“I expected a tougher challenge, you disappoint me Michael,” William Withers the Third said, bow in hand. Skan was silent beside him.
“Mmm well, perhaps I overestimated him,” Michael admitted.
“Don’t think that means you can reduce my fee.”
“Our fee,” Skan growled. William narrowed his eyes, bent down and examined Felicio. After a few moments he stood up. “I don’t see a sword stuck in his back. We’re not teaming up here Skan, I still haven’t forgiving you for Budapest.”
“It wasn’t my fault you were taking too long to get the job done.”
“These things cannot be rushed, there is a certain elegance in killing, I thought you would have understood that.”
“Oh I do, more than you know.”
While they squabbled, Felicio lay on the floor. The arrow had torn through his flesh and scraped against his bone, the tip of the arrow nestled in a fracture. Blood was sputtering out and staining the wooden shaft, and pain coursed through his body in steady, intense waves. His mind was slow and feeble and everything seemed so far away but the voice in his soul spoke, that same voice that had been with him ever since that fateful day in the museum. ‘Be strong. You are a child of warriors. Surrendering is not in your nature.’ The words were sharp and clear, as if they were a scythe slashing through the overgrown hazy mess of thoughts in the jungle of his mind.
“Take him away and dispose of him,” Michael ordered.
“Do you wish him unmasked?” William asked. Michael considered it for a moment as he looked down upon the fallen hero.
“No,” he ultimately decided, “he was nothing but an inconvenience, he was probably just some loser looking for some meaning. Let him die as a masked man, no one will ever know who he was.” William and Skan hoisted Felicio up, the hero groaning as they did so, and dragged him out of the room. Michael sighed as he saw the deep dark stains that had been left on the carpet by Felicio’s blood. He picked up his glass and took a sip of his drink, then walked over to the window. The wintry gloom made it appear as if a curse had spread over the city, as if a mystical darkness was enveloping it in a shroud of despair and misery.
‘Ahhh first this small town and then the country. And who will they look to help rebuild it and save their children from this horrible fate? Me. And I’ll gladly say yes. If only father could see me now. He who said I wouldn’t amount to anything. Well now who’s rotting in the ground while I’m about to control a kingdom.’
“Here’s to you father,” he said bitterly, raising the glass to his lips and draining the whiskey from it. His smug mood of moments before had been soured by the memory of his father, and he was unaware that his grip was tightening on the glass until it shattered, and the shards cut into his hand. Grimacing as he watched the blood flow freely, he pulled out the fragments that had caught in his skin and placed them on the desk. ‘I suppose a little more blood won’t make much of a difference.’
“Where are we taking him?” Skan asked, breathing heavily.
“To the kitchen. I find industrial ovens are a good way of getting rid of bodies.” Skan looked at him with disgust.
“You’re so barbaric.”
“When you’re my age you’ll look for the most expedient way to dispose of bodies too.”
“It’s a long time until then old man.”
They two of them walked through the bowels of the tower, as if there were dragging a prisoner to the dungeons of a castle. William was tall and lean while Skan was stocky, but they were both in good condition so they had no problem supporting Felicio’s weight, but what they didn’t realise was that while they were shuffling along Felicio was slowly but surely regaining his strength.
“I’m surprised Michael didn’t call in Pierre,” William said.
“Didn’t you hear, Pierre died?”
“Oh yeah, you know how he always liked to meet his targets face to face? This one was paranoid and he had poison-tipped gloves just in case anyone tried to attack him. They shook hands and that was it.”
“Poison-tipped gloves? What a clever idea.”
“I know, I wish I’d thought of it.”
“Poor Pierre though, I’ll miss him. He owed me three thousand.”
“He owed everybody.”
“That’s one way to get out of debts I suppose.”
They kicked the double doors of the kitchen open and all the staff looked at them in shock.
“Alright everyone out, chop chop be quick about it chaps,” William said. The staff bowed their heads, and quickly shuffled out of the kitchen. The room was steamy and the smell of sizzling meats and spices hung in the air. As they walked through Skan and William picked at the cooked food.
“Not bad,” William said.
“Wouldn’t eat here after tonight though.”
