By: Clifton Tribble

If one sets about to hire a killer, one must always be certain of whether or not this killer has a conscience.

When Jeremy O'Neil hired his killer it was dark, as dark as the city would allow. Light pollution from dimming streetlamps and distant traffic lights provided the only illumination on the street. On the far side the buildings huddled together like massive beasts carefully considering their chances of passing the dark river of asphalt before them. No cars broke the stillness of the street, even the distant sounds of honking horns and police sirens seemed to fade before they could approach. As such, O'Neil crossed the black river undisturbed. He moved slowly and deliberately toward the building directly across the street, where a noticeable gap in the street lamps protected the building's secrets from any revealing light. He didn't walk to the building, however. He sidestepped the main door and walked down an alley, to the back of the building. From there he moved down a short staircase to a solid, reinforced steel door. He reached into the inner pocket of his coat and pulled out a key, which had cost him more than he cared to admit.

He waited a long moment before he inserted the key, then waited even longer before he twisted and pushed the door inward only a crack. He made sure to return the key to his pocket before he stepped in. He didn't want any individuals to see him walking in with a hand in his coat. He had gotten this far in his particular field by not making stupid mistakes like that. That is also why he made sure his hands were very much visible as he pushed the door open and took a step in. As if to mercilessly beat O'Neil with disappointment, the room looked perfectly ordinary. If one were to place it at a glance they may have described it as tavern. The room was composed mainly of wooden furnishings, including a large bar and lacquered tables. A baby grand piano stood on an elevated platform off to one corner, currently unoccupied. As O'Neil stepped in a very large, very blocky man with dark-skin and thinning hair stood up from his place in an old rocking chair by the door. He promptly slammed the door shut and locked it with his own key.

The metallic whine of the door promptly brought all eyes in the barroom to O'Neil and that's when he noticed the differences between this bar and any other. Nearly every man therein was more than deserving of the adjectives; scary, deadly, or insane while the rest were deserving of all three. Even the women, who were a rare commodity in such a place, looked as deadly as any of the men, possibly more so. Some of the tables were covered with beer bottles and dissembled weapons in equal measure. One man who had the appearance of a scarred willow tree sat in one corner smoking a pipe and sharpening a bowie knife roughly the size of O'Neil's forearm. A rather mannish woman was going through the process of cleaning a light machine gun that looked like overkill for any large aircraft. These people weren't the average thug or criminal by any means. They were more disciplined than that, trained, and had received their baptism by fire more than any rental muscle commonly employed by the criminal underworld.

As the eyes of the killers in the room pinned O'Neil to the wall, he could feel rather than see them accessing him. Filing him away under average height with trimmed brown hair and a clean shaven face. Their eyes swept over his own, only to get a vague impression of the vibrant green color without garnering any familiarity. They also considered his body, covered closely by a well-tailored black suit, which appeared fit and lean but not in anyway threatening when compared to any given patron. They paid the most attention to his hands and the area around them, looking for any scars or marks that might place him as one of their own or any possible places a weapon could be concealed within reach. They wouldn't find any. It had been years since O'Neil had seen to any of the more direct actions undertaken by his business. It wasn't as if he stood there manicured and defenseless but he wasn't hardboiled or armed for bear, either. Satisfied with their assessment, the patrons turned away from O'Neil and returned to whatever they were doing.

Having received a better view than anticipated of the men and women sitting around the room, O'Neil turned away from them as he walked up to the bar. Oddly enough, no patrons were currently sitting there but that didn't stop the barkeep from having his back firmly turned away from the room at large. In fact, O'Neil was fairly certain that he was the only individual in the bar who hadn't looked up at him when he walked in. O'Neil decided it would be best not to sit down and merely leaned against the bar, watching the man work on something that didn't seem to involve beverages at all but that he couldn't quite see past the bartender's stocky frame. After nearly a minute or so of being ignored, O'Neil cleared his throat loudly to get the bartender's attention. Faster than O'Neil ever could have reacted, even on his best day in his youngest years, the bartender whipped around and quickly devoured the short distance from where he had been standing and the counter. The only thing between him and O'Neil now being a foot and a half of hardwood.

"Need something?" The bartender asked, his voice deep and deadly without any effort on his part. O'Neil had dealt with such men before, however. He wasn't intimidated just yet.
"Morgavayne." O'Neil said simply, speaking like a man with a purpose who shouldn't be bothered. The name sent the bartender's eyes up and the patrons within earshot turned their heads to glance before looking away immediately.
"Name?" The bartender asked, more attentive than before.
"Jeremy O'Neil." O'Neil replied, somewhat pleased with the reaction he had garnered. The bartender nodded before stepping into the backroom behind the bar. O'Neil distantly heard a few wooden thumping sounds, deliberately spaced, before the bartender returned.
"In the back, wooden step ladder." The bartender reported, flipping up a part of the bar so O'Neil could step through. "Leave any weapons here, for your own protection." O'Neil considered those words for a moment before slowly reaching into his ankle holster and pulling out the snub-nosed, .38 revolver hiding there. The bartender promptly placed the weapon in a security box, which he locked, before nodding O'Neil onward.

The back room was just as underwhelming as the front, featuring a wooden-handled broom, and a lot of large crates. The crates did have a number of interesting labels, however, that led O'Neil to believe they weren't merely containing alcoholic beverages. In the right hand corner, just as the bartender had said, was a wooden stepladder leading up to a perfectly square hole in the ceiling. Without considering the indignity of it, O'Neil quickly climbed the ladder up into the building above the hidden barroom. It led him into what looked like a generic office space, illuminated only by a reading lamp on the Oakwood desk. He took a few steps into the light and considered the varied contents on the desk. A few manila folders, some full magazines of ammunition with no weaponry in sight, and a candy jar full of blow pops. The concrete walls of the office, where they weren't covered in ripped wallpaper, featured a number of photographs. All of them were from military operations and, if the uniforms and weaponry were any indication, fairly recent ones at that.

