At exactly eight o’ clock Henry Shen stepped out from his doorway with the briefcase in hand. He closed the door firmly behind him, locked it, and walked down the stairs totally unaware and completely oblivious to the idea of someone wanting him dead. When your best customer, who happens to be the local Black Tortoise Triad Boss here in San Francisco, hands you a detailed folder on the man he wants dead, how can you pass up on the opportunity? Most do, because they’re not a dumbass like Alex Mercer. But she also lives in a different world. Down here, dwelling in the shadows, life’s completely different. Down here you have to kill in order to live until tomorrow. You need learn how to survive; life’s first cruel lesson she learned as a stupid kid. One of the only things she’s good at.
Across the street, the fleeting glow of her cigarette burned out as she got up from the stone bench, keeping a safe distance behind him. Calmly, Shen walked through San Francisco’s Chinatown Night Market. He passed by some vendors selling cheap imitation sneakers and jackets, stared into a fish tank, and considered buying a new suit. He stopped in the center of the marketplace, in front of a twisted cherry blossom tree in bloom, the ground was scattered with its trampled pink petals. Alex stopped, hiding near a vendor selling shitty knock-off purses. Shen looked at down his watch, then turned left into the ever growing sea of people.
Pushing her way through the tides, she caught a glimpse of Shen; he stopped at the same noodle cart like he always did, paid for a bowl, disappearing deeper into the crowd. Her nose twitched as it caught a whiff of the salty soy sauce that made stomach growl. She thought about stuffing her mouth but losing him would leave her with one pissed off Woozie… and a visit from Mr. Sun. Fuck that idea, she thought.
Finishing his bowl he tossed it away, did a quick scan of the identical faces around him, and dipped into an alleyway behind the Lemon Grass restaurant. Its grimy neon yellow letters flickered. Alex lurked close behind the wall, bathed in shadows, watching. He knocked three times and the back door flung open. When it slammed shut, she scurried over, pressing her ear to the door. There was a lot of muffled shouts, each voice competing for attention. Cheerful laughter erupted. Chairs scraped along the floor as they were dragged. Looking around, she found a fire escape that led up onto the roof, giving her the perfect vantage point.
Climbing up, Alex stepped onto the roof. In the middle was a pyramid-shaped skylight with a convenient window propped open. The voices were clearer. The night concealed her every step as she snuck over to watch them. Counted a total of seven dipshits down below in the kitchen. Four of them sat around a mahjong table in the middle of a tense game. Two others stood near the back door, doing a damn good job guarding the thing. Off in the corner, near some hissing freezers, two more secretly talked. Shen had the face of a confident man. Looking down at her prey, Alex smirked. An old-school purple pinstripe suit, collar popped like he was trying impress someone cheap. A flimsy, piece of shit gold chain necklace dangling above his chest, shaped like an S. What a fuckin’ jackass!
The man Shen was talking with was bald, had a fixed pissed-off expression, and wore a stained beater with orange track pants, and to top it all of a black dragon spiraled around his throat. His eyes were locked onto the briefcase. He dragged Shen along by his collar, yelled at the four playing mahjong to move, urging him to place it onto the table. One of them said something that Alex couldn’t understand and was shut up with a swift smack to the head.
Shen gently placed the briefcase down. They all huddled around him as he turned the key. Neatly stacked green towers sprang up. The dipshit with the dragon tattoo buried his greedy hands into the missing money. What kinda asshole steals from honest, hardworkin’ whores who barely speak English? They’re makin’ money to survive in this uncarin’ world just like me… except they fuck strangers. I pull the trigger without hesitating.
Three knocks interrupted the fun. They suspiciously glared at the back door, hands reaching for their waistbands. Dragon Fucker waved his arms, laughing to ease his guards. Lowering their guns, they nervously laughed along. Rookie fucking mistake. He slid the door open just enough to reveal her scarred face under the pale moonlight. A fresh claw-mark looking one slashed across her exposed stomach. A second deep one ran vertically through her right eye, stopping at the tip of her nose. The last one was barely visible through her maroon camisole; only the tip could be seen, slithering down from the left shoulder and across her left tit. Each scar was a different story told across a pale white battlefield. Scary to think my body is so fucked up and beaten at twenty-three. Dark rosewood hair parted over her right eye, flowing down her shoulders. Striking emerald eyes gazed indifferently.
He yanked the door open, undressing Alex with his lecherous gaze. Creepy shit smiled yellowed grin. Disgusted, Alex shivered. Feels like worms burrowing under my skin.
