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Two roommates, Ace and Anastasius, are working out some Issues between them. Like Ace's job. He kills people for a better world (and profit, don't forget the profit). There is magic but most people very few know about it. (Cover art by Jo Chen)
Ace leaned back against the wall and watched his roommate looking for something under one of the beds. Staz, short for Anastasius, had grown a lot since they’d first become roommates, but his features still had a certain softness that made him look younger. Maybe it was the lips, plump and soft like the Prophetess on the Sistine Chapel, or whatever that painting was. Staz was a little over eighteen now and his body looked it, tall and lithe, even if his face didn’t.
Most people thought they were a couple just because they’d been roommates for years now. Most people were idiots. Maybe it was because they didn’t have separate bedrooms, but given that it was a studio apartment, that would have been some trick. They had their own beds, pulled into the odd shaped space between the bathroom – that was its own room – and the kitchenette. They’d put up curtains for privacy, not that either of them had needed that in a long time.
Staz was in his ‘man skirt’ as he liked to call it, a towel slung over his shoulder from where he’d been drying his hair. It still hung in loose curls, jet black from the damp. “Ace? Have you perchance seen the jewelry case?”
“Naw. Ain’t seen it since th’ last time you went out. Wasn’t it fer that play by Ara-- Astop-- that Greek guy last month?” There were many reasons people who’d met them both were shocked to hear they lived together.
Staz gave him a cool look, “Aristophanes. That play was the Acharnians. You watched it; you should remember these things.”
He shrugged, “Didn’t understand a word they was blatherin’ on about.” He waited till Staz gave him an incredulous look, then burst out laughing. “Gotcha. Naw, it was good. I can just never remember the guy’s name. Have ya tried lookin’ behind the towels in th’ bathroom?”
Staz’s eyes narrowed, “Now what, pray tell, would it be doing there?” Ace merely gave him an innocent look. “I keep telling you that Carson is not going to steal anything. Would you please stop hiding the valuables when he’s going to be coming over?” Of course he wouldn’t. He didn’t trust little Mr. Blonde Ambition. “Just because he tried to steal one of your condoms once does not mean that he would ever take anything of value,” Staz scolded.
Ace shrugged in response. He and Carson had, by silent agreement, never said what it was that he’d actually tried to steal. Ace had hidden a garrote in the condom package so it would be overlooked in a casual inspection. Carson had known what it was and that alone was enough to raise Ace’s hackles. They weren’t in the same business he was sure. Not many people their age did what he did, not that lasted as long as he’d known the man, so he’d have heard of him by now.
Of course, it wasn’t just the young ones who didn’t last long. Being an assassin had been made into something glorious by the media and so people bragged. Once they bragged, people heard it. And once that happened, either the police came for them or their employers showed up to shut them up. Permanently. Ace had already done three jobs on people who talked too much.
The next thing that seemed to get other people in trouble also stemmed from the media. The Look. Black trench coats looked really cool; they got people’s attention. And that, boys and girls, was the last thing needed for a successful hit. The final thing that tended to winnow out people from his job was money. As an old friend had been fond of saying, you could make a killing at killing. They saw all the money they were making and, well, spent it. A fine car, nice clothes, those also got attention and one had better have a very good way to explain it.
This was why he dressed like everyone else, cultivated a look that let him blend in about anywhere when he was working. This was why he lived in a studio apartment with another man and drove a remarkably reliable and amazingly ugly car. Most of his money was being quietly funneled into an off-shore account and accruing some fat credit while he prepared for retirement. He hadn’t developed a ‘signature’ like so many little idiots did. Yeah, it made a name for you among the police, but since when was that a good idea?
This was also why Ace kept his mouth shut and never said the A-word. He didn’t even call himself that in his own head. He called himself a hit man because the people he killed weren’t important enough to be assassinated, only murdered. The closest thing he’d had to a ‘high profile’ case was a businessman’s son. The man was to testify against his company and they didn’t want that. The target was sixteen and Ace had felt a little squicked about it at first even though he’d only been eighteen at the time.
He’d stopped worrying about it after he did a little research on him. He’d found out he frequented a particular club that Ace hated, one that was dark enough to slip things into girl’s drinks without them seeing. One of the girls had tried to press charges but then she’d fallen down the stairs. Ace had bribed the bouncers to get in just like his target did, watched him for a little while and waiting for the band to get set up. He’d slowly breathed the smoky air into himself, wrapping the rage and desperation around him like a cloak and slowly drawing certain symbols on his wrists with a ball point pen.
When the band was ready, he’d pulled on latex gloves, pulled out two knives, and walked behind the drunken target. He’d released the magic from the air, whispering, “I destroy you,” and stabbed him twice in the back, all with hardly a pause as he continued to walk to the door and out into the street. The target’s screams and thrashing had blended in with the rest of the crowd when, ‘coincidentally’, the band had started just as he stabbed him. The club had housed murders before but they’d been kept quiet. This couldn’t be kept quiet and Ace had gotten warm fuzzies when the club was closed.
He’d been nervous when he first started in the business. After all, what would he do if he was asked to kill a really good person? Now he had a small tattoo on his back that proclaimed ‘No One Is Innocent.’ He’d known someone with one like it and it had seemed to fit more and more. In fact—
“You’re thinking about work again,” Staz’s voice cut through his thoughts. Ace shrugged yet again. He’d told his roommate that he worked in a slaughterhouse; he actually did once a week. Staz looked up from where he’d finished lacing a boot and lifted a brow.
He smirked, “Yeah, I’m thinking about work. Now I’m hungry.” He rubbed his belly, “Yum. Cow.”
“You can stop. I know. ” The other man’s brown eyes seemed darker than usual but his expression was placid as always.
“You know wh— Shit.”
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