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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14. The Impenetrable James

Sometimes we deceive ourselves in order to survive. Just like when walking on the edge of a cliff, pretending we’re not going to fall.

Cold water splashed on my face, dragging me back from my slumber.

“Rise and shine sport.”

My eyes were barely adjusting to the bright light coming from the projector above my head. Amidst my desperate attempts to capture a clear picture of what was in front of me, I noticed my hands were tied behind my back with a thick rope, about an inch in thickness. I was sitting on a small wooden chair, the pain in the back of my head my becoming more evident.

After countless blinks, I noticed a middle aged man in an expensive suit standing above of me. Two fairly broad-shouldered men were standing by his side, presumably his bodyguards. The one on the left was holding an empty bucket, it was no brainer he was the one who splashed water on my face.

“You know what, you sound like the matron in the orphanage where I was raised, old and senile, she was annoying as fuck,” I teased, looking left and right, inspecting the dark room where I was in.

I felt a jab slamming the left side of my face, flying my jaw all the way to the right. I spat blood on the floor, then said “Is that all you got? Then what’s the point of packing so much muscle?”

He was going for the second punch when the old man intervened with his left hand acting as an impenetrable barrier.

“Come on Timothy, didn’t you hear the poor guy was an orphan? Grow a heart,” said the old man.

“Since you’re at it, grow some pairs between those chicken like legs,” I provoked him, but the guard didn’t respond.

I was waiting for another jab, it seems the old man tamed his men quite well.

“Enough chit chat, let’s get right to the point. What were you doing breaking to my house in the middle of the night?” The old man frowned his eyebrows, adding more to the deep wrinkles on his face.

“Do you want the main dish or the appetizer?”

“Just get me to the main event.”

“I was on my way home, I live two blocks away from Pearl Boulevard, and I know that people in Burlington - New Jersey are quite known for their hospitality. So when I saw your beautiful house standing tall amidst the concrete buildings, with the brick roof and that colorful garden, I couldn’t help myself but to take a closer look. That’s when one of your goons jumped on me from behind and hit me on the back of my head with the grip of his pistol. Is that how you treat visitors? Come on old man, teach your men some manors.”

The old man brought a wooden skewer out of his pocket while walking around me in a well-drawn circle. I could hear the sound of his perfectly synched footsteps as his finger touched my shoulders from the back. Without any warning, the skewer entered the left side if my cheek from one end while the other exited from my right and stopped right in the middle of my mouth. I was stupefied for a moment. I couldn’t scream or speak, as my jaw was locked, one wrong move and I would tear the skin of my face apart.

“Tst, tst, no more talking for you,” he said face to face, his breath smelled like rotten fish.

He continued, “Don’t play dumb with me scum, I know you’re an assassin, just like you know exactly who I am. James Bravura, the man who will become the next minister of defense!”

It should be right about… now!

One of his guards entered the room and whispered in James’s ear. They both left in a hurry.

Phew! It’s loose. Now it’s my turn.

With the razor in my hand I cut the throat of the guard to my left, and snatched the skewer from my mouth before sticking it in to the right eye of the other guard.

Damn I was slow, it took me around three seconds. If they were pros I would have ended up with a bullet in the head.

“Next time better check on the wrists. You won't know what the other guy might be packing under his skin,” I said while taking their colt pistols, then made my way out of the room.

I didn’t know my way around the house. So the best course of action was to stick to the shadows. Apparently, I was in the basement. So I went up the stairs, only to find myself in the kitchen. Luckily nobody was around. I slowly opened the door and took a peak outside.  The coast was clear.

The moment I opened the door, I saw a guard descending down the stairs from the second floor. He noticed me. I froze in my grounds. We exchanged stares for about a second, eyes glued to each other without moving a fiber. A second later, he was going for the gun behind his back, I had a cold pistol ready in my hand. It was obvious who had the advantage. I managed to shoot him twice in the chest. Just like in action movies, he dropped down immediately, rolling all the way down the stairs.

Fuck! So much for stealth.

The sound of the gunshots were loud and clear. I knew every guard will come humping down my ass. I made sure to inspect the house’s security before trying to break in. James had a total of eight guards. Two of which were sinking with their own blood down the basement, and one was in front of me taking his last breath. That left five guards to deal with. And that was a lot especially if they came at once, even for me.

I was in the living room, the stairs to the bedrooms was to my left. Ahead was dining room. I rushed to the exit door to the right, and stood with my back to the wall at the side. I held another colt pistol in my left hand. Waiting for the party to begin.

