A Cold Dish -(R)

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A Cold Dish -(R)

Post by Rayo Azul » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:02 pm

Chapter One

One goddamn step in front of the other. Two more miles to go. Three of the frakkers left. Four of them to die.”

It was a chant that let him live, which focussed his mind down to nothing more than his breath and feet. The fog had closed in now; the compass in his hand gave him but general guidance. You were completely mad or very experienced to risk a descent in this weather and Juan Escola was both.

Six broken and bloody bodies lay behind him, lost now in the wildness of the mountains. They would be stripped bare by the wind and carrion beasts. What would kill him inside, if he let it, was that of the six, three were his wife and two children. He had left them there, covered by a hasty cairn and with words of vengeance spoken over their rough graves. The other three were shown no such care and with each death, Juan became more violent, piteous in the extreme.

Inside he shook with rage, yet externally he was cold, single-minded. There was no time to forgive, he held the mental picture of the torture they had inflicted close to him. When they were all dead, mouldering in an unmarked grave, tossed idly to one side or burning in the fires of his retribution, then he could mourn. Until then …

One goddamn …”

*

Sparse shrubbery came into view as the early morning sun burned the fog away. It clung tenaciously, but was losing. Juan was jogging; the land was more even and would soon open out into the steep fields of the local shepherds. They were still high on the mountain, but in this land nothing was wasted. Juan himself had rented his mountain retreat from a local farmer and had worked hard to make it liveable. His mountain hideaway, the city and all its cruel baseness left behind for clean air and invigorating scenery.

Nothing had changed. Juan had spent his childhood here, his family originally came from one of the villages perched precariously on the side of the next valley. It had been a tough life, but good. Not good enough for Juan though, and he had ignored his Grandmother and headed for the city and his fortune. If only he had listened.

That though was unfair, he thought, he would never have met Marta, nor enjoyed the pleasure of parenthood. He spat, the action clearing his mouth of his unexpected weakness. A noise ahead stopped him in his tracks and he listened. There. Again. The fall of loose rock.

Juan ran on silent feet, the handle of his long hunting knife grasped tightly. The blade itself was held flush against his forearm, sharpened edge outwards. He saw the man, who stumbled, something was wrong with his right ankle. A grunt of pain followed as his prey’s weight fell full on his injured limb. Juan smiled; a cold, bleak thing. Soon he would take the pain away, soon.

*
“Hello.”

The man looked up at the gaunt and blood-spattered thing before him. Fear pierced through his agony and he reached one hand up, a futile supplication.
“There, there,” Juan crooned, as his arm flashed forward, the arc of the blade slashing across flesh and sinew.

“You really should have kept running.”

The back swing of the knife buried its point into the man’s right eye as Juan leaned in.

“Your last mistake.”

One stab, two and then another. A flurry of sharp blows which bled his victim dry. All the while, Juan admonished him, a tight smile on his lips. At last it was over and the savaged body lay still. Without a backward glance, he sped away. Three more awaited him.

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Post by Rayo Azul » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:05 pm

Chapter Two

James McBride raised his boot on high and slammed it down. Splinters of wood flew into the air and he laughed.

“See?” he said as he repeated the action. “This is what will happen to you, if you miss another payment.”

The old man cowered, his stringy arm clasped protectively around his granddaughter. These maniacs could and would do worse if he resisted and so he stood, head bowed in submission and said nothing. He felt Isabella’s anger and he prayed to whichever God was listening, that the foolish young woman would keep her mouth shut.

“Oooh!” said McBride in mock consternation, “The little girl looks upset.”

Please God, thought the old man, just let them go. I’ll be good, I promise.

It seemed as though his prayers were heard, as the bell above the shop door jingled. He risked a quick glance and then sighed in relief.

“Why, Grandfather?” asked Isabella. “Why did you let them do that to you?”

“Rather that, than what they would have done to you if I had tried to fight.”

“I’m not scared of them.”

“Well you should be!” He was angry now, his temper lashed out at the one person who could not be blamed over this affront.

“You should be.” He said more quietly now. “McBride and his thugs would have dealt harshly with you, my girl. You need to show more restraint.”

“Be as scared as you, you mean.”

It hurt him that she thought that way, but he tried again.

“Yes, scared. Smart too. Dead men have little to say and even less to do.”

She stopped now, looking at him fearfully. Good, he thought, at last a little sense.

“They would have killed us?”

“In the end, my dear.”, he said, patting her hand. “After they had made their point.”

*

“Did you see that?” laughed McBride, “The old man was shitting himself. That boys, is how you do it.”

Sycophantic laughter greeted his words and a warm feeling of contentment suffused the big man. McBride was an ugly brute of a man, face battered and scarred with the results of his chosen occupation. Behind that façade though, was a mind sharp and clear. Many had mistaken him for a simple thug. Something they only did once.

His childhood had been hard. Brought up on the streets by desire rather than necessity. Good genes ran through his veins, but his blood was tainted. He thrilled in causing pain, using his power to get everything that he wanted. The McBride family was rich, well-connected, yet James eschewed their influence. Only once had he asked for help from his father, the sneering reply had been quickly silenced and from that day onwards James was on his own.

Now he lived by his strength and wits, his followers outdoing themselves in order to gain his favour. Recently McBride had decided to move up in the world and had begun a violent removal of his competition. The visit to the old man’s shop had been a little demonstration. It always paid for his men to see him in action and it helped to keep his hand in. That, however, was not the real reason. This street belonged to the Ortega family and his little exhibition would send a sharp reminder.

That and the other things he had organised. McBride laughed at the thought of Ortega’s reaction to the attacks on his other businesses, the execution of his men on the street and the ultimate of course. The violent death of his only daughter Marta and his grandsons.

