WARNING Not sure if this is a short story or a first chapter of something else entirely. If you read it do let me know what you think.
WARNING It is unedited so expect spelling and grammar errors but Its a nice read if your into something a bit left field.
Quinn Walsh died on a filthy city alley. He walked into a trap of his own making and never realised it. The first two shots had ricocheted wildly around the alley as Quinn scampered to get away. The third was the one that would kill him. It slammed into him, the force of it spinning him before he fell face down in the crud and muck. Quinn coughed bright red blood. The shot had penetrated his lung. He had sixty four seconds to live. The killer was already running up the alley, job done, he is now putting as much distance between himself and Quinn as possible. Quinn knows what his fate will be, knows it with the certainty of a professional. He has killed himself. He knows how this scene will play out. Conscience is fading slowly and he feels weakness invade. He recognises this too, the beginning of death. He feels his heart struggling to pump without its feed of oxygen. He is drowning in his own blood. He coughs once more and then blackness descends and Quinn slipped away. A killer who had lived by the gun and was now dying by the gun. Even in the moment of death Quinn appreciated the irony of the situation. Quinn has forty eight seconds to live
Baltar streams down through the night sky. He assumes the shape of a diving falcon. Eyes piercing yellow and black. Dark streamlined feathers tight against the light body as it cuts through the air. Below the city stretches to the horizon. Streams of light visible as traffic moves along its major arteries. But Baltar is focused on his destination only. A dark alley where the smell of cordite still lingers. Where a dark soul is now drifting clear of the body that houses it. A soul that has broken the unbreakable law. The law that states that one human cannot take the life of another human without cursing their own soul to eternal blackness.
The creature Baltar comes for has broken the unbreakable rule twenty seven times. The blood and blame of twenty seven deaths stained his hands and his soul. Baltar has been present for two of the deaths. Two souls equally as black and as damned as Quinn’s. But twenty seven innocents have also died by this creature’s hand.
Baltar sees the Alley below. He blinks once, changes his focus, wheels back time and replays the events of the last moments of Quinn’s life. Baltar sees the killer enter the alley. Another dark soul, the killer has already taken cover behind a skip and now waits. Quinn Walsh had no chance. He was unarmed. He had come to collect a debt, a simple thing. Five grand owed for a life taken. Quinn was no professional assassin. He never thought of himself as being like those freaks you see in the movies. He was no cool calm killer. He was just another stone cold bastard who knew how to take a life and was not afraid to do so. Quinn now has thirty one seconds to live.
The alley was not new to Quinn. It was a place where he had done business before. A place the cops steered clear of and that the city’s crims used from time to time. So he had walked into a trap blind and stupid. He had allowed himself to be suckered. Those freaks in the movies wouldn’t have fallen for this but Quinn wasn’t some flash good looking assassin. He was just a killer.
The shots had come from behind a dumper. Quinn saw the kid, saw how nervous he was and how bad a shot he was. He had almost laughed at the amateur they had sent to top him, almost but not quite. The killer didn’t need to be talented, the alley was narrow and Quinn was a sitting duck with no cover.
Baltar saw the streak of the three shots. He saw the last enter the killer’s body and spin him. he saw the darkness descend and the killer fall and Baltar sank to the alley and took on his human form. Baltar is a Malovar. One of the species of Angovar. Baltar and his ilk harvest only the darkest of souls, those destined for oblivion and the wretch who is dying here in this alley is as dark as a soul can become. A soul beyond redemption. Quinn now has eighteen second to live.
And so the scene is set. A death. One of a number of deaths that will occur here tonight in this city of five million souls. In human terms this will be no tragedy. Quinn is well known to both the law and to the media of the city. A gangster who is credited with many deaths. A killer who has shown his brutality and his disregard for life. He will not be missed. No tears will be shed and no flowers will be laid on his behalf. His death may perhaps have been reported on the front pages of the dailies. But it is not to be.
