byGarry J. Nurrish
I held the gun to his head and said nothing. I let him sit there, tied - well, taped actually - to the old wooden chair and wonder if I was going to shoot him. I find that this usually works quite well - give them a little time to think about dying and they shit their pants and tell all.
I'd spent the past eight days chasing him around the Districts, finally tracking him down to a seedy nightclub in the Oakwell area, not a very nice place – that is, unless you have a bad attitude and a big gun. Luckily I had both.
After a few moments of silence I started circling the chair and said, "Think of it this way, Collins, you either give me the information I need or I'm gonna redecorate the back wall with your brain." Silence. "Of course, first I'm gonna cut off vital parts of your anatomy and torture you until you sit there babbling because you can't scream any more - and you know what you'll be thinking?" More silence, "No ? OK I'll tell you, you'll be thinking 'I should've told him, before he cut my tongue out and I could still speak, I should've fucking told him.' Now…are you gonna tell me where the hole is or not?"
"Fuck you, Dooley", he spat.
Now I'm not usually a violent man but sometimes it's…well…necessary. Apart from that, this guy was starting to seriously piss me off - all he had to do was tell me one simple thing and I'd let him go. Maybe.
By this time I was directly behind him, which was exactly where I wanted to be. I grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked his head back so he could see me. Looking straight into his eyes I placed the gun behind his ear and said, "Tell me."
Silence. I pulled the trigger.
He screamed and jerked his head forward so hard that I ended up with a handful of his hair while he toppled over, chair and all, and smacked his nose on the concrete floor. He passed out.
While he was out I picked him up off the floor - which wasn't easy, let me tell you - and maneuvered him back to where he'd been sitting. I checked him over, there was surprisingly little blood coming from the ear wound. His nose was broken and there was a lot of blood gushing out, but it looked worse than it was. He'd live. Maybe.
He came to after about a half an hour.
"Want me to stop?"
"So, tell me where the hole is."
He hesitated so I continued, "The next thing I'm gonna do is start poking things into that mess on the side of your head and then I'm gonna cut your balls off and make you chew on them, then…"
"OK, OK, I'll tell you." He blurted out. "It's in Seymour District."
"Where in Seymour?"
"Club 54. In the basement."
"That's the club owned by The Brothers, right?" I asked.
"Great." I said glumly.
"Not scared are you?" He asked, sarcastically.
I ignored him.
"Well, you've got what you wanted, now let me go", he said.
"So you can go back to The Brothers and let them know where I'll be going? Do I look fucking stupid?" It's probably a good thing that he didn't answer that.
"Look, I won't tell them a thing – why would I?" he reasoned.
"Because you work for them. And because they're probably the ones that didn't want me to find the hole."
"No. Honest I won't tell them anything." Then as an afterthought he added, "Why do you wanna find the hole anyway?"
"Because, shit-for-brains, I'm going through it."
He started laughing, "You think The Brothers are just gonna let you walk into the club and jump through the hole? You'll be killed as soon as you get anywhere near the place."
"We'll see." I said, sounding more confident than I felt.
"So, where is it you want the hole to take you, Dooley?"
"Forget about it. Anyway, I'd better get going."
"Hey. Wait. You can't just leave me here!"
I'd got to the door by this time and had no intention of hanging around any longer. I was going home – finally, after what seemed like an age, I was going home.
"HEY! DOOLEY! LET ME GO!"
I paused for a second and then carried on out of the room leaving him taped to the chair, screaming obscenities. He'd be found and released soon enough, the building was patrolled by a Security Bot – if you don't know, this is a robot which is virtually indestructible (believe me I've tried) that trundles around large buildings looking for anyone trespassing or committing crimes (much the same as a human security guard but much more reliable and hell of a lot cheaper). I knew that this particular building only had one Security Bot so it would take a few hours for it to get to the basement and by that time I should safely on my way through Seymour District.
At this point I'd been in the Districts for about five months, tirelessly searching for a man I didn't know. I'd been sent here to find and bring him back with me. He'd hidden himself pretty well; I didn't find him until about two weeks ago. That's a long time to stay hidden from me – I'm usually pretty good at this kind of thing (I suppose seven years in prison has made me a bit rusty).
When you're in prison it's hard to keep track of time because the days are all the same – they just seem to run into one another. On one of these days I was called into the Head Warden's office which was a bad thing – you don't get called into The Office unless something very shitty is going to happen – but it was a break from the normal routine so I was quite glad about it (when you've spent as long as I have in prison even the shitty things are a welcome distraction – sometimes). I entered the office (which was huge; I had to live in a cell that was about a tenth of this size) to find not the Warden but two men dressed in black suits and wearing sunglasses seated behind the desk. The one on the left was blond and seemed to be the younger of the two, the one on the right just looked like a nasty bastard. I eyed them suspiciously.
"Mr Dooley," said Blondie, beaming. "Please, have a seat."
"Who are you?" I asked as I sat down.
Ignoring my question he continued "I see from your records that you have eight years of your sentence left." Then he added, "Minimum."
