Allen Chambers' Mindways Chronicles - Book 1 - Reflection

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Jack Stone (Stoneman)

Jack Stone (Stoneman)

The small, barefoot boy in the dirty, oversized clothes sat on the lower steps of the seedy apartment block located on the east side of Harlem. He stared blankly across the shattered street littered with garbage and human misery. Two skeletal dogs close by snarled and bit at each other, fighting over a scrap of chicken bone that had just been cast out by a passing truck driver. A poor unfortunate white kid brought up in a Hispanic ghetto – a great beginning for a child who’s only means of survival was to be smart, quick-witted and grow up fast in a hard and uncompromising world of little hope and a lot of fear. Never mind the fact that life in general had taken many a backward step following the viral wars, Jack Stone had been thrust into this world without any ceremony and had learnt, as he got to an age where he understood a little more, that he had to live on his wits and be hard – diamond hard, so hard he could fight for his mere existence and survive for another day.

Jack was born of parents without hope or desire, and, considering the vast majority of couples were unable to have children following the viral wars, he was considered a minor miracle yet not blessed with luck. His parents, both chronic alcoholics, thought they had been burdened by this unwanted addition. Lloyd, the father, a massive creature, was an unintelligent low-life who systematically beat and sexually abused both his wife and young Jack as often as he could. Alice, his mother, was in a perpetual drunken stupor, occasionally pawing at Jack and vocalising her undying love for him, pleading for the boy to be left alone during these bouts of extreme sexual violence. The truth, however, was that Alice’s protective motherly instinct for Jack didn’t exist; perhaps a fleeting glimmer of subconscious guilt emerged during a drunken haze but, for most other times, was forgotten in the struggle for existence. Jack was on his own, alone without love, a loner in a life not of his choosing, yet somehow, strangely, he seemed at one with the abuse and violence. The beatings and abuse increased in frequency and ferocity the older he got, yet he never once flinched. He learned it was better to stand or lie there accepting it, never crying, never uttering a sound, but absorbing the hatred and pain, seemingly storing it up for later. He was always bruised and battered yet somehow devoid of displaying any physical or mental pain.

In his early years, he was a wiry, scrawny-looking kid. He didn’t stand out from the crowd in stature, bearing or presence, yet he was strangely different. At school, he was a loner, an outcast. Nobody wanted to know him yet the bullies steered clear of him. They sensed he wasn’t easy prey. Belying his poor background and being born of parents who didn’t have an ounce of intelligence or common sense between them, Jack proved to be extremely intelligent – top of the class in all subjects. Being a strange mix of a dishevelled poor child, stone hard and intelligent beyond belief, teachers marvelled at his ability, especially in the sciences where he had a particular strength. He soon outgrew the school’s capability to teach. The teachers could not sustain the speed at which he absorbed the knowledge and eventually Jack left school to educate himself, spending all his free time in the great institutional libraries of New York. His head was always buried in a book, soaking up knowledge, when not out learning the dark arts of the underworld. His capacity to live without sleep enabled him to combine the two opposite worlds and nurture within him the seed of a criminal genius.

Throughout his early years as a young lad, he spent all his non-educational spare time earning the respect of the criminal and gangland societies across New York. It was a different educational experience that he was undertaking. He learnt additional skills in being streetwise; how to fight dirty, use an unbelievable myriad of weapons, the art of subtle persuasion and the languages of societies at odds with the state. His trustworthy nature, skills with language and persuasion, as well as deeds of notoriety, soon saw him accepted and given close access to the leadership hubs, having carried out many criminal activities on their behalf, all without question. These included a number of gruesome and decidedly sickly assassinations, ideally suited for Jack for they were carried out against close family members, disputes that, due to the codes of honour, could not be ‘concluded’ by direct family members but needed settling in a manner that showed the family’s distaste. His notoriety, and the stone-cold manner in which he dispatched his quarry, earned him the title of Stoneman. His capacity to work discreetly for competing crime families and gang factions enabled him to freely observe their cultures, mannerisms, codes of honour and their ability to extinguish life without a care in the world. His mental capacity to absorb information, analyse and identify opportunities and strategies for control ensured he was ahead of the game. He was preparing for the day he would commence with his one pressing objective – that of ultimate control.

