a sniffle, a cough. People walked by and pretended not to see him, cars slowed
down and sometimes stopped. An offer would be made. He would either get up and
saunter into the car carelessly, or he’d ignore the solicitation completely,
staring at the sidewalk with eyelids hooded and his arms slack at his sides.
Today, he was just sitting on the sidewalk, his back against an abandoned building and one leg extended haphazardly, his hands resting on his stomach and his head turned to the left, just because he didn’t feel like lifting and holding it upright. Empty violet eyes wandered across the road, and somebody kicked his leg as they walked by, not even noticing.
His stomach growled fiercely, and his eyes lit up for a moment with animalistic consciousness. He supposed it was time to eat now.
The redhead leaned forward and curled his legs up, pushing himself up off the ground slowly, arms swinging slightly as his head rolled on his shoulder and finally lifted, pinpoint pupils darting around immediately, calculating.
Woman in the doorway, no money. Child coming down this side of the street, new bait for johns. Man walking on the other side of the street…
Expensive black coat, brisk walk, head held high, shining blonde hair, clean shaven face. The look of the shrewd. This man had money and power and he knew it.
Inoue licked his lower lip and walked down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street as the man, in the same direction as him. He didn’t look up, didn’t so much as glance the blonde’s way—he just walked, eyes narrowed and fierce and senses peaked. The man rounded a corner, and Inoue crossed the street.
The man disappeared into an alley, and Inoue disappeared into the building beside it.
The man rounded another corner, cut through a yard, and two buildings. Inoue followed, one building to the left at all times, breathing silent and movements swift. He licked his lips again as he stopped and stood behind a boarded-up window in the last building, staring through the paper-thin cracks, watching the man head up the stairs of a small apartment building.
Things didn’t add up here; shitty home but beautiful man? …He was even more than Inoue had hoped. Anybody with money that lived in a place like that had something to hide.
He remained in the skeletal building, watching the one the man had entered. He’d wait an hour or so, and if the man didn’t leave in that time, he’d just strike in a few more hours, taking him by surprise.
Maybe just knock him out and raid the fridge, take what was in his wallet and leave. No harm, no foul; as long as he didn’t kill, anything was fair game.
He’d do anything but kill again. He still had nightmares about that night three months ago.
Huddling next to the cold body for hours, crying, screaming, begging for him to wake up. Knowing that nobody would call the police, nobody would come and make sure things were ok. Nobody cared.
He snapped out of the memory with a short gasp, baring his teeth and shuddering as the blonde man left his building, heading north in just as much of a hurry as he’d entered the apartment block. Inoue forced himself back into his predator mode, waiting ten minutes after the man had left before leaving the building and crossing the street calmly, as though he too lived in one of the ratty apartments.
Up the steps and to the main door. The lock was broken of course, and he just walked in, closing it behind him like a good tenant, glancing down at the hallway. The fresh wet footprints from walking through puddles of rain water and piss led up the stairs to the second level, and he followed them, then down the hall to the second of three apartment doors.
He reached into his back pocket and removed a credit card he’d lifted from his last john, and slid it between the door and its frame, jiggling the handle a little. Crappy maintenance and decades-old lock mechanisms made for an easy pick as the door swung open.
Eyes narrowed, he walked into the apartment and closed the door behind him, heading straight to the refrigerator. He opened it quickly and scanned over the food. Some sort of pasta, eggs, one piece of mouldy… something and a bowl of red sauce.
He grabbed the pasta and began to rifle through the drawers of the kitchen, eventually finding the cutlery. Grabbing a spoon, he shovelled the noodles into his mouth and made a slight face but kept eating anyhow. He couldn’t go to food markets any more; lately the police hung around there a lot, and fuck if he was going to be picked up and put in child services.
Once that was finished, he grabbed a glass from the dish rack and filled it with tap water, chugging quickly to wash down the disgusting food. He paused suddenly as he heard a noise, and the hairs on the back of his neck rose immediately.
