It's Not the Fall That Kills You 5

Mar 23rd, 2015
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  1. Drew stared at Liess' outstretched hand and the folder within it. After sending an inquisitive glance her way, he snatched it from her hand and started looking through the contents.
  3. “There’s a very not-dead ushi still out there,” he said.
  5. “I am aware,” Liess replied.
  7. He hadn’t the gall to push her any further, so he left it at that. This wasn’t the first time she’d given him another hit while he was still working on one, but those targets had never posed as much threat as a ushi-oni. This time, his second target was a lamia. Thumbing through the pictures, he couldn’t find anything immediately intimidating about her. Short, slim build, dressed up most of the time, a real businesswoman, this lamia wasn’t giving off half the vibe he usually felt from targets.
  9. “Which number am I this time?”
  11. “Just two. The last agent we sent after her didn’t die to her, but her bodyguard at the time. They took each other out. Rather convenient for you.”
  13. Drew skimmed over a few more pages. “Looks like she’s got a pretty rigid schedule. Shouldn’t be too much trouble.”
  15. Liess immediately narrowed her eyes.
  17. “I know, I know. I ain’t gonna take this one lightly, especially when I’ve got a ushi-oni that could jump me at any time.”
  19. Crossing her arms, Liess leaned in toward Drew. “I am giving you thees von zo you can recuperate. Regain your focuz. If it iz not carried out vith the utmost efficiency, you can expect a rather unpleasant debriefing.”
  21. “Got it.” Drew was stiff as a board, stopping just short of saluting.
  23. “Now go. I don’t want you coming back until you’ve made significant progress.”
  25. She ushered him out the door like some kind of stray animal who’d wandered into her home, yet the door closed behind him with such grace he hardly heard it click. Still a wight, as much as she might try to hide it.
  27. Drew spent most of the afternoon driving around the city, scoping out the locations the lamia was know to show up at. Before moving on to each location, he would sit in his car a while, reading and re-reading everything Liess had given him on the lamia.
  29. Her name was Rasnasa, both an activist and lawyer for monster rights. She was apparently good enough at her job to get noticed by the wrong people, but Drew couldn’t guess why his Company in particular finally decided to pull the trigger. It read stereotypical political hit through-and-through.
  31. Liess must’ve thought he could relieve stress with this hit, but in following that thinking she betrayed the gaps in her knowledge about Drew. He didn’t do this to release stress. In fact, even a hit like this was somewhat stressful. He was no friend of monsters, true, but he wasn’t his mother, either. That flavor of hate didn't fit his palette.
  33. He checked his watch. Twelve-thirty. Time to head over to Mitch’s place, finally get some concrete information on this ushi-oni. Given the number of agents she’d gone through and the way she found Drew so fast, well, it didn’t quite line up with how mindlessly she acted as she raped him, even being caught so wildly off-guard by Liess as to lose a couple limbs. There was some reason why the Company wanted her dead, some reason they were keeping from Drew, and Mitch was the only one who would tell him.
  35. A waving Mitch was waiting for Drew as he pulled up to Mitch’s house. Drew approached and greeted his informant with a firm handshake.
  37. “Mitch,” he said, smiling.
  39. “Heya Drew!” Mitch slapped him on the back and gestured toward the house. “How was the hospital?”
  41. “Harsh.”
  43. Mitch cringed, almost authentically. Even with all the practice in the world, though, he still betrayed the lack of depth to his reactions. His wife's skill, however…
  45. “Well, hopefully I’ve got something that can cheer you up. Take a seat.”
  47. Drew’s eyes scanned the area as he took a seat on the couch, concerned with keeping a look out for only one thing. Mitch sat in a recliner opposite him and picked up a folder, grinning as he held it up. Funny how so many people and monsters got reduced to manilla folders in this business, Drew thought.
  49. “Now, just to be sure, payment’s coming from the usual place, right?” asked Mitch.
  51. “Yeah, yeah,” said Drew, beckoning for the folder. “Same as always.”
  53. “Great.” Mitch handed him the folder.
  55. Drew couldn’t help but show a touch of eagerness as he opened it. It wasn’t as thick as he anticipated, but Mitch hadn’t failed him yet and Drew didn’t expect him to come up short here, either. The first few pages were about how she came to the Company’s attention, then how she’d overcome the past few agents sent after her.