Baltar approaches and again the human coughs, bright red blood flows freely from his mouth and nose and Baltar can see he must rush to harvest the soul that is on the point of flight. Quinn now has ten seconds to live.
Something here is not right. I have been summoned to a death but none here are worthy of my attention. The dying man is a soul already so dark and twisted that his fate is certain. The dark brother Baltar has been summoned to take this one to the pit. To consign this soul to endless darkness. But still I have been summoned.
I am Michar. The collector. I am an Angovar, one of those created by The Powers at the beginning of human time. But I am neither an Ambavar, a collector of bright souls. Nor am I a Malovar life Baltar, a harvester of dark damned souls. I am something different. I am the balance, the exception. It is my burden to walk a different path and to guide different souls. I take to myself the borderline souls, those filled with darkness and badness but who still have the possibility of redemption. The souls that often through no fault of their own have been dragged to darkness. It is these souls, the ones that have the possibility of goodness that I shepherd and guide. There is no such soul here tonight. The wretch who lies dying is clearly destined for an eternity of darkness.
But I have been summoned and so there must be a reason. I stay back from the dark brother. Now is not a time to incur the wrath of a Malovar. I will for the moment remain hidden. I scan the alley but there is no other life here. I wait.
Baltar is upon the human now. He kneels by the body of the dying man and bends across him as if to breathe life back into him. Baltar draws the final breath from Quinn Walsh, the breath that anchors the soul. But before he has completed his task the Alley pulses with a surge of energy and Baltar is thrown backwards. He lands rolling and is quickly back on his feet his face showing surprise and confusion. I have not seen a Malovar look confused eons, it is not in their nature. I reveal myself.
“What is your business here Michar” the dark brother is snarling, his temper worsened no doubt by his experience here tonight. “I am not yet certain Baltar” I answer “But it seems we are both on unfamiliar ground my dark friend” Baltar sneers and again approaches the body of Quinn Walsh who has again drawn a final breath. Something is amiss. “Wait” I call and Baltar spins towards me “What?” he glares, angry and perhaps uncertain.
I leave the dark brother chafing and impatient in the Alleyway. He has agreed, with bad grace, to give me a moment to delve into the life of Quinn Walsh. Something about the killer is clearly askew. By all the natural laws he is a soul forfeit to darkness. And yet the powers have intervened to prevent Baltar from claiming his soul. Why?
I return to the void and skim its surface, lights of every conceivable hue bounce and flare about me and then I break through. The Void is and contains the sum total of everything. And only I among my people know how to navigate its pathways and it infinite space. I search amongst the multitude. All human life is contained within The Void. Here are recorded all those lives lived, all those yet to be lived and those that may never be lived. They are all here, all possibilities are recorded within The Void. The possibilities are vital. Every life has infinite possibility, dependent only on choices made. At every juncture of life the choices made dictate the direction a life and a soul will take. So nothing in life is certain. In every life I can see the end, and I can see the beginning and I can view scenes from the life already lived or about to be lived but free will can alter everything. Every choice made every decision effects the future. I find Quinn Walsh’s life in a confused and moving array of light and energy. As I look it is whirling and growing, possibilities are materialising out of the nothingness. I delve into this grim life and dark soul and I search for the ending. I am again in the alley way but only for a moment. Then I am in a medical laboratory but again before I can focus the scene changes. I am in a hospital and I catch Quinn through the corner of my eye and he is falling to the floor, blood on his white shirt and Baltar too is here. But again the scene changes in a dazzling flash of light that collapses inward. Then the movement ceases and I stand on a shore line, the sea breaking behind me and ahead a bungalow. On the patio I see a young girl weeping. She is bent over the body of Quinn Walsh. He is ninety four years and forty six days old.
Confusion overwhelms me. Along with the imminent death in the alley, I have seen Quinn Walsh die on three other occasions. This is not possible and yet The Void does not lie. Something is wrong and I must find out what it is.
