Chapter Twenty-Three

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Chess walked down the dimly lit alley, hugging his brown paper bag filled with a bottles of Micky’s Brew close to his chest. After a day like this one, he was more than apt to pour a pint into his belly. And was ready do it in peace too. His mu...

Chess walked down the dimly lit alley, hugging his brown paper bag filled with a bottles of Micky’s Brew close to his chest. After a day like this one, he was more than apt to pour a pint into his belly. And was ready do it in peace too. His mum was visiting Auntie Karen in the countryside for two weeks, which was what she needed anyhow. Since finally letting go of the family store a month ago, she’d been in low spirits and her depression was draining her. So both he and Auntie thought a holiday from the neighborhood would do her some good.

Besides, he was ready for the solitude—when he wasn’t putting in long hours promoting two parties at Odysseus, he was helping Marty try to figure all that noise out with Lianna.

And dealing with rude political types.

Even while walking down the bloody alley, Chess was still brooding over the meeting with whats-her-face. Rude one, that one was. First time she even laid eyes on him and Marty and already she pegged them as grifters, which really didn’t make any sense to him. Kidnapping some innocent E.T. from some guy they just heard of? With what he and Marty had to lose? The fuck would they lie about something like that? It’d be a waste of a good effort and a chunk of everyone’s time to play like that. No matter how Marty tried to spin it afterwards, the whole exchange between the three of them was a bit unnecessary in Chess’s humble opinion.

The whole shit show was over and behind him now—least until Marty phoned him about what they should do next. F.I.T.E. or no F.I.T.E., there was no way they’d let the matter fester if this Wayland fuck was the way everyone made him out to be. It was a bit weird, though, that the cops weren’t hounding them and even looking for Lianna. Maybe she wasn’t as valuable to Wayland as Marty and what’s-her-name thought. And even so, his and Marty’s information was web blocked anyhow, so it wasn’t like they were known…if somebody didn’t hack into their computers…

Chess shook the unfolding scenario out of his brain, chuckling to himself. “Jesus,” he mumbled. “Now I’m starting to sound like Marty.”

Till the call came, Chess was gonna plop himself in front of the telly with a drink—and maybe order some takeaway when he got into the house. Little Delhi on Conway Street was still open and Monday nights was their slow night, so getting he didn’t have to work and had the house to himself, all the more reason to kick back for the night.

Yeah. Sounded like a game plan to him.

Chess continued down the narrow alley, whistling a random melody he heard at the nightclub. Thoughts of hot curry soup washing over his tongue teased him when this feeling of being followed suddenly crept onto him. He stopped whistling and paused, shifting a cautious gaze around the alleyway. Aside from the huge dumpsters and the patches of porch light glowing on the pavement, he didn’t see anything out of character.

Chess turned around and resumed towards his house, quickening his pace a tad. There hadn’t been any trouble in the neighborhood since the Neighborhood Renovation Act was passed some years back, but that didn’t get rid of the grifters that popped up every once in a while. He wasn’t one to scare easily and wasn’t in the mood to scrap with some shithead punk, either. His plans were to drink and feed himself in front of the telly, not having to explain to his mum why he was in the slammer while she was gone.

Chess didn’t get too far when he suddenly felt an unidentified object being pressed against his lower back. His body automatically froze while his mind struggled to decipher what was happening, what was pushed against the fabric of his dress shirt. It wasn’t till his brain caught up to the rest of him that the bulb turned on—the object was the barrel of a gun and the fuck behind him was mugging him.

Chess attempted to turn his head slightly to grab a side eye view of who he was dealing with when he felt the barrel nearly shoved into his skin.

“If you turn around, I will kill you before you hit the ground,” the stranger threatened through gritted teeth. This loony was obviously a male with a thick accent—Hungarian, it sounded like. His breath felt hot against Chess’s ear, reeking of cigarette smoke.

“Look, Mate,” he began with a calm, yet even tone. “If you’re looking for my credit card, it’s in my pocket.”

“I’ll get more just for splitting you open with bullets. So we’re going back to your house so I can finish my job.”

Chess felt his cheeks grow hot with anger. No way was he going down in his own house—not where his mum’ll find him. I have the bottles in my hand, he calculated silently. If I catch this bloody piece of shit off guard, I can duck, smack the gun outta his hand and break his skull open wi—

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the sound of dry gasping, the noise becoming compressed and more desperate as if the grifter were being strangled. Unexpectedly, Chess heard a thump and quickly spun around to identify the arsehole who wanted to kill him.

