If the soldier was searching for him, he wasn’t doing a very good job. Arlandra had by now gathered his tools, and he sat upon the balcony overlooking the dark empty street below. Without his hood, the cool night air kissed his cheeks and calmed him for the moments to come. At his feet was a roll of weapons, and from it he selected his sword, a small dagger, a smoke bomb, and an old favourite – his hidden and retractable pistol that he attached to his right forearm. The weapon was a beautiful mechanism that he built himself for quick mid-range kills. He’d simply flick his wrist for the gun to slide next to his palm, and then he’d use his thumb to pull back the trigger. He had gotten away with a lot of kills within crowds using such a weapon, and he had developed a very deep attachment to it.
With everything else prepared for, the time had come. Arlandra flicked on his hood and made sure it hid his face well. He stood straight and took a deep breath before pulling his mask over his nose. He always felt a comforting sense of security after doing that. Silently he left the room and made his way into the alley behind the building.
Arlandra checked the street. It was clear. Strange, he thought, that the soldier would leave the street unchecked. Arlandra suspected a trap, but he knew he could handle a few soldiers. The gallant soldier had non-discretely disappeared into the hotel lobby. Perhaps he wasn’t hunting an assassin, or maybe he was just protecting Garn. On feet light as feathers Arlandra glided across the dark street and made for the left side of the building. From there he used old pipes and window seals to scale the wall. After an easy climb, he lifted the window on Garn’s floor and stepped inside.
His feet sank into soft carpet and he inhaled a full breath of warm scented air. A single lantern lit the red hallway that was lined systematically with doors. When he last checked, Garn had gone to sleep. Arlandra still felt like he should turn away, however he had come too far for that now.
While preparing for the kill, the possibility crossed his mind that maybe the soldiers had come for Garn and not him, for whatever their reasons. If that was the case then he had to act fast.
The plan was to sneak into Garn’s room and kill him cleanly while he was sleeping and before the soldier could get to him first. If the soldier did arrive first, then Arlandra had decided that he would tail them for a while and then take Garn out from a distance. What he found as he neared the room, however, was not among his considerations.
Garn’s door was open. When Arlandra came to investigate, he found that the room was a mess. There were pieces of clothing on the floor, and a half-finished cup of coffee on the table. Garn had left in a hurry. Arlandra’s mind began to rush. Oh no. Not good. I should leave, now. But, this could be interesting. I haven’t lost yet. Where the hell is the soldier?
Arlandra checked the room. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard the feint hammer of footsteps before he entered. As he stood in the room, by the double-bed, he focused his hearing. He heard… breathing, and then realised that there was someone in the wardrobe by his side.
Garn? He wondered. No, Garn was too smart and too careful to hide in such an obvious place. The soldier, perhaps? Yes, the far window at the end of the hall was opened for Garn to escape and so it must be the soldier who lied in wait. Though the man who hunted him was right there Arlandra strayed from ending him; it was unnecessary for him to kill a man without being paid to do so. That’s how Arlandra lived.
The assassin did nothing to give his realisation away, and then, as he left the room, he casually slid a chair under the door knob of the wardrobe. The soldier was trapped for now.
Garn’s coffee was still steaming hot. He must be only a few seconds ahead. Garn had packed things, and Arlandra noticed a few items as well as the bag were missing. The wardrobe doors banged as the soldier fought against them – Arlandra was quick to leave him behind.
Impulsively he rushed out and made for the window on the right side of the hall. To his relief, as he looked down he saw Garn’s desperate figure leap from a long pipe lining the wall, onto a large square dumpster, and then to the ground where he paced very quickly down the alley. It was relieving to know that he was right. The soldier must have spooked him. Where are his friends?
Arlandra waited a moment and then followed Garn’s path down the building’s wall. He landed lightly on the dumpster and then sank into the shadows as he began to stalk his prey. He had only made it a few meters when out of the night’s chilling silence came the click of a cocked pistol. Arlandra felt ashamed at the revelation that the soldier from the desert had been hiding all this time in the dumpster behind him. And his ally was the one in the wardrobe.
Well played my friend, was the only thought that came to Arlandra’s mind, but he was not beaten yet, and he literally had a few tricks of his own hidden up his sleeve. He had stopped at the sound of the pistol, and with his back still to the soldier he discretely flicked his own pistol into his palm, and then slowly crossed his arms.
“I never had the chance to thank you for your generosity,” he teased. “I was going to return the horse, I promise.”
The soldier stepped forward, pistol in hand. “Shut up!” He snapped, “I should have known it was you – you’re a murderer. Now put your hands up.”
Murderer! Arlandra thought. That just won’t do. “No,” he said. “And I prefer the term ‘assassin’, if you don’t mind.” Arlandra watched Garn’s figure fade to black as he progressed through the alley. Garn’s time would come. He turned around and faced the soldier. He had new priorities now. Surviving. “I’d never have guessed that you were hidden away in the dumpster like that,” he continued. “Very sneaky.” He had to wait for the right moment to make his move. His thumb was rested lightly over the trigger on his pistol.
“You’re under arrest, by the Authority of the king of Taelliwey and his council.” The soldier took another step forward.
Arlandra delayed. “Arrest? Do you know me?”
“You are Taelliwey’s assassin,” the soldier answered sternly.
“A name earned for one kill. You know I have worked in other paces; Surra, Riftsire, Eden…”
“Shut up!” the soldier snapped again.
Good, he knows nothing about me. The thought soothed Arlandra’s worries.
“This area is completely surrounded by my people. There is no escape.”
You clearly don’t know me. The soldier took one last step forward. Arlandra waited. Now!
He fired his gun with his arms still relatively crossed. The bullet pierced a steam pipe that ran along the wall, and white burning clouds screamed out into the alley. The sudden burst of sound, light and steam was immensely disorienting, but nothing was visible in the steam cloud that he had just created.
Arlandra’s first instinct was to jump to the side, and in doing so he avoided receiving a bullet in the chest from the soldier. Finally the soldier’s companions showed themselves when they came to assist their man. Arlandra could not pick out their faces, or how many there were, but he knew he’d be able to escape them. In the mass of steam and dizzy confusion, he started to climb. He went up, and as the soldiers searched for him in the white hot void of steam, he ever so simply slipped back into the hotel’s red hallway.
The first thing he discovered was that his wardrobe captive had broken free and was moving from Garn’s room to attack him. The man was more like a boy – at least in the way he wielded a blade. Arlandra was too fast, and in a lightning action he drove his fist into the man jaw.
Without hesitation the assassin stepped away from the body and made for the elevator that led to the roof. Once again the soothing night chill kissed his cheeks and the blue twilight caressed his body. Like a moving shadow, Arlandra leaped from one building to the next, until he was far away from the commotion that he had caused. He knew he was safe now. It was a shame that Garn had escaped, but that was now of later concern.ns 184.108.40.206da2