If I hadn't forgotten my jacket, Arlin might have survived. I needed what was in the jacket though. It was why we went in the first place. Why we traversed the dark alleys and battled against the cold winds. The dragon got him though. One sharp claw to the head. It wasn't a clean swipe either. It split his head into two messy parts, with the middle stuff getting on me.
I ran into the nearest building, just missing a second equally deadly swipe. There was my jacket, sitting on a bright purple chair, surrounded by art connoisseurs holding cocktails and chatting. I grabbed the jacket quickly, but my presence was already known. Maybe it was the bits of brain on my bloody shirt.
The dragon was out of the alley by the time I left. They can't stay in one spot to long anyway, that's the rules. Unless of course it becomes real, which can happen. The cities usually tend to cover that stuff up though. That's why sewers and tunnels were built, whether they know that or not.
I took Arlin's body and slung it over my shoulder. He was a good man; the organization would certainly feel the loss. He had been doing this for over 300 years, who knew he would succumb to the claws of a dragon.
I didn't know what to do though. If I walked through the streets with a body it would draw unneeded attention. After all, we didn't exist, at least not by the government's definition. I carefully laid the body down next to a trashcan in the alley. His ripped shirt was matted to his chest with sweat, and his pants were bright red with blood. I covered his body with nearby newspapers and said a formal goodbye. It was getting late, and the heavy breeze was fighting with the jacket that I was holding. Carefully grabbing the sides of my ruined shirt, I ripped it off and threw it into the wind. It circled around in the air, and landed in the trashcan. I wrestled the jacket from the breeze, and put it on over my bare chest. Warmth filled my body, giving me just enough energy, I hoped, to make it back.
It was my favorite jacket. I had worn it for as long as I could remember; and the rips, bullet holes, and blood- stains proved my point. It was black in color, with red trim around the sleeves. It went down to my knees, and had an evil looking collar that scaled my neck. What I liked about the jacket though, was its odd tendencies. Whoever wore the jacket in a dark room tended to disappear from sight, unless of course the wearer wanted to be seen. A few times the jacket had even saved my life, stopping bullets from killing me and softening my landings after a fall. I couldn't always rely on it, but it did increase my chances of living.
I looked at Arlin one more time, and headed out of the alley. The sun was setting, and the glass windows of the skyscrapers were tinted red. A color I was getting sick of seeing. I began to run at a steady pace, weaving in and out of people, steadily making my way to the library.
It's interesting how faces blur and everybody looks the same when you're running. Arlin once said that a person should walk as much as possible, that running is a waste of time. I never quite understood that one, but I did enjoy his confusing words of wisdom. I'll miss Arlin; I'll miss him a lot. It hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm dreading when it will.
Arlin was a tall man. He towered over most people, and usually wore black boots that made him appear even taller. From a distance he looked like a cowboy, but up close he just looked frightening. His only soft feature was his bushy moustache, which appeared brown on
some days, and red on others. No one was sure if the moustache reflected his mood, or if it changed depending on the available light.
Arlin was also old. To be considered old in the organization, one had to be really old. Arlin was really old. He said he was only 542 years old, but many suspected he was lying to make himself seem younger. Either way, no one questioned Arlin. Whatever he said was turned into fact. Today Arlin said there was a dragon.
I stuck my hand into my jacket pocket. The key was there. Good, at least the mission was completed. I didn't know what the key was for, but it was very shiny. Shiny was good. Important things are always shiny.
The library steps were just ahead, framed by two towering lion statues, a welcome sign in the descending darkness. I bypassed the steps though, and instead headed toward a side entrance. The entrance looked more like a painting then a door, which was a clever thing. Nobody ever tried to open it, and even if they did try, all they would see was an empty closet. That's because the organizations headquarters didn't exist. There are a lot of things that affect the world but don't exist. Sort of like dragons.
I pressed my palm against the door, and a hole in the wall appeared. I slowly walked in, my jacket billowing in the cold winds.