Once again I delve into Quinn’s life. This time I look for the key. There is something extraordinary about this killer. He is protected by The Powers. It is inconceivable to me that The Powers would deign this lowly soul worthy of attention. By all the natural laws they would despise him. And yet he was protected. Why?
Quinn Walsh is born on the mean streets of the city. He is the son of a lowly thief and a working girl. His father, to his credit stuck around until Quinn was six years old and his mother Marina had lost her looks and her body. When he departed he had left with all of the money Marina owned. He also took the car and the TV.
Quinn is fifteen years old. He is collecting money for the Burke family. The Burkes are loan sharks and fences who prey on the poor and the desperate. Quinn is knocking on doors and picking up payments. His size and his rep as a mean bastard enhance his ability to collect and the Burkes know and appreciate this. He is just a teenager but already Alfred Burke is eyeing the kid up. He has the potential to go places.
Arthur Wilkins has been dreading the knock. Last time he was one excuse short of a beating but this time he is screwed. When the knock comes he has no choice but to answer. The Walsh kid is standing at the door. Arthur knows he is in trouble and talk will be useless but still he tries anyway. “I’m sorry” he begins “I haven’t got it but I promise next week to pay treble, my brother Jack is coming into the city, he will lend it to me” Arthur knows he is babbling. The kid knows it too. Arthur sees the look in his eyes. The cold stare of a killer, a disinterested detached killer. Quinn beat Arthur so badly that he punctured his lung and broke his arm. He left him on the floor of his apartment gasping and struggling for breath. Quinn called for an ambulance from a payphone on the street and walked away. He had other business to attend. Other debts to collect. Arthur Wilkins died of a stress induces seizure before the ambulance arrived. He is the first of Quinn’s murder victims.
Alfred Burke is tied to a chair. Quinn holds the knife to his throat. “Where is it Fred?” Quinn’s voice is ice cold and Alfred is scared. He despises the kid. Judas bastard, doing this to him, after all that the Burkes had done for the fucker. But Alfred doesn’t say any of that. He knows what the kid is capable of. Already Quinn has killed four times on Alfred’s instructions. That wasn’t counting the poor sap Wilkins who Quinn had beaten to death over a debt of a few hundred. Alfred Burke knows how this is going to end. The book is worth three quarters of a million. The Scousers want it and they have contracted Quinn to collect it from his employer. Burke is not surprised, he knew the kid would turn one day. “It’s in the bottom drawer of my desk” Burke spits. Quinn takes the key from Alfred’s pocket and checks the drawer. The ledger that contains details of all the debts, all the money lent at high interest to the low lives of the docks and the squalid tenements of the inner city. Quinn withdraws the book and checks it is the real thing. He steps forward and draws the knife across Alfred Burke’s throat.
Quinn’s twenty seventh victim is a pimp, George Hughes. A lowlife who runs a string of cheap broken down hookers along the waterfront. The area his whores claim as their own has come to the attention of Quinn’s client, a rival business man who is also involved in the city’s sex trade. George’s girls are working in an area of increasing affluence and so it is desirable. Quinn has been contracted to eliminate George and leave the waterfront free. It had been a straight forward job. Quinn had stabbed George Hughes at close quarters in a bar and had simply walked away. The cops wouldn’t give a damn. To them one less crim in a city rife with the lawless equals a result. The client is new to the city. Asian and loaded. Quinn has never shown any loyalty. He works for whoever pays and he runs his own rackets. He kills to protect his own business and he kills for money. Loyalty is for saps.
The Asians had agreed to pay Quinn five grand for the life of George Hughes. Quinn would have offed Huhges for less, hell he might have done it for nothing had he been asked. Quinn’s mother had been a working girl. He had no qualms about women making a living from sex but he despised the pimps that fed off them. He viewed George Hughes as scum and so the job had been to his likings. But the Asians didn’t pay as agreed and Quinn didn’t like that. They had eventually agreed to meet and pay in an alley in the docklands.