The moment the door opened up, the adrenaline pumped in my veins. Without hesitation, I aimed the gun in my right to the head of whoever was in my sight and opened fire. It was a guard, and he wasn’t alone. The moment he dropped on the ground, bullets were penetrating through the thick wooden door in which I was standing behind. I ducked, and blindly fired at the other guard.

The firing stopped, he must be making a detour.

The second I was about to surprise him with a counter attack, another guard entered from the window from behind of me and managed to tackle me down. He was over two hundred fifty pounds that was for sure. His body felt like a giant boulder. Using his huge hands he went for my throat. I couldn’t get a good shot at him despite having the guns in my hands, he was way out of my reach. While being unable to breathe, I could see the other guard staring at me from afar, relaxed, a wicked smile looming on his face, as if my fate was already sealed. However, what he didn’t realize was the gun in my left aimed in his direction. I shot him in the legs, then when he was about my level I went for the head.

The big guy didn’t like his friend getting shot. So he tightened his grip, and just like a bottle of champagne, I was afraid my eyes would pop out any second. There was only one way to get through that bastard, and it wasn’t pleasant. I held my pistol inside my mouth, and carefully aimed downwards, trying to avoid the brain or the bones. My hands were shaking, not just because of the loss of oxygen, but because a slight mistake to the left or right would cost me my life. At that point, I had nothing to lose. So I pulled the trigger. Hoping my gamble to bear fruit.

The bullet went in and out of my neck, and went right in to his nose, breaking his grip over me. The sound of the gunshot was echoing inside my head like the bell of the church, loud and amplified. The beeping sound never stopped, still, I had to make my move. Using my body weight I tossed him off my back. I stood up and shot him in the chest twice then once at the head.

I was breathing fast like a mad animal. I was barely standing still, trying to catch my breath when the remaining guards descended from the stairs along with James. They had their pistols aimed at me, ready to take me out of my misery.

“Not only you poisoned my precious dog to lure me out of the basement, but you also managed to escape and take out most of my men. Call me impressed young man. Tell me, what is your name?” James asked, clapping his hands while descending all the way down from the stairs.

Both guards were standing in front of me with James at the center.

“Logan, Logan Hayz.”

“Wow, didn’t think you would give us your name that easily.”

“Dead men tell no tale.”

He laughed from the bottom of his heart, I could smell his rotten breath all over from where I was standing.

“Well, Logan, I admire your confidence. So far you managed to capture my attention. How about you join me? I will pay you double what your employers gave you for my head. What do you say?”

“Sorry, but sadly what I want can’t be bought with money,” my hands were quivering and barely holding the pistols.

I am bleeding fast, the light in my eyes is slowly fading away.

“And what is it that you want?”

“To be the man who will stand at the top of the world, looking down at the people as they live in peace and prosperity.”

I was waiting for another hysterical laugh, or a bland joke while mocking my words. Instead, his brown eyes widened with amazement. A grin of astonishment painted on his face, all while silence reigning in the room with only the sound of my blood dripping on the floor.

“I can see it, the eyes of a true hawk. You are not bluffing, I can tell. Tell me, how are you planning on achieving your dream?”

“Knights can't save this rotten world. As long as there is a battlefield sucking out the life of the innocent, then this world shall never be different from hell. This world doesn't need a hero, a hero's job is to protect, but this world doesn't need protection. The true nature of humanity hasn’t advanced a single step since the Stone Age. That is why this world needs a change, it must evolve. Creating peace and bringing justice. That is my goal, that's my destiny.”

James brought out his revolver from under his blue Jacket. He starred at it for ten seconds, then looked at me, as if he was trying to relay a message through his eyes.

“You know, I too used to believe in dreams. I was the third born of seven siblings. My family was of rock bottom poor. My mother Nathalie left home as soon she gave birth to my younger brother Mason. From an early age I’ve lived in construction camps. I learned how to mix and lay concrete at the age of seven. I would go at school in the morning and come back to work in the afternoon till sun goes down. All for the sake of keeping my family from falling apart. I wanted my brothers and sisters to have a better life, you can say that was my dream. Until that dream of mine came crashing, smacking me down to reality,” James pointed the gun upwards at the ceiling, while inspecting the iron sight.