At this point in Jack’s life, he had no understanding of why he had this unparalleled urge to educate himself, to be involved in criminal life, or to suffer abuse at the hands of his parents, yet deep within there was the kindling of desire to control everything, a voracious appetite for power. It seemed inevitable, a calling, his one purpose in life, a driving force that needed specific building blocks to expedite success. This fire in his belly had been lit, his destiny was now beckoning; God help the world…

In his early teens he took it upon himself to improve his physique by punishing his body relentlessly through endless gym sessions and martial arts training. He soon developed a steel-like frame without an ounce of fat. Unbelievably, he hardly ate anything and, despite constant hunger, his body was covered with distinctive rigid muscle that sent out a clear ‘don’t mess with me’ message. An aura of power and strength beyond comprehension radiated from his body. He quickly acquired speed and agility well beyond that of the fittest and strongest humans. Combined with his intelligence, he had become super human. His face – strangely handsome with infinitely deep and unforgiving black eyes, inset in an emotionless and secretive rugged look – made anyone who came into contact with him fearful of his motives and capabilities. No-one was able to second-guess his intentions, nor pre-empt what he was thinking.

You would have thought this visible strength and power Jack had amassed would be enough to put a stop to the constant abuse from his father but, no, he appeared to look forward to it, relished it even. As the abuse took place, he absorbed all the hatred and malice his father had doled out over his last seventeen years.

One dreary winter morning, on the day he turned eighteen, he sat in his father’s favourite chair facing the open door of the apartment. His mother lay grotesquely sprawled on the filthy floor in a sticky red pool that was oozing from her now limp body. A look of sheer terror was etched permanently on her death mask, now grey-white as gravity drew the dark blood from her tiny body. Alice’s short time on Earth was over; a worthless life yet her role in giving birth to Jack was pivotal in the evolution of universal matters; it was of great significance. Her death was a violent and painful one at the hands of her own son. His parting words to her had been, “Death becomes you, Mother. See you in hell.”

In Jack’s right hand, resting on the arm of the chair was his favourite tool – a belt-buckle blue steel push knife, four inches long, stained with his mother’s blood. His rugged face was blank of all emotion. His black, lifeless eyes were fixed unblinking on the open door, waiting for the return of his father. He didn’t have to wait long as his acute dog-like hearing picked up the shuffling feet of a drunkard four floors down outside the apartment block, a sound that had been etched in his brain following many years of brutal abuse.

The main apartment block door opened with a crash as his father staggered in from the cold morning air. The big man swayed towards the stairs and staggered upwards, pausing halfway to deliver his daily ritual – urinating against old Mrs Falls’ door. She was a woman he despised for her endless gossiping. Jack heard the trickle run across the floor and cascade over the edge of the stairs; a brief silence followed before his father resumed his unsteady and noisy journey up the last few flights. “Filthy bastard,” thought Jack as he tensed his muscles in readiness.

It took Lloyd a good ten minutes to make his way to the landing. As he turned from the landing and stood in the doorway, head down, with spit dripping from the corner of his mouth, he growled, “Alice, get me a drink, you fucking whore! NOW!”

He lurched forward into the room and looked up. He came to an abrupt halt, swaying in his drunken stupor, a bemused look on his face as he took in the death scene.

“What is this?” he roared, casting an evil look at Jack. “Did you do this, you fucking little queer?” He swayed whilst pointing and waving an accusing finger. He looked down at his wife. “Alice, did he do this?”

Lloyd bellowed like an angry bear and launched himself at Jack. For a big man, and one full of drink, he was quick, but not as quick as Jack. Jack was out of the chair as Lloyd lunged with his long arms outstretched. Jack ducked under the massive arms and gracefully swung his right arm in an upward arc, the push knife slicing through the soft flesh of Lloyd’s neck. He grunted and brought his hands up to his throat, gasping as he tried to breathe through the gaping wound, blood spurting and frothing in pulses through his massive sausage-like fingers. Jack stood watching, still, coiled like a spring as his father turned, pained shock written on his face. Jack sprang across the room, right arm outstretched. He pirouetted low, his arm following, the razor sharp blade opening up his father’s belly in one deft movement. His father, still clutching his throat, looked down in horror as his entrails fell to the floor. Jack then followed through and drove the knife deep into his father’s forehead, the force of the blow bowling him over. Lloyd fell flat on his back, still clutching his throat, his eyes fixed and lifeless.

