3. October 18th, 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
Voices rose in approval as another red-shirted soccer player scored a goal for his team. The people watching the static-filled TV from their seats at the dingy, old bar raised their glasses and cheered. Only a lone figure - who sat on a high stool by the counter, with his head down - completely ignored the game and, for that matter, the people around him.
He was a gaunt man that frowned often, with hawk-like eyes - fittingly, a piercing blue - that were ringed in darkness. A mess of dirty-blonde hair sat on his head and he kept a scarce goatee, though it didn't flatter his appearance in the least. He wore a brown coat over his dark hoodie, and his loose combats were tucked into his heavy boots. On his right forearm, he wore a padded brace - something that could easily be mistaken for a mere fashion preference.
The real case was quite the opposite.
Daniel Cross took another sip of his mug of beer, rolling his eyes as the crowd around him booed.
His discussion with Warren Vidic hadn't gone as well as he had expected. He intended to give the old man another phone call, pressing his importance to the Order and demanding that he be put back on duty. Things had not been exactly peachy since Project Siren had taken a turn for the worst, and Daniel reckoned that Vidic didn't really have room to be selective. Daniel Cross was their best agent after all - even if he did say so himself - but there had been a few setbacks.
The Bleeding Effect was really, well, effecting him.
Daniel sighed, shaking his head, hearing the slow, muted whispers of his ancestors creeping through his mind - like the forgotten wraiths of a distant nightmare. They were screaming, in Russian and other Eastern-European languages. Screaming, but in a dampened, distant way. It was quite unsettling.
He finished his drink and passed the mug back to the bartender, “Hit me again,” he said.
The man nodded and did as he was told.
The door of the bar swung open. Daniel heard cheap praise followed by a wolf-whistle. Someone took the stool next to him.
signora, how may I be of service?” said the bartender in Italian, completely forgetting about Daniel's order.
Daniel glanced at the woman who had sat beside him, taking in the pleasing smell of her perfume but furrowing his brows at the slight scent of blood. He only caught a glimpse of the hem of a bloodied bandage around her wrist before she covered it quickly with her sleeve. Daniel shrugged to himself and turned away, internally denying the fact that his curiosity was peaked.
“I just want some water,” she replied in English. She had a London accent.
signora. We do not sell water,” laughed the bartender, keeping his words Italian.
“Do you have functioning taps?” she snapped impatiently.
The bartender's face blanched, “
“Connected to the reservoir like the rest of the goddamn city?”
“Get me some water.”
The bartender paused, at a loss for words in that moment.
The woman sighed, “Are you waiting for me to get it myself?”
The bartender turned without another word.
The woman said nothing more, but leaned her elbows on the counter and idly went through her messages on her phone. Daniel heard her sniff once or twice. The crowd around him cheered again, and he held his head - a migraine beginning to form.
He wasn't entirely sure it was due to the noise.
The bartender returned, “Your water,
signora. Your beer,
messer,” he said, passing them their drinks.
“Fancy seein' you here, Mandy.”
The woman growled at the sound of that voice, but didn't reply. A man leaned against the counter beside her. She tried to continue ignoring his existence.
“Wot?” he said, smirking, “Nothin' to say?”
“Oh, are there really words enough?” the woman muttered, getting up from her seat, “Clearly I've out-stayed my welcome.”
As she turned to go, the man pushed her back onto the chair, “You really think it's that easy? Pushin' past me?”
The woman stared up at him, “Let me leave, Rick.”
“'Ere's an idea, Amanda,” Rick said, “You leave with me, an' everybody wins.”
“Except, of course, my dignity,” Amanda took up her glass of water and sipped at it lightly, “I think I made it clear already that I have no interest in you.”
“You seem to think I care.”
“Well... At least one of us is capable of thinking,” she got up again, “You can work on repairing your function of thought as I leave. So, if you'll excuse me.”
Rick threw her back, more viciously this time. Amanda held her side as it hit the counter, “Oh, I don't think there'll be any excusin' tonight- Oi!”
Rick staggered back as Daniel placed a hand on his chest and punched him square in the face. Rick fell and held his gushing nose.
“Wot's this?” he said, looking at Daniel, “Who the hell do you think you are?”
“A dangerous asshole with a very bad headache,” Daniel replied.
“You're a right fool, meddlin' in things you know nothin' about,” Rick said, wiping his nose on his sleeve and getting up.
Daniel sighed, “Just go.”
“I didn't get up to-”
“Don't you ever shut up?” Daniel sent in another punch.
Rick blocked the blow. Surprising, for a surly drunk. Rick swung a few of his own punches, but he was tipsy and uncoordinated. It wasn't long before the two men were grappling with each other. The headache started pounding between Daniel's eyes. He muttered something in Russian and sent the voices away. At least, for the moment. The crowd wasn't helping. Instead of stopping the fight, they were clapping and cheering, probably placing bets. Daniel threw Rick off, smashing him into a table.
Daniel held his head and fell to his knees, his face screwed up in pain, “No! Get o-u-t!” he screamed, followed by a string of Russian that no-one on the audience understood. The crowd hushed.
Rick rose from the splintered table and laughed at what he saw, “Bit of a drama queen, are we?” he cracked his knuckles and made his way to Daniel.
Daniel shook his head wildly, unable to contain the madness any longer.
They were everywhere.
The ghosts - they were all around him.
Unknowingly, he punched an unsuspecting Rick in the stomach and the drunk folded instantly. Daniel stabbed his elbow into the man's nape - swearing at him in Russian - and kicked him viciously under the chin. Daniel laid Rick down and punched his face again and again and again - until his knuckles were bloodied with gore and gristle. When he was pulled back by someone (who'd decided the fun had ended), he had regained his senses and looked around. He sighed inwardly.
The hallucinations were gone.
Things were back to normal.
He wasn't being attacked by a Templar from two or three generations ago.
“Had enough?” he asked, trying to keep up the bravado. He faced the crowd. His gaze fell on the woman, Amanda, for a moment, who was staring at him intently - not so much with fear (like everyone else) but with something approaching interest and... understanding, “Anybody else want some?” he called.
When there was no response, he shrugged off the person who was holding him and sat back at his stool.
A while later, the bartender passed him a glass of the finest scotch Daniel had ever seen.
“I didn't order this,” he muttered.
“No...” said the bartender, “That woman... The one who ordered water. She bought it for you.”