Friday, January 13, 2017

Fiction Friday: Fight with Fire.

Harker walked down the alley, pulling the collar of his jacket up to ward off the cold.His wiry black hair was tousled by the wind and managed to catch enough of the vapor in the air from the mist to send a few drops down the back of his neck. Ahead of him, the man he was supposed to meet stood next to an exceptionally well restored nineteen sixty five muscle car. The man's face was turned away from the light.

The light from the streetlamp near by gleamed orange off of the man's black leather drover's coat, making it look like a vertical oil slick. "You're early," the man standing by the car said, pulling a steel lighter out of the depths of his coat. He flicked it once. Despite the wind, the lighter flared to life. The man with the lighter had a face that someone may have described angelic once, if it wasn't for the scars about his mouth. His hair was the color of hammered copper in sunlight, or maybe sparks. Harker wasn't sure. All he knew was that this man had a job for him.

"My mother taught me it was important to be prompt for business meetings. My father taught me that meant five minutes early if you're running late and ten if you're on time," Harker answered. The other man took a pull off of his cigarette. The end thrust into the flame flared brightly. There was a faint blue flicker around the edge of it. Then the brief flash of light died down to a dull glow. In that brief moment, however, Harker saw eyes that were green as glass and as cold as the harbor's winter waters a mere quarter of a mile away.

"You're a man of business, then?" the other said with his words in a decidedly dragonesque puff of smoke.

"That's why you called me, isn't it?" Harker answered. Something at the back of his mind said that he was on treacherously thin ice in dealing with this man, but the pay promised was enough that Harker was pretty sure he could just leave the game. Harker was getting tired of being a hatchet man for the highest bidder.

"So it is," the smoker answered, turning towards the back door of the bar just beside him, "Come, have a drink with me. I will give you one last chance to walk away from this job."

"Brandt doesn't let people smoke in his bar," Harker said. The red haired man looked over his shoulder at Harker. He smirked. It was a look that made Harker decidedly uncomfortable.

"Brandt will make an exception for me. He's been expecting me." As the smoking man walked into the bar, a wall of noise came out the door with a waft of hot air. For a moment, Harker could have sworn that the red haired man looked to be over seven feet tall. The hit man shook his head, deciding it had to be a trick of the light. He followed his prospective employer through the establishment to the end of the bar that was closest to the side they came in from.

Brandt turned, waving a big hand at the slender man in the black leather coat. "Put that damn thing ..." His words died on his lips when he looked at the scarred man sitting at the end of his bar. Elegant hands were folded primly before him and resting on the stained hickory bar. His features were sharp, elfin almost. A ragged series of scars were over his mouth, crossing his lips as though someone had cut through them. Brandt, who was already pretty pale because of his Norwegian blood, blanched as the scarred man gave a smirk. There was something cruel in his expression that made Brandt, who was a fairly big man, look like he was about to beg the school bully to just take his lunch money rather than kicking him in the stones.

Brandt bent over and pulled out a bottle from the hidden depths of his cupboard. He put three shot glasses down before the scarred man. As he poured out the shots, his hand shook. Brandt left the bottle beside the shot glasses. The scarred man looked over at Harker. "That one is for you," he said, pointing at the third shot glass. Harker glanced at the bottle and blinked in surprise. Sitting on the counter where just anyone could walk off with it was a bottle of scotch older than his father. "Drink," his prospective employer ordered. The scarred man had finished his shot in the time that Harker was looking at the bottle and seemed to have finished the other as well. Now, he looked at Harker with those emotionless eyes. Feeling as though he was being watched by something like a snake, Harker threw back the shot. He swallowed reflexively. Then he started coughing and his eyes watered almost instantaneously.

"You are a man of business," the other said as he turned his attention back to the bottle, "My business is change. I have need of a man like you. Someone who will do the job and not worry about little details like what opinions people would have of it." He filled up the empty shot glass to the right of his hand, the one before him, and then Harker's. "Brandt needs a reminder why he should not ask me to do ... petty things," the green eyed man said.

"Then why don't you tell him?" Harker said, gesturing towards Brandt, who was at the other end of the bar paying a great deal of attention to a drunk woman's breasts that were propped up just before him on the polished hickory.

"Because Brandt has a bad memory," the other replied, "You are going to make his memory more effective."

Harker looked over. The green eyed man pulled the lighter out of his pocket. The steel looked more like silver. On one side there was the head of a howling wolf. On the other, a female grim reaper with a serpent wrapped around her. He put it in front of Harker. 

"Finish your drink. Then, put this to use," the green eyed man said. Harker looked over at him in surprise.

"This place is full of people," he hissed at the green eyed man. The other nodded.

"Better pull the alarm on the way out then," he said, "Brandt's bullshit killed at least double this number in Serbia. His name isn't even Brandt. He came here and changed his name. Underneath that shirt, he's got himself a swastika and a valknut. My name is tattooed into his left shoulder. He said that I was going to keep his business pure of those dykes, fags, and queers." The word 'pure' was sneered and turned into an insult that even Harker couldn't help but feel uncomfortable with.

Harker looked down at the lighter. The man at his right leaned closer and muttered in his ear, "They're my people. He killed them. Tonight, he pays. And you, Aleksander Harker, were looking for a way to do justice. You know that Tyr scorns you. He spits on your name for what you've done. You and me, we're a like. We do what gets the job done. Damn what they think is proper. Sometimes, eggs, skulls, and rules need broken. Finish your drink and then do your fucking job."

Harker looked over as the other stood up and walked out the way he had entered into the building. Brandt looked at Harker as though he was a bomb waiting to go off. He thought about his brother, Jan. Jan who was beaten to death for being gay. Jan who insisted that the world was a better place because he was finally able to go off to college, to Russia where his husband's second cousin lived.

Harker drank his scotch. He picked up the bottle of fifty year old scotch and walked away from the bar. He passed by a closet between the restrooms. There was a hum of electrical equipment in there. Harker shoulder checked the door and it swung inward. He looked around the room. Wiring was exposed. Even to his untrained eye, it was a fire trap waiting to happen. The brown paper of the fiberglass packaging was sticking out between the support braces of the small room. He thought about Jan. He leaned forward, holding the bottle near his hips. Someone walking by simply thought he was urinating. After pouring about half of the bottle on the floor beside the nearest bit of exposed insulation, Harker touched the lit flame of the lighter to the brown paper. He snapped the lighter shut and stuck it into his pocket as the tiny spark soon was a little burning flame almost the size of a quarter. 

As he rolled around the door, he put the bottle to his mouth and did a passable imitation of a drunkard's stagger. He reeled past a fire alarm. Seemingly stumbling into the wall, he pulled down on it. The alarm blared as the faint scent of smoke came from the closet. Harker emerged from the building to find his employer standing beside the car. "That the first part of your job, Aleksander," he said, "Now, you're going to come with me. We have work to do."

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