The Hollow and The Saint

In a world filled with agony and despair, Logan, a master assassin embark on a journey to change reality in order to create the perfect society for his beloved Elizabeth Rose, where they can live together. Struggling against his bleak destiny and haunted by the demons ravaging this world enslaving people hopes and minds, all while fighting with a rage that might strip him of his humanity, will he be able to succeed in creating this perfect world?

Cover by INFINITE_EXHO

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15. A Sinking Ship

They say that all card games depend on luck, with the exception of one: Poker. It all depends on wits and nerves.

   "I fold."

   "Damn it… I fold," said two awful looking, well dressed gentlemen.

   Only two left: her and me. We were about to show hands all in. At this point in the game, most people are squirming with the tension, but not me.

   "What do you know, a full house. Thank god," said Terry, who had folded just moments ago.

   I was sure of my win, even before the cards were dealt. How did I know, you ask? Well, there is one sacred, unspoken rule of poker: it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

   Back at The Doctor’s mansion, William the butler had taught me how to swiftly switch cards without anyone noticing. All you need is a dimly lit room, some drunk men in suits, and... a beautiful woman. All was exactly as William had shown me, except this woman was no mere dealer, she was in the thick of it, playing alongside us.

   "Congratulations, you played us all splendidly," she said.

   I wonder if she saw me switching the cards. She must have a hunch, but she can’t prove anything.

   "They were all distracted by a sparkling treasure lighting up the room," I responded, looking straight into her eyes.

   "What? Don't tell me it’s that necklace of mine that you just won? My father bought it for me two days ago. I didn't like it anyway," she replied sarcastically.

   "Oh no, this treasure is a much rarer beauty. It glows with a gold that eclipses the sun, and is set with two dazzling sapphires. I could swear I can feel them enchanting me as I gaze deeper and deeper… And just below them is another jewel, a spectacular red ruby, the perfect size, the perfect shape, absolutely irresistible…”

  She smiled, and something about her expression changed as she looked at me, her eyes fixed on mine.

   "What a wonderful way with words you have. You play with them like a true poet. But, if you think of me as a prize to be won in a card game, you are awfully mistaken," she responded angrily. She was about to leave.

   "Then if I told you that I am an assassin working for the most dangerous organization in the world, what would you think?" I said. She stopped in her tracks and turned around.

   "Well, now that would be interesting! What's your name?" she asked.

   "My name is Robert McClain," I replied.

   "I’m Miranda. Come, Robert, let’s take a tour together. This yacht is too big for a woman like me to walk alone."

   Miranda Taylor, twenty-four years old, had graduated from law school with a perfect score, and had a keen eye for art. She was single, and most importantly, the daughter of the most infamous smuggler in the country Mr. Johnathan Taylor. She was a smart woman with a beautiful, deceiving look in her eyes, and believe me, that's a dangerous combination.

***

   There were only rich people aboard, all in tailored suits and bespoke designer dresses.

   I can smell the wine from here.

   It was so good that I was almost drunk on its scent. One glass of it must cost a fortune. All this spoiled luxury, and she didn't bat an eye. That look in her eyes kind of reminded me of The Doctor - that emotionless, cold, empty look.

   "See that fat moron over there with the gold necklace hanging down his chest? He used to be a waiter in a restaurant belonging to the Italian mafia. Now that they’re gone and the Russians have taken over, they’re smuggling girls from abroad and he’s started a brothel. He only deals with high-ranking officials and rich men. Don't get too close though, his breath smells like rotten eggs. I guess there are some things so bad that even money can’t fix," she laughs in a whisper.

   We walked over to the bar, and sat down.

   "Look at that hag with the purple dress. She used to be a good singer back in the day, but time hasn’t done her any favors. Now her voice is like tyres on concrete. They only invited her for old time’s sake. What a pity," she explained.

   She ordered a martini with a twist.

   "What do you want?" she asked.

   "No thanks, I’ve got all I need right here," I said, gazing into her eyes.

   "Suit yourself. Be careful not to get drunk just looking," she said, smiling.

    Then, she looked the other way.

   "That couple over there have been married for almost twenty-five years. Don't they seem like two love-birds when they’re holding hands? Well, they hate each-other’s guts. They’re separated now, but they still pretend to be the perfect couple in public. The truth is, she’s sleeping with her bodyguard, and he, on the other hand, is having an affair with her sister."

    She was enjoying revealing all of these people's secrets.

   "Why are you telling me all this?" I asked.

   "I wanted to see if any of this would surprise you, but you didn't even flinch. Now tell me, why are you here? Who invited you?” She was suddenly very serious. “You don't seem like these boring, rich drones."

   "The truth is, I am an entertainer. I was invited to keep people… well, entertained," I replied.

   "So... you are not an assassin from a dangerous organization?" she asked with a sarcastic tone.

   "Well, this is my cover," I replied, with an equally sarcastic tone.

   She was beginning to lose interest in me, and I knew I had to to try harder to impress her. I stood up.

   "Where are you going? Bored already?" she asked.

   "I want to let you know how I feel, but I promise, you won't be out of my sight."

   And so I made my way towards my truest friend, the piano. I sat down and started playing. Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 2 op 18 in c minor, one of my favorites.

   Rachmaninov composed it after falling into a deep depression, which he channelled into his music. The opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tolls, building tension, and eventually reaching climax in the introduction of the main theme.

   The moment I began playing, I could sense the crowd’s voices fading away, until eventually, all fell silent. Everyone was captivated. She was looking straight at me, her head resting on her right hand, with that deadly, striking look of hers. It was as though we were alone on the boat, just here gaze and my music. No-one else mattered.