Arlin loved explaining what the organization was to newcomers. He liked to confuse people and then make them understand it in one glorious moment. It made him feel smart. The organization, as Arlin said, existed outside of time. No one who lived within the bounds of time could see the organization. They could feel its effects though. The organization battled things lost in time. He would compare it to the expression "lost in a moment". Except instead of being stuck in one moment, you're stuck in every moment. You no longer exist in the normal flow of time. Sometimes humans get stuck, sometimes animals, sometimes-normal objects. The organization protected against these lost things. Technically the organization was lost in time. Summed up in one sentence, the organization kept the world in tact and protected the flow of time. Most of us enjoyed doing this.
The torch lit hallway was cozier then one would think. But after living anywhere for almost a hundred years, I guess it becomes cozy. My Navy running shoes padded along the stone floor as I approached the large wooden door leading to the main chamber. The wooden door was probably the fanciest part of the organizations headquarters. The large planks of wood were bordered by a gold trim. The handle was studded with jewels, with a line of precious gems leading from the handle to the top of the door. It let out a loud creak as I dramatically pushed the door open with both hands. You'd think that a hidden group would at least oil the hinges on their doors.
The main room was enormous, and a mish-mosh of clashing objects. Torches lined the walls, yet state of the art weaponry was located in the right corner. A raised circular stone platform was located in the middle of the room, with a combination of stone and plastic chairs. It was as if instead of updating the whole room, new objects were added when needed and the old objects that still worked were kept. No one ever complained about the torches, they worked fine.
The room was empty except for three people seated on the stone platform. One of them was a beefy looking man with uneven muscle distribution making him seem like an inverted pyramid. This was Cal. He was best known for his tracking abilities. Finding lost things was his specialty. He was bald, but had a stubbly beard that looked somewhat planned but then forgotten about halfway. He gave me a jolly wave, and beckoned me to the stone platform. The other two figures were wearing long hooded jackets. They had their heads down, avoiding all eye contact. I had seen them before, I just wasn't sure where.
I approached slowly, reluctant to be the carrier of bad news. I still had mine and Arlin's blood splattered on me. Cal took a good look at me and then began looking around the room. He opened his mouth, but I cut him off.
"He's not coming back", I said slowly. "Give this to Quinthe", I ordered as I placed the shiny key in Cal's lap. I normally wouldn't give directions to Cal, but I was too depressed to care. With that I spun around on my right heal and slowly exited the torch lit room. Cal didn't say anything as I left. He knew I cared deeply about Arlin, and I was in no mood to answer questions. I still couldn't believe what had just taken place.
Arlin was seated in a bright red plush chair. He owned an apartment on the 13th floor of an ancient looking building. He claimed that he helped construct the building. I believed him.
Arlin frequently invited me over to his apartment to smoke with him. The problem was I didn't smoke; Arlin never seemed to care though. Arlin lit his pipe and leaned back in the red chair.
"I have some news", exclaimed Arlin as he exhaled puffs of smoke.
"What's going on", I said, shifting the unlit cigar in my mouth to the right side. He liked me to pretend I was smoking so he wouldn't feel peculiar. Arlin paused for a second and then opened his mouth.
"Did you know that I speak French", he said, as if it was exactly what I was expecting him to say. "J'étais au courant qu'un persone ait été lâche dans la ville", he said with a smirk. Arlin put his mouth to his pipe.
"In English please", I said impatiently.
"There is an important person we must meet", said Arlin. He exhaled another puff of smoke. This one narrowly missed my face.
"If you give me 10 minutes, I'll go suit up and meet you downstairs".
"That sounds like an offer I can not refuse", said Arlin. He watched me as I walked to the door and exited the apartment.
Arlin was like a cross between a gallant knight, an aristocrat, and the hulk. Somehow this mixed together to create an amazingly charming person. Arlin liked me as well, which was one of the highest honors I could think of.
I entered the brass door elevator and pushed the lobby button. Instead of going to the ground floor though, the elevator just kept going. This wasn't odd, it happened to me many times before. You get trapped in a specific moment. The moment I was trapped in was between the 2nd and 3rd floor. I looked up at the old fashioned gauge above the elevator door. The black arrow was stuck between the 2 and the 3.
