Conflict

OK, now this is the first actual short story I’ll be posting. The previous five Wednesday’s posts have all been short snippets, where as this is a fully written piece. Not going to spoil any details about the plot (otherwise what is the point in reading it), but let’s just say there is a twist and see at what point (if at all) you guess it. I will say its about 2500 words though and that from now on when I introduce anything I’ll put this opening section in Italics. Happy reading!

It’s eight in the evening as Darius, clad in simple navy blue jeans, black trainers and a simple casual white shirt with the collar open, paces down the long corridor of the thirty second storey of a downtown building. He knows the way, but still he is in no hurry to reach the office at the end of this corridor. He passes a myriad of others offices on his way, but all of them are deserted. The workers having retired hours earlier except that is for Clark Valentine, the man he is scheduled to meet.

It’s a regular appointment but one he wishes he didn’t have to keep. The failure of this supposed businessman grates on Darius who just wants his affairs kept in order. Is it really that difficult? Darius wonders as he turns the corner, looking through the glass curtain walls to the city that lies beyond the confines of this glass and steel box. He hates buildings like this. In his mind they lack class and prestige. He prefers the buildings of old, constructed out of stone with defined windows and actual internal walls that separate spaces from one another.

Nevertheless he feels like he’s being watched, but reasons that is likely a result of the CCTV cameras he knows are dotted about this building in there thousands. Technology, he snarls, is another curse of humanity. They rely on it far too much to continue their limited existences and wishes they too were like the species of old that died young. Instead they cling onto life even when they are all but out of it. He doesn’t understand why, but then he knows he never can. They don’t understand the beauty of life, or the magnificence that comes from only having a limited time upon this world.

Darius doesn’t knock before entering Clark’s office, he just enters. He could have checked via the glass curtain wall if the middle aged man is in his office, but he doesn’t need to. He knows the man is there and he knows he’s scarred. Sure enough Clark is quivering behind his desk, a scotch glass in hand as he tries, poorly, to project confidence. It’s an act Darius would have thought Clark would have long since abandoned, but apparently not. Darius puts the man’s attempts at confidence down to pride, but in what he has no clue. Seeing as Clark only ever appears, at least when he meets with him, as little more than a snivelling lying failure of a man.

“Darius.” Clark says as a welcome to the casually dressed man that is now stood in his office.

“Clark, what was it I said when we last met?” Darius asks with a stern look.

He hears Clark gulp audibly, which means the middle aged man dressed in a cheap suit with a comb over of greying brown hair and brown sunken eyes surrounded by pale skin remembers his previous warning and simply nods.

Darius knows the man’s heart rate is racing as a smile creeps across his face to show his satisfaction at the man’s displeasure.

“Good. So why are my affairs not in order?” Darius says slowly, carefully and making sure to emphasise his words. He knows what he’d like to do right now and so does Clark, but the reality is that an accountant, apparently good at his job, is hard to come by. Especially for someone like Darius, who often conducts business out of normal hours and with a great deal of secrecy. Apparently, large sums of money really can’t buy everything, even in a city that is built on greed. It had surprised Darius, though that had been a couple decades ago, when Clark had been a younger, thinner, dare he even say, more capable man. Darius knows the man’s failings are a result of his age and his greed, both of which have made him careless.

“There…there have been…complications.” Clark manages to stutter out, the glass in his hand now braced against the table. Yet his hand is still visibly shaking, which delights Darius.

“I guessed that Clark. What complications?” Darius returns licking his lips. The action results in another audible gulp from Clark, which is exactly what Darius had been hoping for.

“Some…someone…seems to be…on to us.” Clark manages with a great amount of effort before grinning nervously.

“Seems?” Darius queries, his patience already spent as he stands bored of Clark’s tone. He definitely has to die tonight, Darius tells himself as he sighs, his eyes fixed on the man sat behind his mahogany desk. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the aesthetic of glass and steel that surrounds it, Darius decides as he recalls that Clark had once had a different desk. It had been bland and utilitarian, but at least it had been in keeping with its surroundings. Darius wonders if this new desk is some effort by Clark to appease to his employers own sensibilities of preferring times long gone. If it is, then Clark has failed, for no other reason than Darius is disgusted that such a beautiful example of craftsmanship is trapped within a glass sarcophagus.

