The shadows seemed to creep around him as he walked. The dark streets were his ally, he knew exactly how to exploit them. A dog barked in the distance, a car roared through the streets several blocks away, but otherwise he was alone. It had been a good night, he’d found his target, knew where they slept, who they slept with and therefore where he could strike. He would do so tomorrow.
He walked quietly up to a nondescript house in the suburbs, the late evening Balkan heat was slowly fading away but would still be present when another hot summers day kicked in, in the early hours. This part of the city had an odd smell, there were patches of rubbish lying around but that wasn’t all of it, it was like the helplessness of those who lived here were being picked up by the olfactory. The house in question was nothing remarkable on the outside, but the basement had a few surprises. He opened the door with the key he kept buried in a hidden layer of his clothing and walked down the stairs immediately to the left. The interior of the house matched the outside, decades old wooden building in disrepair that a paint job would do little to hide the fact that it was ready for demolition. It was perfect.
He had a key for the basement door as well, but didn’t want to startle his companion and so knocked twice loudly, waited a moment and rolled his knuckles across the green wooden portal.
The door opened and a slight built Asian man answered the door, he wore glasses atop his head but his attention was clearly on a device in his hands rather than the mysterious man dressed in black standing at the door.
‘Hi Will, bring me something nice?’ He walked back to his work bench without waiting for a reply. The figure in black stepped inside, closed the door and locked it, utilising all three locks. He had only heard one of them unlock.
‘Don’t use my name with the door still open, and for christ’s sake use all of the locks, that’s why I installed them.’
‘I’ll take that as no. And I think you installed all the locks just because you’re paranoid.’
‘I would hardly call it that,’ Will said as he started to peel off his layers of clothing. They clanged here and there as small hidden blades tapped against each other. ‘I mean, I know for a fact that there is a savage band of criminals, Europe wide, possibly world-wide, and they want my head on a platter. That’s been proven time and time again, so I don’t think calling me paranoid based on that is fair.’
‘Well, maybe, but I was more referring to the fact that you would think anyone could successfully track you back here. How many times did you walk around the neighbourhood before coming here, four times?’
‘No,’ he replied petulantly, he knew his friend was only riling him up, but he had to get it through his head that they were playing a dangerous game. ‘Three times, but I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about you, you don’t even lock the door when you leave sometimes, and you come straight back here. Don’t you think people will wonder what a Chinese man is doing walking around suddenly out of nowhere in outskirts of the city?’
‘I’m Taiwanese, not Chinese. But frankly, no, this far out, with the local houses ready to be knocked over, we are at the lowest end of the socioeconomic spectrum, people here don’t care, they are just trying to survive.’
‘Maybe so Chen, but you don’t seem to acknowledge that we are at war.’ Will often called him Chen, even though that was his last name. Chinese names were backwards relative to western names and so having seen it written down as Chen Kuan-lin, he started calling him Chen and the name had stuck.
‘Oh you’re so melodramatic. So how did you go tonight dear, have a good time at work?’ His tone was that of a ‘put on’ house wife which sounded especially strange given that he spoke with a mild accent. At any rate, Will ignored the style and stuck with the substance.
‘I found him, finally. He seems somewhat relaxed, so I’d suggest he doesn’t know we’re on to him.’
‘That seems odd,’ Chen said as he looked up from the device in his hand, pliers in the other. ‘If he is as bad as they say, you would think his security would be a little more on the ball.’
‘True, but I’m going in tomorrow night regardless.’
‘Ah, finally. How long have you been tracking him now? Twelve months?’
‘Well, I do hope he gives you what you want, otherwise we have a dead-end again.’
Will nodded. He was only too aware of how long the journey had been. His first encounter with this crime gang, Ulice had been in this very city, Skopje two years ago, now here he was again, after having just barely survived it, then he went on a quest of revenge which saw him climbing the ladder of the hierarchy until he could find the man in charge. Derrick. Derrick was a Serbian who had climbed the hierarchy himself but in a different way. He had taken charge of the crime syndicate less than five years ago and had taken it from shattered remains to the best kept secret in Europe it is today.
Will’s involvement had been quite accidental, merely the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. But nevertheless, his life had been forever changed by these people and he wasn’t going to rest until they were held responsible. The authorities could do nothing, they didn’t even know this group existed, and Will had turned to the life of the vigilantly surprisingly easily. His former life of a police officer, only weeks away from becoming a detective had been cut dramatically short, but it had given him the skills and the tools to seek his revenge.
After only a few months of hunting, he had taken some of the local leaders and had begun to follow the line up. It was when his journey had taken him from the point in London, all the way across to the south-east of Europe that he had met Chen. He to was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Will had managed to save him, and upon learning of the world of chaos that existed underneath the one he had once known, he had offered his expertise as a medical student and an obsessive gadget geek. Chen was now in his late twenties, about the same age as Will and could have been an engineer, a computer technician, a doctor, or all three. He had focused on medicine at the behest of his parents but was well versed at multiple subjects. He was a rare find and Will was glad to have him, not just for his quirky sensibilities but also his ability to help patch up Will after any adventures that don’t go so well, but additionally he could fix him new gadgets with which to fight his war.
