Dogleg Hinterland Two

The night was bad-tooth black and the fire seemed lazy by comparison to the ones she had set in the past — the light travelled little beyond where she was sat. The nightmare clamped around her like the needle-toothed jaws of the ancient nameless creature that she knew awaited her a long way off in the fade of the future’s footsteps. She knew that the Nest was working to feed her bad thoughts, reaching out across the expanse of the Desert of the Held Tongue to fling its poison, but even they had no power to shape things as vital as that from her dreamstuff. Her nemesis had a life of its own and was drawn to her as she was drawn to it.

She decided that she would sleep where she was perched because she was afraid of catching fire if she moved her bedding any closer. If she had been back home in the Hushlands where she hailed from she would have burnt the Goodwill Weed in the fire and she would have slept soundly. But here the wolf packs tore at the fabric of the night and the tear inched its way towards her sleeping form. She had said a prayer to the Great Heart that asked for a little of the fire pictures’ heat to leap into her sleeping head and keep the bad spirits away. No one had good dreams out here she’d bet.

The birds invaded her sleep as they always did, climbing out of her father’s ragged scarecrow body to peck out her eyes and steal her flesh. Madrigal had a dream catcher tattooed on the back of her skull, the feathers running down her neck – it was to protect her as she slept and was something a lot of those in her trade did. Not that there had ever been many in her trade and not that there were many left. They had been hunted down and despatched swiftly, as were all enemies of The Nest.

Morning came slower than she’d wanted. Sleep provided no rest and today was going to be a busy day. Regrew was bound to be wily and if he saw she was tired he would press home his advantage and pocket any profit she might have been able to garner were she in a better state.

Grit: Breather 2

He knew that some of the people that he dealt with would laugh if they saw him out here, but he had to ask himself how they maintained their calm. How did these people achieve moments of peace in their lives, or were they always at war? Did they only thrive on conflict? He was a workaholic and he liked killing the scum that he killed but there was more to him than that. He wasn’t some low-rent psychopath – he had always used his violence as a tool. To  be able to use anything as a tool you had to operate from a clear-minded place that on the surface might appear to have nothing to do with the task that you were performing.

Who were the best killers? Not the ones who went beserk and charged in and started hacking limbs off left right and centre – well, sure they might take out a load of civilians easy enough and even in a business environment where they were faced with other professionals they might take a few out by sheer force, but your experienced killer wasn’t just going to rush at a target like that – they would wait and they would prepare.

He knew that dealing with so many different crews and so many different brands of bullshit that sometimes it didn’t sift right in his mind and he might misconnect two unrelated groups: that was dangerous. You had to know who was who and where their loyalties lay or you might find yourself seriously fucking up. He had to be careful anyway because he was a freelancer who did what he did for money and nothing else – he had never killed anyone on a blood oath, for honour, or any of that kind of bullshit. People trusted him purely because he delivered on what his contracts asked him to deliver on, but working with a hitman you knew that you might have him on your tail a week after you’d paid him to off someone else.

Grit looked up and saw a grey squirrel leaping between branches. He looked down and he saw a Tree-creeper going up the trunk of an Oak. Was that the distant sound of a Bittern? Yeah, this was a definite palate cleanser.

Grit: Grass 2

Grasses are generally not that hard to find, because if they were then how in the hell would they do any trade? They were the bottom feeders of the intelligence community – they knew things but they didn’t often know what to do with it or, even if they did, they didn’t have the pull to do anything. The better grasses knew who to give the nod to when they had some data and, considering the length of his career and the number of cases he was connected with, Charley Katt must have been pretty good with the placement of his information.

Katt had gone to ground – the weaselly little fuck couldn’t stand the heat that his latest foray into spilling the beans had generated. If Schopenauer didn’t have a tame cop on a leash then his whole operation would have come crashing to the ground – as it was now he had to fork over even more money to keep the pig sweet. Schopenhauer wanted Katt dead and buried.

The Dog And Bone was a place where criminals of all colours met – Grit had been known to drink there himself quite often; they did a decent pint so why wouldn’t he? All of them knew that the people who ratted them out generally clung to the community like an infestation of ticks but part of the unspoken code that governed this place meant that even the backstabbing bastards who’d betray you would get given a fair go of it.

He was watching Pilchard, Fratwurst, Gonner and Coinflip nattering away like an old wives’ meeting. He went and sat down with them. He knew that heads were turning behind him and there were three sets of eyes in front of him that were bugging out. Everyone knew Grit and everyone would be wondering why in the hell he was sitting down at this table.’

‘So,’ he said ‘Where’s Katt? Answer me quickly and this will be a pleasant transaction; think about dicking me around and you’ll all get the beatings you so richly deserve.’