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It was twelve thirty when his phone went off, the cheery little jingle mixing in with the music of the radio. The owner of the phone opened it with a flick of his wrist and checked the text message which read: One o’ Clock, Fredrick square, man in the black coat and green sunglasses. His thumb slid over the keys and cleared the device’s memory. He looked at the clock and did the math in his head, decided how far Fredrick square was from the ratty little apartment he was currently renting. Or, had been renting; the lease was up that afternoon. It was about a ten minute walk to the square, five minutes to stake the area; he had time for a quick bite. The fridge opened up and relinquished its last hostage, a zip lock baggie filled with some chicken strips, lettuce and a pinch of seasoning. The two burner stove in the kitchenette sputtered to life, though it took some convincing. Three minutes later and the dingy little room was filled with a sweet and spicy aroma that made the mouth water. It took the man two minutes to finish the small meal, one minute to pray and another two to sort through the black suitcase that held his life.
Two sets of clothes where neatly folded on top, one casual with a pair of blue jeans and a white tee shirt the other a somber black suit with a midnight blue tie. A small stash of hair dyes, contact lenses, and grooming equipment lay hidden beneath the garments. They had once been complimented by wigs and a pair of glasses, but the man had found wigs too artificial and he had lost his glasses the week before and had not had time to replace them yet. There was also a small hand mirror, which he glanced at briefly. Eyes that matched the tie looked back at him, sad and troubled but steady as stone. A neat copper hued beard stretched its way around his jaw and he touched it in consideration of shaving soon. The mirror was returned to its place with a gentle sigh, and an inner pouch was unzipped, revealing a knife handle and the grip of a tiny hand gun. He removed both and placed the firearm in a special holster on the inside of his sleeve. The knife handle was slipped into his pocket, the blade having been broken off some years back, but the grip marks of the former owner still quite clear on the soft gold that made up the handle.
He checked his watch and straitened the simple dress clothes he wore, black jeans and a button up shirt, also black. Eighteen minutes until the appointed time. He picked up his suit case and switched off the yellowing bulb that had illuminated the room. The stairway was full of rotting dry wall and the front desk looked like it had taken quite a beating over its long life time. A balding man in stained clothes grunted as he neared, receiving the room key without a word. The muted jangle of a rusty door bell signaled the man’s exit and he made his way along the packed city streets towards the square. The pavement was uneven and cracked, though the thousands of people marching over it hardly seemed to care. Skins of every color and hue clashed against each other, making it that much easier for the man to blend in. Fredrick square was one of those lost relics of most major cities, a collage of passed times that had left their mark in graffiti and broken masonry. A cracked fountain dominated the center of the cobblestone square, the water trickling out half heartedly from an angel’s watering jar.
The man glanced at the fountain and tipped his head to the angel for a brief moment. Perhaps in his mind, it might have winked back. He checked his watch again; seven minutes till the other was to show up. He glanced up and took stock of the surroundings, counting only one greasy hotdog stand, two wooden benches in need of a paint job and a street musician who may have been tone deaf. The man dropped down onto one of the benches and let his mind wonder with the music, a sketchy rendition of some TV theme song played on a worn violin. It certainly wasn’t the best he had ever heard, but the violinist played with heart. He glanced at his watch once more; One o’ Clock. It was time.
A tall figure in a black coat began to cross the square, a pair of green tinted sun glasses riding his nose. He walked with a sort of cocky stride that was born of too many easy wins. He covered the cobblestone and began a conversation with the owner of the hot dog cart, who had suddenly begun to sweat profusely. A hotdog was ordered, and then spat out after the first bite. The stranger cursed at the cart owner and swiped a stack of stale buns across the ground, much to the pleasure of the squares resident pigeons. The man had seen enough. He rose up from the seat like a ghost, footsteps silent and even. He passed the musician and dropped a handful of wrinkled ones into her violin case, which earned a thankful nod. He was five feet from the cart now, which had just been thrown on its side. An expensively booted foot was planted firmly on the side of the rusty food stand, the stranger still flinging threats at the owner who was now running for all he was worth.
