But I still hold you responsible, because you could have stopped this.
It was a simple enough matter to manual-hack into the payphone. A necessary measure, of course. Now, all money existed in bank accounts, and everything was paid for with bank cards. And of course, an assassin can't afford to have any method of tracing, such as a bank card, tied to him.
Nothing. There's nobody on the other end. Dead silence.
Sam Browning cursed, slamming down the receiver. He reached into the entrails of the payphone, and quickly fixed his electronic manipulations, shutting the case. The man looked back, and saw nobody, no law enforcement officials headed for him. He had managed to escape notice, then. Turning, he stuck his hands in his pockets, and began to walk down the street. The air seemed fresh, then. Autumn...or at least it would have been, outside of the city. Some thoughtful people had thought to put a tree every fifty feet along the sidewalks, although some of these had managed to be targets for vandalism, or even a particularly violent demonstration. They said that out in the country, it was nicer. That there were trees.
Trees would be nice.
He paused in his walk, and listened. The echoes of faint feet glimmered in his mind. He didn't turn around, but paused, stepping forward, and then stopping in front of a building. If he doesn't know that I'm on to him, he won't expect it when I kill him. Sam walked into the building, letting the door close behind him. With an audible click. And he blinked, half-blinded by the fluorescent light. It was far brighter than the overcast day outside.
“Hello...sir...can I help you?”
He looked around. He was very likely the only man in the building off of the street. It was a women's beauty salon, something he could deduce from the posters of female hairstyles that were hung on the walls. Every person there was giving him strange looks. Slowly, the hitman backed up, and left the building. As he did, he could hear murmurs of laughs following him, as he left, and let the door shut behind him. Growling, he looked around.
Probably thought I was drunk or something. Stupid girls.
His eyes roved across the street, and he shook his head, continuing up. His ears stayed alert, listening for the footsteps again. As he walked onward, Sam moved a hand to his belt, and felt something there, beneath his coat. He withdrew his hand, and continued. The man's eyes narrowed, and he paused. There—in the glimmer of his hearing. Footsteps. Again. He growled, and sprinted ahead for the alley five feet ahead of him. As he scooted sideways into it.
As much as I hate to do this...
He closed his eyes, and felt the “'bubble” forming around him. Like a bubble, yet not. That was the only way he'd thought of to describe the thing. It was vibrating, pulsing, alive, surging with some sort of energy. Except that...none of the energy came from the bubble itself, he could tell. It was almost as if the energy was sliding past him. As if he moved through a river. Sam opened his eyes, and saw the world, slightly shimmering. He stepped forward, and glanced into a puddle. What he saw made him grin. Or, rather, what he didn't see. Himself.
Invisible. Just like in those fairy tales.
He stepped out of the alley, knowing that he couldn't be seen. Up the sidewalk, avoiding the pedestrians. And feeling more secure now. The footsteps could come. They wouldn't find him. Except—now, Sam felt a different thing. And he shivered, and frowned, and looked back. The security, there was a fissure in it, a hole, a leak. Something—something was disrupting it. Sam gritted his teeth, and reached to his belt. He withdrew the knife he kept there, and pressed himself against the wall, creeping onward.
And there was no answer from the other.
“Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evae...”
It was singing. Singing, in the gray city, damp and quiet. A gentle sort of singing, a chanting, almost, soft and rhythmic, like a heartbeat. The words seemed alien, and yet—at the same time—as native as any of the rest of the city. New York, the city of every land. Or at least, it had been. Before the Wars.
“...ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes...”
The singing was coming from a man, not middle-aged, not young either. A man with a completely shaved head. Dressed in black, with a long black trench coat worn over everything. The coat was pulled shut, as the man huddled in the shelter of one of the old bus stops. Old, but the government hadn't bothered to tear it out yet. As it was, the booth was broken down, but it stopped the wind.
“...in hac lacrimarum vale.”
“Heh, what, your god doesn't speak English or something?” smirked the man with the stubble for a beard, who was wearing a long coat. The man who had stopped after hearing the singer.
“Eia ergo, advocata nostra...”
The stubble-bearded man squinted. “Hey, didn't you hear me?”
“...illos, tuos, misericordes oculos, ad nos converte.”