The loud sound of wood slamming against wood nearly made O'Neil jump. He managed to catch himself and simply turned to face the noise. A trap door had been kicked down over the hole he had just climbed through and a figure stood in the shadows behind it. O'Neil heard the tell-tale metallic click of a weapon and instinctively raised his hands in a placating manner. The sound of a string being pulled preceded another source of light illuminating the room, giving O'Neil his first true glance at his killer. The man was far taller than he, at least two inches over six foot with a wide-shouldered build composed entirely of strong and capable muscle without looking deformed or bulging. The man appeared to be in his mid-thirties as his raven-black hair hadn't faded with age but he carried himself in a way that spoke of considerable experience. The hair itself was clipped fairly short but defiant and casual enough to avoid the uniformed dogma of a buzz. His eyes were a very bold, very dark blue that seemed to devour the light rather than reflect it.

The features of the man's face spoke of more strength than the muscles of his body could. Strong, defining lines and solid angles composed his features, granting him an almost statuesque appearance. His squared jaw ended in a noticeable cleft, adding to the subtle attraction of his face without detracting from the considerably less subtle lethality. A roman nose completed his features without appearing overly large between his sharp cheekbones. His eyebrows were very thin, presumably to keep all attention on his eyes which were one of the more intimidating features he boasted. For clothing the man had dressed in a far less intimidating manner. He wore a pair of dark blue jeans and a lighter blue, v-neck t-shirt with a black coat to complete the look. Heavy, most likely military-issued, boots of faded black leather covered his feet. Any effect his clothing had to make him appear any less intimidating was immediately countered, however. As the man in question held an M9 handgun in his right hand and was making it no secret that the weapon was aimed at O'Neil's heart.

"Mister O'Neil?" The man with the gun asked. His voice lacked accent, by American standards, most likely from the Midwest or somewhere in that region.
"Mister Morgavayne?" O'Neil countered, looking pointedly at the handgun. For nearly a minute, the killer simply stared at O'Neil. Then, without warning, he grinned and pulled the pistol away.
"Drop the Mister." Morgavayne said as he clicked the safety on his weapon with his right thumb and moved behind his desk. He placed the M9 on the desk, within easy reach of his right hand, and sat down in the high-back chair behind it. With his right hand he gestured to the two steel folding chairs in front of his desk before putting his feet up on its corner. All while keeping his left hand out of view. O'Neil didn't let that fact rattle him as he took a seat.
"It's an honor to meet you, Morgavayne." O'Neil said, nodding toward the killer.
"Sure. Let me know when you stop kissing my ass so I can start listening." Morgavayne replied, drumming his fingers on the table, very close to the handle of his gun.
"I went through a lot of trouble to learn about you, Morgavayne." O'Neil said, caught off guard by the man's crass behavior. "But your cavalier attitude wasn't mentioned." At those words Morgavayne let out a laugh only barely touched by humor.
"So you read my file?" He asked, O'Neil didn't reply before the killer continued. "When I first left the service I thought it would be great to keep that secret but so many people got their hands on it one way or another I just started posting them around like business cards. How much you pay for this one? Last I checked they were going for a pretty penny."
"I see." O'Neil said, smiling to hide his embarrassment. It was actually quite a clever tactic and he was sure Morgavayne had it set up so that he received a nominal amount of the profits from those willing to pay for any information about him. "I was quite impressed with your skills and accomplishments but it made no mention of your recent activity."
"I've considered newsletters but Xeroxing just seems troublesome." Morgavayne said, seemingly stifling a yawn. "Listen, O'Neil. You clearly want me to kill someone, and I can respect that, but please, let's save some time and skip the pleasantries. Tell me who to kill and whatever method you prefer. Depending on just what you need done, it could cost extra."
"Well, Morgavayne. I am still trying to determine if you are the right man for this particular job." Rather than reply with words, Morgavayne chose a less vocal response. In a flash of black leather and shining steel, his left hand lashed out from behind his desk. A long throwing knife, commonly referred to as a bolt, sailed through the air faster than a striking serpent and ripped through the steel of the chair O'Neil was sitting in, directly beside his shoulder. O'Neil cleared his throat nervously as he looked through the inch wide hole to the wall beyond, where the knife was currently embedded.
"If you still haven't determined anything." Morgavayne said, still sitting in the same manner as before. "That was from a set of three." Rather than start shaking or crying or whatever any other sane man might have done in this situation, O'Neil chuckled.
"Impressive, there's something to be said of a straight forward man. Most don't like to show off their skills in such a manner but I've always seen that as a sign of cowardice." O'Neil said, genuinely impressed with this Morgavayne.
"Showing off?" Morgavayne asked, his mouth set in a toothy grin that barely brushed his eyes. "I was just trying to get that bug off my wall." O'Neil raised an eyebrow and glanced back, sure enough, there was large insect cut cleanly in two lying on the floor. "If you want me to show off, I can but I wouldn't want people to start thinking of me as arrogant."
"And how do you think of yourself, Morgavayne?" O'Neil asked, smiling slightly.
"Charmingly befuddled." Morgavayne replied, his grin vanishing. "And growing steadily tired of this conversation. Contrary to popular belief, just because I'm a hired gun doesn't mean I need the business of everyone who climbs into my office. Get to the point."
"I need you to kill a man by name of Jorge Alvarez." O'Neil said, deciding Morgavayne was more than up to the task. Morgavayne jotted the name down on a loose sheet of paper.
"When do you need him gone?" He asked without looking up.
"Within the next three days. I would prefer it be taken care of as soon as possible." Morgavayne nodded and wrote that down as well.
"How dead would you like him? Mutilation will cost extra, so will heightened discretion but if I need to kill anyone else in the process of killing your target the standard fee will be enough." Morgavayne spoke in a voice, as lively as any exterminator or civil servant.
"Take care of him as you see fit but there are extenuating circumstances." O'Neil said, Morgavayne dropped his pencil and turned his dark eyes on his customer. "Alvarez is currently in the custody of Federal Marshals." Morgavayne blew out a breath and noted that as well.
"That'll definitely be extra." He commented as he wrote. "It's normally my policy not to ask why but due to your 'extenuating circumstances', I feel obligated. Just why do you need this man killed?"
"Suffice to say he is in possession of information that could be harmful to my business interest." O'Neil said, grinning wolfishly. "And do not worry; I'm more than willing to pay any additional fees. I am prepared to offer you several thousand dollars; we can discuss specifics upon completion of the job. Agreeable?" Morgavayne considered O'Neil for a moment, then his short list of notes.
"I can't see why not."

