Kings of Fortune

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Episode Eight - Leap of Faith

Festive banners and ribbons drape down from the street posts along the sidewalk.

Exhausted and lightheaded, Leon casually strolls through the colorful street. His drained body stumbles recklessly, limbs flailing lifelessly in any direction the momentum carries them. If only there was music, he could be dancing wildly off balance in merriment, but the world is unfair.

His stomach grumbles like an echoing bass, reminding Leon that he hasn’t eaten all day. After suffering the world’s greatest cardio workout, perhaps it’s time to sit down and consume something energizing.

Leon enters a corner store that appears small on the outside but actually quite spacious on the inside, and finds shelves upon shelves of snacks, lunch plates, small desserts, and various drinks. He rummages through everything.

A bottle of water is the obvious first choice, and next is a few sandwiches, a rice ball, and a slice of cheesecake. The cheesecake is more of a treat he feels he deserves.

Leon walks into a nearby park and sits comfortably on a bench. Exhaling and leaning into the seat, he feels every stress of his body screaming their dissatisfaction. The soreness of his arms, the exhaustion of his legs, and the emptiness of his stomach tackle his nerves for attention.

He coughs from his dry throat and hastily reaches for the water. His tongue taps eagerly against the sides of his dry mouth like…like a muscle against a really dry surface.

He is too hungry to think.

Leon pops open the water and chugs half the bottle in five seconds. Water has become his favorite drink. He unwraps one of the sandwiches and slowly takes a bite. Tears fall from his lonely solemn eyes as he devours what could be his last meal—this turkey sandwich.

Sandpaper! That’s it, his mouth feels like sandpaper.

The rich mayonnaise awakens his stagnant taste buds while the soft crunch of the lettuce exhilarates the pleasure center of his brain. The combined flavor of turkey meat and egg erupts in his mouth and he bites in rapid succession. The last few hours felt so long and tiring that eating became a distant forgotten experience.

Perhaps this is why the swallowed bit of sandwich shoots up from his throat, forcing him to spit the chunk onto the sandwich wrapper. He’d gone through such trauma today that ingesting food was too abrupt for his body to handle.

After pausing for a few breaths, he manages to suppress the regurgitation and forces himself to swallow another bite. His appetite returns halfway into the second sandwich and he tears through every item of food in his bag. He feels his worn body rejuvenate with every swallowed clump of grilled chicken rice ball and before long, he is normal again.

Having waited in anticipation, Leon finally gets to the dessert. The soft, cold bite of the cheesecake nourishes his desire for something sweet, satisfying all the physical and spiritual emptiness the moment the smooth texture touches his tongue. All the stresses of his day flush away and he forgets his troubles.

If only. Cheesecake is delicious though.

Looking around, people are reading on the grass, playing with their dogs and having picnics with friends. A beautiful day in the peaceful park.

How fun. Of course, Leon himself would never, ever, do any of these things even if he could, but it’s still comforting to see.

“Leon!” calls a shockingly familiar voice.

Leon turns and spots her long black hair and glowing smile. It’s Rachel. By some terrible coincidence and even worse timing, she finds him.

Just when he is starting to enjoy his day.

“Where’d you go this morning?” Rachel eagerly sits beside him.

Great. He has several teams of murderers after him right now and destiny forces them to meet.

Unsure of what to say, he takes a long, slow sip from his water trying to think of a response. Should he try to get away from her? Or tell her everything that’s happening?

“Sorry, Rachel, but I really have to go…” he jumps from his seat.

“What is it? Tell me.” Her hand gently grips his arm and the affectionate gesture keeps Leon from pulling away. Every second spent with her makes him more reluctant to leave.

But how can he stay? With a band of violent, super murdering assassins chasing after his life, Rachel shouldn’t be anywhere near him.

“I told you yesterday that I had to go away for a while, and I meant it. I just want you to know that I love you.” Leon hastily turns away in fear of breaking into tears. He has to leave.

“Well, who’s this?” says another familiar female voice, only this one sends a chill through Leon’s body. “Is this your girlfriend?”

Treading over the grass field toward Leon and Rachel is the slender walk of the hunter from the bank, Juniper. The red guitar is tightly clasped in her hand, her motive not to be mistaken despite her friendly tone.

Leon impulsively cries, “HOW DO YOU GUYS KEEP FINDING ME?!”

“Um, Leon, who’s that?” Rachel sounds concerned with a tinge of jealousy. Probably not the best time for this.

In her most sultry and seductive voice, Juniper lulls, “I missed you, baby. Did you miss me?”

Leon can tell she is laughing hysterically through her smile, amused by her own joke. There is definitely no time for this.

“Look, I don’t know this girl.” He can only hope Rachel will believe him. Pulling her up from the bench, Leon takes Rachel toward the exit and away from Juniper.

“How can you say that about me? Don’t you miss me Leon? You don’t want this anymore?” Juniper’s hands gesture to her shapely body, then winks with a smile. She is despicably enjoying her own sexy joke far too much.