Anticipation had always been the most delicious of emotions for McBride and this would top them all. To think, that Ortega had let his daughter leave the family business, had made sure all knew she was outside, relying on their honour. Well he, James McBride thought little of honour. Power now, that was different.

*

Death played its merry tune that day. Explosions wracked shops and gambling dens indiscriminately. Weapon fire rolled like thunder, as wave after wave of street soldier carried out their grisly duty and still McBride laughed. He now stood on the top of his office building; a run-down, ugly three-storey affair. Glass of brandy in one hand, cigar in the other, he squealed like some small child at a firework display.

A darkened vehicle skidded to a halt below and McBride leaned out over the edge of the roof and crowed his satisfaction. Four men exited, dragging another between them. His guest had arrived.

The wait was delicious, but at last Ortega was dragged in front of him, hair and clothing dishevelled and smeared with dark stains. McBride placed his cigar in his mouth and pulled the old man’s head up by the hair. Anger and defiance blazed back at him and he laughed again, as he moved aside.

“Take him to the edge.”

As he was held, feet scrabbling over the pending abyss, MCBride seemed to remember something.

“Ah, Ortega. I have sad news to impart.”

His men grinned. This was going to be good.

“It seems that little Marta and her boys met with an accident. Fatal I’m afraid.”

Giggles greeted his riposte, but Ortega’s reaction was not what he expected.

“And Juan?” came the quiet reply.

“Dead too.”

“You don’t sound certain.”

McBride was puzzled, Ortega had spoiled everything. Who gave a flying frakk about the little mountain boy? He was nothing.

“Do it.” He said, and his men pushed Ortega backwards.

There was no cry. No trailing scream. Only clearly, articulated words. All delivered in a sorrowful tone.

“You know not what you have done.”

*

“I want information!” McBride was angry, close to losing control.

“That was not how it was supposed to end. He was laughing at me!”

“There’s nothing to worry about, Boss:” said one of his lieutenants, trying to calm McBride down.

The hand holding the brandy glass crashed against the unfortunate man’s forehead, shattering the receptacle with the force of the blow. Hand dripping blood, McBride turned, his voice deadly calm.

“Anyone else?” he asked and when there was no reply. “Good. Find out who this Juan is. Send some of the boys out there to meet up with Stigs and his men. No communication except face-to-face. I want this loose end tied up. Permanently.”

*

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Post by Rayo Azul » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:08 pm

Chapter Three

Juan was oblivious to the events unfolding in the city below. Truth be told, he would have cared little anyway. His Father-in-Law and he had never seen eye-to-eye, but they had reached an understanding. It had been a painful exercise, but in the end Juan had made them see reason.

Now though, he had other things on his mind. His pursuit was taking longer than he had expected and they were rapidly reaching the wooded slopes of the true valley. He could not let them reach the main road and escape. This needed to be finished here. The city was another story.

Something slammed into his shoulder and he instinctively rolled with the blow, twisting on the ground so that he faced his attacker on his knees, one hand firmly planted for support. A man faced him, holding a fallen branch in two hands, which he now raised on high, ready to strike. Juan was unsure of this, their weapons had been discarded in their haste to escape him, yet the lack of a blade was disconcerting.

The crack of a broken twig sounded loud to his adrenalin-enhanced senses and he moved quickly. They had sought to ambush him. Trick him in their eagerness to end this.

He launched himself forward, striking upwards. The knife sliced through cloth and inner thigh, then stomach as he span. Behind him was another of them, weapon held in front as he arrowed towards Juan. At the last moment he moved, turning and helping the other’s momentum. There was a meaty thud as his two assailants became entangled and Juan wasted no time. His foot snapped down against a knee joint as he pulled backwards on the man’s shoulder. There was a startled cry, quickly cut off.

Escola stood, the last of the murderers beneath him. He was bleeding out, the wound in his thigh having nicked an artery. The second slash had opened his stomach, a nasty wound.

Shock rather than fear held the man quiet, although that would soon change. He was dead, thought Juan, although his brain was still not aware of the fact. It would be slow and in that Juan was content.

He never once looked back. Rather he set off for the village he could now see clearly below him. A bath and a change of clothes were necessary before he completed this journey.

*

Truly this valley is timeless, thought Juan, the black-clad women reminding him of his own early years. The widows holding on to their men long dead and caring for their young offspring. Dirty children played blithely in the mud in the main street. Scrawny dogs squabbled and barked at passers-by who stumbled from the dark interior of the local bar.

There was only one main cobbled street, the rest of the stone houses sprawled in an untidy fashion over the hillside. Some in a state of semi-collapse, others functional and used by the local farmers. Juan walked on. His family still owned a property here, although his Grandmother was no more. It was locked up and forgotten by all but his distant relatives who still lived in the area. He came here rarely, only to ensure that all functioned against the day he really needed it. Never had he imagined that today would be that day.

It was easy to avoid the more populated area and he climbed a weed-choked path to the rear door of the small house. Juan half-expected to see his Grandmother sat on the small porch, her chair rocking back and forth as she plucked feathers from a recently-killed bird. No-one was there though and he fished the key from behind the loose stone where it always was.

The door opened and he breathed in deeply. There was a particular smell to these old houses, welcoming and constant. He needed that balance today. A quick glance showed that nothing had been touched and he climbed the steep stairs to the upper rooms. They had been small, dark and foreboding places. Juan himself had carried out the modifications; running modern light and heat from solar panels on the roof had been scoffed at and then ignored.

Two rooms had been knocked into one and with a flick of a switch, history transformed into reality. A light wood panelled the walls and the floor, and as Juan wound back the blinds sunlight cascaded in. It was a self-contained flat, hidden within the confines of typical village austerity. Modern furniture sat comfortably within its minimalist environment. The sofa bed underscored the deceptive nature of the decorations. A plain wooden desk, computer terminal and filing cabinet was the only item which clashed. Juan entered the small bathroom and began to recover some of his non-descript humanity.

