Jason Fortuno glanced at his watch. Six thirty. He packed his day’s work into a black satchel, waved goodbye to Leonard, and left the office, briskly making his way to the lift.
But before he could summon it, there was a mechanical ping and the doors opened, allowing a man to step out.
He reminded Jason of an actor he had seen in one of the old black and white films Lauren had made them watch, resembling a Basil Rathbone or George Sanders, yet much more sinister. He was tall and thin, with one eye a dark blue, the other a deep green. He was wearing a white suit, with a yellow shirt, black waistcoat and red tie. And in his hand, the man held a black cane, topped with a silver dragon’s head. He looked every inch a gentleman, yet there was something malevolent about his demeanour, and Jason backed away.
His voice was crisp, polite and British.
‘I’m afraid you made a mistake, I’m…’
‘Please, I know full well who you are. You look very much like your father.’
‘Who are you… and what do you know about my father?’
‘Our paths crossed before…. several times in fact. A decent fellow, and quite the swordsman. I don’t suppose you know much about the art of the blade?’
Jason hesitated and did not reply.
‘Oh of course, you’ve spent most of your days in that dreadful Facility.’
‘How do you know so much about me?’
‘All will become clear in time. Now, while this may seem frightfully rude, I must ask you to come with me.’ He extended a hand, and Jason felt compelled to follow him.
‘I promise that I will not hurt you Jason.’ He smiled. ‘Come along.’
‘No…no I don’t think so. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to leave now.’
The man sighed, but his pleasant expression did not change.
‘Now that makes things more difficult. And this can be over so quickly.’
Jason made a move as if to follow the man. As he turned his back, Jason extended his hand and, remembering back to his dreadful days in the Facility, allowed energy to flow through his fingers, sending out a bolt of crackling energy towards his would-be abductor. The man was thrown into the wall with a crunch and Jason immediately began to run towards the stairwell. But he was too slow, the man leapt up with cat like grace and landed in front of him.
‘Impressive, but unwise. You used up a considerable portion of your energy and now you have nowhere to run.’ He took Jason by the arm, not roughly, but with sufficient restraint to compel him into compliance.
‘Now if you will come with me.’
Jason sighed. Using unchannelled magic required great exertion, and the man didn’t seem at all harmed by the energy itself, or his collision with the wall.
The man escorted Jason back towards the lift, and as he did so, the youth yelled and, using up what strength he had left, sent another wave of energy coursing through his hands at the man, crackling his skin upon impact and sending him reeling through the air and out through a glass window. Gasping for air, Jason swiftly took the lift down and made his way back to the club as quickly as his fatigued legs could carry him.
On the paved courtyard outside the building, a large crowd had gathered, gaping at the splattered corpse. Had he been depressed and thrown himself out? Before they could continue in their conjecture, the body peeled itself from the pavement.
‘My sincere apologies about the mess.’ He mumbled, clicking his splintered jaw back into place. The gathered crowd were too shocked to say anything, although the most curious thing they noted was that despite falling at least thirty stories, there was not a single drop of blood on the man’s white suit.
Jason stumbled into the club and made his way straight to the bar, where Simon and Lauren were deep in conversation.
‘And so Nessa and he finally made up and are living it hot out in the country out east somewhere, and so she says to me … sweet Lord, Jason, what happened to you?’
‘I er… got knocked down by a bike. Do you mind if I have a quick word with my Dad?’
Lauren frowned at his abruptness, but quickly resumed her normal cheery disposition and smiled.
Simon threw the cloth over his shoulder and took Jason to a table.
‘What’s wrong Jason?’
‘A man tried to take me away with him today…he knew who I was…he spoke about my father…’
Simon’s eyes widened, his unflappable exterior visibly shaken.
‘Did he tell you his name…? What did he look like?’
‘He was tall and thin and he was wearing a white suit. And he’d got a very posh English accent…’
‘Was he…by any chance carrying a silver cane?’
‘Yeah…why…do you know who he is?’
Simon frowned deeply.
‘He doesn’t have a name, at least, not one we’re aware of. Calls himself ‘The Gentleman’. I’ve met him on several occasions.’
‘Is he an assassin?’
‘Not an assassin. The assassin. The ultimate professional, a contract killer who’ll work for whatever reward he chooses, as sharp with his sword as his with his tongue. He’s always polite, even when he’s about to cut your throat. As long as he’s alive and his contract remains valid, he’ll never stop hunting you Jason.’
‘Well… I left him splattered on the pavement.’
‘I’m afraid it’s not that simple. He’ll be back. You at least held him off for a while; he’ll be distracted trying to cover up the evidence of your little fracas. Now, go upstairs and rest. You’ll need your strength if he finds us here.’
Jason nodded, and headed up to the backrooms. People had begun to enter the club for cheap cocktails and early drinks so Lauren quickly got to work, setting down salted snacks on several of the tables she had neglected earlier. Jason dropped onto the sofa and fell promptly asleep.
A short while later, Simon Liberthine had just dealt with the removal of a particularly inebriated customer from the dancefloor when the doors of the club opened and a tall, thin man entered, smiling at him.
‘Simon. A pleasure to see you again.’