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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19. The Owl

Look at it pouring down cats and dogs. Laying down beside the dead, with the corpse of my son bleeding right in front of my eyes. It was just like that one time, even in the same cemetery, the irony. After all these years nothing has changed. What happened then? I remember swearing an oath, but to who and why? I guess I must continue from where I left off, my memories are still in shambles, after all, lost in the maze of my mind.

***

It's been three months since I went up against the Russian Mafia. Until now things were calm - way too calm. During peaceful days, I try to keep myself in shape. I began every morning with a workout routine composed of half of an hour jogging, and another half of push-ups and pull ups, followed by a cup of coffee alongside a sip of vodka. It helps to keep the blood pumping. It was 6:30 a.m., and I was about to leave home when I heard the door knocking.

Elizabeth doesn't come until 8 a.m., I wonder who that might be?

I brought my colt pistol from its holster, opened the safe, and looked through the hole of the door. It was a man in a black suit. With no scars or shady figure, he didn't seem like a gangster or a mafia member. So I opened up while holding my gun in my left hand, hidden behind the door. 

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“The boss wants to talk to you, Hollow,” he replied, his hands behind the back and standing tall. Mostly military stance.

He knew my code name, which only meant that he was part of the Illuminati. He didn’t seem hostile though.

"Just who is your boss exactly?"

"Sorry, I don't have enough privilege to tell you. However, all I can say is that we mean no harm, we just want to make business with you."

If their boss is one of the Illuminati high chain commanders, then this is the opportunity I was waiting for so long.

I didn't hesitate, I went with him. Two black Chevrolet were parked at the front, four men in suits came out, and one of them covered my head with a black sheet.

Now you’ve done it Logan, I hope I get back in one piece, and not in a fucking body bag.

On our way, I kind of heard stone works like we were close to a mine. Which meant that we were somewhere near Crowley mountain, it was north of Steely Hollow. The air was getting hotter, unlike the chilling breeze back at my home city.

The guards inside the car didn’t speak a word. It was as if I was being taken by mutes. Four hours later, and after making exactly three stops we arrived.

“Remove the cover,” said one of the guards. I got out.

It seems we finally arrived.

After four hours of complete darkness, bright light stroke down my eyes, blinding me from the astonishing view in front of me. It was a big villa -no it was more like a fortress similar to The Doctor's mansion, but much bigger. I was welcomed by a vast green matt followed by purple and red flowers dancing by the wind breeze at every corner. Rose petals stood calmly on top of the pond surface, just to get disturbed by two birds playing around the water. Their sound was so angelic, it could calm a raging beast with its beauty.

Amidst that breathtaking scene, armed guards with machine guns stood by at every corner with ferocious dogs patrolling the vicinity. On the rooftop, a sniper stood aside a huge man holding a missile launcher. Even the maid eyes was brimming with fear. It was then that I returned to reality, to my world, where beauty coincides with chaos.

The guards took to the study room. Inside, I found myself being overwhelmed by piles of books arranged on alphabetically on the shelfs.

‘Abraham H. Maslow’, ‘Otto Rank’, it seems we have ourselves a psychology fan.

It was just for a second, my heart just skipped a beat. He opened the door, declaring his arrival with a staggering presence. Wearing a black suit with black shirt. Walking, no, it felt like his feet never touched the ground. He was so smooth he ceased to appear human at all. My first impression - I was astonished.

“Pardon my ill manners. I was late wasn’t I? Did any of my men bother you on your way here?” Said the boss, passing in front me and sitting behind his desk. I was hoping for a handshake, but it was obvious he wanted to show our status difference.

Don’t be fooled by his sugary words. The Doctor like to call these types of men 'Sweet Grim Reapers'. Using sweet words, they hide their real personality - the murderous psychopathic one. That’s how they blend in. Luckily for me I had a good teacher who also was a master of disguise.

“I am humbled by your presence; I couldn’t ask for more,” I sat in front of him.

“Oh my, thank you! It’s the first time I’ve seen an assassin with a silver tongue, but I expected nothing less from the disciple of the famous Doctor. I am a big fan, by the way.”

Although he was in his early thirties he seemed well composed. I couldn’t let my guard down around this guy. Suddenly, his expression changed, dead cold that was the look he had. I began to feel restless and tense.

Guess this is a high ranking Illuminati member after all, or is he not?

“Hollow, let’s put the sweet talk aside for a while. Do you know who I am?” He leaned forward, his eyes seemed darker.

Here it is, he let the mask slide a bit.

“You know my codename, so I assume you are related to the organization,” I replied. I was still not one hundred percent sure he was with the Illuminati.

“Yes, we are both parts of the Illuminati. I see you still don’t know the Illuminati chain of command. I guess The Baron didn’t give a clear explanation about our organization?” 

“Sorry, but he didn’t," I felt a bit relaxed.

“Okay then, let me start with myself first. My codename is The Owl. Let me explain how things work around here.”

He brought up his hands and started gesturing, “Imagine a spider with eight legs. Each leg has a different representation, the first being influence followed by science, money, resources, land, personnel, media and lastly we have power. You assassins belong in the personnel section. We higher ups who pull up the strings, are right above you in the abdomen, and we are responsible for holding the legs, you can call us officers. Lastly, we have the supreme leader, The Hawk. He is the person with the vision, and that's why he represents the eyes of the spider.”

“Alright, but what about the head?”

