There was a stranger sitting in the living room when he got home. He thought about going for the gun in his waistband, hesitated. The stranger already had his out, sitting in his lap, one hand resting casually on the butt. Glock service pistol, old style; looked like a custom barrel, nickle silver instead of the usual black. Weird looking writing all over it, too, like somebody's kid had tried to decorate it with red nail polish.
"Sit." The stranger gestured at the couch with two fingers, not moving the hand with the gun. A professional; not what he'd expected. Matsumi had indicated that there were strangers sniffing around the operation, but he'd been expecting Scoobies. A bunch of teenaged punks, more bravado than brains, who had stumbled across something they didn't understand, and couldn't realize they were in over their heads. The stranger looked like a punk, but more like a street bum than a super sleuth; he was pale and skinny, drowning in an old Army jacket at least two sizes too big for him. The old woodland style camouflage, two or three uniform changes ago - before they started going to chameleon cloth. Olive green cargo pants peeked out from underneath the jacket, the black of the Glock very stark against the faded canvas. Probably not a very tall man. The face could be young or old, not wrinkled by worn - like the owner had been awake too long, seen too much. The dark hair was lightened in streaks, sun bleaching or premature aging he couldn't tell in the light. But the hand on the gun didn't look particularly old, and it was steady as a rock.
"You're James St.Maarten," he said calmly as James settled into the couch, folded one leg across the other, and rested one hand in his lap. He let the other fall to his side, where it was hidden by his leg and close to the partition between the cushions. He kept an antique Smith & Wesson in the couch, a 5 shot J-frame revolver loaded with .38 frangible rounds. They wouldn't do much good if the kid was wearing armor; if he wasn't, they'd make a gaping hole out of his chest. Khorvath had given it some of his own "special" modifications, as well; concealment, silence, speed. The kid would never know what hit him. Oblivious, he kept talking. "By day, you're a mild mannered middle manager for a minor manufacturing concern. You have a good relationship with your workers, you get decent but not outstanding evaluations from your supervisors, and in ten more years your retirement will be vested - if you live to see retirement, at any rate." That sounded uncomfortably like a threat, and James shifted uneasily using the fidgeting to disguise his hand feeling for the gun. The damn thing had shifted since the last time he'd checked it, the downside to hiding something where there was movement and activity. A cop would have produced a warrant by now, and a gangbanger wouldn't be making veiled threats; he would have started off the conversation by taking out his knees with a tire iron as he walked in the door. Gangers lacked subtlety. "After all, your night life is certainly riskier than the average person's. Night time, that's your secret time, for your whole other life. You like to think of yourself as a criminal mastermind, and you call yourself 'Purple Haze' or some such to deal your drugs, but the sad fact of the matter is that you're a very tiny fish in a very large pond." The stranger looked off into the distance, as though staring straight through the wall, and then shrugged. James gritted his teeth as he tried to remember if he'd moved the revolver or not. Maybe he'd tucked it under his pillow after he had to ditch the derringer... "You think you're a bad man because you've had to kill one or two people and you keep a gun in your couch, but really you're just small potatoes."
James stiffened slightly. The stranger smiled slightly and slipped his free hand into an inside pocket, pulling out the revolver by the butt with two fingers. "Looking for this?" He dropped it back into the pocket and continued his monologue without a pause. "Matsumi, Khorvath, Belegenn - these are bigger fish, but they're still pretty tiny, still just local. But they work with big fish, world shakers, and they're the ones I'm interested in."
"Who are you?" James asked quietly. It was the first thing he'd said since he'd gotten home.
