Friday, June 3, 2016

The Broken Mirror Part Two: Through The Mirror Darkly

This week we delve deeper into the mysterious tale of The Talented Mr. Ripley, a darkling with no memory of who he is, or what he was. The Mirrorskin seems to be nothing more than a pale reflection of those around him, slipping into the background of any conversation or scene with total ease. Of course, there's more beneath his cracked surface than meets the eye, as we find out in the second installment. If you missed any of the previous installments, get yourself up-to-date with this list.

The Broken Mirror Part One: The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Broken Mirror Part Two: Through The Mirror Darkly
The Broken Mirror Part Three: The Dark Side of The Moon
The Broken Mirror Part Four: The Moon Court Madman
The Broken Mirror Part Five: Madness Comes Home to Roost

All caught up? Grand! Now then, to continue our tale...

A Cold Heart, and a Cold Job

Mr. Ripley has been lurking around the freehold, trying to find some way to establish himself. He's light-fingered, and though his presence barely registers, his honeyed words can often get people to change their minds, while still thinking it was their idea in the first place. He's surviving mostly as a grifter, changing his face and look whenever he needs in order to move unseen, and unnoticed.

He might have kept on like that, never really asking what was lurking beneath his surface. Of course, when money comes calling, empty pockets sit up and listen.

Dirty work always leaves the glass smudged, but the smoker's hands completely clean.
A Winter courtier in town, owner of several high-class establishments, had recently been hassled by a pack of bent cops. Business-as-usual in the Windy City. She tried to buy them off, but they wouldn't take her money. Humiliated, offended, and with her pride severely smudged, she wanted payback. She wanted to send a message, but she wanted that message sent by someone else.

Someone disposable.

As soon as he was alone with her, Ripley became little more than a magic mirror, reflecting calm chill as she told him what she wanted done. He nodded, and didn't turn so much as a hair when she offered him $10,000 per head to take out the lot of them. He asked for a small, up-front cost to cover his needs, and told her it would be done. They shook, and he walked into the night with murder on his mind.

Have You Done This Before?

Mr. Ripley was not a fighter. Thin and light, he was easy to mistake, or overlook. His hands knew their business, though, and as soon as he picked up a zip gun he examined the mechanism, checked the rounds, and slipped it up his sleeve. Next he acquired a vest, and a clipboard. Then he found out all there was to know about the targets he'd been assigned. Three of them were married, and lived in the suburbs. One was single, and had an apartment in the city. The four of them got together at least once a week for a night of garage poker.

The ducks were in a row, and all he had to do was burn them down.

Hello? Mr. Gas Man calling...
The apartment dweller was first. Ripley waited until he was home, and getting ready for his night out, before knocking on the door. The cop answered the door shirtless and in jeans, and when Ripley offered the clipboard he took it to examine the form. While he was reading, Ripley lifted the .22 street heater he'd bought off a gutter-dwelling gun runner, and double tapped him in the forehead. Two spurts of blood, two sharp cracks, and no witnesses.

Ripley stepped into the apartment, and tidied up. He dragged the body into the Hedge, leaving it there before he started dressing himself in the dead cop's clothes. Keys, wallet, badge, jacket, and especially his gun. Ripley stood in front of the mirror, and slipped into the other man's skin, checking every facet of himself until he fit just right. Then he drove across town to the poker game.

It was a typical guy's night. Scotch was being poured, beers were being drunk, and every round someone was putting in too many chips. Ripley kept his smile going, and kept the drinks flowing, too. He waited, and waited, but there was never a moment when the guys started getting really sloppy. So, when the host's wife was 20 minutes from home, Ripley got another beer. Then, distracting the table by setting it down with one hand, he started shooting with the other.

His card buddies were shocked, but they recovered fast. One went down with a round in the head, and another took two to the chest before he fell over. The third managed to put a slug through Ripley's shoulder before the Mirrorskin returned fire, emptying the rest of the clip into him. All the men dead, and Ripley just barely managing to hold onto his face, he stuffed a wadded shirt against the wound to maintain pressure, and drove with sirens blaring back into the city. Once he got there, he parked in an alley on the south side, and drenched the car in liquor. He opened the gas tank, stuffed the bloody rag way down into the fill hole, and fired it up.

Then he stumbled into the darkness, his face creaking and cracking. He didn't know it, but he was crying. If you'd asked him why, he probably wouldn't have been able to tell you.

This is, of course, not the end of the tale. Far from it, in fact. Next time, though, you'll find out that friends, and enemies alike come out of the woodwork when the blood starts flowing. So, stay tuned for The Broken Mirror: Dark Side of The Moon!

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