Dragons. Symbols of luck. Worshipped as gods by those who didn’t know any better, and as rulers of water and the rain. They were certainly doing their best here, as the storms hit the Chinese ground hard and fast. However, it didn’t seem to bother the citizens of Taipei; in fact they didn’t even seem to notice as they watched the dancing dragon sidewinding through the busy streets towards the Chinese New Year. It had twelve men underneath to control it’s swaying motions, all dressed in a red almost as bright as the model they carried. It had taken nearly 6 months to build and paint this one, after last year’s had been torn beyond recognition in all the excitement of the festival. They had taken care to add extra support this time around, to try and avoid having to repeat the laborious task twelve months later.
The celebrations around Bryce acted as a perfect cover. Thousands of pairs of eyes stared intently at the dragon and the bright festivities going on around it, and not even one so much as glanced at him, especially with his dark coat and jeans almost camouflaging him.‘This’ll be easy,’ he thought.He found himself more interested in the Taipei 101 than the festival it’s self. The locals were clearly used to the sight of the giant building towering over the city, and thus paid it no attention. It had got it’s name from the hundred and one floors it contained, making it the tallest skyscraper in the world, at least until the Burj Dubai would be completed. The light at the top of the tower shone a bright red, signifying that it was a Monday. A different colour shone every day of the week. Bryce had done his homework. He always did; he was nothing if not thorough. He also knew that at midnight, fireworks would erupt off of every side of the building as a sign of prosperity for the New Year, illuminating the dark sky with all kinds of brilliant colours and making a noise completely deafening; even compared to this crowd. Perfect cover for what he’d have to do before the night was through.Looking up at the giant countdown clock hanging from the side of Taipei 101, he saw that he had less than fifteen minutes to spare. He had been surveying his target for almost an hour, making a mental note of everything from his habits to his choice of cigar. Bryce was trained to analyse everything and find a way to use it to his advantage. The man smoked Cuban figurados, notoriously difficult to make, and most probably very expensive.‘At least the smoking won’t get him.’ Bryce smirked, and then suddenly stopped. He hated it when he took pleasure in what he did. He instinctively moved his hand to check the weapon inside his jacket. It was a habit, something he always did when he was nervous or angry. He looked up at the target again, trying not to stare but realising how different this man looked to all the others.The target he had been assigned to was a short, balding Chinese man in his late forties. He wasn’t given a name; he rarely was. The less information he had, the less that could be withdrawn through torture, or worse. All he needed was a recent picture, which he burned as soon as he had memorised all distinguishing features, and information on where to find him. He always counted himself lucky that he had been blessed with a photographic memory, although he used it very differently from the way his parents had. They were both trained surveillance agents for the British government, and had been tragically killed in the line of duty. Their work had been of a nature too classified for Bryce to understand, even after their untimely deaths. It can be difficult for a twelve year old boy to trust anyone, or anything, after something like that. That was the reason Bryce ran from his orphanage, and never looked back.For eleven years he had remained invisible, completely off the grid. Getting by on garbage and various tasks to earn money for people crooked enough to appreciate the help of an unknown twelve year old. That was when the agency had picked him up. He had never been given a name, or seen anyone. All he knew is that one day he found a ringing phone in his pocket, was given his assignments anonymously, picked up information in blank envelopes and was paid handsomely when he had completed his tasks. Although uneasy with the nature of his work at first, he was comforted by the fact that everybody he targeted deserved to die in one way or another, some of them he had seen on the news in TV stores. Each one’s crimes so heinous that the traditional justice system of their respective countries was too good for them. Bryce considered himself to be their justice, a public service of sorts. That was the only way he could think about it. That was the only way he could sleep at night. He certainly had the skills for the job. You don’t survive eleven years on the streets without learning a trick or two. After surviving enough beatings, he started to realise how to win fights. He won with intelligence that few others possessed, observing and using his environment to his advantage. In the right hands, a pencil can be far more deadly than any gun or knife. It was kill or be killed, even if all he wanted to do was survive.Bryce suddenly caught himself lost in thought, suddenly looking up to check on his target and checking the time. Ten minutes. Time to move. Bryce advanced to the front of the crowd without anyone noticing him. He was good at not being noticed when he didn’t want to be. He looked up and intently stared at his target. The man spotted him, but that was the plan. The man turned around and started to move as quickly but discretely as possible in the opposite direction. He knew there would be someone coming for him. They all did.Bryce followed sharply, making sure he stayed in the man’s line of sight. He was heading for an alley.‘Stupid,’ Bryce thought.The man left the goings on of the party for the darker alley, sure that he would know the layout better than any white man could. But Bryce had done his research. He’d arrived three days before the deadline for the hit. He’d surveyed the area thoroughly, found out everything he needed about the parade from the town hall as well as from a helpful organiser, one who became even more helpful with a gun aimed at his head. Every possibility had been meticulously planned to the finest detail, making sure that there was only one outcome to each of them. As the man clambered up a fire escape of a four story flat, Bryce pretended not to notice him. Instead, he dashed through the overhanging passage ahead of him which forked in two directions at the end. Once inside, he stopped and calmed himself down to quiet the noise of his breathing. He stood still for a few seconds, appreciating the shelter from the heavy rainfall. All of a sudden he heard a ‘clang’ as something had fallen on to the metal platform to his right. Silently he shot off towards the noise and stopped directly underneath. He spotted a large green dumpster just below a section where the safety bar of the overhead passage was bent, probably from where some kids had tried to sneak out one night and used it to lower themselves down, only to fall from a fair height. It was about fifteen feet ahead of where he suspected the target was.