"Yep." I was confused – where was the Warden? Who were these guys? (They looked like something from the American FBI). And what did they want with me?
"So, would you like to get out for a while – maybe permanently?" Was this guy stupid or something?
"No, actually I like it here – what do you think, dickhead." I replied in my best 'I'm-a-hard-bastard-so-don't-fuck-with me' voice.
"Dumb question, huh?" he said, still smiling. "Look, we have a proposition for you. You do something for us and we'll get you out of here. For good."
Too good to be true, eh?
"And if I refuse you're just gonna let me serve out the rest of my sentence, right?" Nasty Bastard answered for him, "You have a lot of enemies in here, it'd just be a coincidence if some of them got together and paid you a visit tonight. The prison hasn't had a fatality for a while. Maybe there's one due."
Blondie took back control of the conversation, "All we want you to do is find someone for us. Once he's delivered, you're free."
"Oh, I see."
People don't come to me to find just anybody – they only seek my services when the situation is virtually hopeless. You see, I really am very good at what I do, in fact if there was an annual prize for being-the-person-who-can-find-someone-in-the-most-disastrous-dangerous-and-downright-weird-circumstances then I would win it. Every year. Without fail. Similarly I would also win the stupidly-accepting-the-jobs-that-are-certain-to-kill-you prize as well. And maybe the prize for just-being-plain-stupid too. So, I knew that the person they wanted me to find had to be very important to them, that he was probably in very deep shit and I was almost certainly going to die trying to find him. But what could I do – if I didn't accept their proposition they would make sure that I didn't live through the night anyway.
"You accept?" asked Blondie.
"I don't have much choice really, do I?"
"No, you don't" Nasty Bastard smirked.
"OK. His name is Dr Alex Dunning, here's a recent photograph." Blondie handed me a picture. The man in it looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, grey hair, scrawny looking. "He was doing some rather sensitive experimental research for the government when he disappeared."
"What kind of research?" I asked.
"Not your concern." Nasty Bastard replied.
Blondie continued, "He disappeared on the fifth of May this year."
"Two weeks ago." I calculated.
Did I mention that it's difficult to keep track of time in here? Yeah, I think I did. Blondie continued, "Now, we have an idea of where Dunning is…"
"So, why do you need me?" I interrupted.
Nasty Bastard started to say something but Blondie cut him off. "Because we don't know how to get there."
"Where?" I knew I wasn't going to like the answer, but I was totally unprepared for what he said.
"Actually, we think he's right here in London." I was about to make a smart comment, when he said, "About five hundred years from now."
I was back in my cell waiting for Redfield (Blondie) and Thompson (Nasty Bastard) to come and collect me. I'd gathered my things together – which took all of 3 minutes – and changed into normal clothes (sweatshirt, jeans and trainers), which felt so good after seven years of wearing government provided cotton jumpsuits. I was starting to feel like a real person again – or as close as someone like me can get, anyway.
They arrived – on time, of course – and led me through the prison to the way out. Once all the release papers were signed and we were outside, they gave me some money (not enough to skip the country, unfortunately), 'phone numbers for both of them, instructions to contact them as soon as I'd found Dunning and was back in nineteen-ninety-eight and a warning that they'd find me and kill me (slowly) if I didn't keep my part of the bargain – I figured they weren't joking. What they didn't give me, however, was a way to slip through five hundred years. Then they left and I was alone and free for the first time in seven long years.
I enjoyed my freedom for about two minutes before deciding to go and see Dave – an old friend, and probably the only person that could help me get to where I had to go.
"Hey, Dools. How are ya?" Dave said casually - not in the least bit surprised to see me after seven years (and eight years before I should have been knocking on his door).
"Come in. "
He led me through the house and out into the back yard where there were two chairs, which looked as if they'd fall apart should someone sit on them, and a large bucket full of ice and cans of beer.
We sat down (the chairs were stronger than they looked) and Dave passed me a beer. We sat and drank in silence for a short while before he said "So, what brings you out here?" "I need your help with something."
"Anything, man. Just name it."
I stared at him for a while, trying to figure out where to start. He'd grown a beard since the last time I saw him – probably just forgotten to shave for the past few months. He was like that. He was also the most intelligent person I knew, but you'd never know unless you were a close friend. To most people he came across as a weird old-before-his-time hippy and this amused him no end. He was a completely different person to the boy I'd gone to school with. In school he was the one everybody thought would grow up to be the bank manager or the accountant or the chairman of a huge corporation – how wrong we were. I'm not exactly sure what he does now. He and four others live in a huge house which is crammed with computers, printers and other equipment that I have no idea how to use or what it does, and they monitor…things. Like I said, I don't know what he does. They've been doing this for about fifteen years. God only knows where they get the funding from.
"You're staring at me, Dools." He said with a smirk.
"Sorry, I'm just not sure where to start – It's…erm…kind of complicated."
"Hey, complicated I'm good at – just spit it out."
"OK. Here goes. Do you remember what we talked about last time we met?" I asked.
