Devil's Advocate

November
23rd

Chapter One

by: Simon McDougall


“Dark and Stormy,” I muttered to the bartender, handing him my card. In the dim lighting, you could just barely make out the image decorating the front of it: A grinning imp wielding a fork, my boss’s idea of a joke. The card itself was for “business” and it could get me anything I wanted, as long as I didn’t draw too much attention to myself. Some people might abuse such a privilege, but for me, there just really wasn’t much I desired. Even now, I was strictly here on business.

Looking around, I tried to scout out the bar. The dim light made it difficult and it would be a few minutes before I could find my target. Fortunately for me, he either didn’t understand the concept of laying low, or didn’t care.

Pushing several of the bar’s patrons aside, a broad-shouldered silhouette emerged from the crowd. Slamming a large wad of cash onto the counter he exclaimed, “Whiskey on the rocks!” Pausing a moment at the bartender’s questioning glance, he continued, “and keep the change!”

The bartender’s gaze on the figure intensified, but he humbly accepted this gracious tip and started pouring the drink. Finishing my own, I set down my glass with a loud “clack” and faded into the shadows at the back of the bar.

Waiting patiently for my target to finish his drink, I reached down and drew my weapon, A custom piece that I was quite proud to own. A semiautomatic pistol made of polished steel, with etched writing decorating the slide. The inside of the etching was cast in silver giving it an extra shine, even here in the shadows.

The language of the etching was like nothing I could read, however I’d been informed once that it read something akin to “O misguided souls, judgment cannot be escaped”. My boss gave it to me as a reward for acing my first job. I’ve taken good care of it ever since.

After he’d been babying it for what felt like an hour, my target finally finished his drink. As he set down his glass, I placed the barrel of my gun firmly against his skull. With all the ambient chatter and noise, those surrounding us remained unaware of the situation before them.

“Hi there,” I greeted sarcastically. This small bit of showboating proved to be a poor choice. As I fired my weapon he ducked down and kicked his bar stool into me. My bullet took out a bottle or two behind the counter as my target ran toward the door.

Two more shots missed their mark as I stumbled after him in my disoriented state. Shards of glass fell from the front door and I could feel the bartender’s cold gaze staring me down. I took off after my mark yelling behind me “Just put it on my card!” As I left the building, I caught a glimpse of him running down an alleyway.

Following behind, I turned the corner and found he was already halfway up a four story fire escape and moving quickly. I fired several more shots at him only to have them ricochet off the rusty metal.

Continuing my pursuit, I leapt up to the bottom rung of the ladder. The rusty steel scraped my fingers as I pulled myself up. Around and around the three remaining flights of rickety stairs, I was dizzy when I reached the top.

I kicked off of the railing to clear the extra foot or two above me to the top of the roof. My torn fingers screamed as I pulled my body up over the ledge. Once I was on my feet again, I took off in a sprint after my target. Across the long rooftop from me, he hesitated a moment. Backing up for a running start, he managed to cross the four foot gap to the next roof, only having to catch his balance on the other side.

Making the jump effortlessly, I found myself on the next rooftop, gaining ground on my target. My pursuit continued across a few more rooftops before my target dropped down the side of another building. Looking down I could see him on the lower half of another fire escape.

I took a deep breath and jumped straight for the ground. Such a jump probably could have killed a normal human, but this wasn’t my first time attempting such a feat. As I hit the ground I stumbled on my three point landing and it took me a second to get to my feet.

Out the alleyway and across the street, my target disappeared into another alley. As I crossed the empty streets I heard the sound of shattered glass hitting the ground. A window was smashed out on the side of a condemned building.

Not wanting to follow into an ambush, I opted for the front door instead. Ignoring the warning signage posted around the door and windows I fired a few shots at the door frame, releasing the latch.

Inside, I was surprised to find the remains of a somewhat furnished home, and not an the empty hallways of the apartment house I had expected. The walls and furnishings of the home were all charred and there was a musty smell filling the air. Whatever the fire hadn’t destroyed the water damage from putting it out had.

Far to my left a small amount of light from the street lamps outside was reflecting on a pile of shattered glass. On the floor next to it some roughly cut plywood and a box of nails. Lucky for my target, this last window hadn’t been boarded over yet. Unlucky for him, it seemed like this was the last one remaining.

