Location: Washington Dulles International Airport
The man walked towards the immigration checkpoint and flashed the seated officer a well-practiced smile. He slid his blue jacketed passport across the protective steel reinforced nano-glass filter and looked around, before returning his gaze to the immigration officer. The officer did not return the smile. His brown bushy eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he flipped through the passport, occasionally glancing back at the man standing in front of his checkpoint. The standing man took the opportunity to observe his surroundings. Dulles had retained its large traveler traffic, despite the U.S being cruelly reduced from the world’s most powerful country to an embattled empire. Still, even embattled empires retained a fair amount of wealth for decades after their fall, hence the large influx of travelers.
“You’ve been gone a long time, Mr. Howard.” The immigration officer said, now staring directly at the man known to him as Mr. Howard.
“Yes I have. Lots of memories.” The man replied. A look of pain flashed across his face.
“Ah. Well ain’t much changed around here, I’ll tell you that.” The man said as an optical stamp’s lasers gently carved out the stamp’s insignia on the latest passport page.
“I know that.”
“Then why’d you come back, Mr. Howard?” The immigration officer asked as he handed the passport back to the standing man.
“Its home. Everyone’s gotta come home at some point right?”
For the first time, the immigration officer smiled.
“Yeah I suppose you’re right. Welcome home, Mr. Howard.”
The steel elevator-like doors beside his checkpoint slowly slid back.
“Thank you.” Horus responded as he walked through.
When he was on the other side, he pulled out a phone from his pocket and placed a call. It rang twice before the person on the other side, picked up.
“Ketra. It’s me. Meet me at the usual. I need you to do some window shopping.”
He ended the call and blended into the foot traffic.
Meghan Castella walked into a rundown Starbucks café, wearing a large dark blue winter jacket, with the hood tossed over her head. The gloomy day did not stop her from wearing dark shades. It wasn’t the most appropriate weather accessory but she would rather get a few suspicious looks, than a full blown frenzy of attention, once those in the café knew who she was. She made her way to the counter and ordered a mocha latte, before finding an empty rusting aluminum table with a low plastic chair to sit on. Not long after, her mocha was placed in front of her. The steam gently emanating from the Styrofoam lid’s opening, gave her a fleeting sense of comfort. It didn’t last long as she caught sight of the nondescript car parked across the road from the café. After John’s death, Victor had made arrangements for her to be closely guarded at all times. On her request, they kept a respectable distance, though it did nothing to ease her discomfort. They were a constant reminder that her life was in danger. She could be next.
So who’s it going to be? Horus?
“Can I sit here miss?”
The question, the voice, and the sudden presence of someone standing in front of her, startled Meghan and she nearly knocked over her coffee.
“Oh Christ!” She exclaimed as she steadied her cup.
“I’m sorry.” The young lady apologized. “I did not mean to frighten you.”
“Oh don’t worry. It’s just me being lost in my own world. Sit, please.” Meghan offered with a smile.
“Thank you miss.”
The young lady sat and quickly pat down a few stubborn strands of her light blonde hair. The blonde was a dye. Meghan could tell that the lady’s natural hair color was black. They sat in silence for a while. Meghan turned her attention back to her handbag and pulled out her tablet. She began swiping through the Network’s contents, searching for anything she could find on Jiang Li. So far, she had hit a brick wall. There was nothing out there that gave her any clues about what Jiang Li had discovered. She tapped on the table in frustration.
“That’s annoying.” The young lady said.
Behind her shades, Meghan glared at her.
“Excuse me? You asked if you could sit here, remember.”
“No no… Not tapping. The thinking. It’s hard when you can’t figure out… I understand.”
Now Meghan eyed her curiously. Was she alluding to what she was trying to find out? Was it that glaring on her face?
“You don’t know the half of it, lady.” She finally said as she turned her attention back to her tablet.
“I know you won’t find what you search for in there. And your bodyguards out there, won’t be able to stop him.”
An icy wave of fear washed down Meghan’s body. As much as her mind willed her body to move, it wouldn’t cooperate. She jerked slightly in her seat as she stared at the young lady who was looking directly at her. All of a sudden, the walls of the café seemed to be closing in on her. Her head throbbed and her eyes stung.
“What?” She croaked out through dried lips.
In the corner, the T.V displayed pictures from The Global Watch channel. They were covering the mysterious disappearance of a young girl from Kreuzberg. What was amazing was not the disappearance, but what happened before. The girl, Agnes, had been in a coma for a year after being involved in a car accident with her boyfriend. The man had died on the spot and investigations revealed that he was actually a sex slave trader in disguise. There were signs of a struggle which had probably led to the accident. Agnes survived, but had been in a coma since. She suddenly woke up three days ago and disappeared not long after. Meghan turned her gaze back to the lady sitting in front of her.