The man’s gun fell into his hand as if it had been drawn there. The square was now empty, except for the violinist who was looking in the opposite direction. One more step and he was within reach of the target. A quiver filled the air, that pressure that built up when two predators where within inches of each other. Time slowed for a moment and the man knew that the target was worthy of the bullet. He could almost smell the blood on his hands. The stranger turned, a hand dipping into his coat, mouth flattening into a line. The gun’s barrel met his chest, just above the heart. Blue eyes met green lenses and the trigger snapped back three times. There was no more noise than a series of muffled coughs, and the target slid to the ground with a dazed expression on his face. The man returned the gun to its holster and withdrew the knife handle, pressing the pressed handle into the dying killer’s hand; his fingers where too large to fit it properly. Silence was all that was left in the square a minute later, the corpse having been stashed in the hot dog stand and the violinist staring dumbly at the hundred dollar bill she had found wrapped inside a wad of ones. The man had left without regret. He was a bad man who killed other bad men; there was little room for remorse.
The next day found him four states over in a slightly larger if still dingy apartment. There had been frost on the ground that morning and the man had allowed himself the luxury of some hot chocolate. His hands nursed the cheap mug as he sat in thought, the clock ticking away in the background. His suitcase rested in the corner, next to the door. His pistol, freshly cleaned and loaded, lay next to his hands and he stared at it thoughtfully. A lot of bad men had died by that weapon, all of them deserving it. All of them like him. More than once he had thought about pointing that barrel to his own head and ridding the world of one more piece of scum, but something had stopped him each time. He sighed and began to pray, hands clasped in the steamy heat of the mug. His phone rang.
The man paused mid prayer, listening to the sound; it was a different ringer than usual, a slow set of scales instead of the usual digital jingle. He pulled the phone out and looked at the front screen; it was receiving a call. He flipped it open and held it up to his ear.
A calm female voice answered him “We are very pleased by your work sir,”
His voice was did not betray his confusion “Thank you. May I ask who is speaking?”
“A friend,” Was the useless answer
“Why did you call me?”
“Why, to inform you that your contract is up of course, and to thank you once again for your services. A plane ticket to the Bahamas is waiting for you in Tanner Park, taped underneath the blue bench. When you arrive, you will find that housing and a comfortable retirement have all been arranged for you. We thank you again and bid you good-,”
The man interrupted quietly “I don’t want to quit,”
A pause “What was that sir?”
His voice was like stone, a hand pressing against the knife handle in his pocket “I don’t want to quit. There are more of them out there, more killers and thieves, more monsters out there like that one yesterday, more monsters like-,”
Me he thought to himself, letting the sentence hang.
The caller did not speak for a while and the man had to check to make sure she hadn’t hung up.
Suddenly a man’s deep baritone barked from the speaker “I’m glad you feel that way. You are now an Agent. Welcome aboard,”
He was stunned; things where moving much faster than he was used to “An Agent for whom?”
The voice chuckled “You will find out soon enough,”
Dead signal tones where the next thing he heard, followed by the more typical ring of a text.
He clicked the open command and scanned the message ‘It is good to have you on the team Agent Gabriel. Destroy this device and make your way south, disposing of all your possessions but your weapon and the clothes on your back. You will know your contact when you see her,’
“Gabriel,” he breathed; he had been nameless for so long.
He dropped the phone down the drain and flipped the garbage disposal on, most likely decimating his security deposit along with the device. He chugged down the hot chocolate tossed the mug in his suit case. He left the apartment and handed over his keys, waving away the security deposit. Gabriel began his march south, dropping the suit case in the second dumpster he saw. For the first time in years he smiled.
It felt good to have a name.
It felt even better to have a purpose.