“She’s lying! She’s trying to kill me!” Leon reveals the truth. He leans toward Rachel with his hands placed firmly on her shoulders, then stares into her eyes, “I’m sorry, Rachel, but I need to run.”

Rachel’s eyes narrow with concern but Leon kisses her lips.

“I love you!” and he sprints toward the other direction. In just a few seconds, Leon rushes out of the park and back into the crowded street.

“How touching,” Juniper says in mock pity. She skips past Rachel and turns back with a wide grin, “Your boyfriend’s life is mine now.” Throwing the guitar over her shoulder, she continues after Leon.

A myriad of emotions rush over Rachel, and she takes a moment to piece everything together. There is only the short and confusing dialogue to decipher but even that hardly made any sense to her. Unsure but overflowing with concern for her boyfriend, Rachel decides to chase after them.

Leon can tell there are multiple sets of feet following behind him, but none of it matters. All he can do now is drag out the chase. Every step is a milestone and every additional second a hard earned achievement to the merit of his life.

Leon will die soon, and he knows this.

Running along the street with urgency, he quickly notices a man pushing through the crowd and coming directly toward him.

This good looking man, clean shaven with a sharp jaw, directs a devious smirk at Leon while walking a calm and confident pace. A white wool cap hangs off the very back of his head covering his tied black hair. On the left side of his black leather-hooded jacket is the word ‘Jacks’ embroidered in stylish orange lettering.

As Leon steps closer, the sunlight glimmers from the small piercing on his eyebrow, but also revealing the silver shovel gripped steadily in his hand.

“Well, he’s normal looking.” Leon rushes into the apartment building beside him. He quickly makes his way through the hall only to sigh with disappointment when he finds a set of stairs. Forever more stairs. Does he have the strength to do this anymore?

Rhetorical question because it doesn’t matter.

“One step at a time,” Leon says to himself, hopping up flight after flight. Reaching the sixth floor of this ten story building, he begins to hear heavy shuffling footsteps from above, and knows they belong to one of his assailants. Leon rushes into the hallway of the apartment and runs straight across, hoping to find another stairway.

The apartment complex is like a motel with each hallway exposed to the open air. Leon can peer over the railing of the hall and look down to each floor he’s climbed.

Suddenly, a shadow swoops down from the floor above and knocks Leon hard against the wall. His body pounds against the concrete and he stumbles to recover.

Tossed and groaning, Leon looks up through his dazed eyes and recognizes Renzo’s figure standing over him. This is the second time he’s been struck by this hulking man.

Leon looks into Renzo’s eyes and sees the previous willingness to spare his life replaced with a stern new motive.

Renzo twirls the end of the metal chain over Leon’s head and readies to strike. The hunter intends to kill, and Leon gulps in his coarse throat, powerless to stop him.

Not a moment too soon, an electric guitar soars through the air and smashes against Renzo’s head with an echoing clash. Juniper launched her weapon from across the hall and now running up, leaps into a slamming drop kick against Renzo’s chest.

He falls to the ground and Leon takes advantage, racing into the next stairway.

“There you are!” shouts Kitsune, peeking up the stairwell from several floors below.

Leon ascends, climbing the steps faster than he’s ever done in his life. His bloodstream is jacked up on adrenaline and his muscles numbed of aches. His vision is blurry but focused while his hearing is muffled but clear. Reaching the top floor, he can feel the end of his life approaching fast and his body has never been more ready.

“You ditched me, I don’t appreciate that!” Kitsune sounds hurt and betrayed but Leon quickly slams the door to the roof, shutting out his voice and salting the wounds.

After thoroughly scanning the rooftop, Leon is stumped to find no escape route. The rooftop is ten stories high while the surrounding buildings are about five to six stories lower. Making matters worse, heavy reverberating footsteps begin stomping their way toward Leon.

“You’re very quick,” says Bull in a low gruff voice. “Too bad you’re not as strong as me…or as good looking,” he subtly flexes his arm.

“Yeah well, at least I made you losers work for it. Made you guys look like clowns!” Leon persistently peers over the edges of the roof, desperate to find a getaway.

“There’s nowhere left to run. You can’t escape from these bulging biceps forever,” Bull grins, stepping toward his bounty.

He is right. About having nowhere left to run, that is. Actually, his biceps are pretty intimidating as well…but that’s irrelevant.

In a courageous tone, Leon shouts back, “I’m not giving myself to you, you monster!”

The insult hurts Bull’s feelings more than it should have, and he replies, “Hey! That’s not very nice!”

Leon doesn’t care though, because he is a cold, cold man.

Suddenly, Juniper and Kitsune slam through the door onto the roof.

Almost immediately, Bull rushes to engage them. He leaps forward with a speeding punch but Kitsune tumbles away, feeling the wind of the large fist swish over his head. From the other side of Bull, Juniper swings her weapon and drives the guitar into his chest.

