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Wine tasting
Dane smiled ruefully as he curled down over the body of his present project. The plastic tarp protecting his clothes crinkled loud as he did. He really needed something better fitting. Perhaps a tailor could whip something up for him?

He stroked the hair from the face of the wretch beneath him. The man had been crying. As per the streaks down the side of his grubby face. The man was dark-haired and dark-skinned. Young enough to be without wrinkle, but for those caused by long hours working in the desert sun, but not so young as to be ignorant of the world. Nor to have gone without contributing to the darkness filling it, either.

The man looked away when Dane touched his hair. Likely riddled with lice, or maybe fleas, Dane wore latex gloves. They weren't for the blood, as he actually enjoyed watching the red streak through running water when he washed them, but lice disgusted him. The man's entire being disgusted him.

"I can't remember. Do you speak English?"
Dane asked, annoyed that the man would not look him in the eyes. He was stretched out on a regular table, something any family might have in their kitchen. Only rather than a comfortable little house, they were in a garage. The room smelled faintly of motor oil.

The creature whimpered, but he nodded. "Okay, good."
Dane responded. He hated dealing with translators.

"What do you want with me?" The bastard asked.

Dane was taken aback. "Oh! Have I not said?"
It was possible. He likely had gotten carried away. "Please forgive this oversight, sir."
His smile was charm itself, as though he were speaking to his Sunday School teacher. "Tell me where to find Donny Ramirez."
The man's cracked lips smushed together into a snarl.

"Never." He spat, barely missing Dane's face.

Dane straightened, examining the garage around them. His eyes fell into something on a shelf, which a curl of one power floated to him. "Are you thirsty?"
He asked, twisting the cap off a bottle of motor oil.

A tangle of power yanked the man up, where Dane put the bottle to his lips. Gloved hands wrenched his jaw open. "Since you don't want to talk about Donny. You can tell me how this tastes. Pretend its wine. A thick merlot."

And he poured. And laughed at the pitiful flailing.


The name was not familiar but Damien savoured the sound as if it was an answered prayer.

His eyes returned to the screen and his good mood abated. Dane Gregory was a curious creature. Efficient in his ‘interrogations’ which had reaped much greater rewards than he had expected. Damien wanted to observe the man’s technique. A curiosity he almost regretted.

The methods Dane employed were not the worst he had seen. In fact, he was meticulous and precise in a way no thug could imitate. His ability to instil fear in his subjects did not rely on horrific brutality or pain. Damien could almost feel the aura of insanity that fed Dane’s victims’ nightmare. One look into the delicate eyes revealed a man who thrived on terror. In the underworld, thugs like their unlucky captive expected torture. There was professionalism about it that one could rely on. A trade of pain for information. It was only a matter of how much for how long. A man knew he was safe as long as he had information his captors wanted. Dane Gregory defied every expectation. He was everything a Cartel thug feared. Unpredictable to the point of insanity. The unwritten laws of crime meant nothing.

Dane Gregory was unlike any man Damien had ever met. His initial assessment paled in comparison to Dane’s true nature. He was a child who saw men as ants to play with and explore his curiosity. Human life meant nothing to him, Damien was sure.

“Mr. Oakland,”
a voice called through the door. “Woodpecker has retrieved the package.”

Damien lifted himself from the seat slowly with a pensive frown. He had doubted his decision to use Dane Gregory no longer. The man could not be left to run rampant yet he was far too wild for any normal man to tame. Damien was no normal man.

“Bring him to me. We have a battle to plan.”

Some time later, Dane peeled off the gloves and stripped of his self-made tarp, careful to not smear any of their mess on the good clothes beneath. He unrolled the sleeves of a loose linen shirt as he emerged into sunlight, and frowned at the little wrinkles in the cloth. The air in that garage had been stifling, and he felt a line of sweat trail downward from his hairline. He looked forward to a cool shower. Or perhaps a dip in a swimming pool. Yes, that would do.

A pair of Damien's goons waved him to a car, and once within, he relished the blow of air conditioning on his face. The first of the henchmen was a man of about thirty-five years old, who chugged on a bottle of water. Dane fixed him with a glare. "I'll take one."
He demanded. The goon shrugged, screwed on the cap, and tossed the bottle to Dane, who let it hit the seat beside him. "Disgusting ape."

The remainder of the drive was tense. Dane stared, unflinchingly, at the ape, who flopped open his jacket to show off the pistol underneath. Like a pistol would save him.