Morgavayne gave O'Neil several minutes of lead time before he climbed down the ladder of his office. He walked through the backroom, gave Bartender a passing nod, and moved through the barroom without a word. Everyone in the room knew who he was and they did their best to avoid him a fact that he found more comforting than anything. The less attention he drew from the professional community at large, the better. By most, Morgavayne was considered the best at what he does. His job came with a lot of titles: hitman, assassin, the list went on but all he considered himself to be was a killer with a price tag. Whether he was the best was still up for debate but one thing couldn't be debated; his results. Every time Morgavayne was hired to kill someone, he did it. Barring, of course, disputes with his employer. As such Morgavayne had built a very solid reputation and hardly a day went by without a new contract falling at his feet. O'Neil had gotten lucky, all things considered.

His job was certainly not the only one Morgavayne had on his plate at the moment, or the easiest for that matter, but it was interesting enough. Not to mention the fact that O'Neil seemed to play it pretty loose with his money. It probably wouldn't be hard for Morgavayne to double his price but he would have to complete his job first, of course. Federal marshals weren't the greatest threat Morgavayne had faced in his long career but it would definitely make things tricky. Especially if Jorge Alvarez was an important witness, as Morgavayne had a distinctive feeling he might be. At this point all he could do was gather information and the most important information he needed was Alvarez's location which, undoubtedly, would be in some federal safe house, the locations of which are highly secretive. So Morgavayne decided to pay a visit to an old friend. With that in mind, Morgavayne walked down the street and climbed into his car, a dark-colored, anonymous, and very cheap sedan. It needed to be cheap as Morgavayne went through cars like this at least every other month.

Morgavayne brought his temporary automobile to life and set out to meet the man who was in possession of more information than the internet. The drive was a long one, leading Morgavayne from his office through the heart of the city, and all the way to the other side of town. He continued driving into a subdivision from hell. Everywhere Morgavayne looked he saw well clipped lawns and pretty, identical houses. All the houses were single story and connected, each with its own one car garage that no one ever seemed to be using. Of course, there were over a million streets all of which featured the same identical houses and landscape. It was a nice neighborhood, all things considered. Provided, of course, that one could accept an obscene amount of conformity. The homes were affordable, fairly contemporary, and it was an easy place to blend in while remaining in plain sight. Really, it was a tactical camouflage that Morgavayne could appreciate but he himself would rather die than live in a glorified gerbil habitat such as this.

Morgavayne's drive went undisturbed as the entire subdivision paid heed to its curfew, despite how young the night was. The house he was looking for was at the end of a long, curved road but he didn't park in front of it. He made sure to park a good few meters away and walk the rest of the distance. He knew his old friend was a fan of surprises. He reached the last pair of conjoined houses and wasn't surprised to see lights on in the right house while the left remained unoccupied. Before stomping through the lawn, Morgavayne checked the shoulder rig hidden by his coat where his M9 rested and then the long, thin pouch on the left side of his belt where he kept his three throwing bolts. He undid the securing strap on the holster and opened the pouch a bit, just to be safe. With that done he stomped across the slick lawn and gave the front door a stern knock. A few seconds passed before he heard footsteps and the sound of a deadbolt unlocking. The door slid open a few inches, roughly the length of a security chain.

"Son of a bitch!" An annoyed voice said from the other end of the door. It attempted to slam closed but Morgavayne hit it hard with his open palm and sent it flying back. The chain shattered and the voice yelped in surprise. Morgavayne took it as an invitation and stepped in.

His old friend, though that term should be applied very lightly, gave him a hard glare as he did. Joel Malone was of a height with Morgavayne but with dark skin and distinctive African features. His body was also much leaner and more toned than Morgavayne's, his eyes a much more warm and inviting light brown. They didn't look particularly warm at the moment, however. He was dressed in casual household attire, grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt that read: "USMC" across the chest. Malone was a former Marine sniper that Morgavayne met a long time ago in his former career. That wasn't the extent of the work Malone did for Uncle Sam by any means. His skills with infiltration led him to work closely with most of the governmental alphabet, particularly the C.I.A. And, even after being discharged, he still had his fingers in a number of pies as well as a list of contacts only rivaled by Myspace friendlist. He was just the man Morgavayne needed at the moment.

