“One could say that the series of events leading up to my death was rather – unfortunate, to say the least. They say that sometimes Hell is what you make of it, well – have you ever been to Bruges? Lovely place some people say, it’s – oh what’s that? Where’s Bruges? It’s in Belgium, yeah I never would have guessed hell is in Belgium either but that’s beside the point. Anyway, Bruges right, it’s this lovely and magical place that reminds people of fairytales and whatnot. To me, it was a shite-hole. It was bad enough I was dragged to Bruges for a second time for work, again. What happened there, fuck man – I’ve seen some things you never wanna see.”
He can’t be dead – no, no, no, no, no. He laid there, limp and lifeless on the cold pavement, surrounded by a crowd of people whose jaws would be on the floor had it not been attached to their thick skulls. Blood leaked from his wounds, two shots through the skull and five in the chest. No one would come back from that. I ran towards him pushing aside as many people as I could, Jesus, how could this have happened. I let him out of my sight for one minute and he goes and gets himself shot. I slid onto my knees and pulled Ray closer to me, he was bleeding out gallons of blood. I was already tearing up, but I had to hold back the tears, I couldn’t start bawling my eyes out just yet. Shit, Ray.
We just had to be in Bruges.
One year later.
“Fucking Bruges, Kris.”
I heard him over the speakerphone on my Sony Xperia.
Christ, he was pissed, of course he would be. He almost died the last time we were here.
“I mean for God’s sake we could be anywhere in the world right now to do a job and where do we head to?”
“That’s right, fucking right. Bruges.”
“Now don’t go blowing your head off, Ray. You’re sitting in a bloody Volks for Christ’s sake and I’m sittin in a freaking Alfa Romeo, we’re living the good life, man.”
A slightly excited tone came from my end, I mean who wouldn’t be? We really were living. That one hit we did a few months back gave us enough cash to propel our business skyward. We were the top of the top.
What business are we in, you ask? We shoot people for a living.
“Yeah yeah, we’ve got good cars and good guns, we’re living. So why the bloody hell did we take a job in Bruges?!”
Oh God he was pissed.
“Because the pay is good, it’s just one target and no one told me it was fucking Bruges till I took the job.”
“Right, right. Fine, fine! I just really fucking hate Bruges.”
We drove for another hour or so along the empty roads, it was autumn so the colours around us helped to at least lighten the mood. Yellow and orange leaves were scattered all along the roads as the sun started to dip into the horizon, casting a yellow sky overhead. It would take us another half hour before we reached the hotel but I could feel it in me already, we’ve been driving nonstop in our cars for about what two to three hours now? My back hurt and my hands were getting tired, fuck we needed a fag break. We decided to stop for a few minutes by the side of the road. As I got out of my car I pulled up a box of Dunhill Ice, the cold smoke felt amazing as the cold air blew by.
“Oi, you got a fag on you? I emptied out my last box.”
“You gotta take it easy on the smokes man, you’re chain smoking again.”
“I’ll bloody relax when we get outta Bruges.”
“Yeah, yeah. What’s the time yeah? “
Ray glanced at his wrist watch for a few seconds almost as if he was about to daze off into a daydream.
“About half past three.”
He had this strange habit of always looking like he’s got something on his mind, as if the entire world around him somehow just didn’t fit. His eyebrows would always be furrowed while he was all huddled up in his brown coat.
“We should really get going if we’re going to make it in time for dinner, Ray.”
“Can we have like, a burger and a pint by the pub, please?”
“Only if you’re a good little boy.”
“I have a reservation for two rooms.”
“Of course, uh mister…?”
The receptionist asked. We had arrived at Bruges, the lovely fairytale land. Looking around it seemed anything but. Same as ever, drab white walls for a drab and cold land. The Helm’s inn was a small little hotel where two nondescript men could rest out two rooms for a few nights - on business of course.
“Smith. John Smith.”
