2305: Pass Through This Night

Posted: December 11, 2012 by Kelly in league, stories

“I’m telling you man, this guy is like nothing you’ve ever seen.” Berntsson’s voice cracked up a little here and there. The connection was bad. It was tragic, really, that there were still places in the world that suffered from shitty telecom installations. Hugh glared at his screen. What was even worse was that he had to suffer through them while Berntsson offloaded another one of his flights of fancy on Hugh.

Not that the guy didn’t have a nose for talent, but fuck him. Talent would still be around when Hugh wasn’t in the middle of something, and it could probably also be found in a civilized part of the world, as opposed to the shithole Berntsson was currently calling him from. He rubbed at his eyes and wondered if this was going to take all night, or if he could forgo the stimms. “Alright, show it to me.” he muttered, already regretting the decision to pick up in the first place.

His screen lit up as Berntsson sent him a video. It was filmed with a shitty handheld camera. Several shitty handheld camera’s, from the looks of it. Hugh arched an eyebrow at the screen. There was a laugh on the other end. “I know, right?” Berntsson commented. “It’s a backwater illegal deathmatch. I thought we shut all of those down, but I found this one in Colombia. The arena, and I use that term lightly here covers about two city blocks, and they film it all with handheld camera’s, security camera’s and a few fixed camera’s. Young would have a coronary if he saw this.”

Hugh smirked, picturing the constipated look on Young’s face. Berntsson was right about that much at least, Young would absolutely hate the look of this deathmatch. Hugh kind of appreciated it though. It was gritty, with a lot of shaky camera action that movie directors paid good money for in high-budget action flicks. Still, he doubted that that was what Berntsson wanted him to look at. “Alright, cut to the chase. What have you got for me?”

On the screen the match started. There was a brief introduction of the competitors. Mostly young guys. A couple of scrawny ones, a few with prison-ink, and one older guy that looked like he could eat all of those other guys raw. It was a short, stocky guy with that brick shithouse look that league-fangirls went gaga over, plenty of tattoos including prison ink and gang markings, and hair tied back in a ponytail. “Contestant number seven, on the left.” Berntsson offered, confirming that this was the guy he was interrupting Hugh’s evening for.

“With the ponytail? Are you fucking with me? He’s older than I am. How the fuck am I supposed to market that?” He groused. The guy grinned at the camera in a cocky, predatory kind of way, and all of a sudden Hugh found himself liking the guy, despite his best intentions not to.

“I’m going to let this guy speak for himself.” Berntsson said, sounding cocksure and terribly pleased with himself. Hugh would comment and take him down a few pegs, but then the footage shifted, and the game kicked off with all contestants in different locations in the arena. Hugh paid no attention to the other guys, all running around like the amateurs they were. His eyes were fixed on contestant number seven, whose movements were like those of a black panther, slinking through the night.

The first guy went down before he even knew what hit him. Lucky number seven sliced him open from chin to balls with a well-placed shot from his ripper. Death from above. The corner of Hugh’s mouth twitched in amusement as the guy dropped to the ground, gurgling. Ripper-guy landed next to him without so much as a sound. Maybe the handhelds just didn’t pick up on the sound of footsteps on the pavement. Hugh could hear firefights going on in the other streets though.

The squelch that followed when ripper-guy pulled the circular blade from the dead guy’s chest was picked up by the camera easily enough as well. “Yummy.” Hugh heard himself commenting. On the other side of the line Berntsson chuckled. “Alright, tell me more about this guy. Assume you’ve piqued my interest for the moment. I don’t hate this guy yet.”

Berntsson pounced at it like the disgusting puppydog of a man that he really was. “His name is Ruiz da Costa something or another. He’s Brazilian of birth, so he’s got about a dozen names. He is indeed older than you are, born in 2263. He was a soldier, got arrested and court-martialled a couple of times because he is a sick motherfucker with authority issues, but in the end he was honorably discharged. He’d been in about four years at that time, meaning he joined up when he was sixteen.”