"Hey, Mal." Morgavayne greeted, waving casually. "I'm getting tired of breaking those." He added, nodding to the shattered links.
"I'm getting tired of replacing them." Malone replied, slamming the door shut and relocking the deadbolt.
"Then why don't you just let me in?" Morgavayne asked, walking away from the front door and into the living room. He promptly sat down on the nearest couch and put his feet up on the expensive-looking coffee table. Malone answered as he followed.
"Because I don't like to have you around." He said, sitting down on another couch beside the table. "Get your feet off that." Morgavayne made no attempt to move.
"I had always felt so welcome here, too." He said, yawning. "Now I'm going to paraphrase our usual deal. I need your help, generic argument, but I saved your life, generic but perfectly reasonable argument. Repeat, repeat, then acceptance."
"You forgot the part where I shoot you in the face." Malone said, leaning forward in his seat so that his elbows rested on his knees.
"No, that was the 'perfectly reasonable' bit." Morgavayne replied, making Malone's mouth quirk at one corner.
"What did you need?" He asked, trying to keep his voice neutral so as to not give any hint of commitment.
"The federal marshal safe houses in town and I'd like them in the next seventeen minutes but I'm prepared to go up to eighteen since we're chums." Morgavayne said, his voice mostly humorless.
"And I'm prepared to call the police in five minutes if you don't leave." Malone countered, Morgavayne paused as if considering that.
"Could get messy but they just might know." He breathed a sigh. "But interrogations can take so long. I'd prefer it if you just tell me." Malone shook his head.
"What makes you think I know?" He asked, rubbing a hand through his mostly nonexistent hair.
"You know things, Mal." Morgavayne replied, "Even if you don't know you can find out."
"Okay." Malone said, accepting that. "But why do you want to know?"
"Got to kill somebody, figured that was implied." Morgavayne replied, tapping his fingers on the back of the couch.
"You're going to kill a marshal?" Malone asked, sitting up in surprise.
"Of course not." Morgavayne said, "I've got to kill the guy they're babysitting."
"I don't know, Morgavayne. This doesn't sound like it would go well for me." Malone said, leaning back in his seat and using his hands to pillow his head. On anyone else it may have looked lazy, on Malone it looked thoughtful.
"Sure, because I'm going to be sure to tell everyone where I got the information from." Morgavayne said, rolling his eyes to provide the emphasis his toneless voice couldn't. "C'mon, Mal. Even if you don't like me, you can trust me." Malone closed his eyes to think.
"If I can get this for you, you owe me one. Got that? No more of this 'I could've left you in the desert' bullshit, I've repaid my debt. From now on, I do something something for you I expect something in return." Morgavayne gave Malone an odd look, wondering just what he would need his services for, before shrugging his shoulders in acceptance. "Aight, give me a minute."

With that Malone stood up from his couch and walked through the door directly beside it, which Morgavayne knew led into the master bedroom. A few minutes passed as Morgavayne waited there until he heard the front door open, the sound making him instinctively reach for his gun. Then he heard a rather effeminate, male voice call: "I'm home, baby!" He pivoted slightly in his seat to behold the reason Malone was discharged from the military. The man was younger than either Malone or Morgavayne, with darkly tanned skin and glossy, curling dark hair. He had a pleasant face, very round with a full mouth and a single diamond stud in his left nostril. He had a very fit body, reminiscent of gymnast and perfectly displayed by the tight, green jeans he wore and dark tank top. Maurice Rubin was Malone's partner, to use the politically correct term and, much like his lover, he didn't seem very happy to see Morgavayne.

"Oh." He said, slowing when he saw his home was occupied.
"Hey, Rubi." Morgavayne said, wiggling the fingers of his left hand in a wave. Maurice had always preferred to be called Rubi, Morgavayne had always assumed it was because he deemed his first name to be too gay.
"Hi." He said, his hazel eyes concerned. "Joel?!" He had hardly finished his call before Malone stepped out, holding an opened laptop in one hand. "Hey, baby." Rubi said, still staring at Morgavayne. "I didn't know we were expecting company."
"Yeah, me neither." Malone replied, kissing Rubi on the cheek. "Get me something to drink wouldja?" Rubi nodded and scurried off into the kitchen.
"And just what was she doing out so late?" Morgavayne asked, his tone mildly suggestive.
"Oh, I get it." Malone began, feigning realization. "We lead a lifestyle different from your own, that's hilarious." He said, without looking up from his screen. "He's got school."
"Ah. Let me guess. Hair stylist, interior design?" Morgavayne suggested, ignoring the fact that Rubi had returned and placed a beer by Malone.
"Drama." Rubi said, both offended and frightened at the same time. Morgavayne tended to have that effect on people.
"Damn, should've known." Morgavayne replied, tempted to shout 'boo' and see how Rubi reacted.
"I'm going to bed, baby." Rubi said, leaning down to give Malone a quick kiss.
"I'll be there in a minute." Malone said, smiling at his lover before he scampered off into their bedroom. "It's pretty late, you know." He said, to Morgavayne. "Any reason this couldn't wait for morning?"
"You know I can't start the day without killing someone. And I figured; 'hey, I'm getting paid to kill this one, might as well'. Just so happens that you were the only that could help me." Morgavayne replied, "It isn't even that late."
"You only say that because you can't ever sleep." Malone replied, typing quickly. "And maybe you should get some friends? Let them help you with your problems."
"C'mon, Mal. Remember what you told me? I complete you." Morgavayne replied, once again tapping his fingers in a seemingly random manner.
"I never said that." Malone replied, his attention elsewhere. "Tom Cruise did."
"I knew it was one of the two." Morgavayne replied, Malone actually grinned but without teeth.
"I got it." He said before reading off an address. Morgavayne quickly jotted it down on the same sheet of paper he had used to take notes earlier. "Only place in the area they'll use."
"Thanks, Mal." Morgavayne said, rising. "I owe you one."
"And don't you forget it."

As Morgavayne walked away from the house, he considered his options. Now that he knew where he was he could very well go and take care of Alvarez right then. That was fairly short notice but traditionally the best time to kill someone was at night. He was mulling it over when the cell phone in his pocket began to vibrate. He paused mid-step and almost flipped the phone open on instinct when he caught sight of the caller I.D. which read: "Bobby Jo". He immediately returned the phone to his pocket and continued walking to his car. Unsurprisingly, by the time he was behind the wheel his phone vibrated again, indicating he had a voice mail. With a sigh, Morgavayne opened his phone and listened. "Hey, honey." A pretty-sounding young woman's voice, distinctly southern began. "I think I just saw your car on the road. Listen, if you're still up you wanna come over-" Morgavayne deleted the message before it could go on. In a matter completely unrelated to the phone call, he decided to go home and try to sleep.

Bright and early the next day, Morgavayne was walking down a random sidewalk and thinking aloof thoughts. He was armed for incognito, dressed in his usual outfit of jeans and a t-shirt though this time he had added a pair of dark sunglasses and a black, flat-billed cap to the mix. The random sidewalk he was currently walking ran directly in front of the address Malone had given him. To the untrained eye it probably looked like the average city setting, but Morgavayne's eyes were very much trained. On the left side of the road a number of cars had been parked but only one, an unmarked newer model sedan, was occupied by two men who paid an awful lot of attention to the building in question. Another man, dressed in plain clothes but also paying far too much attention to people coming and going, continued to walk the sidewalk directly in front of the building. Three men weren't much trouble for Morgavayne on his worse day but the number of witnesses walking around could make a confrontation problematic.

