Chapter 62 Introducing the Headless

Creeper entered the room of the condo and saw Snuff lounging around on a sofa, twirling a human eyeball by the cord that protects the optic nerve and blood vessels. Snuff was just idly fiddling with the organ and seemed to be preoccupied mainly by the miniature white stalactites that textured the ceiling. 

Creeper turned to see Bodysnatcher in the corner of the room, sitting by a mostly-devoured corpse and filing his large carnivore teeth back to peak sharpness.

“There’s a face up on the roof.” Snuff said absently and pointed up. Creeper didn’t follow the finger but knew that the blood Snuff drank from the corpse caused hallucinations. It also increased his strength immeasurably. His Aspect, the same as his name, Snuff, turns human blood into a potent drug, an ambrosiac elixir that gives the skinny man impossible power, speed and perception, on top of overloading his receptors with dopamine. Regardless, his skills as an assassin were only heightened by the use of his Aspect. There was the catch that once he started he’d have to continue to drink blood or face a hangover from the drug-like effects that can leave him crippled for weeks. 

Once Snuff started a killing spree, it could last for entire days. This pre-mission kill was only to get him ready with a Snuff Trip, as he calls it. 

Creeper announced to the two other assassins. “Time to go.”

“Ayyy!” Snuff shouted excitedly.

Bodysnatcher grunted and started to clean up the remains, placing them in a garbage bag and then placing that bag in another bag. He did that several times over and then went to scrubbing the blood off the hardwood floor.

Bodysnatcher never actually cares to clean up his kills but only does it before a mission to procrastinate. 

And because he knew it annoyed Creeper to no end. Creeper, for his part, didn’t actually mind the cleanup because he thought it wasn’t fair to whoever worked as the janitor for the condo since they would have to clean a dead body. Adding to that, the current janitor is now in a triple layer garbage bag meaning it would have to be a new employee on the first day of his job scrubbing the blood off the hardwood floors. 

Bodysnatcher squeezed the last of the sponge into the sink and then rinsed out the sink. There was no evidence of a consumed human except for the awful stench that lingered in the room. Bodysnatcher lit a candle and then said he was ready. Standing up now, Bodysnatcher was below average height, a stocky build with odd proportions and a round belly. He had very long arms that almost touched his ankles from his typical slouching posture.

“Woohoo!” Exclaimed Snuff, pumping up his fist and jumping to his feet. He was ready for his next fix.

Creeper donned his sadistically grinning mask with no other features save for that exaggerated smile. Snuff tied his own mask on, a discombobulated face with one eye on the side, the lips sideways and in the middle of the face, the nose crooked and on a different side, the jumbled mess of other facial features messily placed in all the wrongs spots as if by a heartless child.

Bodysnatcher’s mask was the most elaborate as the part around his mouth could open, allowing for him to still feast on human flesh while remaining masked. The actual design consisted of a normal structured face except that it had the appearance that it was melting. The drooping, sagging, fusing effect contrasted terrifyingly to his overly long arms, short body and potbelly.

They looked like nightmares, acted like them too.

They were all were insane. It was precisely that reason why they were feared across the Sister continent. Their heads had gone a long time ago.

They were the Headless, and they had a busy night ahead of them.

Sticking to the dark, the trio of assassins slipped out of sight from the condo and toward the government palace, housing Daedal’s leadership. The Headless had spent a week in Daedal waiting for the next council meeting. This one was of great importance and would go relatively far into the night. Time was no issue. 

The hundreds of guards and soldiers protecting the building would be the real obstacle. Luckily for the Headless, Daedal only built in geometric shapes. The cube buildings, pyramidal stores, spherical apartments, hexagonal facilities and every other conceivable shape in the form and function of the city’s architecture made travelling through it predictable. The night cast shadows in easy to read patterns, the government building they were to assault was a massive octagon with a central circular council room. Most of the planning was done for Creeper three hundred years ago when the building blueprints were first drafted. 

The Headless had a system to their assassinations. Creeper did most of the initial killing of guards and watchmen, then Bodysnatcher comes in and moves the bodies to where he and Snuff can drink the blood and eat the corpses, boosting their abilities and activating their Aspects. For Snuff, it takes dozens of gallons of blood to really get strong enough to survive bullets and combat. This meant a lot of kills were needed. Bodysnatcher liked blood as well, but for the metallic flavor profile and as something to wash down the flesh rather than power, so the blood was divided between the two of them.

Once they were ready, Snuff usually barrels through the front entrance, barely cognizant and shirtless. He then proceeds to smash heads in and beat people to death. It’s a good distraction for Creeper to take out the targets. Bodysnatcher tended to stay in the background, cleaning up all the death and picking off anyone able to slip out in the chaos, mainly Snuff’s drug-crazed frenzy allowed for that. Creeper never loses targets.

The three neared the gates of the inner sanction to Daedal’s government. Guard towers with movable spotlights positioned every fifty meters in squads of three protected the perimeter of the octagonal government building. Six search helicopters patrolled the area as well.

“Umbrose.” Creeper activated his Aspect.

The targets were highly defended. One wrong move and he’d be shot to death. He needed the shadows for his Aspect to work. Thankfully, and despite the spotlights, the geometric architecture allowed him ample room to work with.

Creeper memorized the pattern of patrolling choppers and the routine of guards, dissecting their habits and gauging their reaction. They were obviously expertly trained, that was the easiest piece of information to deduce.

Creeper moved from shadow to shadow, slipping from one lightless space to the next at impossible speeds. The spotlights never had a chance to begin with, though it was the right line of thinking. Just not good enough.

The guard posts were connected by a wall. Creeper appeared on that wall behind a walking guard. There were less than three seconds before the next spotlight beamed down on his location.

