-Dead of the night
Under the darkest shrouds of night, Lyn followed Drake to the weigh station. A decrepit old building with the river Thames running parallel to it. Rusted paint peeled off the sheet metal walls that held up the station. Towering cranes long since abandoned stood watch just off the side with endless rows of empty shipping containers. A small ship sailing past the river blared its horns as its small exhaust pumped smoke into the night. Many of the station’s paneled windows were shattered or cracked beyond redemption.
Drake said not a word to her as he came upon the open entrance that split two ways. Lyn toted a bloodied sack over her shoulder as they disappeared into the shadows of the station. The sour smell of urine and chlorine saturated her nostrils as she walked deeper inside. The faint moonlight peering through the windows revealed a couple of urinals. A busted porcelain sink rested beside her, its pipe void of water.
He placed a hand on the wall between two urinals and stepped back. The wall rotated, unveiling a secret chamber. A man in a black cloak and similar porcelain mask greeted them. “How can I help you?” he rasped.
Drake looked to Lyn, who presented the bloodied sack. She untied the rope at the top and tossed it to the floor. Two heads rolled from the sack, still warm and wet with blood. Their horrified expressions upon death remained on their bodiless heads.
The attendant let out a satisfied grunt. He scooped the heads into the sack and re-tied it. “Let me see what these are worth. Ulysses will be very pleased-”
“Send the money to my estate like always,” Drake said curtly, “and the blood…”
The attendant pulled out a hidden shelf from the back wall. Rows upon rows lined the wall, all steel shelves with handles, much like a mortuary. Lyn could only speculate how many corpses or heads were stored inside this station. She knew they weren’t the only hunters and other unaffiliated mercenaries or soldiers of fortune sought this place as well. Lyn considered herself more of a mercenary. Drake explained to her long ago in Greece they were referred to as “misthios.”
“Ah! Here we are,” the man said, after flipping through a thick black book. “You guys scored a big one. Just one more thing… You guys destroyed the bodies- right?”
Drake nodded. “We burned the bodies to ashes. However, the third brother got away, but he’s missing an arm. He shouldn’t be too hard to kill.”
“That reminds me, too. Ulysses wants to see you.”
Drake’s face was perplexed. “What the hell for?”
Drake knew that when Ulysses summoned him it was never good news. And when Ulysses said personally, that always meant alone… Lyn waited outside the station for him as patiently and obedient as always. He took another hidden path that led even deeper into the station until it became subterranean. Bats swarmed the man-made caves, dimly lit by lights and small glow sticks. More bats squealed or slept up-side down as bats did. The tunnel led to another underground chamber made of enormous slabs of limestone.
White statues of Greek inspiration lined the circular chamber clockwise, with a small fountain in the center. The chamber bore a strong resemblance to an amphitheater, with its rows of seats and balconies. Drake knew he wasn’t alone with the hundreds of leering eyes on him. Men and women, most of them the aristocratic type, occupied each seat. Masquerade masks of all shapes and sizes concealed their true identities.
“You’re dismissed,” said a voice, stern but calm.
Each of them rose from their seats, bowed, and promptly exited through the various passages around the chamber. Drake looked up to the imposing podium before him, where Ulysses sat. Ulysses propped himself up with his cane, using it to steady himself. Drake regarded him coldly.
“Still as childish as ever I see_”
Ulysses wore a scowl. He was an elderly man, with a thick gray beard and hair that touched his shoulders. He had slanted eyes like a snake and full lips that pulled across his face. One could also say he reeked of blood and roses, though no one knew why. However, Drake knew. He could smell better than anyone or any dog. He also hated that fucking podium. Who did Ulysses think he was? He wasn’t above him. He could snap the man in half if he wanted to. The thought crossed his mind every time.
“I hear your hunt was successful- almost. How could you let him get away-?”
“The tunnel collapsed, there was nothing we could do. We’ll get him next time…”
Ulysses snorted derisively. “Never mind that now. We have a new contract. I thought I might offer it to you first.”
Drake raised a brow. “Why me?”
Before the words even left his mouth, Ulysses tossed to him a scroll. Sealed with Ulysses’ seal of red wax and rolled with a red ribbon, Drake knew the authenticity of the contract. He unrolled the scroll and looked at the name. He dropped the scroll and his heart skipped a beat, his face was ashen.
“There’s- there’s no way. That woman’s been dead for years...”
Ulysses shook his head. “Do you accept?”