"Fuck", I said aloud. I could get out of situations like this easily, but I didn't have anything with me. It was odd that this was happening in Arlin's building. Stuff like this is always
caused by something, I just couldn't figure out what. This moment could last days for me, but for everyone else it would be a mere second. I slumped down in the corner and stared at my frozen watch.
The first time I had ever gotten stuck in a moment was with Cal and Arlin. We were in a small room in the back of a warehouse. We were spying on a group of Spanish conquistadors who seemed extremely confused. Cal moved to open the door into the warehouse, when the clock in the room stopped. I didn't react, thinking that the clock was just broken, but Cal and Arlin backed away from the door and began fumbling in their pockets.
"Just our luck eh?" boomed Cal
"Oh calm down, you'll live", retorted Arlin. I stood to the left of them with a confused expression on m face.
"I completely forget", said Arlin stopping what he was doing and turning to face Cal. "Our new little friend here has no idea of what's going on".
"We are lost in a moment", stated Cal.
"Why cant we just leave the room", I replied looking even more bewildered.
"I'll show you", said Arlin with an expression of glee on his face. Arlin moved toward the wood paneled door that led to the rest of the warehouse.
"Behind this door is the rest of the warehouse, correct?" he said smugly
"As far as I know", I replied
"Well then you don't know too far", said Cal with a smile.
"Watch", said Arlin as he slowly opened the door. Behind the door, where the warehouse should have been, was complete blackness.
"Don't step into the darkness", warned Cal. I backed away from the door, marveling at the oddity. Arlin abruptly closed the door and pulled out a shiny metal object. He waved it around with his left hand, and then the clock began to move again.
"Yup, its that simple to fix", said Cal, running his hand over his stubbly beard.
I snapped out of my memory as the elevator began to move again. It was stuffy in the elevator, and my clothing was sticking to me. When I emerged from the brass doors onto the ground floor, I looked like a nervous wreck. A man in a tan collared shirt stared at me with a "what the hell are you doing here" stare. I ignored him and headed toward the revolving doors located at the front of the lobby.
It was a miserable day. The dark gray clouds in the sky looked like they were about to fall to the ground. I kicked off the ground with my right heel and began running back to my apartment. I was wearing a t-shirt and I had no desire to get drenched. I don't like water.
I made it back completely dry. The building I lived in wasn't as nice as Arlin's. But then again, Arlin always had the nicest things. Somehow Arlin managed to live the high life while being part of a 1000-year-old secret organization that protected the flow of time. Maybe in 500 years I could be like that too.
My building was made of a collection of miss-colored bricks that all represented some ugly shade of red. The building was old, but not in the beautiful architecture prestigious kind of old. This building was just old and dilapidated. I opened the shoddy front door and ascended the patched up steps to the 4th floor. The door to my apartment was all the way at the end of the floor.
"Hello Robert", said a middle-aged woman as she exited her apartment with a small dog.
"Hello Miss Emert", I said in my friendly voice. I didn't use that voice much anymore. Miss Emert's dog let out a few loud yelps and tried to pounce at me. Luckily the dog was restrained by a rainbow colored leash that in no way reflected the personality of the dog.
Miss Emert headed towards the stairs and gave me a wave goodbye. I returned the wave and fumbled through my pocket for the keys to my apartment. I've changed the lock to my door at least once a month for the past two decades. You can never be too safe.
Because of this precaution though, I have about 800 keys lying around the house. This usually means that I forget which key is which, and land up just grabbing a handful of keys to take with me.
Today was a good day; I only had to try 6 keys before I found the right one. My door swung open revealing the tornado struck room that I live in. It was an organized mess though, and I knew were everything was located.
I made my way to the back of the room where a large metal cabinet was located. This was the most expensive thing in my studio except for the stuff inside it.
I pressed my palm onto a large orange square on the side of the cabinet. The Orange Square turned a brighter shade of orange and 5 clicks rang out. I slowly opened the metal doors.