“Shen, I didn’t know you bought me a slut from your stable. And she’s a gweilo too… Haven’t had a gweilo in a long fucking time. Other than the fucked up face, I’d say she’s gonna suck my cock dry.”
Confused, Shen blinked. “She’s not one of my girls. I don’t know who she is,” he insisted.
Didn’t matter who she was. As long as there was a woman knocking at his door, how could he say no? Dragon Shithead draped his arm around her shoulder and grinned a slimy grin that filled her veins with a fiery disgust. “I don’t care who she is or where she came from! Someone’s gonna get fucked tonight!” He pulled Alex closer, hand firmly groping her ass. Firmly squeezing, he flashed his yellowed teeth. God, he smelled like rotted piss left out in the sun. Lucky for me he was distracted and didn’t see her hands. “Since none of you know how to properly show a woman a good time… I’ll take the responsibility of making her scream.” He winked. “Am I righ...?” In the black of his lifeless eyes a Bowie’s hilt plunged into his chest, blood pouring like scarlet waves.
Tossing him to the ground, his hand caught her sleeve. Shen trembled, pale as fresh snow. “Wait!” He squinted at the black ink on her chest. Perched on a skull, the raven spread its midnight wings. He slammed the briefcase shut when he glanced at her right forearm. Death roamed a quiet forest, the naked trees shuddering. He hugged it tightly and whimpered in the corner as he stared at her left shoulder. A moon rose above a beastly silhouette howling. With his back against the wall, he slid down, terrified. “Oh no, it’s her! It’s her!” He was practically in tears. “She’s the one on Woozie’s payroll! M-Mercer! Alex Mercer!”
Their grips flashed, eyes wide with pure unadulterated fear. How delicious! She thought. Drawing their pistols they swung their hips, fingers fumbling with the safeties. Alex was already armed by the time any of them glanced back up. Fastest hands always win. Gently squeezing the trigger a stream of bullets sprayed. The burning stench of sulfur flooded the room. Each corpse had nickel-sized holes in their chests. Blood formed a crimson stream down the storm drain. Looking around Alex noticed Shen was gone. Next to her was a shattered window, blood dripping from its jagged edges.
Outside, a thin blood trail led down the grungy bricked alleyway, forming smears. At the end, brick walls opened up into a square-shaped area behind some businesses and restaurants away from the night market. Flies buzzed around leaking dumpsters, light-bulbs flashed, hanging onto dim life, and a sewer grate spat up this rotten, musky stomach-churning stank that made her lightheaded. She gagged the more she thought about the smell. Slowly raising her head, stomach calming down, her eyes honed in on a series of curved droplets leading behind a dumpster. Creeping up, the wind carried muffled whimpers.
Shen was backed into the wall, rocking, eyes wide and frail. His arms shook as he tried to aim a .22 caliber pistol – a gun carried by hookers. Anxious tears ran down his cheeks as he hopelessly clicked. To him, Alex probably looked like some devil, a bloody omen sent to claim his soul. Blood dripped down her face, and she was shrouded by the night. Her menacing shadow consumed his rattled body.
Steadily she raised her gun, eyes down the sights, slowly breathing to concentrate. A fire raged through her veins as she eased her anxious trigger finger.
“P-please, please, you don’t want to do this!” he begged, cowering.
Alex cocked her gun to make sure there was a bullet in the chamber. “Ya done fucked up, Shen. One of the biggest mistakes ya’ve made in the past few days besides rippin’ off your former laoban, jackass. Be thankful it’s me and not Mr. Sun. We both know what happens when he shows up.”
He held the briefcase out, arms shaking. “Half!” he blurted. “Take half of the money, and I’ll disappear from San Francisco completely. You have my word.”
Alex skeptically rolled her eyes, taking aim. “First beggin’, now ya try a bribe. Ya really are fuckin’ pathetic, ya know that.”
“T-then take the w-whole thing…….” He sobbed, bowing like he was waiting for the sword.
“Honestly, I could care less about you or what ya’ve done. Contract’s a contract, and someone’s gotta get a bullet to the head either way.”
Tears streamed down his numb cheeks. “Why me?” he murmured, dread poisoning his thoughts.
Staring at the pathetic Shen, Alex thought to herself. Why they always ask questions when confronted with death, I’ll never fuckin’ know. Happens all the time, in my experience. Aim a gun at a target and they always break down, askin’ what they did to deserve their fate. It’s like they’ve never lived to begin with. They use old memories to numb the pain. Pisses me off. Actually, it reminds me of the first time I stared into a dead man’s lifeless gaze.