Refreshed and clothed, beer in hand he stared at the computer for a moment and then reached up for the handle set in the low ceiling. A well-oiled trapdoor and metal stairs unfolded, allowing him access to the roof space. Here too he had added his own touch, one he had thought only of as a milksop to a past life. Today, though, that life had been resurrected.

Inside the tight space were the tools of his trade; guns, pistols, knives and other strange weapons were racked neatly. His eye strayed to the large photograph set reverentially against the far well. Incongruous, it showed the laughing family group and had been placed there as if it were a totem of goodness to combat the inherent evil held within this room. With deliberate motion, he covered it with a pillowcase he had carried with him and the old Juan Escola looked lovingly upon familiar friends.

He chose a thin, black lightweight body armour which fit easily over his clothes. A bag was quickly filled with ammunition and essential items and a combat harness outfitted with a set of throwing knives, garrotte and metal-studded whip. His hunting knife was settled into its sheath and then he threw his memory cloth cloak over his shoulders. He was ready.

There was no extended leave-taking, no regret now for what he had lost. That would come some day. For now he had a job to do, a grave oath given. One thing was on his mind only, vengeance.

*

Old leaves, spider webs, dead insects and other detritus covered the tarpaulin. With a quick flick of one corner, Juan removed the heavy sheet, revealing the machine underneath. It had the look of a relic, a motorbike from another time, yet as in all things concerning Juan, its looks were deceptive. He carried out a series of familiar checks and replaced tired components. Nothing major was required, He had always maintained his equipment, subconsciously expecting to need it one day. It too was black, its dull surface designed to reflect nothing and withstand heavy treatment.

When he had resealed the door to the garage and was mounted astride the black monster, he glanced back one, a wistful expression on his face. This too was fleeting as his mouth set into hard lines and he depressed the starter button.

Few saw him leave and those that did shuddered at the sight of the cloaked figure who raced quickly out of the village. One old lady’s hand formed a sign of protection as he roared past. She remembered, but wished she could forget.

*

The rumble of a heavy motor broke through the clean air, exhaust fumes billowing out from the twin pipes at the rear of the vehicle. McBrides men had wasted no time in following their Master’s orders and were happy to leave the city. Excitement ran high, as a group they revelled in their work and the fear they engendered. No-one believed that it was any more than a joy-ride. Stigs was known for his ferocity and ability for tying up loose ends. All they hoped was that he had left them something to do and if not, they would satiate their own vindictiveness at the expense of a few chosen villagers.

None of them were aware of the rider until he was upon them. His machine skidding to a stop and blocking their way. With a smile, the driver gunned his engine, his intent obvious.

His grin disappeared as he saw the black-clad rider reach behind him and pull a stub-nosed rifle from its holder. There were three reports in quick succession, the first round falling short and spraying stone chips and dirt into the air. Wrenching the wheel to one side, the panicked driver tried to make himself as difficult a target as possible. To no avail.

The second explosive round impacted onto the front windshield, smashing glass and buckling metal. Wildly sawing to one side, the heavy jeep slowed, and the third round struck. It passed through the shattered glass and entered the cabin. With a muffled thump it destroyed the interior, blood and limbs spraying outwards. Now, wheeling painfully on, the jeep bumped gently against the nearby rock wall. Clouds of black smoke, interspersed by flickering flames, billowed from the wreck. Not one of McBrides men stumbled forth from their funeral pyre and Juan placed the grenade launcher back into its place on the side of his machine, before he started his engine and rode slowly downhill, towards the waiting city.

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Post by MechRat » Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:53 am

This is rather dark, but well-written. Just like the Dark Falcons, I eagerly await the next installment. 8)
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Post by Rayo Azul » Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:42 am

MechRat wrote:This is rather dark, but well-written. Just like the Dark Falcons, I eagerly await the next installment. 8)
I warned you that some of my stuff was dark. :wink:

This I have put up as a sample as we discussed (you, me and others) to see what people think. It is a story set in my own universe which I can adapt for BT, I think.

First of all though, I have to finish The Awakening, which probably only has another two or three chapters to go and then we'll see where I take this story. :twisted:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by thatjimboguy » Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:09 am

I'm enjoying it so far. But yeah, let's see where the Dark Falcons go. I can wait to obsess over the next installment of this piece until after I'm done obsessing over the next installment of the first one.
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Post by MechRat » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:21 pm

thatjimboguy wrote:I can wait to obsess over the next installment of this piece until after I'm done obsessing over the next installment of the first one.
Very true. Although there is an ending to the Dark Falcons that soon? I hope not.
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Post by Rayo Azul » Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:11 pm

MechRat wrote:
thatjimboguy wrote:I can wait to obsess over the next installment of this piece until after I'm done obsessing over the next installment of the first one.
Very true. Although there is an ending to the Dark Falcons that soon? I hope not.
Dark Falcons ending? Not likely. There's a whole timeline out there to play with. :wink:

Cheers

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Post by Rollingdrafter » Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:47 pm

I liked this one also and can wait for more..I'm going to start the dark falcons and see what is there.

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Post by Rayo Azul » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:38 pm

Rollingdrafter wrote:I liked this one also and can wait for more..I'm going to start the dark falcons and see what is there.
Great to see you're following this. It's parked for a little while, but I've posted the next instalment of Urion's Belt for you :wink:

Hope you enjoy the Dark Falcons story :lol:

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul » Thu Sep 03, 2009 8:40 am

Just something to keep you going. More Sudden Dearth later. I have people potentially interested in Urion's Belt and A Cold Dish. Which one do you guys like best?

