The man Latimer wants dead is a man they call Bthash Shadownight.
Abducted and sold to a gladiator school.
Professional gladiator that won his freedom.
Recently reunited with his mother.
Wanted dead to cause public outcry and start a French-Italian war.
Seemed interesting enough.
I took out his file while I was resting in a tavern, nearby to Bthash’s villa. As I sifted through the documents, the newspaper cut-outs and the images, I held up one of his mug-shots.
It got me wondering what I would look like with hair.
It was a strange thought. It had never occurred to me before. He was good-looking, strong-looking and noble-looking.
I was just scary-looking and queer-looking and creepy-looking.
Is this envy…? As Castle Latimer had always warned me about? Was this some sort of test?
A bar-maid came up behind me, and tapped my shoulder, “Are you diseased, sir?” she asked, almost hesitantly.
I turned and glowered at her. “Why do you ask?” I said, tersely.
“I meant no offence, only…” she pointed to the picture, “Is that a drawing of you when you had seen better days?”
I stared at her, then stared at the picture.
I closed the file, got up and moved off.
* * * * *
It was dark and wet with rain. By now, it must have been passed midnight. I stood towards the back of the villa, peering up at the large windows, lush blue curtains hiding the activity within. One of the windows was not locked properly.
Finding the prominent nooks in the wall, I scaled up the building until I had reached the ledge of the window and balanced on the thin structure. I waited for sound and sense. There seemed to be no candle-light flickering within. After another moment’s pause, I slipped the window open and climbed into the room.
It would be an easy, silent kill.
I turned to close the window. So well-oiled, it didn’t make a sound. So well-oiled, it might just cost someone their life.
This was a guest room, I noticed. I checked the cupboards and the drawers and the neighbouring bathroom. Empty, void of possessions, collecting dust. Definitely a guest room. I stood by the door, listening for sounds of movement.
I drew my sword, a rapier, from its hilt and turned the knob, cracking the door open by only a fraction.
As a grew more confident, I opened the door further and then stepped out.
As I looked towards the dark, red-rugged corridor, I grinned a little.
“Who are you?”
I cursed and turned. An aging woman stared at me narrow-eyed and looked as if she’d been standing there for a while. She held her lantern up, as if unable to see me properly.
“Bthash?” she said, “Aren’t you a little old for hide-and-go-seek?”
I remained silent.
“What happened to your head? Have you shaved all your hair off?”
I stared at the woman, my mouth a thin line. She could see me perfectly fine.
“Say something,” she said, “I won’t bite.”
I stepped out of the doorway and said, “I am not Bthash.”
Her eyes widened and she screamed. I heard a door burst open and a man curse. He was behind the old woman in seconds, a large sword in hand.
This was not what I had planned.
When he set eyes on me, his broad shoulders loosened, as if dumbfounded.
“Abel…?” he said, squinting at me.
The woman paused and then looked as if she had realised, and nodded.
“Able to do what?” I asked, confused.
“Your name…” Bthash stuttered, “You’re Abel… You’re my brother.”
“What are you talking about?”
Talking with the target.
Not as planned.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I… my name isn’t Abel,” I said, caught off-guard, “I’m known as Agent X.47. I was sent here to kill you.”
Cave-in almost immediately.
I’ll be killed for this, for sure.
He lifted his sword and stabbed the floor, moving his hands away. And act of cease-fire, “By all means, proceed. But know, Abel, that I am your brother and this,” he gestured to the elderly woman, “is your mother.”
I could feel my hands trembling.
I knew it.
Everything Latimer had said was a lie. But, then, it was so obvious, how could I not have seen it from the start?
The elderly woman nodded, “You were taken from me at birth by slavers. Both you and your brother. Bthash was sold to a gladiator school. And you, I presume, were sold to the Chess Pieces.”
“How…?” I looked away, “How would you know something like that?”
“I worked for them,” she was greeted with a look of surprise from Bthash, “as did your father. You’ve become a Knight, have you? Consider me impressed, even if a little unnerved.”
Not being able to process all this new and unsettling information, I went back into the guest room and jumped out of the window and slunk away.
I must discuss all of this with Latimer. He’s not going to be very happy.
I’ve never failed a mission before.
How could they so clumsily ask me to murder my own brother?