An excerpt from my work in progress, Dark City.

Breathing deep the salty air, Ras grins up at the sliver of moon hiding coyly in the sky. Tonight will be a good night. Dark, and good for hunting.

Across a stretch of black water, standing atop the deck of a yacht, a wealthy playboy gazes at the shore. Ras is huddled beside a large shed with corroded metal siding, concealed in the shadows gathered between two weak industrial lights. Behind him, The Stacks stretches for desolate miles, modern boxy warehouses and crumbling remains from the Industrial Revolution sitting side by side. A skyline made distinctive by smokestacks old and new.
This is no place for a man like the one aboard the luxury ship, and Ras imagines Damien is eager to unload the goods he stole from the syndicate and be done with this transaction.

Beside him, he senses rather than hears Vance, moving through the shadows like a wraith. For all his bulk—broad shoulders, solidly built frame—he’s impossible to catch when he wants to be.

“I had plans, you know,” Ras says.

Vance’s stern mouth turns in a fond smile, slight wrinkles just beginning to show at the edges. “By all means go. It’s not that late.”

The teenager huffs a soft laugh. Vance is joking; they both know there’s no place he would rather be.

“What did you see?” Vance gestures to the boat.

“Two guys. One there, the other walked to the back of the ship.”

“Two hours and that’s the best you’ve got?” Vance says, with a stern glance Ras ignores. He doesn’t give a fuck what his father has to say. “Tell me what you saw.”

He rolls his eyes, their vibrant green dimmed to colorlessness in the low light. Once a sniper and later a spy, Vance insists upon constant awareness and keen observation of one’s surroundings, at all times, no exceptions.

“That’s Damien.” He gestures to the man now anxiously leaning over the railing. “He’s not used to places like this, and he’s nervous.”

“And with good reason.”

“One security guard who knows what he’s doing. He’s got an assault rifle, and he gave Damien a gun. But I doubt that idiot is going to shoot it.” The playboy had held the weapon delicately at arm’s length, then set it aside near the cabin. He keeps casting anxious glances at it, but it’s unlikely he’d pick it up.

“Good.” Vance’s approving nod, which would have warmed Jude’s heart, makes no difference at all to him.

“Can I have his yacht?”

Vance shakes his head with an amused smile. “Nice try. But no.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re learning the value of a dollar. Let’s go. You take Damien and get him restrained. Do it quietly. I’ll tackle the security and meet you on the deck.

“Fine.” The teenager scowls, still thinking of the yacht he really does deserve as he moves through the darkness beside his father, stepping silently over the warped boards of the dock and climbing onto the boat.

They part ways and he sneaks along the edge of the deck. Were he a cat, his ears would be perked and tall, listening intently to the soft lap of water against the sides of the boat. Limbs both tense and graceful as he crouches, moving slowly over the hardwood. Damien stands before him, shoulders slumped and hands pressed to the railing.

He lunges across the five feet between them, a hard arm around Damien’s neck, squeezing as the playboy flails with desperate jabs of elbows and heels, until his body goes limp and he drops him to the floor. The playboy hits with a thud, limbs sprawled beneath him. Ras ties the unconscious man to the railing, then stands, looking out over the water.

His appearance is one of stark contrasts; pale skin against a shock of black hair. Deceptively lithe, remarkably strong. Cheerful, charming, but with a constant hint of danger like the almost imperceptible crackle in the air that lingers before a storm.

Waiting is not among his many talents, and he fidgets, pacing the deck. He’s just about to go downstairs and hunt for the security guard himself when Vance emerges from the lower part of the ship.

Damien has come to, and beneath the yellow light he’s sickly pale, shadows like inky thumbprints beneath his eyes. Sitting silently, staring at his two captors.

“You better be wearing your gloves,” Vance says, eying Ras’s hands, resting on the railing.

“Of course I’m wearing my gloves.” He sighs, raising his hands so Vance can see them clearly. “Can I take them off now?” He dislikes the feel of the thin black material between his fingers.

“No. Stay focused.”

Vance kicks their prone prisoner in the ribs and tells him to get the fuck up. Damien has fair hair, blonde enough to shine golden under the light, and a runner’s slender build.

“Look,” he whimpers, struggling to his feet with his arms bound. “I don’t know what you want. You’ve got the wrong guy, you—”

“Don’t bullshit me,” Vance says, with a menacing step forward.

“Look, whatever the boss is paying you, I’ll double it. Triple it. I swear I—”

“I am the boss.”

“Jesus Christ,” their prisoner whimpers, “I’m so fucking sorry. You gotta understand I was just the messenger. I didn’t even know the syndicate was mixed up in it.”

“You’re a pawn,” Vance says.

“That’s right.” Damien eagerly bobs his head. “I didn’t plan anything. I just did what they told me.”

“Who?”

Damien stands straight like an ice cube was just run down his spine. Ras watches him curiously, the tremble in his fine, pianist’s fingers, the wide eyes and half open mouth that make him look like a pale fish. This is the thing they call fear. Everyone feels it. He even saw Vance feel it once, when a desperate junkie held a pistol to Ras’s head and made wild, nonsensical threats. And even in that moment, fourteen years old, the barrel of the gun a cold metal kiss on the side of his head, Ras has never felt fear. He doesn’t fully understand it, and like with all things he doesn’t understand, it fascinates him, like the inner workings of the human mind, like death, like the elusive thing Jude calls love.

 

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