The Engelhardt Encounters
Prologue: Rough Night
This was a city of over seven million people; a mass of humanity all packed together in one giant cauldron. He ought to be able to go completely unnoticed, yet as he moved through the back streets of Hong Kong on this very late night, he felt like the entire city was aware of his presence.
Logically, he knew that wasn't true. He was one man among seven million. But he knew that, just the same, he would never be able to go completely unnoticed. Not here, not anywhere. A man like him, he knew, stuck out like a lightning bolt in the night sky; like a gunshot in an otherwise quiet forest. He knew he stuck out, and he absolutely hated it.
This man did not call this city home. His home was on another continent entirely. He had next to no familiarity with this city, with this metropolis, except for the small part he had reconnoitered in order to complete his assignment. He knew enough to see him through to the end of his mission and nothing else.
And this almost two meter tall man, with his blonde hair and distinctly European features, knew that staying out of sight was integral to his mission. He stuck to the alleyways and narrower streets as he moved across the city. Even if this was a city in which many foreigners found themselves on business, this man's business was far from typical.
He had to stay out of sight, because he knew that the Hong Kong police wouldn’t take kindly to a foreign assassin in their city. To get caught would be unthinkable. He had far too much riding on this mission to get caught.
As he made his way to the location that his mark was located, he couldn't help but reflect on how his life had come to this. He'd gone from a relatively stable career as a heavyweight boxer, and became someone that took lives for money. How had he gone from that to a career he hated?
These reflections were cut short when he realized that, while he'd been contemplating his entire current existence, he had arrived at his destination. The bright lights of the club across the street were shining brightly, partially lighting up the dark alleyway he was standing in. He moved into the shadows and waited. As he waited, he started to feel the usual misgivings, the usual dread, at the act he was about to commit. This was the part of the job he always loathed, the sole reason he hated this job. Most assassins took satisfaction from the kill, or at the very least, felt nothing at it. But to him, the action of taking a human life was one that he had never become accustomed to. The people he was tasked to eliminate were always the world's most dangerous, those who were literally too dangerous to be left alive, and he tried to remember that, but it never got any easier. And he could remember the names and faces of every single one, from the Spanish mob leader that was his first, to the big-name Avtorityet with the Russian mafia which was his most recent. Tonight, if he succeeded, he would add a high-ranking officer of the Triad to his list.
He made his way towards the street, his footsteps on the pavement all but imperceptible. Checking his weapon of choice, a black Walther P22, to make sure that the safety was off and that it was ready to fire, and taking a moment to pull a black ski mask over his face to hide his features, he caught sight of his target emerging from the doorway of the club.
His target, and the bodyguard that loomed large beside him, an automatic rifle clutched in one arm.
That was just typical, he couldn't help but think. Of course the man would have a bodyguard. It didn’t really pose any undue trouble. He could take down two just as easily as one. But he didn't want to kill anyone else if he didn't have to. Killing one was bad enough.
He took a step forward just as the bodyguard looked in his direction. He saw the other's eyes widen and could hear the shouted curse. Even with his concealment in the shadows, there was no doubt that he'd been seen.
Running on instinct, he threw himself behind a nearby parked car, flattening himself against the ground as much as he could. He knew what was coming next.
Sure enough, the sound of automatic fire from the guard's weapon split the night, and he heard the sound of shattering glass as the bodyguard blew out the windows of the vehicle. He could feel the glass shards raining down on him, and more than once felt a round pass by millimeters above him. He remained crouched down, waiting for his opening, and only moments after the gunfire started, he heard the unmistakable click of the magazine and the surprised curse that followed it. It was a sound he knew from experience, and the one that he had been waiting for.
It meant that the bodyguard, who clearly had no proper training and little experience using a weapon on full-auto, had just run out of things to fire.
He got to his feet and fired two shots. Both smashed into the bodyguard's chest, and the automatic rifle fell from lifeless hands as the body of the guard hit the ground.
At that moment he realized that, while he'd been taking cover behind the now-destroyed automobile, his target had bolted, and was now almost twenty meters down the street.
He took off in pursuit, his footsteps pounding the pavement. He knew he had to get closer; he had to be sure he could hit only his target and nobody else. But he was a big man. He just wasn't fast enough to catch up with the much smaller mobster. He had to take a shot, and if he was going to do it, he had to do it now. The crowd was starting to thin out and he knew this would be his best opportunity.
He raised the pistol and fired twice. Both shots hit home and the mobster fell face first to the ground.
The assassin leaned against the wall of the building and took a moment to calm his nerves. His heart was pounding and his hands were starting to shake. He knew the full weight of what he had done would hit him later.
Right now, though, he had to disappear. He could already hear the commotion of people awakened by the gunfire and the sirens already starting towards the area.
By the time the police arrived on scene, he was gone, the two dead men the only evidence he had ever been there at all.