Chapter Four

McBride was worried. An unusual state for such as he. There had been no news from his men and now the sun had set. Smoke still rose slowly from burnt-out buildings and vehicles, yet all was calm. He had succeeded in wrenching control of his barrio from Ortega and so he should be celebrating. Still the old man’s words played through his mind and he knew he had missed something.

He was a control freak, a planner by nature and somehow things had gotten out of his grasp. Information on Juan Escola was sparse, yet there was something, an implied threat which no-one could clarify. The man’s village background was well known, as were the details of his marriage to Ortega’s daughter. In between though, there was a black hole. An opaque period of time with no details, except that he had worked for Ortega. People remembered him as a smiling, happy man. He had risen to manage Ortega’s more legitimate business and had never been tarred with taint of Ortega’s more salubrious activities. He was clean. Too clean. And that was what was causing McBride’s anxiety.

A knock at the door broke into his reverie.

“Enter.”

“We’ve found them.”

The flat comment instantly alerted him. There was trouble.

“Tell me.”

“They’re dead. Not only that, Stigs and his men were butchered, the others given an early cremation.”

“All of them?” McBride’s surprise etched his voice. How could one man have done this?

“Each and every one of them. It wasn’t pretty, Boss. Not pretty at all.”

“Frak!” An inoffensive chair was kicked viciously to one side.

“Find him! I don’t care what it takes. I want him dead.”

The man nodded and backed out of the room, he had lost the bet. No-one wanted to give McBride this news, to face his rage.

“Oh.”

“Yes, Boss?”

“Send Javi in. I have a job for him.”

Now it was bad, the man thought, as he nodded in acquiescence. Javi was McBrides doer. The man chosen when things went awry, the fixer who would stop at nothing. If there was anyone he would rather not face, Javi was that man. He had no choice though and swearing under his breath, he headed for the exit to the street.

*
Doors were locked, where they still stood. Roving bands of thugs had satiated their looting and now looked for some unwary victim, but fun was scarce. The city had crawled into its metaphorical cave and was licking its wounds. A lone figure stood on one corner, smoke from a cigarette curling upwards. Beady black eyes watched the small groups of would-be revellers and smiled. The butt was flicked away and Javi Venta strolled towards McBride’s building.

None of the brutish men in the street even attempted a casual word, they knew him. His stick-thin figure, topped by his ridiculous hat was infamous, as was his temper. He killed for McBride. It was as simple and as deadly as that. The cane in his left hand tapped against the floor, its rhythm beating in time with his footsteps. A long coat hung off his emaciated frame, accentuating his height and hiding the pistol at his hip.

He rapped sharply on the front door, which was opened after a quick perusal of his credentials.

“Too slow.”

A twist of the cane in his hand and the concealed rapier was free. The blade shot forward, passing through the half-closed spy-hole and skewering the frightened face behind.

“A lesson learned.”, he stated to the second guard, as his companion’s body crumpled to the floor.

The blade flashed again and was greeted by a fearful cry of pain. As he sauntered through, he left behind him the second guard, hand clapped to the side of his head, severed ear bouncing on the floor.

“Now, you’ll listen.”

Then he giggled in a high girlish tone, at his own sadistic humour.

*
“You took your time.” McBride was still angry, his rage radiating from him in waves.

“Teaching a few wayward souls,” said Javi, placing his cane onto the central table.

“How many did you kill this time?” asked McBride, his interest peeked.

“Only one. Oh and another has a little reminder of his tardiness.”

“One day you’ll go too far;” growled McBride, noting how the cane’s grip still lay close to the maniac’s hand, “but not today.”

Javi nodded. “You called?”

“Yes. We have a little problem.”

A harsh laugh left Venta’s mouth as he indicated the street below.

“I think not.”

“What? No, of course not. The city is ours, however, there is another problem.”

His only resonse was the slight arching of the assassin’s right eyebrow.

“Do tell. Sounds interesting.”

McBride poured himself another drink, rudely ignoring his guest. Once seated, legs crossed, he outlined the night’s work and the results of Stig’s mission. When he had finished, there was silence. A smile lit Javi’s face.

“And what is it you wish me to do…?”

“Fix it.”

Javi nodded, reached for his cane and made his way to the exit. This was what he enjoyed, authonomy. McBride cared little for how he carried out his work, never wanting to know more than was necessary. First thing tomorrow he would head for the mountains, no doubt this Escola man was long gone, but he was patient.

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Post by KhanPhelanWard » Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:43 am

Have you the spanish version?When it´s possible I prefer it :wink:

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Post by MechRat » Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:15 am

Choose between Urion's Belt and A Cold Dish? Difficult choice, yes? Both are excellent stories. However, my love for science fiction pulls me towards Urion's Belt as a favorite between the two, but only by a slim margin. :wink:

Good luck on what I am guessing are publisher interests, yes? :D

By the way, thanks for the update. It will hold me for a little bit until the next chapter of Sudden Dearth or the Dark Falcons, whichever comes first. :D
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Post by Rayo Azul » Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:59 pm

Small independent interest. Not huge and I'm toying with the idea or self-publishing, but we'll see.

This is in no way my day-job and right now I enjoy writing. Can't decide what to do, but there's no rush :wink:

So in the meantime I'll keep posting :D

Cheers

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:04 pm

KhanPhelanWard wrote:Have you the spanish version?When it´s possible I prefer it :wink:
I'm trying to convince my wife to translate it properly, as my Spanish writing is not as good contextually as my English :oops:

Estoy intentando convencer a mi mujer, pero ... ya sabes :oops:

Cheers/Un saludo

Rayo

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Post by Rayo Azul » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:23 pm

Rayo Azul wrote:Small independent interest. Not huge and I'm toying with the idea, or instead self-publishing, but we'll see.