That wasn't even taking into account the amount of marshals in the building itself. The only way for this to go down in his favor is if he could get in the building, unseen by the marshals. He would also need to ensure that any marshal inside the house didn't contact those outside. Silencing an enemy without a sound wasn't much of a challenge, it was basically the entire core of his training, but he didn't want to kill anyone other than Alvarez. It wasn't as if he had respect for the uniform but most people don't care if a criminal gets killed. Sure it would be embarrassing as all hell for the marshals but they probably wouldn't investigate terribly hard. But if some marshals were to end up dead? That could only end badly and Morgavayne knew it. So what he needed was a distraction, at least until he could slip into the building. His phone vibrated, announcing the arrival of his eleventh text message of the day from Bobby Jo. Her intrusion didn't anger him this time, however, it just gave him an idea.

At the tender age of twenty, or twenty-one, Morgavayne could never be bothered to remember which, Bobbie Jo was a very attractive young woman. She stood at just under five-foot-five with long blonde hair that fell to her shoulders, highlighted with a vibrant shade of auburn. Her eyes were a shining bright blue that conveyed innocence completely at odds with her profession. Her face was positively angelic, with a cupid's bow mouth, high cheekbones, a cute, upturned nose, and a smooth chin. This all served as a compliment to her body, however, where any red-blooded males eyes would immediately snap on. When one thought of curvy, they thought of Bobbie Jo. Her chosen outfit really emphasized this, a white t-shirt barely managed to restrain her breasts and made it obvious that she was without a bra, the poor girl. A pair of tight, cutoff jean shorts had apparently developed spandex envy and were attempting to cut off circulation. She also wore a small, denim jacket that only covered half of her torso.

"Morgie!" She shouted upon seeing Morgavayne, throwing herself at him. He caught her in a hug which she immediately turned into what some may call a kiss and others may call her trying to taste the back of his throat.
"I need your help with something." Morgavayne said, once he managed to come up for air. Bobbie Jo's golden brows knitted in the closest she ever got to an angry face.
"You said we were going out!" She pouted, fists on her hips.
"Yeah, and we're out." Morgavayne pointed out, gesturing to the sidewalk around them. "And I thought it was just important that we spend time together, et cetera."
"I love it when you speak Spanish." Bobbie Jo said, her anger subsiding. It was enough to stop Morgavayne from pointing out her stupidity.
"Yeah, me too." Morgavayne said, "Take these." He pushed a stack of fliers he had recently liberated from a garbage can into Bobbie Jo's arms.
"What are these?" She asked, trying to make it appear as though she could read as by skimming over them.
"Don't rightly care. Is that what you're wearing?" Morgavayne asked, looking her outfit over skeptically.
"Yeah, don't ya like it?" Bobbie Jo replied, her expression telling Morgavayne that she obviously cared a great deal. Some people might care about stomping on an attractive woman's feelings but Morgavayne knew Bobbie Jo well enough to know that she was an idiot. She would have to be to be involved with him.
"I told you to dress up and you wear that? I figured you'd bring something from work." Morgavayne said before setting about making corrections. First he pulled off her jacket and then he grabbed her shirt and tied it up in a way that exposed her pierced navel and brought the eye to her chest. "That'll do."
"Morgie!" Bobbie Jo said, slightly breathless. "What's this about?"
"I need you to walk down the sidewalk on the left side of the street and put those fliers behind the windshield wipers of any car you see, if a couple of guys start talking to you I want to flirt with them. Uncontrollably, I need their attention elsewhere for a little while." Morgavayne said. He needed a distraction, after all, and as far as distractions went there was none better than a stripper.
"Why?" Bobbie Jo asked, positioning the stack of papers in a way that managed to push her breasts up even more. A feat she was oblivious to.
"Because I love you or something, just do it." Morgavayne said, knowing those three words could get her to agree to anything.
"Okay!" She said, as giddy as a schoolgirl. Actually, it was during her performance as a schoolgirl that her and Morgavayne first met.

Morgavayne watched as she bounced around the corner and started doing just as he asked, slipping the fliers in the windshields, steadily making her way to the marshals in the car. He peeped further around the corner to see the walking marshal with his back to him, walking down again. Morgavayne knew when he reached the corner he'd turn back around, he needed to get to him before then. For once, there were no other people walking the sidewalk. He would need to move fast, he wouldn't get another chance like this in a while. He turned back to see Bobbie Jo reach the occupied vehicle and, God bless her, when she bent over to put the flier in place she gave the marshals a view they'd never forget. Just as Morgavayne had planned, the marshal in the passenger seat rolled down his window and called her over. When he saw that the killer moved around the corner, quickly approaching the third marshal's back.

He never knew what hit him. The marshal had just reached the far corner of the safe house when Morgavayne came up behind him. The hired killer gave the marshal a stiff punch in the kidneys, stunning him. He then grabbed the poor man by the head and introduced his temple to a brick wall. Morgavayne immediately hauled the unconscious marshal to the back of the building, which looked like a traditional, three-story boarding house. He rooted through the unconscious man's pockets and found a single key on a ring. He tried it on the house's back door and, sure enough, it worked. Morgavayne left the marshal behind a couple of trashcans before moving into the building, slowly and quietly. Unfortunately for him, the door squeaked like all old doors do at the worst possible times. A voice called out from somewhere down a hallway and Morgavayne looked around for somewhere to hide. He was in an under furnished kitchen, to his right was some sort of den and directly in front of him was the door that led to the hallway.