Inoue spun, dropping the glass, but it was too late. There was a grip on his arm, and the blonde man was shaking him violently, asking who the hell he was, holding a knife to his throat. He was just hungry... he was just looking for some food and had followed the rich-looking man back to his place. He still had the taste of the crappy food in his mouth and was wishing he hadn't eaten it.
He screamed at the man to let him the fuck go or he'd kill him, and the man laughed... laughed slowly and cruelly, before tossing Inoue across the room so that he slammed against the fridge, breaking his arm like it was nothing.
But, he didn't cry when it was broken; he got up, grabbed a cleaver from the counter and threw it at the man's head, his animalistic instinct kicking in once more, teeth bared and pupils pinpoints.
The blonde dodged it easily, but appeared suddenly interested. He grinned wickedly, sheathed his own knife and grabbed Inoue by the good arm, carrying him like he weighed nothing and throwing him onto a bed viciously, making him cry out with pain as he landed on the broken limb.
As he cried out, a ball gag was stuffed between his lips and strapped to the back of his head, and his good arm was handcuffed to the bedpost.
“You,” the man said in a low, calculated voice, “are a lucky little boy.”
Regaining his reality, and the pain, Inoue's eyes went wide and he shrieked with rage at the gag in his mouth, yanking viciously on the handcuff round his good wrist and trying his best not to move his broken arm too much. His eyes went wide as he stared at the man, who was taking a seat on the end of the bed calmly, looking the teen over like a piece of meat.
“Tracking skills I’ve never seen in a child before. Can hide at a moments notice. Patience before entering foreign territory. Cunning to follow footprints rather than waste time with guesswork. Practice at entering a room without invitation. Instinct to kill when threatened, no hesitation. Strength to keep silent when injured.” The man listed the attributes calmly, his voice deep and rich, calm as could be. Fine, golden eyebrows arched slightly, and Inoue found himself staring at the man, lost from reality once more.
He was gorgeous—smooth, high forehead, straight thin nose, full lips, strong cheekbones and a defined jaw all set off by a pair of paralyzing grey-blue eyes, hard as steel. His pale skin was emphasized by the snowy blonde hair spilling over his shoulders and framing his face, straight and sleek.
Had he not been in excruciating pain, the redhead might have been roused.
“If I didn’t know better,” the man continued icily, “I’d swear somebody trained you. But I do know better. I can see clearly that you’re a whore and a thief. Possibly a murderer.”
Not a murderer! Inoue screamed at the top of his lungs, pulling harder at the handcuffs and smacking his bad arm against his stomach but not caring. Had he not been bound, he would have leapt at the man and beat his head in till he admitted the teen wasn’t a murderer.
“Hm. Soft spot, huh? Interesting.” The blonde got off the bed and left the bedroom, coming back several minutes later with his arms full. He placed everything on the trunk at the foot of the bed. “One hundred dollars in cash to pay for going to the hospital and getting your arm in a cast so you’ll be able to use it later in life. If it heals that way, you’ll never write again, if you could in the first place. Clothes to wear because nobody in the hospital will take care of a shitty street kid. And finally,” the man reached into his jacket and removed something wrapped in black silk, “A surprise for you.”
He placed the cloth-bound mystery on the trunk with the rest of the items and looked over at Inoue expectantly. “I’m going to leave all of this here, and I’m going to leave. I’ll return by nightfall, but you won’t escape by then. Since you just ate, I give you three, maybe four days before you die there, if you can’t get out of your bindings before then. I won’t help you no matter how much you scream, cry or beg. If you escape, you will live and I will tend to your wounds. If you die… you get what you deserve.”
The blonde nodded casually and turned back around, leaving the bedroom once more. Inoue heard the front door open and close, and then lock.
Dread washed over him as he lay on the bed, simply hearing his hissed breaths and rampant thoughts. Not for one second did he doubt the man had meant what he said. After all, this was a man who had snuck up on him after knowing he was being followed, broken his arm as easily as snapping a dandelion stem, and gagged and cuffed him faster than he could react.
