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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||None Yet||N/A|
|To Kill a Man|
It's so funny how warped your perspective on something can become once you've seen it for what it really is. Ever since that fateful night I was brought into the Triple Threat Triad, I've seen quite a few of my favorite parts of Republic City a bit differently.
I can't walk by all of the quaint little shops anymore. It used to be I'd stroll by and smile at all of those adorable, hard-working old timers selling whatever it was they sold. Now all I see are a bunch of poor, unfortunate saps who are prone to getting the shit kicked out of them for not paying their 'protection' fees on time.
I can't stop by Yu Tin's Diner anymore either. I used to love eating there during special occasions. I'd go there every year for my birthday and treat myself to their roast duck which, by the way, is the best roast duck in the entire city. You haven't lived until you've tried that stuff. It's that fucking good. Now all I see is a place owned by sleazebags who have major connections with the Triple Threats. I only eat there now whenever it's a work-related dinner and I'm forced to go.
Tonight I'm having to go past all of these places as I walk through downtown. It's just my luck they're all on the route to where I'm heading.
And the worst part of all this is that now I hardly ever go to Gan's nightclub anymore. Ever since my encounter with Zolt, I've been too afraid to go back into that place. I'm worried some other triad enforcer is gonna be there and I'll end up picking a fight with him. And even worse, it may not even be a member of the Triple Threats. It could be one of those Red Monsoon guys or worse yet, one of the Agni Kais.
Kingpin Qin has a particular hatred for their leader, whose name I can't remember at the moment.
Tonight, however, I'm gonna try as hard as I can to go to Gan's and relax. That used to be where I was at my most comfortable and I'm hoping to channel some of those feelings tonight. I'm gonna need it. I was informed by Gun that today was my last time as an observer and that my first real assignment is tomorrow.
That's just great, isn't it? The day that I've been dreading ever since I got into this mess is finally here. I'm going to have to kill a human being. I've been called a lot of things in my life, but not a killer. I guess that'll change after tomorrow.
Sorry, but I'd prefer to just put all of that out of mind for the moment, if that's fine with you.
I approached the entrance of Gan's nightclub and went inside with extreme caution. Last time I was here, I was jumped by three punks from behind. I was going to make sure that this time, if any assholes came at me, I'd be ready. I may be a member of the Triple Threats now, but that doesn't mean I trust them.
I waded my way through the crowd of people, eyeballing them hard to make sure I didn't recognize any of them, until I plopped down in my usual seat at the bar towards the back of the club.
I saw Gan standing behind the bar a few feet away, cleaning a glass with a towel. His back was turned, so I decided to mess with him a bit. Suddenly my most childish, playful instincts kicked in and I spoke in my best seductive voice. "Ooh, so you're the famous Gan I've heard about who owns this place," I said. "You look even more handsome than I imagined."
Gan whipped his head around about as fast as a mongoose dragon chasing it's prey. You know, the way all men do when they hear an attractive woman say their name. I couldn't help, but take absolute delight in the mile-wide smile that took over his face once he saw it was me. He put down the glass he was cleaning and chuckled. "It's good to see you again, Song," he said. "How you doing, child?"
"I'm doing just fine at the moment, considering I get to see you again," I replied.
"Can I get you anything?" he asked.
"Scotch on the rocks," I answered. "Make it a double. I'm gonna need it."
"You got it," he said, making his way back to pour my drink. "So how come you say you're gonna need it?" he inquired.
Rather than give him the long run down of events that had occurred in my life over the past month, I decided to give him the short answer. "It's a long story."
"I've got time," he said, sliding me my scotch.
I picked up the glass and swallowed a sizeable portion of the scotch. Then, after a moment or two of pondering, I decided to spill the beans. I figured it was alright considering he already knew I was involved with the Triple Threats. Remind me to go into the details of that conversation another day.
"I'm going on an assignment tomorrow," I said. "My first real assignment. They're going to make me kill somebody."
Gan took a pause before speaking, mulling over his words carefully. He uncomfortably rubbed his mustache, clearly unsure of how to respond. "Damn," he said. "That's heavy duty."
"I know," I replied.
The awkward silence was slowly killing me by the second. I had to say something to justify what I was going to do tomorrow and I had to say it soon. I was afraid Gan was going to start judging me otherwise and that was something I wouldn't be able to handle. He was the only person I could always completely trust.
"Listen, Gan, I-" I began.
Gan interrupted me before I could finish. "It's not too late to skip town," he said. "You could run away from here and the triad would never catch you."
"You don't know that," I said. "And I'm not going to live my whole life in fear. Looking over my shoulder every second of every day, because I'm afraid someone might be a triad soldier. Besides, they may hurt you or my parents or someone else I care about as retribution and I can't allow that."
