‘I know why you’re here’ he said, without turning.
I considered this silently and awaited the follow up.
‘You’re here to kill me.’
Again, I was silent. There was nothing to say.
‘You think it is that simple. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. A life for a life. But you know nothing. It is complex.’
A thin beam of sunlight fell through the stained glass, across his broad shoulders, to the floor. His broad shoulders in his Armani suit.
I gritted my teeth but remained silent.
‘You are no killer, boy.’
‘What makes you so sure?’ I asked calmly.
‘You are no thug, no fool. You would’ve shot me already. If you had wanted to end this you would have shot my back.’
There was no denying the logic in his remark. We stood there. Not thirty feet apart. In a church. No eyes on us. No witness.
‘So this is who they send, they dishonour me with a virgin assassin. This upsets me. Have I sunk so low in their esteem? You shall not succeed.’
‘Your certainty is your downfall’.
‘Not at all. None have succeeded; else I would not be here. You are just the latest in a long line of optimists and idealists’.
‘I am neither’.
‘Yet you are not a simple mercenary. Who are you?’
Lecloud finally turned to face me. His thick arms were folded against his flat chest. He was still standing by the altar. The light illuminated his left cheek, highlighting hard, masculine features though the details were still shrouded in the gloom of the church. I stood in the aisle. Wearing suit trousers and a white shirt, torn and bloodied. The blood was not my own. So this was Lecloud. This was my Everest. I saw him. His expression did not change, he didn’t recognise me. I took five steps forward, down the aisle, treading on granite plaques interred in the stone. The scabbard rocked gently against my back. I stopped walking. I could see him better. A powerfully built Caucasian man.
‘I trust that you’re otherwise armed?’ he enquired with a smooth certainty to his voice.
I remained silent. I had no gun. It wasn’t personal enough.
‘So, you found me here, in this house of the Lord. There is arrogance in your coming here. You are bold enough to be armed in a church yet too shy to allow me a name or an explanation’.
I looked straight into his eyes. His cold, dead eyes.
‘You killed my brother.’ This was not a question. It was a statement.
Lecloud met my gaze unflinchingly and replied.
‘I’ve never killed a man. My hands are clean. In front of God I am clean.’
‘Nobody’s watching.’ I replied.
Lecloud smiled grimly, his lips rolling back over his front teeth.
‘That may be. But you accusation is groundless. There is no blood on these hands.’
Number thirty-seven, Gordon Lecloud. He was as infuriating as the rest. But I didn’t let it show. I stayed calm.
‘Blood, no, responsibility yes.’
‘So cold boy, so cold. But tell me, Michael, angel of death, what it is that you desire.’
I was irked by his patronising tone.
‘I seek vengeance.’ It was the only thing I lived for. Here I was, Lecloud in sight, the end in sight.
‘Vengeance, you do not know the meaning of the word. Do you know how many dissatisfied boys I have had here. How many foolish boys?’
‘I do not want details of your sex life.’ My sardonic reply was inappropriate. I did not care.
‘Impudent fool. You are of one many. You shall come no further. Those who have opposed me and failed are as grains of sand in the desert.’ His tone was almost snarling now, his patience was running out. His time was running out.
‘The number who have died by my hand is thirty-six. I have killed thirty-six men to be here.’ My glare still met his. His face dropped as I spoke these words.
‘Very well’ he mumbled, his voice trembling slightly.
‘The panic button in the palm of your left hand is…an irrelevance.’
Lecloud slowly put the device away in his breast pocket.
‘How did you know? How did you find them?’
The sun had moved considerably since my entrance. We were bathed in light, blue, red, yellow, iridescent, cascaded sunlight.
‘Mr Lecloud. You do not understand revenge. True vengeance is…absolute. Its lust consumes every aspect of my life. I found them, I found you, because I had to.’
His blue-lit face now held the familiar look of fear. They all started strong, proud, and confident of their invincibility. But Lecloud was not just a number, he was the orchestrator, the man who made the decision to torch my brother’s restaurant for missing a protection payment. I had waited five years for this moment. Had I begun my vengeance immediately they would’ve been untouchable, holed up in their compounds. I had to wait for the dust to settle. I had to wait for their business to struggle, for their security to be made redundant. I had planned this to perfection. I waited for my moment and I struck. In four days I had systematically erased every man in his gang.
I took five steps forward. Lecloud looked positively frightened now.
‘And then, what do you have? When you have me where will you stop?’ he asked, whimpering.
‘I will stop. Then I will stop. It is of no concern of yours. You do not get to have concerns.’
‘Boy, do you not feel remorse?’ he was on his knees now. I was almost embarrassed for him.
‘I am putting animals out of their misery. I am merely an anaesthetist. You deserve far worse.’ I replied with conviction.
‘And our families?’ His self righteousness made me feel sick.
‘What of them?’ I drew my sword and took a few more paces. I was standing over him now.
‘How will you bear leaving an orphaned son, a girl without a father?’
‘I will not need to.’
‘So you have done your homework.’
‘Yes. Thirty-seven dead with no men to grieve. Every loose end tied up, bound and gagged.’
The coward was looking up at me.
‘You’re that Johannsen’s brother, the restaurant owner.’ He recognised me now. They all did in the end.
I raised my sword.
My sword fell. Lecloud’s freshly severed arm thudded wetly against my shoe. I kicked it away.
He was screaming now, the coward.
My sword fell again. The left arm was more resistant. I hacked at the bone.
Lecloud was crying, sobbing. He was weak. No dignity.
I held his head and forced him to look into my eyes.
‘I am Jacob Johannsen and I have become death incarnate’.
My sword fell. The crying stopped. Silence. Revenge.
‘I know why you’re here’ he said, without turning.