Kasoria's head was starting to ache, and it wasn't just because he'd lost a pint of blood. Do the job, get healed, report back, see what the boss thought of a new recruit. SImple. Direct. Linear
. A straight line with several stops, but no divergences. Now other schemes and possibilities were crashing into his neat little plan.
Wattle being set up for a slit throat. Set up by someone who wanted to make Vorund look bad, not just settle a score or make some quick cash. So it was a power play, from... The Rues? Kasoria really needed to keep track of all the new gaggles of hoods running around. Not to mention it hinged on a letter being delivered, that wasn't, and now Wattle was in the clear... but he was wounded and his enforcers were so much rotting meat. So he was vulnerable, and if this Silvester heard about it-
Assassin and bodyguard both exchanged a brief look as Finn's voice trailed off. There was still desperation there, but not of a boy looking to save his side. It spoke of concern for another. The kind of helpless, futile fear one felt at being unable to help someone close to them. Both men recognized it... mainly because it was a fear they'd exploited more than once.
Because it works. Man won't break, won't give in, doesn't fear pain or death? Fine. But bring a loved one into it...
Shit, but his head ached. Kasoria massaged his temple and Rorak cleared his throat, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.
"Boss is waiting for you. You sure you want to-"
"He needs to make a decision," Kasoria said, stumping past the man with Finn in tow. "Don't matter how he's feeling."
"F'you say so, mate..."
The hulking minder reached out and rapped his thick knuckles on the office door. A bark of command snapped out from behind it and it opened, revealing a similar giant staring down at them. Kasoria he recognized, but the boy...
"He's with me. Need to-"
"That Kas? Get in here!"
There was a stage wince from behind him and Kasoria refused to let Rorak bait him. Billy let them both in and closed the door, revealing a tastefully expensive office and a solid-looking mane with a head of white hair behind his desk. He looked up from the note he was reading and sat back in his chair. Before Kasoria had even stopped moving, he tossed it across the polished wood.
"What did I tell you? Hmm? What were my words?" Bangun Vorund resembled little more than a bubbling pot with the lid on the verge of flying off. He was gripping the arms of his chair, tightening and loosening, looking like he would have dearly loved a throat or five to replace them. "I needed those cunts alive
, so they could pay me. I did not
want a house full of fucking corpses
"Yes! He's fucking dead!" The older man swept to his feet and that smoldering stillness vanished. He banged a fist down onto the table and with a slick metal click!
a hidden blade up his sleeve snapped out half-a-foot into view. Pointing at both killer and boy. "Fucking dead with his throat cut open, you idiot
Much as he didn't enjoy being lambasted for something he didn't do, Kasoria could have sighed with relief. Only cut he made on that fat bastard was below the waist. Recent history flashed through his mind, even if he wasn't there to view it. Someone came around in the breaks after Finn and him left, waltzing past security that was either fled or dead, and finishing off Waddling Wattle.
Shame. Would have been a good street name.
"I didn't kill him."
"What? Then who in the hell-"
Billy stood silent like an obelisk, amazed as always that of all the people that Mister Vorund let interrupt him, this raggedy little turd was one of them. Anyone else would get a fist around the face or someone like him breaking their fingers, but Vorund let his fury get derailed. He pushed the blade back in its mechanical sheath, and leaned forward on his knuckles. Drinking in the precious words his pet killer had to offer him.
"Crew called "The Rues" were planning to ambush Wattle tonight, using this
message." He nudged Finn. "Hand it over." He continued as Finn did as he was told, Vorund snatching it out of his hand without a glance. "Boy told me as much. And he said the man who runs them-"
See, this is why he's the boss.
"Aye, him, planned it to make you look bad. Make people think you can't guarantee protection anymore."
He didn't need to say anything else. So him and the boy and Billy just stood there, waiting for the volcano to explode. No noise save for the men downstairs, hammering crates closed and opening new ones. Kasoria was willing to bet that most of what happened on the property was, in fact, legitimate business. Vorund had been running his rackets for twenty years, but what was all that profit if you couldn't spend it? So it was reinvested, laundered, plowed into other businesses, property, stock ventures... anything that made clean money.