Jack stood towering over his massive frame. “For Mother,” he spat. “You’ve outlived your usefulness. I’ve enough evil and hatred in me to rule the world; this is the only thing I can ever thank you for. You won’t go to hell with Mother; you are now nowhere – the place for nothings.” He casually extracted his knife from his father’s head and wiped it on the chair cushion, slipped the blade back into the buckle of his red leather belt and strode out of the apartment for the last time.

If you ever had the misfortune to confront Jack, you never knew how he would react, for he had no fear nor gave any sign of emotion. Such was the aura of his presence he was capable of making the vast majority of people uneasy, enough for them to back off with a mere cursory glance. Those who were stupid enough to think they had the measure of him were soon educated in the art of humility. Jack was so strong and so quick his adversaries barely had time to blink before they’d succumbed to extreme and terminal violence of such ferocity few if any survived. He always left his mark; an X carved in the victim’s left cheek. He had amazing speed of thought and lightning-quick reactions; he was, after all, superhuman…

In East Harlem nearly everyone was living outside the law, such was the destitution of the population and the ignorance of the state as to the plight of its people. It was a brutal place. Jack had grown up with criminal and gang cultures, though, at first, he was always on the fringe, accepted by them yet never tied to their strict codes. His talent was always in demand – a silent and deadly shadow blessed with an unfettered intelligence, coupled with a casual ruthlessness; the ultimate death-bringer. His skill ensured a well-deserved notoriety; it guaranteed his safety among the warlords of the ghettos as they favoured his services, so much so he was feared by the fearless. Jack bore no loyalty to any of the criminal or gang paymasters but they had their use, a means to an end – to assist in his one ultimate purpose; total power and control.

It began in the year following the death of his parents. He decided to unleash the first stage of his strategy by destabilising the uneasy truce between the operating criminal families. He quietly assassinated Ambrogio Cappachia, the head of the most powerful crime family, leaving indisputable evidence to support the belief that a number of minor families had conspired to overthrow them. At the same time, Jack set off turf wars between rival street gangs with a subtle twist involving the criminal families. The ensuing bloodbath saw the demise of the senior hierarchy of the underworld, upon which Jack seized his opportunity, stepping quietly and purposefully into a power vacuum and taking control. Using his allies within each of the families and gangs, he smoothed the bloodied waters and set up a united crime co-operative, turning their combined capability against the ruling classes instead of allowing themselves to destroy each other as they had been doing for decades. Stage one was complete; he was in control, utter control of the underworld in New York. His thought processes and intelligence ensured his safety; he was uncannily perceptive, almost psychic in his ability to predict events. He took control of the underworld, assassinated anyone seen as a rival or anyone who dared to try and muscle in on his new world.

Jack directed his attention to stage two of his strategy. Even though he controlled vast areas through a wide array of criminal activities – fraud, corruption, prostitution, extortion and murder – the total control of everyone around eluded him. It wasn’t enough to rule criminals, he needed more power, wanted greater control, wanted to cause pain to the world, wanted complete autonomy. Jack missed his search for knowledge; he wanted more. Something deep inside was driving him relentlessly towards understanding the human mind. To understand is to control. To control the minds of everyone would give him ultimate power. To be able to do this he needed to mix with the right kind, be up with the elite where the real power lay and the resources necessary to fulfil his scientific crusade. But how?

It wasn’t long before Jack identified that the opportunity was there for the taking. He observed how crime, anarchy and lawlessness were overwhelming the State’s law enforcement machine and undermining the ruling classes’ cocooned, safe world – a world oblivious to the plight of the masses. He wanted these over privileged vermin to experience pain and fear, to suffer as others had, to give them a reason to push for change to protect their fortunate, excessive lifestyle. Jack shifted his focus from the underworld. The criminal brotherhood – no longer a threat to him – were now his loyal army. His lieutenants were mobilised and began to erode the elite’s safety net. He chose his targets well; the most influential, the most secure, the most vulnerable – families and children, no-one was safe. Jack Stone systematically eliminated those he saw as potential threats and stripped away the wealth of the richest, leaving only the very greedy, weak and cowardly, those he could easily corrupt. As a consequence, these parasites feeding off society were clamouring for protection as they saw their privileged lifestyle being stripped away and threatened… There it was, his opportunity to step up, a gap in the market for the protection of the elite.

