My hat fell off as my head jerked backward, I had fallen asleep mid stakeout. A panicked check of my watch showed I was only out for forty minutes or so. Discarding the hat into the passenger’s seat I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and yawned deeply. The boys in black to my right were still there, still staring blankly ahead. How they did it I’ll never know, they weren’t even taking separate shifts. Night had well and truly fallen on the area and we were entirely alone in the empty car park. I scanned the black night air for signs of movement or things out of place. The stones sat silently off in the distance, old, tired, and worn. No mysterious glowing lights dancing about yet. The only movement was a lone security guard doing slow laps around the monument. Another could be seen in the guardhouse, possibly sleeping. They must have hired extra security since the newspaper report as I couldn’t see guarding a set of stones to be that important in the grand scheme of things, easily a one person job. This might complicate matters or simplify them depending on how things went, the guards would most certainly involve the police if needed. That could be a real problem if things went pear shaped, and with me they had a habit of doing just that.
Another yawn forced its way from my mouth, stretching my face wide and distorted. Mid way through I saw something, off towards the main road was a shadow. Only a keen eye would have seen it but it was there. I fished out the binoculars from under a pile of newspapers and tried to focus on the shadowy figure. The light of the moon didn’t do her any favours as it bounced off the bright white strands of hair that stuck out of the black hood pulled up around her head. Crouching in the open field she lacked any decent cover, rookie mistake. I shook my head silently, she was better off walking right up to the stones, but each to their own I guess. I took another look at the blank brothers but they hadn’t budged. I trained the binoculars on them. Both were sitting rigid in their seats, eyes unblinking, looking dead ahead. A spot of colour had appeared on one of their crisp white shirts. Bight red. I tightened up on the face of the closest one. A thin red line arched from ear to ear around his throat, dripping steadily down his neck.
I cursed silently and reached for my gun. I cursed again, this time out loud as I remembered I had to leave my gun behind. Bloody customs. The only weapon I had on hand was the small knife I always carry. It wasn’t as comforting as the heaviness of a loaded revolver but it would have to do. I killed the internal light and quietly opened the door. Slowly I slid out, making sure to keep low I made my way quickly across the car park to confirm what I had seen through the binoculars. Both were as dead as my love life, but only just. I cracked open the passenger door as quietly as I could and searched the dead man’s jacket for ID. Happily I came across the handgun first. A 9mm automatic. A nice weapon but I preferred an old school revolver myself. I checked the safety and tucked the weapon into my belt. He had no ID at all, just a wad of cash in his inside pocket. I risked leaning over and frisked his partner. I ended up with more cash and a second weapon. I discarded the gun onto the floor of the car after removing the clip adding it to my own pocket.
Neither of them had struggled which was odd given that both of them had their throats slit. If it was one killer then you would assume that the second man would have noticed the first dying. It was either two assassins working together or it was a deity. I swallowed hard. Assassin gods were rare, they didn’t care enough about us to worry about killing mortals, and if they did it usually was en-mass or after years of torture. A god who can be anywhere they want at a mere thought was a scary image for an assassin. They didn’t even need weapons, if they were powerful enough and had a strong cult following, you could be dead just by them thinking about you hard enough. For my own sanity I decided not to entertain the idea further, the last thing I needed on this case was a god with a taste for mortal blood.
I backed away from the car slowly, and clicked the door shut as quietly as I could. The harsh glow from the door light faded away and I was back in darkness. I did a quick check of the area. Both guards seemed to be back in their hut and I didn’t blame them, the night air was very chill even with my heavy coat wrapped around me. I couldn’t see the girl any more though, and with very little cover to hide in it was a little concerning. I chastised myself, I was getting sloppy again. Moving around behind the vehicle I shot a look towards the stones. No glowing yet, but as my eyes re-adjusted to the darkness I began to make out a shadow of movement.