When he was shown to Damien, this grevience needed to be addressed. "Your men have no manners,"
he snarled, patience thin.
Damien received Dane in the gardens of the mansion. Below lay the bowls of Mexico City which rumbled with hunger for revolution. Patches of thick smoke rose to indicate the skirmishes that had been fought. At night the sight was beautiful in its own way. Fire burned and painted the dark skies in perpetual twilight. Beauty was born amidst the stain of relentless corruption but it would not be without pain.

Damien waved away his attaché when Dane arrived livid. He was sure to hold the man's twisted gaze with equal gravity. "Their sons are dying and their daughters taken to be sold into slavery, forgive them the lack of composure. I am sure you understand."

Damien doubted Dane understood compassion in the slightest. It was simply a polite reprimand. He had a thought to take it further and once again remind Dane of his situation, but Damien was not without gratitude.

"You have done Mexico a great favour, Lord Gregory. I shall make sure you receive more palatable company in the future."
Damien wondered not for the first time what went through Dane's head. His presence was so alien he could not detect more than the most powerful emotions that crossed his face. "I set you a simple task yet you have delivered the city from the clutches of the Cartels. Donny Ramirez was nothing but a crippled criminal slinking off to die in the eyes of our intelligence. Yet you manage to uncover the largest support network bypassing the security of Mexico City and its centre right at the feet of our useless friend."

Damien smiled a genuine smile for the first time at Dane Gregory. "You have earned my gratitude and respect. You will be rewarded for this. Name it, and it shall be yours."

Within reason.
Dane's expression washed blank. Soon his gaze roamed elsewhere than the ugly, hairy face that belonged to the king of apes. The artwork that surrounded them was crude. Whether the features be of flowers or women, they were fat and distorted. The yon gardens made for a better view. They were quite distinct from the gardens of his youth. Far distant memory summoned images of hedges and fountains, but far sharper were those of wildflowers, vines, and wisteria - scenes from the land of his banishment, France.

Something about a reward pricked his ears. His gaze honed onto the king of apes once more. "I wasn't listening,"
he explained tersely. He was still thirsty after all. He shook his head. "A reward? There is nothing you have that would satisfy me."
Except perhaps Damien himself; a dark thought curled the edges of his mouth in slight smile. Damien would decline the suggestion. The standards of their deal dictated so.

An idea soon glinted across the blunt edges of his gaze. "There is something in your power to give to me, however. Well. Someone. A girl, back in Moscow. You could have her brought to me. That is the payment I demand."

A woman?

Damien smothered all traces of surprise from his features. “That can be arranged,”
he replied.

A request simple enough to address as long as the woman was willing. He was not about to replace one slaver for another and he would not subject any more than necessary to Dane’s particular attentions. The details could be confirmed later. For now he had more pressing concerns.

“It is unfortunate to hear that there is nothing I can do to...satisfy you,”
Damien tilted his head sideways with a hint of a smile. “I have something for you that I thought you might have enjoyed. Either way, I have another task for you. Incidentally it will help with your request. As you may have noticed, Mexico City is far from safe. I want you to help me kill Ramirez and end the siege. With Ramirez gone we can secure the city and disperse the Cartels strength where we can pick them off one by one.”

“Huitzilac has been fortified with nominal defences. I would not waste the lives of my soldiers or civilians. The task is simple. Infiltrate the town and cause havoc amongst Ramirez’s men. Reinforcements will follow. Do whatever you wish to the Cartel thugs but do not harm the civilians or those they have enslaved.”
Damien leaned forward in his seat. “You can betray me if you wish, but you will be hunted every second of your life from Mexico to Moscow. What I can give you is much more than you will ever find alone. So, Lord Gregory, do I have your assistance?”

Dane's request elicited something unexpected from Damien. That brief flicker of surprise: the barest narrowing of the brow, slight dilation of the pupil. Then the comment that followed was a punch to the stomach. Like the other man suggested Dane should want something more personal. More sensual, from Damien, than to request the presence of some girl from Moscow.

I AM NOT A HOMOSEXUAL! His screams pounded inside his own mind, drowning away anything Damien said that followed.

His body flared rage so hot the veins were sure to burst like a million volcanoes through his skin. The bones of his skeleton froze stiffer than steel. His hands, however, curled into fists. Then power roared louder than his own rage until he couldn't hear his own inner screams any longer. The power to reach out and silence them, all of them, that called him queer because he was different was in his grasp. Dane Raphiel Gregory, the gentle and sensitive one, banished from home for being different. Silence them all.