Jack had decided on his strategy, setting up a mercenary protection corps commanded by his closest echelon – handpicked thugs whose minds were utterly controllable and incorruptible, the perfect recipients for Buzz as it was designed. These troops, nay watchmen, were well paid to deliver the expectations of the elite classes who were made up of the greedy, the fat, the lazy, the ignorant and the power hungry. The guardians made sure there was a network of support to prevent criminals and subversives from feeding off this world of iniquity so Jack could gain their trust. At the same time, he relinquished control of his criminal empire and deliberately left a power vacuum, ensuring the organisation fragmented and resumed the turf wars, rendering it useless, easier to control and manipulate. This eased his entrance into the world of ultimate power, allowing him to gain trust and respect whilst he protected the elite from being harassed by criminals and subversive elements… but, unfortunately for them, not from him, Jack Stone.

Jack soon became entrusted and admired by the elite. He had, in one stroke, eliminated the criminal and subversive elements, ensuring the ruling classes were free of threat and able to continue with their lavish and wasteful lives. Jack despised them all, yet he knew he needed to bide his time, waiting until he could assume the most powerful role, that of the head of the secret service. His new paymasters could only sing his praises; “Jack Stone, he’s eliminated all that the law could not!” They lobbied the President incessantly to have Jack inaugurated into the CIB, so that his skills could boost the capabilities of an organisation that had, up to that point, appeared incapable of delivering the expectations of the ruling classes. The head of the CIB at that time was far too liberal for their liking and they needed new blood; someone who was prepared to take extreme measures, to crush the subversive and criminal elements that plagued their lives.

A meeting had been arranged at the CIB HQ on Washington Square South. President Cappachia had no option but to agree, purely because Jack Stone, whilst enjoying his newly found popularity, had contacted the head of state and presented him with an offer he could not refuse. Jack, through his intuitive and persistent nature, meticulous research and his network of loyal henchmen, had uncovered an immoral and sordid past! The President was closely related to the former senior crime family, was inherently corrupt and had deep-rooted involvement in child porn rings, of which he, the President, was a key participating patron.

Jack arrived for the meeting to be held in the CIB boardroom on the upper floor of the HQ. He was relaxed, confident and determined; his face, as always, not giving anything away. Passing through the extensive security checks, he observed and made note of the inherent weaknesses of an inefficiently run security service. The security team were visibly nervous of this imposing figure of a man and quickly dispatched him off to the boardroom. From outside the huge twin doors of the CIB Boardroom, with a sentinel agent either side, he heard the idle chatter of many people who had turned up to witness his inauguration. The watchmen opened the door and, as he entered the room, everyone immediately stopped chatting, turned, stared, shuffled nervously or stepped back, avoiding any direct eye contact as they felt Jack’s black, unforgiving eyes drill into their minds. This rape of their privacy, giving the impression he was searching and absorbing their very private and secret memories, immediately made them worry that their personal thoughts might be compromised. Such was his physical presence that they stood in disbelief at this very young man, all of twenty-two, who was to be inaugurated as Deputy Commissioner of the CIB. They continued to stare, though not directly, drawn by his power, succumbing to his every whim. They believed they could not resist the force emanating from his persona. He was invincible and he made sure everyone in the room felt it. They were uncomfortably aware of his power.

His distaste for the President and his CIB Commissioner, Dr Weiss was obvious from his dismissive manner. He was in control and everyone in the room knew it. Jack, all six feet four of steely muscle, in a trim black suit, black fitted shirt and black tie walked up to the Commissioner, Dr Weiss who could not help but show he was nervous and uncomfortable with Jack close by. Jack stopped abruptly, only a couple of inches in front of him, his deep, dark, lifeless eyes penetrating deep inside Dr Weiss’ mind through his own weak eyes, searching, finding and stealing his precious memories.