He tried to calm down.
Behaving like a caged animal was not going to keep him alive.
Inoue woke with a start, beads of sweat rolling down his face and neck, and his arm throbbing mercilessly. He was panting, and the pain was unimaginable.
The blonde man was sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. Inoue couldn’t see much more than the glint of pale hair in the moonlight and the bright tip of a cigarette, but he knew the man was there.
He realized the gag was gone, and moved his jaw back and forth slowly; it had begun to ache before he passed out, and the muscles of his neck and face were horribly sore now. “I fucking… hate you,” the redhead hissed out between heavy breaths, his eyelids hooded from exhaustion rather than lack of emotion. He reeked of piss and sweat and filth.
“Good,” the silken voice replied calmly as a stream of smoke slithered around him, illuminated by the moon. “You’re on day two. If by some chance you live to see the night of day four and you’re still cuffed, I’ll put you out of your misery.”
“Fuck,” Inoue rasped, looking up at his wrist. It was bloody and raw, and there was no way he’d be able to pull his hand out of it short of breaking more bones. He’d tried everything imaginable.
Maybe the bastard just wanted to watch Inoue struggle before he died? Maybe it was just a sick fucking joke, and he got off watching the teen thrash about into death.
A displeased grunt escaped the man in the chair, and he stood, leaving the bedroom and heading into the living room. Inoue heard the sounds of metal clinking together, then rattling rhythmically.
The redhead fell still, closing his eyes. Maybe he should just give up already. Maybe he should be asked to be put out of his misery now. There was no way out short of breaking the fucking bedpo—
His eyes went wide and he lifted his head with a quiet gasp, turning his gaze onto the bedpost slowly. Mother fucker, he thought venomously as he looked at the way the post tapered and came to a thin point where the cuff was latched, then bulbed out again in a decorative sphere. The redhead took a slow breath.
If he was going to do this, then it was going to take the last of the willpower, and the last of his strength. He took another breath, deeper, and held it, turning on the bed and fighting the fiery pain searing up his body from his broken arm as it smacked against his side. Getting onto his feet on the mattress shakily, he took hold of the chain between the cuff round his wrist and the one on the bed, gripping tightly.
Tears of pain streaked down his cheeks as he exhaled the breath in a shudder, and took another deep gulp of air, bracing one foot against the headboard and squeezing his eyes shut. He clenched his fist around the handcuffs, and lunged backwards with all his strength, pushing with his leg and pulling with his wrist.
He felt fresh blood dripping down the side of the cuff, and the breath he was holding was escaping him—a hiss at first, but it soon became vocalized, and as he continued to pull, muscles shuddering and body straining, it erupted into a scream. Inoue screwed his eyes as tight as he could and pulled for all he was worth, not even caring any more if it pulled his arm right from the socket.
He took another breath and shrieked again, hearing the gentle pat of his blood hitting the soaked sheets, and the strain of the headboard somehow over his own bestial noises. The world was centered on shattering that post; his every ounce of strength focused into his struggle. He lifted the other leg now, so that he was held in the air braced by his feet and the hold he had on the cuff, both heels pressed to the headboard as he pulled.
The teen heard cracking, splintering noises—he was going to do it!
It gave him even more strength, more hope, more adrenaline, and he pulled for everything that mattered to him.
Inoue flew back onto the mattress, bouncing once and then off the bed, crashing onto the floor in a bloody, limp heap. He didn’t move.
Yes, floating. He was floating, swaying back and forth, warm and soft, safe…
“I said quit moving or I’ll cut your fingers off,” a voice growled viciously.
Violet eyes opened slowly, and didn’t see much. “Howna reh?” he mumbled, feeling saliva trickling from the corner of his mouth.
“Fuck. Stay still!” the voice hissed.
“Mm… anh… arn.”
The voice sighed. “Alright, smaller doses next time, I get the idea. Close your hole or I’ll gag you again.”
Inoue. That was his name, Inoue.
