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Syndicate Mission: Manger Danger


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#1 Pseudonym

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 01:36 PM

Part I

In the corner of Twoze’s basement, a stuffed armchair oozed pale white stuffing out of lacerations in its leather skin like a squashed bug. Sitting in this chair was a man wearing a tanktop and camouflage sweatpants. His leg hung over the arm of the chair and he slouched heavily into the padding. On the skin between his thumb and forefinger on both hands he had a tattoo each. On his left hand there was a tiny black letter L and on his right hand the letter R. He was holding his custom-made dual pistols as well with the tiny etched out monograms on the grip that matched perfectly with his tattoos. This was Twoze: homeowner and proud member of the Syndicate.

In front of Twoze was a woman, sitting on a milk crate as a makeshift seat. She was mostly concerned with Twoze’s guns which he absentmindedly pointed around the room as he spoke. He had assured her that the guns were empty; she was not assured.

Twoze began to explain why he had asked Anna to meet him alone in his cold, unfinished basement. “So , the Syndicate has got this politician type in its pocket. We want Benedict Abrams to win some stupid political race so he can start kicking money back into the Syndicate thereby lining our pockets with the green. He’s going to be Ward of the Treasury if we do our job.”

Anna leaned forward over her knees and stopped picking at her fingernails. Twoze could feel that he had her attention fully. He continued with a smile, “There are four people running in this election: Abrams, Scott, Manger, and Black. Somebody out there has already uncovered a wealth of dirt to smear on Scott and Black. Apparently Scott has had three daughters out of wedlock and for a certain amount of money, two are willing to come forward and bury his political career. Black has a gambling addiction. He spends half his time at a Syndicate-owned casino in Heureux.”

“ -and Manger needs to be eliminated,” Anna chuckled. “Why don’t you just put a bomb in his toilet or something?”

“This job, we need subtlety.” Twoze responded. “I don’t want an assassination, I want to find or plant something incriminating on him.”

“How are we going to get close enough to do that?”

Twoze smiled in a way that made Anna very uncomfortable. He had signed her up for uncomfortable jobs before. That’s what it’s like at the low end of the Syndicate. You work for a guy who works for a guy who works for a guy and your boss might ask you to do any kind of job. Sometimes it’s a job passed down from on high, sometimes he just wants you to mow his lawn. Sure, she might be part of one of the major Syndicate organizations who have one particular sector of crime, but Anna had no clue which one she was in. That information was above her pay grade. Twoze’s smile reminded Anna of the time she had to participate in the burning down of an orphanage that was competing with a Syndicate charity front for the donations of a particular multi-millionaire philanthropist. That mission made her feel bad for a week.

“You ever heard of Lady Serpent?”

“The one who runs the prostitution circuit?” Anna’s head buzzed with apprehension. What could the plan be?

“Well, it turns out Mr Manger actually requests her services on a regular basis. His next scheduled appointment is on Friday. So on Thursday, you’re gonna go out there and pose as his product. Now, he’s a real careful guy. He does all his business out in Hono city so that he doesn’t get caught. My understanding is that you two will go to a party and then back to his place for the festivities.”

Anna’s mouth hung open. “You want me to have sex with him?”

“Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. The plan is that you put a sedative in his drink. Someone takes a picture of him laid out on the floor and it looks like our politician has partied a little bit too hard and maybe he wouldn’t be exactly the person we want for the job .”

“Why don’t you just take a picture of him with a… um” Anna searched for the word.

“Prostitute?” Twoze supplied. Anna nodded. “Well, Lady Serpent does not want her business to be associated with a politician who we’re going to take down.”

Anna thought for a moment about how horrible it would be to end up having sex with Manger. Everything inside her wanted to say no, but she knew the job would pay well. If this job was as connected to the higher ups in the Syndicate as Twoze had implied, they could run into a duffelbag full of hundreds stacked.

“Yeah, I guess I’ll do it.”

Twoze clapped and whooped as he stood up and whipped a coat on. “Meet me here on Thursday morning. I’ll give you the specifics while I drive us out there.”

#2 Darkender

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 10:25 AM

I didn't read this yet, but I just skimmed it. Is this using gallery characters?

#3 Pseudonym

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 10:40 AM

Nope

#4 treacherous

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:09 AM

I'll put it on my everlasting to do list.

