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roses on his bed, covered in formaldehyde

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“Please, please let me go... I’ll do anything! I have a family.” The grunt sobbing at Corpse’s shoes pleaded for his life. Corpse never understood why they thought begging to him would work. He’s just the executioner, not the judge or jury. It’s also not his style, being this close to the target and potentially leaving DNA evidence, much preferring shootouts from a skyscraper two blocks and three escape routes away. But Toast’s orders were clear; they were here for the theatrics.

“Oh?” Sykkuno stopped at the words, seemingly moved. He was standing a little ways away, at the underground parking lot, too pristine to look like he really belonged unless someone was chaperoning his car, in his suit and the gloves.

“But you were a part of our family, and you betrayed us. So family probably doesn’t mean much. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll miss you!” Sykkuno was as tactful as can be to a dead man walking, or begging on his knees to be more accurate.

“No...no! I was just following orders!”

Corpse cringed at the unfortunate phrasing. If it didn’t work at the Nuremberg trials, it sure as hell wouldn’t work here. The grunt, who was a relatively small fry in all the weaving webs of Comfy Cartel, was following orders… just not the Cartel’s. A group of those in charge of weapons shipment took a pretty penny in exchange for information leaked, and it got intercepted by the city’s frankly useless police. Still, everyone hates delayed shipping and imaginable a cartel that prides itself on hospitality, with a client base who isn’t too patient about their weapons, it was annoying.

Toast’s orders to Sykkuno were: find out who paid for the bribe, accompany Corpse to get the grunt to confess, extract information, call The Janitor.

Toast’s first order to Corpse was: eliminate target.

“So whose orders were they? Cause they weren’t ours.” Sykkuno’s tone was light, yet softly threatening. He tapped his shoe against the concrete, standing around awkwardly.

“I promise! We don’t know! It was — it came in a letter asking where it was deployed and then after, the money was transferred to our accounts. I don’t know who it was.” He was hyperventilating, and Corpse was inclined to believe him. An easy payday with minimal risk and no foresight of the consequences.

“What do you mean you don’t know who gave you that much money? That’s terrible business.” For Sykkuno’s credit, he did sound flustered — cementing the thought in Corpse’s mind that he probably never had to be tempted by money in his life.

The grunt really didn’t seem to know anymore, considering he’d been stuttering since he saw Corpse and the gun in his hand. Sykkuno sighed, cutting his losses. Toast would not be happy.

“Let me get this straight, you sold us out and you don’t know who you sold us to to. Jeb, can I call you Jeb?” Corpse was pretty sure the guy’s name was not fucking Jebediah. “Give me a good reason why I should let you go?” Sykkuno sounded almost sarcastic.

“I told you who the others were! It wasn’t just me! Please my family needs me.” The rat ratted his ratatouille friends out, barely a minute after he saw Corpse which was sort of flattering.

Sykkuno tapped his chin, as if thinking. “You did do that, hmm. How about we make a deal? We’re not monsters, Jake, you know us.” Sykkuno pulled out a coin from his pocket. “Heads, we keep you alive, but your family goes, so they won’t need you anymore! Tails, you go and your family lives happily ever after.”

Corpse frowned, this wasn’t a part of Toast’s orders. The grunt’s eyes widened, spluttering in his shock. “No! They weren’t a part of this!”

“Or do you want me to choose for you?” Sykkuno asked nicely, twirling the coin in his gloved hand.

“Tails! Tails! God, don’t hurt them.” Jonathan Whitman spoke with the most conviction in his voice in possibly his whole life.

Sykkuno nodded, and tossed the coin. Everyone stared with bated breath, the silence of the quiet traffic in this part of town barely breaking it. It landed.

“Tails it is. You’re a hero.” Sykkuno smiled, and to Corpse’s surprise, the grunt sagged in relief.

He took the gun in his hand, and Sykkuno took a few steps back to not ruin his nice clothes. Corpse pulled the trigger, then pressed the grunt’s prints on it when he lay out limply, making quite the mess.

Toast’s second order: make it look like a suicide. To the cops, it would be ruled as nothing but — empty bank account after rounds of gambling debt and family of dependants. To everyone else in the Cartel and those in positions to betray, a clear sign.

The Comfy Cartel hopes you had a comfy stay.

x

Corpse waited around as Sykkuno finished his call with The Janitor, Yvonne, who was in charge of cleaning up any trace of them. He also spoke about fertiliser for some reason.

“How did you know?” Corpse asked once they got in the car, since it was bothering him. Most people get startled by his voice, but Sykkuno seemed to roll with it easily. “How did you know he’d pick tails?” It seemed like pointlessly risky theatrics for a dead man, even if he didn’t intend to follow the results.

“I’ll let you in on my secret.” Sykkuno flashed a grin at him, no hands covering, a devilish sight to see. He pulled out the coin and twirled it. “You don’t bet against the house, Corpse.”

Both sides of the coin were tails.

 

”But he didn’t need to know that,” Sykkuno hummed, “He died a hero. Dying for your family.” He tossed the coin once more before pocketing it. Corpse wondered if Sykkuno thought they were the good guys here.

“Can I ask you something?” Sykkuno mused, and Corpse sighed internally, awaiting the question about the mask, or his name, and all other prying details he’s used to dodge, although the nature of his work helps with the anonymity. Infamy though, he couldn’t seem to escape that. “What made you… uh, choose this line of work?”

The question was asked delicately, but Corpse was stumped. He wasn’t sure if anyone had ever asked him that before, considering the few people he interacted with usually ended up dead or were his nameless bosses hiring him. Or Ash, asking him to pick up the slack at the bar. A few answers flashed by quickly: trauma, poverty, leaving behind everything at 12, everything fucked up that happened, a lot of bad choices had to be made for him to be here right now.

“Hunger.” Corpse answered simply, having no other way to explain. There’s very few things people wouldn't do to not be starving anymore.

Sykkuno nodded, as if that made perfect sense. “Gotta pay the water bill somehow.”

The car headed out of the concrete complex, leaving behind a dead man bleeding down, and two more to go, with a forged suicide note alleging gambling debts. Clearing out the rats, simultaneously showing how the police are in their pockets when there will be no further investigation ruled an open and shut case, no foul play. The intention will be to send a clear message all, especially to those who were behind this espionage; do not fuck with the Cartel.

 

“I’m craving some Maccas, what about you, Corpse? Let’s stop by McDonald’s.”

x