Inoooooooooue. Imooooooooue. Moo. Moooo….
He turned his head slightly and saw a pale yellowy blur shifting back and forth near his face. He narrowed his eyes, then widened them, then narrowed them again, but it made no difference; the person beside him was a blur no matter what.
He couldn’t move his right arm, and his left was… well, something was happening to it. He remembered… cuffs. And pain.
The yellow blur moved away and then came back, right before his face. Inoue tried to look at it, but all he could see was hard bluish steel colour now.
A little prick in his arm, and a tingly feeling. He smiled a little, at the weird face in front of him that kept changing shape.
The last thing he remembered was something cool on his forehead.
Inoue woke with a start. Seemed all he ever did was wake up disoriented!
He sat upright, and winced. His arm hurt, but… He looked down. It was in a thick, solid cast. And his left hand was bandaged up to the elbow as well. There was something on his forehead too.
And the blonde man was sitting in that same damn chair, staring at him, a cigarette between his fingers and smoke wafting from his lips softly, billowing in the air.
They remained silent, staring at one another as Inoue ran through what he did remember over the last… however the fuck long it had been since he’d made the mistake of following this bastard to his house. He was no longer handcuffed.
Immediately he looked over his shoulder at the bedpost, and his eyes widened. The large wooden sphere he’d been trying to break off was still there, though it was at a different angle than it was supposed to be, and the wood was splintered some on the back. How in the hell…?
“You broke the bones in your hand and slid out,” the blonde man replied in his usual calm, velvety rich voice. It didn’t sound like an accusation, but it didn’t sound like praise either.
Still, the redhead was alive.
He looked back over at the man with narrowed eyes. Inoue wanted to roar and lunge at the man, but what good would that do? Everything from shoulders to fingertips were entirely useless. He was completely at this man’s mercy. So, the redhead remained silent, pressing his lips together in a hard line and setting his expression in a scowl.
The man nodded and put the cigarette to his lips, inhaling slowly then exhaling the smoke as he murmured, “You’re apprentice material, definitely. There’s a lot of work to be done, and chances are I’ll kill you before you make it through a week, but you survived the first test for now. And let me make something clear to you, if you don’t already have it in your thick skull; there is no ‘leaving’ this. You’ll either succeed as my student or die failing.”
Standing, the blonde walked over to the bed and held the cigarette out before Inoue. The teen gladly took it between his lips and inhaled the hot, rich smoke slowly, closing his eyes and just trying to keep from going mad. Nothing made sense any more.
This was all one big hallucination. He’d wake up on the mattress at home with Daniel beside him, shooting up and making happy gurgling noises.
The cigarette was drawn away and Inoue exhaled as the man put it to his own lips and stood before the teen. “Get up.”
He didn’t know why, but the redhead got up as commanded. He stood much shorter than this blonde oddity; his nose was even with the center of the man’s chest.
“I’ll feed you breakfast this once. I’ll also feed you lunch and supper this evening. However, after that, I will never treat you like a child again. You will meet my standards or you will die.” The blonde turned and walked emotionlessly into the kitchen, and Inoue followed silently.
Become an apprentice to whatever this frightening man was, or die.
It was a simple choice, it seemed.
Inoue entered the kitchen behind his new teacher, his ‘Master’ per se, and took a seat where he was pointed to as the blonde moved about the cupboards, gathering ingredients for whatever breakfast was supposed to be.
The redhead stared wonderingly at the man as he moved, at a loss for emotion.
“You will learn to cook. To exercise. How to eat properly.” He opened a container of spices and poured some into a large bowl. “Poisons, anatomy, psychology, weaponry, defence, offence, illusion, elusion, balance, gymnastics, pain tolerance, camouflage…”
He went on listing things emotionlessly, and the redhead listened. Finally, the last sentence of the lecture caught his attention as a plate of scrambled eggs was placed on the table before him, and the blonde man began to cut them into bite-sized pieces.
“You will learn to kill better than Death’s Hound, and you’ll love it.”