“Wouldn’t eat here at all, who knows what Michael is lacing the meals with.”
They set Felicio down and went to inspect the oven. It was already turned on, and they could feel the heat bathing their faces. Skan put on oven gloves and opened it, removing the metal grates to create a box of death. After preparing the oven they took a moment to look at Felicio.
“Aren’t you a little curious about who’s under the mask?” Skan asked.
“A little,” William agreed. The two men looked at each other. Even though Felicio was sat hunched over with an arrow sticking out of his back there was still a part of them that felt trepidation. Skan tentatively moved towards Felicio, reaching out his arm. The kitchen was searing with heat and a sheen of sweat covered his brow. He licked the salty drops off his lip as they trickled down his face, and just as the tips of his fingers brushed Felicio’s mask something sparked inside the hero. Before he could react Skan found his arm bent at an unnatural angle and his face was inching ever nearer to the hissing scream of a pan. Without remorse Felicio pressed down and forced his eyes shut as he tried to quell the rise of vomit. Skan’s screams filled the kitchen and William was horrified as he watched his associate’s flesh char and turn white and became mottled. After a few seconds Felicio released his grip and Skan fell to the floor, cradling his arm, too shocked to cry out in pain.
After he recovered from his shock, William fumbled at his bow and tried to ready an arrow, but Felicio was too quick and in the cramped quarters of the kitchen William didn’t have enough room to manoeuvre. Felicio stepped past Skan’s body and mercilessly strode towards William. To the old English gentleman, Felicio seemed like a titan towering above him. ‘Those eyes,’ he thought, terrified by the mask, which gave no hint of the man underneath. It was like nothing William had ever encountered before, and he found that his wits had completely left him. In the delirious heat his trembling hands let the bow fall from his fingers. Felicio took the final step forward and sent William crashing to the floor, head spinning and blood flying from his mouth. Felicio put one foot on one end of the bow and lifted the other end, snapping it in half. William watched on and cried out, almost as if it was one of his one bones.
Felicio walked through, remorselessly silent, leaving the two assassins defeated on the floor. With a grim resolve he returned to the top of the building, looking to confront Michael again. The arrow still jutted from his shoulder, but the pain had become a part of him. However, when he entered the room he found it empty. His blood had dried and crusted on the carpet, but he was surprised to find another, smaller patch near the window. As he looked out at the shadowy city he saw a car drive away, and he clenched his fists in frustration.
Felicio made his way to Stacy’s house. He tried to reach around and pull the arrow out, but he only succeeded in breaking off a part of the shaft. When she opened the door he collapsed into her, and she carried him to her bed. He pulled off his mask; she expected to see pain in his eyes but all she saw was anger.
“Should I be worried?” she asked. Her first instinct was to collapse into panic, but Peter was no ordinary boy and his calm composure gave her strength.
“No, I’m fine. I just made a mistake.”
“You should really go to a hospital?”
“Just patch me up, I’ll be okay,” he said, pain was something he was becoming used to.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” she asked as she went to the bathroom to get some bandages. Ever since she had started dating Peter she had stocked up on basic medical supplies.
“It’s…” and then a sudden realisation dawned on him, “did you ever take Edukation?” he said, his words were slow and hesitant as if he was afraid of the answer.
“Even if it was just once, just tell me.”
“No! I was never involved in that, I told you, I wasn’t involved in any of that,” but as she looked into his eyes she could see that he didn’t fully believe her.
“I wasn’t.” And then Peter knew that he had made a mistake.
“Okay! I’m sorry, I’m just, I’m worried that’s all.”
“Yes, well, here’s a tip, try to believe your girlfriend when she tells you something,” she said icily. Suddenly the pain from the arrow wasn’t anywhere near the pain in his heart, for in his inexperienced, fragile mind the slightest hint of dispute could be the precursor to their relationship falling away. He could either stay quiet and let the silence fester within him, or he could do what he did, which was to yank the roll of bandages from her hand, throw it around her neck and pull her down. At first she tried to resist, the initial anger from his hurtful look hadn’t yet passed, but she soon softened and all the pain was forgotten.