The story so far:
IT had been a long time since he had done a hit, Nomo thought to himself as he drove to the destination. Too long.
But that was about to change.
Nomo felt a thrill quicken his blood as he guided his Mercedes to a smooth stop beside the curb, the brakes giving a last, small squeak of protest. He turned off the headlights and killed the engine. Outside, the cold Chicago night was quiet and still. Only the pale glow of the moon, splashing across the silvered gray asphalt of the street and glinting from the edges of parked cars, tempered the blackness of the night.
Inside the car, the silence was broken by Nomo's heavy, excited breathing as his mind spun with anticipation. How weel I keel heem? he thought. Slowuhlee? Watch dee **** beg fo' hees life? Maybee Veneezuelan neckuhtie! Nomo visualized his favorite form of torture for a moment- intestines pulled tight around the neck, testicles stuffed into his mouth as he gasped for breath... O', shoul' it be uh fast? Sudden. Bang Bang! Chop Chop! He Dead Now! Very uh Clean! Suhweet...
No. It woulduh bee slow, Nomo decided with a dark chuckle. As uh slow as uh posseeble. Nomo's left hand crept down to his crotch and began to massage the area, which throbbed pleasurably.
But first thing first. Nomo took a deep breath to focus his mind. There would be time for the fun stuff soon enough, he promised himself. Outside, the street appeared empty, most of the residents asleep inside their homes. Nomo's hand slid into the pocket of his coat and squeezed the firm grip of the snub nosed .38. The cool hilt of a switch blade pressed against the back of his hand as well. He had everything he needed. It was time.
Nomo pushed open the car door. The annoying dings of the door-ajar alarm sounded and the interior lights flared to life even as the cold air rushed in, crystallizing his breath and stinging his eyes. For a moment, the pale light lent Nomo's sharp features a repulsive, demonic look. His heavy facial bones seemed to protrude grotesquely under the skin and his black eyes smoldered with perverted hungers.
He stepped out of the vehicle. The crunch of the gravel beneath his hard-soled shoes carried out into the dry air. A moment later the door clapped shut behind him, cutting off the alarm and dousing the lights. The silent depths of the night returned in full.
Nomo flipped the thick hair from his eyes and his thick red lips twisted into a smile.
He began to limp towards the house.
THEY only sent one?
Luke watched Nomo from the cool embrace of the shadows between the houses. The small Asian man appeared highly unprofessional. He was too excited, his eyes darting everywhere but seeing nothing. He walked with a pronounced limp as he crossed the street.
But appearances could be deceiving. Perhaps he was a decoy or his mannerisms a ruse. Never take chances. Luke scanned the night for another car. Backup. But his peculiarly pale blue eyes, the shade of blue tinged snow, could find nothing. They returned to Nomo as the squat Asian limped up the front of the house.
Luke began to move. His feet slid across blades of grass and asphalt without sound or trace. If his movements had been seen by anyone, they would have found them strange- almost too graceful to be those of a man, but assuredly those of a predator. An intelligent predator. Something that hunted the night. But no one saw him.
Nomo slipped through an unlocked window on the side of the house, surprisingly agile. He barely made a sound.
A moment later, Luke followed behind.
He made no sound at all.
DINA splashed water into her face.
Her temporary cool had evaporated. Now, her guts hurt. She didn't like it. Uncertainty twisted mercilessly inside of her. What the Hell was she doing? For a moment she caught her own image in the bathroom mirror. Haggard. Drained. Little remained of the beauty she had once been. The taste of cum lingered in her mouth. The taste was too familiar.
Reflexively she turned off the harsh bathroom light. She looked at herself in the mirror now, lit only by the gentle red glow spilling in from the bedroom. She was still beautiful in the shadows, she noted. For whatever that was worth.
She took a deep breath only to have it shudder raggedly in her chest. She clenched a fist, fighting the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her, and then picked up the Beretta lying on the bathroom counter. It felt ugly and strange in her hand. But she dared not leave it.
She had never been this scared in her entire life.
