Joey leaves the blood-soaked alleyway with Jason following closely behind. Joey pats his pockets, congratulating himself for his recent ill gotten gains.
“That was… disgusting boss,” Jason says as he gags.
“But practical!” Joey retorts, “Now let’s go ahead and collect our pay,” Joey’s mind already far away, thinking of all the money he was promised for this job. Best paying job I’ve had in a long time.
“Are you sure that’s wise? The corpys are on high alert. Wouldn’t it be better to lay low for a few days and let the heat cool off. For all we know, the client will be doing the same as well.”
Joey waves Jason’s concerns away, “If the corpys find us we can just shoot our way out again. It’s what we always do.”
“Only because you’re as useful as a slime when it comes to thinking ahead,” Jason mutters to himself.
“What was that?”
“Only because these idiots keep throwing themselves at us.”
“Haha! Right you are Jason! Though, Pearl does enjoy a good bit of killing every now and then,” Joey pats his trusty revolver, “Now come on. The money isn’t going to collect itself. If it did though, that would be awesome!”
Jason sighs and follows Joey as he leads him into the cold streets of New Denningham. The crumbling buildings standing side to side, holding onto each other for support. The odd and disgusting mixture of death, poverty, and sex taints the air.
“Isn’t this place just great Jason?” Joey exclaims as he steps over a body. Jason gags and buries his masked face in his coat as he carefully tiptoes around the body.
“The broken street lights, the bodies on the streets, the constant chance of being mugged by a crew of children!” Joey extends his arms out, embracing it all.
“I thought the word for that is gang?”
“Nope. For some reason they call themselves crews instead of gangs. Probably the author being whimsical again,” Joey laughs.
“Author…?” Jason questions.
“Ah, never mind.”
As Joey and Jason walk through the empty streets, Jason tenses and keeps one hand in his jacket, ready to pull out his gun at a moments notice. Joey knows what Jason feels. The eyes of many on them, watching their every step. Waiting for them to drop dead so they can scavenge their bodies.
“I really don’t like this boss. The corpys can come at us at any moment and-”
Joey chuckles heartily, “That’s right. I forget that you haven’t been here before. Well Jason,” Joey says as condescendingly as possible, “right now we’re walking through the cesspool of New Denningham, also known as The Gutters. Corpys don’t patrol these streets because at any time, the residents themselves might attack. Far too dangerous for too little pay. I know from personal experience.”
“And we’re just walking down the street like nobodies business. Acting like tourists who got lost from their group? Isn’t tha- Wait. You used to be a corpy?”
Joey chuckles and pulls out his revolver, “A long time ago. Besides, it’s fine. I may have been away for awhile but the residents know not to screw with me. You’ll be safe as long as you stick with me.”
Joey aims his revolver to the sky and fires. Jason winces and pulls out his pistol, “Why would you fire! Now the locals are… Huh?” Jason looks around waving his pistol as he does so. Joey smiles. It always amuses him seeing Jason react the way he does.
“Nobody is coming Jason. Like I said, everyone knows not to screw with me. Time flies but legends are forever.”
The pair walk through The Gutters unmolested until a large shadow of a crumbling tower appears in the distance. Surrounded by the tower is a large lake. The smell of it puts the sewers to shame. Joey waits patiently as Jason throws up his lunch.
“It’s not that bad,” Joey says as he pats Jason on the back. Huh, so that’s what he looks like without the mask.
“It’s worse than that time I was swallowed whole by a giant. Much worse. Oh Goddess… The steamed wyvern wings are coming up!”
“Ew. Wyvern wings are awful when steamed. Should have fried them. So, are you done yet?”
Jason shudders, “Yeah. I think I’ll be good for now. How much farther anyways?”
“Not much longer. The warehouse should be in sight soon,” Joey points towards a crumbling warehouse surrounded by debris.
“Is there anything even remotely put together in this Goddess forsaken place or is everything old and crumbling?”
Joey shakes his head, “No. It’s The Gutters. The poorest of the poor. The unlucky few that survive despite everything and everyone trying to put them down. After fighting to survive, they find that this is all that awaits them,” Joey looks past Jason, towards the other side of the lake. I wonder where they are now…?
