The Shadow Inside The Eagle

Mainport Tales
The Shadow Inside The Eagle
By Anonymous

“I have a friend who can get you through, but for that price alone…” White Mask lit his cigar.

“Price means nothing to me,” the Hood crouched on the edge of the roof. Its voice…it was distorted. But by a computer? White Mask couldn't say. Male, female, human? White Mask knew the shipments, storehouses, and fences of all the major players in the city; he knew of hidden bunkers, information brokers, and even weapons of mass destruction the world over; but he could not find a single clue to the Hood's true nature.

“Fifty to enter, in addition to whatever I find inside that's to my liking,” said White Mask. Smoke drifted up his mask and out his eye holes. This particular facility of Madame Almaz was very secure with floodlights, guards, cameras, motion detectors, dogs, tall fences, and no windows, but fifty thousand would still be too much just to walk through the front door.

“I will give you seventy five to ensure that it's done professionally,” the Hood continued to scan what it could see with what presumably were its eyes. “Help yourself to everything…but my target.”

White Mask stored the cigar in his left hand and offered his right. “For an offer like that, honor among thieves is a much truer statement.” Whatever was in the Hood's crate, the one to the right of the southern elevator with the stamp 'Stock Titanium Fixtures' on it, must have far outweighed any price White Mask could have thrown at him.

He found the Hood intriguing to say the least. It stood up and shook his hand. Even now, after the Deal was struck, he considered double-crossing it just to find personal information. Gender, age, history…but that would go against the Law.

“The money will be wired to your account within the hour,” the Hood stepped into the shadows. “How will we be getting in?”

White Mask broke off the cherry so he could store his cigar in his inside pocket. “I'll see you in an hour,” said White Mask coldly. The Hood melded into the shadows and disappeared. Giving a man his due before it was his due was also against the Law. Break that Law and men will punish you at their leisure and it would be no one's fault but your own. White Mask walked over to the ladder leading off the roof of the factory they had been standing on and climbed down. He walked inside.

The factory wasn't abandoned, but no workers had been in the section he'd been hiding in for years. Dust blanketed the walls, unused pipes, and broken machinery. He entered a room and another room and another room before turning on a light. It was bright. It needed to be. What little information he knew of the Hood was that it could travel through the shadows, at least the ones it could see. Who knew if it could hear through them too? Who knew what the Hood was seeing? Was thinking?

Reception would be difficult but not impossible. He took out his cell-phone and removed a chip next to the battery. He replaced it with another one from a small pillbox he always carried with him. No wiretaps existed on his phones, but he would never like to be proven wrong in that fact. He dialed the number.

No reception. He dialed it again. Nothing. He walked over to a corner nearest the factory's outside wall. He dialed. Success.

“Lo Chin's, is this delivery or carry-out?” came a voice through the static.

“It's me,” White Mask stood perfectly still so as not to ruin the reception.

“Is he in?” came the voice.

“Yeah, seventy five,” White Mask pulled out the cigar.

“Was that you or him?” the voice sounded disinterested.

“Does it matter if I'm telling you?” White Mask put the cigar to his mouth. What the voice wanted to know was whether it would see any of that extra money.

“Guess not, what are you ordering tonight?”

“Number five,” he lit the cigar.

“Delivery or carry-out?”

“Delivery.”

“Number five, eh? Where to?”

“North courtyard.”

“Lemme check to see if we still deliver there…,” it was this moment that White Mask was always afraid of. “Nope, looks like the driver's gonna have to meet you at the western gate. Will that be a problem?”

White Mask considered it for a moment. “No.”

“If the driver's late, you should call our customer service number at…9-222-482-9303. Do you need me to repeat that for you?”

“Got it.”

“Your order will be ready in fifteen minutes. Thank you for calling Lo Chi-”

He hung up. Hacker-for-hire, ICEpick, was thorough. He'd see some of that extra money after all. He turned off the light, walked out to the other room and pulled a briefcase out from behind a machine. Opening it up revealed a laptop with a small modem attached, which he plugged into a socket on the wall and a cable that took him three days to properly set up and hide from the factory workers.

After turning on and booting, it took five minutes before the security software allowed him to access his offshore account. The seventy-five thousand dollar deposit had arrived only moments earlier. He paid half of ICEpick's payment from his own considerable personal account and scattered the seventy five thousand amongst his various laundry funds. Within three months it would all come back to him.

He pulled out his phone and changed the chip again. He added a Contact under Lo Chin. He took a second to decode the number ICEpick gave him and put it in his phone….1…888…

An hour later, he was on the roof again with his equipment in a small rucksack. The Hood appeared silently, too silent for White Mask's liking. “You've received the money, how will we get inside?” The Hood spoke dispassionately. A man…a thing of business.

