Pomegranate Seed 1

This is a monster movie. In these deep and darkened streets, monsters hang around every corner, demons of every size, shape, color. Demons of lust, of revenge, of greed. They each serve their own purposes, but there are others; empty demons, waiting to be filled, the ones you can hire for money to give you pleasure, give you pain, give you a neat little tied-up ending. Most of Basin City is hitmen and prostitutes, which is what makes this story so typical. Romeo and Juliet, for these dirty times. This guy, though, this guy isn't some thug, some hired muscle named Spike or Hammer. In fact, this guy doesn't have a name at all. They call him the Salesman. This is what he sells.

Violence, black and bloody. As simple as the dark smudge around a close-range gunshot wound, or the clean lips of a knife slice. For the most part, this guy doesn't mess around. You want a guy beaten into submission, this guy doesn't care. He kills. No one survives him, and he's happy with that. Some say that makes him cold. I know better. When I met him, we Girls needed someone cold to make a kill, someone to just Get Rid of Her. It's not that he doesn't make them suffer first; sometimes, he does. It's just, that's not his love in life. I don't know if he enjoys it at all, but I do know it's not what gets him hot and bothered under those clean-pressed clothes of his. In that department, I happen to know he's just a regular guy, with an extra shot or two of self-discipline.

I would know. My name is Cheri. Sounds like Cherry in English, I know, and that was just fine in my line of work. I was one of the Old Town Girls, those throwbacks to the days when the streets still held some glamour, and the ladies of the night weren't sad, overworked meth heads with kids to support. Back when street girls looked after each other, held onto their territory with some scrap of honour, no back-stabbing, no bowing down to overdressed men in fur coats who took all our profits. We didn't have pimps. We had Wendy, and we had Gail. She was like a mother to us, a young, leatherette, gun-toting mama; she fed us when we were sick, she kept us safe from the odd wacko who wandered into Our Town. Gail taught us how to keep ourselves safe, and armed us to our teeth. After Wendy, she owned this Old Town, and we loved her for it.

So, after that awful business with Dwight and Jackie Boy, we needed someone to take care of that little tramp Becky. All that nasty business, that shit that went down between Gail and Manute, the dirty boys charging in, all of us having to wage a war against the bad men of Basin City, that was Becky's shit right there. I understand she was a scared girl, and she was one of our youngest; that certainly didn't escape Gail when she made her arrangements. I know she felt it was a failure on her part, but as I told her then, I was younger than Rebecca when I was thrown out of a speeding car and into this life, and I would never dream of selling the Girls out. I was fourteen when those animals took me for a joyride, fresh out of a childhood hell in the group home; I got picked up not two days from home, beaten, degraded, and left for dead in the streets just outside the Old Town. Gail heard me, and I thank God every day that she did. I would have died without her help. She raised me up out of the garbage I'd been born into, she taught me how to take care of myself, how to respect myself in a disrespectful world. Becky threw all that away, and when Gail decided that little loose end had to be snipped, I understood.

They call him the Salesman. I don't know how Gail found him. I remember hearing the odd vague myth about him over the ten years I'd been working Old Town, but I guess Gail knows what's fiction and what's not. By the time the twins were separated by murder, I'd been there a decade, and I was one of those respectable, well-known girls. I don't know if Gail felt as attached to me as I did to her, but I do know she trusted me enough to let me in on this plan. In fact, someone was needed to make contact with him outside Old Town, and since Gail would light up like an alien out there, where he wanted to see her, she decided to send me. I guess I clean up nice.

It must have been some kind of test, to see if we were serious about contracting him; Gail got word that he wanted to meet at the Palais Royale, a fancy little dancehall in downtown Basin City. After the cold shot she got from the mob, Gail wasn't eager to show her face in that kind of public just yet, but I look like a fairly decent girl, for a hooker. All my tattoos are hidden under my clothes, I kept my hair long. I managed to cover most of my scars from my old life, too, so all I really had to do was come up with something nice to wear, and someplace to keep the wads of hard cash we'd be paying him with. I had no idea what he'd look like. That's not how hitmen make their money, you know, advertising their appearance. Word was, he'd be wearing a white rose.

It wasn't part of the agreement, but I took a white rose too, just in case. Some of our girls scout rummage sales at the local churches, and we'd come away with some surprising loot over the years; Sammy, our blond gangster girlie, happened to have a nice little number in my size, some swingy black dress with a low-cut neck. Perfect for dancing. Not that I dance, really, unless my guy of the evening wants me to, and then I'm usually not wearing much anyway, but this was a special occasion. We had a funeral to plan.