#5 deojusto

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:22 AM

You still have to find out who dies at the end of Angels of Sayang

#6 treacherous

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:27 AM

I know. :wacko:

#7 Pseudonym

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:46 AM

I checked: This whole fic, Manger Danger is the length of one of deojusto's subchapters.

#8 Darkender

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 01:58 PM

I liked what I read. I'm envious at how you can create the world in this. I have no idea where half of the places you mentioned are, except for being somewhere in Khazan I assume, yet it's seemlessly tied in. I can't wait to read the coming (hopefully) chapters.

#9 Pseudonym

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:45 PM

Part II

The Kennel was more than one building. It was a group of five of Chinese style pagodas arranged in the shape of a V. The point in the middle was the largest pagoda, towering over the rest of The Kennel. A bronze serpent wound its way up around the building and looked out over the rest of the Kennel. Twoze parked on the outside and walked in. Anna followed behind him, trying to keep her head up despite knowing that she was essentially in a human trafficking center. In the buildings to the left and right, Anna occasionally caught a glimpse of a curious woman peering out the windows. Whenever she made eye contact, the blinds closed quickly and the woman disappeared behind them. The Kennel was a place of fear and mystery where a boring chick in ripped jeans and a Frank Sinatra T-shirt was something worth gawking at.

The interior of the palace in the middle was all polished wood. Lady Serpent was waiting in the lobby. She was sitting on the floor cross-legged and backlit by a row and candles in a serpent shaped holder. Her eyes were closed as though she was meditating and she didn’t react when the shoji door slid open. Twoze had no idea whether or not she had even noticed until she spoke.

“Leave.”

Anna turned to walk out, she had already had enough of Lady Serpent.

“I was not addressing you. You stay. We have much to discuss. Your boss, however, must leave now before we are to begin.” Lady Serpent’s eyes were still closed. Anna was freaked out.

Twoze stopped for a second, trying to decide whether to bow, offer a handshake, or just leave. He awkwardly attempted both before quickly exiting the building leaving Anna alone with Lady Serpent. There was silence in the lobby. The wind blew on the candles behind Lady Serpent, throwing the light and shadows in crazy angles.

“For a considerable monetary sum, I am sticking my neck out and allowing you to pose as a woman of the Kennel in order to accomplish a goal of your own. In order for this to work, you must act well. There are rules you must follow. One: a woman of the Kennel does not speak when she hasn’t been spoken to.”

“Mhm.”

Lady Serpent fixed Anna with a stare so full of disdain and vitriol that Anna felt ashamed for having said anything, “Two: A Woman of the Kennel does not make noises. You will not cough or sneeze. You will not grunt in pain if you don’t like your heels and you will not slurp your food as you eat. Three: No alcohol.”

“Aww, man,” Anna joked. Lady Serpent was not amused.

“Four: A Woman of the Kennel does as she is told, no exceptions. Those will be the expectations. If you do not fulfill those, Manger may refuse your service and that will tarnish my reputation. If my reputation is damaged I will find you.” Lady Serpent stood up and moved to a door that Anna had thought was a closet. It turned out to be a stairwell. The Lady walked with a grace and elegance that was terrifying; her control over her own body was extreme. “You will now follow me upstairs to the Kennel where you will interact with and study the other women therein. They will be performing their pre-slumber exercises and thereafter will be going straight to bed. You will pay attention. You will learn. You will assimilate.”

Anna nodded and jogged after Lady Serpent up the stairs. They stood together on the second floor landing. Lady Serpent held the doorknob. Anna reached the landing and took a deep breath to compose herself. She nodded at Lady Serpent who opened the door and let her walk in.

Forty eyes immediately snapped directly on Anna as the door closed behind her. Every single face in the room was painted with the same elaborate pattern of wide black brushstrokes over a light tan base. The similarity in the room sent a chill down Anna’s back. She turned around to ask Lady Serpent about the paint but she was gone. Anna turned back to the room full of women and just watched. The room bristled with a mutual feeling of discomfort. Anna felt it best to just walk in and get to making friends, but with all of these women staring silently, judgingly, curiously as though they were trying to see all of the outside world in Anna’s body, she felt that quickly making friends would be out of the question.

