It’s not too late to reconsider Sir,” said Flynn and hurried to his master’s side. “It’s getting rather late and this is not a proper place for us to be.”

“Oh be quiet you,” said the fat merchant and widened his stride. “We’ll be just fine.”

Everyone knew that the Docks area wasn’t the safest place to be, especially at night. But Boris found himself unable to resist the fervour that had overcome him. Once his mind was fixed on an idea, he wouldn’t rest until it he’d made it happen.

“I’m unsure whether your physician would allow such physical exertion, Sir,” Flynn went on, “or the excitement.”

“Bah! To Hell with him.”

“But, Sir…”

“Shush! We’re almost there!”

They took a right turn, leaving the relative safety of the busiest streets, and walked down a short flight of stairs. The canal on their left was murky and a foul smell they’d rather not try to identify taunted their nostrils. The merchant came to a halt as a new pair of unwelcoming alleys seemed to open before them. He scratched his forehead as if trying to remember the route but, truth be told, he had no idea. Boris was notorious amongst the businessmen of this city for lacking the required decision-making skills. His rivals always claimed that it was sheer luck that he’d made it this far; inability to make up one’s mind or to support any decisions once made was a quick way to failure.

Flynn was certain that the awful smell was the only thing that hastened his master’s decision. He never thought he’d be grateful for the stink. Soon they found their way through a narrow passage that led to a rickety building. Outside the door, a burly, half-asleep thug stood guard, but didn’t seem to mind them approaching or entering.

“Sir, allow me to inquire what our business here is ?”

“We’re going to give old Raleb the scare of his life, dear Flynn,” replied the merchant and walked through the door, trying to make his way in the dimly lit room through the thick cloud of smoke that welcomed them. The place reeked of stale wine and strong liquor. The room looked pretty cramped; the low ceiling and absence of windows was almost suffocating. But they were more alarmed by the patrons of this watering hole. Shady individuals, drunkards, rowdies, whores and a wide assortment of thugs and ruffians apparently frequented the place. The dirty and greasy fellow that stood behind the counter looked more like a bouncer and less like a bartender.

It wasn’t long till Boris was able to spot the person they were about to meet. Standing by the counter, Renn the Jackal, plagued by a streak of bad luck that was bound to change, was waiting for them. Hard-faced and lean, he motioned them to sit on a table nearby. He obviously wasn’t happy for his current predicament; taking odd jobs from random people wasn’t exactly like him. With a bleak expression painted on his face complemented by the scar that run across his right eye, he welcomed them as they reluctantly sat and tried to introduce themselves.

“So you must be…” the merchant started, as if trying to recall the man’s name.

“Who I am is none of your business and I don’t care to know your name either.” Renn’s voice was sharp as a knife. “You’ve got the money?”

“H…Half of it now and the rest upon delivery.” Boris replied, hopeful that this casual business phrase would be enough.

“Show me.”

A simple leather satchel was drawn from the merchant’s belt and offered. Renn grabbed it greedily and was satisfied by it’s weight. The Jackal’s grin widened as he stared at his new “customer”.

“I need a name and a place where I can find him, “ he said and leaned back on his chair. He found it amusing.

“Raleb. A merchant in the West Quarter. He runs a big store on Fort Lane.”

“Right.” Renn frowned and his piercing gaze met the merchant’s angst-ridden look

“I just want you to scare him, that’s all,” exclaimed the merchant, clearly unnerved. “No need for blood, I just want to play a little prank on him. Some sort of retaliation for what he did to me last summer.” Raleb had found and persuaded each and every one of Boris’ suppliers and customers to ignore him for a week. It was terrible to see his business suffer in such a way. Desperation had overcome him and he was ready to abandon everything lest he become indebted. When the farce came to an end he was both embarrassed and relieved. “Don’t hurt him, please.”

“Right,” the Jackal said, “I thought as much.” He swiftly rose to his feet and before returning to the counter and his drink he motioned them to leave. “Now get out of this place, before you get in deeper trouble.” He chuckled as they hurried away and took a good long sip from his glass.

* * *

The fire slowly died and it’s last embers turned from red to grey. Boris, tired from a long day at his store, thought it was about time he’d called it a night. Two days had already passed and nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Raleb was his usual self and he started thinking that perhaps his money was wasted. As he slowly climbed up the stairs, he thought he’d heard a muffled sound. Flynn had retired early as always and was probably fast asleep, but the fat merchant thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go check on his servant who was almost a decade older; it had become obvious that his age was finally catching up with him. He turned the knob slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible.

He wasn’t prepared for the sight. Flynn was tied and gagged on a chair, wide eyed, sweaty and terrified. A loud crack echoed in Boris’ skull and everything went dark.

A sudden slap brought him back into consciousness. Everything was blurry and swirling around for a while. The first thing that came into focus was Renn’s wicked stare. And that grin that hinted of something terrible.

“What amuses me most is the fact that your kind of people ignore the gravity of your actions. Until it’s too late.” The Jackal’s voice was dripping contempt and a hint of anger, as he walked out of the merchant’s sight.

“What… What do you want ?” Boris replied, barely able to utter the phrase. His skull was still resonating from the blow and his breath was uneven. He was tied to a chair, sitting directly in front of his servant who was still and wide eyed.

Renn chuckled. “Just to inform you of a few facts”

“I.. I can pay you.”

“I’ve got more more money out of you two than I originally imagined, so that won’t work.”

“You two ?” said Boris with a trembling voice. Flynn wasn’t moving, wasn’t blinking. Horror grasped his heart with it’s icy fingers as he realized the awful truth. Flynn wasn’t breathing.

“Your friend Raleb found me first; he had the same idea,” Renn explained. “ But he wasn’t thinking about a prank, he seemed to take things a little more seriously than you.” He paused for a while, to let the words seep in. “When confronted, he was eager to offer the double for your demise.” He emphasized that last word and greatly enjoyed it’s impact. The merchant’s flabby face was frozen with terror; the rest of his body trembled.

“I… I can pay you even more…” he managed to say before choking on a whimper.

“No need. He’s taken care of now, as you asked,” Renn said and triumph was evident in his tone.

“No..no.” Boris couldn’t stop himself from crying.

“When you enlist the services of people such as I… It stops being a game.” His voice was cruel mockery; he took so much pleasure from this. ”Raleb was courteous enough to give his payment up front.” He burst into a wicked laughter.

“Please…please”

“Your fate has been decided, chubby.” He finally appeared, a cold expression and an angry frown adorning his rugged features and steel blue eyes. “I must admit it was fun talking to you. Your servant was rather boring.” He drew his long knife slowly, wanting to extend his victim’s agony.

Boris found himself unable to speak. He felt the cold steel connecting with his throat, followed by the sharp pain of a deep cut and the warmth gushing out. Last thing he knew was his bonds being severed and himself being pushed to the floor.

There he struggled for a few moments as the Jackal merrily walked away; chocking on his own red puddle.

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