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Previously: City On Fire, Part 1: A Call to War
CITY ON FIRE
Like Old Times
Jon stepped out of the shower and looked at himself in the mirror. His dark-brown hair had grown long and his face was a mess of stubble. He ran his palm over his scratchy cheek and grinned at the rough looking man staring back.
“We definitely seen better days lad.”
He left the bathroom to his closet and quickly dressed himself in his usual attire; jeans and t-shirt with a black unbuttoned over-shirt. He then went to his bed and reached underneath to retrieve a silver case. He tossed it on the bed and stared at it for a moment.
“Looks like the good lord be smackin' me with some irony, for not tossin' this thing ages ago.”
With a heavy sigh, Jon opened the case. Cradled in a layer of Styrofoam laid two nickel-plated .45's; positioned back to back to make a crude “T”. Their grips were polished ebony with silver crosses embedded in them. Lining the rest of the case were several clips.
He slowly drew one of the guns from it's soft coffin and held it firmly. A shiver ran up his spine with an eery familiarity – the ease and comfort of holding a gun. He then looked to the closet; eying a long garment bag hanging on the rack.
Jon shook his head and turned his attention back to the case. He withdrew the other gun and held them both for a moment; taking in deep breaths.
“Once damned,” he said aloud, as he put them back in the case. “Always damned.”
He grabbed the case and left the apartment; headed to his first target.
ONE HOUR LATER
Jon Stood across the street from a dilapidated building, as he looked on in remembrance. This building was one of Silvio Manfredi's fronts, back in the day. He remembered it getting raided all the time by the police, but they could never find anything and they never would. Old Silvermane had half the department in his pocket; all of them willing to send a tip as to when the next raid was coming.
Indeed, Jon knew this place well; it was where he got his first job, after all. A thirteen year old boy wanting to make ten bucks every time he ran a package for Mr. Silvermane. When he graduated high school, this is where he had celebrated. When he dropped out of college, this is where he came to commiserate. When he was down on his luck and in need of money, this is where he came to work; this time as a Capper for Manfredi's lieutenants.
Silvermane was gone now and so was his criminal empire. Jon had left long before everything came crashing down. Last he heard some nonsense about Manfredi turning himself into a robot or something. It didn't matter to Jon what happened. His life as a “mafioso” was over... though this journey he was about to embark on would bring him back into the world of crime. Just on the other side of things.
Jon sighed, as he made his way across the street. His eyes remained on the main entrance of the building. In the old days, a couple of Manfredi's boys would be standing there, smoking, drinking and laughing at dumb jokes; pretending to be two morons, as they kept an eye out for any sign of trouble. Now the entrance was a pair of worn doors with KEEP OUT painted across them. Music was blaring from inside; some loud crap the kids were listening to nowadays.
“Let the games begin,” he groaned, as he knocked
As quickly as he'd knocked, the doors swung inward; revealing four young men in store-brand thugware, eying him like he just made fun of their mothers. Two stood in front of him while the other two held the doors. Jon couldn't help but chuckle.
Behind them was the old lobby; once decorated with fine art and red carpeting, this is where Manfredi's lieutenants would meet every Sunday, dressed to the nines and smoking large Cuban cigars, as they talked business.
“What'chu want, old man?” snapped the closest to the doors; a pock-faced teen barely out of school.
“Nothin' much,” old man? “I'm just looking for a gang of limp-wristed nancies involved with that shootin' in the paper.”
The young man's face twisted with anger. “Why's that?”
A crooked grin stretched the corner of Jon's mouth. “I plan on kickin' the s**t out of every last one of them.”
The teen reached behind him and pulled out a gun; aiming it at Jon's face. “You're crazy as hell,” he laughed. “Coming here, acting like some kind of badass. Don't you know who we are?”
“I know who ya are,” Jon stood his ground. “Ya call yer'selves the Kitchen's Butchers. Ya been fightin a war with the West End Princes for some months that's been gettin' alotta innocent folk killed. Now, if ya don't mind my sayin'... ya both have the most ridiculous names I ever heard. I imagine ya havin' cute little choreographed knife fights in back alleys while dancin' in frilly little tutus.”
“You son-of-a-” the teen gritted his teeth. “You don't get your ass outta here and I'm gonna-”
“Dammit lad, grow a pair!” he shouted. “Don't sit there, threatenin' the man callin' ya chickens**t to yer face! Pull the trigger!”
Fear flashed over the teen's face. “You better back off or-”
“Pull it!” Jon took a hard step forward.
The teen stumbled back, as the gun went off. Jon's head lurched, as he fell onto the sidewalk. The teen and his friends stared at his body with a gamut of mixed emotions. Then it started. An unsettled laugh that pushed the others into guffaws of boasting bravado. The teen also found himself joining in, as he began nodding his head with self-praise.
“You see that s**t!?”, he waved his gun in the air, as he turned to his friends. “Motherf***er didn't know who he was f***ing with.”
His smiling and boasting came to a slow halt, as he realized he was the only one carrying on. His friends were no longer laughing, but staring, with mouths agape, at something behind him. He turned around and was shocked to see Jon sitting up, with his elbows propped on his knees. A small welt rested above his eyebrow. In his hand, he rolled a thin piece of metal over his knuckles. “How's it feel?” he tossed it at the teens feet. “Shootin' a man point blank in his face?”