Jack leant forward, looking beyond his prey at others in the room and whispered in his ear, “Dear Dr Weiss, today I become your Deputy but this is not a role I will have for long. In the meantime, before your painful demise in the not-too-distant future, I will expect your full co-operation, of course, as I do not wish to expose your liking for little girls, now, do I?”

The Commissioner, perspiring profusely, buckled and swayed yet managed to regain his posture though the colour had completely drained from his troubled face. He was visibly shaken to the core.

Jack left the Commissioner and strolled over to the boardroom table and sat down at the head of the table. Sporting a subtle, wry grin, he calmly surveyed the room, looking for anyone interesting enough to connect with as they all partook of the finest wines and canapés. Luxury beyond the obscene. He hated their hypocrisy.

Jack spotted those from his mercenary protection business who had benefitted from his intervention. They were instrumental in calling for his natural skills to be utilised by the failing CIB. Jack nodded in recognition as he caught their eye to maintain his popular connection, for the moment at least. Jack took in everyone attending this reception and, as was his intelligent manner, he memorised the faces and placed them in the depths of his memory for use at a later date.

His eyes finally caught up with the President who was in deep conversation at the side of the room with two of his large bodyguards. Jack deliberately increased the intensity of his focus on the President, who at that precise moment froze. The man turned and faced Jack, a deeply worried look on his ageing face. The President was clearly nervous and cast a final order towards the bodyguards who, as they slinked off towards the exit, directed meaningful looks at Jack. Jack noticed this and knew what was being planned; his assassination. He noted their features then returned his attention towards the President. Jack gestured for the President to join him. He obeyed, slowly and painfully making his way across the room, showing clear signs of distress, being fully aware of the consequences should he try to avoid the pressures that were about to be borne upon him.

Jack watched as the President approached. His plan to take control was entering its penultimate phase; this evening he was to be offered the role of Deputy Commissioner of the CIB by the President – not a meteoric rise, but subtle enough to camouflage his immediate intentions. In return, the damning evidence he had uncovered against the President would be held in abeyance should the president renege on any deal Jack would wish to bestow on his new benefactor. The President despised having to succumb to this notorious criminal and his blackmail. “Yes,” he thought, “I will soon give this upstart a lesson he will never recover from!” Unfortunately the President, blinded by rage, had missed the message so clearly and precisely delivered by Jack. He didn’t know Jack, he couldn’t comprehend his capability or his intelligence; he assumed he was being threatened by a lowly criminal, someone who was to be dispatched following arrangements made with his bodyguards who would ensure this upstart would never see the light of day again.

The President arrived at the table and nervously held out his hand. Jack looked him straight in the eyes, never blinking, driving his gaze deep into the mind of President Cappachia. The President felt pain in his mind and lowered his unaccepted hand.

“Mr President, how nice of you to arrange this for me. I think we need to press on with the task in hand, don’t you? I’d like to begin my work, cleansing our sick state of the cancer that’s been allowed to grow unchecked, don’t you agree?”

The President cleared his throat and nodded in agreement. He turned towards the packed room, took up the gavel and struck it three times. At the same time, he bellowed, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please may I have your attention.”

The chatter subsided immediately and everyone turned to see the President who was stood by the seated Jack Stone.

“I want to keep this short. Mr Stone,” he gestured towards Jack, “has, following his amazing campaign, protecting innocent people from the criminal and gang plague that’s blighting our society, been nominated by many of you here for the vacant post of Deputy Commissioner of the CIB. Such was the (cough) huge support for Mr Stone, we have agreed to support this nomination and I have great (cough) pleasure in appointing Mr Jack Stone to the position of Deputy Commissioner of the CIB.”

There was sparse applause from the crowd, as the President paused.

“Mr Stone will now swear allegiance to the CIB. Mr Stone.”

The President picked up off the table next to him a Bible and the card with the oath on and handed them to Jack. Jack took the Bible and brushed aside the President’s hand. Holding the card, he stepped forward and surveyed the room. The chatter subsided and the room became deathly quiet. Jack’s eyes drilled into the audience as he began to recite the oath by memory alone. His tone was menacing.

