The Inspiration

One hundred miles from the capital, a mercenary meets the predacious killer he inspired to slaughter a military battalion of government soldiers”

The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern  Methods of Reproduction by Charles G. Harper

Every hostage he left behind in the watchtower was gone. Dead.

He should never have left them. He should have never left his crazy partner to watch them alone. It wasn’t his worst mistake, which was what made him even less confident he could recover the mission.

He peeked into the upper room from the stairs, using the stone corner for cover in case the killer was still there.

Nobody was supposed to die.

The Killer was there. He could hear the Killer wheezing in the room with the tower window.

The hostages were laying on their side and still bound and blindfolded just as he left them.

He quietly emerged from the stairs and onto the floor, gun drawn, and quietly walked along the wall, avoiding the puddles on the stone ground.

The Killer seemed unaware of his presence as they stared out into the woods.

He was staring out into the woods just hours earlier before he left for his mission. Before he encountered the Killer for the first time, in the midst of slaughtering an encampment full of soldiers. In the midst of ruining his plans.

He tiptoed towards the Killer who still hadn’t moved from the tower window.

He was ready to eliminate the threat quickly and move on with his second plan. But he witnessed first hand how strong, indestructible and adept the threat was when dealing with the country’s elite soldiers with nothing more than a knife. He didn’t know what he hoped to achieve with a pistol.

“You do not have to hide from me,” The Killer called.

He approached with caution, with pistol drawn. “Is that so?”

His partner was in the corner of the observatory room with a gash on her forehead. He couldn’t tell whether she was dead or unconscious but she was unconscious in the corner.

“I expected you here sooner,” The Killer said.

“I’m starting to expect you everywhere I go,” He answered back. “Are you following me?”

The Killer didn’t answer.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“Who I am is what I’m now figuring out,” The Killer answered. “And you are helping me do so.”

“Am I?” West circled slowly towards his partner.

“Since the first time I laid eyes on you,” The Killer added.

West paused.

Not creepy at all.

“You can put your weapon away.” the Killer said.

“Why’s that?” West asked.

“I’m not here to hurt anybody,” the Killer replied.

“But you hurt my partner,” West looked towards Keyana.

“She attacked first,” the Killer said. “I can’t help but defend myself.”

Keyana’s head injury didn’t appear life threatening, but he needed to determine that up close. He’d seen plenty of people die from minor (looking) wounds before.

“You can lower your weapon,” the Killer reiterated. “You have my word I will not attack.”

“I don’t think so,” West answered. “I think I’ll hold onto it for now.”

“As you wish,” The Killer replied.

The Killer was much smaller close up than what he remembered.

He thought of how the Killer mounted the six foot armored soldier and tore past their armor and into its neck.

“Look out,” His partner, Keyana, groaned as she shifted her position.

Relief…

She was alive.

That was one less body to feel guilt over.

“Why did you kill them?” He asked.

Unfortunately, the hostages shared a much different fate. All were dead, but some were even sitting in the same position he left them.

“Are you alone?” The Killer asked.

He glanced over his shoulder knowing Prentace must be putting himself into position to attack the Killer.

“Yeah.. I’m alone,” West answered. “Answer my question.”

“I’m always alone,” The Killer looked over their shoulder before reaching back and grabbing empty and squeezing the life out of the empty space behind him. “But you’re not.”

“Gurk!” Prentace shrieked. “Help.”

He did his best to hide his shock.

Even animals with heightened sense had trouble tracking Prentace when he as invisible. His worry was growing with the Killer. His worry grew when he was facing something he didn’t understand, nor had the time for which to prepare.

“His cloaking fools the eyes,” The Killer lifted the Invisible boy to the air. “But not the nose.”

“Put him down, please” West ordered.

“As you wish,” The Killer dropped the invisible boy.

“That hurt,” Prentace whined. “This guy’s strong like a Grizzly Deer.”

He’d met killers who took lives for no logical reason. He hoped he wasn’t dealing with one of those. Killers without cause wanted blood. That was all. There was no negotiating or threatening people like that.

“Go stand outside and keep watch,” West ordered.

“Alone?” Prentace whispered.

“Yes, go.” West demanded.

“Okay,” Prentace asnwered.

He faintly heard Prentace staggering out of the room.

“I’m sorry,” The Killer said.

“For?” West drew closer with his pistol.

“For hurting your friends,” The Killer answered.

He didn’t have friends. Only business partners.

“But you hurt other people,” West replied.

“Yes,” The Killer coldly responded. “I do.”

“Why?” West lowered his weapon. “Who sent you to hurt other people?”

“I… don’t remember,” The Killer answered. “I just felt I should.”

West examined the Killer for weapons.

Two small curved blades. No firearms.

He would think he had the weapons advantage if he hadn’t seen the Killer use his knives.

The Killer smelled like an extinguished fireplace.

“Who do you work for?” West inquired.

He thought maybe Keyana, his crazy partner, tried to set the Killer on fire….

The Killer turned to face West “I came of my own free will.”

He looked into the Killer’s eyes.