On 4 neatly arranged shelves, all of my weapons, armor, and other important stuff were arranged. Small lights on the back of each shelf illuminated the items. I grabbed my favorite jacket, a medium sized gun, which I concealed in my coat, and a small knife. For a dragon this is all I would need. When it came down to it, they were stupid creatures.
I ran from my apartment back to Arlin's in a few minutes. The jacket helped a lot. I often wondered how I looked running at a blinding speed down the street. When I got there, Arlin was waiting outside. The sun reflected off the windows across from Arlin, forming a spotlight around him. It softened his features and made him look old and innocent. It was the first time he ever seemed vulnerable. I didn't like it so I called him over to me. He casually checked for his gun, and headed in my direction,
It didn't occur to me until the night of Arlin's death: How could a dragon kill Arlin. In my mind he was a super being, not capable of death. Something didn't seem right when I thought about him dieing. Maybe it was just me, but I doubt it.
I was laying stomach up on the small bed in my apartment. A few apartments down I could hear Miss Emert's classical music playing. Around this hour every night she liked to dance around to her records. I didn't mind, unless she got really into it, in which case loud stamping noises could be heard throughout the whole hallway.
In my anger I had ripped the white sheets on my bed, sending them to the floor in a messy pile. I didn't know what to do with myself, so I decided to destroy half my house and then collapse on the bed exhausted. A wise decision on my part.
I needed to go out, do something…anything. I stumbled through the piles of garbage blanketing the floor, and made it to the metal cabinet at the back of my apartment. I opened the window next to the cabinet to let some air into the room. The breeze rippled through the studio, sending papers flying everywhere.
After scanning my hand, I removed my jet-black jacket, a small pistol, and some ammo. I walked back to my bed and sat down with the gun and ammo.
"You in there?" said a woman's voice from the hallway
"Me?" I replied
"No, the other person that lives there", said Miss Emert
"I'm sort of busy right now", I said, shoving the gun and ammo underneath my bed. I pushed a large pile of papers over the items to conceal them.
"You must have at least 5 min. to spare. We can get in at least one dance before the record ends", she insisted. The knob of my door turned, and Miss Emert strutted in. "I can't believe you didn't lock your door, you never know who might enter".
I couldn't believe it either. I guess I had forgotten in my anger.
"Miss Emert I'm really busy right now I don't have…"
"Time", she finished. "Sure you do, I'm sure whatever you were doing in bed by yourself can be finished later". With that Miss Emert grabbed my hand and proceeded to pull me out the door. My black jacket whipped around and pulled her closer to me.
"That's much better", she said very matter of factly. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get away from this lady that I mildly despised. Her flowery perfume began to permeate the air, making me feel nauseated.
Miss Emert casually grabbed both my hands and began to waltz with me. Instead of a dance though, it just looked like two clumsy people trying to stop each other from falling.
"You have to put some effort into it", she said while pushing me harder, as if that would make me try harder as well. As she was about to spin me around, a high-pitched yelp came from down the hall.
"Tinkerbelle!" she exclaimed in a panicked voice. "I left the door to my apartment open", She added as she ran toward the door. Unfortunately, she continued to hold my hand and dragged me with her. As we exited the room, I reached for a book and wedged it between the door and the doorframe.
Tinkerbelle was at the end of the floor sitting next to the door to the staircase. The dog had a confused expression on her face. Miss Emert ran toward Tinkerbelle, but Tinkerbelle dodged her owner and headed toward me. I stuck out a hand which Tinkerbelle bit. My threshold for pain was pretty high, it had to be, so I was able to slowly pry the dog off of my hand. I walked over to Miss Emerts's apartment and placed the dog inside. Miss Emert joined me in her apartment and closed the door quickly.
The classical music was still playing, but the record skipped when I entered the apartment. Miss Emert's apartment looked like it was straight out of the 50's. She had orange flowered wallpaper, and olive green countertops. Miss Emert looked slightly less retro, but not exactly modern. I'd never seen her wear anything shorter than an ankle long skirt. Tinkerbelle let out an angry yelp.
"Thank you so much", said Miss Emert.
"No problem", I said. "I really need to go now "
"It has been truly wonderful", she said as I was exiting. I felt compelled to tip my hat at her, but I lacked a hat at the moment.
