He Who Cries Wolf

"Have you ever heard of the Dogs of the War? They're creatures of violence and pain, enslaved by the military to do and die for the country that created them. If we want to win this revolution, however, we don't just need the Dogs - we need their leader, their conqueror, their most powerful. We need their Wolf."

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1. Act One - Blood Money

 

"To be able to forget means sanity." 

- Jack London, The Star Rover

_________

 

Nightfall in the city was her favourite time of the day, and it showed in the way she moved, Nyx realised pensively. He'd always known that she was different - from the very beginning, in fact, when she showed up on their doorstep with nothing but a bloody machete and a dog tag around her neck - but it took a very particular kind of special to find beauty in this damned city of his. Yet here they were, an hour into a stakeout that was more likely a dead end than not, and Bennie seemed genuinely happy, for whatever twisted reason of hers. And since the boy was adept in the art of tact and subtlety, he decided to mention it to her in the most inconspicuous manner he could manage. 

 

"You're annoyingly happy tonight, B. What's up with that?" 

 

Bennie twisted round from her uncomfortable resting crouch, dark eyes narrowed with resigned irritation as she balanced effortlessly on the edge of the roof. 

 

"It's because you have to be quiet on stakeouts and I don't have to listen to your gormless chattering all night, so if you shut up my good mood might just come back," she hissed, her voice rough and dangerously low against the gentle hum of the city falling asleep around them. Nyx grinned, his scarred face twisting into something resembling happiness, and shrugged nonchalantly, leaning back on the heels of his hands and tilting his head back until he had an almost perfect view of the sky. Bennie sighed, the sound almost inaudible against the roar of traffic and gaudy electronica in the background, and repositioned herself on the ledge of the roof opposite their target's, holding a pair of binoculars between stiff blue knuckles. 

 

"Cigarette?" Nyx muttered after a few minutes of a depressing silence that was broken only by the occasional hum of engines and the agitated yowling of two fighting cats in the darkened streets below them, thumbing through the pocket of his bomber jacket and eventually drawing out a crumpled pack of nondescript cigarettes. Bennie shrugged and shifted towards where he lay sprawled atop the building, grabbing one for herself and eyeing Nyx with a certain level of disapproval as he tucked an extra one behind his ear for later. 

 

"Do you have a light?" he grunted, his words muffled by the paper between his lips. Bennie just laughed, the sound hoarse and dog-like and echoing around the rooftops. 

 

"Oh please, you're always playing with fire, boy. Don't give me that," she smiled, smacking him on the forehead and grinning a little more at his dramatically exaggerated reaction. A few moments later, however, Nyx drew a worn black lighter from his trouser pocket and flicked it until a flame appeared, holding it so they could both catch it with their cigarettes. 

 

"However did I get stuck with you, Nyx?" Bennie sighed, exhaling a cloud of ash-grey smoke through her nose and watching it float through the air in front of her. She was sat back on her perch again, her movements so quick and fluid that Nyx almost didn't catch them. It was a harsh reminder, every time he watched his partner in action - this girl, whoever she might be, was a cold-blooded assassin and a ruthless hunter, and it was a damn lucky thing they worked for the same agency. She could be uncharacteristically gentle at times, however, and it made him wonder what kind of girl was buried deep inside her, under all that anger and viciousness and careful detachment. 

 

"That's what happens when you show up half-dead out of goddamn nowhere with no experience, no reputation and no memories, darling. You end up with people like me." 

 

Bennie hummed a quiet affirmation, her dark face tilted up at a dizzying angle so she could watch the sun setting against the silver-blue sky. A mass of coal-dark clouds lined the horizon, reaching up with smoking fingertips to brush the amber-red sun that seemed to be sinking ever-further down the sky above them, the ghost of the moon shaded in at the very edge of her vision, as pale and sleepily mysterious as ever. 

 

If she hadn't been a trained killer (but who had trained her?) or a professional assassin (but who had she worked for?) she might not have seen the movement below, just a flash of black and a scraping of doors in the shadows of the building they were observing. But her reflexes were razor-sharp, almost parallel to an eagle or a wolf's, so she caught the activity in the corner of her narrowed eyes and was alive with violent energy in an instant, flicking her cigarette to the concrete below. 

 

"Nyx. Movement. Let's go," she whispered, her eyes alight with the thrill of the hunt coursing through her veins, adrenaline making her limbs eerily weightless and her mind as sharp as the blade strapped to her back. All Nyx could do was stub out his cigarette and follow as Bennie dropped down onto a window ledge jutting out from the top storey of the building they had been waiting on just moments ago, scaling the building as if she'd done it a million times before. It took only a few moments for Bennie to reach the darkened streets below them, Nyx materialising beside her a couple of seconds after with a jagged-edged switchblade already dancing in his palm. 

 

"Do you think this is him?" Nyx breathed, thumbing the lighter in his pocket almost obsessively as he bit back the urge to draw it out with him. Bennie nodded slightly and let a small, satisfied smile play at her lips, unsheathing her machete and brandishing it like a flag before her as they slunk towards the building, blending seamlessly into the shadows. 

