Day 236 – Half Hour Hitman – Part 15

Word count: 776

It was Valentines Day. Love hearts were everywhere; dangling from people’s earlobes, necklines, shop window displays: there was no escape. A wintry sleet swept across the high street like an artillery barrage. Fortrose was standing in the centre of it, herds of people drifting on by without a second glance back at the stoney-looking detective, whose collar was turned up, battling against the wind.

The informant was twenty minutes late. Fortrose was growing suspicious. London may be full of places to get delayed by, but his informant, simply known as X-ray, was never late. He checked his phone at half minute intervals. Nothing. No sign. Worry started to sprout like a weed within him.

X-ray, Fortrose had no idea why he had chosen that name, lived in a small block of run-down flats just around the corner from the local tube station. It was the East-End of London. They were far from Buckingham Palace now. The people had a warped look about them. Some of them looked tired, exhausted; many of them looked hard and edgy with piercings protruding in exceptionally sore places, tattoos and shaved eyebrows; there were children walking babies in prams and girls in short, tight skirts and high heels. But despite the surface fear of everyone and everything around them, they exuded a special charm, like the gentle warmth from a candle.

Fortrose turned the corner into the carpark to the flats. There were some boys on bikes blasting some beatboxing music out into the street. They immediately grew wary and war-like when they saw Fortrose stop near them. In actual fact, he cared nothing for them. They could have stolen their chewing gum and were too young to smoke the cigarettes in their mouths for all he cared. There was something much bigger at stake. Fortrose was looking for the correct flat. He knew it was in forty-three.

Opening the door, a stench of piss hit his nose like train. He put a hand over his nose and mouth and sprinted up the stairwell of decaying souls. There was litter everywhere, bin bags just dumped. A pile of clothes in the corner of the stairs might have contained a human, there was no way of telling as such a far proximity. Three flights of stairs, he remembered, but every single one of them looked the same if it were not for the giant black numbers printed on the walls. Fortrose stopped at number three and opened the glossy red doorway. A faint smell of cooking met his senses and he was pleasantly surprised: it was the first thing in this building that did not make him want to puke.

He turned left – he remembered there was a left involved. The corridor navigated the design of the building, turning a sharp right once to follow the U-shape of the building. Rows and rows of flat doors: Fortrose wondered how many of them were empty, were drug dens, brothels or other crime hubs. Right now he didn’t care. Right now he might be shot dead for just being here. His face was not unknown to the criminal world, but even his persona would give him away in this environment. There was nothing about him that said he belonged here, that he approved of this place.

Four doors along, he spied an open door. Approaching it with caution, he sidled against the wall and peered in through the gap. He couldn’t see much, just the dark red long pile carpet, filthy of course, and another nicotine-grimed wall. No sound came from within the flat itself. Fortrose gently pushed the door open. It creaked.

He stepped through the threshold and witnessed the catastrophe of life within this horrific tower block. The kitchen was partially dismantled, dirt and bacteria heaving from every crevice. There was a sickening smell originating from the bathroom. The walls were disgusting, the bedroom simply an explosion of mess and belongings. It looked as if a compulsive hoarder had lived here previously. But the worst thing of all lay in the living room.

His heart fell when he saw the body. Dressed in the bob hat that he always wore, was X-ray, the still and lifeless cadaver. He was lying face down, a bullet hole bleeding, grey matter oozing out. Fortrose knelt down and looked into his dead glassy eyes. He looked at peace, and yet in pain. There was something, however, sticking out of his curled up hand. A piece of paper. Fortrose pulled it free and unravelled it. In curiously scrawling writing was the message:

Twenty-seven minutes, thirteen seconds.

~ by S.G. Mark on May 30, 2012.

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