“After the war he disappeared for a few years. From what I’ve been able to dig up he worked for a couple of cartels in the meantime.” On the screen Ruiz executed another perfect shot with his ripper, letting the blade ricochet between two buildings before it neatly sliced through some unlucky guy’s jugular. Arterial spray covered the handheld camera closest to the victim, and Hugh couldn’t keep in a mean laugh when he heard the camera-man vomit. Handheld camera’s were the worst, he’d have to agree with Young on that one.

“He did a stint in prison around the time the league came to South America. I imagine he would have been all over it already otherwise, but by the time he got out the waiting lists were already pretty long, so I figure that’s why he hasn’t signed up for the big game. I mean, look at him. This guy was made for the league. He’s popular too. He’s been in these illegal clusterfucks about a dozen times now, and he’s actually got a fanbase that travels with him.” Berntsson scoffed, and there was a rustling sound as if he was shaking his head. “I mean, the guy has cult-status already. Bitches are literally lining up to suck his cock.”

Hugh chuckled. “Jealous much, Bernie?” he drawled, drawing on his public persona for a moment. “Jilly not givin’ you the lovin’ you deserve? That’s not good, old buddy. Frustration does bad things to the mind.” On the screen Ruiz put his ripper aside for a moment as he bashed someones head against the wall repeatedly, leaving just a crumpled body and a smear on the bricks behind by the time he was done.

“Man, I don’t know why you have to be such a dick all the time. Did I not present you with gold right here? Why aren’t you on a jet to Salvador yet? You need to recruit this fucker before he gets himself shanked in a barfight.” Berntsson sounded pissy. On the screen the match was already dwindling to a close. Illegal deathmatches never lasted long.

“Salvador?” Hugh asked.  Berntsson mentioned Colombia earlier, and this shit sure as hell wasn’t taped in Salvador. Hugh’s birthplace had better comm-facilities than that. He’d seen to that personally.

Ruiz grinned at the screen once more, covered in the blood of every single guy he killed. Hugh glanced at the time for the video. Couldn’t have lasted more than thirty minutes in total. “That’s where he resides when he’s not fucking people up in illegal deathmatches.” Berntsson replied. “And that’s why you’re the guy to pick him up. Last time some white, corporate looking dude in a suit approached him in his hometown he shivved them, and I’m not ready to make Jill a widow yet.” Hugh was sure he was smirking when he said that.

He was quiet for a moment. It was a pause for effect, really. He already knew he was going to go, but it never hurt to make Berntsson sweat a little. “Alright.” he finally concluded. “Get me the address, then get your ass out of Colombia. Don’t you know that shit isn’t safe for corporate white boys?” He flicked off the connection before Berntsson could give his undoubtedly sassy reply. Hugh was not in the mood for it.

~

He finally found he man in a seedy back-alley cantina in the slums of Salvador. While it had been years since he’d actually spent time in that part of town himself, Hugh still knew people around town. People who were more than willing to point out the loco son of a bitch that was currently drinking himself into oblivion. That didn’t mean he didn’t feel out of place though, slinking through the grimy streets in his light summer-suit. People might recognise his face, either from the past or from the league, but no one greeted him. No one stopped him. He was on a mission, and it oozed out of his pores.

That, or the fact that he’d been up for the past forty eight hours and was fucked up on stimms and whiskey wafted off his skin by the bucket. Either way, no matter how out of place he looked, people gave him wide berth. Even inside the cantina no one approached him. Conversations around him hushed significantly though, and he could feel eyes watching him by the uncomfortable prickle at the back of his neck. At the bar Ruiz Alfredo Trafalgar da Costa sat nursing a bottle of tequila. A pretty young woman was talking at him on his right, but he paid her no mind. He probably didn’t have to. She’d probably still offer to ride him even if he was a dick to her all night.

“Groupies.” Hugh muttered to himself, shaking his head a little as he made his way across the dirty floor and leaned on the bar next to Ruiz. “Uma serveja, por favor.” he told the bartender. His accent was local. He got a beer that wasn’t pissed in, even though he looked like a corporate douchebag. Salvador was like that. Next to him there was a little hitch in Ruiz’ shoulders. Hugh smirked. He’d been noticed. There was a tense moment where he wondered if the other man would ignore him, shank him, or greet him. Either of the former would be unpleasant at best. The shit he did for his job…

“Look at that, a celebrity.” Ruiz ground out, looking at Hugh with a grin on his face. “What brings you to this shithole, man? tired of airconditioning? Champagne too boring for you? Bitches too clean?” That got him a few laughs from the other patrons. “Man, Huey himself. That’s something.” He took a swig of his tequila. The bottle was already half-empty, but he looked like he was only barely feeling the effects. “That sure is something.”