"No problem", I mumbled. I shut her door behind me and walked back to my apartment a few doors down. The door was still unlocked, so I pushed on the door and entered.
I navigated toward my bed, and sat down in the same spot I had occupied before. I reached my hand down and blindly felt around with my hand. After feeling carpet for a few seconds, my fingers came across a hard metal object; I grabbed the gun and ammo and brought it up. It then hit me. Actually two things hit me.
I realized that the papers I had placed on the gun were gone, and that only a gust of wind from the window that I had closed could have moved them. Then a third thing hit me. This time it was a bullet to my right soldier. My jacket prevented it from breaking my skin, it still stung though. From shock along, I fell off the bed. I quickly loaded my gun while two more shots went straight over my head. I took a chance and fired twice forward and ran for cover in the back of my room. I made it safely behind a wooden box that used to be a functioning chest.
I heard a rustling from the other end of the room, and then a dark clad man ran forward and leaped over my bed. I fired 3 times, and managed to hit him once in the left leg. I was usually much better then this, but today I was a nervous wreck.
The dark clad figure landed on the ground, but then his left leg collapsed under him. He spotted me, and quickly fired at my spot. Considering he had just hit the ground, his aim was pretty shitty. Now it was my turn to charge at him. I pushed my broken wooden box aside and dived onto him. His reflexes weren't fast enough, and I managed to pin him to the floor.
The man I had just jumped onto was a middle aged Asian person with dark glasses and dark pants and a shirt. He also had a shaved head and a small tattoo that I couldn't make out on the back of his neck.
I pulled the gun from his hand, but he managed to wriggle his right hand free and punch me in the jaw. I reeled back slightly, but then hit him in the forehead with the butt of his gun. His head slumped to the side immediately.
He was still alive and I didn't quite know what to do. First of all no one had ever snuck into my apartment before to kill me, and second of all I didn't want this guy waking up ever again, but I wanted to know who he was. I walked over to my front door and took my cell-phone off a small black shelf filled with junk. I dialed Cal's number and waited for him to pick up. Instead I got his voicemail, he was probably still at the sanctuary. That's what we called the organizations headquarters.
"This is Cal, let me know how I can help", buzzed his voicemail.
"Hey Cal, Um, I have an unconscious assassin in my room, so, uh, call me back", I spoke hesitantly.
I decided I needed to get to the Sanctuary, and I figured I could bring the body since it was night. Today was an odd day for me. Usually when I was confronted with a dead body it was because I killed it, and I planned on leaving it where it was. Today was different.
I tied the body up with a nylon rope I found on my floor, so that the limbs would not flail about as I ran. Outside of my window was a dark red fire escape. I tossed the body out the window onto the fire escape, and it made a loud clang as it hit the flimsy structure. Next I swung my body through the window, and landed on all fours next to the would be assassin.
The night was clear and chilly, and it made me realize how stuffy the inside of my room was. My body shivered as I kneeled down to grasp the unconscious body. With all of its miracles, the one thing my jacket didn't do was keep me warm. The body was heavier then I had suspected, and it took a great deal of pain and noise before I could get it down the fire escape.
Once I reached the ground, I proceeded to drag the body into a nearby alley. I also realized there was no way I was going to drag this 200 pound weight to Cal. I left the body slumped against a moldy brick building. I pulled the black shirt up so that it straddled the man's face. Anybody passing by would pass it off as a homeless man.
I leapt up, and relying completely on my jacket, began running up the side of the building. In my mind, I began to calculate how much time it would take for this mysterious
assassin to wake up. I knew I had at least an hour, to play it safe, I'd try to be back with Cal in 45 min.
When I started to approach the top of the building, I leapt into the air, throwing myself away from the building, but then somersaulted mid-air landing on the roof. This was a technique that I had mastered through many broken legs. The lower part of my jacket launched into the air perpendicular to my body as I landed.
I then proceeded to run from rooftop to rooftop, leaping over the gaps in between buildings, and dodging the occasional roof ornament. The wind felt good as it rushed past my body, and I felt as if I could jump into the wind and fly away.
