The Hollow and The Saint

"The world we live in is no different from Hell; there are those who are tortured by the fire, there are demons who carry out orders, and then, of course, there is the devil himself. Well, I plan on turning hell into heaven."

Wounded, heartbroken with a hollow void filling down his soul, Logan Hayz is lying down on the ground, in front of him the corpse of his son, with a bullet stuck in his skull painting such beauty on his face. A bullet fired from the same Glock pistol Logan is holding in his right hand. Blood covering his left mechanical arm giving it an exquisite look with the rust of steel. Water drops touching down his flabby skin, in one eye he can see the past along with all the hardships and sufferings he had to endure to achieve his ultimate dream of creating the perfect world. In the other, he saw the reason he pursued that dream, Elizabeth Rose, his long-lost beloved.


Cover by INFINITE_EXHO

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7. Natural Born Killer

It was the twelve of July, the contract was due on the fourteen. I had no time to spare. So the first thing I did was gather information. And what better than the streets to gain some Intel. Merchants, prostitutes, even beggars have something to say.

Barney, AKA the king of beggars. Well known for his sense of humor, and loved by the habitants of the Farkhill district in Steely Hollow, but most importantly, the Kojiro family who favored him with parties’ leftovers and sometimes a sip of expensive wine. Soon he was titled of the king of beggars.

I went to Farkhill district in Steely Hollow. I asked around, and everybody knew where to point me into Barney’s direction. I went down an alley, and turned left to Elaine Street.

“When I get mad, and I get pissed. I grab my pen, and I write out a list of all the people that won't be missed. You've made my shit list!” Quirky words rhymed from my right. It was an old man, with a ragged coat and stained white shirt, sitting on top of a wine barrel, singing in the middle of the sidewalk.

That must be him.

 “Nice song,” I said, tossing down twenty dollar in the hat on floor beside a couple of pennies and two nickels.

“Is that green paper I see?!” He jumped down the barrel and snatched the twenty bucks in a whim. His eyes glued to President Andrew Jackson. 

Just as I thought, the Kojiro family never gave him money, they just fed him to stick around.

“I want you to sing a special song for me,” I said, hands in pockets.

“I would do anything for President Jackson!” His eyes still attached to that bill.

“Sing me the latest Kojiro song.”

The moment he heard the Kojiro name, Barney hid the bill in his back pocket, and looked up to the sky, his left hand on his chin.

“You don’t know that song?” I asked.

He looked at me, and snapped the fingers of his left hand.

“I do, I do! But why?”

 “Why what?”

“Why that song?”

Despite his looks, he is not dumb. He understood what I meant and right now he is being cautious.

“I just want to hear the words, no harm’s done.”

He looked at the sky again, using the same posture before, then he snapped his fingers and said,

“Why not pay a professional singer?”

“I don’t have the money, I buy what I can afford,” he was referring to information brokers. They are specialized in selling information.

“That song is expensive my friend. You need to put more green paper to make that bird sing.”

I laid down another twenty, and he grabbed it faster than a bullet.

“The green! What a beautiful smell!”

“Now, sing.”

“Oh, I will! Let’s say I heard that song is quite trending right now,”

“How exactly?”

“The Italians are loving it! Right now they are preparing for the big event. In two days, we are going to witness a live performance!”

So the Italian mafia and the Kojiro family are working a truce in two days.

“Where?”

“The Spades casino.”

“Is the lead singer going to be there?”

“Sorry, I am out of green again,” he rubbed his fingers together, eyes and mouth wide open, revealing his golden tooth.

I flashed ten bucks to his eyes, “Tell me first.”

“Yes, the lead singer is coming,” he nodded his head.

I threw the ten bucks into the hat, and made my way to scout the meeting area around the casino.

There was only one road leading to the Spades, which gave me a slight advantage. I knew which road the convoy will be at. Still, I knew the day of the meeting this place would be swarming with guards. So getting close to my target was impossible. I stood in front of the casino, looking left, I found a small park and four kids playing together inside. To the right, a six storey building, with a fire escape stairs.

This is a great vantage point for a sniper.

The gunshot would be heard all over the surrounding area, I would be able to take down Kojiro, but everybody will know where the shot came from, blocking my escape route. Not to mention possible guards on rooftops. And police officers love to inspect gun shells. They would be smart enough to investigate anyone who bought a sniper rifle in the last month, and I doubt there are so many.

