Year 17

Chapter 5
Angel of Death

by E.Escher - 19th Dec 2016
Brian surveyed the wreckage from a safe distance. Rescue and recovery crews had dragged the mangled Porsche off the road, after making certain there wasn't a corpse trapped inside, or underneath. Doubtless they were wondering why the airbags hadn't been triggered.

Colin would probably be wondering the same thing, wherever he was. It was possible he'd crawled off somewhere to die. That would certainly have made things easier. Honestly, you try to give your friend an exciting, memorable death, and then they somehow go and escape.

He should have just shot the guy in the head, as ordered. He could always find a new friend, after all, especially with his bank balance.

The life of an international assassin was pretty lucrative, and the work was easy. When people expected an assassination attempt, they started looking for James Bond types, like any killer would bother getting tarted up and go introduce himself before doing the job.

Of late, Brian had earned a shocking amount of money without having to fire a shot. He hadn't had to stab, shoot, garrotte or poison anybody in nearly two years. His last victim had tripped and fallen off the side of a seven-storey car park while trying to pull a gun from his waistband.

Brian had taken one look at the splattered ruin, phoned in the hit as a success, and then met Colin at a burger place down the street. They'd got talking, and quickly became friends. Colin had a weird accent that he couldn't place, and he was a mine of strange information. His old-fashioned attitude gave him a weird perspective that Brian found interesting in an age where people spent most nights glued to a telly stuffing their face with curry and pizza.

Colin said he hated curry. Brian had promised to convert him.

That night, he fired up his laptop and logged onto a small internet radio station. Custom software picked through the signal for hidden messages, and pretty quickly it picked out a message tagged for his own identifier. His employers were pleased that he'd managed to make the hit look like an accident. His payment would include a bonus. Awesome. A pretty good day.

His next assignment was some business owner in Fallowfield. Since he was going to be out that way anyhow, he arranged to meet Colin at a curry place he'd heard good things about. The target lived alone, and Brian didn't anticipate any problems.

As planned, he entered the target's house at 7pm, letting himself in through the patio door. His weapon of choice for this hit was a compact crossbow, though he had a silenced pistol as backup. His superiors wanted this one handled quietly, without any fuss.

Brian crept through the silent house, alert for any sounds that would indicate his target's location. He'd memorised the blueprints earlier, and worked out the fastest sequence to check all the rooms. He wasn't in the kitchen, or the living room. The music room was empty, ditto the library. Grimacing, he crept up the stairs, keeping to the edges and moving a swiftly as he dared. Luckily the house was fairly new, and the woodwork barely creaked. He wondered briefly what the guy had been up to that let him afford a place like this.

The study was empty, ditto the master bedroom. He checked another four bedrooms without success. If the guy wasn't home Brian was going to be pissed. He checked the bathroom, smirking to himself as he imagined killing the guy as he was taking a crap.

He wasn't there. Damn it. He narrowed his eyes, weighing his options. He could wait and surprise the guy when he came home, but that would involve a lot of waiting around, and he had an appointment with a curry. He planned to order something spicy; he'd have to choose something milder for Colin or the poor bastard would end up shitting his guts out tomorrow.

Remembering something from the blueprints, he went back to the master bedroom and headed for the en-suite bathroom. He abandoned all pretence at subtlety and kicked the door open, levelling his crossbow at the toilet as he scanned the scene for targets.

His mark was in the bath, and the bath was full of blood. Or more accurately, red water. The guy had apparently slit his wrists and bled out hours ago.

Later, he relayed a modified version of the story to Colin:

'I was supposed to deliver some bad news to the guy, but he must have known I was coming, or something, because he topped himself before I got there.'

'Or somebody else already gave him some even worse news, that sent him over the edge. Stuff like that happens to me all the time.'

'What, folks offing themselves?'

'Nooo, I mean weird coincidences. Everybody always comes out with things like "what are the odds of that?", and it seems to me these things happen all the time. You mention somebody in a conversation, or wonder what they're up to, and the next day they call you up out of the blue. You visit someplace to have a look around, and there'll inevitably be some disaster, or they'll be opening a new museum or something.'

It sounded pretty insignificant to Brian, and he said so. 'That's called confirmation bias, mate. Like how you never see any yellow cars on the streets anymore, but now I've mentioned it, you'll be spotting dozens of 'em. Seat Ibiza's all over the place.'

The food arrived, and Colin explained that curry was originally used to disguise the taste of meat that was left to rot in the sun for days before serving.

'You don't really believe they still do that, do you? Here in Manchester?'

'I admit the notion of leaving anything in the sun for days is a bit of a joke.'

They laughed, and ate their meals, exchanging off-colour jokes and ridiculing popular culture. Colin turned out to know some toe-curlingly awful jokes, many relating to historical figures. Brian promised to remember every single one, but knew he never would. They were too far out of context.

Colin regaled him with stories of wild coincidences, of famous people dying in bizarre circumstances. Some of them were funny, some of them were so improbable he was sure they were made up, or at least embellished in the telling. After, he couldn't exactly disprove the stories.

'How do you know all these things?' he'd asked, eventually.

'I pay attention' was the short reply.


'I read books, y'know? Watch documentaries. Stuff on the, uh, internet.'

Afterward he phoned for a taxi, and they had one last beer while they waited.

The taxi was a yellow Seat Ibiza. He gave Colin a sharp look, but the other man gave a 'see what I mean?' shrug.

That night, he logged onto the Organisation's internet radio and waited for a message. The target's demise hadn't been noticed yet, but he was sure he'd get another bonus when the coroner released the cause of death as suicide.

It nagged at him, slightly. Was Colin really at the centre of some improbable nexus of strange coincidences? He decided he'd try to have Colin nearby for his next hit. He was no scientist, but he understood the principles of testing a theory, and he was nothing if not methodical once his curiosity was aroused.

The next target suffered a heart attack and died as Brian watched through his rifle's telescopic sight. The one after that was hit by a bus leaving his girlfriend's house.

Brian called in mission complete, and proceeded to a nearby pub where he'd agreed to meet Colin. He was standing at the bar, alone, completely still, waiting to be served. The barmaid worked quietly behind the bar, apparently not noticing him. He looked around as Brian approached, and suddenly the barmaid noticed him, jumping back with a little squeak.

'God! Sorry, were you there long? I must have been miles away.'

'Ehhn, happens all the time. Nothing to worry about.'

Brian watched his friend carefully that night, revising his opinion as the night wore on. He'd viewed Colin as some kind of good luck charm, but he was starting to think there was more to it. Colin Campbell was a harbinger of doom, some kind of angel of death, and he was going to make Brian rich.
The curious tale of Colin Campbell
Part One - How did it come to this?, Chapter 1, Earlier that day
Chapter 2, Earlier still
Chapter 3, Making a withdrawal
Chapter 4, August 18th, 2362
Chapter 5, Angel of Death
Chapter 6, Welcome to 2016.
Chapter 7, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 8, After the crash
Chapter 9, Music of the Spheres
Chapter 10, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 11, Harbinger FM
Chapter 12, Denmark, July 2358
Chapter 13, Excuses and lies
Part Two - So here we are, Chapter 14
Chapter 15, Quite a ride
Chapter 16, Talking the talk
Chapter 17, Leisurely pursuit
Chapter 18, Dinner Date with Destiny
Chapter 19, Chips with everything
Chapter 20, Harbinger
Chapter 21, Time to leave
Chapter 22, Manchester
Chapter 23, Colin's House
Chapter 24, On the road
Chapter 25, Chateau Harbinger
Chapter 26, Showdown
Epilogue, Debriefing
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