But there was always the chance there were other shades to the picture. Vorund wasn't a man to shirk away from... re-purposing somewhere that had storage space, security, a flowing inventory and, most importantly, smack in the Commercial Ring. Where the real
"So he's having a fucking go, is he?"
"Yes." He knew his master. Vagaries and soothing words would be like water on a fat fire at that moment. "Your orders?"
Vorund blinked, looked his killer up and down. The crutch and the sweaty complexion were not encouraging. But if he was dismayed or doubting, it didn't show on that craggy face. Instead he straightened up, and walked around the table. Kasoria had been his man for eight arcs. Scores of men had died at his hand, at Vorund's command, and many had tried to kill him, before and after. The assassin had been wounded more times than Vorund could remember, and if he was healed enough to walk around (well, more or less), then he'd survive.
Little bastard's just too stubborn to die.
"I'm not wasting you, Kas," he said, crossing his arms, voice calmer, a model of control after the inferno he'd been spewing earlier. "You'll heal up, good as you were this morning, but that'll take a while, and this needs to be handled now
. See this?" He held up the note he'd been reading when they entered. "From a courier. Arrived about a break before you did. Word is out
, and I already look bad."
Kasoria knew it all made sense. It was the smart play, and if he were Vorund... yes, he could see the logic of it. You didn't ruin a reliable tool on a task you knew it wasn't fit for. But even repeating that in his mind made his hands clench into fists. The logic didn't matter, the reasons didn't matter, this was still his
job and it wasn't finished.
"Don't even bother, Kas. I can hear your wheels turning." A corner of Vorund's mouth turned up, somewhere between mocking and understanding. "You ain't the only hitter out there, and you know it. Wattle was behind locks and bolts. These Rues cunts are in... where was it, Billy? Northwest on the Outer?"
"Yes, boss. Some gutted shithole, I think. They might have moved."
He shrugged, and Vorund aped the gesture. It didn't matter. If a burned-out shop was their idea of a fortress, then his idea of a besieging army could be equally... unsubtle. A dozen apes with steel and axes would do the job; no need for a sly mind like Kasoria. The crime boss stepped around the table and looked the man over. Blood had stained through patches of his clothes. His eyes were steady, no hint of Randolf's herbs and powders clouding them... but he was tired. Wounded. Body still binding itself back together, and on top of all that.
"You smell like dogshit."
The little man mirrored his almost-simile. "I know."
"Who's the kid?"
Kasoria breathed in and turned to Finn. Both older men peered down at him like wolves at a lamb... or maybe marketeers who'd stumbled across some delightful item they needed to appraise. The killer scratched under his beard and shrugged.
"Boy got me to Randolf's. Stuck by me when I was under. Told me about Rues and Silvester. He's got a girl with 'em, too." He plowed on and ignored the suddenly-frantic expression on the urchin's face. Kasoria had precious empathy as it was, and he didn't waste it on children he'd never even met. It was out of his hands, anyway. Vorund was the hand, he was the blade. Such as it had always been. "Betty, or something. Any road, he wants her safe, and I thought you'd might have a use for him."
"Did he hand over that letter?"
"Nah. Randolf nicked it from him."
"Huh!" Vorund have a huff and nodded with an appreciation Finn wasn't expecting. "Loyal. If you don't have that in your boys, you ain't got shit. But he told you about Sil and The Rues?"
"Save his girl, I'm guessing. Long as she's safe, he's happy."
Vorund nodded and gave an "ah" of understanding, like a man being shown how to do a magic trick. "Good to know... good to know..."
The two of them kept exchanging words, this cold dialogue that denied him a voice, refused to even acknowledge him. He wasn't a person, and neither was Betty. He was something being weighed and measured, like a horse with good breeding but thus far untested. As he looked up and dared to hope, he would see no hint of sympathy in Kasoria's face. He didn't so much plead his case, as relayed the relevant facts. What Vorund did with them, well...
Thanks for Jade for the template