miércoles, 11 de marzo de 2015

The Shadow

   Weapon of choice? Well, he never really needed one. Every single job he was asked to do, he did it with his hands. He had learned most martial arts techniques and many other ways to kill without the use of weaponry. It was dangerous when he encountered armed victims, but nothing that speed and wit couldn’t solve. People were always scared when he appeared, apparently out of nowhere. He was practically and urban legend, the silent assassin. His real name was Gideon.

 But that name had been long forgotten, as he was not that person anymore. Now, he only went by his nickname, Shadow. It suited him, as every person that hired him knew of his skills and ability to make anyone his victim. Not even the strongest or smartest had escaped. He collected bounty for his work and disappeared, never working for the same person more than once in a year. If he was to attract the attention of the authorities, he had to keep his outings to a minimal.

 The rest of the time, he just kept on training and lead a quite life away from all the turmoil of the city. Thanks to his grandparents, he owned a farm, which sold milk and other diary products to local stores. In the farm, he lived only with the animals and no one else. He had decided, long ago, that he didn’t want to endanger anyone else due to his secret life. Besides, he had never felt a connection with anyone so pulling the plug on romance and a relationship wasn’t all that difficult.

 One night, the Shadow was hired to kill a corrupt policeman hat had escaped justice for too long. The wife of a fellow policeman had hired him for the job, as her husband lay in a bed in the hospital, in a coma, due to the actions of his former partner. The Shadow located him fast, in a warehouse, where he was supposed to receive payment for his help from a criminal group. He wouldn’t be able to attack right there but he would follow the subject quietly and then kill him away from all the fuss.

 But that wasn’t possible. The moment the man arrived at the warehouse, he was ambushed by many criminals and finally killed by a shot on the head. The Shadow, seeing something was off, was about to leave silently but then he realized the place had been sealed and then a hoarse voice called at him. Knowing he had nowhere to go, the Shadow remained where he was and asked the voice who had hired them.

 Then, someone else appeared from behind two thugs. It was the woman that had hired him to kill the man that was now lying on the floor, his brain all over the place. The woman identified herself, and her husband, as the head of a criminal organization. She had hired the Shadow to capture him and not to kill anyone. He thought of his chances but knew he wouldn’t be able to defeat so many men, without at least one pulling out a gun and killing him. He asked then, what it was that she wanted.

 The woman, called Helena, told him that he had killed his son a year ago. He really didn’t need any more information than this because he knew who it had been. A young man who he had been hired to kill related to a rape. He proceeded to tell the woman about this but she refused to listen, telling him the man who had hired him was dead, as well as his lying daughter. The Shadow then asked her to kill him fast because he didn’t like to chat without reasons to do so. But the woman kept telling him that she wanted revenge, because her husband had been shot in pursuit of him, only a few weeks ago.

 Fed up with it, the Shadow decided to engage the men. He was too fast for most of them, although a couple of bullets burned his skin. He finally toppled down one of the men, took his gun and shot Helena straight to the head. With the same gun he downed another couple of guys and, as they regrouped, he broke a large window and escaped through there. He never knew how but he made it back to his home, sleeping in the barn instead of the house. If he had been followed, they look there first and he would notice.

 But no one came. He woke up to the licking of one of the cows and decided to cure himself in the bathroom. They were only scratches so it was rapidly done. He decided to lay low for a couple of weeks or more, in order not to attract attention and destroy both his lives. The radio news informed about the incident in the warehouse and attributed it to a dispute between criminal groups. They also informed of the detention of several policemen and others related to the criminal gang.

 The Shadow, who went by the name of Barney in this town, decided to turn of the radio and instead work on his animals. He spent all day grooming them, changing their spaces and giving them fresh new food. He even had time to fix one of the milking machines that had not been working correctly. He did that for the following months, never suiting up again in order to take on a mission. He had enough money now and didn’t need to kill anyone else to live decently until the day he died.

 Anyway, Barney had other dreams. He wanted his products to be sold all over the country and, honestly, he wanted a life of peace. The incident in the warehouse made him realize that he couldn’t afford putting his life at risk for reasons unknown anymore. It just wasn’t worth it. So he put it all behind and, for a good year, he was at peace with himself and the world. He hired new employees to help in his small factory and the business grew better and wider, buying more cows and buying new equipment. It was all going too good.

 One night, after closing the factory, Barney decided to go through the books and check his financial state. He did it every week because it distracted him. The people working for him were well paid and were all every honest and trustworthy but he just needed to be distracted by something. Too often, before going to bed, he recalled all of those times he had killed people. It was something awful to live with; even been convinced that most of them deserved their deaths. The others were just victims and he did know he was a murderer.

 Then, after he had finished doing the numbers and he recalled one more murder, he heard a knock downstairs, in the small store he had put up. Maybe it was the wind but the knock sound grew louder and it was obvious someone was there. He went downstairs but did not open, instead going through the back to surprise his nighttime guest. He grabbed a shovel to do so but was himself surprised when it was a young girl, who screamed like crazy when he almost slammed the shovel on her head.

 She started talking loud, like crazy, saying many words in a single second. Barney lowered the shovel and tried to calm her down, asking her why she was there. Asking her if there was some kind of problem. She shook her head negatively and said she had come to speak to him. Taking a look around, Barney invited her inside through the back door, to the kitchen. He poured some tea on two cups and told her to speak freely.

 The girl then told him her name was Florence. She had been looking for him for the last couple of years. As she put it, she was a clever girl and put it various clues together to get there, because she knew Barney was actually the Shadow. Barney spilled some of the tea on him as she said this. He automatically looked around, expecting people to come in from everywhere but that did not happened. Florence then confessed that her father had hired him two years ago, to kill her rapist.

 The Shadow was shocked but then he remembered the woman in the warehouse saying she had killed of that family. Florence explained that the men had tampered with the gas supply in her home, so to create an explosion. She was the only one in her family to notice the smell, coming down the house and then coming out to check the gas register. She was there when whole house exploded and she saw, before passing out, the men who had killed her family.

 The Shadow looked at her and understood instantly. He told her that he wasn’t accepting any requests or jobs in the meantime and that she should go and look for other family members to help her, if that was what she needed.

 But Florence was confused. She told Barney that she had no need for help as her family money was on an account that she emptied the day following the explosion. She had changed her name and, since the tragedy, she had been looking for him only to thank him and to ask a small favor, which had nothing to do with death or revenge.

 The Shadow didn’t even ask. He only stared at her and she started to cry in silence. Florence then said she had survived two attacks on her life, out of pure luck. And now, she wanted to learn how to defend herself. She wasn’t going to seek revenge but, if someone else did, she wanted to be prepared. And who better to prepare her that the legendary Shadow?

 He finished his tea and, without any word, he left for his room when he tried to sleep but couldn’t. In the morning, he realized Florence had not slept a minute, instead making breakfast. They didn’t say a word, not until she followed him to the backside of the barn, where he showed her a small space where he did a demonstration of his skills. There, the first relationship he had had in years finally began.

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