“We…there seems to have been freezes on your accounts. As well as…money being withdrawn.” Clark answers wincing as he does. He is sure he’s dead. He knows Darius is not someone to anger or interfere with, but this really wasn’t his fault. He isn’t even sure how it’s happened, or in what quantity, not that he plans on telling Darius that.

“How? How are the accounts being frozen and who is withdrawing my money, Clark?” Darius questions as he speaks slowly, leaning towards the man who visibly shrinks in his high backed black leather chair. Darius drums the fingers of his right hand on a section of his left arm, just above his elbow as his arms sit folded across his chest.

“I…Ah…Uh…” Is all Clark manages before Darius offers his own reply of simply sighing and rolling his vibrant green eyes in the seconds before a low rumble burbles from between his thin lips.

“Right. So, what you’re telling me is you have no idea who and how this has happened. Is that correct, Clark?” Darius says, putting emphasis on Clark’s name as he says it.

The accountant doesn’t give a verbal response; he’s too scared, so instead he just simply and slowly nods as he watches Darius unfold his arms from across his chest, his left hand sweeps through his swept back jet black hair as his other hand reaches into his pocket.

Clark is sure Darius is reaching for a weapon, likely a blade, as he watches with baited breath, his heart racing ten to the dozen. But Darius doesn’t pull his hand back out of his jeans pocket. However, Clark feels no relief as he reasons that just because Darius hasn’t pulled a weapon yet it doesn’t mean he still won’t, and then use it to cut him to ribbons for his failures.

Clark had known from the moment he’d met Darius that accepting him as a client had been a mistake, but he’d been young and naïve then and didn’t believe in listening to his gut feelings. Especially as the money had mattered more to him than the sirens blaring in his head that told him to turn the man down. He wishes now he had, and is sure had he known what he was getting into he would have. Or at least he thinks he would have, maybe. He doesn’t know. The money Darius pays him to be his accountant is substantial and has paid for his daughter and now ex-wife’s comfortable lives. Damn you Sarah, he thinks as he recalls the day he found her cheating on him, but only after she had acquired evidence of his infidelity first. What followed had been a messy divorce that saw her take half his money and their daughter, Melissa. Clark has always wondered if Darius had played some part in it, in some way, but even if he did and Clark had been able to get his hands on evidence of it he wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.

“So, Clark, what are you going to do about this?” Darius asks emphasising you as he speaks to make it clear that this is all on Clark and that he has to fix it, alone.

In reality, Darius has no intention of letting Clark fix this, as the accountant isn’t going to make it out of this office alive tonight. He knows it won’t be a loss, not really. It rarely is with men like Clark who are failures at everything accept their jobs, until they become failures at that too. That is when they have outlived their usefulness and must be dispatched. Darius knows that will leave him with a problem, but it’s one he’s faced many times before and will face and solve many more times. The only annoyance is the loss of some accounts and funds. If only Clark knew how many other accounts, funds and other resources he truly possessed. He’d probably wonder why he is even needed in the first place. It’s a good question and one Darius admits to have contemplated many times, but in the end it always comes down to him not wanting to spend his limited time researching, investigating and monitoring his investments. At least to begin with, that is. Once they are established, Darius has often found that they work for themselves. Still he’d much rather have a man like Clark keep a careful eye on them from day to day. Something the accountant, in his greed and stupidity, has clearly failed to achieve.

“I…I can go through the accounts, see which have been frozen. Check the sums that have been withdrawn and see if I can find a pattern. Maybe even talk to a contact of mine that works for the government. He might be able to get me information on who’s behind this, with a small bribe that is.” Clark says sounding nervous at first, as he says whatever comes to mind. It’s not a plan, he knows, but as he talks his plan starts to formulate and with it his confidence grows, slightly. The accountant nods as he speaks as a nervous smile splits across his podgy face.

“Yes. That could work Clark.” Darius says with a false smile meant to convey that he’s impressed by the man even as he moves across the office space and past the desk.

“It will? It will.” Clark at first blurts with surprise before quickly covering his surprise with a thin attempt at confidence.

