Silas (2)

Mr. Suit’s name turned out to be Thomas Smith. Silas assumed the name was fake, but didn’t mind much. In this business, he knew, privacy was essential. Part of the reason he was so successful at what he did was that he understood this simple fact and acted on it. It had been twenty years or more since anyone had seen Silas’s real face, and he intended on keeping it that way.
The face Thomas Smith saw that day was a pock-marked wreck; cheeks hollow, eyes a muddy brown, a crooked nose and a gash of a mouth, obviously scarred. Smith didn’t seem at all disturbed by this face, which annoyed Silas a little. He liked making people uncomfortable. It was another reason he was so successful – people didn’t want to spend more time with him than they absolutely needed to, so they wouldn’t try to socialize or bribe or judge him. Instead, they simply gave him the facts of the matter.
Smith looked at Silas, and then turned his head around, first to one side and then the other, taking in the empty tables and the dirty street. Then he did something that surprised Silas. He swiveled his body around and looked up at the dingy building above Mick’s Burgers & Beer, obviously checking to see if anyone was looking out of a window. Silas hid his surprise behind a stony face once more, and waited patiently.
“It’s like this, Magician,” Smith began. “I heard about you from a lady friend who used to be… well, shall we say, not in the best of situations. She says that you’re known among the South-dwellers.”
Silas nodded, and broke in rather wickedly “South-dwellers, eh? ‘Round here we call ourselves Southies. As you would know from your lady friend.”
“Yes, well,” Smith didn’t seem offended in the least. “The official term is still South-dwellers, Magician. Also, if my information is correct – which I am sure it is – you haven’t been a Southie, as you say, forever.”
Now Silas took notice. This man, this Mr. Smith, knew more than he was letting on. He knew more than any corporate stiff had a right to know. Mayhap he was simply rich enough to get tongues a-wagging, but then again maybe he he’d hired someone to find out about Silas, and the thought that he might have missed someone lurking around here made him very uncomfortable.
“I’m the Magician,” Silas said coolly, refusing to show he was unnerved. “I’ve been lots of places in my lifetime, Mr. Smith.”
“Indeed.”
“You gonna tell me what the job is or shall I leave you in peace to enjoy a burger and a pint, Mr. Smith?” Silas was desperate to get the job, sign the contract and get away from this suit.
“It’s very simple. The company I work for has placed a spy in a rival company. This spy is now an-” he hesitated, but then continued. “an inconvenience. We need him taken care of.”
“Right,” Silas smirked. “Taken care of. Understood, Mr. Smith. Tell me when and where I find him. And you’ll have to sign this.” He took a crumpled contract from his jeans pocket. “Fill it in, as much as you can, and sign right down there.”
Mr. Smith seemed, finally, slightly discomfited, but he did as he was told, filling in the short form while explaining to Silas where and when the spy could be found. He agreed to the fee Silas demanded without haggling. He returned the contract to Silas, who scanned it quickly as the man rose from the table.
“Just a minute, Mr. Smith,” he took hold of the suit’s arm, firmly grasping it so that he caught skin and sinew, not only the expensive shirt fabric. He tightened his grip as he continued. “You didn’t sign right at the end here, like I asked you to. I asked nicely, didn’t I, Mr. Smith? Can’t do a job without you signing the contract.”
Mr. Smith stared blankly at Silas, then back at the contract. Finally, he reached back to his pen, which he’d put in his shirt pocket. Slowly, ever so slowly, he signed the name “Thomas H. Smith” on the dotted line.
Silas looked at Mr. Smith’s face and saw the surprise and alarm in the suit’s eyes as he felt a jolt, like an electric surge, go up his arm. Silas smiled grimly, his jagged mouth tightening into a hard line.
“They call me Magician for lots of reasons, Thomas H. Smith. You remember that.”

Silas

Silas was crouching in the alleyway, hidden deep in the shadows. The streetlight that stood at the far end of the alley was flickering on and off, accompanied by a buzzing sound; it was driving Silas mad. He shifted his weight a little, careful not to disturb the loose stones in the corner between the sidewalk and the building he was leaning against. His boots made a slight scuffing sound as he moved, and he froze. The last thing he wanted was to be heard.
It seemed like he’d been there for hours, and upon reflection, Silas decided he probably had. The stars in the sky were definitely in a different position now than when he’d taken up his post. At the very least, he decided, he must have been in the alley for three hours. The thought didn’t comfort him. This was supposed to have been a quick job, easy money, child’s play. But something had gone wrong, or else he’d simply received faulty information.
Two days before, Silas had been sitting in, for lack of a better work, his office. It was the place where he took on jobs, at any rate. His so-called office consisted of a grimy table at Mick’s Burgers & Beer, a popular hangout for bikers and shady businessmen. Silas had his very own table, courtesy of Mick himself. Mick had been his most appreciative client by far, and Silas still got free burgers and greasy fries whenever he wanted them – which wasn’t very often. Silas liked to eat well, and usually ate at Mick’s only when his cash was running low. Lately, this had happened more than usual, and it made Silas very cranky.
Two days ago, Silas had dipped his last French-fry into an oozing paper cup of ketchup, grimacing. He chewed it slowly, and washed it down with his dark brown stout. He wiped his hands slowly and methodically on his already stained paper napkin and threw it into the trash-can behind him. He’d perfected this throw over many a long-afternoon, and never missed anymore.
He took another sip of his beer when he realized someone was standing off to his right, staring at him. He looked over and saw a tall man, his limbs long and gangly, wearing grey slacks and a white shirt. He held a briefcase in one long arm and had a Cashmere sweater tucked under the other. His hair was dark brown and slicked back from his forehead, a couple strands jumping loose and sticking up comically. Silas took the man in and discarded him. This was obviously some lost corporate drone, or perhaps he wasn’t so lost and was simply looking to avail himself of the services of Madame Etoile’s Entertainment Parlor, the whorehouse that had for time out of mind sat across from Mick’s.
The man in the slacks, however, didn’t even glance over at the pink neon sign for Madame’s. Instead, he walked over to Silas’s table and sat down across from him. Silas gave him a stony look.
“You lost?” he grunted.
“No,” said the man softly. “I’m here to hire you, Magician.”
“Well, well,” Silas smiled slowly, “I’m all ears then, Mr. Suit.”