“Good question. A spider is hard to kill, even if you cut the legs. The spider still lives, you must chop off its head. Do you know what the head represents to us? It represents the dream! Our dream. You can’t kill dreams, yet we all share the same vision; to extract justice in the world by laying down our rules. That’s why you can’t take down the Illuminati, we represent a symbol. All what you have seen till now is nothing but a tiny little bit of a huge web,” he explained.

So that’s how they stayed active all these past decades. They shared the same creed and only one vision.

Don’t underestimate such belief, sometimes it can become a powerful motivator that can form strong bonds, ensuring absolute loyalty.

“I called you here because I know you have potential. Fourteen successful contracts in seven years is an interesting achievement, especially considering you are only twenty six years old. It's quite impressive actually. That’s why I want to give you a special contract…” I was feeling insecure hearing his words, it was like he was casting a spell on me, trying to take control. “... I want you to take care of someone, permanently. You will find all the information in a file that my men will give it to you on your way out. That is, if you agree to the contract of course,” he continued.

“Pardon me, but why not issue a direct contract through The Baron? Why go through all this trouble to talk with me face to face?”

“Tell you the truth, I don’t want this contract to be official. And it would be appreciated if this information won’t leave this room. Consider this a personal favor.” 

I don’t like favors. They are like fat fake checks with a lot of digits on it. Turning him down will be the best course of action. I can smell the stench of trouble.

“If all went smoothly, I will vouch for you, this way you will have a chance to join the chain of command, especially now since we are on the verge of new promotions. You know that it's hard for assassins to go up the ladder due to their nature, but you, I can sense you are different!" He pointed his finger towards me.

He was speaking the truth. An assassin can't go up in the ranks unless someone from the chain of command vouched for him or her. That's why I always wanted to meet someone from the higher ups. This was a good damn offer to refuse. Still, I wanted to know more information before I gave my final answer.

“Can I know at least who am I going to kill before I take the contract? Just don't tell me you want me to assassinate President Johnson!?” I joked.

“God forbid, no! Even if I wanted that, it's not up to me to make such a decision. It is way above my grade, not to mention we only get to assassinate one American president in a century. Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question. I told you this is classified information, only when you accept the contract you will get to know.”

This was my opportunity that may come only once in a lifetime. If everything went smoothly and The Owl kept his end of the bargain, then I would have taking a huge step towards my objective, actually I would have crossed halfway. I can't throw this chance, I have to take the gamble.

“Okay then, consider it done,” I nodded my head.

"Superb! I knew you wouldn't let this opportunity slip past your hands. Do you know why? It’s because you are a dreamer, just like me," he responded with a big smile on his face, revealing a vast void behind it.

***

The Owl’s men dropped me back at my apartment. It was midnight.

Shit! I was supposed to take her to work this morning.

I knew that I would find her in my apartment waiting for me, with an angry face. You know, I have encountered many dreadful situations in my life, yet this must be the worst of them all. Believe it or not, but this woman is scary as hell when she gets pissed off.

I have never prayed before, but maybe I should start from now. Eli is going to be furious! Maybe I should wear my Kevlar armor, just in case.

I opened the door, and there she was sitting on the couch waiting. She didn't respond.

Well, that's not good.

“Hey Eli! Look, I am so sorry but something so important came up and I didn't have the time to tell you,” I said. She stood up and came close to me.

"You promised me! You told me you won't expose yourself to danger! Do you know how much I was sick worried about you?!" She yelled, getting dewy-eyed.

"Eli, I swear nothing happened to me, the manager just wanted me to go early today that's all," I laid my hands on her shoulders.

She pushed me back with all her might, but the difference in size was overwhelming to make me budge from where I was standing. I retracted my hands.

"Logan, I went to that jewelry shop. The manager told me that they don't have bodyguards, and that they never heard of your name!"

Every time I was stuck in a bad situation, the answer was always ready in my mind. But this time, that answer never came. When it comes to Elizabeth, lying to her was like getting twisted in the heart. I just stood there, speechless as if my tongue was tied up. Even though she couldn't see me, I wasn't able to look her in the face. I was afraid she would leave me, that fear never escaped my mind.

"Logan."

Will she say those words? If so, then I will cease to exist.

Suddenly, she grabbed my hands and brought them to her chest.

"I know you love me more than anything in the world. You take care of me even more than any parent would do for their own child. But I can tell, from the moment you returned from that Doctor’s mansion, I could feel something brewing inside of you, I can't put my hands on it but, I know that it's pushing us apart. Open your heart to me, tell me - what is going on with you?" She asked, squeezing on my hands.

That warmth, I could feel myself fading with every word as if I was bewitched by a beautiful spell, unmercifully binding me to her will. However, that only made it even harder for me to tell her the truth.

"Eli, I have to go for a few days. After I am back, I swear on the love that I hold dearly inside my heart for you, I will tell you everything. Just please, don't you ever think about leaving me!"

"Huh? Okay, can you at least tell me where you are going?"

"I am going to visit someone for a couple of days, please don't ask me anymore because I can't tell you everything right now." 

"Alright, just try to be careful okay? Promise me you will get back!" She asked with a worried tone.

"I promise, I will."

Then when I was about to leave, I came closer to her and kissed her on the forehead. It was a glimpse, yet for me, it felt like time has stopped for a moment. Looking at her, she was blushing, her face turned red, no it was more like a strawberry. I stood for a second and captured a clear picture of her, and I fixed it in my mind. Then, I went on my way.

Back then, I couldn't hear it and I didn't even notice it, the raging storm that was on its way to destroy my safe haven and leave me naked amidst the cold, with no home to turn into. Just maybe, if I noticed, I may have had averted the catastrophe that shall fall right into my world, shattering my soul forever.

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