“I, Jack Stone, duly elected Deputy Commissioner, do hereby swear on the holy Bible that I give my allegiance to the Central Intelligence Bureau and will uphold the laws of the State of New York by all the means empowered to me. I am required to serve and protect the office of the President, ensure the integrity of the State without question and forego any right to hold political office.”

His delivery was perfectly pitched and everyone in the room knew he meant what he said. The silence was unnerving.

The President coughed and stammered nervously, “I, I, I ask you to raise your glasses in a toast, firstly in recognition of Mr Stone’s achievements so far and secondly, to the expectations of all of you for Mr Stone to deliver a safer place (cough) for us to live… I give you… Mr Stone, Deputy Commissioner!”

“Mr Stone, Deputy Commissioner! Hurrah!” sang the congregation and downed their drinks.

They all stood expectantly, waiting for an acceptance speech. It never came.

Instead, Jack stood up, turned to the President, leant towards him and whispered in a soft yet menacing voice, “I will be getting on with my work now, starting with a couple of assassins who I believe may be hanging around. I hope they’re aware I’m on my way.” Jack paused.

The President gulped as if he was swallowing sand.

Jack continued, “I take it, my penthouse and office are ready?”

And off he strode without waiting for an acknowledgement from the President.

For a brief moment, everyone stood fixed to the spot as they watched, in stunned disbelief, the tall dark figure striding across the room and out of the boardroom without so much as a backward glance at the people who had supported him and lobbied for his appointment. As Jack left through the main doors, they all immediately turned to their partners or colleagues and, believing they were safe and out of earshot, gossiped away about the ignorance and rudeness he had shown towards his patrons. Others, having cleverly noticed the strained relationships between Jack and the President and Commissioner, praised Jack for wanting to get straight on with the job and not waste time with pointless ceremony, clearly positioning themselves for any political gain to be achieved from the inevitable fallout.

As the lift doors opened onto the penthouse lobby, Jack emerged cautiously to find all was quiet. He made his way silently across the lobby to the massive steel door to his new home. He paused ever so slightly, as he always did in any strange environment; a brief opportunity was all he needed to take in the lay of the land, knowing not to raise suspicion yet, through his acute senses, he knew there were others secreted in the apartment. He took the keys given to him earlier and unlocked the door, replacing the keys in his pocket, keeping both hands free. Jack stepped to the right and opened the door; it swung wide silently. Nothing stirred, not a sound. The room was in total darkness. “Not good,” he mused.

He instinctively knew where the light switch was and leant in to switch on the lights, careful not to absorb the instant, direct glare. He slowly entered the room and surveyed the excessively opulent surroundings of the living room, noting heavy drapes covering the glazed wall that led to the roof terrace and, taking in the open-plan kitchen on the right, he made a mental note of all the doors leading off to other rooms as he finally entered, closing the door behind him, making sure it was loud enough to make his prey know he was about.

He was tensed, like a hunting feline, ready to respond to any sign or sound of movement. He drew his trusty push blade from the buckle of his familiar red leather belt and went further into the penthouse. He sensed the nervous breathing of the hidden assassins; one directly ahead behind the drapes on the glass wall leading to the roof terrace and one in a room off to the left. He had already decided how this was going to play out…

In silence and with a speed beyond comprehension, he sprang across the room towards the drapes and with a flying kick of enormous strength sent the assassin’s body through the plate glass, the broken shards of glass lacerating him as he fell. In a lightning-quick blur of movement, Jack was adjacent to the door behind which the second assassin was readying himself to launch his attack. Jack stood by the leading edge of the door as it was thrown open. The assassin bound through the door, arm outstretched, gun in hand, clearly focussing his attention across the room where he expected his quarry to be, having heard the sound of breaking glass. In one deft stroke, Jack’s left arm arced downwards. The assassin’s hand carrying the gun was severed from his arm, hand still clenching the gun and rolling across the floor. The assassin, statuesque in shock, raised his eyes from where his hand used to be up towards Jack, a look of utter disbelief on his face.

