A followup piece to The Figure. If I find myself suitably inspired I am to use this as the starting point for a full story.
Even in the light of the midday sun the backstreets of Northlyn Heights were not a place you wanted to roam, especially alone. Barely fifteen years ago it had been among the most affluent boroughs of the city, but the stock market crash had hit the area harder than most. The bankers, celebrities and corporate bosses had long since deserted, leaving the once exclusive apartment buildings for the gangs to operate out of. The swanky hotels and spas were now little more than cheap brothels. The restaurants and bars were cook houses for crack cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.
William Wilkins checked his watch. Three minutes to twelve. The meeting place was still at least five minutes away and he knew that when his contact said to be there at noon, being even thirty seconds late would spook them. He daren’t risk run and attract attention; it was bad enough for anybody to be out in Northlyn alone, but it was particularly dangerous for him. As an investigative journalist known for his exposure of crooked cops and corrupt city officials, the most gang infested neighbourhood was hardly a safe place. If following the main streets would take too long, there was only one option available to him; he had to cut through the alleys and underpasses, straight through the heart of Myers’ territory.
Robert Myers was the most recent player in Northlyn Heights’ underworld, but already was one of the most powerful. Wilkins had successfully seen two city councillors removed for having links with Myers, and was a priority target now for the mob hitmen.
Fortunately for Wilkins it was a cold November day, so a large trench coat with turned up collar and a scarf covering the lower face were unlikely to arouse suspicion. He might just have a hope of making it through. Head down he turned down the first alley. He passed two young men partaking in a drug deal – the dealer looked barely in his teens – and an open window with the unmistakable stench of marijuana bellowing out. Down the next backstreet he saw two police officers leaving Lacey’s – a well-known whorehouse – no doubt having just collected their cut of the weekly takings.
He checked his watch again. Twelve noon exactly. He was almost at the meeting place. He quickened his pace. Next left, he told himself. He took it. Ahead of him was a hooded figure, but not quite as he anticipated. He was expecting to meet with one of Myers’ enforcers who had recently contacted him with a view to give up key information on the officials in the gang’s pocket. But in front of him was not an enforcer for Robert Myers.
The figure was slouched slightly, but Wilkins could clearly tell he – assuming it was a he – was shorter than the usual muscle, and considerably less well built. He was also not wearing the typical gang colours or carrying any visible firearm, instead dressed in all black and apparently unarmed. A disguise perhaps, thought Wilkins, obviously he doesn’t want to be recognised.
“William Wilkins?” the figure asked without looking at him. His voice low, almost grating, but not aggressive. Not was would be expected of one of Myers’ enforcers. Wilkins hesitated, now unsure about this entire meeting. Had he been duped? Was this a hit?
“William. Wilkins.” The figure repeated his name, his tone a little sharper, but he never raised his head or looked at him. Wilkins was worried now. This is it, he thought, but I’m not going without a fight. His hand moved into his right coat pocket and grasped his derringer.
“William. Wilkins.” The figure sighed the words, clearly running out of patience.
“Sorry,” he finally responded, taking a small step back. “I think I’m in the wrong place.” He turned to leave, only to see four gang members now stood blocking his exit. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and heard that low grating voice in his ear.
“You played a dangerous game going up against Myers, Wilkins. You gave it a good shot, but should’ve quit while you were ahead.”
“Look, fellas, please,” Wilkins stammered. “You got the wrong guy, I was just lookin’ for Lacey’s.”
“Oh, we got the right guy, Willy,” grinned one of the gang members, raising a rusty but sharp looking machete. “Now it’s time for you and your friend here to be taught a lesson.”
Friend? What friend? I don’t know this guy? Wilkins’ face betrayed both his fear and confusion. His grip tightened on his derringer in his pocket. He knew how to shoot from the hip, and figured he could take out two of the men in front of him before needing to run. However, before he had a chance to fire his gun he was thrown backwards by the hooded figure. He landed painfully on his back, his head thudding against the ground. Dazed, he looked up at the unarmed stranger now stood between him and the tall, muscular, blade wielding members of Myers’ gang.
“You sit this lesson out, William,” the figure said, bringing his hands to his hood and lowering it. “I learn better on my own.”
From his position on the floor Wilkins couldn’t see the figure’s face, but the distinctive mohawk hairstyle and tattoo on the back of his neck left him in no doubt now as to his identity. The look of cockiness and menace deserted the faces of the assailants, instead being replaced by fear and panic.
“He’s one of them…” the leader stammered.
“Alright boys,” came that voice again, sounding much more threatening than before. “Let’s dance.”
Did you know I have a book out?
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