   I finished playing, and the sounds of the crowd came flooding back to me as everyone clapped. Some of them even came to compliment me in person, but she came and whisked me away from them.

***

   It was midnight, and we were at the back of the yacht, and we were alone. She was standing with her back to the ramp. She looked stunning in that blue dress, with those sparkling sapphire eyes of hers.

   "Judging by your performance, I’d say you feel rather tense around me?"

   "Hmmm, I guess so, you could put it that way, but I like that about you."

   "What do you like exactly?" she asked.

   "I like how you fascinate me, how alive you make me feel, and yet so vulnerable. It feels like I could die any moment," I replied.

   She had a cigar in her hand, and I moved towards her and lit it.

   "You know, my mother used to play the piano for me every day. I would sit down and listen to her singing. She had an angelic voice. I was five years old at the time," she said sadly.

   "What about your father?"

   "I didn't see him much. He was busy smuggling god knows what from god knows where. To this day, even after my mother passed away, he still doesn't have time for anyone," she replied. There was a bitter anger creeping into her voice.

   I took the necklace I’d won out of my pocket. She was staring at it. With full force, I threw it right into the middle of the ocean.

    “What did you do that for?” She was shocked. “A true gentleman would have returned it to its rightful owner. You could have at least taken it, it’s worth a fortune, you know.”

    “You told me that it was your father who bought it for you. That’s why I just felt like throwing it.”

    “You know, if you had given it back to me I would have left you on the spot. You’re insane, you know that?” she responded, as a smile spread across her face.

   “You made me insane the first time your eyes met mine.”

   She threw her cigar into the water and approached me, putting her arms around my waist.

   "Doesn't that make you afraid? Feeling vulnerable around me?" She whispered into my ear.

   "It makes me feel alive."

   Her eyes were lost in the riddle of my gaze. It was the perfect opportunity.

***

   We were in Miranda’s room. She was in the tub, which was full of water, and I was sitting beside her. She was beginning to wake up.

   "How… did I get here?" she asked, disoriented and drowsy.

   "Well, I drugged you using a sedative syringe, and you lost consciousness immediately. Then I dragged you to your room without being seen. It was easy, actually."

   I grabbed my knife and cut her wrists wide open. The pain seemed to wake her up a little, but she was still too high to fight it.

   "You know, the trick is to cut your wrists in the same direction as your veins. This way, it won't take long," I explained.

   "Why are you doing this?" she asked.

   "I told you didn't I? I am an assassin, it's what I do for a living."

   "Who… Who put you up to this?" She sounded frightened.

   "Don't worry, you will get to know him. He will be joining you soon enough."

   "But… Why?" she asked as her eyes welled up.

   "Don't act like you don't know. You ruined all of your father's work, you handed important evidence to the FBI, and now they are all over your father's operations. You ended the Taylor smuggling empire. I know that you did it because it was him who killed your mother eighteen years ago. I could tell that this grudge was the fuel keeping you alive all these years."

   She was losing consciousness again.

   "He beat her to death with a candlestick… Can you believe that? He lied to me then… He told me that it was a burglar who killed her, but I saw it all that night! Whenever I had to look in his eyes I was disgusted to the core, till, I had to put up with it until the day… Until I could make him suffer like I did… Like my mother." She could barely get her words out.

   "The contract stated that your death should look like a suicide, and that I wouldn't let you suffer. It also mentioned that I should deliver this message to you: 'Despite everything you've done, I - your father - still love you. I hope one day you will see the truth and understand that everything I have done was for just for you.’"

   "Fuck you and fuck my father… Do you know something? I thought that we were alike… You and I... The hollowed couple… That's why I could never trust you… We are both rotten to the core… I feel sorry for her though… I hope she doesn't end up like me..." she whispered, cryptically.

   "Her? Who do you mean? How did you know?!" I asked as my voice cracked.

   She passed away in a muddle of tears and blood. She was talking about Elizabeth; I guess she must have known that I had someone in my life. That's the person she was, she could see through anything. Yet she let me in, knowing that I was lying to her from the start. Maybe it was because she wanted to let go. After realizing her goal, she had nothing left to cling to in this rotten world. I hope she finally found peace.

   However, my contract wasn't yet completed.

***

   Thunder was rumbling outside. It was raining, and I was standing right behind him. He was sitting at his desk reading ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.

   "So you finally came. I assume you’ve completed the first half of the contract. Tell me, what did she say? Or you know what, I think I already know," he said when he noticed me.

   "I have a question, why did you put a contract on yourself too?" I asked.

   "A nosy assassin aren't you? Well, I lost everything, my wife, my fortune, my status, and finally my daughter. The truth is that maybe I lost Miranda a long time ago. I was trying to protect her when I killed her mother. She was having an affair with a private investigator back then, and they were planning to take me down. I couldn't let my precious Miranda live another day with that bitch. I hanged the PI with my belt. I didn't want to harm Franklyn, not at first, but she kept provoking me until… I picked up a candlestick from the table and smashed her head in with it. But, Miranda was there, she saw everything. I was careless. It seems that I had only postponed the inevitable." I could hear the regret in his voice. I believed him.

   "Where do you want me to do it?"

   "No need, I will take care it of myself," he replied, frightened, yet determined.

   He shot himself in the head with his own gun. I guess his pride wouldn’t let him surrender to someone else after all.

   That hole in the ship which was opened eighteen years ago, has let in the waters of hatred and vengeance, leaving it sinking deep into the depths of despair.

 
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