Bryce pressed himself close to the wall, making himself invisible in the shadows to any onlookers. He couldn’t hear anything. He knew that his target was probably doing the same thing. If he was dangerous enough to have Bryce sent after him, then he can’t have been stupid.
Ten seconds passed, and no noise. Bryce spotted a pile of trash by his feet, left there by a gang of kids judging from the candy wrappers and bottles. Slowly, Bryce crouched down and picked up one of the empty beer bottles from the floor in his right hand. He raised it to shoulder height and held it there momentarily. Once he was satisfied that there was no noise from above, he launched it back in the direction that he had come from. The glass smashed in to a thousand tiny pieces with a shattering noise that echoed through the tight alleyways. As expected, Bryce heard the footsteps continue in the same direction. Without hesitation, he bounded towards the dumpster and planted his right foot on the supporting frame around it, leapt up with enough momentum to grab the bar and used it to swing himself up, his free hand already reaching out across the floor of the walkway in front of the man. Noticing the hand too late, the man got his foot caught and tumbled forwards, skidding across the soaking wet surface he barely managed not to fall off. He got up quickly and turned around, but Bryce was already coming for him.Bryce’s fist came hurtling towards the target, only to be parried away as the man sidestepped the attack. Bryce skidded forward across the wet floor and before he had time to react a foot was aimed high at his head. He barely managed to duck in time, and was too slow to counter the attack effectively. The two men broke into a lightning fast fist fight, blocking and countering each other’s moves quicker than either of them could possibly mount an attack of their own. As the rain continued to fall, Bryce knew he had to use it to his advantage. He brought his right arm behind him in a swinging motion. The target anticipated a punch and put his left arm up to defend himself. Bryce instead took a step forward and shoved with all the might in his own weaker left arm. His opponent staggered backwards and failed to find his footing, his legs eventually giving way to the rain. As Bryce regained his own balance, he moved towards his target from above. The man was quick to react though, rolling himself off the side of the platform and holding on with his left arm, before letting himself drop on to the damp ground below. He fell hard, hitting his head on the concrete. For a millisecond he lay motionless in a broad puddle, before shooting up and off down the opposite alley. The slight delay and the fact that the man was dazed from his fall was all Bryce needed to catch up. Bryce hurtled after him, but all of a sudden the target in front of him stopped running.‘****,’ Bryce heard him whisper.Bryce looked up and realised that they were in a dead end, lit only by the dull reflections of the street lights in overlooking windows. The man turned towards Bryce very slowly. Bryce noticed that he looked very different now, almost lifeless and much paler.‘Why are you chasing me?’ he asked hollowly.‘If you don’t know, then why did you run?’The man smiled, and moved his hand toward his jacket pocket. Bryce was too quick for that.‘Don’t even think about it’ he said, his gun already pointing at the man’s head.‘Okay, okay! I only wanted a smoke.’‘Then have one of mine,’ Bryce said, throwing a pack of Marlboro Reds at the floor with a box of matches whilst lowering the gun from his target. The man looked down, picked them up and slowly in his left hand and lit one; never taking his eyes off of Bryce. They stood silently for a second or two.‘Who sent you?’‘Does it matter?’The man smirked again, as if without hope. A premature rocket or two exploded up above.‘Something funny?’ Bryce asked.
‘You have no idea what you’re involved in. You must listen; I am not your enemy. Do not believe anything that your superiors have told you. I am an innocent man!’ he screamed, beginning to show some emotion and almost turning red.
‘Your crimes are of no importance to me.’
‘Then why are you here?’ he asked, before his expression suggested that he knew the answer. ‘Oh, I see. You’re a gun for hire. A petit assassin. Nothing more than a murderer.’
‘I prefer to think of myself as an executioner.’
‘Help you sleep at night does it, thinking that way?’
‘Something like that.’ Bryce felt the weight of the pistol in his right hand, lifted it and aimed the tip of the silencer straight at the man’s heart.
‘Stop, Please!’ The man dropped to his knees in his panic and lifted his arms in the air. ‘You have no idea how much damage my death will cause! I’ve given my entire life to good, I have a family to support, I mean, there’s no justice!
‘No. Only me.’
The thundering explosion was deafening. No one heard the bullet leave the barrel of the gun. No one heard the Chinese man momentarily scream in agony. No one heard the sound his body made as it struck the floor. The night sky was lit by a multitude of colours, coming from all over the city and beyond. Thousands of pairs of eyes for miles around stared upwards with mouths wide open. Not even one pair of eyes so much as glanced at Bryce, or the dark pool of blood flowing through the street’s gutters. Bryce stood there for a second, wondering what the man had meant. He put the safety back in to place on his weapon and replaced it in to his jacket pocket. He turned and walked back towards the parade, wondering how long it would be before anyone noticed the corpse.
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