He sucked in a breath, the footsteps growing closer, and moved across the kitchen. He placed his back against the refrigerator, directly to the left of the door, and waited. Three seconds later, the door opened and a slightly overweight marshal walked in. "Ken?" He called, stepping into the room without checking the fridge. Morgavayne pounced on him immediately, wrapping one arm around his neck like a vice. The man gasped and struggled fruitlessly but Morgavayne knew exactly what he was doing. The marshal was unconscious in seconds. Morgavayne moved his body off to the side, where it wouldn't be in plain sight of anyone in the hall or den, and moved on. The hallway was a short one, the right hand side featured two doors which led to a closet and a bathroom. To the left was a set of stairs, with another door that led to a broom closet. Before Morgavayne could make it halfway down the hall he heard footsteps on the stairs. He stifled a curse and opened the broom closet door, crouching low behind it.

"Anyone down here?" He heard a female voice ask from down the hall. He heard slow, cautious footsteps moving toward his location but he didn't hear a gun get drawn. When the latest marshal was only a few steps away, Morgavayne spun around from his cover and hit her in the throat with a swift jab. The marshal, a tall and athletic brunette, choked on her scream of surprise. Morgavayne didn't give her a chance to recover before he grabbed her head and slammed it into his knee, jumping into the motion. The female marshal fell unconscious in his arms and he gracelessly tossed her into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. With that done, Morgavayne moved up the stairs being extra conscious of creaky boards. The stairs ended in a hallway with two doors on either side and one at the end, beside the last staircase. All four of the doors led to identical, empty apartments, but the last led to a shared bathroom. Sitting on the toilet in said bathroom was another federal marshal with Asian features.

Morgavayne hardly had time to enjoy the comedic sight and the expression on the stunned marshal's face before he drove his foot into the incapacitated man's jaw on reflex. A dull cracking sounded as the marshal's jaw dislocated and unconsciousness hit him instantly, sending him to floor in an utterly undignified manner. Morgavayne deigned to skip out a one-liner involving toilets and shut the door behind him. Silently, he stalked up the final staircase and caught pay dirt. The hallway was identical to the one he had just left but there were two marshals positioned beside the farthest door on the left. Both were white men in their mid-thirties, one held a twelve-gauge shotgun and the other wore his pistol proudly in an easily-accessible hip holster. The two men certainly looked capable, quite obviously prepared for anything. Except, of course, what Morgavayne was going to do next. He pulled out a grey tube from his inner coat pocket, popped the top, and whispered, "One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand."

On four he tossed the flash bang around the corner and immediately ducked back. He heard the low whine of the device's detonation and immediately began moving down the hall once it subsided. The man with the hip holster was rubbing uselessly at his eyes with his left forearm when Morgavayne reached him. His handgun was already in his right hand and he seemed prepared to start shooting blindly when the killer dug his thumb into the pressure point on the right side of his neck. The man gasped in surprise and dropped his gun before he himself drooped into unconsciousness. The marshal with the shotgun was beginning to recover when Morgavayne wretched the weapon from his hand. Blindly, the marshal threw clumsy punch which Morgavayne easily intercepted, grabbing the man's wrist with one hand. He gave it a strong and violent twist, bringing the marshal to his knees and causing him to scream in pain. The scream was short-lived, however, as Morgavayne slammed the shotgun's stock into his face with a bloody crunch.

Morgavayne had no time to celebrate before the door, that up until recently had been guarded, swung open and a wide-eyed young man stepped out. When he saw the hired killer, the gun in his hands started shaking uncontrollably and it was all Morgavayne could do not to laugh at the poor kid. "Catch." He said, tossing the shotgun at the young marshal. He didn't take Morgavayne's advice. Instead, the young marshal caught a shotgun barrel uppercut to the chin. The shock of the blow more than anything caused him to drop his pistol and Morgavayne immediately took him down with a solid tackle. Deciding anything more would be overkill, he gave the kid a swift punch to the nose, breaking it and knocking him unconscious. And that left only the hired killer, Morgavayne, and his target, Jorge Alvarez. Alvarez was hiding in the bedroom off the main room. With no contemporary weapons on hand, he decided to defend himself by huddling in a corner and praying feverishly in Spanish.

Alvarez was a fairly short man, around Bobbie Jo's height but very stocky. Morgavayne could tell it was all pretty boy muscle, if he had earned any of it he would have fought, not cried in a corner. He had greasy black hair and an equally as greasy mustache. His skin had the dark, natural tan of Latin America and his clothes the bright, unnatural style of Latin America. Finally having reached his target, Morgavayne took a deep breath and pulled out his M9. The sound of the gun's action caught Alvarez's attention and his wide eyes looked up to Morgavayne in horror. "Oh, God!" Alvarez shouted, his accent as stereotypical as one could hope to find. "O'Neil sent you, didn't he?" It wasn't Morgavayne's policy to discuss his employers so, instead, he brought his gun to Alvarez's head. "I don't want to die!" He shouted, they never did. "I know I shouldn't have turned states but I couldn't do that no more! They were just little girls, man! I couldn't do that to them no more!" Those words made Morgavayne lower his gun.

"What did you say?" He asked, his voice shaking with an old and uncontrollable anger.
"O'Neil was trafficking little girls, selling 'em as slaves, whores, whatever." Alvarez explained, the anger in Morgavayne's voice making him shake even more. "He had me working for him at the docks, bringing in containers packed with 'em from whatever pisshole country he got 'em from. I couldn't do that no more, man. I hear them scream in my sleep sometimes…"
"That…" Morgavayne was visibly shaking, his wide eyes staring at the ground. "Son of a bitch… Sells little girls…" Alvarez looked up to Morgavayne and nodded, chewing on his lip nervously.

Without warning Morgavayne sent his left hand flying through the wall, breaking through the drywall with ease. The outburst relieved enough of Morgavayne's anger so that he could breathe again, slowly lowering his heartbeat. Little girls. O'Neil's business interests had been prostituting little girls. If Morgavayne had known that he would have snapped the bastard's neck the second he saw him. Even a killer has to drawn the line somewhere. No being should be capable of doing that to a child. O'Neil obviously had no idea what it was like to have children, to lose them to heartless bastards. No, O'Neil was the heartless bastard that took them away from their families, sending them off to a fate worse than hell. He could never understand a loss that deep, pain so intense it was a physical object that would destroy even the strongest of men. He couldn't possibly understand that pain but that wasn't going to stop Morgavayne from trying. He grabbed Alvarez by the front of his shirt and pulled him up, slamming the shorter man against the wall and pressing his gun to his temple.