This is in no way my day-job and right now I enjoy writing. Don't want to spoil that. Can't decide what to do, but there's no rush :wink:

So in the meantime I'll keep posting :D

Cheers

Rayo
ONly meant to edit and look what happened :oops:

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Post by KhanPhelanWard » Thu Sep 03, 2009 3:49 pm

Rayo Azul wrote:
KhanPhelanWard wrote:Have you the spanish version?When it´s possible I prefer it :wink:
I'm trying to convince my wife to translate it properly, as my Spanish writing is not as good contextually as my English :oops:

Estoy intentando convencer a mi mujer, pero ... ya sabes :oops:

Cheers/Un saludo

Rayo
Sorry man.I though that you were spanish because there are spanish names ;)

Animo que esta muy bien.

Regards,Un saludo.

Ruben

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Post by Rayo Azul » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:06 am

Chapter Five


Their assumptions were drastically flawed. Juan was at that moment parking his bike on the outskirts of the city. He did not know for sure who had ordered the hit, but it would not be difficult to find out. The evidence was all around him; burnt out cars, broken windows, cooling bodies. No, the trail was still warm and he had already decided what would be his first action.

No good would come of visiting Ortega’s villa, but it was the quickest source of information. A flick of his wrist flung the hood over his face, where the memory active cloth clung to his skin as it moulded to his form. Now he did indeed look like Death incarnate, scythe excepted. The cloak was of a strange weave, purchased for an exorbitant amount of money from an arms dealer. It was experimental military tech, acting as both secondary protection and stealth suit. His outline shimmered, becoming one more shadow amongst many as he glided forward.

Face he had none, the moulded cloth created a pool of blackness, adding to the terror of his appearance. Those who could, would only see a vague spectral form, inhuman in the extreme. Then they would remember the stories and fear would follow.

Within the underworld of crime there had once been a being, whose passage left wailing and the gnashing of teeth. A dark demon who killed mercilessly, whose victims often took their own lives rather than face him. That had been a long time ago, and now all that remained were legends. A soul-drinker, whose name was never spoken lest it draw him near. Supernatural phenomena were credited to him, although none lived who could give force to the rumours. Juan knew. It was all true.

Silently he slipped through the shadows, his route circuitous as he came closer to his objective. Once he startled a group of men, taking their pleasure with a mother and daughter. Here he stopped, repaid a little of their pain and moved on. Behind him, clutching their torn clothing around them, the women shook in fear. He was back and they at least had been spared. They sat a long time amongst the pooling blood before they found the courage to leave. It began as a whisper and would soon become a roar, El Angel de la Muerte had returned.

*

The faint twittering of roosting birds was the only natural sound to break the silence. Raised voices and laughter occasionally shattered the still air, but Juan remained in the shadows. He could see men grouped around a large fire at the entrance to the villa. Every so often they smashed a looted piece of furniture and banked the flames higher. Idiots, he thought, their night vision would be minimal. That though was to his advantage. At last he left his concealment and sprinted to the base of the wall encircling the property. There were no patrols, and why would there be? These men believed themselves invulnerable.

He found the small gate, still covered by overgrown shrubbery and removed a key from the pouch at his waist. The lock was well-oiled and the hinges quiet. Juan slipped through the opening and checked that he had not been seen. With a click he secured the door, leaving it unlocked in case of emergency. Next he uncoiled his whip and drew a knife. This would not be done quietly from now on. Maximum impact and overwhelming horror were his aim.

His steps were sure, floating lightly as they touched the earth. When he was within range of the first of the cavorting men he spoke.

Muerte.”

It was said flatly, yet every word cleaved through the fog of excess. They heard him, of that there was no doubt. Even as they glanced fearfully into the darkness, all their senses questing for the source of the un-named terror he struck.

Crack! The whip lashed out, encircling the throat of one of the men. Its final length was fitted with tiny, yet razor sharp blades which dug into loose flesh and held.

“Muerte.”

A deft tug dragged his victim towards him, as the blades sawed through flesh. Blood fountained forth, no artery could resist such pressure. The man was spun by the force of the whip’s retrieval, delivering a frothy spray across the faces of his nearest companions. Open-mouthed they watched, still drunk on their day’s excess. Another fell, a small blade buried in one eye as the whip flicked serpent-like from the darkness. It was a slaughter. A cool butchery of malleable flesh. Juan was an artist who played his deadly tune with skill.

Screams of pain sawed outwards, but there was no respite. None except for one, who hid behind the corpse of a fallen comrade. Terrified he heard the swish of the grass, the rasping breath of nightmare and he looked deep into the blackened cowl.

“MUERTE!”

Welcoming unconsciousness smothered him, as his brain sought relief. His last sight was of the black hand which reached for him and the gobbets of flesh which clung to the uncoiled weapon in the thing’s hand.
*

The slap of a hand stung the man awake. Then he felt himself dragged forward and dropped again. He opened one eye and saw the flames burning close-by. A noise behind startled him and he scurried backwards.

“Ah. You are awake.”

He froze in terror. It came from the shadows and as he stared the funereal figure glided forwards.

“We need to talk.” It hissed the words, each syllable drawn out.

“I have a family. A wife and children.” he cried unbidden tears, in a tremulous voice.

“So did I.”

“W-who are you?”

“Muerte.”

The thug mewled pitifully as the studded cord was wound round his neck, he dared not look at its owner. He knew the stories.

“Who sent you?”

“W-what do you mean?”

An impatient snarl was his only reply. Quickly he tried to remedy his mistake as he was pulled across the ground to the base of a tall tree.

“McBride. I’m one of McBride’s men. He …”

“Thank you.”

There was terrible agony as the slack was taken up on the cord. His legs rose from the floor under great protest. Downward pressure forced his tongue to protrude from between his lips, before one savage heave released him.