“Boss? Boss, you there?” Jason taps Joey.
“Yeah. Just thinking about stuff.”
“That’s rare,” Jason chuckles. Normally, Joey would laugh it off right alongside Jason but sour memories of the past well up, threatening to overcome the emotional dam that he has built up over the years.
“Let’s go,” Joey says. Jason blinks, mouth open and follows without another word. As Joey and Jason near the crumbling warehouse, Joey’s senses go haywire. Once upon a time, the areas around the lake were surrounded by many people. Several communities would pop up one day and then disappear the next. An infinite cycle of changing occupants, but never has the lake area been abandoned. No matter how hard the corpys tried in the past.
A lone figure greets the duo as they reach the warehouse. The man is dressed in a crisp white suit, black shirt, and white tie. His face is covered by a pair of white glasses. He smiles and holds out a black gloved hand as Joey approaches him.
Something about his outfit bothers me immensely. Joey looks down at the hand extended to him and looks at the other hand holding nothing, “The job was completed just as the client asked. Where is the payment?”
The man stares at Joey. Jason takes the safety off his gun and hangs a bit behind Joey. The white suit man cracks his neck, shoulders, and possibly everything else he can possibly crack in his body.
“Mr. Joey, my name is Hunyo. My employer wishes to extend his thanks to you personally. Because of your… efforts, my employer’s plan is proceeding smoothly. Come with me, he is waiting inside,” Hunyo walks away without another word, and is swallowed up by the warehouse.
Joey looks back at Jason and shrugs before pulling out his revolver. The pair walk into the warehouse.
“It’s so damn dark in here! Jason, conjure up some light for me.”
“Yeah, I can’t do that. That’s not what my ability does.”
“Well what good is it for then? Giving firefighters more work?”
The lights of the warehouse flicker on suddenly, like a ghost disturbed from its sleep. Sitting on a wooden box only a few feet away, Kierwell dal’ Flinet wipes his face with a handkerchief. Hunyo stands next to him and gestures for Joey to approach.
“Flinny boy! Where’s that payment at? Also, your boy Hunyo said I really helped you out so how about a bonus?”
Kierwell dal’ Flinet chuckles, his whole body rumbling from the exertion, “Indeed you helped me immensely Mr. Bonaparte. Elvish and Goblin relations have plummeted and now I’ve escaped the public eye. The explosion afterwards was a nice touch as well. I’m sure you must be wondering why I would want for all thi-”
“Not really. If I could just get the cash, I’ll be out of your hair. I got an appointment to make,” Joey interrupts.
Kierwell dal’ Flinet blinks, slack faced before bursting out in a fit of chuckles again, “I’m afraid you will be missing that appointment Mr. Bonaparte. You see, I can’t have loose ends and anyone that knows I’m alive and is not working for me is a loose end.”
Hunyo draws a pistol and aims it at Joey. Joey aims his revolver at Kierwell. Several footsteps echo and Joey looks around to see several people dressed similarly to Hunyo appear from the shadows. Each of them point their weapons at Joey, surrounding him.
Ok, let’s see… one, two, three… Yep. That’s a heck ton of them “Ready for another firefight Jason?”
When Joey doesn’t get a reply, he looks back to see Jason pointing his gun at him, “Jason?”
“Nothing personal boss. Actually that’s a lie. This is personal you slime.”
“A traitor huh?” Joey shakes his head, “I expected better from you Jason.”
“I did my fair share of work and then some. Picking up after you is a danger to my health and let’s be real here. You are the worst boss ever. It’s time for your rampage to come to an end.”
Joey laughs, a boyish laugh of a carefree child and then turns back around and fires his revolver at Kierwell. Pain ricochets throughout Joey’s body as hot balls of death rip through him. Joey tumbles to the ground and is greeted by the sight of the night sky shining through a hole in the ceiling.
What a beautiful night. You don’t see stars like these often in The Gutters. I wonder if the others are watching the same stars as me?
Joey sees movement to his side and Jason appears in his peripheral. Jason shakes his head at Joey’s broken body.
“Dispose of the body in the lake,” someone says but they are too far away now for Joey to care. The stars call to him, inviting him to dance with them in the night sky.
Jason levels his gun at Joey, mouths goodbye, and fires.