Gan looked at me with a defeated face. He knew there were no other options, but even still, he was desperately searching for one.
"Listen," I said. "Just promise me that no matter what I do, I can still talk to you." The unusual amount of emotion that leaked from my voice caused him to stiffen up like he was trying to hold back tears.
He clasped my hand in his and looked me dead in the eye. "I will always be here when you need me," he said. "You should know that by now."
I smiled and swigged down the rest of my scotch. "Thank you," I said. "Now, please, can we not talk about this for the rest of the night."
"You got it, child," he replied.
Twenty-four hours later, I was sitting in my apartment mentally preparing myself for what was about to happen. I figured it was best not to overthink it too much, but I still had to ready myself. My heart started beating ten times faster once I heard that knock on the door. It was time.
I got off my couch, threw on my coat, and opened the door to see Gun standing on the other side.
"Time to go," he said.
I nodded and stepped outside, locking the door behind me, and we made our way down the stairwell. I didn't want to seem too nervous in front of Gun, so I tried starting a casual conversation. "So, how has your day been?" I inquired.
Somehow, trying to hide the fact that I was worried gave me away just as well as not trying to hide it. A fact that Gun very plainly let me know.
"You don't have to try and act like this doesn't bother you," he said. "You wouldn't be human if it didn't."
It made me feel slightly better that I didn't have to keep up the hardened façade I was planning on slipping into tonight, but if there was one thing I knew about Gun at this point, it was that whatever he said next would pull me back into reality. And sure enough, that's what he did.
"However," he continued. "You're gonna have to get over that real quick, because there's no other option."
I hated him for a moment for reminding me of that all-too-grim fact, but he was right.
The next thing I knew, we were down on the first floor going out the back door towards his light-green Satomobile. I checked behind me to see if Yin was sitting in the back seat, as I had done every time I had gotten in that car since the night I met her, and saw she wasn't with us tonight.
Then Gun started up the car and pulled off of the curb, taking us wherever we were assigned to go.
"So at what point do I get to know where we're going before we start to head over there?" I asked, annoyed that after a month of this shit, I was still in the dark about all of our assignments.
"I meant to call you today," Gun replied. "I was tied up with something that shouldn't have taken as long as it did and I wasn't able to reach you. I came to your place right after I got finished."
"You didn't really answer my question," I pointed out.
"You'll have full disclosure on all of your assignments starting with your next one," he said.
"What if there's another time you can't reach me?" I asked.
"It won't happen again," Gun insisted. "I promise."
We rode in silence for about ten minutes until we finally arrived at a warehouse. It was a brick building that looked like it had been abandoned for at least a decade, which, to be fair, was better than the average run-down eyesore of a warehouse that looked like it hadn't been used for three times that long.
In the eleven seconds it took for us to walk into the warehouse, I thought of at least six separate things that could be awaiting me inside. None of them turned out to be correct. There were three men standing in the center of the room. One of them was a man dressed in a metalbender cop's uniform, tied to a chair with a swollen eye and blood gushing down the side of his face. The other two were the triad thugs beating him to death. One of them was a real bulky fella with a tattoo of a hawk on his arm and the other one was this really old fucker with a bald head and a thin, white beard who looked to be about ninety-years-old.
Just as we approached them, one of the thugs socked the cop in the face, causing him to let out an agonizing scream. "Who the fuck is it, you little shit?!"
"I told you!" The cop shouted. "I don't know!"
The bulky thug hit him again across the face, nearly knocking over the cop and the chair he was sitting in.
"I'd advise you to rethink that answer," Gun said as the two of us stepped into the center.
The three pairs of eyes all turned their gaze to us as Gan took center stage. He walked up to the cop and locked eyes with him as he spoke in his usual deadpan voice.
"Now I don't know how many times these guys asked you, but I'm only gonna ask you once. Somebody tipped off the cops about the hit tomorrow against the Agni Kais. Who was it?"
The cop said nothing as Gun continued to stare him down.
"Oh, spirits, did they break your jaw?" he questioned.
The cop shot Gun a confused look, followed by a simple, "What?"
"Oh, they didn't?" Gun went on. "Then why the fuck haven't you given me an answer yet?!" he hollered, scaring the living shit out of everyone in the room, including me.
With all his might, he shoved the chair into the ground, knocking the wind out of the cop and forcing him to take in a huge gasp of air.
"Fucking answer me!" Gun roared, igniting a flame in his hand.
Pissing himself with fear, the cop shrieked out the answer like a child crying after his parents discovered he did something wrong. "It was Yang! The head of the Pro-Bending League!"