The body span as the whip unfurled. Like a festive fire cracker it issued forth its streamers, twirling darkly and hissing where the liquid touched the flames. Juan disappeared into the shadows, the orphaned length trailing behind him.

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Post by BeoWolf » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:57 am

Nice and dark. Good reading and very interresting.
Stay true to the dream of the Kerensky's, now and always.

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Post by Rayo Azul » Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:56 pm

Chapter Six

Isabella Vasquez was stubborn. She was also a fool. To walk these streets, this night, in a pique of childish anger was tantamount to a death sentence. McBride’s men were little controlled at the best of times, tonight not at all. Her Grandfather had warned her, his quiet words had only stoked the flames of her ire, not calmed them as he had intended.

She was nineteen, an adult. Why was it that older people assumed that they knew what was best for her? This city was not the world, and men like McBride only prospered because people like her Grandfather let them. Well she would not be ruled by them, Isabella would leave. The small bag held tightly in her left hand was a statement of her intent. Tomorrow would find her out of this place, starting a new life.

“Hello, little girl.”

The rough voice broke into her thoughts and the three men lounging at the alley entrance brought reality crashing home. Her only hope was in ignoring them and so she marched onwards. A hand grasped her arm and spun her round.

“And where do you think you are going?”

They smelt of stale alcohol, smoke and rancid sweat. The hand on her arm pushed her against the wall and she felt the groping of another on her breast.

“Let me go.” she squealed in a mix of hurt pride and fear.

“Of course, my Lady. But first we’d like to play a little game.”

A knee was forced between her legs as a second man joined the first. The third only stood and laughed.

“Hurry up. This one’s pretty.”

Isabella struggled in vain, tears rolling soundlessly down her cheeks. She prayed, oh how she prayed.

“No.”

The word was spoken softly at first and then it came again with more force.

“Wait your turn …”

“I don’t do turns.”

It was chilling, monotone and Isabella’s legs began to shake. Her attackers cursed and released her and then she smelt their terror. It was the stench of a midden, the splutter of voided bowels now recognisable by the accompanying odour.

“No-o-o!”

Isabella kept her eyes closed tight. There was the sound of blows, of flesh parting and of dying breath. She waited for a cloying touch, a searing pain, but nothing came. At last she mustered enough courage to look and saw the corpses scattered around her. One head stared blankly up at her, its body tossed carelessly to one side. The echo of movement drew her eye and she saw him. A grim black-robed figure melted away before her and was gone.

Isabella ran all the way home, straight up the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom. Childish regression saw her hiding under her blankets and the touch of her Grandfather’s hand evoked scream after unending scream.

“What has happened. Isabella talk to me.”

She recognised the awful pawing at last and flung the covers aside.

“Oh, Grandfather,” she wailed. “I saw him. I saw him.”

Her Grandfather held her close, sobs wracked her body in violent release.

“Who, my child?”

“El Angel.”

With her head buried in the old man’s chest, she never saw him smile. It was a wicked thing, so out of character that she would have sworn before the altar that he could never have done such a thing. Diego Vasquez held her close and smiled again.

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Post by Rayo Azul » Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:05 am

Chapter Seven

The room was full, yet there was a strange pool of silence around the man in the corner. Hat pulled low over his eyes, coat loosely buttoned, he sipped quietly from the flagon in front of him. This was his chair, his table and none dared to challenge him in his lair.

As establishments went, the Prancing Lion was neither the best, nor the worst. It was fondly held in the heart of Javi Venta, so its safety was guaranteed. Javi was a fixture in the tavern, he often held his vicious court in the shadowed corner and tonight he waited for a guest. A deadening of the uproar announced the man’s arrival, his flowing purple robes and slick bodyguards shouted his identity.

“Cardinal.”

“Señor Venta. Always a pleasure.”

Javi motioned the Churchman to a seat, the guards turning to face out over the crowd.

“I presume you called me for a reason?”

“Of course.”

Cardinal Mendoza hated this man and his lack of respect. He bit back an angry retort, they needed him.

“What of our plans?”

“Well under way. Ortega is no more and McBride is running scared.”

Surprise tinged the Cardinal’s voice, this was not exactly as planned.

“Surprise? McBride?”

“Yes. He fears that he has unwittingly opened Pandora’s Box.”

The disdainful words left Venta’s mouth, before he could stop them and he saw the glee on the Cardinal’s face. Here was one who would have to be taught his rightful place in the scheme of things. That though could wait for later. Without waiting for the clergyman to speak, he continued.

“Yes. The team sent to take care of Ortega’s daughter and her family was lost.”

“Lost?”

“Well, okay, not strictly lost, rather made to disappear. Although it wasn’t hard to find them. Don’t know if we found all the bits though.”

Colour drained from Mendoza’s jowls, this certainly did not sound good.

“How?”

“Well. It seems that they left one alive. The husband.”
“The mountain man?”

“No. I couldn’t believe it either. It is though, the truth.”

A waitress brought the Cardinal his wine and he waited until she was out of earshot before speaking.

“Is he someone to worry about?”

“No. He’s long gone by now. Although, I do intend to personally drive up there tomorrow. You just can’t get the help you know.”

Mendoza’s indulgent smile grated on Venta’s nerves. These arrogant and pompous priests thought they were divinity themselves. Like McBride, they underestimated him. The thug at least showed some respect, the fat Cardinal though, that was another matter. He watched him slurp his wine, the ruby liquid spilling down his chin. A sleeve was drawn across the full lips, before the obnoxious display continued.

“And the other matter?”

God, he hated these people.

“Under control.”

“We can’t let McBride upset our plans.”

Your plans, thought Javi, but you need me to carry them out. He took a delicate sip of his ale and made the Cardinal wait. The man’s poorly disguised anger was delicious. At last he relented.