The cash was in a bundle next to my thigh; luckily my skirt was full enough to hide the bulge. My weapon of choice was on the other leg, but it was hardly big enough to graze the old satin; a Glock, I don't remember now exactly what make. One of the lighter choices, for a night on the town. No metal detectors in this part of the city.

It was dark when I arrived, fresh from a taxi; I had a white evening clutch, and that rose pinned into my black hair. I was starting to get nervous now, as I saw all the society ladies of the city swaying across the floor in their gowns light as air, but I sucked up my terror and went inside. No guys with white roses pinned to their lapels, save one; some young cutie in the back corner, dark enough to hide his face, the white rose lit up by the candle on his table. He sat alone, as I guess is the way of assassins.

He didn't look up at me as I got close; he seemed to be watching the dancers swirl around that jagged music they play.

"Mind if I sit down?" I asked, trying demure on for size. His head shifted ever so slightly, and he gestured to the seat next to him. Back against the wall, just the way I like it. Still didn't look me in the eye.

Our handsome young man took the rose from his lapel and laid it on the table. He looked to be about my age, which seemed a bit young to be a killer for hire; then again, I was a fuck for hire, so I really had nothing to say.

"You a Salesman?" I tried. After I said it, I thought it would have been nice to have some kind of code word to use, because then his head snapped away from the dancers and those dark eyes finally fixed on me. Now, I didn't know the man, but that seemed angry.

"You looking for something to buy, sweetheart?" he asked sharply.

"I – I dunno, what do you got?" I stammered. He snickered, and looked back to the floor.

"Why don't you beat it, honey – I got no time for whores tonight, and this is no place for a filthy spring chicken like you."

I was taken aback – I mean, who talks to an Old Town girl like that? Stupid question, of course we're all whores, but we own ourselves and I wasn't there to make friends. I reached under the table and grabbed for the one thing a man has in this world that he can't stand to lose – the family jewels. He sucked a breath as I leaned in.

"No, honey, you listen. My name's Cheri, and I came here for Gail. Town's too hot for her these days. I was looking to make a deal with some muscle, but I'm starting to wonder if you're the kind of Salesman I'm in the market for. You follow?"

He nodded, seeming subdued, until he reached under the table and twisted my wrist away from his soft parts.

"Sorry for the misunderstanding, Cherry," he said, and I could tell right away that to him, I'd be Cherry, not Cheri, for as long as we were associated. He didn't let my hand go. "I like your style, but be gentle. It's been a while since a pretty girl has held me like that."

I opened my mouth to correct him on the Cherry/Cheri business, but a sharp squeeze on my bones under the table discouraged that. Cherry it would be, then.

"As long as we have business, let's stay here, enjoy the atmosphere. I assume it's you contracting me, and not the other way around?"

The professional flirt in me was tempted to ask what he'd prefer, but like I said, I wasn't here to make friends. I nodded.

"Good. Let's have a drink."

He let go of me, and used that hand to flag down a waiter. We both got gin and tonics, as per his request, though if asked, I would have preferred ginger with mine. I guess a gentleman always orders for his lady.

"So you have a problem you need solved?" he asked after the medicine was delivered.

Just what did they discuss? I wondered. "Yes, we do. Little girl named Becky, she sold us out to the worst players in town."

"What do you mean, little girl?" he interrupted.

"She's our youngest right now. Seventeen."

"Seventeen's a bit young."

"To die, or to suck cock for a living? I started the latter a few years younger than her, and I still never handed my sisters over to the man."

"That's a mean break," the Salesman said in what may have been sympathy. "She's not too young to die in my books, to clarify."

"And you've probably made it with a few of our girls yourself, so I'm glad to hear you're not as two-faced as the dicks who trashed our town."

"I don't frequent prostitutes."

"You just kill for us?"

"If you have the capitol."

"That we do," I said, guiding his eyes below the table, where I'd just held his manhood in my hand, and he'd just bent my bones in his. I lifted that shiny black skirt to show the money, and he nodded, satisfied. Even put his hand down there to touch it – the money, not his manhood, or my leg. I want to say I felt electricity charge through the paper from his fingertips, but I didn't. If there's one thing that can come between a man and a woman successfully, it's money. I can't say what he felt.

"That ought to do the trick," he said.

"Good. What else do you need from us?"

"What else can you give me?"

I smiled my slow cherry smile, and I swear he may have blushed; in some other life, that is, where he wasn't a killer and I wasn't a prostitute. In this one, we both wore masks to hide that sort of thing.

"I don't suppose you'd know where I can find her?" he said.

I laughed. "No, she doesn't check in with us since she nearly got us killed." I thought for a moment. "She got hurt, I know. Gail almost – well, anyway, yeah, she got hurt. Her arm."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah," I said, before I realized he meant hurt seriously, not are you serious? But it was yes, either way. "I forget what happened now, but it's serious enough that she can't use it without some kind of cast or something."

