Chapter 87:

Chapter 87 - Cloak and Dagger


That night, a submarine surfaced in Trigger Harbor.

It cut a steady path toward the shore, its jet-black hull rising higher and higher above the waves until it came up alongside the edge of a small private dock. The flickering street lamps of Receiver Wharf did little to illuminate this dark, forgotten sliver of the district…

…And that suited the submersible’s occupants just fine.

The hatch opened to admit a series of silent, sinuous figures; a trio of trained killers well-versed in the art of subtlety. They descended to the dock in single file, making nary a noise as they approached the wrought iron gate insulating their personal pier from the hustle and bustle of the hoi polloi.

One produced a key, slid it into the lock, and guided his fellows out into the street. Here the light of the lamps was inescapable; it spilled across his slender, suited form as he waved them forward and gestured to an automobile across the way. A dark-skinned man with a bald, shiny pate followed along behind him, looking this way and that as if transfixed by the sights of the city.

Finally, the light fell upon the flamboyantly-dressed gentleman taking up the rear: a frowning man with a chiseled jaw and a red bandana, whose leopard print bodysuit clung tightly to his lean, well-muscled physique.

An impeccably-dressed valet stepped out of the sleek, black vehicle to meet them, opening the car doors for each of the three men in turn. They entered wordlessly, submitting themselves to the automobile’s void-like interior without hesitation.

Moments later the engine rumbled to life and the nondescript vehicle roared off down the road, ferrying the travelers along toward their final destination:

The centermost stratum of the city’s rotten core.


Diallo sat idle, watching the glittering lights of the city as they passed. Bars, businesses, and bawdy houses blended together in an incomprehensible blur, reminding him of the place he had once called home: Port Pistola, the crime-ridden hub of Truvelan high society.

As little as a week ago, he had been poised to grasp the reigns of the city’s underworld. Only Marka Moukahla–his idiot cousin, and the patriarch of the Moukahla crime syndicate–had stood in his way. His carefully orchestrated bid for control had nearly come to fruition. He had been so close to his dream of guiding the family into a dazzling new era of growth and prominence…

Until those damned foreigners showed up and spoiled everything. Thanks to them, Marka had avoided capture and, most galling of all, relinquished his birthright to Lazar of all people! And, to hear his new associates tell it, Diallo’s attempt on Marka’s life back in Sebastopol had been unsuccessful; despite spitting upon their family name at every turn, the man was still out there, somewhere, lumbering around like the witless oaf he’d always been!

It made Diallo’s blood boil. He clenched and unclenched his fists, watching the world pass him by with characteristic detachment. He cared nothing for these people–these unwitting insects who milled about the streets of Trigger City with no concept of their place within it.

All that truly mattered was what his place would be. And, much as he distrusted them, he had the feeling that his present companions would be instrumental in helping him discover it.

“We’re here,” Gio announced. “The boss is a little busy at the moment, so the introductions will have to wait.”

Diallo could scarcely keep the snarl from his lips. “Really? I have come all this way only for him to ignore me?”

“He’s got a lot going on,” the man replied with a shrug. “C’mon. You’ll understand in a minute.”

They got out of the car to find themselves at the back of a huge, raucous crowd. Gio took the lead immediately, pushing and shoving his way through the throng en route to the big, lighted stage at the other end of the exhibition area. Above the stage stood one of the stateliest buildings Diallo had ever seen. Its edifice was lined with tall, ivory columns, and its roof was capped with an intricately-carved dome of staggering proportions.

“City hall,” Ken whispered from behind. “The boss is giving a speech right now–I’m sure we’ll be able to get in to see him when it’s over.”

Sure enough, as they drew closer to the front of the crowd, Diallo was able to make out the sound of someone with a deep, captivating voice making an impassioned speech. The gawkers ahead of him parted to reveal a blond, middle-aged man in a red suit strutting about on stage, the lenses of his half-rim glasses flaring with every word he uttered.

“–time of unprecedented hardship,” he was saying, pacing back and forth like a stern school teacher. “The city faces a number of serious threats: local food sources are dwindling, poverty is rampant, and the shadow of a possible takeover by Gun Czar Gunn hangs over all our heads like stormcloud. I assure you, I am as worried as any of you about these disturbing trends, and I am on your side.

“If you vote for me, I pledge to leverage my talents to address all of these issues. I will establish a task force to secure more arable land for our people, employing many in the process. I will reduce the barriers standing in the way of prospective small business owners and loosen the requirements necessary to secure a loan, thus providing the poor with a path to respectability. And, finally, I have not had the dubious pleasure of associating with this ‘Gunn’ character… But I assure you, I will stand up for us and make him listen. I will make him understand that we Triggerites are not to be trifled with!”

To Diallo’s surprise, the man’s speech actually seemed to move the crowd. It all sounded like empty platitudes to him, but many of the citizens around him were cheering, clapping, and whistling, losing themselves in a celebratory fervor.

“Remember: a vote for Alistair Montrevi is a vote for our security. For our future! Together, we can cure the ills plaguing our fair city and embrace the dream of a new tomorrow. Thank you, and goodnight!”

The conclusion of his rhetoric drew a fresh round of thunderous applause from all around. Montrevi met it with a smile and a wave before withdrawing from the stage, leaving the event’s host to swoop in and offer a few closing remarks. It was at this point that Ken sidled up next to him and Gio with his fingers to his ear, head bobbing in acknowledgement.

“He wants us to go around back,” he relayed, tilting his head toward the hedge-lined walkway to the building’s right. They moved in the direction indicated without further delay, slipping between groups of chattering urbanites as they began drifting away from the stage en masse. They followed the path to the rear of the structure and came upon a door flanked by two security guards who appeared to recognize Ken and Gio on sight; they stepped aside to admit them without a word, nodding respectfully to Diallo as he passed.

Gio seemed to know exactly where they were going. He led the way down the spacious, carpeted hallway ahead and took the second door on their left, bringing them face-to-face with the very man they had just witnessed speaking:

Alistair Montrevi.

He sat in a plush armchair with a pretty blonde woman by his side. Alistair greeted them with a faint smile, while the woman kept her hands clasped and her eyes squarely on the floor. “Welcome back, my friends,” he greeted, his eyes flicking from his hirelings to Diallo. At the sight of him, he gestured absently toward his uncomfortable-looking companion. “My wife, Gloria. Now, what do you have to report?”

“Not much you wouldn’t already know,” Gio replied. “Like Ken told you, they’re thought to’ve made the crossing shortly after our informants spotted ‘em in Trumbash. After that, the trail goes cold. Turu’s body was recovered yesterday, and, as expected, his forces are in disarray.”

Alistair wrinkled his nose. “Bother. I was hoping they might stay the course on their own,” he said with a sigh. “I shall have to make arrangements.” He returned his attention to Diallo, then, his eyes betraying a glimmer of curiosity. “And what of our new friend, here?”

“Marka’s second-in-command,” Gio began. “Make that ex second-in-command. The Moukahla family’s power structure shifted around when Marka left, and this one got squeezed out. Ken thinks he has potential.”

“Is that so?” the man replied, smiling wryly. “Well, far be it from me to question the judgment of the great Hard Viper. However, as always, we will have to begin by ascertaining just how useful you might be to the organization.”

“What do I have to do?” Diallo asked. Frustratingly, Alistair didn’t reply directly–instead, he looked to his two trusted henchmen and steepled his fingers.

“Take him along to the Exchange tomorrow,” he instructed.

“We shall see just how much potential he truly has.”

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