I turned around, looking right across the street, a narrow alleyway, leading to the secondary road, which would probably be guarded.

I think I have an idea.

The next day, I went to see Nicolay, a small time Russian arms dealer. I knew back when I was at The Doctor’s mansion. He came once with a bullet the knee. It left him a cripple. We met down the bridge of Steely Hollow. And just like any eighteen year old boy who works shifts in a restaurant, my pocket was tight.

“Hey Nicolay, long time no see,” I shook his hand.

“I see you’ve grown quite big, Logan,” he replied.

Thin tall face and a spiky blonde hair, he was still the same from five years ago.

“Actually I don’t have much time, so I will cut straight to the chase. Did bring the package?”

“.44 long barrel revolver. Quite a beauty, fires like a mule,” he flipped the gun left and right.

I held the revolver in my hand, I noticed some dents around the frame despite the shining silver color.

“Come on Nicolay, this thing been used! How should I know it won’t jam?”

“I cleaned and tested it myself. I can guarantee you nothing is wrong with this baby. Besides, I am selling it to you half the price. It’s only for one hundred bucks! Dirt cheap I tell ya,”

Damn, I only have thirty bucks left in my pocket.

“You know what, I think I will pass. Good luck,” I was about to walk away.

“Wait! Come back let’s talk about this! seventy, that price is only for you!”

I turned back, “Fifteen bucks for the gun, two for a box of bullets.”

“What?! That’s absurd!”

“It’s that or no deal.”

“Forty for the gun, ten for one box,” he countered, frowning his thin blonde brows.

“Twenty five for the gun, and five for the box of bullets,” I extended my hand.

“Deal!” We chook on it.

Holding the revolver in my hand, I remembered the first time William gave me a gun. I was eleven back then, it was on the eighteen’s of January, my birthday. It was M1917 revolver. I still remember its weight, it wasn’t heavy nor light, but in between.

William was the one who taught me how to shoot with a gun. He would take me to Steely Hollow junkyard, and place empty whiskey bottles on top of wrecked car hood, adjusting their positioning to suit my height. I still remember the grip rubbing against my hands. The recoil that I felt after firing the first shot is still echoing in my right shoulder. The smell of gunpowder was so pungent, to the point it widened every vein in my brain. The melody of the bullet shell bouncing down on the ground was feint, despite being obvious, but it was masked but the beeping sound in my ears caused by the gunshot. It felt incredible.

At the end of the first week, I managed to hit all my targets with ease. So for the second, William switched to empty cans, which were quite smaller in size. And to make it even more of a challenge, he placed them farther than the usual. It took me two weeks to get a perfect score. So for the next task, William wanted a moving target, not a swinging tire strapped on a tree, but something with a random pattern, something with a mind of its own, something with a heartbeat.

This time, we went to the forest, this was where I learned how to hunt. Sticking with shadows, becoming one with the environment. Waiting patiently for that perfect moment. My first kill was a swallow. I could still feel the warmth of it wounded body between my hands. As it heartbeats were fading away, it made me feel alive. For me, killing living things were much more fun than empty bottles and cans. Maybe I just liked the adrenaline, maybe I it was the idea of having the power of taking life. But one thing is for sure, at least I was pretty good at it.

After taking the revolver from Nicolay alongside two ammo boxes, I spent the remainder of the second day at the practice range. No matter how good you are, practice makes perfect. There was no room for failure. The only thought in my head was getting the job done.

***

Hazaki Kojiro was in the car, talking to his second in command, Kazuma.

“Today will mark a new era for the Kojiro family," said Kojiro, sitting in the back of a white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.

“But sir, forming an alliance with the Italian mafia will limit our potential clients, not to mention the restrictions they’ve already forced on our dealers,” said Kazuma, worried.

“Don’t worry Kazuma, right now we shall ‘go with the flow’, as they say. But we will grow. We will get stronger, we will become a big wave ravaging anyone who stands in our way. They will soon learn who is in charge!” Kojiro replied.

“Sir, we’ve arrived,” said Kazuma.

Kazuma opened the door for Hazaki. While on their way into the restaurant where the meeting was being held, amidst all the security and dozens of guards, they suddenly heard what they assumed were fireworks, only to notice Hazaki Kojiro body hugging the ground on top of an expanding pool of blood.