The flame disappeared from Gun's hand and he took several steps away from the cop, who was now weeping on the floor. "That son of a bitch!" he shouted.
I was way too taken aback by Gun's outburst to even ask any questions. I'd been on seven assignments with this guy already, not including this one, and I had never ever seen him act that way before. I guess that's because I had never been with him during an interrogation before.
Before any one of us could say anything, Gun spoke up again. "Don't kill him boys," he said. "Song, sweetheart, it's time for you to get your hands dirty."
Are you fucking kidding me?! He actually expected me to muster up the will to do this thing I've been dreading after witnessing an outburst like that?! Second by second, the realization that I didn't have any more time to think about this hit me like a flurry of punches, each one more brutal than the last. I did as best I could to push my feelings of anxiety into the back of my head for a moment while I took two steps towards the cop.
I ignited a flame in my palm and prepared to open fire.
For a moment or two, I just stared down at the cop, who knew the end was coming and was now squirming all over the place, as if that would somehow help him survive a blast of fire from point blank range. All I could think about is if I was in his place. What would I be thinking? I'd be questioning how, out of all the turns my life could have taken, this was the one that ended up coming to pass. How unfair it was that it was me being brutally murdered by these triad hoodlums who weren't going to give my death a second thought.
Then, before I could come to the eventual conclusion that I had to kill this guy in order to survive, one of the thugs apparently decided he was tired of waiting and killed the poor guy himself, waterbending an ice spike through his eye. Gun stormed over to the bulky thug and decked him in the jaw, sending him slamming into the cold, hard ground. "Did I tell you to fucking attack him?!" he yelled.
"I was just-" the bulky thug said before being kicked in the stomach by Gun.
"Did I tell you to fucking attack him?!" Gun repeated.
"No!" the thug shouted.
Gun walked away from the waterbending thug and approached the old guy. "Clean this shit up, Lu," he ordered.
"You got it," said the old man, apparently named Lu.
"Come with me, Song," Gun said. I did as he instructed and followed him out of the warehouse.
The two of us got in the Satomobile and I asked obvious question number one. "What next?"
"We're gonna pay a visit to the Pro-Bending arena," Gun said.
Then onto obvious question number two. "You wanna tell me what all this shit is about?"
"The Agni Kais have been invading our turf recently," he elaborated. "We were gonna put a hit on one of their members. This asshole named Yai. He's a real hotshot who thinks he can muscle us out of our own territory. But somebody found out about it and tipped off the cops, so now we can't make any moves without them watching us."
"And the guy who owns the Pro-Bending League did it," I said.
"Yeah, I guess so," Gun responded. "Yang. I can't believe that cocksucker is working with the Agni Kais."
"So now we're gonna take care of him?" I asked.
"No. You're gonna take care of him."
That's exactly what I was afraid to hear.
Growing up, I always had such a respect for pro-benders. I would always compare myself to them whenever I got into a fight in the schoolyard, due to our shared ability to get back up after being hit.
And I'd always hear the team owners over the radio talking about how much they enjoyed bringing smiles to people's faces whenever they saw them attending a game. Who would've thought they were all crooks? I guess that all fits into the whole warped perspective thing I was talking about earlier.
Apparently, the pro-bending industry was filled to the brim with all kinds of people like Yang who were in deep with the triads and did all kinds of illegal shit. I still believed the players weren't in on it. I just had to believe that they weren't.
It was about ten o'candle at night when we waltzed up to the Pro-Bending Arena and made our way inside.
Almost everyone had gone home, but not Yang. Spirits only know what he was doing up there.
The ride up through the elevator was entirely silent until Gun said something to me. "I know you're probably mad at me for asking you to kill that cop after I shocked you like that," he said.
This guy could read me like a damn book. It was actually kind of infuriating.
"But that's how it's gonna be most of the time," he continued. "Whenever you kill someone, it's gonna be hectic. Whether it's a shootout or a one-on-one fight, it's gonna be chaotic and you'll have to do it in that chaotic environment. You won't have time to think."
I was tempted to point out to him that after tonight, there would be two separate incidents where that wasn't true at all, but in the long run, it wouldn't change his mind. He had been in this game for far longer than I had and if he believed that at this point in his career, then I wouldn't be able to just sway his opinion with a sassy remark.
We finally reached the top floor and got off the elevator. We stood facing a long hallway with a door at the end of it that had Yang's name on it, then started to walk towards the door.
This is it. I thought. I'm about to take my first life.
"You ready?" Gun asked.
I nodded and took a deep breath.