The Killer’s eyes were vacant. He couldn’t read anything. No fear. No anger. No lies. Nothing.

“So, nobody’s paying you,” West said.

“My desire isn’t money,” The Killer replied.

West felt more confused then than he did than before he saw the Killer nearly decapitate an armored Guard with ease.

“Then what is your desire,” West asked. “Revenge?”

He figured the Killer was a Rising Tide rebel. The rising tide was an umbrella term for several, maybe hundreds, of small anti-government factions all over the country. The Killer could belong to any one of them.

“I don’t know,” The Killer said.

“But you’ve been specifically following me,” West said.

“Yes,” The Killer answered.

“Killing people around me,” West asked.

“Yes,” The Killer answered.

“Why?” West asked.

“You’re the leader,” the Killer answered. “Isn’t that what you want us to do?”

“Who?” West asked

“The Rising Tide,” the Killer answered. “You are the leader, correct?”

He was the leader. It was what he was hired to do. Be the leader. Be the figurehead and symbol of the fractured Rising Tide movement.

“Your goals are my goals.” The Killer asked.

“What do you mean?” West asked.

West wasn’t the first person in his position. There were several before him. He was the latest iteration.

“I no longer have to wander alone. I know my reason for being now.” the Killer said.

“I’m happy to help, I guess.” West raised his pistol. “But I’m going to need you to stay out of my way.”

“Why?” The Killer asked. “Have I done something to upset you?”

“You’re making my job more difficult,” West said.

“Your job,” The Killer said.

“I can’t have you bringing heat on me,” West said.

“What would you have me do?” The Killer said. “Tell me… Show me the way.”

“Frankly, sir…mam, I don’t care what you do,” He said.

West reached into his pocket for his last mint tobacco straw.

He was starting to lose his cool. He was losing his grip on the mission, the least he could do was keep his cool.

“You brought me to life,” The Killer said. “I’ll do what you command.”

He bit down on the tobacco straw.

“You can do whatever you want, just not anywhere near me,” West pointed to the fallen secretary who provided him intel in the encampment.

“What do you mean?” The Killer asked. “I did what you asked.”

“I never asked for this,” West said.

“With your actions… You asked without words,” The Killer said. “We’re removing the weeds, like you said.”

He promised to keep her safe if she talked. He promised to get her home alive to her children.

“Everything I do is because of you,” The Killer said.

He had less than a week left in the island nation and he was already was behind on his obligations to his employer. The Grand Archive was still standing.

He couldn’t allow anything or anyone to derail his well-laid plans and jeopardize his money.

West turned his back to the Killer. “Once I’m gone, you can kill whoever you want.”

“You’re leaving?” The Killer cried. “Why would you leave?!”

“I suggest you find your own way,” West said.

“But the mission is far from over,” The Killer said. “We need you! I need you!”

“Lower your voice, please.” West ordered.

There was nobody else around to hear them -they were dead- but the Killer’s voice was throwing him off even further. The medicine was wearing off.

“You give me purpose, why would you leave me?!” The Killer asked.

He bit down on his tongue.

He’d already said too much.

“I said, lower your voice,” West commanded.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you!” The Killer banged their head against the wall near the window. “I can’t be lost again!”

He wondered how right the killer could have been about what he’d inspired with all his actions, sabotage, and machinations. He never considered what parading around like an immortal, resurrected terrorist and inciting a civil war war do to the island. How many lives were lost and would be lost because of him.

“I’ll follow you,” The Killer calmed themselves. “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”

He couldn’t allow that murdering psycho to ruin his well-laid plans, and ultimately his payday.

“Will you leave me alone?” West asked.

He wasn’t the one relying on that money. Someone more important than he’d ever be was relying on the money from the job.

“I will not,” The Killer said. “I will follow you everywhere you go-”

West fired a single shot into the Killer’s chest.

The Killer staggered back towards the window and collapsed beneath the window sill.

He fired, striking the Killer once in the chest and a second time in the head.

“I’m sorry,” West said. “Can’t let you get in my way.”

There was too much at stake.

His stomach turned.

He didn’t want to shoot anyone. He didn’t mean to spill any blood.

He felt nauseous.

It was all messed up.

He pulled back his shoulders and took a breath.

He wasn’t sorry. He did what was right.

“Whoa!” Prentace shrieked. “You shot him!”

He approached the body.

“You really shot him,” Prentace shrieked.

“Why do you care?” West asked.

No blood from the body.

“Because we don’t kill people!” Prentace said. “You said…”

“I know what I said,” West interrupted. “Why aren’t you outside?”

“That was our rule!” Prentace said. “No killing!”

“Shut up,” West pointed his weapon at Prentace’s voice. “Why aren’t you outside?”

They left me no choice.

“Son of a…” Keyana tried to lift herself from the wall, but fell immediately.

He would take care of her later… If her condition didn’t make her a liability.

“Somebody’s… people are coming,” Prentace answered shakily.

“People?” West moved to the window.

“Yeah, a bunch of people,” Prentace answered. “And they’ve got a big gun.”

He could faintly hear the rumbling of the army marching on their tower.

Shit.

And all he had was six bullets.

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