“Hazaki-sensei!” Kazuma cried, as he dropped on his knees holding his master’s irresponsive face tight to his chest.

In the 15th of July 1959, the newspapers in Steely Hollow announced the following:

“Hazaki Kojiro, sixty-three years old and the head of the Kojiro family, died after being shot to death by an unknown individual. Kojiro had been heading to meet with the Zanetti family to form an alliance. The place had been crawling with bodyguards. Still, nobody had noticed the culprit. Not even the shells had been found. It was a clean assassination performed by a ghost.”

***

The next day, after walking Eli to work, I was sitting at the beach and having a cigarette. This place gave me a peace of mind.

“Logan!” It was The Baron, his hoarse voice startled me. I accidently dropped the cigarette off my hand, and it burned my new beige pants with a little black dot.

“How did you find me here?” I asked.

“Information is my weapon, remember? Nice place you have here. The view is amazing!” He sat beside me.

"First, congratulations on succeeding in your task. I must say, that was some smooth piece of work. Now, tell me, how did you do it?"

You must be wondering how I pulled that mission off too, right? Well, it was somewhat of a gamble, and I got lucky. There were bodyguards everywhere, so the kill was unexpected, and yet it was the most suitable time to strike. Why?

“Strike where it hurts most, but make sure to surprise the enemy first! You have to imagine yourself as a magician, and your target as the audience,” The Doctor had once said to me.

That is why I chose to do the job in the most secure place, where no one would expect it. How, though, was I undetected? Now that was a bit trickier, yet so simple. I was destined to find a place where I could shoot and vanish without being noticed. The most suitable place was… a garbage can in the alley. Yes. Who would have thought of that, right? But still, why the garbage can? Well, I could wait there unnoticed until the target had arrived, even way before the guards are posted there. Even firing the gun, the shells would fall directly into the can, leaving no trace behind.

I got the idea for this plan from my orphanage days. Back then I would hide in a garbage can in the garden and throw small rocks at Ms. Marie. She would scream and yell, but she never found out where the rocks were coming from. Until one of the kids snitched on me, of course.

Now, here was the lucky part. The target had to be in my line of sight, with no obstructions. Luckily for me, everything fell into place. I was a sharpshooter, and The Doctor had always told me that I had a gift when it came to aiming guns. That is how, with my 44. Revolver, I managed to shoot him twice without missing. That pistol was perfect for the job, due to its long range and high damage potential. Then all I had to do was wait. It took almost four hours for the chaos around me to clear.

But what about the sound of the gun firing? That was simple too. Before Kojiro’s procession had arrived, I had given a few kids some fireworks, and told them to light them up when they saw an old man coming out of a car. You can buy a kid’s obedience with just a couple of bucks. So there it was, the perfect assassination, with no witnesses, and no evidence left behind.

“Wow that was unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I gave you this job because I knew you had potential, but your methods are… unexpected. Your mind functions like a professional assassin,” said The Baron, after I explained.

“Thank you. However, let me say this, and correct me if I am wrong, the reason you gave me, a rookie, and such an important contract was because, well, if I didn’t succeed, they would say a young boy tried to assassinate the Kojiro head. The Italian mafia would be directly accused due to their habit of sending teenage boys to do their assassinations..."

They say that kids in their early teens have low remorse and no regrets, and that is why they have higher rates of success. Plus, they wouldn’t be prosecuted like adults.

"Your goal from this assassination was to cancel the alliance and ignite a war between the Japanese and Italian mafia. So either way, if I succeeded or not, it would be a win on your part,” I theorized.

He clapped, a smile spreading across his face.

“Oh, kid! You never cease to amaze me. Excellent deduction! I can't confirm what you said of course, and I won't deny it either. But now I can officially ask you to join us, and be part of our crusade in changing the world!"

 Changing the world? Do these guys share my vision?

“Before I give you my answer, just who are you?”

He got up and stood in front of me. His face covering the sun as if he was the eclipse. Despite being short, in that moment he felt tall and mighty. With his hands behind his back, he rhymed these words, “Usually, we don't announce our name before the member accepts our invitation, but I guess you are an exception. We, my friend, don’t exist, yet we are everywhere. Everybody knows our name, and yet, nobody knows who we are. We dwell in the dark, but shine the in light. Our vision is fixed on tomorrow, it has no limit. We are the eyes that see everything, yet we are unseen. We are the beginning and the end. We are… The Illuminati.” 

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