Chess stifled a yell, his eyes widened while he watched a blond haired young man’s body jerk and stiffen as if electrocuted, his eyes frozen in shock while white foam and strings of blood bubbled from his mouth, trickling over his pale cheeks. Within seconds, the grifter grew limp and ceased moving, his gaze turned towards the starless sky.

“Are you alright, Albert?” he heard someone ask.

Chess snatched his attention off the body and looked up. The brown bag he held against his chest slipped from his grasp as someone dressed in all black stood over the grifter’s corpse, wearing some sort of scarf covering their mouth and nose. Their eyes flickered when bits of light shone on the side of their face.

“Hellooooo?” the stranger asked, waving a hand as if Chess misheard them the first time. “Are you good?”

“Who the fuck are you knowing my name?” Chess barked.

“You know? A proper thanks wou—“ The stranger in black sucked on their teeth while rolling their eyes. “Oh. Right.” They then pulled their mask off their face. “That’s better.”

Chess squinted his eyes to capture the person’s facial features, his own face wrinkled with a confusion. This guy’s voice sounded familiar…his mouth dropped open when he recognized the stranger. “Nomi?”

“Surprise,” his sister replied straightforwardly.

“That’s the least of it,” Chess said, moving closer to Naomi. “What’s going on?! And what’s with this getup?” he questioned, pointing to her outfit.

“Well, this uniform helps me avoid detection by hitmen employed to murder you in cold blood.”

“Be serious, Nomi.”

“I am,” Naomi assured seriously. “This man was sent here to kill you—more than likely broke into your house looking for you. You’re weren’t there obviously, so he came out here and waited.”

“Fucking kidding me.”

“I wish, Little Brother. Is your mum in the house?”

Chess shook his head. “She’s visiting her sister in Oakenshire for two weeks.”

Naomi nodded her head thoughtfully. “Good to know. Least she’s safe for the time being.” She kneeled down next to the dead hitman’s body and lifted the gun from his hand and stuffed it into the waist of her pants. She then rose again and turned towards Chess. “Do me a solid, will you? We need to move our friend here to one of the dumpsters—I’ll drop him in after you lift up the lid.”

Chess nodded and headed towards one of the dumpsters parked against a picket fence.

Meanwhile, his sister hoisted the lifeless body of his would-be murderer into her arms, grunting lightly as she shifted his weight around. He lifted up the lid and moved to the side as Naomi approached the dumpster with the body. Occasionally, Chess glanced up and down the alley, paying close attention to the bedroom windows to spot curious onlookers, a thin sheet of sweat dampening his forehead. Last thing he needed was to look up and catch a neighbor watching them from behind a thin curtain, phoning the Yard. A bout with a grifter was easy to explain to Mum, but an accomplice to murder was something else altogether.

“Well, that’s done,” Naomi said after she dropped the hitman onto a pillow of stuffed trash bags. “Now let’s get on before the alarms go off.”

Chess cautiously lowered the lid and the siblings started walking up the alley, away from Chess’s childhood home. “So what now?” he asked, glancing at his sister.

“I have to take you to the F.I.T.E. house and go from there,” she replied.

Chess stopped abruptly and began frantically patting his trousers “…Fuck…fuckfuckfuck,” he mumbled under his breath as he yanked his phone out his pocket.

Naomi paused as well and shot him a confused look. “What?” she asked.

“You mean ‘What?’ I got to warn Marty! If that arsehole found me, then they found him and Lianna.”

Naomi snatched the phone out of his hand and shoved it into her back pocket. “Don’t,” she commanded. “If you ring him and they’re at his flat, they’ll know you’re alive and they may kill Martin as a result.”

“But we just can’t do nothing, Nomi!”

“Rumi and two from our crew are on it, I’m sure.”

“How do y—“

Naomi gently placed her hands on Chess’s shoulders, a look of seriousness reflected in her gray eyes. “I just do, alright?” she assured tenderly. “I need you to trust me. Can you do that?”

“…Yeah. Sorry.”

Naomi allowed her hands to drop from Chess’s shoulders. “You’re scared shitless,” she assessed, “but I need you to not do anything rash. Look, we can’t stand here all night and you’re loud. So can we go?”

Chess huffed and continued up the alley with his sister, hoping that Nomi’s faith in her friend was worth something.

 

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