So after two years, Will had done a full circle from the Balkans, right through Europe and back again, so here he was in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, a one million city in a two million country, landlocked, abandoned by the UN until recently and still snubbed by the European Union, but it was here, that Will had tracked down Derrick’s second in command, and it was here that he would get the final lead on his adversary.
The next evening Will awoke after a nap feeling refreshed. Chen had boiled some water and had just made some Chinese tea, it was not Will’s favourite, but it gently snapped his eyes open and charged his mind in a way that wouldn’t make him crash later like coffee did. Will had a very strict diet, never drank alcohol or smoked anything, he had to keep his body in best possible condition.
Chen on the other hand was somewhat more relaxed, he did smoke, like many men from his background, he enjoyed a strong spirit from his homeland, a Taiwanese version of rice wine which tasted like pure alcohol the one time Will had sipped it. He did eat ok, sticking to rice and vegetables with a little meat, more out of habit rather than any desire to be healthy. He had some such food cooked up now which Will snacked on, taking the rice in bigger quantities, he would need the carbohydrates later.
‘So you’re off to bash a man’s head in then ha?’ Chen said casually over a bowl of rice.
‘I’d hardly call him a man, but yes.’
‘And you say there were no enforcer’s protecting him?’
‘None that I could see, but I’m going in armed to the teeth either way.’
‘Fair enough, when will you go?’
‘I’ll leave at about 11pm, he should be tucked up in bed well before I get there.’
Time ticked by, Will put on his underclothes, his body armour, not enough to stop heavy ordnance, but it was light and meant he could move more easily. He put on a light black trench coat as well, it helped cover his armour and conceal weapons, it made him look quite ridiculous as Chen had pointed out several times but it was practical.
Will looked in the mirror, his slightly olive skin looked like it was starting to go pale, a sign of many nights of work and days of rest. His dark hair and stubble, the latter of which he promptly removed as part of maintaining some order in his life, were both signs of some Balkan heritage, but he was light enough and slightly taller than the average Balkan man who gave him a link with the west as well. His gray eyes were not very telling, he gathered he had a somewhat intense look about him, but this was common of men with some signs of intelligence that spoke little.
‘Well, don’t wait up,’ he said as he checked his pockets one last time.
‘Bring me back something. Maybe some gold, or perhaps a skull?’
‘Only if you’ve been good.’ He stopped just before closing the door behind him. ‘And lock the bloody door,’ he growled as he disappeared up the stairs.
It was a thirty minute walk by way of taking indirect streets to avoid attention. Being a Wednesday night it wasn’t too hard to stay out of the sparse lighting. The thing about Skopje is, if you stayed away from the bars, it was a nice relaxed city, and certainly in better repair then the house he and Chen had found.
The houses were reasonably new as many had been destroyed in the 1970’s by a massive earthquake, it was one of the few times that Mother Theresa had left India, but the call of her home in peril was enough on that occasion.
These thoughts left him as Will came close to his target. A luxury apartment building, five stories high in a more modern part of the city.
Time to go to work.
The stench of garbage and despair had wafted away and was replaced by the smell of heat bouncing off bitumen that threatened to melt a little each day during the unending summer. It looked out-of-place compared to the older Communist style buildings, but Macedonia was free of the old ways, and that meant tacky buildings galore.
The street lights were a little more compact and useful here, but that didn’t stop Will creeping across into the grounds and making his way around to the back of the building. He expertly climbed up the back, the railings and various small alcoves provided enough places to grab onto and within five minutes he was past the lower level apartments and on the back balcony of his targets’. The lights were out inside, as he had expected, it was nearly midnight, he was asleep by 10pm at the latest.
Using a small lock pick which he’d spent the past two years practising with allowed him to open the sliding glass door within two minutes, it wasn’t bolted, the man was feeling secure on the top floor no doubt.
That will be his last mistake.
There were curtains in the way, but Will brushed them aside as he crouched and entered the room. Scanning the area there was no one in the living room and seemed to be no one in the apartment aside from the bedroom, but he did a quick check anyway. A slight light emanated from two red lights that seemed to be coming from a television and DVD player on standby. Moonlight crept in under the curtains and a slight creaking could be heard that sounded like all buildings as they stretched and rolled over during the night. There was a second room with the door closed which he didn’t want to risk opening and making a noise, but the bathroom was empty and so he decided to strike.
He opened the bedroom door, it wasn’t locked. It was pitch black inside but Will could see the outline on the bed, the man appeared to be glowing as he lay there vulnerable. Will pulled out his knife and lent forward, then with a slow inhale he struck. He pulled back the sheet to avoid getting tangled and drove his left forearm into the man’s throat. His victim didn’t have time to scream but tried to struggle all the same. Will dug the knife’s point into his cheek until it registered and the body under him stopped moving.