Amid the demonic cries for revenge, a sense of reason surfaced: Damien was the more powerful. He had culled Dane once before, a memory Dane distinctly recalled now. He could not overpower Damien like the others.

He forced himself to smile, but the gesture ached like a wound drawn across his face. The power he released from his grasp like a crushed butterfly from his fists.

"As you say, Damien."

The smile was etched into his face even as he left.
Dane did not seem pleased at the prospect of being let loose. Far from it in fact. Damien could find no anchor to gauge Dane Gregory. Nothing could safely ensure the Mockingbird stay bound to him. It would be simple enough to have him killed. He could do it right now.

A shout to his guards and he would be riddled with bullets no matter what he could do with the Light inside.

The fact that he could be destroyed at any moment saved the man from execution for now.
"Where are we going again?"
Dane asked of the man sitting beside him in the backseat of some all-terrain, four wheel drive vehicle as it rumbled along a barely-paved road.

"Huitzilac, a small town of Morelos. About five thousand people live there." Replied his companion. The man was one of Damien's employees that Dane assumed was there to serve as his interpreter. Why else was he there?

Dane nodded. The window was down, but the breeze flowing inside the vehicle did nothing to relieve the oppressive heat. They said it was to acclimate Dane to the weather, as air conditioning was rare in poorer parts of the country. Indeed, trash billowed about in the wake of their car.

Soon, walled up houses appeared closer together. They approached the town, but there was no official fence marking Huitzilac's territory. Somewhere in the middle of this town was Ramirez, the name given up after a quart of motor oil.

He laid his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, imagining how the rest of the day was to proceed. "Wake me up when we get there."

PPC: Jorge Ospania

[Image: javier-pereira-492319l.jpg]

Sweat pooled on Jorge’s palms. His fingers drummed against the arm rest on the door as he hummed a tune under his breath. The windows stayed down despite night having fallen. The front of his singlet was still wet.

The heat he could deal with. It was in his blood. Twenty kilograms of cocaine hidden in modified compartments smuggled out of Mexico City was not. Driving into a den of murderers didn’t help either. It was fucking insane. Suicide.

The car swayed and Jorge cursed, glancing at the man next to him. The bastard didn’t seem to stir. Thank fuck.

Raul didn’t say much, his eyes glued to the road. Another crazy fucker. Ex-Cartel of some sort who was out for revenge. The tattoos painting his huge arms had been earned with blood. Jorge was glad Raul was on their side now.

He breathed a nervous sigh and fumbled at his pocket for a joint and lighter. Smoke filled his lungs and he tilted his head backwards wanting to disappear into the cracks of the cushioned seat. He should have listened to his mother, but once again Jorge Ospania was about to do something fucking stupid. He should have listened to his mother, but she was dead. His father probably snorting cocaine somewhere in the countryside; maybe kidnapping a few women to use and throw away.

Maybe the fucker was dead. Jorge smiled at the thought of his faceless father trembling at Oakland’s feet. Jorge had been there when Oakland had wiped the smile off that smug Guitterez’s face. The fucking coward was only a big shot until a stronger, more ruthless motherfucker turned up.

Jorge took another drag, careful to blow the smoke out of the window. He didn’t want to think about the guy sleeping next to him. There were whispers about the soft, pale faced man that were at odds with his delicate features. He was supposed to be one dangerous bastard and all kinds of crazy.

“Put that shit out,”
Raul growled. “We’re here.”

Jorge took one last puff before flicking the remainder out of the window. Lights were fast approaching the speeding vehicle and Jorge got his first look at ‘here’.

What a fucking shit-hole, was his initial reaction. If he had doubted before, the sight of the run down backwater expelled it. The smell was familiar. Drugs, sex, filth and fear. Raul began to slow down. A pack of rough looking bastards with AK’s homed in on them and Jorge slipped his hand underneath his singlet to the pistol tucked into his shorts. Raul shouted some bullshit accompanied by a bunch of waving and hand gestures and the pack backed away.

“We will meet the contact now. Wake him up.”
Raul said.


Cringing, Jorge stretched a hand towards the sleeping man and shook his shoulder. “Wake up. It’s nearly show-time.”

Edited by Damien, Apr 8 2015, 09:22 AM.

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