"Where can I find O'Neil?" Morgavayne asked, his voice deadly quiet.
"Don't kill me!" Alvarez screamed, Morgavayne responded by slamming him against the wall again.
"Where?!" He demanded, pressing the gun's barrel harder against Alvarez's skin.
"White mansion, in that rich neighborhood on the north end of town." Alvarez gasped, "Got a big stone fence around it and an iron gate." Satisfied, Morgavayne dropped the shorter man.
"If you don't want to do jail time." Morgavayne began, returning his M9 to its holster. "You better clear out before they regain consciousness." The killer started moving toward the door.
"But I'm a witness. What about O'Neil?" Alvarez asked Morgavayne's back.
"He isn't going to be a problem."

With the night came the rain. It came down in sheets from dark clouds that blocked out the moon, limiting the night's light to flashes of lightning. Morgavayne sat on the branch of an ancient oak tree, high enough to peek over the fence around O'Neil's mansion. There were a number of them encircling the estate, providing an additional organic wall. He had already moved to every tree checking for sentries in the grounds below but, due to the weather, there were only two men. They were a few meters apart, standing by the front gate and looking positively miserable. Each man was armed with an AK-47 and was wearing a uniform of police-grade body armor, fatigue pants, and a black ski-mask. Compared to Morgavayne, they were underdressed. He was wearing nothing but black now, from his boots to his fatigues, to his body armor which was the latest generation of military-grade. The night vision goggles on his face gave him an almost demonic appearance in the darkness of the storm.

This was without mentioning his weapons. His M9 was in its usual place in a shoulder rig just under his left arm. Next to that, taped to a strap of the body armor was a large sheathe made to hold a knife with at least a six inch blade, which was currently occupied. He wore a belt around his waist which was covered with additional magazines and even a few grenades. On the right side of the belt, turned to offer easy access with his left hand, was a hip holster occupied by a Glock 18 with a 33 round clip. Strapped to his right thigh was a larger holster containing a sawn-off, lever-action shotgun. Finally, hanging loosely from a strap draped across his left shoulder, was an M4A1 complete with grenade launcher and red dot sight. Some may consider his arsenal to be a bit much but for Morgavayne it wasn't nearly enough. For what he wanted to do to O'Neil, to anyone working for him, he'd need enough weaponry to start and finish a war. He'd have to settle for what he had, however.

With that in mind, Morgavayne leapt down from his perch and landed on the wall. He tightened the strap of his rifle, to better keep it in place, and silently moved into position in front of the first guard. He waited for a flash of lightning to pass then, before the thunder could sound, he unsheathed his knife and pounced. He slammed head-on into the guard, knocking his weapon away. Morgavayne covered the man's mouth with his forearm as he buried his blade in the man's chest, watching his eyes widen with panic before rolling up into his head. He didn't waste time pulling the knife out of the man's chest. Instead he twisted the base of the handle and gripped the grooved sides, pulling out the two and a half inch blade concealed within. He sprinted toward the other guard just as he turned and saw his fallen comrade. Morgavayne grabbed the man's rifle with one hand, pointing it at the sky and began repeatedly stabbing him in the stomach with his small blade.

Once certain that the man was dead, Morgavayne dropped his body and recovered his knife. He allowed the rain to clean the blood from both blades before he returned them to their proper place. Then he turned to behold the home of Jeremy O'Neil. It was a very large house, at least three stories tall and maybe half an acre wide. It was painted a solid shade of white with genuine oak, double doors at the front of the household. At either side of the front doors were two large windows with their curtains drawn but Morgavayne knew they must lead to the foyer. It was time to attract some attention. He pulled his rifle from its strap and activated the grenade launcher, sending the deadly projectile through the window on the left side of the front doors. He then slowly and casually loaded another grenade in and sent it through the other window. A pair of explosions, each within seconds of each other, shook the house and sent glass, wood, and other debris in all directions. Morgavayne didn't flinch.

The doors were hanging loosely from their frame when Morgavayne kicked them in, his M9 in his right hand and his Glock in his left. The foyer was just what he expected: a large room of marble floors. A set of double doors were on either side of the room, both fairly destroyed from the grenades. Directly across from the front doors was a large a staircase with two other staircases leading from opposite sides of the second floor at the top. There were two more doors, one on either side of the staircase, which were seemingly unharmed by the explosion. Rather than storm the staircase and advance, Morgavayne waited. His patience was rewarded when four guards, two from either staircase, ran down to the top of the main staircase to open fire. Only two of them made it there. The second he saw movement he aimed both of his pistols to the right. One guard was hit with a burst of three bullets from the Glock, tearing his skull apart. The other got a solid double tap of full metal jacketed bullets from the M9.

The two remaining guards took up rough firing positions at the head of the stairs and opened fire. Morgavayne quickly move to the right, leaping through the destroyed doors there and landing in a dining room. These guards were not well trained, that much was obvious. Their return fire had all the ear marks of panic, random spray-and-pray tactics. Then again maybe he had just caught them more off guard than he anticipated. They could have all the training in the world but no one is ready for true combat until they've actually been in it. Morgavayne had been in the dining room a few seconds before the guards realized he wasn't coming out and stopped shooting. The killer knew just what thoughts were going through their head. They were considering staying up the stairs and waiting for back up. At the same time they were thinking of moving down there and gunning him down. More likely than not they were considering the rewards their employer might give them if they brought him down. If these men were mercenaries, as Morgavayne thought, maybe the thought of profit would be enough.

Morgavayne closed his eyes and got his breathing under control, steadily refining his focus which he devoted it solely to his hearing. He heard a footstep, then another. Loud boots echoing on marble, they were coming. Morgavayne looked around the room. There was one other door aside from where he had entered, he opened it to reveal a kitchen. He left it wide-open, as if someone had tossed it open in a panic. He then pulled off his night vision goggles, which had been resting atop his head since entering the well-lit mansion, and tossed them into the kitchen, making sure they made as much noise as possible clinking against pots and other metallic fixtures in the kitchen. With that done he moved to the head of the table, the side farthest from the door, and crawled under it, being careful to put the chair back in place behind him. He remained prone, crawling on his stomach as the two guards entered the room. Just as he had planned they immediately moved to the kitchen door but slowly, cautiously.

