His vision returned, Will had regained consciousness. It took him only a moment to realise where he was, in an apartment, the smell of blood surrounded him and there was a dead creature, one live and angry one, and one traitorous human in there with him. He must have only been knocked out for a moment, the creature had only just regained its composure and was now ready for a fight, Will turned his head and saw the man behind him looking a little dazed but back up on his feet, he was going for his gun on the other side of the room at a brisk jog. He would have it within moments, the creature looked down at him and bared its teeth, opened its hands, claws held out menacingly and prepared to strike. In a moment he would have both of them to deal with, he had to do something, now.
Will realised that he had reached out just a moment before he had passed out, as a result, he was ready to strike, but who should he take out? Both could get him in an instant. In the blink of an eye he realised what he had to do.
He raised himself up to his haunches and with his right hand he flung a quick gesture with his hand, as he did so, a whip of pure energy emerged from his fingers. The man picked up the gun and brought it to bear on Will, who didn’t have time to see it hit home as he had to launch himself to the side to avoid the creature leaping at him. The creature rammed into the wall and was stunned for a moment. Will glanced over when he heard a scream and saw the man holding the stump where his hand had once been, most of it lay on the ground with the gun not so far away.
I guess my aim’s alright after all.
Will then sent some of his remaining energy into his right leg and right arm, super charging the limbs. With it, he jumped, favouring his now powered limb which sent him flying at the creature’s back at incredible speeds. He brought up his right knee and as it crashed into the creatures spine, the remaining energy transferred with a loud crack and a flash of light, the creature roared in pain and fell to one knee, struggling to turn around and face its attacker, Will didn’t give it a chance, with his right hand likewise full of energy he moved around to the creature’s side and sent the fist into its sternum. Another loud crack of energy, but also a sickening sound of shattered bone erupted followed by a burst of black blood from the creature’s mouth.
Will turned and saw that the man was slowly getting over the shock of the loss of his hand and was making for the gun with his left, but Will’s boot crunched down on his fingers just as he wrapped his hand around the grip. He gritted his teeth and groaned, looked up at Will with anger in his eyes.
‘You made your choice,’ Will said in Serbian, ‘this is your doing, don’t go against your own kind.’ He then smashed the man in the temple with all his strength, the brass knuckles cracking his skull with a sickening crunch as he hit the ground already dead.
Will picked up the gun and turned on the creature that had its back to the wall facing him now, but was struggling to breath as blood pooled on its chest. It had sunk down and seemed to be getting lower, like an inflatable pool toy with the air escaping. It would likely be dead as well in a few minutes, but then again, they were tough creatures and could survive a lot of damage.
Will turned and looked at the other creature he had stabbed, the knife lay in a mound of what looked like ashes. The body had nearly finished dissolving, a most curious trait of these creatures. He put the gun between the others eye’s, the barrel tapping against its thick hide. The cold, dead, black eyes gazed up at him, it wasn’t angry, it wasn’t sad, it seemed resigned to its fate. This was war, it was a soldier, it had lost the battle.
Chen looked around the street, it had been a little too long for his liking, but he was used to waiting for Will to return from battle, this would end no differently. He grabbed the bags and moved them around so they would be easier to grab in a hurry, scanned the street one more time, seeing only two people walking around that paid him no attention and was about to shift his weight from his right to left leg once more but the door opened. Chen tensed for a moment but was relieved to see Will come out looking a little dishevelled but ok.
‘Took you long enough,’ Chen said.
‘Terribly sorry, had some cleaning to do.’ Will’s eyes darted around as he smoothed out his hair.
‘Yes,’ Will said as he picked up his bags and they doubled back towards their hotel, ‘they offered to make us a donation. We now are proud owners of a 9mm Glock, only one clip of ammo, one bullet short I’m afraid, also about 500 Kunas and a watch that will make us another 500.’
‘Hmm, not much but that was nice of them all the same.’
‘Yes, that’s what I thought.’
‘So only two were creatures then?’
‘Any clue on the human?’
‘He was Croatian according to his ID card, not much else to go on.’
‘Well, at least we can get some rest now.’
Chen was snoring within ten minutes of getting into their room, it smelt vaguely of old cigarette smoke. Will went out first to sell the watch he had stolen from his attackers as well as a few other bits and pieces from previous missions, including some jewellery. It was always easy to sell if he went to different shops, never selling more than three or four pieces in one place.
He then scouted the area and confirmed that they weren’t being followed. The two humans, the decoys had no doubt reported back to their superiors but the absence of the three others, the main attack group- Will was sure that was their intent, they wanted to attack him, not just follow him- would probably not have been known just yet. He wanted to take advantage of the short window of opportunity he had before they knew the three of them had been killed and even though he was screaming for a sleep, his eyes were beginning to sting and his muscles were tired from exertion, the buzz from the coffees at breakfast were still going and so he decided to push the advantage.