He thought about this for a few moments and then smiled and said, "The hole thingy…right?"
"Right. I need to find it." And then I told him about the conversation I'd had with Redfield and Thompson.
"Can you trust 'em?" He asked, genuinely concerned for my safety.
"Probably not, but what can I do?"
"Disappear." He said matter-of-factly.
"I will – after I get Dunning back."
"You always were a sucker, Dools." He knew that once I gave my word I stuck to it.
"Thanks. So, can this hole thing get me there?"
"Huh?…Oh, yeah. Absolutely."
"Great. Can you take me to it?"
"You don't have to go anywhere – it's right here. In the cellar."
"You're living on top of this thing? Isn't that dangerous?"
"Well, it's been there for over ten years and nothing's happened so far."
"Do the others know about it?"
"Yeah, but they haven't tried going through."
He smiled, "Once or twice – but don't tell the others. They say that we shouldn't use it until we can find out if it harms you or anything - I say fuck it, you've gotta die sometime, right?"
"What happens? Does it hurt or anything?"
"It doesn't really hurt but you do feel like a dog turd for a couple of days after you reach the other side." He had a way with words.
"You didn't tell me what happens."
"Well, you just sort of think about where or when you want to end up and then jump in. Next thing you know, you're there. Simple."
"Simple." I echoed.
"The hard part is getting back."
"Why? Can't you just jump back through?"
"No. The hole's not in the place you end up at. You have to go find it."
"Oh." I said glumly.
"It's not that hard. Somehow you know where to go – just follow your instincts." He explained. Then he frowned and added, "Unless someone's blocking it, that is."
"What do you mean 'blocking it'?"
"If you don't want anyone to find it, you can stop it from sending out the signals. We do it with the one here."
"I wouldn't worry about it - you've got to know what you're doing to stop it from signalling. I've never had any problems getting back."
"OK, then. I may as well go now. While I've still got the balls."
"Err…probably best to wait until night. You never know where it's gonna dump you."
So I waited. I'm good at that, too.
I was halfway across Cawdale, on my way to Seymour, when I bumped into one of The Brothers' men. It took him a second or two to recognize me and this probably saved my life. I pulled out my gun and shot him right between the eyes. He fell backwards and there was a sickening crack as his head smashed on the pavement. Luckily the street was deserted – but then Cawdale's always deserted. However, it wouldn't be long until the police were alerted and I didn't want to be around when they got here. Cawdale was the one place where the police were more vicious than the criminals. Shoot, maim, torture and kill now, "ask questions later" was their motto. I ducked down a side street and continued on my way. I couldn't afford to waste any time. Hopefully Collins was still taped to the chair back in Rissham. I needed to get into Club 54 before he alerted The Brothers.
A few weeks after I got into The Districts The Brothers had a contract put out on me. Two million credits for the man to bring them my head – I must have really pissed them off. Now, I'd never even met them at this point so I had no idea why they wanted me dead. Just lucky I guess. I knew of them of course – you couldn't live here and not know of The Brothers. There were six of them at last count (at one time there had been nine, but you can't be the baddest criminals in the land without having a fatality now and then). They controlled about seventy-five percent of The Districts and were into everything from money laundering to kidnapping to murder. The police couldn't get anywhere near them – they were untouchable. Before I found out about the contract I'd been thinking of asking for their help in finding Dunning. I'd looked everywhere and showed his picture to just about everyone I met, but come up with nothing. The guy had just disappeared without a trace. Fortunately a contact told me about the contract before I could approach The Brothers. From then on I was very careful and so far I'm still alive.
When I eventually found Dunning it was completely by accident. I was in a store in Ferndell (this is probably the only nice area in The Districts) when an argument started between a customer and the shopkeeper, I looked over to see what was going on and it was him. Apparently he'd been overcharged and he seemed pretty pissed off about it. Once the argument was over I followed him at a safe distance back to an apartment block. I kept myself hidden while he unlocked the main door and went inside. After a few minutes I checked the mailboxes and sure enough, there was one for a Dr. Alex Dunning, Apartment number seventeen on the fourth floor. I watched the building for a couple of days to monitor his movements. He spent most of his time inside the apartment - he'd only been out three times in two days, and then only for a few minutes at a time. On the third day I decided to break in to his apartment during his morning stroll and give him a surprise when he got back. He left the building at the same time as he had the previous two mornings and I waited until he was out of sight before moving towards the main entrance. My luck was in – a young girl was on her way out of the building and she held the door open for me, probably assuming I was a resident.
"Welcome." She replied.
The lift was out of order so I walked up the four flights of stairs looked around for number seventeen. I found it, picked the lock (an essential skill in my business) and let myself in. The apartment was sparse to say the least – in the lounge area there was an armchair, a small threadbare sofa and a miniature TV on top of a cardboard box. The bedroom contained a mattress on the floor. The kitchen had a fridge and a kettle. Dunning must be the only person to own less furniture than me. But of course, he wasn't exactly at home – this was probably just a stopover.