Finally, the staring stopped as one by one the women lost interest in the intruder who was apparently here to stay. There was a lifelessness to their movements, they walked slowly from place to place and even though the room was packed none of them looked at each other. There was no warmth. All of the women retrieved mats from a closet and laid them out on the floor. They started stretching on their mats. Anna shrugged and joined in, finding herself a section of hardwood that was unoccupied. As she sat down and stretched to touch her toes, Anna felt all of the eyes on her again. She felt self-conscious about her unpainted face. When she looked up, the other women were stretching. They were extremely flexible, and it occurred to Anna that this may be how they spend much of their days and part of the selection process. She was revolted by the idea of Lady Serpent picking up young athletic women off the street and then training them to be the best prostitutes they could be.

After ten minutes of stretching, the women cleared the mats off the floor. Anna went with them and stowed hers in the closet on top of everyone else’s. When she turned around, all of the women had disappeared except for one.

“What happened? Where’d everyone go?”

The woman of the kennel remained silent and started to walk away. Anna remained planted where she was, dumbfounded by the sudden disappearance of everyone around her until the woman turned around and gestured for her to follow. Anna jogged to keep up. The silent guide led her to an unoccupied room. The floor felt like carpet. The walls were wooden paneling. The room wasn’t very large. On the floor was a bamboo mat for bedding. Anna was displeased. She looked her guide in the eyes and said, “Thank you.”

The woman stared back at Anna, but this time less with curiosity. Anna could feel a connection between them, but one neutered by the other woman’s inability or unwillingness to speak. It occurred to Anna that once that woman left she would never be able to find her again. She’d be lost in a sea of other women of the Kennel and Anna wouldn’t have so much as a voice by which to identify her. The thought made Anna really sad. As she lay herself down in her small room to go to sleep, she thought about how when she woke up, she was expected to be like them, a woman of the kennel. Her individuality would be stripped from her. She would be painted and become property of another man. Sleep did not come easily, but eventually it came.

Anna awoke to see her outfit laid out in front of her. It was a slinky black dress with a pair of heels. Over the dress, she was to wear a kimono-esque trench coat. She had to admit, the coat was kind of cute, but she would have preferred to pick it out herself on Fleet Street or maybe, if she was lucky, on a clearance rack somewhere at one of the malls in the Kits. Anna felt her freedom being eaten away. She was homesick.

Anna got dressed and then just waited in her room, not wanting to leave and stumble into some part of Lady Serpent’s operation that she may not be willing to share. After she got bored enough to start counting the wooden tiles on the walls, the sound of feet rushing past the door prompted Anna to poke her head out. Women of the Kennel were all rushing in one stream toward the staircase, Anna decided to join them.

The women rushed into the stairwell, moving efficiently to allow as many as possible to pass quickly through a tight space. Anna followed the surge of women up to the third floor. They entered into a room with mirrors for walls. An elbow height counter ran around the entirety of the room and in front of the counter were benches. The women of the Kennel quickly sat down and pulled makeup out of small cases on the counter. Anna stood, dumbfounded, unsure of what to do until a woman took her by the hand, led her in front of the mirror and began applying the makeup on her face. It was a little bit humiliating for Anna to have another woman apply her makeup. She tried to keep her mind on the mission and ignore the tickle of the brush around her nose. She watched in the mirror as she transformed into a woman of the Kennel.

When they were ready, the women left the makeup room to go downstairs. They moved quickly, but with less urgency then they had run to the makeup room. As though they really didn’t want to go downstairs.

Manger was there waiting by the door, dressed in a nice pair of jeans and a button down shirt that fit well enough to look tailored. He watched the women filing in, no doubt waiting to choose for himself. Just as Anna began to wonder how to make sure she was chosen, Lady Serpent grabbed her by the elbow and shoved her forward. Manger stepped into the building to claim his prize, linked elbows, and walked out.

Waiting outside, idling against the curb was Manger’s sports car. It was the kind of thing that a young girl entering the Syndicate dreams of having when she grows up. It took everything in Anna to remain expressionless. Manger held the passenger seat door open and Anna climbed in as demurely as possible. The dashboard had a beautiful lit up display the windshield and windows were tinted like sunglasses so the whole world felt like it was way outside. Anna was so completely comfortable in such a beautiful vehicle until Manger got in the driver’s seat.