They stared in awe/fear, as Jon got to his feet and dusted the butt of his jeans. “Tell me,” he rolled his shoulders and tilted his head until his neck cracked. “Come on, lad. I really wanna know.”
The teen stepped back, as the gun shook in his limp hand at his side. He looked at his feet and saw it was a flattened bullet.
“Eh? I canna' hear ya,” he took a step back into the lobby. “Easy, isn't it? Shootin' blindly from a distance; hopin ya get lucky 'n hit the fella yer aimin' at. Just a little different, when yer target's lookin' ya right in the eye.”
The teen stepped on the back of his pant-leg and fell hard onto the floor. The other man drew his gun and cautiously took aim. The ones holding the doors let go and grabbed for theirs as well.
“Is it as easy as shooting children?” Jon took another step. “How's it feel to be a child murderer before yer balls have even had a chance to drop? Tell me now, while ya have the tongue in yer head to do so.”
The doors closed and its loud clang was accompanied by a single gunshot that quickly turned into a barrage of gunfire. Jon's body jerked, as his shirt and coat were riddled to shreds.
After what seemed like an eternity, the shooting stopped; the sound of gunfire replaced by a round of clicking, as all their ammo was spent. They looked upon their target and were frightened to find him still standing. There were holes throughout his clothing, but no blood.
Jon shook his whole body and slapped his chest, as flattened bullets fell to the collection on the floor. He closed his eyes and breathed deep.
“Think ya know what this life is really like?” he took his holey over-shirt off. “Tossin bullets at another group of fools over somethin' as pathetic territory. This life is nothin' but pain 'n there's no escapin' yer time, when ya feel cold steel on the back of yer head 'n ya find yer'self breathin' through the new hole where yer eye used to be.”
His eyes opened and staring back at the frightened men were two red orbs. He reached behind him and slowly drew the guns sticking out the back of his pants. He looked at his reflection in the nickel plating, as he said, “The law's been lettin' your little war drag on; waitin' for ya to kill each other off. Unfortunately, I can't afford to wait that long.”
The men and the teen trembled, as they started backing away from him.
He cocked the hammers back, as he said, “Once damned...”
Jon extended his arms at his sides and, without looking, shot the men by the doors in their heads. Bringing his arms in, he fired two more times; nailing the other man in the head and the teen in his shoulder.
The teen screamed like a banshee, as he fell onto the floor again. Tears flowed from his eyes, as snot spewed from his nose. He held up his hand and pleaded, “Please man! Please, don't kill me!”
Jon casually walked over and knelt beside him. He nudged the teen's hand away and pushed the muzzle of the gun against his forehead. “Always damned.”
The teen closed his eyes and gritted his teeth; waiting for the boom! that would send him screaming into oblivion.
Jon's finger shook, as he pressed the gun harder. His jaw clenched and now his hand began to tremble. Come on Jon. Just pull the damn trigger 'n get a move on.
He lifted the gun and quickly stood up. “Yer damn lucky I have a conscience; 'cause I would like nothin' more than to splatter yer brains all over this floor.”
“Dear God, thank you,” the teen sobbed. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“Bu~t,” Jon shrugged his shoulders, before shooting him in his knee. “Ya still need to learn yer lesson.”
Jon turned his back and walked away, as he stuffed his guns behind him again; leaving the teen screaming on the floor. Once outside, he reached into his pocket and grabbed a pack of cigarettes. He reached into his other pocket, as he looked at his shirt.
“Good thing I buy these things cheap,” he said, as he procured his zippo. He flipped it open and was about to flick it, when he noticed the hole in the center. “Bloody hell.”
He turned back and opened one of the doors. “Hey kid!” he shouted over the screaming. “Ya got a light?!”
Jon sat outside of a convenience store, across the street from the building, after buying a cheap lighter. He'd already changed his shirt and re-adorned his over-shirt to hide his guns. As he took drag after drag from his cigarette, he kept thinking about the teenager; how he couldn't bring himself to shoot.
Guess I'm still a bit rusty. Still, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Boy's still young enough to wise up – even more so, with a couple holes in him.
He shook it off and went on his way. Killing a couple of the Butchers was just a message – the teenager would see to that. He'd tell them about “the man bullets bounce off of”. They'd laugh at him, of course. Think him crazy or stupid – until Jon hit their other hangouts, of course.
Jon felt his head where the welt had been – nearly gone. The look on the teen's face reminded him of when he was eight years old and how his friend had that same look in his eyes, when they accidentally discovered Jon's power; after he fell from a tree onto a picket fence. Other than some bruising, he was injury free – while the fence had shattered under his weight. He rarely saw his friend after that, but he couldn't blame him. Mutants weren't so well known then and were hated and feared even more then they were today.
He'd seen a similar surprised look from Silvio Manfredi; after Jon took a bullet to the chest meant for his boss. However, Manfredi didn't shun Jon, unlike his old childhood friend. Instead, he made better use of Jon's powers and gave him the more dangerous jobs his other cronies couldn't do. It was during this time, Jon was introduced to actually using a gun.
Jon shook the memory from his mind. There was no time to dredge up the past. He had business to take care of.
Next Time: City On Fire, Part 3: Getting the Scoop