 

Nyx pressed his ear up against the front door, white-blonde brows furrowed with concentration as he strained to pick up on anybody hiding behind in wait for them while Bennie scouted out their kill site - front door, fire exit a few flights up and a couple of large windows on both the top and bottom storey. Plenty of opportunities to escape if things got messy, but they rarely ever did. 

 

Nyx nodded an all-clear and Bennie handed him a hair-pin from one of the bags on her belt, gnawing at her lip with anticipation as she waited for him to break the lock. Finally the door clicked and gave way beneath her deathly still palms, knocking it only slightly ajar so that nobody would be aware of their presence and bolt. If there were plenty of exits for her and Nyx there would inevitably be plenty of exits for her target as well, and the last thing she needed was her paycheck escaping through a window after all this time and effort. 

 

The front entrance opened into a narrow, unfurnished hallway studded with scrubbed wooden doors and a spiraling staircase at the very end made of concrete and rough-cut stone. It was obvious that this was nothing more than a pit stop for any criminal looking to make a deal or hide out for a while judging by its bleak lack of furnishing and decoration, and although it was undeniably depressing Bennie stored it in her memory for future reference nevertheless. 

 

Nyx pointed towards the staircase and quirked his brows, posing a silent question, and Bennie gave a single, curt nod in response, moving noiselessly along the hallway towards the staircase. Nyx motioned to the door then upstairs, silently telling her that he'd come up another way before slipping like smoke out of the building once more. 

 

Bennie took a single, steadying breath, grounding herself and her thoughts, before moving up the staircase, eyes and ears constantly scanning her surrounding for any sign of life or hostility. As she moved upwards she saw that the upper storey opened up into a sparse landing with three hallways branching left, right and forwards respectively. There was no sign of anybody to the right or straight ahead, but out of the corner of her eye she could just make out the lean, muscled figures of two bouncer-type men stationed at both ends of the left hallway. 

 

Sticking to the walls and the small amount of shadow and inconspicuousness they lent her,  she darted forwards, raising her machete and preparing to bring it down in one fatal strike against the back of the first man's exposed neck. However, as she approached she just barely spotted a streak of white-blonde hair and dark fabric at the opposite end of the hallway beside the window, a switchblade glittering in one unnaturally pale hand. Just as the momentum she had built up brought her blade swinging into contact with the man's neck, Nyx grabbed the second bouncer, covered his gaping mouth with a single bony hand and thrusted upwards with the other, slicing the jugular vein they'd been trained to aim for that pulsed delicately beneath the smooth skin of his neck. 

 

Bennie grinned toothily at Nyx as she caught the still-warm corpse of the guard, placing him gently on the ground so the sound of his body hitting the floor didn't attract any attention. He quirked his mouth upwards into a crooked half-smile, tossing her a cocky salute and mimicking her actions with the body lying in his own arms. 

 

Nyx only had a heartbeat to glance over at Bennie, catching her gaze and the wild, almost feral glitter of excitement in the depths of her irises that translated almost perfectly into a slightly gaping jaw and a indigo-pink blush dusting across her dark cheeks before she was kicking down the door directly in front of them, abandoning all pretenses of stealth and subtlety as the door swung open and the pair strode inside. 

 

"Grab him!" Bennie cried as their eyes fell upon the image of their target trying to clamber out of the window and onto the fire escape attached to the side of the building, his sweaty skin sliding unpleasantly against the metal and glass he was desperately forcing open. It was almost pathetic how they struggled, Bennie thought sadly as Nyx reached the man in three long strides and grabbed him by the collar of his crumpled suit, hauling him into the centre of the bleakly unattractive room and forcing him to his knees with a switchblade and a killer smile. 

 

"Please don't do this! Please, please, I'll do anything! I'll pay you! I'll make you rich!" he grovelled, trembling hands clutching wildly at the lapels of his ruined suit. Bennie allowed herself to smile once more, running a finger along the blade of her machete almost thoughtfully. 

 

"If I had a dollar for every time I've heard those words, I wouldn't need you to make me rich. And anyway, you're in no position to be offering out money blindly, according to Mr Salinez." 

 

If the man had been pale before it was nothing compared to the shade he turned at the mention of Bennie and Nyx's current contractor. Desperate, hysterical tears began to fall freely down his sallow face, the last remaining shreds of hope finally leaving his eyes. Bennie smiled even wider. 

 

"Mr Salinez wishes you the best, of course, and assures you that you won't ever be in debt to him again," Bennie continued, raising her blade high above her head and pausing for a heartbeat to make sure her aim would give her a clean cut. Nyx found himself averting his gaze as Bennie prepared her kill, not being able to bear looking her in the eyes as she did what she does better than anybody else he knew. 

 

"Goodbye, sir," Bennie said, bringing her blade down against his neck and pulling the sword easily through the mess of muscle and bone, relaxing her muscles as she felt it exit through the other side. As the head of the man dropped like a stone against the bare wood of the floor and Bennie slid her sword back into its sheath on her back as casually and unshaken as ever, Nyx was reminded yet again how lucky he was to be working with and not against the best assassin in New Victoria City. 

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