him, oblivious to the breech in security above them. Bernard checked his blades and the pair of handguns he carried with him. Bernard turned the light on in the storage room so that his eye could adjust before he entered the well lit hall on the other side of the door. Only idiots charged out of the darkness half blind. Being able to see his enemies was far more important than sticking to the darkness. After one last check he opened the door and slipped into the hall.
Bernard quickly made his way through the corridors, searching out his target. He had long since stopped caring who it was he killed, only that he did his job, and that he was the very best at doing it. He came to a corner and peaked around it, finding exactly what he was looking for, a door guarded by a trio of men with guns. Beyond the door was the man he had been sent to kill.
He measured the distance in his mind and knew that he could make it to them before he was killed, but he would most likely be shot once or more by the time he had killed them, and that just would not do. Bernard quietly pulled out one of his blades and threw it, aiming for the light fixture attached to the wall in front of the door. He was around the corner and running down the hall before it hit. Before he had stepped twice he released a second blade, aiming for the closest guard. The light bulb exploded and the first guard grabbed his neck a moment later. Before the other two guards understood what was happening, Bernard was upon them.
The flash of steel accompanied every movement as he disarmed and disabled the other two guards. He had been trained in silence and efficiency. His motions were never wasted and his victims never survived. He had learned the hard way that survivors made for lasting enemies. His blade and fist made short work of the guards and he once more stood alone in the hall.
Knives were retrieved from corpses and the wall beside the light fixture while he mastered the adrenaline coursing through his system. Good steel was too precious to leave behind, no matter how dangerous the delay might have been. He wiped the blades clean on the clothes of the dead men before he returned them to their places on his body.
Bernard opened the door and stepped into the room. It was more sparse than he expected. The leaders of men in his world thrived on the treasures their positions permitted and they showed their wealth as a reminder. This man kept nothing but a small wooden desk, a mattress on the floor and simple wooden cross hung on the wall opposite the door. His poverty was impossible to ignore.
The man knelt before the cross, his head bowed. His voice broke the silence like a thunderclap, though it was no more than a whisper. “I know why you’re here. Please be quick about it. I don’t fear death, but I don’t wish to suffer.”
“Where is the book?” Bernard asked as he glided across to the room to stand behind the man.
“The Book? It is beneath my pillow.” The man turned his head to look at the bed. “What will you do with it?” For the first time there was fear in his voice. His aged hands shook, with palsy or fear, Bernard was not sure, but it was clear that he feared for the book.
“I was told to bring it to my masters.” Bernard stood behind the man, a knife in his hand, prepared to plunge up through the base of his skull at a moment’s notice.
The target nodded. “Yes, I suspect it is too valuable to simply destroy it.” He looked forward once more and asked, “will they use it well?”
“No.” Bernard shoved the blade through the man’s brain stem, killing him instantly. he removed the knife and laid the man down gently, reminded of his parents by the man’s gentle spirit. He wiped the blade clean on the man’s blankets and pulled the book from under the pillow. It was bigger than he had anticipated, but the extra weight would make little difference. He slipped it into the small pack on his back, its sole purpose to carry the book. He looked once more at the dead man lying on the floor. There was no regret, no remorse, but there was a sense of pity. Peaceful men had no place in this world.
Bernard left the room and made his way back to the storage room without incidence. He slowly climbed back down the wall, dropping the last three stories to the alley below. He walked away from the building and was well down the road before any cries reached his ears. They would search the building before they started searching the streets. By then he would on his way back to Terra Haute.
The horse was right where he had left them and sitting beside them was Felix. He waved and said, “glad to see you made it back Bernard. did everything go as planned?”
“Everything but your distraction,” the assassin said as he mounted the horse.
“Sorry about that. There were too many people there. I would have been caught for sure.” Felix climbed up on the horse behind Bernard and the two set off toward the closest thing to home they had.
Bernard knew that some day he would have to kill Felix, but today was not that day. He couldn’t help but feel like he had done enough killing for the day.
- Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (plantingfield.wordpress.com)