White Mask took the cigar from his mouth and crushed what was left under his boot heel. “At my signal, the guards will be alerted to a high priority intruder in the east gate. After twenty seconds, communication inside and outside will be scrambled, ten seconds after that, there is a seventy percent chance there will be a power surge. We'll enter by that building over there,” he pointed to an adjoining factory roof south of them, “via zip-line. Of course you could probably enter by jumping through shadows if the power surge is successful.

“The easiest door to enter will be the garage on the southwestern end.” He took a long drag from his cigar and breathed it all out before continuing. Smoke hung in the air. He pointed at the garage. “There are four doors separating us from the southern elevator. Straight, right, right, left. Not all of them should be locked. For those that are, I have a shot-gun, my boot, and C4. There won't be time for lock-picks.” He picked a Luger out of his rucksack and began loading it.

“How long will it take until the guards discover us?” the Hood didn't appear to be worried.

“I don't know. Forty seconds from the eastern gate to the southern elevator, thirty seconds if they're sprinting…” he hesitated asking this as it implied he didn't know what he was doing, “I have an exit strategy, and I know your plan, but it would be much simpler if…could you…move me through the shadows as well? The way you do?”

The Hood stood there in silence. “When can we begin?” It was easy for the Hood. He could disappear and reappear at whim.

White Mask wanted to bring up the fact that the mission would be much more successful if the Hood shared his powers. It'd be much quicker and far more stealthy. They could even rob Madame Almaz blind if he so chose. But he didn't. It wasn't against the Law to call off a Deal when your partners put you in harm's way, but he'd pulled off much more dangerous Deals than this.

“Before all that, there's one more thing…” White Mask wasn't sure how he'd take this, “I live by certain Laws. If the Deal is to continue, you must abide by one more.”

If the Hood could look uncomfortable, it would have. “What is it?”

“When Longreach Penitentiary was overcrowded, the city enacted the Second Chance Act, which releases prisoners early for good behavior and places them in jobs they could not be hired for otherwise. Many of these prisoners are hired for nefarious ends. The guards of this facility are just such men. But not all these men are aware that they work for a crime-lord and a murderer. And not all of them are deserving of death…”

The Hood stood motionless, “Despite my appearance and skills, I am not immortal. If they fire on me…”

“Do what you have to. Kill if you have to. If you can show mercy, do so. But if you must kill, kill clean.”

They stood there on the rooftop staring at one another; black faceless hood into a scarred face behind a white mask.

“Understood.”

White Mask shoved the Luger into a holster in his jacket. “We can begin as early as one hour and as late as three days from now…”

One hour later, White Mask pulled his cellphone from his pocket. “Once we begin, we do not stop. Is there anything I need to know?” asked White Mask. The Hood said nothing. White Mask picked up the cross-bow in his other hand. He looked under contacts in his phone and dialed Lo Chin's. As soon as he heard a high-pitched dial-tone he turned off the phone and stashed it in his pocket.

Not ten seconds later an alarm bell rang and dozens of guards held ear-pieces and radios to their ears. Most of them began to converge on the far side of the building. He began counting under his breath, “…9…10…” dogs began barking “..13…14…15…”he heard men shouting something unintelligible “..18…19…20…” He could see one guard in a far off corner begin to tap his radio. There it was.

White Mask fired the crossbow just above the garage. When it sank into the concrete, he fastened the other end of the zip-line to a hook he had prepared on the roof. The Hood attached the handles to the zip-line as White Mask slung his rucksack over his shoulder. First he jumped and then Hood.

He closed his eyes so as to better adjust to the new light. The sound of the zip-line was the loudest thing in the world though he knew no guard could hear it. As he rocketed over the fence the entire facility was engulfed in darkness. He opened his eyes and only saw blackness. The Power Surge worked.

When he landed his eyes adjusted and he whipped around to catch the Hood, but the handle was empty. The Hood stood to his left emerging from the shadows. He nodded ever so slightly. White Mask ran up to the door and pulled on it. Locked. He kicked it. Nothing. He rummaged in his rucksack and pulled out his shotgun. The Hood stood aside. White Mask counted to three on his fingers, and blew the lock off. Blam! They ran inside.

He closed the door behind them and shoved a rubberized wedge in the space between the floor and the door. For such a small thing it had stopped many men before. He leveled the shotgun and pointed. Straight. He checked the door handle. It was unlocked.

He fumbled with another wedge as they moved through the door. The Hood flitted about in the shadows. Disappearing and reappearing out of thin air. He leveled the shotgun and pointed. Right. They were in a room that looked to hold spare parts. The door was locked.