His body tosses back and he frowns, “This…isn’t fair…this always happens…” Struggling with the pain, he falls to one knee. “I hate you guys…”

Merciless, Kitsune dashes forward and strikes Bull’s jaw with the pipe. Bull is knocked out cold and his body drops with a thump.

“Looks like you need to work out more, big guy,” Kitsune taps Bull’s unmoving body and tips it over as he walks past.

Emerging from another stairway closer to Leon is the man from earlier, ‘Jacks’, except he isn’t alone. With a quick motion of his arm, the man pulls Rachel into the open. He says calmly, “Now that everyone is here…let’s talk about this like decent individuals.”

“Jacks, what the hell!” Kitsune points his pipe, “A hostage?”

Kitsune and Juniper are standing on one side of Leon while Jacks and Rachel are standing on the other.

“What’s going on, Leon? Who are these people? What do they want?” cries Rachel.

“They’re here for me!” Leon backs against the railing. “Let her go! She’s got nothing to do with this!”

“I wouldn’t say that. She chased pretty quickly after you from the park, so I wanted to ask,” Jacks looks Leon up and down, “who dressed you in those ridiculous clothes?” He pushes her to the front of him with one hand while grasping his shovel firmly in the other.

Jacks continues, “Here’s the deal, you hand yourself over to me and not to these mouth breathers…and I won’t kill your pretty girlfriend.” He leans in beside Rachel’s ear and whispers, “Really sorry about this.”

Rachel blushes at the handsome man breathing too close to her face and screams, “Leon, what is going on?!”

Kitsune steps forward, “Don’t do it, Leon. He’s lying, he can’t kill her!”

“Oh yeah? Try me, nerds. I’ll kick this girl off this roof so fast, you’d think it was a sport just ’cause I did it so well…and fast too,” Jacks threatens as he nudges Rachel closer to the short railing of the roof.

In a fit of panic, she hits him in the face with her elbow, causing him to abruptly shove her closer to the edge.

“Wait man, wait! Don’t do it!” Leon slowly walks toward them with his palms harmlessly raised.

All the while, Jacks pushes Rachel’s head down over the railing, tears flowing from her terrified eyes.

“Dammit, Jacks, you piece of shit!” Juniper readily grips her guitar.

A grimacing scowl appears on Jacks’ face, “You know, Junie, you look really ugly when you talk like that.”

Growing impatient, Juniper cocks back her weapon. “Fuck it. I’m gonna finish this.” She charges toward Leon, and Kitsune follows.

In the same moment, Leon rushes over to Jacks and swings the hardest punch he can muster, hitting him straight in the nose.

The sudden disorientation throws Jacks off balance and he pushes Rachel, toppling her body over the short railing.

She screams and her frantic hands reach out to grip the metal bars of the railing. There is no ledge to support her feet, and her fingers begin slipping with each passing second.

Immediately after hitting Jacks, Leon hops over the railing with one hand hanging on to the metal bars and the other quickly grasping Rachel’s arm. In his fast act of heroism, Leon bites down on his lip and strains every ounce of his muscles to pull Rachel back onto the roof.

Her feet step safely over the top but Leon loses his own grip in return. His hand unexpectedly slips off the metal railing and his body clears the ledge, already falling. Rachel reaches out for him, screaming with tears pouring from her desperate eyes. But too late.

There is no time to be shocked, no time to react, and Leon can only watch. He looks up at her, each second falling exponentially farther and farther away from Rachel, and he is powerless.

This is the last time Leon will see her face.

Free falling through the air, Leon feels a special kind of freedom. He is high in the sky with the wind rushing around his body and enveloping each of his senses. His ears are deafened by crashing air and his eyes beaten by the invisible wind. This must be what it’s like to fly. Sort of.

It’s okay though. This will only be a few seconds since it’s merely ten stories.

Leon accepts his fate.

Though he strived through many obstacles today, he somehow expects nothing less, and death by his own hand seems the best option.

He’d thought about it.

The fact that he can die and have none of the hunters claim his life is a win for Leon.

Kitsune doesn’t give up that easily though.

The moment Leon fell off the roof, the hunter instinctively leapt after him. With a much faster momentum, Leon watches as Kitsune catches up to his falling body, his thin sunglasses still clinging on as they fall. The rigorous determination rages in Kitsune’s eyes as he reaches out for him.

He wants to be the one to take Leon’s life.

But the ground is approaching fast. Floor after floor after floor goes by as they fall together, the wind ruffling Kitsune’s tie and hair, and rushing through Leon’s face in a cool breeze.

This is it. This is really it.

The end.

Now, he is going to die.

What a journey.

Kitsune manages to grip Leon’s ankle and with his other hand, raises his pipe for the killing blow. “Sayonara, Leon.”

Leon turns and faces the oncoming pavement less than fifteen feet away.

Rachel’s smiling face flashes across his mind. Their numerous dates, dinners, hangouts, everything streaming through instantly in a series of frozen images.

Ten feet.

Her beautiful affectionate face stares at him with loving happiness, laughing joyfully the way she does.

Five feet.

‘I close my eyes.’

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