How everything started

(This is a tiny prequel for Hard Target, taking place let's say 4/5 years before the movie. Enjoy!)

Emile Fouchon sat down on the simple chair in front of the PD's chief . Everyone of his movements and every detail of his appearance was flawless accuracy, cleanliness, charm. The charm of a reptile before the deadly poisonous bite.

"I know, my friend," Fouchon just said, lighting a cigarette, "you will make the right choice in the upcoming elections. It's not my intention at all to influence you in any way. Personal friendships have nothing to do in politics, am I right?" He smiled cordially, and Detective Winter managed a likewise friendly looking gesture. Friendship was a nice way indeed to put it…

Letting his gaze wander through the glass front opening into the busy office room behind it, Fouchon saw two police officers bring in another suspect. A man immediately capturing his attention. The guy was tall, clad in black and fairly young, but that wasn't what intrigued Fouchon the most. It was the way the man walked, held his head - his whole demeanor. Despite being handcuffed and flanked by officers, he looked calm, self-confident, as if in complete control of the situation. And his eyes… Smoldering feral cruelty, just now shaded by a cold almost mocking gleam. Fouchon knew such a glance very well from the look into the mirror. When his view crossed the one of the suspect, a shiver ran through him nonetheless.

"Who is that?"

Winter turned his head, grateful for a little distraction. Seeing what was going on, his mood rose further. "Ah, Van Cleaf. At least that's the name a witness gave him! A hitman, supposedly working for the Columbian drug connection under DelMorillo. We were after this bastard for a while, but he's a pro."

No doubt, Fouchon thought. He leaned back into his chair, but still felt strangely unsettled. "Not pro enough to escape your blood hounds, though," he continued.

"About time. If we're correct, he's guilty of killing 3 civilians and 2 of my men."

Efficient. "My congratulations." Emile Fouchon drew a deep breath and stood up. "Well, I'm afraid I have to leave! But I'm glad I took the time to stop by for a little visit." He stretched his hand. "It's hard these times to keep reliable friends! The omnipresent human greed…"

"Oh yes!" Winter struggled with another smile. It came a bit shakier than last time because of greater effort. Then, finally, Fouchon, candidate for the governorate this year, was gone. The detective wiped the sweat from his forehead and called angrily for his assistant.

Pik van Cleaf stared through the bars of his cell at the guard outside and enjoyed making the man nervous. A small relief, though. He had screwed up. There was no other way to put it. That was absolutely intolerable. In addition, he had screwed up because he had indulged in having too much fun doing his work. That was unprofessional. It was okay chasing the victim, luring it into a trap, torturing it a bit… but well, there were times when a clean shot was simply necessary. Especially at times, when the police were too close. Of course, the bastard had it coming. But once again, that was no excuse. He hadn't been out there for fun. At least not completely… This wouldn't happen again, Van Cleaf promised himself. He refused to think about the fact, that highly probably law and order would hinder him from falling into that temptation ever again.

That evening, Emile Fouchon had invited a few guests, people important for his campaign. He didn't particularly like some of his guests - vulgar people in his opinion - but sacrifices had to be made. He could get rid of them later, when they had served their purpose! In the meantime, it was always fun to show them his exquisite private collection of Renaissance portraits and hear them gasp, when he mentioned the price en passant.

At the moment, he was standing in front of a painting showing a Medici-prince. "The very essence of power and confidence is radiating from his face, don't you think?" Fouchon asked the bald, fat-bellied man next to him - he reminded him of an ugly frog.

"Yes, of course, it's magnificent," the guest replied in a hurry.

"These eyes… " Fouchon clenched his fist. "Don't they pierce right through your soul, pinning you down, forcing you on your knees?"

"Oh yes." The man wasn't that an art - connoisseur, but he was the manager of the local bank.

Emile Fouchon still stared like hypnotized, seeing two other eyes and another face behind the old colors of the painting. He couldn't get this man out of his mind…

Because he wasn't a person to ponder lengthily about anything or question his feelings, Fouchon had made a decision the moment he and the manager walked back into the dining room. He would get this Van Cleaf out of prison.

While the butler served the entrée, the eyes of the host scanned his guests and mentally checked if there was anyone among them who could provide help in this 'little' endeavor. Yes… there was, Harvard-lawyer Henry R. Richardson. Fouchon smiled in his direction. If he recalled correctly, Richardson had a bad taste for women. That, probably, would make him step into something … well, not quite good for publicity. How sad for such a gifted lawyer!