The girl must have snuck across the field when the guards returned to the hut. Lucky her. There was a lot of open distance between me and the henge that was starting to make me nervous. I didn’t know if she was armed, dangerous, or mad. Or all three. Plus one of those guards could come out at any time, but judging by the small cloud that appeared with every breath I took I would hazard that they were staying in for a while. I checked my newly acquired weapon again and pulled the slider back to chamber a round, it happily clicked in anticipation. Gun in hand I crouched low and took the chance to run behind my own car. The distance was nothing compared to what I’d have to run across to get to the stones and the girl but it was a good sign that no one took a shot at me. Happens more times than you’d think.
I sat up with my back against the rear bumper, gun sitting low at my side as I took another look towards the stones. The almost full moon shone brightly in the night sky casting deep shadows along the ground. Dark shadow monoliths extended in thin black fingers along the ground, all pointing towards me. It was in those shadows that I saw her again. Hidden behind a fallen boulder was a pointed shape that cast a thin shadow that jutted out at an odd angle. I could almost swear that I saw a faint glow of red coming from the dark patch where she sat but I dismissed it as night tricks and stress. Another quick check of the rest of the area said I was most likely alone. It was now or never.
I stood up, gun pointed dead straight in front of me. I took slow, deliberate steps towards the hooded figure. I didn’t say anything till I was around six meters away.
‘Hands up, lady.’ My voice punctuated by small tufts of mist coming from my mouth. She didn’t respond. Still crouched behind the rock, ignoring me. I took a few more steps forward and said it again.
‘Hey, lady! Hands up!’ This time she turned. The dark hood pulled low over her face, a dull red glowed from under the cloth and darkness.
‘Take the hood off, let me see your face.’ I waggled the gun to speed her up. She looked at me with disdain. Slowly she pulled back the black hood and revealed who she was. The white half of her hair shone bright in the moonlight, while the black side was as the night itself.
Her small features looked lost under all that hair. Her lips gave nothing away, covered in black lipstick they sat eerily against her pale skin. I couldn’t help but notice the subtle tint of red in her wide eyes, features that didn’t come across in the black and white photos. Excluding her eyes, the black and white images were dead on, to the point that you could have sworn they were actually colour photographs. She looked at me with boredom and contempt, ignoring the gun pointed at her. I’d seen this kind of utter contempt before but only from a deity, hel I’d been subject to it more than a few times in the recent past but never from a mortal. I shot a quick look towards the guard house. No movement yet but I shouldn’t take the risk getting mixed up with the local law. I had to get her back safely to the hotel, I’m sure my employers could deal with her then.
I waved her towards the car with the barrel of the gun. ‘Come on, you’re coming back with me.’ That got her attention. She turned to look at me dead on. The light of the moon picked up the red in her eyes and for a moment I could swear they glowed faintly.
‘What.’ She snapped. I had dealt with enough bail skips and escaped felons before to know it was best to ignore their questions. The more you engaged them the greater the chance for them to weave some escape plan. Knowledge was power in the private detective game and it paid to keep your cards close to the chest.
‘You’re a lady in demand, and you’re coming with me. Move it.’ I walked around her to herd her towards the car. With a gun at her back she should have instinctively moved forward. Obviously her fight or flight mode was broken. I sighed.
‘Come on, don’t make this harder than it needs to be. I don’t want to have to shoot you, but I will.’ I pulled the hammer back on the gun. I didn’t need to as it was an automatic but it was a force of habit from the revolver, also it usually helped to illustrate that I wasn’t messing around. I mean, I was but she didn’t know that.
She didn’t even flinch. Instead she turned towards me and walked right into the barrel. It pushed into the middle of her chest, forcing the gun backwards into my hand as she locked eyes with me. A soft breeze caught the underside of her hair and gave it life, dancing in the cold night air. Her lips parted and a deep, gravely voice came out of this slight woman before me.
‘I am not afraid of death, fool. Pull your trigger and be done with it.’
I stared back into her hauntingly deep, red eyes, wide with anger and scorn. I let out a deep sigh, my breath coming out as a long stream of mist in the chill of the air. I pulled the gun away from her chest slowly. Then I shot her in the leg.