The ride to Klub Katastrophe was the most confining experience Anna had ever had. She wanted to change the radio from Manger’s news garbage to some music but a Woman of the Kennel wouldn’t do that. She wanted to ask Manger about his car and what it feels like to drive at seventy on a windy mountain road with such a beautiful piece of machinery, but a Woman of the Kennel only speaks when spoken to.Being a woman of the Kennel sucked.

So Anna was looking forward to Klub Katastrophe, because it couldn’t be much worse than an hour in the car. Manger parked and then went around to let Anna out of the car. The bouncer let Manger in without a word. He didn’t comment on Anna’s appearance, on the makeup on her face. Women of the Kennel were well-known at this club. Lady Serpent’s women were women of distinction and class. They were known to be some of the most expensive and obedient women that could be bought and sold. There was an air of mysticism that Anna felt she was a part of.

The club itself was a lot different than what Anna expected and in her opinion, pretty damn good. She could see pills being passed around like candy on Easter. Heavy thumping bass music permeated the air. The dance floor was full of sweaty bodies bumping and grinding to the beat. Ordinarily, Anna would be with them. Dancing with a stranger who she’d probably go home with that night. But instead she had to go to the bar with Manger and sit and chat.

“I’m glad you came with me.” he started.

“I’m uh I’m happy to be here.” Anna lied. She looked around, trying to get a glimpse of the party and live vicariously through anyone around more free than she was.

“Yeah, I know the venue isn’t the same. But you know, I think over the years we’ve developed a connection. It doesn’t really matter where we are. Right?”

Anna was confused until she realized Manger thought he was with the same woman every time. He had been developing a relationship with the women of the Kennel. Lady Serpent probably switched it up every time and he didn’t notice because they always played along. She almost felt sorry for him before she remembered why they were there.

Anna hung her jacket over the back of her chair. In the chest pocket was a vial of the sedative she was supposed to use to knock Manger out but he never ordered a drink. The bartender walked over a couple times and offered, but Manger always waved him away and continued his one-sided flirtation with Anna.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink?” Anna blurted in the middle of conversation.

Manger chuckled. “Nah, not really. I don’t touch alcohol any more. I had some real problems with it when I was younger and I’ve stayed away from it ever since.” he reached under his shirt and pulled out a necklace with a small silver circle hanging down in the middle. “Ten years clean.”

“Wow.” Anna lapsed back into her demure silence. She made sure her face betrayed nothing as she racked her brains for an alternate plan. Now that the sedative plan was out, she had nothing. She was hanging in the wind and now she’d just have to play along for the rest of the night. Anna gasped as she realized she might actually have to have sex with this man.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”
The phone in Anna’s pocket rang. There was one person in the world who knew that number, and he had sent Anna on this mission. He knew she was busy. Anna didn’t know what to do. Does a woman of the Kennel answer her phone while she’s on a mission? Women of the Kennel probably aren’t supposed to have cellphones which explained the perplexed look on Manger’s face.

“Are you gonna get that?”

Anna nodded and picked her phone up. Her hand shook as she held the device to her ear.

“Hello?”

Some words came through on the other line. Anna couldn’t hear them over the thumping club bass and the exuberant college-aged clientele.

“What? What? What?”

Manger placed a hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t you go into the bathroom to take this call. I’ll be waiting for you when you get back.” He smiled genially and for a moment, Anna could see that he was really a very caring man. Maybe everything she thought about him was wrong. She hopped off her barstool and walked toward the back of the club.

The bathroom was amazingly brightly lit in a stark contrast to the club which got most of its lighting from the glowsticks that the patrons were using. The room smelled of disinfectant, which was better than the alternative. There were two stalls. Anna knocked on the one closest to the door. There was a waterfall sound of someone vomiting into the toilet and the raw voice of a woman screaming “occupied” came through the door. Anna quickly went to the next stall and answered her phone.

“Hi, what the heck? I’m kinda doing a job now.”

Twoze’s voice came through the other line. “Yeah, about that job. We’ve hit a snag.”

“Yeah, well there’s been a snag on my end too. He doesn’t drink.”

“So the sedative plan...”

“Yeah, no. That plan was sunk.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I have worse news.”

Anna slammed the wall next to her in frustration. The other woman swore loudly before throwing up more. Anna sighed and waited for Twoze to continue.