Only two weeks later, the gifted lawyer was a picture of misery, squatting in the chair of his office. "I'm a dead man, if my wife figures that out!" he repeated once again. "Dammit! Why on earth this damned paparazzi-" He huffed frustrated.

"You know the newspaper is partially owned by me," Fouchon threw in after some time studying the pitiable shape of Richardson. "I'm a man of understanding, and I really think a promising career such as yours shouldn't suffer from such a little … problem." That was quite direct, but he hadn't much time in this case. And Richardson was wonderfully desperate; he would do everything. He let him suffer a while longer, then agreed to let vanish the compromising photographs, wrapping the lawyer in a cozy comfortable coat of friendship.

"I admit," Richardson said - almost sniffing, it was disgusting - I have misjudged you for a very long time, Mister-"

"Oh no, Emile."

"I'm in your debt! If there's anything-"

"There is something… sadly… "

Now Richardson was a bit surprised, though.

"Someone is in jail who is … innocent. I want the man out. Without much fuss in the public."

"Ah. I see. And who-"

Fouchon placed a folder in front of the lawyer. "You'll learn that the accusation is merely based on the statement of one witness; a man with known alcohol problems, a man, who on top of all, died two days ago."

Richardson had opened the folder, took in the photograph and the personal data of the prisoner and began to feel increasingly uncomfortable.

"I see we have an agreement." With that, Emile Fouchon left.

The following weeks his plot took shape. News reached him only occasionally - of course, he wasn't officially involved in the new hearings - and if, he pretended not to pay any close attention. The police had caught the wrong guy after all? Well, his condolences to PD-chief Winter, but there was nothing he could do about it. In case he'd win the elections, he'd see further. When Fouchon was alone in his mansion, once again reading the meager police reports about the man he was about to free, again staring into the eyes on the photograph, he realized that his curiosity was bordering obsession… and something else he couldn't define right now. He had never before sensed that kind of closeness to another person. Generally, he kept his distance, unless he had to socialize because of business and politics. That cost him some effort especially in situations, when the opposite was dirty, sweaty or in whatsoever way showing too much of human misery. But he wanted to know THIS man.

Four months later, the day had come. Pik van Cleaf stood in the luxurious white colonial style entrance hall of Fouchon's estate.

"I have a proposal for you," Emile said, observing his just arrived guest walking through the hall as if it was his home. He had get hold of his obsession eventually! Not that Fouchon had doubted that even one single minute. He was a rich and ruthless businessman; he normally got what he wanted. An opponent's interesting enterprise, a woman, even the Governor's see - he was sure of that.

At the moment all those things were as uninteresting as the poor hobos in the city streets. Fouchon was more fascinated by his guest than ever. This young man knew he had been saved from prison, maybe the death sentence, only by Fouchon's intense machinations and considerable bribes. And yet, he didn't say a single word of thanks; he didn't crawl in pretended servitude. He looked at him, proud, unbroken and… mysterious.

"I'm not for hire anymore," Van Cleaf answered and halted in front of a huge painting. It showed a battle scene of furious Gods against mankind, from the Greek mythology. "I'm a hunter."

"A man-hunter. The most dangerous prey, right?"

"Wrong," Van Cleaf stated. "It's the least challenging prey. Men don't smell, don't see, don't feel the predator on their tracks. When they discover him, they rarely give a fight. They are weak and miserable."

The words stirred up something inside the other man. Something he hadn't been aware of that clearly before. Van Cleaf spoke out what he, Fouchon thought, but never so far had dared to say. It was a revelation. A dark but wonderful sensation.

"Maybe … if the prey has something in front of their eyes worth fighting and running for?" Emile's gaze wandered over the painting. "A prize that will fall into their hands when they outmatch the gods. When they outmatch the hunter."

"Maybe." Van Cleaf still didn't turn towards his conversation partner. For a long moment, silence prevailed. "But," he eventually said again, trailing his finger over the muscular bodies of the painting's desperate human warriors, "the prey has to be chosen carefully."

Now he turned, a happy little smile forming on his lips. And Emile Fouchon smiled as well and nodded. He had found his soul mate.

(PS. If you liked it, check out my other 2 fanfictions: "Dark Targets" and "Bloodline")