Jack gestured to the hapless assassin to walk outside to the roof terrace, where the assassin’s partner lay groaning in a steadily expanding pool of sticky, dark, red blood. Jack picked up the severed hand and gun as he followed the now shivering assassin who was desperately trying to stem the flow of his own blood, having picked up a lace throw from one of the chairs.

The bright cold moonlight provided a surreal backdrop for the three figures on the roof terrace.

“Sit,” said Jack, gesturing towards one of the leather chairs under the pergola. “We need to talk, you and I.”

As the assassin slumped into the chair, waning in strength from the loss of blood, Jack walked across to the body on the floor. The assassin, barely alive, managed to raise his head, blood oozing from the corner of his mouth as he looked up at Jack, a desperate expression of hope on his disfigured face as he waited for life-saving assistance. Jack smiled, raised the severed hand that was still clutching the gun, aiming it at the forehead of the prone figure, and squeezed a tendon in the wrist of the hand that caused the trigger finger to close… The gun barked, extinguishing the life of the assassin as the bullet entered his brain.

Jack turned towards the other assassin, at the same time casually tossing the hand and gun over the parapet of the terrace and, whilst dusting off his hands in a nonchalant manner, he addressed the wounded assassin in a mocking tone.

“Thank you for helping me there. I find having to do everything yourself tiresome at times! Now let us get down to business.”

Jack strolled across the terrace and sat opposite the remaining assassin, his dark, unforgiving eyes penetrating deep into the unfortunate agent’s eyes, and spoke in a calm, serious manner.

“You are no doubt aware of who I am; a senior official of the state. And, as such, I’ve been subject to an assassination attempt for which those involved will be sentenced to summary execution. Such is the law of the land. In my role as Deputy Commissioner, I can waive penalties, if I feel anyone involved can assist with bringing those who masterminded the plot to justice. I know you’re but a servile individual, doing as he’s told, however you are duty-bound to advise me who the responsible person behind this attempt on my life is. We can do this in one of two ways; the easy one or, if you prefer, one with a little persuasion.” He leant forward and toyed with his push knife by spinning its razor-sharp tip onto the agent’s thigh. “Now let’s start with your name,” said Jack in a subtle yet menacing tone.

The assassin replied nervously, avoiding direct eye contact with Jack. “I…I am CIB Agent Holloway and I was acting outside of any direction. I… we,” as he looked towards his dead partner, “didn’t like the thought of a criminal entering our organisation so we… ggnnh.” His eyes widened in fear and his mouth grimaced in pain has the push knife entered the flesh of his thigh. Sweat began to pour from the poor man’s forehead.

“Now, I do like loyalty. It’s a noble act,” continued Jack as he played with the knife in the fresh wound. “However, I don’t believe it’s going to get you anywhere in life. Neither the President nor the Commissioner will ever be loyal to you; they don’t care if you live or die. I know they’re behind this and I ask you merely to confirm my conclusion.” He applied pressure to the blade, forcing it upwards towards the agent’s groin. The knife sliced through his trousers and flesh.

The agent cried out in sheer agony and terror, the pain searing through his leg and into his aching brain. “Pppplease stop. Yes, yes, yes, you’re right!” He drew a deep breath through clenched teeth. “They instructed us to dispatch you and blame the crime families you’d all but annihilated. We were only doing our duty, nothing personal, y… y… you can understand that, can’t you?” he pleaded.

Jack smiled. Although he already knew who was behind this pathetic attempt on his life, it was pleasing to have confirmation from within the CIB. Using his hand holding the push knife to steady himself, he rose up from his chair. As he did so, the pressure on the knife caused it to sink deeper into the agent’s groin and sever his femoral artery. The agent yelped in pain and looked down to see his lifeblood gushing from the gaping wound. He was at a loss; he could not decide if, with his one good hand, he should continue to stem the flow of blood from his severed wrist or from his leg. He looked up to Jack, despair written all over his face, his eyes dulling as his life slowly ebbed from his body. He slumped back into the chair.

Jack stood surveying the evening’s work, a wry smile on his face. He was close to the next phase of his ambition of achieving power, power to advance his knowledge and position. “Now,” he thought, “no time to lose. Let’s bring the perpetrators to justice.” He leant forward towards the now-dead agent and raised his trusty blade to his left cheek…

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