The explosion echoed in the darkness, rousing the two guards from their quiet house. The girl crumpled as the bullet pierced her right thigh. It would be a clean wound, in and out, I made sure. She screamed out more in surprise than pain. I holstered the gun and leant down to pick her up in a fireman's lift. The two guards were rushing over towards us now and I could hear one on his radio calling for backup. Neither looked to be armed so once I had the girl secure over my shoulder I took out the weapon and fired another two rounds into the air, stopping the guards in their tracks. I didn’t wait around to explain myself, high tailing it towards my car. The girl was beginning to come out of the shock of being shot and started to hammer on my back with her fists. A quick jolt to the stomach as I pushed upwards with my shoulder knocked the wind out of her. I hated to hurt a woman on principal but I also had a job to do and the years had taught me to do it quickly and do it well.
I threw open the passenger’s door with my free hand and hustled her inside, slamming it behind her. She instantly grabbed for the handle as I rushed to the other side but she was out of luck. First thing I did when I got the car was click on the child locks. A hard lesson I learnt a long time ago. I climbed in the driver’s seat and got the car going. The two guards were keeping their distance but were closing in now as I drove off. The rental car picked up speed as I left the car park and headed out onto the main road. I figured the police would have to come from the town so I headed in the opposite direction. My passenger, much to my surprise sat silently in shock next to me.
As I sped off down the dark road I took a quick look at her wound. I couldn’t see too well because of the black denim jeans she wore but from the way the blood was flowing fairly quickly it looked like a clean shot.
‘Here.’ I said handing her some clean bandages I had purchased before coming out to the stones. ‘Wrap the wound up tight, I’ll fix it once we’re in the clear.’ She shot me a look that would have killed if it was loaded. ‘You’ll bleed out otherwise.’ I explained pushing the bandages into her hands. Eventually she got the message and slowly unwrapped the cloth and strapped up her bleeding leg. There were no flashing lights in my mirrors or up ahead but I kept up my speed. The next town over wasn’t too far away and I had already booked ahead.
In my mind I patted myself on the back for a job well done. Quick, clean-ish, and clear. Can’t ask for more than that. The girl had finished wrapping her leg and absently swept a blood stained hand through her pure white hair. A pink streak formed and looked very out of place in an otherwise very gothic ensemble. I expected her to start screaming or fighting, something, but she sat there calmly looking down at her bloody leg. I reached over to the back seat and blindly grabbed for the half bottle of whiskey I had back there. ‘Here, drink this.’ I said handing it to her.
She looked blankly up at me and then fixated on the bottle. Her hand reached out tentatively and took the liquor. She unscrewed the cap and held the bottle up to her delicate nose. I watched as her face scrunched up in disgust as the alcohol fumes burnt her fine nasal membranes. She shot me a questioning look.
‘Just drink it.’ I said. ‘It’ll help with the pain.’ Without a word she lifted the bottle up to her lips and started to drink. I grabbed the bottle off of her after she downed a third of it. ‘Jeez, kid! Leave some for the rest of us will you.’ I said, taking a swig for myself and reluctantly handing it back. She drank some more before saying, ‘I like this.’
Her voice wasn’t nearly as deep as when she spoke before but it still had a bass that fought against a higher pitched voice. I looked at her, open whiskey bottle sitting between her black denim covered thighs, marred only by the gunshot wound covered in red stained bandages and sticky blood. Her black hooded sweat shirt covered the rest of her body giving the illusion of a small, black panther sitting beside me. I got the sense from her that if she really wanted to she could just open the door and step out of the moving vehicle. That quietly coiled power just radiated from her slight frame. It was an odd feeling having someone like that sitting next to you, but not altogether unpleasant.
We rode in silence for a while. Once I reached the outer limits of the next town I slowed down to a respectable pace but kept moving through it. It suddenly dawned on me that they would have found the bodies of the two men in the other car. More than likely they were in the middle of pinning it on me, and who could blame them really. Guy with a gun kidnaps a girl and speeds off, leaving behind two respectable looking men with their throats slit. I’d blame me as well. I needed to get back to the Hotel Midgar where I hope a lot of this mess could easily be sorted out, especially if I was right about my employers having some contacts higher up. I turned right at the nearest main road and headed north. I knew there was a train line that ran all the way into London. Hopefully they wouldn’t be expecting us to use public transport to double back.
Header image by Aleksey Ihnatov from Pixabay.