  57. Apparently she’d taken a liking to a particular warehouse in the outskirts of the city, raiding it for food and other necessities before retreating back to her home in the wilderness. She’d been declared feral a while back, but only after repeated incursions were reported did she gain the company’s attention. Odd, thought Drew. He would’ve expected a rape gone too far on the wrong person to land her on the Company’s list. Yet all she was doing was stealing to survive.
  59. The first agent had died setting a trap for her at the warehouse. Evidence suggested the ushi-oni had lived through the claymore trap, overpowered the agent when he came up close to finish the job, and raped him to death. Apparently cold cement doesn’t give way like wooden boards, so the agent’s body had to instead. Drew’s upper lip curled at the images; he'd had almost shared the agent's fate.
  61. Even while he contemplated his own possible future, another part of Drew couldn’t help but feel smug at his initial decision to avoid explosives. The agent had been half-sloppy, half-unlucky. Sloppy that his trap wasn’t completely certain to kill the ushi-oni, unlucky that the ushi regenerated her body and coherency quick enough to stop him from cleaning up. Drew lightly touched his neck, remembering the cold grip of her claws.
  63. The second agent had been a touch more elaborate. He’d tracked her down to her cave in the wilderness, set up a trap of a hundred darts filled with enough paralytic poison to stop a wurm, and waited. The pictures of the scene shows an even further destroyed body than the first and a successfully triggered trap, but all the darts had missed. The report surmised the ushi-oni had somehow sensed something was off, triggered the trap from a safe spot, then caught the agent off-guard when he came to take her head. Drew sneered to himself. Twice now an unpredictable combination of poor luck and lack of caution had killed the agents. If the second agent had monitored the trap more closely, not assumed anything that set it off would mean the ushi-oni had been paralyzed, he would’ve seen the trouble he was in, left, and tried again later. With each attempt, the ushi-oni was growing wiser, more cautious.
  65. Another gruesome picture told the third agent’s tale. His broken body laid against a massive dent in the ruined wall of a metal shed. This man was much more direct, but wasn’t stupid about it, either. He lured the ushi-oni to a wide-open field rigged with mines then barricaded himself in a small metal shed filled to the brim with weapons. From a distance, he took shots at her with a fifty cal not entirely unlike what Drew had tried. When she got closer, he switched to an RPG, then when she was close enough to touch the shed, he pulled out a flamethrower. Seems he did a fair bit of damage, based on the scars on the earth around the shed, and the fact he gave her that chipped horn, but even all that wasn’t enough. Using her claws, she’d ripped open the side of the shed, grabbed the agent, and proceeded just like she had with the two before him.
  67. “How the fuck do mines, sniper fire, an RPG, and fire fail to stop a ushi-oni? I know they’re crazy like that, but this guy had some serious firepower. Surely one of those explosions would destroy the heart or the head?”
  69. Mitch shook his head. “From what I hear, he got close a couple times, but I think he was expecting the ushi-oni to simply charge in. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that’s not quite what she did.”
  71. Drew thumbed through the pictures again. There were a few anomalies, and the first to catch his eye was the pattern of mines that went off.
  73. “She triggered a lot of mines in a line, as expected, but it looks like a few of the exploded mines were off on their own.”
  75. “Yup, and I think the some of those weren’t even her, just collateral from a missed RPG shot. My guess is the first caught her by surprise, but after that she retreated until she found a blind spot. Take a look at the shed.”
  77. Scrying eyes went over the pictures of the shed again. Very basic construction, made to keep shrapnel from hitting the agent and a last-ditch barrier to keep the ushi-oni away. On two of the still-standing walls, Drew could see a slit through which the man shot. Wide enough for the RPG but no more.
  79. “Those slits don’t go all the way across,” said Drew.
  81. “The shed was too hastily constructed. There are blind spots on the corners where the agent couldn’t quite aim his sniper rifle. So the ushi-oni took her time, secured a path through the minefield by blowing them up one at a time from a distance, probably with large clumps of earth or rocks. By the time the agent realized the depth of his situation, she was already past the mines."
  83. “He probably only had time for one or two RPG rounds before she was in flamethrower range. If one of them missed then the second must not have hit her in the right place,” said Drew.
  85. “Ushi-oni know how to protect their vitals. Even if the second shot had hit, she would’ve had no problem sacrificing an arm or a leg to block the brunt of the blast.”
  87. “Flamethrower probably hurt like a bitch, but it wouldn’t be the weapon to finish her off. If her seal was off, she would’ve had the lust to ignore it long enough to get her claws on him.”