She stepped softly back into the bedroom. Heath lay stretched out on the bed, his strong jawed face soft in slumber, limbs akimbo in an unconscious sprawl. Dina knew she should bind him or handcuff him. But she could not do it. Heath was shot and unconscious, blood still seeping through the bandage on his shoulder. But Heath was also a stone cold killer. He was not really human anymore in her eyes. He was a living weapon. He was death.
She could no more bring herself to touch him now than to kiss a black cobra on its scaly cold lips. Not after she had crossed him.
How many times had she felt the heady mix of attraction and pure fear electrify her as his hands carressed her body? The knowledge that those same soft, skilled hands, had only hours before killed men had made her want him more than ever in some sick primal way. That mix of death and passion had been intoxicating for so many years. So many nights had passed with his strong body wrapped around her, his chiseled frame seemingly invulnerable to the dangers and fears of mortal men. And somehow, with Heath wrapped around her, she had felt as if she possessed some of that unholy strength. She had feared nothing when death himself had held her in his embrace.
But never again would she feel that way, she knew.
What had she done? Anxiety whirled inside her. What if they did not come? What if Heath woke too soon?
Heath lay deep in drugged slumber, but Dina felt her heart begin to race as she looked at him. Somehow, despite the drugs she had slipped him, a certainty began to grow deep within her that it would not be enough. How many men had he killed? How many women?
Dina paced the length of her bedroom. Her palms sweated, the gun felt heavy to her slender arm. But her eyes stayed glued to Heath as the certainty of impending death at his hands began to take root. She pointed the gun at him for a moment, the barrel shaking in her trembling hand, and then averted it, as the fear that somehow he would sense this motion swept through her. As if his instincts for survival would motivate his unconscious body to defend itself.
She stopped pacing and stepped closer, to the side of the bed. Heath lay still, eyes closed. Only his shallow breathing and the faint rhythm of a pulse at his neck betrayed the fact that he still lived at all.
Dina stared fixedly down at the man she absolutely feared. At the man she absolutely loved. Dear God... what have I done?
She heard the footsep behind her too late to turn around.
A knife pierced all the way through her shoulder, twisted, and ripped down through her arm. The ferocity and quickness of the attack was impossible for Dina's mind to assimilate. She couldn't even feel the pain. It was unreal. The Beretta fell uselessly from her spasming fingers. A primal scream ripped from her throat but a strong hand clamped across her mouth, splitting her lips into bloody mush even as it stifled the scream into a muffled cry. For the briefest of moments Dina felt that somehow Heath had done this- that even as she had looked down upon him, he had used some dark sorcery to get behind her and wreak his vengeance.
But it was not Heath.
Dina struggled savagely for survival, bucking back, her screams muted by the strong hand. The knife continued to do its work and she felt its thirsty edge cutting her flesh, leaving trails of icy agony across her back as it slid and danced across her skin. The pain suddenly filled her being, making up for its absence during the initial shock. Dina's fingers scrabbled across the dark overcoat of her attacker as she struggled to pull the hand and arm away from her face, but her right arm was mangled. Her nose filled with snot and blood as she sucked in air frantically.
Dina's wide-stretched eyes fell on Heath's face. As the cruel hand chocked back her screams she could only stare at Heath, only a few feet away. PLEASE! WAKE UP HEATH! Dina willed her dark lover to awaken. To arise and do what he did best.
Heath continued to drift onward in a dreamless slumber.
The knife sliced into her again... and again... and again...
NOMO grunted as he struggled with the woman. Everything was going so much better than planned. He had not believed his luck when he caught a glimpse of the scene inside the room. The target was passed out on the bed, drugged, and only some stupid bitch with a gun stood between him and a night of delicious pleasure. Rape had not even entered his mind until he had seen the bitch standing there in her nightgown. A ripe fruit waiting to be plucked.
A thorny fruit.
The whore bucked back and Nomo cursed as she bit into his hand. "You uh fu-keen beetch!" Nomo stabbed her deep in the back of the thigh and ripped upward with all of his strength. He had been careful to only wound her superficially up that point. He wanted her to last.