“I can help you.” The girl lady said.
“Get the fuck away from me!” Meghan whispered harshly.
A few people glanced at the two women, before shifting their attention back to the T.V screen. The young lady shook her head slowly, before reaching into her pocket and bringing out a white card, with a few numbers inscribed on it, in bold black text.
“You can reach me here, if you change your mind. If you are still alive to.” She slid the card across the table, to Meghan.
The girl got up and made her way out of café, a cold gust of wind flying past her as she exited. Meghan was rooted to the spot. A man had gotten out of the non-descript car and was making his way towards the café. Meghan quickly grabbed the card and slipped it into her bag, along with her tablet. The man walked inside and sat down opposite her. He was a big guy, with balding black hair and kind brown eyes. His middle aged face was already wrinkling under the stress of age, but his physique evoked a sense of raw power that most younger than him wouldn’t want to test.
“You doing okay ma’am?” He asked, looking directly at her.
Meghan nodded and swallowed.
“Y…yeah. Yeah. Just… take me home, Frank. Alright?”
Frank maintained his professional poise. If he was worried about her, it didn’t show.
“Sure thing ma’am. Let’s get you home.”
As they walked out of the café, Meghan couldn’t help but be troubled about a few things she’d observed. The lady who had talked to her bore a striking resemblance to the picture of Agnes, on T.V. If they were the same person, it was safe to assume the lady was German. However, her English had carried a heavy Asian accent with it. But it was clear the lady wasn’t of Asian descent.
I need to rest. I must be going crazy.
The lady sauntered elegantly along the dark walkway. She deliberately glided away from the wash of streetlights, preferring the shadows even as her stilettos silently tapped the cobblestoned path. She wore a short form fitting red dress and her hair was done up in a short bob cut. Her black lipstick and dark eye shadows were accentuated by the very light makeup she used on her face. It gave her a rather gothic look. As she rounded the corner of the walkway, she spotted a hotdog seller with his wheeled shop set up. The aroma of baking hot dogs wafted through the air. It smelled enticing, even for street food.
“Would you like to try one of my patented loaded hotdogs? Just five bucks and you get a free half loaded one to snack on later.”
“Maybe some other time.” The lady said. “I’m a bit of a rush.” She started off in the other direction.
“So you’re just window shopping then.”
The lady paused in her tracks before turning around to glance at the hotdog seller once more.
“You…” She said as she spotted his familiar facial features.
“Now why don’t you be a good girl and let me put together a hotdog for you.”
“Sure… after all, I was in a rush to see you.” The lady smiled.
“I’ve always told you to pay attention to your surroundings haven’t I, Ketra?” The man asked.
“Says the master of blending in with his surroundings. You are lucky. I’ve been in D.C all week.”
“I figured you would be. You alone have a knack for knowing where I might turn up.”
“Wherever there’s trouble.” Ketra said while rolling her eyes.
Horus in his hotdog seller disguise, looked at her and smiled.
“How did our window shopping go?” He finally asked.
“Target’s base is in Virginia. Small and quiet estate, lone house down the street. No neighbors for more than a few blocks. You can’t drive there. Only cars going down that road are probably going to the house itself or else you better be lost.”
“Two floors. Drive in garage. Standard looking but it’s got some tight security. Vehicle model and number recognition, blast proof windows and doors, the latest optical-audio surveillance and motion detectors. Oh and target’s got some detail following her everywhere she goes now. I’d say she was expecting you.”
“Possibly. Got pictures?”
“You know I do.” Ketra said as she handed Horus a flat brown envelope.
Just then, a group of men rounded the corner and approached the two of them.
“I also told you to pick a less troublesome line of work as your cover.”
Ketra rolled her eyes and turned to face the apparent leader of the men. He wore a cheap black suit, with his hair slicked back with gel. He sported a wispy beard and wore a rather smug look.
“Baby I send you out here to make me money no? Not to eat and grow fat.” The man had a rather annoying Italian accent.
Ketra rolled her eyes.
“What do you want, Francesco?”
Francesco gave her a ludicrous look and burst out into laughter. His men joined in on whatever was amusing their leader and he turned around to face them, laughing all the more.
“She wants to know what I want.” Francesco said as he turned back around to face Ketra. He came close enough to her, so she could feel his breath on her face and neck. Each exhale made her skin crawl.
“You fuck, I get paid. Simple.”