I started out slow, but was reaching an amazing speed by the 4th building. The sense of freedom was unbelievable. During the longer gaps, I was able to look down momentarily and see the blinking lights and neon signs of the city beneath me. I could go anywhere in the city I wanted, and with greater speed then anyone. Right now though I had to get Cal.
I reached the library in less then 20 minutes. I bypassed the lion statues and headed directly to the hidden side entrance. Cal was waiting for me in the torch lit corridor.
"I got your call", said Cal.
"Well, maybe you should follow me. I have a body waiting in the alley", I said quietly. Cal let on a small smile, and stroked his stubble.
"Lead the way my friend", he directed. I turned around abruptly, and headed back to the hidden door.
Arlin walked ahead of me down a crowded city street. The people seemed to avoid him, and collide with me. By the time I reached the end of the block, Arlin was at least 2 blocks ahead of me. I still wasn't sure where we were going, but Arlin was leading me toward the business district.
I saw Arlin stop at the base of a shiny building in the distance. I increased my pace to catch up with him. Finally I stumbled up to Arlin out of breath and sat cross legged on the pavement. The building created a nice length of shade that I desperately needed.
"Time for a box social", he said with a grin.
"Arlin, I really hope you didn't bring me along for a social call", I said between breaths.
Arlin had done that on occasions. He'd tell me we were going on an important mission, and we'd land up meeting a friend for lunch. Arlin liked people too much.
"No, this is of the utmost importance", stated Arlin matter of factly. "There is what you might call a god at this party. He's retiring though, and he has entrusted the organization with a very powerful object. Being who I am (Arlin let out a confident wink), I have been entrusted with this", said Arlin.
"Lead the way then". I proclaimed. The entrance to the building was comprised of two large silver doors. The sun reflected off the silver causing a brilliant glow to surround the entrance of the building. Using both his hands, Arlin slammed both doors open and walked confidently into the building. I followed behind him.
The lobby was sleek and modern. Even though Arlin wasn't dressed particularly odd, he seemed to stand out. He strode past the dark haired woman at the reception desk and to a small bank of elevators. The woman at the reception desk opened her mouth tom say something, but instead stared at Arlin, and then went back to playing minesweeper.
With an electronic bell sound, the elevator doors burst open. Arlin and I filed in. Arlin jabbed the 9th floor button and leaned back. In the distance a man in a gray business suit ran toward the elevator.
"Hold it", the man bellowed. Arlin hit the door close button, and the man disappeared from view. Arlin reached into one of his pockets and removed a small clear case. He looked it over thoroughly and held it out to me.
"Well, come on now, take it", directed Arlin. I reached for it with my left hand, and grabbed it. "Stick it in your jacket and be careful with it", said Arlin. I slipped it into a side pocket and patted it down to make sure it was secure.
"I'm really confused", I exclaimed. Before Arlin could answer me though, the elevator came to a halt and the doors slid open. I followed Arlin off the elevator, and stopped surprised.
The elevator opened into a large exhibition room. Several dozen people dressed in suits and dressed were surveying a large collection of paintings. Food and Wine were being brought around on trays by fancily dressed waiters.
"Follow me to the back", said Arlin. I did what he told me, without a second thought. I passed many men and women discussing unimportant things, and suddenly I felt very important. At the end of the room was a small red wooden door. Arlin gave a soft knock, and assumed a very rigid posture. As if trying to fit in with the arrogant people at the reception.
An older man answered the door. He was balding, but still had a burgundy colored goatee and moustache. The man recognized Arlin immediately and gave him a hug. Arlin embraced him with equal gusto, and then motioned to me with a nod.
"This is my assistant from the organization", said Arlin. The man with the burgundy goatee stuck his hand out, and I shook it. He spun around on his heel, and I followed him into the room. Arlin walked right over to the only seat at the end and sat down. The balding man began searching through a book case to the left of the room. I leaned against the wall with the red door. Eventually the man with the burgundy mustache removed a glass orb from a hollowed out book and brought it over to Arlin. Arlin immediately motioned to me, and I ran over.