But now the blade slid through inches of flesh, blood spraying deliciously into the air. But the tip of the blade knicked bone. The blood-slicked hilt twisted from his grasp and tumbled across the floor. Distracted, Nomo's other hand slipped from the bitch's mouth and a gut wrenching shriek ripped into the night.
Nomo slammed a vicious elbow into the back of the whore's neck. Her cry cut off instantly as she fell to the floor in a twitching, bloody, heap. Nomo paused, breathing in short, ragged pants as he collected himself. He pushed his thick locks of sweat-soaked hair out of his face. His hand trembled from exertion.
Murder was strenuous work.
Nomo swallowed as he finally caught his breath. His face wrinkled into a huge grin and he clapped his hands together vigorously, in the short fast manner of an excited child. "Gooo! Goooo! Oh so goo. Dees going to uh bee goo night fo Nomo now!"
The whore groaned on the ground, barely conscious. Nomo looked at her critically for a moment as blood pooled around her body. He had not severed any arteries or veins, but she was bleeding heavily. However, she would last long enough. Nomo looked at Heath. He still lay perfectly still, splatters of fresh blood flecked across his face. The bitch's blood. Nomo licked his lips. So much for the dangerous superhero. "I wait fo you to wakeuh up, befo' we puhlay."
Nomo looked back to the whore and his heart skipped a hard beat. Her hand had inched towards the Beretta. He was rusty. "Oh no Babeee. No No No." Nomo kicked her brutally, the feeling of his shoe sinking into her soft gut as thrilling as the hot wetness of sex on his shaft. He bent over and picked up the Beretta. His bloody left hand stroked his crotch as he leaned in close to Dina. "We going to uh play alluh night! You anduh me you uh fukeen beetch."
Nomo stood back up and turned around to retrieve his knife. He was going to need it.
A man stood there. Horrifying eyes, like chips of white ice set in a granite face. Nomo's breath caught in his chest. Stunned. No one was that quiet. Nothing was that quiet. But the man was there, appeared from nothing. A ghost. Tall and lean, with hard features and dark, sleek hair. Nomo barely registered the fact that the man had picked up his lost knife before the man stabbed him with it. Nomo felt the blade bite deep into his flesh.
Nomo squeezed off a shot with the Beretta, the deafening clap of noise in the small bedroom ringing his ears even as the air was scorched with the scent of gunpowder. But the blade only sped up as the man twisted like a live wire. He seemed to wear smoke around his form, defying the eye as his hands blurred through motions in an instant it would have taken Nomo minutes to perform. There was no time for pain. No time for a second shot. Nomo felt only pressure as the knife sliced away his fingers, eviscerated his bowels, and liberated a chunk of his face in the single blink of an eye. The smoking Beretta clattered to the ground, accompanied a moment later by Nomo's fingers.
The man stepped back, eyes resting on Nomo. Nomo blinked and looked down. He watched as his own guts began to slide out of his body. Without thinking he calmly placed his fingerless right hand into the slick tubes of entrails as if he could stop the life and flesh from spilling from his body. Where had he put his .38? Oh yes. Nomo reached awkardly across his body and struggled to reach into his right coat pocket with his left hand.
The man stepped forward again and the knife sank into Nomo's crotch. There was a feeling of pressure, and then a hot searing pain as the Nomo was castrated by a practiced flick of the wrist. The man pressed forward, pushing Nomo back. Nomo offerred little resistance. All of his usual fight drained by the shocking circumstance. His bad leg buckled awkwardly as he stepped on one of Dina's outstretched arms, but the man held Nomo up, almost tenderly. The mysterious killer's face was close enough to Nomo for him to feel its warmth tickle his neck. It smelled of mint.
Nomo felt the edges of his vision go dark. "**** you beetch," he whispered to his killer. But the man said nothing. The pain began to fade quickly. Nomo forgot what he was struggling to do. Something about a .38. He blinked slowly, his chest full of pain as his heart gave up trying to pump in a bloodless husk of meat. At the last, he remembered Venezuela. They had called him the Venezuelan Asian. He had told his father that he was going to rule the world someday...