  89. The third agent probably had the best idea of the three. He had eyes on the ushi-oni the entire time, and in an open field she had no retreat options once that first mine went off. A few fifty-cal rounds would keep her from running, and even if he was a poor shot, he could keep shooting until he hit her where it counted. Drew’s expression darkened, thinking to the rabid eyes on the ushi when she arrived on his doorstep. This ushi-oni wasn't one to run away. And to pick out the weakness in the agent’s setup so quickly, she showed her vicarious lust was hardly mindless.
  91. The cacophony of Drew's emotion flooded out his thoughts. Now he was starting to understand why Liess had been so miffed at him letting this ushi find him.
  93. Flipping over the last page of the failure report, Drew found there was nothing more in the folder. His face contorted as he looked up to Mitch. “That’s it?”
  95. Mitch raised his hands in apology. “Sorry, bud. There’s nothing more about her. No name, parents, photos, history, nothin’. She’s probably been feral her entire life, just that no one noticed until she started causing real trouble.”
  97. Drew slapped a hand to his forehead. “This is basically just mission reports I could’ve gotten from my boss.”
  99. “Hey now, Drew, I wouldn’t have sold you that if there wasn’t at least something in there. I’ll bet some of those photos not even your boss could get you. And the reports there aren’t heavily censored, as I’m sure your company would’ve done for you.”
  101. Drew sighed. That had always irked him. The company he was supposed to be working for, risking his life for, ultimately didn’t seem to care too much about its agents. Liess never gave him mission reports about the failed agents before him unless he begged or had some good reason for it, and even then the report was only half there. Guess their secrets were more important than his life.
  103. Thankfully, they didn’t check his expenses close enough to see that all this money was going toward getting him information the Company wasn’t so thrilled about parting with.
  105. “All this tells me is what won’t work.” He looked up to Mitch. “You know anything about how to kill a ushi?”
  107. “Afraid not. Nothing consistent, at least. I would probably try the same thing you did, if I was in your shoes. Pick ‘em off from afar.”
  109. Drew winced, his trigger finger twitching as he thought back to that moment. If only he’d hit her, if only she hadn’t leaned over, if only those damn wolfgirls hadn’t shown up. Shaking his head, he returned to the present. Regret and what-if’s wouldn’t help him.
  111. “Do you know anyone who would know how to kill a ushi-oni?”
  113. Mitch scratched his chin in thought. “I know a lot of people who have the capacity to, but no one who has. I suppose if you want to know a ushi-oni’s weakness, there’s no better person to ask than--”
  115. “--a ushi-oni herself.”
  117. Ice shot up Drew’s spine and froze him into place. He knew that voice, it wasn’t one you forgot. It wormed its way into your brain and settled there like thick scum, invading your thoughts, eliciting a gut reaction of equal parts fear and disgust. Drew made like a statue, hoping if he didn’t move, she wouldn’t notice him.
  119. Her short stature and simple appearance only served to catch people off-guard. A lazy raccoon tail rested on the ground behind her, but Drew knew it had the tendency to twitch when she got excited. Like most tanuki, unless you were their husband, you didn’t want to see them excited. It meant in some way, you were getting screwed.
  121. “Ah, dear, I didn’t know you’d be joining us,” said Mitch, a far more genuine smile than he ever gave Drew spreading across his face. “Drew, you remember my lovely wife Fillain, right?” Drew glanced at him, but didn’t so much as nod. “Did you need something?”
  123. Fillian. The true leader of this information operation, with a thousand webs of informants awaiting the slightest whisper. Anyone who knew anything somehow interacted with her, whether they knew it or not. One could argue she was the true owner of the city, though not without fair competition from the Company.
  125. And this wasn't the first time Drew had met her.
  127. “I couldn’t help but overhear some of your conversation and I knew where it was leading.” Drew’s ears twitched at the sound of bare feet on hardwood growing slowly louder. At the end of the couch she paused, twirled her body around a finger and slipped onto the couch with barely a sound. Right next to Drew. “But you don’t know any ushi-onis, do you dear?” she said, her voice a whisper that could be heard a mile away.
  129. “Heh, I’m afraid you’ve got me there.”
  131. Of course she's the only one with the information Drew needed. Of course.
  133. “It’s alright. But if Drew here needs some help, I’d be glad to offer my services.” She turned to Drew. “He’s such a loyal customer.”
  135. The corners of Drew’s mouth dragged themselves upward into a chiseled smile while he forced down saliva that had become a particularly foul bile.