Francesco beckoned to one of his men, who stepped forward with a balled fist. As the man got into position and prepared to deliver a shot to Ketra’s mid-section, Horus cleared his throat.
“My good man. If the problem is money, allow me to pay you for the lady’s time.” He said, as he reached into his pocket and brought out a thick wad of hundred dollar bills.
He tossed it at Francesco, who caught it. The Italian examined the roll of bills and smiled at his men.
“The hotdog seller’s got some serious dough huh?” He said as they burst into another round of laughter. Francesco turned back to Horus.
“Since you’re in such a giving mood, I’ll take this as fifty percent. You get to do whatever with her, for the rest.” He flashed Horus one of his smug smiles.
“Oh… well that’s gonna be a problem cos that’s all the cash I have.” Horus responded.
“No problem at all.” Francesco responded. “I’ll just take this,” He held up the roll, “and take the girl.”
Francesco made to grab Ketra but Horus’s statement stopped him in his tracks.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” The assassin said, getting up and walking around his stand.
Francesco chuckled in amusement.
“You got balls, I’ll give you that. But you don’t know who I am. I run these streets and if you weren’t so funny, I’d have you spilling your guts on the ground in an instant. Now get the fuck outta here before I actually get pissed at you.”
Horus smiled for the first time.
“I think I know a fair bit about you, Francesco. Do you know who I am?”
“I don’t and I couldn’t give two flying…”
“Good. It’ll be in your best interest not to find out. I paid for the girl. Take the money and go. I’ve got nothing good left to give.”
Horus took Ketra by the hand and gently pulled her to himself. There was a sharp intake of breath from one of Francesco’s men.
“You think you can disrespect the boss?!” The mighty man bellowed as his right leg crashed down towards their interlocked hands.
Horus had already let go of Ketra, while moving towards the man. The leg came through, a whoosh sound accompanying it and the momentum carried the rest of the man through. He saw the elbow placed directly in front of his solar plexus but he had launched himself too hard to stop now. A sickening crack rang through the chilly night air, followed by two more as Horus snapped the man’s neck, this way and that. His wide eyed expression struck a chord of terror within his compatriots, as he shuddered and dropped to the ground.
The two remaining henchmen flanked Horus and launched at him with their attacks. The assassin took a step back and relaxed his entire body. Fluidity was required when facing multiple opponents. Even if he took a few hits, in a relaxed state, the body was like a sponge. It could absorb even the hardest of impacts and transfer the force, thereby minimizing the damage. However, in this fight, Horus wasn’t too concerned about being hit. He shifted his head back and out of the path of an incoming blow. Horus’s right hand grabbed the extended arm like a vice. His left arm had already crashed into the elbow joint, against its natural bending arch. The bone popped and the man screamed as the searing pain shot down his right side. Horus held unto the arm and twisted himself behind the man, denying the second attacker a clear path to him. The attacker made to go around, but was caught by the assassin’s foot right in the gut. He doubled over and felt the foot slam into his jaw, straightening him up and sending him crashing to the ground once more.
With the third attacker sprawled on the ground, Horus made quick work of the second. He slammed the injured arm down on his shoulder, popping the attacker’s shoulder joint, while hoisting him over so that he crashed in a heap on the other side of Horus. Horus slammed his foot down on the man’s head, crashing it into the cobblestoned walkway with such force that it snapped the man’s head back off the floor in a bounce. The man lay still with his legs slightly twitching. The third attacker was back on his feet. He trembled slightly as he seized up Horus, who had slid his hands into his pocket and sported a relaxed demeanor.
“W…What the fuck are you waiting for man? Kill him.” Francesco ordered.
They both looked at their dead colleagues and back at Horus.
“Man, fuck this shit.” Francesco said, as they pulled out their guns.
Two spitting sounds were heard and each man dropped to the ground. Horus turned to see Ketra holding a gun, with a silencer affixed to the nozzle.
“You shot them.” He said in an accusatory tone.
“Well they were gonna shoot you.” She responded defensively.
“I could have handled it, Ketra. Where’d you get the gun?”
“Well you’re welcome, Neo. I slipped it from a rival gang. That’s what this’ll look like.”
They both casually walked away from the scene. Horus slipped out of his chef’s apron, revealing a casual shirt tucked into jeans. He slipped his arm around Ketra’s waist, as they walked away.
“You’re gonna have to clean up the gun and dispose of it properly.”
“Yes boss. And holding me like that, you’re in danger of cleaning up yourself and disposing of your jean pants properly.”
“Don’t push your luck.”
She again, laughed into the night.