Chapter 1: Kelmen Antonio Alvarez
London, England, 1935
Kelmen Antonio Alvarez, or, as he preferred, Killer Antonio, walked the streets of London, the collar of his coat pulled high over his ears against the bracing cold. His name, as was such a popular topic of conversation these days, was now Antonio Refrigerator, a new name he had fashioned himself, the purpose of which was to begin a new life, and a new job in the bargain. He owned a flower shop on a quiet, modest street, far from the usual excitement and noise of London, but near enough he did not require a taxi whenever he felt he needed to surround himself with the nearest city attractions. Now was such a time, but it was early in the evening, the sun just beginning to bleed into twilight, casting a dim, golden glow over the restless city. Antonio would have preferred a more discreet time of day, for instance, midnight, but he had to address a particularly pressing matter with the only human in existence he could trust, and, oddly enough, felt he didn’t need to kill.
Antonio had left the rapidly stiffening body of a local bookstore owner in the street, a modest, irreparable bullet wound in the center of his forehead. Killing had always been a part of his routine, but today, it had been different. Something had changed. When he pulled the trigger, releasing a small pellet into the unsuspecting stranger’s skull, the image of his friend, Light Fingered Larry, although now he simply called himself Larry Anchovy, inexplicably flashed into his mind.
Antonio abruptly halted in the centre of the cobbled street. He realized he had just thought of Larry as a friend. Antonio frowned. The word “friend” had never truly entered his consciousness before, and he had never dreamed of applying it to Larry. Seven months previously, he had reached the tipping point of his self-employed career in his attempt to assassinate the king, which had subsequently failed, and resulted in his imprisonment by a strangely garbed group of assassins. Light Fingered Larry had managed to conduct their escape, and, by his own volition, decided it was time for a change in their lives, leading to different career paths. Antonio vaguely remembered he worked in a Jewellery shop in Trafalgar Square, though he couldn’t remember the name. He decided he would simply walk into each store he found containing jewels, and see if Larry worked in any of them. It was a simple plan, and Antonio set himself to work.
Twenty jewellery stores, and no luck. Antonio had only managed to keep himself from murdering a few shop owners on the basis it would not do well for him if there were so many witnesses milling about. Antonio sneered in anger and distaste. He hated how he couldn’t kill them all; he could do nothing as the shopkeepers smiled at him, as they coughed politely, quietly suggesting, with various pointed glances at his slightly rumpled attire, he did not belong in the store containing priceless, glittering gems. He also managed to get disturbed and confused looks when he inquired for a Mr. Anchovy, or a Mr Light Fingered Larry. It seemed whatever he said or did was not acceptable to the frightfully proud man owning the shop, his handkerchief folded neatly in his breast pocket, his chest flared out with righteous indignation. Antonio felt himself memorizing each aspect of their pompous features, while quietly imagining their horrid, gruesome deaths. This, unfortunately, did nothing to calm him.
Antonio, discouraged, walked through Trafalgar Square. Most of the shops were already closed by now, or closing, the sun having finally disappeared, its dying light replaced by that of flickering street lamps. A part of him didn’t even understand why he persisted in this endeavour, but he felt he needed to speak with Larry, no matter what another part of him was insisting, however, he vowed the next store would be his last.
He eyed the shop suspiciously, as it appeared to be closed, a little, modest card displayed in the window suggesting so, but he heard the small, barely detectable jangle of keys by the side door. He frowned, and ducked into the alley to the side of the shop. He waited, then grinned. Antonio heard the familiar sound of a man’s silent stride only betrayed by the small clinking of keys with each step. There was only one man Antonio knew who walked in such a way.
Antonio, relieved, stepped further into the alley, until he heard a collection of men running from the opposite end. Instinctively, Antonio lunged behind a dustbin, and looked on as the scene was illuminated by a rusted lamp hanging from the shop door. Antonio instantly recognized Light Fingered Larry, although his brow furrowed, and his lips turned in a frown as he slowly spun to meet the approaching figures. As the lamp shone into their distinctly unfriendly faces, their sneers and sadistic smirks visible from Antonio’s position, Larry attempted to back away from the towering giants, until he reached the wall of the shop. They advanced towards Light Fingered Larry, their arms outstretched. Antonio reached for the Webley revolver he kept hidden in his belt against his back, however this time, his hands closed around thin air. He froze, confused, his hand scrabbling at his back. If he had his gun, he could have unloaded a round on the men before they had a chance to grab Light Fingered Larry, like they did now.
Antonio, unable to move, paralyzed with shock, could only watch as one man grabbed Larry, while another looped a pair of cuffs around his wrists. He couldn’t remember a time he had left without his Webley.
‘Please, stop this, who are you?’ Larry pleaded as he struggled in the men’s grasps.
‘I’m afraid Miss Pluto Slawver has asked to meet your acquaintance,’ one man rasped as the other two held him. There were three in all, Antonio noticed, though they were large enough, it could have easily been six. The colour in Larry’s face visibly drained in the light of the lamp.
‘Yes, she is most anxious to meet you,’ the man grinned, baring yellow teeth. Antonio and Larry had been born into the Slawver gang, although, really Larry had been left on the gang’s doorstep when he was an infant. Antonio was banished from the gang at the age of twenty. The only thing he had taken with him was Light Fingered Larry, who had been eight at the time.
Larry quickly recovered, and assumed a slightly quivering look of indignation. Antonio wondered if the jewellers had been training him in their pompous dispositions.
‘I beg your pardon, but-but I have no idea what you’re talking about!’ Larry stammered hotly, as the three men stared at him with mild smirks of amusement. ‘My name is Larry Anchovy, I-I’m a humble jeweller-’
‘Oh, so that’s what you’re doing now,’ the man laughed, the other two sniggering as their grips tightened on Larry’s arms. ’I thought you just stole from this place, I didn’t think you actually worked here. I knew it’d be only a matter of time ‘afore you got too big for your boots, and wouldn’t remember your old mates.’ Larry stared, mouth slightly agape, as the man grinned, and leered at him menacingly, ‘you forgot your old friend Anstis Burrell?’
There was a moment where Larry’s eyes widened considerably, then he suddenly frowned.
‘Antsy Anstis, is that really you?’ said Larry, squinting into the gloom, then he looked at his two captors. ‘Blimey, Tetanus Ted? And Reginald Sorespungle, although, we never had to think up a nickname for you-’
‘It’s Anstis, you pillock! I’ll have you know I-’ Anstis frowned as a dull metal clink! echoed through the alley, and looked down. Between Larry’s legs sat the pair of handcuffs. Anstis glowered, and seized Larry around the neck with one hand. Larry smiled weakly.
‘Sorry, old habit,’ he murmured. Anstis’ expression never changed, a muscle never flinched in his face.
‘Right,’ Anstis muttered darkly, before bringing his fist down on Larry’s skull. He suddenly smiled as Larry crumpled in his arms. ‘Glad to see you haven’t lost your old talents.’
As Larry was slung over one of the men’s shoulders, his head hanging limply, and as the band of men clambered from the alley and disappeared into a black Model 18 Ford, Antonio blinked, and slowly came to a single conclusion.
He would follow them.