Luke grunted and tossed Nomo's corpse to the side. He stood for a long silent moment surveying the carnage. The woman was going to need bandages. She had two bad wounds, the rest were superficial. He wasn't sure how she fit in, but he would need to keep her alive long enough to figure it out.
Luke began to move, but he paused immediately. He looked down for a moment, surprised. Then he snorted in amusement, and took another look at Nomo's corpse on the ground, as if reassessing him.
Then quickly, with the precise movements of a professional, he got to work.
He began by heaving Heath over one shoulder.
IT was cold. He was sitting alone in a parked car. And his mouth tasted terrible.
Heath's thoughts were muddled and thick. The line between consciousness and sleep was blurry, nonexisten. He was not sure how long his eyes had been open or how long his thoughts had made sense. But he was aware now. He instinctively fought through the haze, his eyes struggling to focus.
Memories came back reluctantly. The hits. The shootout at the diner. Dina. The stupid bitch drugged me, he rememberd. ****.
Heath's head rolled around as he blinked his eyes rapidly. How long had he been out? The thick blue light of dusk, just touched with the crimson of sunset, shone through a dirt streaked front window. He was buckled into the passenger seat. The car- a four door Camry with a scuffed black interior- was pulled onto the side of the interstate, the driver nowhere to be seen. Instinctively he knew it was a rental. Something that he would get on a hit. Something low key. Reliable.
Heath looked around. Wherever he was, he was in deep ****.
The gruesome sight of Dina's savaged body, prone in the backseat, was like a physical blow to Heath's chest.
"Dina!" Heath struggled to unbuckle himself, but his shoulder had stiffened into a Hellish pain and his fingers were still clumsy from drugs. He took quick short breaths to ward off the nausea as he freed himself and stumbled out of the car.
The world swam around him as he staggered to the back door. The interstate was serene, a cold wind blowing over withered, straw-colored grass into the distance on both sides of the road. The icey air helped cut through the cobwebs as he fumbled with the door and pulled it open.
Dina's white nightgown was stained dark with dried blood. Someone had bandaged up the huge gashes that covered her body. The worst wound was a terrible gash in her thigh, deep, to the bone. Heath took hope that her chest still rose and fell in shallow, rapid breaths, but only just barely.
"Dina. What happened?" Heath leaned over her, but her face was pale and drawn. Unconscious There wasn't much time. Blood loss would kill her if he didn't get her help, soon.
"You know," the voice said behind him, "I could have saved her."
Heath turned around. The pain in his shoulder vanished. Everything receded as the world warped into tunnel vision and he stared at the man standing before him.
Luke. His brother.
He stood there nonchalantly, dressed all in gray as he was wont to do. Same dark hair as Heath. Same strong jaw. Same slicked back salon style. But leaner, taller, stronger. And his pale, frozen eyes. A feral energy emenated from his very presence. A silenced pistol hung casually in his right hand.
"Calm down. I didn't do that." Luke nodded in Dina's direction. "Some other guy. This time I saved your life. Don't ask me how I found you. Don't ask me why. Just know that I did."
Heath shifted slightly, on edge. Luke was too fast. He couldn't close the distance in time. Not drugged. Not with the bullet hole in his shoulder. Luke had always been faster. Ever since the beginning of it all.
Luke chuckled, his deep voice turning the chuckle into a rumble of sorts. "You don't believe me?" He smiled and removed his left hand from his stomach. A gaping wound as big as a fist yawned wide open. Blood had soaked the front of his gray sweater into a dark black mess. "You don't really think I did something as inelegant as this to myself, do you?"
Heath remained silent. He didn't know what to believe anymore. His right hand slowly slid down his body, seeking a weapon of its own accord. But there was none. "What the Hell is going on Luke? What do you have to do with this?"