“Ah yes, mister Smith. You and your colleague will be in rooms 205 and 206 respectively. Might I have the bellhop take your bags?”
“That’s not necessary, thanks.”
“Of course, good day sir.”
A smile with a key later and we’re in our rooms.
Not exactly what I’d call vacationing in luxury but it would have to do. A single bed with comforters that weren’t too bad, a single television that showed nothing but ads, a small fridge filled with overpriced hotel snacks, nothing a few bottles of Heineken couldn’t fix, and a bathroom with a shower. Quaint, really. I chucked the duffel bag onto the bed before collapsing next to it, God I was tired. But we had to get ready for the job or else we won’t be getting paid at all. Unzipping the duffle I emptied its contents onto the bed, a single Walther p99 with a 9mm silencer, a dossier given to me by our client, a few magazines of subsonic ammunition, and about five hundred quid to spend. The dossier itself was what interested me right now; I hadn’t taken a proper look at it since our client handed it to me a few days back. Opening the file you could see only about three or four pieces of paper along with a few pictures. Billy Martin, well known drug lord and human trafficker, heads many of the import/export docks of the underworld, anything you wanted in or out of Europe he would be your man. During the day he’d launder the money through various ‘charities’ and hobbies of his, he was known to be very physically fit with all the marathons and cycling he did. In the eyes of the public he was an upstanding citizen, but then again, aren’t all under-lords upstanding citizens really?
He’s scheduled for a charity dinner tomorrow night with the leading heads of a few multi-million corporations, why they’re al in Bruges I’ll never know. Then again I’m guessing the past attacks on political and corporate heads in London might have something to do with it. Can’t help it really, it was fun and well worth the money. So maybe I enjoyed the job in London a little too much, sue me. In any case we had about a day to scope out the place and find the best feasible way to take Billy down. Those were the orders, dead at any cost. Guess it was time to hit the town.
I knocked on Ray’s door a few times before yelling through the crack in door and the doorway.
“Ray, you ready? Let’s go get some bloody dinner, I’m starving.”
“Be there in a minute I’m in the shower, meet you donstairs.”
“Don’t be in there daydreaming about your girl all day, we’ve got some recon to do as well.”
“Keep your knickers on I’ll be right there just head on down first.”
The lobby was practically empty save for this one fellow who had just walked into the inn. He looked – how should I put this. Rather small. And not like, petite or anything. Uh, he was a midget, or as Ray calls them, dwarves. The last time I heard Ray talk about a dwarf was when he told me about his first time in Bruges. It’s how he met his girlfriend; she was working on set for this movie that had this one Midget who would always be hopped up on horse tranquilisers, crazy stuff. It – can’t be the same one could it? Nah that one died a long time back. Unless -
“Oi, what’re you daydreaming about man?”
I was quickly brought back to the current reality I was in.
“Oh, nothing Ray. You took your time, I’m starving.”
“Well sorry I wanted to wash away the bad memories of this fucking hell-hole.”
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s go.”
I was starving like a leopard kept in captivity in a very poorly maintained zoo. I could eat a horse – preferably not one that was put on tranqs. I was craving for a good ld burger and a pint over at the local pub. Looking back now I really wish I didn’t walk out the front door so quickly, or even at all because that’s when it all went to shite. The second I walked out that door, it hit me. The cold air suddenly became a harsh and painful chill down my spine, the world seemed to slow down to a near standstill around me while I fell to the ground at an accelerated rate. Have you ever been shot before? It’s not fun I can tell you that, it’s like, imagine you’re a sheet of glass right, and all of a sudden this bullet that’s like a sledgehammer just plows right through you. Worst feeling in the world I tell you. But in that moment all I could think of was ‘Shit. Someone doesn’t want us around here or anywhere near Billy, this job was about to get twice as hard. Our position’s been compromised and so have I. Worst part? I was still hungry.’
“Look at me Billy, I want to see the look in your eyes as I drop you off this fucking bell tower, you no good, spineless, cunt.”