Two blasts from the shotgun unlocked it. Blam! Blam! A third wedge was put in place. They appeared to be in a small room that held filing cabinets. He pulled on the door. Locked also. There wasn't enough space to safely fire the shotgun. Luckily, the hinges were on the other side and the door appeared to be thin enough. He braced himself opposite the door between two cabinets and began kicking with both legs at the lock. Wham! Wham! Wham!

The now dented door swung wide and bounced against wall. He wedged it. The Hood melded into the shadows and appeared at the other end of the room. White Mask didn't bother pointing at the door they needed to open. The Hood appeared to be using a lock-pick on it. Regardless of how good he was, they wouldn't have enough time. He pulled the Hood off the door and leveled the Shotgun at the lock. Blam!

The door to the southern elevator was open. Crates surrounded them. The southern elevator was against the far wall and the Hood wasted no time in appearing right beside his beloved crate. As he began prying it open, White Mask took the time to wedge the door. He could hear guards struggling against his first wedge in the distance. “Not much time. Do you have it?”

The Hood ignored him. It had already pried off the crate's lid and was throwing straw and Stock Titanium Fixtures across the floor. White Mask ran over to a random crate. He pulled a crowbar from his sack and wrenched it open. No need for him to go home empty handed…aside from the seventy-five thousand. Inside were boxes filled with nails and screws. He tossed about half a dozen of them before seeing what was truly in the crate.

Guns. Strange guns. Guns he'd never seen before. Light gray iron. What looked to be too many moving parts to be useful. He wasn't even sure what they were. Rifles? Automatics? What were these? They said Larsen on the side. He could hear the guards struggling with the second wedge. These guns were hefty, but lucky for him they had slings. He weighed himself down with four of them.

That's when he heard it. A door behind him opened and there stood a man who was about to die. The man brought a pistol up to his eye level and the world slowed down like he was underwater. White Mask was already ducking. The man would not find his target at first. This would be a more fair fight than the guard had anticipated.

The Hood melted from the shadows from the room behind the man and snapped his neck. White Mask looked down at the dead man. Did he think that today would be his day? Would he ever have thought that his neck would be broken by a thing that was neither man nor demon? White Mask didn't want to move, but he did. The guards were already banging on the door to the filing cabinet room.

He began his exit strategy. The door on the northern end of the room would lead to a meeting area. Upstairs there would be…

Everything went black. His body felt like a ribbon being led by a fishing hook underwater. It felt cold. Unbearably cold, yet, it felt so unreal that it didn't bother him. It felt as though wind rushed at him and away from him at every angle. Was he dead?

“Your prizes, White Mask,” the Hood stood over him, holding his guns by their slings. They were in a brightly lit concrete room.

“Am I…”

“You are not dead,” the Hood set his guns aside. “Hell doesn't look like this…”

They were in the room he used to call ICEpick. They were alive.

“What did you…”

“I moved you,” the Hood crouched down, “through the shadows.”

“But how did you get past the guards?”

“There are many shadows at night.”

White Mask stood up. “How long has it been?” It felt like hours.

The Hood sat with his legs crossed. “Seven minutes. You had best find a new safe-house. They'll begin searching the building next to this one when they restore their power.” White Mask stood up uneasily. He moved into the other room and found the briefcase with his laptop. He was running on instinct, but he stopped and turned around before the Hood could leave the room. He wanted to ask him something.

“What did you find…in that crate?”

The Hood undoubtedly could have pushed him over and disappear, but he instead pulled something from seemingly thin air. It was a gold statue. If the Hood could smile, it would have done so. “My prize. For two millenia, Roman aristocracy carefully preserved these in manor houses and museums. In 1939, the Italian government commemorated it's alliance to Germany by offering three golden eagles to Adolf Hitler, which once topped the standards of Julius Caesar's armies in Gaul. Years later, one of these statues resided in a museum in Versailles. It was made of gold. Another statue resided in the basement of a doctor's house in Brazil. It too, was made of gold. A third one was being kept in a crate marked 'Stock Titanium Fixtures' surrounded by straw and scrap metal to the right of the southern elevator in a high security facility owned and operated by Madame Almaz in the southern end of the city of Mainport. It was made of lead.”

He let the statue fall to the ground. It chipped the concrete. It was hollow. White Mask picked it up. It was heavy. There was a latch on the side, almost indiscernible. He opened the latch revealing that the statue split in two on hidden hinges. He opened the statue to reveal…nothing. He had already taken it out, whatever it was. The Hood stepped past him and into the darkness.

“What was in this that was so worth stealing?” asked White Mask thinking he knew the answer that was coming.

“Nothing that concern you,” the Hood disappeared, leaving nothing but shadows behind.

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