Luke laughed, seemingly unperturbed by the blood that dribbled from his lips. "I don't really think I know little brother." His right hand raised the pistol to his head and rested it against his brow. His eyes crinkled at the edges with laughter as he grinned into the distance. "I don't think I've ever really known what I was doing." He shrugged. "Why did I wait to save your girlfriend? Was it in my nature? Or was I made this way?" He thought for a moment. "I don't know. But, I do think... I think I would feel better right now if I had stopped him before he cut her up."
Heath found his brother's eyes. Long forgotten memories surfaced. Before they had been initiated into the life. Before he had killed his own grandfather. Luke had been playing in the yard. They had laughed together then...
Luke appeared troubled by his thoughts more than the hole in his gut. "You know, I swear Heath. I really don't know why I didn't kill him faster. I was prepping. I was being cautious. Getting the layout. Waiting for the perfect moment. Just like we were taught. It just didn't occur to me." Luke licked his lips, a ghastly bloody sight. "It didn't even occur to me to save her. I wish- I think that at least it should have occurred to me, you know? That is what bothers me. I didn't have the choice. Because it didn't even occur to me to save her."
"Luke," Heath raised a hand in supplication. "What is going on? You've got to level with me."
Luke snorted. "What can I say Heath? How can I know what is going on? I can't seem to feel anything anymore." He reached a hand into the wound in his stomach and dug deep, as if it were numb. "I can't feel anything anymore. I know there is pain there. But I don't feel it... you know what I mean? I haven't felt much of anything in a long time."
Heath swallowed hard. His mouth had gone dry. "When... when did you go mad Luke?"
"The same time that you did little brother." A chuckle. "A long, long time ago."
Focus Heath. Survive. Keep it together. "Was it all you? Were you behind all of this?" Heath pressed. "Did you put the hit out on me?"
Luke paused, seemingly at a loss, and then laughed. "You don't seem that sharp today Heath. You think I saved you from my own hit? No. No. This whole thing is a mess. No Heath." Luke's smile fell from his face. "Father is dead. And Darkness has made his move."
The wide open interstate suddenly seemed closed in. Claustrophobic. Darkness... Cruel eyes. Merciless. Sadistic. Genius. The youngest of the brothers. Heath felt the first touch of fear he had felt in a long time. "I would have-"
"You would have heard? You were on assignment. It's over Heath. You're never getting out now. Darkness will come for you until the ends of the Earth." A thought seemed to strike Luke. "Perhaps further." His eyes focused back onto Heath. "He was coming for me too. I got away from a squad of hitters in Los Angeles. I guess he wants the throne all to himself..." Luke's voice faded. His eyes lost focus.
Heath looked again at the massive wound in Luke's stomach. Suddenly he understood why Luke had pulled over on the side of the interstate. Why he was rambling. It wasn't just another bullet hole. It wasn't just another scar. His brother was dying."
"Luke." Heath kept his voice steady. "We need to get you to a hospital. You and Dina."
Luke didn't seem to hear him. Blood loss, mixed with the arrival of death seemed to have induced a mania. His skin was pale and sweaty. His breathing was labored, his words too fast. "Dad is dead. The whole world... will die one day. You know, I didn't really have a plan. I just knew I had to find you. I had to have... we had to fight him together, you know. He is so evil." Luke pushed the silenced barrel of his gun into his own wound. Heath squinted against the sickening sight.
"But..." Luke continued, "look at me now. Not part of the plan. I wasn't fast enough. I forgot about the Beretta. Stupid Luke. Dad would be angry with me over something so simple... Dad. Kill the whole **** universe! That's what he would say. Before it kills you, right? Kill it. Kill it aaalllll!" He stumbled backwards.
"Luke! Goddamnit!" Heath felt a cold sweat prickle his entire body. He would have never believed it possible for Luke to lose it. In the back of his mind he knew why it bothered him. If Luke could lose it, so could he. He stepped forward. "Pull your **** together-"
Luke whipped around, his legendary grace apparent for a brief moment, before he stumbled again, the gun lurching towards Heath. "Did you ever think it could be different? Did you ever think it would end between any of us any other way?" Luke's eyes glistened with madness. He wiped the sweat from his clammy face and blinked several times. "You know what's about to happen, don't you? My dear, sweet, deadly little brother."