It gave Morgavayne more time than he needed to position himself in front of the door from under the table. He wasted no time, the second the two guards were in view he took aim and fired. He hit the guard on the right twice, once in his shoulder blade and again in the back of the head. The other guard was treated to four bullets from his Glock, dancing up along his spine. Once he was sure they weren't getting back up, Morgavayne pulled himself from under the table and glanced back into the foyer. It was quiet now but he knew there would be more than six guards for a house this size. He just couldn't wait for them to come and get him, however. Slowly, he started advancing for the staircase, keeping a gun trained on either side. For most handling two guns at once would be a challenge but Morgavayne was ambidextrous and his extensive training ensured both his arms were equally as strong. No one came running down the stairs as Morgavayne climbed them but that only made him go slower, not faster.

When he reached the top of the main staircase he considered both directions before deciding to move right. He found himself in a hallway, lined with well-furnished doors. Fully aware of the difficulty of aiming in such close quarters, Morgavayne holstered his pistols and pulled out his shotgun. He checked all of the doors in turn, finding mostly unoccupied bedrooms and an extravagant pallor. The last room, however, was anything but unoccupied. He slowly eased the door open to find darkness and immediately cursed himself for not recovering his goggles. The curse turned into a shout of surprise as the room was lit up by machine-gun fire. Morgavayne immediately threw himself to one side but two bullets hit his vest, near his left side. The armor did its job of absorbing the impact and stopping the bullets but it didn't make him Superman. Getting hit by something flying several hundred miles an hour still hurt. Morgavayne rolled onto his back and pushed himself away from the door, keeping his shotgun aimed.

The guard seemed unaware of the quality of Morgavayne's body armor. All he had seen was himself shoot at a man and then see the man fall over. He stepped into the hallway and immediately caught a belly full of buckshot. The force of the blast spun him around, so that he faced Morgavayne, and slammed him against the door's frame. Morgavayne worked the action of his shotgun and sent another blast into the man's chest. With a pained groan, the guard slid down to the floor, lifeless. It was lucky he had slid rather than fell because otherwise Morgavayne might not have heard the sound of a door shut in the room beyond. This time Morgavayne reached into the room and groped the wall by the door blindly until he found a lightswitch. With the room illuminated he could see one more door, most likely leading to a bathroom. He kept his shotgun trained on it as he moved into the room, listening for any sound. He was gifted with the metallic sound of a magazine sliding into a rifle.

Without warning, Morgavayne fired three shots into the door, cutting out massive chunks of wood. A pained gasp sounded from behind the door and then it flew open, a buckshot-riddled body falling to the floor behind it. Satisfied, Morgavayne left the room and continued scanning the floor. To his surprise, he found nothing until he reached the staircase leading to the third floor. He placed his shotgun back in its holster and shouldered his M4A1 as he moved up the stairs. When he reached the top he found himself at an intersection. To his left was a long hallway, ending in a turn, and directly in front of him was a shorter hall with a door on either side, leading to a turn as well. He decided to keep moving forward and was checking the door on the right side of the hall when another guard whipped around the corner, already firing. Unfortunately for him, he had a bad sense of timing. He opened fire when Morgavayne was already facing an open doorway. The killer immediately jumped forward, avoiding the hailstorm of bullets.

From the sound of it, the guard emptied his entire clip before he stopped shooting. Morgavayne liked that sound. He immediately moved to his feet and back into the hallway, just in time to see the guard turn a corner. Once again, unfortunately for him but Morgavayne was no idiot. The guard was obviously meant to be the bait, which explained him firing his entire clip. He was nervous about being the sacrificial lamb but now he had ran back to where his buddies were waiting to ambush Morgavayne the second he turned the corner. Instead, Morgavayne loaded another grenade into his launcher and went prone. He crawled to the end of the hall, poked the launcher out and around the corner, and pulled the trigger. He was treated to a number of screams and shouts from at least four different throats in conjunction with an explosion. When he turned the corner he found four bodies. Two were already dead, ripped apart by the explosion. The other two were alive but grievously wounded.

Morgavayne put them both out of their misery with two shots to the head. The hallway they had set up their ambush in ended in a set of double doors which were now hanging loosely from their frame. Beyond them was an office, a great deal nicer than his own, with red carpeting and a desk of dark wood. Morgavayne considered launching another grenade into the room but decided against it. He kept his rifle tucked into his shoulder and advanced slowly. Almost immediately he regretted his decision. O'Neil whipped out from the side of the doorway, a shotgun in hand. Fortunately for Morgavayne it was a long barreled, riot weapon which severely limited the spread. The killer quickly dropped down to one knee, letting the buckshot fly over head, and sent a burst of fire across O'Neil's upper body. He hit him several times, mostly in the right arm and shoulder, causing the human trafficker to drop his weapon and yelp in pain. He had to lean against the wall to stay standing but refused to fall.

"Why?!" O'Neil screamed at Morgavayne. The killer moved back to a vertical base and let the M4 hang from its strap once again as he upholstered his M9. "Why are you doing this?!"
"Jorge Alvarez and I had a chat about your business interests." Morgavayne said, keeping his voice level as he stepped down the ruined hall.
"What? Those bitches? What the hell do you care?!" O'Neil shouted, his attempts to apply pressure to his wounds only causing him more pain. "You're just a killer! Men, women, children, it makes no difference. When you end a life, you end a life. It doesn't matter how much its ripened." In response Morgavayne let a long, uninterested yawn as he shot Jeremy O'Neil in the head. He was surprised when he died, his eyes and mouth both opened as wide as the gaping hole in his head. Morgavayne didn't spare him a second glance.

That night the O'Neil estate and all its ill-gotten contents burned to the ground.