Leaving the living room area, I found some stairs to the upper floor just before the kitchen. Next to that a door leading to a dark basement. “Damn,” I muttered to myself. If I head the wrong way he’ll have an opening to get out. Glancing into the kitchen up ahead, I noticed a heavy looking dinner table. “…Worth a shot I guess,” I decide to myself.

After dragging the dusty table in place, I headed up the opposite stairs. It might not lock him down there, but at the very least I’ll be able to hear the table move if he comes back up that way. I head slowly up the stairs, weapon at the ready.

My target’s name is Toni Giuliani, and he’s an individual who’s actions have warranted his soul be rejudged. My job is a little different from that of most people. I am responsible for tracking down individuals who continuously disturb the peace. An afterlife should be peaceful after all, right?

I am contracted into my position for reasons I have no memory of. Part of the contract I signed, or so I’ve been told. I don’t really have a problem with that. I don’t really mind the job, and I trust that I had good reasons for signing up for it.

Toni Giuliani is a man who’s been judged before, several times in fact. He’s shown time and time again that his only goals in this “life” are to cause chaos and ruin. This time he’s wanted for several counts of corrupting the souls of children. He’s been using them to do his bidding over the last year and my boss has finally had it with his actions.

Children are… easily manipulable. The souls of those who died young are more susceptible to becoming corrupt, spoiled, rotten. Once a soul heads down that path it can be almost impossible to reverse the damage. Their morals warp and they become unable to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil. Once they go down that path, usually the only thing that awaits them is “The Pit”.

Bombings, fires, gang wars. Things that cause chaos and destruction. This was Giuliani’s topical M.O. Never did he seem to be seeking any personal gain, he just seemed to have a love for the disorder of it all. He’d drawn enough attention to himself, now it was time to end it.

My sweep of the upstairs was almost complete. One more room lay before me, the door cracked open. I peeked inside. The room was illuminated dimly through the cracks of a poorly boarded over window. Creeping through the doorway I jumped at the sound of shuffling across the room.

I took aim at an upturned mattress in the corner, focusing for a minute on the sound. I breathed a sigh of relief and fired a few rounds into this unusual hiding spot. I only had a moment to revel in my false victory before a panicked rat darted out from behind the mattress.

A tremor shot through my body as all my muscles tensed back up. I let out a disgruntled groan as I turned and rushed back toward the stairs. I had yet to hear any sounds of escape from my impromptu barricade.

Reaching the bottom I relaxed seeing the table right where I’d left it. I shifted it just enough to open the door. If it came to it, this would hopefully delay Giuliani long enough for me to land a shot… presuming of course that I didn’t need to rush back through. I started down the cellar stars, realizing with how long I had taken, I was probably walking into an ambush.

Each step echoed into the darkness. The rough wooden stairs indicated the unfinished nature of the basement. The cellar floor was littered with water damaged possessions. In the corner was a partitioned off room, presumably hiding the home’s boiler and electrical box.

The damp, moldy smell attacked my nose as I approached the small room. While the rest of the basement was lit by tiny windows along the foundation, the boiler room was pitch black.

“Come out quietly and I’ll make it quick,” I bargained with the darkness in front of me. As expected I received no response. With a soft sigh I stepped into the doorway. My eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness and I could start to make out some silhouettes. A boiler, an oil tank, an electrical box, and a small workbench. No one was in here.

As soon as this fact sunk in I spun around toward the doorway, almost too late. An outlined figure swung an object in my direction. Almost losing my balance in a sidestep I could see the outlined object resembled a crowbar, presumably from the workbench. I raised my gun and fired at his armed shoulder.

Giuliani’s injured arm dropped the weapon as he ran back toward the stairs. I manage to clip his ankle before he can get there.

“Any last words?” I smugly ask, looking down on his injured body. He remained silent, only glaring at me in the darkness. “Nothing to say for yourself?” I continue. “Alright then, it’s not me you have to answer to anyway.”

I raise my weapon, taking aim at his forehead. “This is only the beginning!” he exclaimed in pain. Gasping his breaths, he added, “This is so much bigger than you or me. It’s just too bad I won’t get to see it all go down.”

“Enough from you!” I answered, pulling the trigger. Giuliani hit the ground lifeless. I felt truly relieved for the first time tonight. Letting out a sigh of relief I focused my thoughts on home. After a moment of focusing my surroundings began to dim and this reality faded from existence.