Hall adjusted his coat as the icy wind wrapped around him. His contact was late. The clock on the tower a couple blocks away just finished its eleventh chime. He looked down the street on either side, peering into the slowly growing twilight down Baker Street. Hall checked his pocket, feeling the reassuring weight of his .38. Parker had told him that he should expect the man no later than ten thirty. No good bastard, he thought. I’ve been played. Hall decided to pick up the briefcase; before he had even gotten three steps away from the lamppost, he heard footfalls.
They were distant, but very clear — creating an almost ghostly echo within the caverns of the city. Hall then realized exactly how quiet the city had gotten — there wasn’t even the sound of an odd pigeon flapping around. The footsteps grew more distinct, the sound of each step sending an icy chill down Hall’s neck. Who the hell was Parker dealing with now? The last Hall had heard, this contact was from Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe? Parker was a busy man with his fingers in a lot of pies, not the least of which were gunrunning. He would route a shipment of arms through a dummy corporation, posing as an antiques dealer.
By renting out storage space from various dirty types, Parker could manage to hide all his tracks by killing them and taking over the property. Then, once a buyer could be found, Parker would simply drop all the info so the hammer could fall on the recently deceased, leaving him in the clear. Hall withdrew a cigarette from a crumpled pack and lit it, inhaling deeply. He exhaled and blew out a cloud of smoke, pausing to adjust his hat. The cigarette’s cherry dimmed out and Hall sparked his lighter to relight it.
“Nasty habit, you know,” a deep and knowing voice crackled.
Hall nearly choked on his own smoke at the sound of the voice. His lighter’s glow revealed a man with a thin and unremarkable face.
“Uh, are you Parker’s man?” Hall began hesitantly.
“Indeed I am, sir. And you are?”
“Skinner, good sir. Skinner. But I am known by many names to many people. But such things happen when you walk the Earth as long as I have.”
Hall took a drag off his cigarette and eyed the man carefully. A tuft of white hair peeked out from under a bowler hat at either temple. The man’s grey eyes bore no malice, nor the lines on his face any significant age. But what the hell, Parker used all kinds.
“At any rate, I believe we have some business to transact. I have brought a document that your Mr. Parker is in need of.”
Skinner reached into his long jacked and extracted a manila folder and handed it to Hall. Hall gazed through it and smirked. It was what Parker needed.
“Looks good,” Hall began. “Looks like you know your stuff.”
“My dear boy, I know more about warfare and antiquities than any other. Most people are—“
Before Skinner could finish, Hall reached out with his thirty-eight and fired into Skinner’s gut at point blank range. Instead of falling, Skinner simply looked at Hall in curiosity. Hall’s eyes grew wide as he pumped three more shots into Skinner’s abdomen with no real effect. To Hall’s terror, Skinner began to chuckle.
“Did your man Parker really think that I would be as easy as your other contacts? Mr. Hall, I am no mere thug.”
“In good time, sir, in good time. The more pressing issue is where am I to find a tailor at this hour? This is a fine coat, I’d hate to see it go to waste over such skullduggery as this.”
Skinner removed his gloves, revealing bony fingers tipped with long and sharp white nails. Skinner began to speak — his voice had gone down roughly two octaves.
“You know, it’s been a while since I’ve had a nice hot drink, Hall.”
The icy gust of wind drowned out Hall’s screams of pain and terror as the clock struck twelve.
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