|The City Side Story: Cornfield
Author: Guede Mazaka
They had come for him. Like a wounded beast, he felt the preceding shadows of their steps walk up his spine. Their scent tainted his every breath, and their menace drew him back into the dark.
He didn't have time to prepare. They came too quickly. Much too quickly, with their flashing metal guns and their great sticks of iron. He startled up from the desk and ran down the stairs for the shovel, the fireplace iron-the screwdriver. Right on the bottom step, where he'd left it. To where he dove-
--and where a blindingly painful blow struck him into the wall. Fists beat down the hasty defenses he threw up, and then a sharp strike to his temple sent him spiraling down.
"Y'betrayed me." Shooter stabbed a long, spider-thin finger at the huddle in the corner. "Y'called them, didn't you? Didn't you? Answer me, y'two-faced little piece a shit. Answer me!"
"I didn't." Mort slowly squeezed himself into a standing position, palms leaving frozen sweat streaks against the wall. His hair was falling into his face, sticking to the half-dried blood. He shook his head, trying vainly not to show the fear that had long since eaten anything good out of him. "I didn't. I swear, I didn't."
Shooter took a long step that put him nose-to-nose with Mort. His pupils were slightly off-center, like he was glaring at a slant. They put more needles of ice through Mort's body to join the ones that were already spearing his mind. "Yaay-sus, y'did. They're here. Here!"
"No, no, no." Mort curled his nails into the stone, feeling them rip from their beds. He wanted to scream, but his throat was too sore to manage anything higher than a pathetic ghost of a whisper. His stomach was clenching. He needed to throw up. To piss. To pass out. To get the hell out of here. "No," he said once more, only louder. Backed up with pure fear that had existed so long it'd grown itself a sorry little twig of backbone. "No! How the fuck could I talk to them? You never let me out of here! You told everyone that I'm dead!"
"An' y'are." Shooter's voice suddenly turned soft. Caressing. Like a cat stroking its paw down the back of a trapped rat. Mort knew there was a reason he'd kept a dog…God, this was hysteria, wasn't it? Fucked over by another part of himself.
"Y'are dead," Shooter repeated. His hand, bony fingers outspread like a rake and spotted like its rust, slowly raised to the level of Mort's neck. The fingertips grazed poison over Mort's skin, making him shiver uncontrollably, because he knew what was coming next. What always came next, whenever Shooter got nervous. Or angry. Except this time, something really had happened, and God, Mort didn't know what, he never knew, oh God. Oh, God.
Inevitable as the spray of red that had trailed out from those damned screwdrivers, the hand closed around his throat. Tight enough to choke him, force him to grab at Shooter's arm and drag down to get air-and that was when. Slammed up so his feet dangled off the ground, vision smearing black and mind sparking to white, his distorted cries filling his ears. And the other hand coming up to lie flat over his heart, that useless chunk of muscle. But Shooter didn't rip it out-oh, no, he saved that for the others. The palm smoothed down Mort's jerking chest-
--Shooter blinked and dropped Mort. Shook his head as he stumbled back from the gasping man, and…and he was fading. From feet up to that devil's hat. Spewing mouth the last thing to go. "Ah'll be back, Rainey! Y'know that! Y'know that y'cain't make it wi'out me!"
"Shit, he's got a good swing."
"He's killed at least four people."
"Only four? I do that before breakfast."
"But that is our business. It isn't his. He's not gotten himself used to it."
The voices slowly floated around and over Mort as he woke up for the first time in months. His head ached as if it had had an extra hole punched into it. His mouth tasted like dried dog shit. And his body…his wrists were tied. He could see that very distinctly: thin rope, rubbing stark red into his white skin. "What…who…"
"He's up." The second speaker, dressed all in black, was smoking an odd-looking cigarette. If Mort lifted his head a little from the floor, he could smell the sweetish burn of herbs. If he smelled that, he could feel Shooter dissolve just that little bit more. And the bastard was screaming, stuck in the same hellhole in which he'd kept Mort like some pretty little bird.
"Whoa." Seth shoved down the writer and held him there. But the desperate pleading for a smoke just kept going and going, and Ahmed finally lit another cigarillo for the poor son of a bitch. Rainey instantly settled down, a childlike look of bliss on his face as he sucked on the end as if his life depended on it.
"His life does depend on it," Ahmed remarked. He passed a hand over Rainey's face, and in its wake, the prone man's eyelids drooped. Really, really odd foreigner, even for New York. But he knew his stuff, all right, and if Seth was going to suffer a partner after Richie bit it, then he damn well better get someone competent.
"So now what?"
"So now…he leaves. There's too many people who suspect, and they'll be easier to deal with if they think he's dead." The Arab tapped his fingers against his chin.
Seth nodded as he pulled out his gun. "Why not actually kill him?"
Ahmed gave him a cold glance, then pushed the pistol away from Rainey's unconscious grin. "Because unfortunately, he has some useful gifts. Even if for the moment, they've gotten the better of him, and killing him may not rid us of them. Things have a way of surviving after the body dies, in one form or another." Thin smile, as thin as the odd daggers Ahmed always carried. "We'll send him to my relations in Los Diablos. They will know how to dispose of him."