Gun kicked down the door and hurled a blast of fire at the wall. "Get down on the ground!" he yelled.
The man in the office ducked down behind his desk to avoid any more blasts.
The two of us ran over to the desk, each of us going to a different side in order to corner him.
As I saw him cowering on the floor, I noticed he was a lot older than I was expecting. Probably in his early sixties. He was mostly bald with some white hair on the sides. He just looked like the kind of guy who would be involved in something like this.
"Please don't kill me!" he pleaded.
"Whether or not you live depends on your answer to the following question: did you tell the cops about the hit we were planning on a member of the Agni Kai Triad?" Gun demanded.
"Yes, yes!" Yang said.
"Then we've got nothing to talk about," Gun said. "Do it, Song."
"Wait, wait!" Yang begged. "I'm not loyal to the Agni Kais!"
"What do you mean you're not loyal to the Agni Kais?" I asked.
"I had to protect Yai!" Yang said, on the verge of tears. "I had to. He's... he's my son!"
"Yai is your son?" Gun repeated.
Gun took a pause before saying anything more. "Bullshit," he spat. "How come nobody knows your son is a member of the Agni Kais?"
"Why do you think?!" Yang replied. "Can you imagine what it would do to my business if people found out my son is involved with the triads?! Besides, he doesn't want people to know! He and Khan are both afraid if anyone knew, that I'd be an easy target!"
Gun's expression changed dramatically upon hearing that last sentence. "What the fuck did you just say?" he asked.
"Oh, spirits," Yang said. "I've said too much."
"Did you just say Khan is your son?" Gun queried.
Gun motioned for me to follow him to the door and walked over himself. I went over and joined him, curious as to who they could possibly be talking about now.
"This changes everything," he said. "If Khan really is Yang's son, then we can't kill him."
"Who the fuck is Khan?!" I shouted, having been interrupted for the second time tonight while trying to focus on killing someone.
"He's the underboss of the Agni Kai Triad," Gun explained.
The seriousness of what nearly occurred struck me as I grasped the repercussions we would have faced for killing the father of a triad underboss. I'm glad Yang distracted me from doing my duty, because if he hadn't, we would have faced all-out war with the Agni Kais.
"So we can't kill him," I reaffirmed.
"No, but we can't just let him leave either," Gun said. "He'll tell them everything."
The two of us spent a moment considering the possibilities that still existed. Was there any way we could resolve this quietly? There had to be. Otherwise, I'd be partially responsible for the death of not just one person, but of countless triad members. Then again, would that really be such a bad thing? I mean, these guys were the scum of Republic City. It would probably only help improve the city of some of the higher ups were killed in the resulting carnage. Then again, the civilian casualties would probably skyrocket as well. That wasn't an option.
Then the lightbulb finally went off in my head. "What if we just take him hostage?"
Gun stopped thinking and looked at me, having found renewed hope that this could end well. "That's a possibility," he said. "But sooner or later, Khan is gonna find out that his father is missing."
"We can have Yang call up his son and tell him he's leaving town for a few days," I said. "All we need to do is hold him until we can figure out a plan."
Gun looked back at the frightened, old man, then back at me. "Okay. Let's do it."
We both walked back over to Yang and held our hands out like we were prepared to bend.
"Okay, you're coming with us," Gun informed him. "But first, you're gonna make a phone call to your son telling him you're going out of town for a few days."
Yang nodded and slowly picked up the phone.
"Try anything and you're dead," Gun added.
Yang dialed the number and put the phone up to his ear. All we could hear was his side of the conversation, with pauses in between. "Hi, son, it's me. I'm doing well. Listen, the stress of the pro-bending season is really getting to me. I think I'm going to go out of town for a few days. Of course. I just wanted to let you know. Okay. I will. Thank you. Goodbye." He hung up the phone and raised his hands in the air.
We led him all the way back downstairs and drove away with him in the Satomobile.
Khan was sitting in his office, having just sent for several of his associates to come to him. It was clear he was nervous about something, but no one knew what.
Three men entered the room. One of them his younger brother, Yai, the other two his enforcers. There was Mao, a stocky man in an overcoat with a thick accent and black hair with silver streaks scattered across it, and Saru, a middle-aged man with short, dark hair.
"Hey, what do you need us for?" Yai inquired.
Khan leaned forward and addressed his subordinates. "Something is wrong with my father," he said. "And I'm going to find out what."
- The character of Khan was inspired by the character, Sonny Corleone, from The Godfather. His name is a reference to James Caan, the actor who portrayed him.
- The character of Mao was inspired by the character, Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero, from The Sopranos. His name is taken from the Chinese word for 'pussy'
For the collective works of the author, go here.