Using the address given to him by the lieutenant in Skopje, Will got a taxi and made his way there. The larger Hapsburg buildings from the peak of the long dead empire began to fade away as the inner suburbs sped by and finally they reached the business district. The sound of footsteps and cards zooming past gradually increased and the taxi had to slow to cater for the increase in traffic.
Zagreb was a city with self respect that Will admired, they had decided that the history and architecture were important and thus protected many of the elegant buildings. The skyscrapers of modern business were relegated two suburbs over, thus letting the beauty of the inner city remain untarnished, yet still allowing modern business to do its thing.
Will got out of the taxi, using some of the stolen notes to pay the man, he moved off and began walking amongst the taller buildings. It was all pristine and new here, he could be in any modern city, there was nothing of note, tram lines, cafes, people wearing suits.
He walked a large grid around the address keeping his collar up and only glancing around every twenty paces, moving with purpose so as to avoid the look of someone who shouldn’t be there.
As he walked, he spotted a shape shifter, there was no doubt it was one of the creatures in human form. Will could tell by the way it moved. He was dressed in a suit and going about his business, the way any other person would in this place. They were good, he had to admit that, the nameless were everywhere in the Balkans and seemed to be spreading right throughout Europe, and many millions would be working next to them and not even know. Not all nameless were shapeshifters however, it seemed to take a very long time to develop that skill, so for every such creature walking amongst humans there were a dozen somewhere, hiding underground like goblins in a cave, only coming out at night, living either in the wilderness or in cities, either way, they were utterly separate from human society and they had spent centuries learning how to stay hidden.
On occasions they would be seen of course, but any witnesses were promptly disposed of. Every now and again someone would survive and stories would spread, Will suspected that every folk tale from the heart of Europe came from these creatures, vampires, werewolves, demons, most likely all had one source. Where they came from, he had no clue, but what made the creatures so powerful wasn’t just their physical strength or their ability to hide in plain sight, it was also their power. Their powers enabled them to shape shift, some could shield themselves and thus block bullets, some could charge their deadly claws and turn them into explosive weapons, and some could even conjure up pure energy and shoot it from their bodies. It was impossible to know what a creature could do until they did it, so Will simply had to assume that everyone was capable of any such action until proven otherwise.
The biggest mystery of all, was where on earth did Will get his powers. He could do anything they could, except shape shift, he was still learning how to manage it all but it made him particularly deadly to the creatures.
He had discovered his abilities during his encounter with Derrick two years ago, he was on his back, at the mercy of his enemy and then suddenly he felt something from within himself come alive, he had struck out, killed a creature, which he had only seen for the first time a little earlier, and escaped. Suffice it to say it had been an intensely eye-opening experience and will was still trying to wrap his head around it all.
He wasn’t sure where he got his powers, but he knew for sure that the creatures were not very well organised, they simply existed, until Derrick turned up that is. Now his organisation had spread across the continent and Will knew that he had the power, the strength to stop him. He had no clue what Derrick’s end game was, was he after world domination? Was he after taking on humanity itself? Will had no idea, but either way, he had to be stopped.
Having become aware of rumours amongst Derrick’s syndicate that there was a human with their powers that was hunting them. Yes it seems he had become a bit of a boogie man to the creatures which is a thought that amused him greatly. So far, he believed he had been able to stay hidden, at least well enough that when he struck at the creatures they didn’t necessarily know it was ‘he with the powers’. They had many enemies after all, as does any larger crime organisation, so when Will attacks and holds back with his powers, there is a wonderful moment of realisation in their eyes just after he lets loose, it’s him they think just before they are killed.
Will finished walking a large grid and then made it smaller focusing more on the address in question. It was a smaller office building in amongst the high rises, it was modern, lots of glass, nothing to give it away as different from the rest.
Will stopped for a cup of tea nearby, across the street and a little way down but still within view of the building. He watched for the best part of an hour. He saw two more shapeshifters but otherwise nondescript business types going back and forth.
He breathed in his cup of tea, after it had been refilled, the bitter yet pleasant smell refreshed and calmed him. There was a sudden blink of recognition as he saw the man he had threatened in the alley, he was rushing inside looking rather upset.
Now what’s he up to?
Will watched for another fifteen minutes, scanning the area as he finished his third cup of tea. He hoped he hadn’t missed anything in his one visit to the toilet, but sure enough he was rewarded with the sight of the man being taken away in a car. He had been ushered out the back, but from Will’s viewpoint he could see the back entrance, the car park side easily. There were two men, one looked like a rough security guard, the other more business oriented. They drove away, Will paid up quickly as he hailed a taxi. He was speeding after the other car in moments, ushering the driver on. The car wound its way out of the district and just out of the city into the outer suburbs before it stopped.
