Fade thought the kidnapping was going rather well. Then strangers showed up.
An ex-special forces soldier, Fade operates on the shadowy side of things to make extra scratch. After a botched contract, Fade learns he's become the target of people with plans for his funeral. People who say Fade's the greatest current threat to humanity. That doesn't make sense, but Fade's going to have to prove these people wrong, because shooting them doesn't seem to work.
Fade doesn't have a whole lot of time to solve this problem, because it's getting late and if he stands his daughter up for taco night again, she might take it personally.
And some things are worse than death.
The doorman and the hostess were innocent. As were the diners in the small front room of the restaurant, a splashy place with old-style lights, cream-colored walls dotted with art for sale, and a menu printed daily. Fade only knew the last because they gave him one when he sat down at the bar. The drinks were on the back, and the date made itself known in thick block letters on the top. Beneath it prices, approaching a catastrophic level, laid out in bold. So Fade called for a shot of cheap vodka, left a five on the counter, and went into the private room to ruin the evening for everyone.
Four gentlemen, as Fade called anyone in a suit, hunched over dinners around a square oak table. Fade noticed they’d scattered crumbs across the table’s shimmering finish. Drops of red wine from careless pours speckled the surface.
The four turned to regard him together, their mouths in various states of chewing. Fade centered his own stare on one in the back corner, in clear need of dental work to repair some front teeth fleeing from his gums. Their eyes tracked to Fade’s, and he watched as their expressions transformed from curiosity to confusion to fear.
Those wide, shocked whites told Fade it was time to start.
“Evening, gentlemen,” Fade said, shutting the door behind him. “Seems you’ve found yourselves on the wrong end of someone else’s money.”
“The hell are you?” slurred the guy closest to him. The sliding of syllables matched the empty bottle on the table, a second one half gone. The other three waited to see what answer their champion would get.
Fade leaned in, slid the brass knuckles around his palm and over his fingers, and socked the guy. Knocked him and his chair over. The man’s legs flew up as he flew down, hit the table and toppled his glass, half-filled with wine, over the edge and onto that nice suit and his white shirt. Of the three others at the table, one, the farthest with the odd teeth, managed to take another nervous chew before it all fell apart.
The suit to Fade’s right pushed back from the table, his left hand reaching inside his jacket for what Fade presumed was a gun. Not what this fight needed. Fade grabbed the fallen man’s plate and whipped it across the table. It struck gun guy’s forehead and shattered. Fade caught the man’s fading eyes just long enough to confirm consciousness had left the scene before he turned to the last two. Unlike their courageous, plate-crushed comrade, these two understood. They held up their hands. Waited for the demands.
“Appreciate it, fellas,” Fade said, stepping over wine guy. “Unfortunately, I’m not being paid to take you hostage. Or to rob you.”
The third man lowered his hands slightly, confused. That lasted till Fade delivered another knuckle strike, sending the man to kiss the floor like his pal. No spilled wine this time, though.
“What do you want?” The last guy, whose teeth seemed destined to haunt Fade’s nightmares, said.
“Not me you should be asking,” Fade paused. Reached in his pocket and pulled out a small card. “The person who wanted this done? You can talk to him. His name’s Ellsworth. He told me to tell you.”
To his credit, upon hearing Ellsworth’s name, the toothy man put down his arms, nodded at Fade. “Go ahead.”
Except when Fade pulled his arm back to toss another strike, the toothy guy grabbed his steak knife and jabbed it at Fade’s chest. Would’ve worked, if toothy guy had ever stabbed a man before. If he knew how to use a knife to cut something other than New York strips. The fatal flaw? Hesitation. Fear of the unknown. Made the toothy man’s attack go a bit too slow, and gave Fade plenty of time to catch the man’s wrist with his left hand. Slammed the knife back down on the table, and delivered the knuckle strike anyway.
Four targets, four down.
Fade spent the next minute rifling their pockets. Digging through wallets. Taking cash. A couple of gift cards. Their phones were nice; they’d sell. And when he was done, Fade reached into his own wallet and pulled out a small series of business cards. All with the same number printed on them. A number that went to a voicemail with nothing but a tone.
He liked to think of these as auditions for future clients.
Checked his watch, a plastic number that nonetheless held up under repeated violent assault. Five minutes since he’d gone through the door. Which meant Fade was overdue for an exit. He made his, striding out of the room. Gave the hostess a smile and a wave on the way out. Tossed a dollar to the doorman.
They seemed nice.COLLAPSE