"You weren't there," he guessed.

"Yeah, sort of. I was heading up an attack from the rooftops, she got hit down below. Before that, Miho and Dallas took off to find the guy who started all this, and that left me in charge of weapons for a while."

"Sure you don't want him dead?"

"No, look. He didn't start it, not like that. Becky betrayed us for a lot of money. That's it, that's all, big guy. This other one, he's a friend of ours." I paused. "Why, you having second thoughts about doing a kid like her? She gave us up like a big girl, if that helps you at all."

The Salesman chuckled at that. "I never think twice."

"Good. I guess finding her is part of your job."

"I guess so. This Becky got a last name?"

"Sure does. I don't know what it is, though. We call her Langley."

"I'll assume Langley's it. A girl's got to have two names to get around this town." The Salesman finished his drink, after seeing that mine had disappeared some time ago. "We won't talk like this again."

"Oh, no? How will we know you're done?"

"Becky will be dead."

I laughed. "Well, honey, Old Town girls don't tend to make the Obituaries."

He smiled, indulgently, and settled back into his seat. His hand again dipped under the table, and my years of training prevented me from jumping as he wrapped his fingers around the cash. He left it there, though, and withdrew.

"I can't take this now," he murmured. "Later, outside. Care to dance, before we part?"

I lifted an eyebrow, and smiled my little smile. I don't dance unless I'm being paid. This would be a first for me. "Do you size up all your lady friends this way?" I asked.

He rose and offered me his hand. "Yes," he said.

In the light I could see his face, and he was the prettiest boy I'd ever danced with. We spun around the floor, looking like young lovers or old friends, and here, he never took his eyes off me. He was an excellent dancer, sure and careful of me. Attentive. I don't get a lot of attention like that. When the dance was over, he lifted my fingers, on the hand he'd twisted under the table not so long ago, and kissed them. Yeah, I could see how a woman could fall for this. Luckily, I was a professional myself; my trade was lust and affection, while ultimately, his was violence and death. I would not be so easily seduced. So said I.

"Let me get you a taxi," he whispered in my ear. He sounded almost breathless, which is a perfect way to set a woman at ease, or on fire. My God, when had I become a mark to him?

And what could I do, but mark him back?

We'd need to go somewhere away from this golden light and silver music – the Palais Royale is not the place for lifted skirts and fumbled trousers. He walked me ten minutes along a bare path into the woods, and set me against a thick tree in the dark. Blue moonlight filtered through the leaves and painted us the colour of the dead and gone. For most of the time we spent in the trees, I wasn't sure what was going to happen next. I knew what it would look like to others, what we intended it to look like – but if there was a plan, he held the blueprints. After we entered the dark of the wood, I was just along for the ride.

I gasped when he lifted my skirt, and that was only partly a line long rehearsed with other, nameless men. Finally, it was business, his business, when he slid the money out of my garter and stuffed it into the lining of his jacket, casually pressed against me. This looked good; it must. A breathy young female, pinned by a handsome young male; it was the way of nature. This would look like my business, now. It did, when he dipped again, unexpectedly, and intimately touched my other leg – my gun leg. He smiled as he felt the steel, warmed by my body on the inside, cold on the outside. He lingered there a moment longer, and I worried that he'd disarm me, take away my claws. I'd need those, getting back to Old Town. But he stayed away from my gun, and my warmest, softest parts; just leaned against me, breathing into my hair. We were old pros, and on him I couldn't tell what any of it meant; another man's dead giveaway could be this guy's greatest weapon. After a moment it ended, the act, and he stepped back to make a show of putting himself back together. I haven't made it with a man of my choice in a long time, but this was what I imagined it would feel like after. Good, like. Almost.

He walked me back to the Palais and flagged a taxi for me, as promised. He offered to drive me himself, but giving my address to a hitman seemed a bit insane. He wasn't surprised by my refusal. I supposed he could find me, anyway, if he wanted to. Just go to Old Town, ask for Cherry. I've got no reason to hide.


Author's note:

Hi, and thanks for reading! As you can see, this is based on the movie Sin City rather than the books. I don't know if all the facts are right, so if anything's glaringly off, please let me know, politely. I don't have thick enough skin for rudeness, I'll just break down, trust me. Those who know my other stories in the Batman Begins fandom may notice that the language of the prose is a bit messier than I usually write, and that's because Cherry's a tough sort of girl who grew up in Old Town. She changes a lot through the story, too, so keep your eye on her. The rating is for language and mature situations. Hope to see you at Seed 2.

-nH