“When I get back from the mountain.”

“Does McBride suspect?”

Javi’s laugh startled Mendoza, its evil cruelty made him wonder whether they had chosen the correct vessel for their saintly work.

“None of them suspect.”

“Good. Let’s keep it that way. Now, what‘s the food like in this place. Hard work always makes me hungry.”

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Post by Rayo Azul » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:38 am

Chapter Eight

The door slammed behind his minion, who approached McBride like a recalcitrant puppy.

“Well?”

“You were right.”

“Who did he meet?”

“The fat Cardinal. They were there quite some time.”

McBride leaned back in his chair. His first rule was all about trust. He didn’t. Tonight he had been proven right; Javi Venta was playing both ends against the middle. The twist was the involvement of the Church. They had never been worried in the slightest at his excesses, as long as their property remained untouched. His men had been as scrupulous as usual, well at least where the Church was concerned. No, there was something else.

It was dangerous to follow Venta, whose reputation had been well-earned. Rather he had placed men in various locations known to be frequented by the tall man. It had been costly and time-consuming, but tonight had paid back his investment.

“Do we follow him?”

“No. Follow the Cardinal and let’s maintain our usual vigilance. When he strikes, we won’t be ready. We will, however, know to take extra precautions. I want the guards on this place doubled.”

His follower nodded and then left. McBride was troubled. Not only did he have a pissed-off mountain man on his trail, he also was about to dance with the devil. He swirled the brandy in his never empty glass and thought long and hard. Information was required and there was only one person who could get it for him. It went against the grain, but it could not be helped.

The guard returned in answer to his call.

“Bring the car round. I’m going to see my father.”

*

It was strange, leaving his barrio always felt like a betrayal and especially when the achingly familiar estate neared. A huge set of armoured gates barred his way, behind which he knew were well-tended lawns, laughing fountains and intense security. He was uneasy, the last time he had spoken with his father, they had not parted well. In fact he had left him bleeding on the floor, from a rather nasty-looking wound. There had been a couple of retaliatory attempts on his life, but they had come to a sort of understanding. McBride’s father was no whiter-than-white elder statesman and his organisation had employed McBride’s team on more than one occasion. Contact between father and son though, had been non-existent. Until now.

“Yes?”

The voice emanated from the communication device set to one side of the door. McBride knew he was under surveillance and his skin prickled at the thought of the automatic weaponry trained on his car.

“Tell my father I wish to see him.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re excused. Just do it.”

Silence greeted his comment and McBride waited. After an inordinate amount of time the speaker crackled into life.

“What do you want?”

“I have something for you. Information. I also need to ask ... for help.”

Laughter echoed around him and he gritted his teeth.

“What can you possibly offer me? Do you think I harbour any parental concern for you?”

“Obviously not, but I’m sure you’d like to know what Mendoza is up to.”

“Cardinal Mendoza?”

“The one and the same.”

A buzzer sounded and the gates swung open. McBride could clearly see the cannon-wielding guards who ushered him through. No doubt he was meant to.

*

It was all as he remembered, even to the feeling of inadequacy engendered by his father’s gaze. He had been escorted through the house after submitting himself to an intimate search. His men were stripped of their weapons and held under guard by the front entrance. His father’s study oozed power as did the man behind the desk which commanded the centre of the room. Robert McBride was white-haired now, but fire still snapped from his eyes. No chair was offered, nor drink. Rather James was left, standing like an errant-schoolboy in front of Robert’s desk.

“Spit it out. I haven’t got all day.”

“Hello father. How are you?”

James knew it would annoy the old man and could not help himself. A red colour rose against his father’s cheeks and he knew that he had gone too far. It was important that this did not degenerate into one of their typical arguments, so he spoke again.

“Enough of that. I came because I think, for once, we can work together.”

“Us?” a snort of incredulous disdain followed the single word.

“Yes, us. Before you throw me out, it really would be worth your while to listen to what I have to say.”

His father waved an indulgent hand and James continued.

“It has come to my attention that a certain Cardinal is sticking his pudgy fingers in things that are well beneath his vaunted office. I have evidence that he is consorting with paid assassins and turning a blind eye to the power struggle currently being played out in our fair city.”

“So he’s causing you problems?”

“Not directly. His involvement does suggest something deeper though.”

He waited, but his father was silent. Moments ticked by and James fought the urge to speak, to force his father to understand. At last his patience was rewarded.

“There is a rumour ...”

“You know something!”

Anger flashed from Robert’s eyes and James cursed his impatience. He clenched his teeth and tried to calm himself.

“That’s better,” the old man drawled, “it’s about time you learnt when to hold your tongue.”

Again James waited, breathing deeply in order to control his temper.

“The Church has been very active lately in its persecution of any so-called heretical thoughts. Cardinal Mendoza has been at the front of this witch-hunt. Stories of the long-lost heir have been quashed ruthlessly and particularly here in our own fair city.

He paused, stroking his chin slowly. It was a particular habit of his father, one which signalled he was up to something.

“Your evidence, how reliable is it?”

“Very. I have witnesses to a meeting held last night with a very unsavoury character.”

“One of your men?”

James grinned, his answer plain.

“I thought so. Do you have people who would swear to this meeting?”

On seeing James’ nod, Robert continued, his fingers tapping nervously against the table top.

“Apart from this clandestine meeting, held deliberately in a semi-public place no doubt, do you have anything else?”

“Not specifically. My men are following the good Cardinal and so we can easily find out what he’s up to.”

“Don’t be so sure. If my gut tells me anything, it’s that Mendoza is no fool. Even though he does seem to have acted as one in this instance. We need to be careful, to find out what he’s really up to and then we can take advantage of the situation. The only thing I’m not sure about is what’s in it for you?”