  137. “Well, if you want to, go right ahead. I’m sure he has no objections.”
  139. Drew’s and Fillian’s eyes met.
  141. “No, of course not,” said Drew.
  143. “Mitch, hun, can you do me a favor and fetch my chapstick? My lips feel awful dry.”
  145. “Sure thing.”
  147. And Drew was alone. With her. Scooting closer, she let her arm brush up against Drew’s and her hand settle on his leg. Her bushy tail laid softly behind his neck. His body burned and his skin tingled at her touch, recoiling as if she were made of acid. Thick perfume invaded his nostrils and Drew recoiled purely on instinct. He fought to both look at her and keep his head straight, unsure which would elicit the worse reaction. Probably whichever he didn’t chose.
  149. “Drew, I hardly see you around any more. You used to meet with my husband here all the time.” Her voice polluted the air with its filth, churning his stomach as he breathed it in.
  151. “I’m more comfortable in the city,” he said.
  153. “Is that so?” She tapped her fingers on his leg. “What a pity. I do enjoy your company.”
  155. “Is it my company or that feeling of superiority you enjoy?”
  157. “Come now, Drew, I don’t need you to know how much better I am. Though…” Her hand wandered up his thigh. “I can’t say I mind the reminder.”
  159. Drew swallowed hard. “What do you want?”
  161. “I just wanted to say hi. Catch up, you know.”
  163. “Bullshit." He cringed at his own inability to hold back. There was a time and place for defiance. "You never do anything without a reason.”
  165. “You can’t honestly think that every little thing I do is precisely calculated. I’m just one little tanuki.” Her face moved close enough for Drew to feel her breath on his cheek. “Can’t a girl just want to have a chat?”
  167. “I’d hardly call you a girl. That implies some degree of innocence.”
  169. “I might start thinking you’re trying to insult me.”
  171. Drew spat out a hollow laugh. “There’s nothing I can’t tell you that you don’t already know and love about yourself.”
  173. “Oooh, Drew.” Her tail brushed against the back of his neck, twitching. “You know me so well. I might fall in love.”
  175. “You’re married. Not that that means anything to you.”
  177. “I can comfortably say you know nothing about what I have with Mitchell. Besides, he loves this sort of thing. Tells me I don’t do it enough.”
  179. “No need to tell me he likes being a cuck, I already knew he was a scumbag.”
  181. A laugh far darker and deeper than a woman of her size rattled out her mouth. “There’s still some hope of redemption in him; I haven’t been with him long enough yet. He does truly consider himself your friend, and that’s why I thought we’d have this little chat.”
  183. “Possessive? Or do you think a hitman might accidentally give him a twinge of conscience?”
  185. “He’s my husband. I’m just curious about his friends.”
  187. “I hardly consider myself his friend.”
  189. “I thought you realized how little what you think matters. He talks about you like you’re his friend.”
  191. Her nimble hand found his cock and began tracing it through his pants. Drew steeled his gaze forward, but he could feel the heat of her hungry eyes on him.
  193. “Aren’t you going to say something? Push me away? No. That isn’t how this works and you know it.”
  195. Slowly, making a show of it, she stretched a leg across his body and settled her ass on his lap.
  197. “When I first heard about what happened to you, my first reaction was of pity. For the ushi-oni. Rampaging through everything she’s ever done, using brute force and her robust body to get what she wants. She gets it alright, but the victory is so hollow.
  199. “Now this? That ushi-oni’s far too simple to know what this is like, to appreciate it’s unique flavor.” She clasped her thighs tight around his waist. “Complete submission, given freely. I don’t need claws, strength, or speed. Why bother with all that when you’re already asking for it?”
  201. Her nose dove, attacking his neck, savoring the pungent odor of sweat and fear. The tension within his muscles heated his blood to boiling. Instinct screamed at him to throw this vile parasite off of him. Every touch felt like slime, even the pillowy breasts pressing into his chest.
  203. “But I don’t want to do that to my husband. Not today, at least.” She leaned back, smiling at him. “I think I’ll let him keep you a little longer.”
  205. The rumble of steps down stairs grabbed Drew’s attention. Turning away from Fillian, he saw Mitch walk back into the room, chapstick in hand.
  207. “Here you go, hun.”
  209. Fillian had all but teleported off of him, standing like the two of them had done nothing more than chat while Mitch was away. Smiling, she accepted the chapstick.