Heath understood his brother's cryptic words. His heart fell.
"It doesn't have to be this way," Heath replied. But somehow he knew Luke was right. There had never been any other future for any of them.
For a moment, sanity returned to Luke's eyes. They were dark and calm again. Intelligent. Luke had been the most physically gifted of them all. The fastest. The most agile. But he had never truly been tough enough. Dad hadn't been able to kill all of the goodness inside of him. Luke's eyes sought Heath's. "Remember this Heath. Use it. Kill him dead. You don't know what he's like now. He's become... a monster."
The wind fell still, as if holding its breath in expectation. The swaying of the winter grass rustled to a stop as the two brothers stood on the side of the road, mirror images of death incarnate.
Luke tossed the silenced pistol into the air. Heath caught it automatically. He thought about dropping it, but his instincts would not let him. "Luke. It doesn't have to be this way. Don't do this."
Luke mouthed the words their father had told them a thousand times, "Kill or be killed." He grinned, blood dripping from his lips. But his pale eyes knew only doom. Perhaps it was all they had ever known.
Luke pulled a snub nosed .38 from his pocket. He blinked slowly, his breath coming fast and rapid now. He slowly began to raise the gun towards heath.
Heath felt a strange animal whine come from his own throat and the world blurred as hot tears filled his eyes. "Luke no. Not like this. Don't make me do this."
Luke swallowed thickly. "I love you little brother." He raised his gun.
Heath leveled the Beretta at his brother, every instinct in his body screaming at him for him to fire. "Luke!"
Luke pulled the trigger.
Heath twisted, firing, instincts taking over.
The shot was perfect.
Heath stood for a moment. Quiet. Still. His face felt like an icy mask as he looked at his dead brother. Luke's eyes stared fixedly in the sky. In a sort of peace. The unloaded .38 had fallen from his limp fingers. Heath took a long moment to let the image soak in. He had seen so many men die. But never his own brother.
In the distance, the sound of an approaching car began to build.
Heath found the keys in the left pants pocket of his brother's corpse. He took a moment to close his brother's eyes, smooth his hair, and wipe his face clean of blood. Luke had been somewhat vain. He would not have wanted to be found with a dirty face.
He felt a faint sense of relief through the haze of unreality as the car came to life with a soft purr. He pulled onto the interstate with the sound of crunching dirt spitting out under the wheels and took off. He was at cruising speed in only moments.
Dina stirred behind him. "...Heath." Her voice was weak, fading fast.
"It's okay Dina. I'm going to get you to a hospital." Heath reached behind the seat with his free arm, the searing pain of the bullet hole ignored as he grasped Dina's cold, limp hand and held it tight in his grip. If he could just save Dina, Heath felt irrationally, it was almost as if he could somehow fix it all.
"I knew... I knew I shouldn't have crossed you," Dina whispered. "I knew I was going to die as soon as I did it. I'm sorry Heath."
"It's okay baby. Be quiet." The engine whined as Heath pushed it to its limits.
"Who is Darkness? I... heard..."
"He is my brother. Just be quiet Dina. You're going to make it baby." Where the Hell was he? Heath accelerated, his eyes peering through the approaching veil of twilight as he tried desperately to figure out where they were. His breathing quickened as every second seemed to thunder by. They were so far away from everything. Damn Luke for not going to a hospital. Damn him for giving up. Damn him for letting their father win. Damn them both to Hell!
"Heath. Do you think there is a God?" Dina's voice sounded stronger suddenly. But her fingers were still flaccid in his hand.
"Of course," Heath lied.
"Heath. Do you think I'm beautiful?"
"You are the most beautiful woman in the entire world, baby. I love you so much. Just hold on. Just... hold... on...."
Only silence answered him.
As the last rays of light died, Heath turned on the headlights.
Darkness had come.