James feigned a hurt expression but on seeing the little effect it had on his father, he quickly put on his business face.

“The man he is involved with is a loose cannon. He could easily spoil all of my plans. I have enough problems right now, without being used by the Church.”

“And when this is all over?”

“Oh, I think between us we can come to some sort of agreement on how we split the city. Don’t you?”

Robert McBride stood, both of his hands firmly place on the table.

“I’m sure we can. This time though, my boy, don’t even think of double-crossing me. You won’t live through the experience.”

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Post by Rayo Azul » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:04 am

Chapter Nine


Juan yawned and stretched. It had been a busy night. After saving the girl he had continued on to McBride’s headquarters and found himself somewhere nearby, from which he could study the comings and goings of the thug’s men. He had seen McBride leave early that morning and return, quickly entering the building. His evening escapade seemed to have stirred up a hornet’s nest, as many of the hung-over men could now be found patrolling the streets and alleys surrounding the three-storey building.

Escola was in no rush, he wanted the terror to build. It was a familiar friend and was one of his few advantages. The bike was well-hidden and had served its purpose. If they found it, there would be little effect on his plans and if not, he had one more means of escape. Juan laughed; escape was not of paramount importance to him now. He wanted vengeance. His real priority was survival until he could stare straight into McBride’s eye, just before he ended his life.

A flurry of activity outside the main entrance drew his attention, but it was only a group of guards, relieving their companions from their watch. These few looked even worse for wear than the others and Juan sneered at their inadequacy. Rather than waste any more time, he laid out his weapons, cleaning them would at least keep him occupied. He would be ready for the sun’s setting, when El Angel would walk again.

*

Bird-calls regaled Javi as he climbed the mountain. This place was timeless, the previous day’s violence touching it little. He had found the remains of Stig and his men and now stood looking down on the pitiful cairn. There was no need to look beneath its hastily constructed facade, he could smell the burgeoning putrefaction from where he stood. McBride’s men had been careless and had paid dearly.

From the burnt out wreck of the jeep, which had now been pushed off the road, to this stark remembrance he had followed the trail of violence. Something though peeked him. This mountain man had disembowelled and dissected his foes and then had obliterated the men in the jeep with modern weaponry. No cache of weapons were near and it would have been impossible to carry it down the steep mountain slopes. This meant that Escola had stopped in one of the villages to re-supply which spoke of preparation. It also indicated that they were dealing with a different animal. The professionalism demonstrated was all too familiar to Venta. He needed to find Escola’s stash, where he expected to also find evidence of the mountain man’s real identity.

For the first time in a long time, he felt the thrill of an adversary worthy of his talents. He was sure that Escola had never left. It was more than likely that he was even now in the city. With a spring in his step, he started down from the mountain. A little detour and then he would begin his own hunt. All he had to do was stay close to McBride and Juan Escola would be his.

*

Day faded slowly into night, whilst Juan watched. Blackness folded around him, converting the armoured man into nightmare. A pool of impenetrable shadow grew beneath his cowl, giving creed to his grim appearance. He waited a moment longer, then made his way down the stairs, stopping briefly by the doorway before melting into nothingness.

Tonight his objective was terror, pure and simple. Each death worse than the last, until nothing remained, but bowel-clenching fear. El Angel fed on pain, on suffering both physical and mental. When nothing remained but despair, he would take McBride’s life, and not before.

The first man to die went unnoticed. Humorous words hung in the air long after he had gone. His companion still talked to him, whilst in the shadows his life choked away. Only when there was no responding laughter or disgusted curse was he missed. By then though, it was too late.

Selective slaughter; here a death, there a dismemberment. It did not take long for Juan to remember how it must go. He never killed in pairs, leaving one man isolated and alone. Tomorrow in the daylight they would talk of their unseen stalker, for now they could do nothing more than shiver and pray. Please God, let me live. Take him, not me.

It was mechanical. This murderous spree was done without rancour. He cared not for their families, nor their loved ones. They were nothing but dumb flesh, clay with which he had to work. His ghastly sculpture would be revealed in the morning light and tomorrow night would be worse.

When dawn’s faint light touched the streets, Juan was safely ensconced in his hideaway. It was from there that he heard the screams begin, which rose in volume as the searchers found the gifts he had left. The comforting cries ringing in his ears, he fell into a dreamless and carefree sleep.

*

Javi had used his infamous skills of persuasion in each of the three villages he had visited. It was not until the last that he had found what he was looking for. He stood in the well-lit room and marvelled at the hidden treasures. The roof-space had proved the most interesting, giving him an insight into his quarry’s mind. This man was truly worthy. Empty rack spaces indicated that Escola was more than prepared for what he had to do. What had he taken?

It was as he was leaving that he was careless. Venta broke the beam set for just such a visit and three silver shapes spat into the air. As they revolved, small arms flicked out and a colourless vapour issued forth. He recognised them and ran. Just before they hit the floor, light briefly sparked. The effect was instantaneous as the flammable gas ignited, filling the space Javi had only recently vacated. Secondary explosions rocked the building as ammunition burned off.

“Frak!”

Javi cursed at his own stupidity. That had been close. He watched the boiling cloud roll upwards and swore again. Any chance he might have had of learning more about his opponent was gone. Quick, sure strokes of his hands brushed the dirt and debris from his clothing and he grinned. This had just got interesting.

A persistent bleeping noise woke Juan. They had found his weapons cache. He grunted in dismissal, turned back over and was quickly back asleep.

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Post by thatjimboguy » Sun Sep 13, 2009 3:31 pm

Looking good Rayo. Keep it going.
"Win if you can. Lose if you must, but always cheat" - Jesse "The Body" Ventura

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Post by Viktor » Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:01 pm

I love this!

Mores! :D