‘Good, now I’m going to turn the light on, don’t move.’ Will reached out and flicked the side lamp, it came on and Will could now make out the squinting features of the short tubby figure underneath him. He was Balkan in appearance, olive skin, darker than Will’s and he had a short beard, his hair was dark and fear was in his eyes.
‘Ok, now you’re going to answer me a question, either that or I cut you before you have a chance to change, got it?’ The man nodded. ‘Good. Tell me where your boss is, where is Derrick?’
‘Derrick? I dont’ know anyone named Derrick I work for-‘ Will poked the knife in a little more.
‘I know who you pretend to work for, but I know Derrick is really your boss so own up, where is he and maybe you’ll leave here in one piece.’
‘Ok, ok.’ The man struggled, his voice only just escaping from underneath Will’s arm. ‘He’s in Zagreb,’ he even gave Will the exact street address.
‘Well, that was easier than I thought.’
‘You’ll let me live now right?’ Will smiled at him. He pulled away taking the pressure off his captive and letting him breath. Will stood up beside the bed looking down at him.
‘Maybe,’ he gave his best sinister smiled as he poked at the knife, he liked to torment such evil creatures as this, they deserved it after all. But to his surprise the figure beneath him didn’t contort in fear again, he merely smiled back at him.
‘It doesn’t matter, you’ll be dead in a minute anyway.’ His demeanour had changed from scared and childlike to that of a creep in control.
‘Oh, so you gave me his actual address then?’
‘Oh yes, it is real, and knowing that you can never use it will be the last thought that enters your mind.’
With a loud crash, the door flew into the room ripped from its hinges and shards scattered around the room. Will ducked to the ground as a large figure came into the room, obscured in the poor light.
Damn, It’s a trap.
He didn’t need to see it to know what it was, it was an enforcer. The large build was enough to give it away, but he could see the muscular arms and vile claws, the gnashing of teeth could be heard.
To most people this would be a shocking sight, but Will had been around the block a lot in the past two years. In a swift motion he put away his knife and pulled out one of his larger, crescent-shaped blades. The handle sat neatly in the centre and enabled him to wield it with a 180 degree razor-sharp edge.
The enforcer ran at Will who was pinned in the corner of the room. He could take the thing on equal footing, but in cramped areas such as this it was an even fight. He jumped onto the bed and made to run across into the open section of the bedroom, but the chubby man on the bed grabbed at his ankle and tripped him. Will looked around to see the man changing shape as well, his human features fell away and stringy yet powerful arms and sharp claws were now holding Will in place on the bed. The enforcer slowed his advance, perhaps to enjoy the inevitable win, so Will took the opportunity to spin, pull his knife out of his jacket and slam it into the half man, half creature’s chest. It cried out in pain as its eyes bulged into their natural, large black form. More importantly, it let go and that enabled Will to roll of the bed and turn to face the enforcer that ran at him at full speed, claws slashing.
Will ducked to the side but received a back hand for his trouble and found himself sprawled up against the far wall. He recovered quickly and ran at enforcer who had begun its charge once more, but as it got closer, Will slid to the ground and in a flurry of motion kicked the creature and using its momentum, sent it flying across the room and into the wall leaving a massive imprint of it as it fell to the floor.
Will returned to a crouch and watched as the creature regained its position and began to come at him again. He held up his crescent blade and the minimal light showed it covered in black, oozing blood. The creature stopped and looked down to see its mid section, oozing life. It looked at him, its large dark eyes in torment, teeth open, it cried out as it ran at him but staggered to the ground, kneeling by the time it reached him. Will simply, yet elegantly stepped back and spun around, his blade in his outstretched hand, the creature’s neck began spewing forth more blood as it fell to the ground.
Will wiped his blade on the bed sheets and walked casually over to the man-creature who, due to extreme stress had ceased its transformation half way through. The eyes were creature, the mouth was human, the hair was still there, and the right arm was unchanged, but the rest of the body was the dull wiry gray of the creatures. It looked up at him, it was bleeding to death, the knife wasn’t instantly fatal, but it wouldn’t take long. Will pulled the knife from its chest, blood oozed out and it cried in pain.
‘Just need me knife, you can die now. Oh, and thanks for the address.’
‘It doesn’t matter, when they know I am dead, they will be prepared for you, and you wont have your little friend to help you.’ The creature managed a grin, Will wanted to ask what it meant but it fell back and expired in front of him.
His little friend? Chen!
He ran from the apartment, taking the stairs caring little for staying silent. He was out the door and sprinted back to his base of operations and was there within ten minutes.
Puffing and panting, Will ran down the stairs and saw that the door had already been forced open, he was too late. He flew through the door and looked around, the food had been knocked over, Chen’s things were scattered everywhere, the only positive sign was that there was no blood, maybe he was still alive, maybe…………..
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2016