Will asked the driver to move on and park around the corner, he paid him plus a small tip, thus relieving himself of all the stolen money from the dead man’s wallet that morning. Doubling back he watched the three men go inside a small house that matched the others in the residential district. They were a little old and thus the new sleek black car stood out against the surroundings.
Will was out of sight but could watch the entrance of the house easily enough, he didn’t feel the urge to go barging in, even if what he thought was happening was happening, that the man was going to be killed for failing or wanting to leave their organisation, he couldn’t go in to stop it and draw undue attention to himself. So he waited.
After about fifteen minutes the two men emerged, the nervous man was not in tow this time. They retrieved a few things from their car; a tarp, gloves, rope before returning to the house. After a few more minutes they returned to the car and put in what looked like a body into the boot. Will felt a moment of regret for the man, he was likely innocent and didn’t deserve that, but the moment passed quickly.
He waited for the car to drive away before sneaking inside, forcing the lock with gloves on, he didn’t want there to be any proof of him being in a probable murder scene. He didn’t have to stay long, the stench of death and fresh blood met him as he slunk inside. It was obvious what had happened, the man had been shot, likely a silenced weapon, there was blood, the splatter was that of a gun shot, there was no body. So maybe he knew something they didn’t want to get out, it was hard to say, but either way, they had tied up a loose end, or so they thought.
Scouring the area he found a corner of a piece of paper that was covered in blood, it was hard to tell from the rest of the blood, presumably the rest of the paper had been picked up, this bit was all that was left.
Looking at it, he couldn’t quite make out what it said, it was too damaged, but he had an idea Chen could figure it out. There was an outline of some writing, it could be important.
Returning to the hotel about half an hour later Chen was still sleeping, but Will woke him up and got him to work on the paper. He laid down and was asleep within moments, but a tap at his feet woke him. He checked his watch, he had slept for nearly an hour, it was nowhere near enough, but it would help.
‘What have you got?’ He asked as Chen handed him a piece of paper, it was a replication of the damaged one, now with the print readable. Chen put away his devices, microscope and air brush plus some other things that Will didn’t recognise.
‘Oh, just my usual quality work,’ he said as Will read the note.
‘You’re sure this is right?’
‘Yeah, I mean I can’t read cyrillic, but I traced it out ok. Why, what does it say?’
‘See you at four pm.’
‘Yeah, that means-‘ he checked his watch ‘they’ll meet in two hours.’
‘I have no idea, but I’m going to be waiting at the address then and see who shows up.’
‘You don’t even have an address, I mean they could be referring to any place.’
‘True, but this place, Derrick’s office, seems to be the centre of the universe at the moment, call it a hunch.’
Will went back to sleep for an hour and then awoke to have some late lunch with Chen, a baguette with spiced meat and fresh salad ordered from the hotel room service.
He dressed in nondescript clothing, the look of a casual but professional type and went back to the cafe to have another tea. It was 3:50, he was early, the way he liked it.
He ran everything through his mind, it was a little bit of a stretch he had to admit. It must have been in the dead man’s possession, hence it was covered in blood, so maybe it was his own note that he had written and they had handed it back, to show that they knew what he was up to, or maybe that they didn’t approve of it somehow. It could have been nothing special, just his desire to hand in his resignation, they were throwing it back in his face and then killing him. Could it be as simple as that? But if that were true, who was he supposed to meet? Surely not Derrick, a lowly offsider couldn’t possibly be going to the boss, so who was it?
Speculation got him no further and so Will waited. 4pm hit and at first nothing happened, but within a few minutes there was some movement, a car, the same car from before, black, sleek, now without a body in the back Will would wager.
The same two men got out of the car and went inside, the car continued on into the car park, so they had another driver. The men waited just inside the main entrance, they were hiding from the heat, but were waiting for someone, then another car pulled up. Will couldn’t help himself, he lent forward, he wanted to know, who was this mystery person and what did they have to do with all of this?
The car looked even more expensive than the other modest to high-end business cars, it stopped, someone got out to open the door, the two men came out and walked quickly down to greet the occupant, there was much fanfare. A head came up, it was a man, dark hair, he wore a surprisingly casual suit, but it still looked expensive, but Will didn’t need to see his face, he knew it was Derrick. So he was going to the big boss after all, he couldn’t figure out how it connected, but right now it didn’t matter, he could see the man and he burnt his anger into the back of his head. This was the reason why he had come here, this is where it started, and this is where it would end.
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2016