"They call me Twitch," the stranger said, as though it were of no account. You could tell a lot by someone from their nickname, though; that sounded like a drug handle, the sort of name junkies called each other by. Short, few syllables, descriptive. He wasn't twitching now, though; he was staring at James as though if he wrinkled his brow a bit, squinted his eyes, he could see inside the drug peddler's head; he just wasn't sure if he wanted to. "I'm here because they figured I could do this with the least amount of mess. Kinnan is scarier and Tyson is tougher, but I'm the one who knows the scene the best, so I'm the one who got the job. They could have asked Eris, of course, but she spends enough time swimming in scummy pools as it is. She's got morals, too. Might have wanted to call the cops after she saw your file, we couldn't have that. So, the way this is going to go, Jimmy boy, is I'm going to ask you some very specific questions concerning your activities and your friends, and you're going to give me some very specific answers. After that, you're going to go legitimate. Don't worry about cutting off contact with your circle, we're going to do that for you. You're going to focus on your day job, you're going to be a constructive citizen, and you're going to live until you see retirement age."
"And if I fail to give you those specific answers?" James asked, quietly filing away those names for later. He wasn't entirely sure what conclusions these clues were leading him to; the stranger talked like a spook, but made amateur errors like a Scooby. He thought James was small time, but he was making small time mistakes left and right.
"Then obviously, none of what I just said is going to happen." Twitch smiled gently, as though seeing something very pleasant through the wall past James' head. "We'll have to pick up another little fish who can lead us to the big fish. We have plenty of hooks, after all. Let's start with the name of the club you've been meeting at, and go from there."
James shrugged, and complied. There weren't very many questions; most of the answers, he knew by heart. The rest, he didn't bother to lie about. After perhaps half an hour of the terse exchange, Twitch stood up without warning. "I guess that about does it. Imagine I won't be seeing you again, Mr. St.Maarten." He slipped the Glock into a coat pocket; James stared at him, dumbfounded. The punk had just given up whatever advantage he had, in that baggy coat. A full size service pistol, even in a pocket as baggy as that of the fatigue jacket, would hang up if he tried to quick draw it. He slid a hand to his waistband, feeling the butt of his carry gun stabbing into his side; only a .380, but it carried some of the new Velicitor bullets, and Khorvath had done his magic on them, too. Literally, in this case. He tensed his muscles as Twitch walked towards the door, and raised his hand to touch the latch. One quick move, and then all he'd have to do is make some phone calls to get rid of the body.
"Mr. St.Maarten?" Twitch asked, his voice slightly amused.
"Yes?" James tried to keep the wide rictus of the smile from his face, but it was hard - so hard. His fingers brushed the pistol butt, and he leaned forward to draw and empty the magazine into the idiot's back.
"You never asked why they call me 'Twitch.'"
He pulled the pistol free, focusing on the needle thin front sight, finger tensing on the trigger. Time froze; Twitch was no longer standing with his back to him, hand on the latch. Instead, he had half turned, and the Glock had appeared in his hand as though by magic. It roared, just once, and the world went black.
Twitch whistled softly to himself as he stepped outside. Kinnan's Hummer growled as he brought it up to the curb; Eris was sitting shotgun, so Twitch got in the back. "Tyson still following Matsumi?" he asked cheerfully.
"Yeah," Kinnan said. "You get anything out of that St.Maarten prick?"
"Just confirmed what we already knew," Twitch shrugged. "Nothing really important, but I wasn't expecting much. He was just a little fish."
"So what was the point of this? Let's just call the cops on his ass and call it a night." Eris huffed, folding her arms across her ample bosom.
Twitch shrugged. "Nah, guy like that's got a short lifespan. He's going to draw down on the wrong person one day, find himself on the bad end of a gun. Learn he's not as slick, or as fast, as he thought he was." He looked out the window as the Hummer started to pull away from the curb, then brightened. "Oh! I gotcha a present." He pulled the .38 out of his pocket and passed it up to Eris, who took it gingerly and looked at it as thought it were a dead fish.
"Thanks," she said in a tone that indicated anything but. Kinnan scowled over his shoulder at the smaller man.
"What, you didn't get me anything?"
"Next thug we beat up, promise," Twitch said with a smile.