This is my entry for BeKindRewrite's InMon Challenge.
The cheers of the assembled thugs did nothing for Bernard. He did his job because it was what he was paid to do. His contempt for the other member of the syndicate was well known by the very men who applauded him. He supposed it was some attempt to get in good with him, but he knew the truth. They feared him.
"Congratulations, Bernard," said Evan Jones, the leader of the syndicate's southern operations. "Another enemy of the syndicate brought low by your hand, and before the deadline at that." A round of cheers erupted as a pair of midgets dressed as clowns leapt into the light of the hall. They kicked the head of Caesar Jimenez back and forth between them.
It had been Bernard's job to bring the head back to Memphis. Whether or not the body was attached was left up to him. He turned away from the spectacle, disgusted by the display. Bernard was a killer, probably the best alive, but he was not a savage. "My payment?" he asked.
"It will be ready to leave with you, in the morning," Evan said. "Tonight we party!" The crowd roared, and the hall was filled with brightly dressed slaves carrying platters of food and drink. Chaos descended upon the hall as scores of henchmen and thugs left the bleachers to join in the feast.
Bernard made his way through the crowd to stand by Evan. “All of this is unnecessary, you know.”
The Syndicate boss smiled and said, “it may not be necessary for you, but they need it. It helps them forget how shitty the world has become, at least for a little while.” A trio of scantily clad serving girls stepped behind the two men and offered glasses of dark red wine. Evan took a glass, and a kiss, from the tall, blonde waitress and sent her away. “It is the little things that make life bearable you see?”
“Not really,” Bernard said, “but I don’t remember the old world, and there is nothing about this new world that will make me forget what a hell hole it is.” Bernard took a glass of wine from the brunette waitress and held it in his hand. He did not drink and he had little use for a slave. Slavery was a reality in the world after the war, but Bernard had no taste for it. If a person was so week as to become a slave then he had no sympathy for them, yet he would not take a slave of his own. Property was a luxury he could not afford, especially if that property needed care and feeding.
Evan stared at the young assassin and shook his head. “I heard there was ice in your veins, but I thought it was an exaggeration. You are one hard bastard. I guess that works to your advantage given your occupation, but you should learn to lighten up. Life is too short not to live a little.”
"I'll try to remember that," Bernard said as he set the glass down on polished wooden table. "I need to check on my gear before I head to bed. It has been a long day."
"Ahhh, well you'll be missing all of the fun, friend, but don't let me keep you. Your horse and your money will be ready by dawn tomorrow." Evan took another drink of wine and saluted the assassin.
Bernard turned away and left the hall. It had once been a large, high-school gymnasium, but the entire school had been turned into Evan's headquarters. The complex was massive, far larger than his home base in Gary, Indiana. Evan was the only Boss in Memphis, and he like to keep a lot of people close to him. Maybe that would change with the death of Caesar, but Bernard doubted it. The man was lazy and didn't like to take risks. Bernard would not be surprised if he was sent back to Memphis sometime soon in order to remove the Boss of the South.
The stables were clean and his horse was well cared for, so Bernard left after ensuring that the tack was where he could get to it quickly and that it was all still there. He could make it back to Gary by foot if he had to, but he did not relish the idea. When Bernard left the stables, Felix was waiting outside, leaning against the wall, picking his nails clean with the tip of a very sharp knife.
"I'm surprised you're not in there enjoying the festivities," Bernard said.
"I considered it," Felix said as he fell in step with Bernard. "There's a good chance that a fight will break out, but it wouldn't be as much fun without you there."
Bernard's stride was full of purpose and deadly intention, even though he was off the clock, but Felix was all slinking, the human equivalent of a snake's slither. The two could not be more dissimilar in appearance, though they were the only friends each other had. Felix came with Bernard on all of his assignments, and Bernard would allow no one else. He worked with Felix or no one. "You should have gone. I am going to bed. When the sun rises, I'll be gathering our money, and we'll be heading back home."
"Maybe I will, but I wanted to talk to you first," Felix said. He looked around and whispered to Bernard, "I don't trust this place. I think Evan is going to double cross you."
"The same thought had occurred to me," Bernard said.
"So why don't we kill him and be done with it?" Felix asked. Murder was always Felix's first and most favored answer to any situation.
"I don't think he has the guts to try anything," Bernard said. "He's not going to want to piss off the other Bosses; not without good cause anyways."
Felix turned and headed back to the party. He shouted over his shoulder, "just watch your ass, okay?" With that, he was gone. Bernard walked the rest of the way to his room in silence. Felix could be a bit paranoid, but he had a good nose for betrayal. his intuition had saved them on more than one occasion.
The assassin casually checked all of his blades and loosened the two up his sleeves as he approached the door. Candle light streamed through the cracked door that Bernard was sure he had locked. If Evan had sent someone to ambush him, he had chosen poorly on a number of levels. One of the short, throwing knives dropped into his hand and he readied to use it on whomever stood on the other side of the door.
Bernard flung the door open and pulled his arm back to throw the knife, but there was no one there, except a woman lying in his bed, and she squealed and pulled the blankets up to her chin when he entered. He shut the door and checked the small room thoroughly. He never put away his knife and he kept her in his peripheral vision at all times while he checked. Once he was sure they were alone he stared at her and asked, "how did you get in here?"
The girl's big, green eyes were wide with fear. "Evan gave me a key and told me to come here. I am supposed to pleasure you tonight." Her voice quivered and her hands shook.
"He said that, eh?" Bernard stepped close to the bed, holding the knife high, ready to plunge it into her neck if she made a wrong move. He grabbed the top of the blanket and yanked it down to the bottom of the bed.
The woman was well bathed and beautiful. Her chocolate brown hair was long, worn in a braid, and stood in contrast to her pale white skin. She did not try to cover herself and she did not blush when his eyes roamed across her body. A stylized EJ was branded just inside her hip on the right side. "You're a slave."
"Very well," Bernard turned and locked the door, before he shoved a chair up under the handle as an extra precaution, "let's see how good a slave you are."
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