“Another branch of the Syndicate got wind of the mission. They’re sending assassins to take out Manger and they will probably kill anyone with him. I don’t know much about the organization which sent these assassins, so they could be anyone. Anyone at the party, anyone at the street outside. With the stream of metas that the Syndicate has been hiring lately, they could be in the breeze or maybe could be three people at once. Keep your eyes open. Make sure that Manger doesn’t get killed.”

“I thought you said the Syndicate didn’t want him assassinated”

“I said I don’t want him assassinated.”

Anna rolled her eyes . “Should I tell him? About how someone is trying to kill him?”

“No.” There was a click and the line went dead. Anna had no idea what to do.

She called over the stall to the woman on the other side. “You’re not here to murder anyone are you?”

The other woman responded by vomiting another gallon into the toilet. Anna laughed and walked out. The lighting was low. The dancefloor was packed with people. Manger was probably sitting at the barstool, bored, vulnerable, and completely oblivious. Any one of the hundred or so people in the club could have it in for him with a knife or a gun. With that in mind, Anna pushed through the crowd towards the bar.

#10 Pseudonym

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 09:41 PM

Part III

Manger was having some forced conversation with a perky blonde woman whose tanktop was soaked through with either sweat or alcohol. bartender. While he wasn’t looking, the woman reached in her pocket. Anna fought her way over, moving as fast as she could without causing a scene. She got there just in time to see two white pills on the woman’s outstretched palm.

“Hey, man. You want some E?”

Anna’s hand reached out and twisted the woman’s arm, spilling the pills to the floor. She swung around and stared daggers into the young woman’s eyes. The stranger’s eyes were glazed over, unfocused. There was no way someone in her state could carry out an assassination. Anna let go of her hand. “He doesn’t want any,” she said quietly.

“Okay!” The strange woman responded happily. She bounced off into the crowd, probably to find someone else to do pills with. Anna turned to see Manger staring at her.

“ You seem more high strung than normal.”

Shit. The disguise was falling apart. “Um... I’m just a little bit stressed.” Anna glanced toward the dancefloor to see if anyone was approaching. When she looked back, Manger was smiling at her.

“Do you wanna dance?” Manger asked. Anna was shocked until she realized that he was trying to pick up on her body language. She glanced out to the dancefloor once more and saw how crowded it was, how low the visibility of the dance floor would be. But she couldn’t say no, because in a way she had invited him.

“Yes?” she eventually answered. Manger took her hand and led her out onto the dance floor.

As she danced through the throng of people, Anna couldn’t help but occasionally scan the vicinity for someone looking dangerous. There were too many people around to make it worth worrying about. So Anna just shrugged and let herself go to the music. Manger danced with her, shuffling awkwardly back and forth on the dance floor. The tensed smile on his face said that he knew he was supposed to have a good time, but hadn’t quite figured out how to. His shoulders were tight and his arms didn’t sway at all. He kept looking up to Anna for approval in a way that was somehow more adorable than pitiful.

The crowd swayed in time to the music. Anna was hyper aware of everybody in a small radius of her and Manger. The music faded. Anna could see everyone around her bursting with anticipation of the next beat to bump to. She was just hoping for a reason to get out.

The DJ pulled the microphone in and said, “Hey, everybody out there. Grab someone and pull them close because I’m bringing to you the first slow dance club beat.” A slow dance faded in. Anna wanted nothing in the world less than to slow dance with Manger, and she could tell by his posture that he didn’t want to either. So Anna used a technique she’d used at clubs many times before. She extended a hand and pulled Manger close when he took it. She stood up on her tiptoes to get to his ear and whispered, “How’s about we get out of here?”

Manger’s smile was the lascivious jackpot smile that Anna always saw when she busted out that line. Men were always happy when they heard that. “You’re extra eager tonight, aren’t you?” Manger smiled and started towards the door. Anna was a little worried that she had broken character. A woman of the Kennel speaks only when she is spoken to. Anna had been talking all night. Manger seemed excited enough that he didn’t notice.

They walked outside together to Manger’s car. He took care to open her door before walking around the front to get in himself. Anna settled into her ergonomic, leather seat. The dashboard clock blinked 11:50 and Anna felt fatigue starting to set in. The soft seats molded to Anna’s shape like the perfect bed and the rocking back and forth of the car as it sped through the streets of Hono City started to pull Anna into sleep. She fought it however. In this situation, vigilance was prudence.