I return to the alley fifteen minutes before Quinn enters it. The gunman arrives, a Korean kid with an old Marlin rifle that had been stolen from a hunter’s truck earlier that day. I watch him slip into place behind the dumper. The Asians clearly do not intend to pay Quinn’s price for the death of the pimp. Instead they intend to kill him. This I already know.
Again the future life of Quinn Walsh is a blur of exploding kaleidoscopic light and a confusion of sound. From the confusion I focus on five events. Five more deaths. Quinn will kill again but as he does his mind will be filled with confusion. Each death will be of a person he doesn’t know. He will have no knowledge of them whatever he will just know he must kill them.
Quinn will die again in the future but his life will not end. On each occasion he will be accompanied by the Malovar Baltar who waits for me in the alley. But something else, not only will Baltar accompany Quinn. So will I. The confusion deepens and I am no closer to an answer than I had been. The only certainty is that Quinn is not destined to die on this night.
I fall back towards earth. My mind a mass of confusion, a new and disturbing emotion for me. I return to the alley in the exact same moment in which I had left. Baltar is still scowling at the delay in claiming this soul. Now I will have to disappoint him further. I am sure he will not take it well. Quinn Walsh is still breathing. He now has fifty three years, two hundred and twelve days to live and yet he is still choking on his own blood. The confusion deepens.
Quinn coughs again and draws air deep into his lungs. He gasps, and coughs again and then gasps again. His heart is hammering and for a few minutes he just focuses on breathing. The bleeding has stopped and yet the ground about him and his jacket and shirt show signs of enough blood loss to have killed him. Something seriously screwed up is happening. For a moment he wonders if he is dead and then dismisses that idea as ridiculous. He feels his strength return. His mind immediately turns to retribution. The Asians will suffer for this. No one puts out a hit on Quinn Walsh and lives for very long afterwards. He will find the skinny little dick with the rifle first. Quinn will give him a lesson in shooting that the kid will not live long enough to put into practice. Then the other dick, the one who had organised the hit on the pimp. He would find him and anyone connected to him.
Quinn pushed himself up from the filth and grime of the alley, his clothes are covered in blood and the crap from the ground. He needs a shower. His strength is now fully restored. He turns back towards the opening that takes him back towards the street and he sees them. Two freaks staring at him. They are dressed in weird old style clothing. The one with the mismatched eyes is wearing a cloak for fuck sake. And a tunic, that looks like a dress. His legs are covered in wraps of skin and long laced up boots. Quinn again considers the possibility he is dead or maybe dreaming. The second of the men looking at him looks mean and dangerous and Quinn feels uneasy. Were they sent by the Asians to finish the job?
It is obvious Quinn Walsh can see us. It is forbidden. Humans must never see Angovar. It is another of the unbreakable rules. Only twice since the beginning of human life have I been seen by one of you. And now I am clearly been seen again. Baltar tenses beside me, he prepares to launch an attack. Confusion and apprehension fill his piercing black eyes. “Hold back brother” I warn “there is more here than either of us yet understand. Baltar moves away and in a heartbeat he has morphed into a falcon and is flying high above the city. I watch Quinn warily. I am out of my depth here. Something beyond my understanding is happening and I don’t know the rules.
Quinn walks toward me. He looks as confused as I am. And then as he comes level with me he sneers “Your buddy missed” he spits it at me. He feints towards me as if to strike but before he can make contact I move aside and before his punch would have landed I am behind him. He shakes his head in disbelief, I can see the strangeness of the day is taking its toll. “Peace Quinn Walsh” I say. He just nods and walks away. I see him shaking his head as he leaves the alley. No doubt he will sleep tonight and tomorrow he will remember the attack and the blood. He will remember seeing two strangers in the alley but he will question his memory and blame the worst of it on blood loss. He will search for wounds but will not be able to find them. Yet his clothing will still be wet and stinking with his blood as it slowly dries. Quinn Walsh has enough to occupy his mind. I leave him to walk away.