Then he laid it down and continued, “My older brother Ryan used to work as a janitor for Jones pharmaceuticals, he fell from the balcony of the fourth floor while cleaning the window of the building. He broke his neck and died immediately. My older sister Lauren was hit by a speeding car. Two hours later she was hospitalized, but it was too late. She had internal bleeding, and the doctor said that if she was immediately taken to a hospital then she would’ve had a chance, but the driver fled the scene as soon as her head touched the ground. As for my younger brothers and sisters, they were all taken away by the Italian Mafia. The one who handed them over was none other than their own father, Clark. He thought that they would have a better life if they lived alongside the nobles as their own children. That was what the mafia told him, but that was never their true intention. Melissa, Brad, Charlie, Mason, they were all left to die after gutting out their organs. The moment Clark heard the devastating news, he shot himself with this very revolver to the head. I returned home that night, and found the blood of my father touching the tip of my toe. I took the revolver from his cold hands, and stuck its barrel right to my mouth. What was I thinking back then? Nothing. My mind drew a blank. ‘Maybe a bullet to the head would let things make sense.’ That’s what I told myself. Still, I couldn’t pull the trigger. Despite losing my dream, deep inside I wanted to live. I wanted to show this world that I can make a difference that I will survive! And that is exactly what I did,” he said starring at the gun’s rusted frame.

I could feel my body weighing twice its own weight, yet, I forced myself from falling down and stood tall.

“I am afraid that you’ve lived long enough,” I tightened my grip.

“You planned this all along. From the moment you let yourself get abducted, in order to infiltrate my house and take me down. You’ve been quite the trouble maker Logan.”

“You know what they call you? The impenetrable James. Two assassins before me were sent after you, but none of them managed to get the job done. You managed to repel every single threat by looking two steps ahead of your enemies. Even I found no loophole in your daily routine. You always took different routes, and you never strayed far from your convoy taking with you five to eight guards. The convoy was composed of three black Bentleys. They all had the same reinforced steel frame of ballistic nylon and Kevlar. The glass was bullet proof, with a mix of polycarbonate and leaded glass. Even your house was designed specifically against any possible intrusion. In addition of being bulletproof, the windows were cleverly placed in way a sniper can’t have a proper shot from any vantage point around the house no matter the angle. The house had only one door, which was the one at the front. You are truly the perfect candidate for the ministry of defense. I bet our nation won’t have to worry about internal threats anymore. But I am afraid my employers think otherwise. They have plans of their own.”

“Who are your employers?”

“The Illuminati.”

The moment I said those words, I could sense everybody’s attention been swayed.

This is it!

 One second, that it all took me to shoot both of his guards using my pistols. I had them marked in my mind, all what I needed was some time to calm my nerves and something to distract them with.

I was about to go for James, but he was faster than me. Using the revolver in his hand he took the shot first, then I followed with another, fragment of a second separating each shot.

It was a clean hit, the bullet struck his chest close to his heart. He dropped immediately on the floor, and I was the last man standing.

I threw the empty gun in my right hand and marched right to James body.

“Why…why did my bullet miss?” He mumbled, a pool of blood unfolding from under his body.

“Guess life has finally given up on you.”

“Life huh? In the end, I was the one who had given up on life… What a journey it had been,” the light escaped his eyes.

I wanted to make sure he was dead with a shot to the head, but something inside of me refused. Maybe it was because a part of me respected him. The man who fought with nails and teeth to survive in this unfair world. So I left the scene, leaving behind rivers of blood and broken dreams.

***

After nine days, the FBI arrested Brian Cooper, a fertilizer salesman and a member of the Original Citizen's Council, for the murder of James Bravura and his men. Rumor has it that two witnesses saw Brian along with an armed squad sneaking inside of James’s house at night. Brian hate for James was publically known, especially after declaring his discontent over nominating James for minister of defense.

All member of the Council’s board were apprehended and sentenced for twenty years in prison. Whereas Brian was sentenced for life with hard labor. Convenient names to feed the public’s hunger for justice.

Meanwhile, in the shadows, the name Hollow was starting to make an echo in the assassination world, and I was getting arrogant. I thought to myself that, after all the successes I’d had in such a short space of time, and with all the death-defying situations I’d encountered, I was unstoppable. The truth was, I was an idiotic fool. I was so proud and cocky, I didn’t see the storm approaching. Just like with Arthur, I’d let my personal feelings interfere with the contract. This was bad for an assassin. I didn't care, as long as nobody knew about it.

 But a certain powerful man did know, and would use this knowledge to shatter the balance in the world and the Illuminati itself. It would cause a tremendous whirlwind that would forever change the very foundation of my being. My story was just getting started.

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