The reality of the coming assassins struck her again, Anna sat up straighter in the car. She peered out the window looking for the telltale red laser of a Syndicate sniper ready to blow a hole through Anna and Manger. Someone was out there.

Anna could feel the faint accelerations of the car. Manger was a very steady driver. Anna could feel the power of the engine, thrumming within the car like a beast sleeping under the hood. She looked over at Manger. He drove with one hand, the other resting on his lap. The muscles in his jaw stood out as he gritted his teeth in concentration. His eyes were locked on the road darting unfocused. They widened as he turned a corner. His arms suddenly tensed on the wheel. Anna followed his gaze out the windshield.

There were three people standing in the middle of the road. The one in the middle held a pipe in his hands. It was stained red on the side far away from his hands. Manger stopped the car, waiting for them to get out of the way. The three thugs walked slowly toward the car.

“Reverse.” commanded Anna. Manger stayed frozen, hands glued to the steering wheel. One of the thugs pulled out a gun.

“Oh My God, reverse!” Anna grabbed the gearshift and cranked it into reverse. Manger put his hand over hers and pushed the car into park.

“What are you doing?” Anna shouted

“Relax.” Manger opened his car door and got out. He stood by his car and stared at the three thugs. His body language didn’t show any fear. The thugs were taunting Manger and calling him names. The one with the gun kept it pointed at Manger.

Anna could hear faintly the voice of the one with the pipe, “Hey, uh, Manger. We’re from the Syndicate sent to assassinate you. Then we’re gonna take your fine honey in there and have us a good time with her.” Anna was embarassed. If you’re gonna work as a Syndicate assassin, at least show some class. She was all worried for nothing. Apparently the assassination assignment had trickled down through the ranks to a bunch of knuckleheads. However, they were holding Manger at gunpoint, so Anna figured she wasn’t totally correct.

Manger reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out something that looked like a television remote. He pointed it at the group of three thugs and pressed a button. The thugs began to scream as though something painful was happening within them. All three doubled over onto the floor groaning in pain. Manger put his device away and sat down in the driver’s seat with his legs hanging out in the open door. He lit up a cigarette and smoked away from Anna who was busy watching the three thugs writhing in pain on the concrete.

“What did you do to them?” Anna asked.

“3...2...1”

All three thugs exploded. Their blood and organs littered the street. Manger flicked the windshield wiper on. It didn’t help much.

“What was that?” Anna asked.

“You’re more talkative than you normally are.” Manger exhaled into the open air.

“Well, there are a lot of things that are different about tonight.” Anna chuckled internally at her own coyness.

“Well, I got a high frequency disruption device. Basically it fires a sound pulse that messes with people’s organs. I turned the frequency up to see what would happen. They exploded.”

“Is... is that legal?”

“Not strictly no. I bought it off some Syndicate deal about a year ago. Heh, it was pretty expensive too, so I routed some cash directly from this one insurance banking organization to the Syndicate. It was perfect because the bank is big enough that $500,000 is no big deal to them.”

Manger turned around but Anna was no longer in the car.

“Hello? Babe?”

He looked up and down the street but she was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of searching, he swore and drove off to a body shop in the city to have the blood washed off his car.

From inside a dumpster just down the block, Anna called her boss.

“You would not believe how much stuff I got on this guy.”

#11 Pseudonym

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 11:30 AM

Epilogue

“I found this yesterday. Here’s your cut.”

Twoze threw a small bag full of money onto the table. Anna started to leaf through the bills. Just as she hit five thousand dollars her phone rang. She froze. Twoze froze. It rang again. Anna looked up at Twoze, wondering what to do.

“Well, aren’t you gonna answer it?

The phone rang again. Anna picked up. “H-hello?”

“Anna.” The voice was unfamiliar. Anna was terrified. “I saw what you did two days ago. I’m impressed. I want you to come work for me.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who put the hit out on Manger. Look, if you’re interested in my offer meet me in the Jupiter Boutique on Fleet Street. I’ll pay for whatever you want there and afterwards we can have lunch and talk about your job.”

Anna was equally excited and scared. How did he know she liked Jupiter Boutique? How did he know her number? How did he know her name? “How will I recognize you?” she asked.

“You won’t. I’ll recognize you.”




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