“Hello, are you deaf or something? I'm talking to you!”
“Et Iesum, benedictum fructus ventris tui...”
“Yeah, you just go on with that. Not like anybody understands you anyway. Or your god.” The man turned, and walked away from the singer.
“...nobis, post hoc exsilium, ostende.”
The heckler paused, and looked back. Raising an eyebrow, he turned—and listened.
The trench coat man straightened, and touched his forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder—in that order. Signing himself with the cross...the thing that Christians did. Then, he lifted his hairless head, and looked up the sidewalk. The other man slowly approached, no longer sneering. He stopped when he was around ten feet away from the black-clothed person. The singer smiled slightly, and extended a hand.
“Good afternoon,” he said. “I'm Father Jack Hill.”
The other man shook his hand, and swallowed. “Bruce. That's what they call me.”
The priest nodded. “I wasn't ignoring you...I don't usually let anything interrupt my regular prayers. That's why I found this place, a bit out-of-the-way. The bus stop, gives me cover from the wind, doesn't attract much attention. I seem to attract a bit of that.”
“We don't really see a lot of your kind...you Christian people...around here.”
“As far as you know. The world isn't quite that skeptical, yet. Although it's a lot more cynical than it used to be.”
“Yes, that's how it is, isn't it? Well...then...I'll rephrase. The world doesn't really think there is a God any more, after those wars, after everything going downhill...”
“That's more like it. And yeah, you're right. I don't get all depressed like that...heck, gives me a job in this world, all the confusion. I just don't really bother.”
“A number of people don't 'bother' about it...but a number still do. You might be surprised.”
“Maybe. It's not for me. I just get by.”
“Get by...doing what?”
“I'm a mercenary, priest man.” Bruce pulled aside the left side of his coat, exposing three automatic pistols that were strapped to the inside of it. That, and a knife on his belt. “Guard people mostly, guard stuff, fight for the guys who pay me, escort smugglers. A bunch of stuff. Not really stuff that works with your god and all.”
“I suppose not.”
There was silence for a moment, and the wind returned in a tiny breeze.
“So tell me something,” asked Bruce, “how come you're not ticked at me? I was giving you a lot of crap back there.”
“Does it really matter in the end? I've heard much worse. You don't want to know what people act like towards priests, in other cities. We aren't the most popular people in most places.”
The mercenary snorted. “You got that right. So what the heck are you doing around here, then? Dang, not really the best place for a priest person.”
“I'm looking for a man...a man who's from the Middle East, or at least looks like it.”
Troy held his head in his hands, staring at the computer screen in front of him. It blurred as his eyes wandered, not focusing on anything...he shut them, and shook his head. A deep breath, taking a deep breath. The man groaned, and slumped forward, still burying his head in his hands. He shuddered, and put his hands back on the desk. He hung his head back, and then opened his eyes. Slowly, his stare wandered back to the screen, to the e-mail there. The one whose subject read: MIDNIGHT.
In an instant, his hand darted to the monitor, and shut it off. The man turned around, and saw his wife standing behind him. He took a deep breath, and looked at her, pushing his chair back, and standing. Looking at her. She took a step closer to him, and put a hand on his shoulder. Gently. Her mouth was softly pressed into a half-frown, but not one of disapproval, or one of anger.
"Troy, is something going on? You haven't been..."
"I'm fine, Ash, just fine. It's just work. Work stress. It happens...it's been a little much lately. Don't worry about me, I'll get over it. I promise, I do."
Her eyes moved back and forth; he knew she was searching his face. "Please, promise me that nothing is going to happen."
Troy took a deep breath, and stepped forward, pulling her into an embrace, pulling her against his chest. "I promise."
I can't tell her that, looking her in the eye.
"Thank you," she whispered. "Now I gotta go and see the kids, okay?"
"Okay," he said, letting her slide away.
As she left, he waited, waited until she had left the room. Troy counted to twenty, and then slowly returned to his chair. He looked behind him, and then took a deep breath. Then, he reached over and turned the computer monitor back on.
To: Dr. J. Danton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: YOU SICK PEOPLE
stop experimenting on tehm theyre HUMAN BEINGS
or ill kill you