Darius is now at Clark’s side, which worries the accountant, especially when Darius motions for him to stand. The balding accountant does as instructed as he rises to his feet in the moments before Darius clasps his hands over the middle aged mans shoulders.

“Yes Clark. It sounds like you have everything…under…control.” Darius states with a wide smile.

“And that…calls for a drink. Don’t you agree Clark?” Darius then utters with a softer tone, which makes Clark feel a little more at ease as he manages a nod.

“Sure. What can I get you?” Clark asks with a small smile, his confidence ebbing back into existence now that he is sure Darius has been placated. Though he doesn’t understand why the man is still gripping his shoulders and staring at him like that. A tiny voice in the back of his mind whispers something he can’t quite hear.

“Blood!” Darius replies succinctly.

Clark recoils confused by Darius’ response as the man before him opens his mouth to bare his teeth, two of which visibly elongate. Clark’s eyes go wide in terror at the sight unfolding before him which is reminiscent of something out of a horror film.

“No. What? No.” Clark manages as Darius wrenches the accountant towards him with such force that Clark is sure it will break his back, but it doesn’t, as instead Clark’s throat ends up in Darius’ mouth. Darius bites down with his fangs, which puncture into Clark’s artery and gives Darius access to the middle aged man’s blood, which he drinks, greedily. Clark feels the life being drained from him as he tries to fight, but it’s all in vein and lasts for only a brief seconds before the world goes black.

Darius sucks the last remaining drops from Clark’s now emaciated and lifeless pale body before releasing his iron like grip on the now dead man. Clark’s body thuds to the floor as Darius runs his crimson coloured tongue over his blood stained teeth, cleaning them so that he can taste the last morsels of the sweet liquid. Darius eyes rolled back into his head lets out a sigh of pleasure as he licks his lips to ensure they are clean. He doesn’t want to, even at this hour, be questioned by passersby, as his face tears into a smile of delight.

“Sorry Clark, you failed one too many times.” Darius directs his words to the dead, bugged eyed shrivelled corpse that had been Clark Valentine, chuckling as he does.

Then Darius hears something. He can’t quite place it or make out what it is as his eyes scan past the limits of the glass wall of the building and out to the city beyond. Then he hears the crack of glass, but it’s too late. A bullet rips into his head, right between his eyes before even he, a vampire, can react. The bullet ends his century’s long life immediately as the silver coating on the bullet first starts to burn his brain matter. Before long however, the burning spreads and then quickly consumes the now dead vampires’ body, turning him into little more than flakes of incinerated dust.

Across the street on the roof of another towering building, a couple levels taller than the one Clark and Darius occupied, a man clad in black stares down the sight of his rifle.

“Target status?” A voice masked with an electronic tone asks.

“Neutralised.” The man says as he continues staring down the scope.

“Familiars status?” The same electronic masked voice then asks.

“Gone.” The man answers without a hint of emotion.

“Shit! We could have done with questioning him.” The voice says down the radio in the man’s ear.

“Return to base.” The same voice then adds.

“Copy.” The man says moments before he breaks his focus and disassembles his rifle, which he stows in a plain black backpack. He slings one of the straps of the backpack over his shoulder as he spins on his heels, leaves the roof and quickly crosses the corridor into the waiting lift. He thumbs the button for the ground floor without a thought as he turns to face the lift doors. As the doors begin to slide closed the black clad figure pulls the balaclava off from over his face to reveal deep blue eyes, thin pale lips, short black hair and pristine white teeth, two of which are pointed like fangs.

“Another loose end taken care of.” The man says to the ether.

“Any witnesses?” A female voice asks from nowhere.

“None.” The man replies calmly as he waits for the lift to finish its descent.

“Good job Rafe. What about the agent?” The female voice asks with a soft voice.

“He’s fine. But he’ll have one hell of a headache when he wakes up.” Rafe says with a humoured smile as the agent, who is the true owner of the rifle, which is currently in the backpack which Rafe drops, lies unconscious in a heap in the corner of the lift.

The lift doors slide open and Rafe strides out of the lift, across the empty lobby and out onto the street before disappearing into the shadows of the night.

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