  211. “Thanks.” She shot Drew a sideways glance and she smothered her lips with the stuff, making a point to pop her lips before finishing up. “Now for that ushi-oni: go to Taylor’s Construction, on the east side of town, and ask for Raphia. They’ll be able to tell you where to find her. She’s a nice enough girl, but if she gives you trouble, just mention my name and she’ll be happy to help.” With a dainty wave, she skipped away, her tail bouncing up and down with her rhythm.
  213. Drew’s body turned to mush. It took him all the concentration he had to grab the folder and stand up without flopping over.
  215. “Leaving already?” asked Mitch.
  217. “Yes. Still got plenty to do today.”
  219. “Alright. See you later!”
  221. His goodbye shout chased Drew out the front door. Drew practically ran to his car, heart already beating as if he was, slammed the door shut, hit the ignition, and peeled out as if the driveway had caught fire. The entire neighborhood could hear the tires squeal as he sped off.
  223. He was never going to meet Mitch at his house again.
  225. Drew drove fifteen over the speed limit all the way to his next destination: the target’s office building. As her office was in the city, he had to leave his car parked in a nearby parking garage. Grabbing a camera and a short-range telescope, he headed out to inspect the buildings nearby. Ideally, he’d set up across the street to get a good view of her slithering in and out of her office. Staking out from a roof left him a little exposed, but setting up inside would require him to find an unused room and probably break into it. From a cursory look at the buildings, none looked unused. Expected. He sighed to himself and started searching.
  227. For the next couple hours, he entered each building, seeing what floors and rooms he could easily access and making note of how many people saw him as he worked. The roofs on all the buildings were either too high or too troublesome to access for a simple stakeout. Fortunately, Drew found an empty floor and it only took one broken lock to get on to. Seems the owners hadn’t found someone to lease the floor out to yet. It might not be empty for long, but Drew was only planning on using it for a couple of days. Fewer, with luck.
  229. He set up his camera and telescope, pointing both at his target’s office building. Her schedule didn’t have her showing up there until tomorrow morning. That’s when he’d get a good look at her, confirm she didn’t yet have a new bodyguard, and see exactly what route she took to get inside. Given the foot traffic, however, he’d probably have to find somewhere else to do the job if he wanted any sort of seclusion. He shivered. Liess would murder him if he so much as thought about killing the lamia in a crowded street like this, especially after her warning.
  231. Once he had triple-checked his setup, he wiped his hands of the day and headed on back to his car. It’d been a long day; he was ready for a bit of rest, even if it meant putting up with Blitz. This day, however, was not done with him yet.
  233. Someone had broken into his car.
  235. “The fuck!?” Drew ran over the moment he made out broken glass. The driver’s side window had been shattered, leaving a layer of glass on the ground that crunched underneath Drew’s panicked feet. Throwing the door open, his eyes flew across the interior. What did they take? Why his car? Liess was going to have a field day with him! He scrambled to the back and tossed open the trunk to check it as well. The longer he searched, however, the less agitated he became. Nothing was gone. The folder on the ushi-oni, the papers on the lamia, his weapons, the explosives--all were still in their place, as if they had never been touched.
  237. Furrowing his brow, Drew slowly turned around. Was someone watching him? Did that ushi-oni somehow track him down again? Minutes passed. Careful eyes surveyed the area for even a hint of movement. Nothing. It’s possible it had been an accident. Drew parked on a sparsely-filled level of the garage, maybe some kids had accidentally broken the window and scrammed, or even done it on purpose as a prank. Maybe someone had come with intentions to break in, but were spooked the moment the alarm went off.
  239. No, a robber would’ve committed to at least something, even if it was what he could grab out of the glove box. And the chances of some idiot accidentally hitting a window, this high up in a parking garage? Possible, yes, but the odds were too low. Drew wasn’t allowed to believe in coincidences like this. Unless he was the unluckiest man alive, this had to be on purpose. Intimidation? Or maybe they broke in just as he was returning, leaving them no time to properly search for the hidden compartments he kept the weapons in.
  241. No matter what happened, he wasn’t a detective, and he couldn’t sit here on his ass. He needed to get the window replaced or move his equipment to a new car and be ready to be out here tomorrow morning. He took a glance at the sun. Twilight would be coming soon, and that was the monsters’ domain. Pulling out his phone, he took several quick pictures of the scene, in case he wanted to come back and look at it later. Liess would probably be interested, too.
  243. He hopped in the car and buckled up, frowning at the broken window. At least it was warm out today.
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