Do the Job

“Cudahy.” The voice was cool, it's delivery the casual flow of one whose gravitas went unquestioned. A shaft of light played down the frame staircase, splashing a shadow to the floor stones. “Come upstairs.”

The interrogator lifted the tool as he pivoted into the darkness. “Shiny.” The bolt cutter landed with a heavy metallic “clank” before the man who’d spent the past four hours visiting torment could be seen again at the foot of the stairs. “Weren’t personal, old pard,” he offered an apologetic smile. “Just my job’s all.” He paused a moment, as if awaiting some gesture of forgiveness. When none came, Jack Cudahy trudged silently upward. The door closed, taking the light with it.

Well now, Dorian thought in the respite, I’m dying to know what comes next…dying notwithstanding. Slumping into relaxation was not an option; the cracked rib made anything less than correct posture a fresh celebration of pain. He fought the urge to take shallow breaths as he ran a quick personal triage. Fortunately, Cudahy hadn’t bothered the healing eye, opting instead for his torso and groin. His chest had sprouted the sickly coloration of bruising. The cigarette burns felt akin to hornet strikes he’d endured as a teenager. His scrotum and its’ occupants were completely numb to the spring loaded jaws of the gator clamps. Dorian’s mind wandered through casual vignettes of informing the future Mrs. Adler that biological children might not be in the cards, before the door opened and the two apes with whom he’d begun this odyssey clumped heavily down the stairs.

The first produced a knife. “Our orders are to get you cleaned up,” he said as the blade did its’ work upon his ankle bindings. “Can you get up, or do we need to carry you?”
“What about those?” Dorian asked of the gator clamps.

“Don’t get paid to touch your balls,” the muscle said as he cut the wrists free.

“Ah’m told there’s good money in that,” Adler quipped, his hand trembling as he removed the metal teeth from his nethers. "No, no,” Dorian waved them off. “Ah can get there on mah own steam, thanks.”

“Put this on,” the second monkey shoved a robe into his hands.
………………………………
The face in the mirror was drawn and haggard. Slipping into the trousers, shirt and vest had been just the right amount of painful to forbear completely putting on his coat. This he wore draped over his shoulders as he emerged from an opulent guest room of the house.

“Follow me, Dr. Adler,” Monkey Number Two had been awaiting his exit. The house was lavish, to say the least. High ceilings arched above walls adorned with tasteful, expensive art. His bootheels clicked smartly upon polished wood and tile as he was led from the guest wing into a well provisioned study. Heavy oaken shelves nearly sagged beneath the weight of a book collection the likes of which he’d never seen. This had to be the single most comprehensive grouping of paper books from Earth-That-Was in the ‘verse.

At the sight of him, Marisol nearly leapt from her wingback chair. “Dorian! Mi dios!" she exclaimed. He tucked his left arm over the damaged rib to ward off another of her fervent embraces. The right he kept beneath his coat as she pulled him to her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t know. How badly are you hurt?”

“Ah’m alright,” he whispered. “Just a bit stiff.” He took the moment to size up those awaiting him. Against the far wall lay a prominent desk. Four small chairs were situated before of it. Three were occupied, one by a scowling Kate Russokova. The other two were men in their forties, hard bitten types whose chiseled looks and bearing suggested they’d been active participants in the war. They regarded him with a wary curiosity. Behind the desk sat a woman, whose eyes were inscrutable as she watched the greeting. Soon, she lifted her hand, a motion of economy and grace, to beckon him toward the empty chair. “Marisol,” she said, her voice the same cool command that had interrupted the near fatality of his manhood. “Pull up a chair.”

“This is not my trade,” Marisol replied.

“It is now. Sit.” Seeing even the firebrand that was Marisol Chavez cowed into silent obedience, Dorian likewise followed the offer to sit. “Agent Adler,” the woman’s gaze crossed to him as she spoke, “I’m certain that you understand the interrogation was necessary to convince us of your loyalties.”

“Hmmm,” Dorian feigned thoughtfulness, before fixing his eye into hers. “What happened?”

“Excuse me?”

“If y’all still had reasons tah doubt me,” he replied, “Ah’d still be downstairs right now, minus some fingers and mah “twenty-first” appendage. Mah refusal tah answer Cudahy proves nothin’. So what happened?”

She held quiet a moment, deep brown eyes pensive as they bored into his own. After a glance toward her cohorts, she spoke. “A second chain was outed.”

“When?”

“About the time you were getting shellacked on Ezra,” one of the men answered.

“Yah get yah people secured?”

“Not entirely,” the leader answered. “The Alliance attempted an organized sting. They nabbed two of our agents. The other three,” she continued, “executed their E and E plans. Two are in the wind.”

“And tha third?”

“Dead. Dr. Adler,” the second man in the group spoke, “what do you know of the Jo Long Bong?”

“The Nine Dragons? Bunch of maniac monks who teach kids tha gospel accordin’ tah Shan Yu. Are they still a thing?”

“Yeah,” one tough old soldier nodded. “And one of their star pupils saved your neck on Ezra.”

“That explains a few things,” Dorian said. “So what do yah want?”

“We’re hoping,” the woman took charge once more, “that your friend might be able to identify the handiwork of one of his classmates? The kill signatures to all of these…the Nguyens, the Nudubas, Donovan…and now Pantos…indicate Nine Dragons training. We need ident, and Jo Long Bong are notoriously close mouthed vis’a vis’ their own.”

Dorian shrugged, fighting the urge to wince. “Not somethin’ Ah can just bring up ovah dinnah…”

“Agent, you’re our only field asset who’s got the slightest inroad.”

“Hmm,” Dorian stroked his moustache, “how do Ah refuse?”

“You don’t,” Marisol piped up. “And you’re not tracking this psychopath alone, either.”

“Tracking?” He cocked an eyebrow. “Bounty huntin’ is not on mah resume.”

The leader nodded. “I get it, Agent. Listen, our network is in survival mode right now. The Alliance isn’t stupid. Since the Miranda Broadwave, they’ve tripled their intel countermeasures to get a leg up on the next rebellion. We’re on our back foot…especially with this assassin slipping about. I can’t even begin to think about rebuilding our network chains while I’m trying to keep assets alive.”

“Well,” Adler shrugged again, folding his arms, “seein’ as mah captain’s already ‘voluntold’ me, Ah’m in.”

The leader nodded. “Good. Here’s another one. We need to get Agent Russokova off planet. Can you get her on that boat of yours?”

“Yes,” Dorian nodded, taking note that Kate’s scowl never lifted. “Ah might have a suggestion about rebuildin’ yah network, too.”

The leader glanced toward her lieutenants, then met his gaze. “I’m all ears, Agent.”

“Let me tell yah ‘bout mah new job.”

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