Hugh took a swig of his beer, surprised to find it moderately cool. Small blessings, indeed. “Man, fuck you. I’d never get tired of airconditioning, good champagne and clean bitches.” He informed Ruiz. “But for some fucked up reason you’re slumming it here instead of livin’ the good life, so what’s a guy to do? If Moses won’t come to the mountain…”

Ruiz gave him a thorough once-over. Hugh felt weighed and measured, and he wasn’t sure of the outcome. Maybe he’d get shanked after all. Ruiz smirked. “Sorry to disappoint you, buddy, but you’re not my type. I prefer my bitches female.” It was an obvious challenge. Knowing that didn’t drive away the urge to slam Ruiz’ face into the bar. What the hell was that pissant thinking anyway?

“That how you respond to every job offer you get? ‘Cause all of a sudden I’m a lot less surprised at finding you slumming it with the rats.” Hugh finished his beer in a few gulps and rose from his seat. “When you’re done pissing away your life in backwater deathmatches, backalley bars and low quality pussy, let me know. I’m done wasting time here.” He flicked a five credit note and his business card on the bar, turned on his heel and walked out.

He didn’t even have to count to five before the door behind him slammed open. “The fuck do you mean by that, asshole?” Ruiz roared at him. “You think you can just walk into my town like some kind of posh motherfucker and act like you own this place, huh? I ought to fucking kill you where you stand.”

“Your town?” Hugh arched an eyebrow at him. This fucker had some balls of steel on him. “I own this town, pissant. Now you can stand here and shout at me for hours, but that won’t change a single fucking thing. You’re not going to shiv me on this street unless you want to spend the rest of your miserable life locked up with people who’d have you for breakfast. You can either stop posturing, come with me and talk business, or you can turn around, step back into that shithole you call a bar, and get yourself mauled in some backwater slaughterfest. Those are your options. You’ve got three seconds to decide.”

Three seconds later Ruiz still looked like he wanted to beat Hugh to death with his own spine, but he was still standing there. Hugh took that as a win. He smirked. “Alright, follow me, jackass. I’m tired of these slums. My office has airconditioning and proper tequila.” He started walking down the street. For a few tense moment he worried Ruiz wouldn’t follow. Then the shorter man appeared next to him, looking both surly and intrigued. Hugh let go a breath he most definitely hadn’t been holding.

“Man, you’ve got some stones on you.” Ruiz grunted, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I have shivved people for less. Fuck, I’ve shivved people for nothing at all. And here you are, insulting me in my own goddamn haunt, and walking out without a hair out of place. I ought to fucking murder you for that alone.”

Hugh grinned. “I have that effect on people.”

“What, homicide?” Ruiz countered, smirking.

“Among others.” Hugh shrugged. “I can’t help it if I’m always right, dog. Besides, killing me would be the easy way out here, wouldn’t it?  But then you’d never know what I have to offer, an wouldn’t that just kill you?”

Ruiz shrugged, his eyes on the luxury-pod that pulled up in front of them. “So… this is what you’ve got to offer? a taste of the good life?” Hugh held the door open for him, feeling magnanimous now that he was just a short distance away from getting what he wanted.

“Man, you’re going to get more than a taste of the good life. Play your cards right and you’re going to get everything you’ve ever wanted, and you’re going to get it doing what you’re best at. You need to see me as an enabler of talent, and you sir, have got talent in spades.” He slid into the limo after Ruiz, entirely sure he’d get what he wanted out of the stocky man as well. He had an effect on people, after all. He had a talent, and that talent was getting people to do what he wanted. Ruiz didn’t know it yet, but Hugh would make a league champion out of him. He’d make /the/ league champion out of him.

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