Creeper was inside the guard’s shadow, or part of it. In some way he was dematerialized in some formless expression embodying the shadow.

Creeper peeled up, the way a sticker might peel off paper, as the guard’s shadow about halfway off the ground. Creeper, still a shadow, pulled a knife and severed the tendon in the man’s neck. Creeper pushed the guard over the wall. The shadow was gone and Creeper was there as if he always had been, materializing instantly from the former space where the guard’s shadow was.

Creeper disappeared into another shadow as the spotlight revealed an empty post on the wall. The nearby tower guard was radioed that one soldier was missing from that particular section. Multiple spotlights were trained on that area and the area around.

They were too late. Bodysnatcher had long since disposed of the corpse. The man would never be found.

With the attention trained on his last location, Creeper had free reign to kill the trio at the nearby guard tower. Creeper shadow-traveled around the tower and appeared behind the three unsuspecting watchmen. 

The towers were lit from the center so Creeper materialized upon entering the light. He throat-stabbed the first soldier, slid the dagger out and in one fluid motion sliced the trachea of the next. The third guard wheeled around and attempted to bring his gun to bear but lost muscle function as the dagger entered his heart between the ribs. 

Creeper smashed the off-switch to the spotlight and disappeared from sight, leaving behind the gurgling noises of the surgically slain men and the radio static of their watch captain trying to contact them.

Creeper was already at the next tower, slipping through the slivers of shadow left by the multiple spotlights’ inability to light the entire premise in pure unshadowed light. 

When Creeper entered a shadow, he, to some degree, occupied the entire space. Not in a literal sense of his mass filling the volume of the shadow, like how water takes the shape of its container. For Creeper, he existed in any portion of the shadow he chose at a given time. If a shadow connecting from one tower to the next was unbroken by light, he could instantly exist in whatever section of the shadow he wanted. 

In this case it was where the light stowed away the shadow at a second tower. Out of the shadows, this group of three soldiers died in a similar vein to the last three, that is to say with the severing of major veins.

The captain of the watch was reluctant to sound the emergency alarm. He was in charge of ensuring the protection of the governmental body currently in session. Disrupting that would cost him his job. He was supposed to be competent enough to avoid such inconvenience. 

It was this hesitation that allowed Creeper to jump from guard to guard so uncontested. 

Creeper spun the spotlight to face another tower, effectively blinding them there. Though it cut off that shadow path, Creeper had plenty of others to use. Being kin to the shade made Creeper understand the play of light, how to balance each element in the perfect amount to ensure maximum domination over the environment.

Blinding the other tower sowed confusion. Three more corpses were dragged away by Bodysnatcher in that instance. Snuff was drinking his fill of blood.

It was discouraging for the guards to never actually see Creeper and live, nor find the bodies of their comrades.

One veteran guard came close to landing a shot at Creeper. As he fired his gun, Creeper extended his hand, connecting to the shadow of the guard’s foot. The flash of the bullet briefly lit the area around him. The bullet disappeared into the night in the same way that Creeper reappeared from its flash. 

By then Creeper had already moved in his shadow and was behind the guard. Creeper thrust his dagger into the nape of the guard’s neck and split the spinal cord where the thoracic and cervical vertebrae join.

The helicopters posed an interesting problem but Creeper ignored them as it was almost time to enter the main complex. Snuff would have to distract the outside guard. 

Creeper estimated by now that word was getting around about assassins in the area. Creeper stuck to the shadows, evading the searchlights. A direct attack on the captain of the watch was unnecessary. He clearly believed he could handle the situation and that was an exploitable weakness Creeper capitalized on.

Reinforcements were marching out of a side entrance to the government building. This would be the place to slip in. Though they had plenty of lights, flashlights, lamps, the spotlights… their excessive precautions actually created more shadows. That was a problem with too many sources of illumination, the dominating angles of a particular light source still silhouetted bodies, beams, walls, buildings. Although there was a threshold of darkness that a shadow needed to possess, Creeper’s Aspect was developed enough to use a wide range of fading hues. 

He entered a shadow, silently and invisibly stalking one guard over to the next, until he made it through the doorway. It closed behind him and the unsuspecting guards had no clue they just let in the world’s deadliest assassin into the very building they were ordered to defend.

The hallway was lit completely. The only shadows were cast by the group of guards standing watch in front of him. There were five in total. Creeper materialized when the door completed its mechanical closing. The guards, shocked for a split second, reared their guns and opened fire.

But by then Creeper had already leapt off the door, and slid with his momentum to touch the shadow of the first guard. The gunfire dissipated the shadow briefly and Creeper was exposed in flashing bursts, going in and out of materialization at blinding rates. The guards shot randomly, but of course had to aim away from each other lest they risk friendly fire. This posed a great problem for the guards who knew Creeper was in their shadows.

The guards made a morally questionable decision, but one instilled in them by their captain days before when they were tipped with the intel that the Headless may be coming. 

“If Creeper enters the shadow of one of you. You’ve no choice but to shoot that poor guard, and all the space around him. The alternative is that he kills the lot of you.”

Four of the guards opened fire on the one guard closest to the door that Creeper came from. They all saw him enter that shadow so it was the likeliest guess. 

It turned out to be the wrong guess, though Creeper had initially entered that guard, the shadows cast by the ceiling light had connected the five guards’ shadows together. The instance Creeper reached the first guard, he appeared behind the furthest guard through the trail of shadows.

It was sloppy work on their part to not space out enough. Creeper peeled from the rear guard’s shadow, before they realized their mistake, and ended his life. From behind the body, Creeper held the dead man’s arm and fired his gun at the ceiling where the lights were. Glass shattered and shadows appeared.

Creeper was gone before the three other guards noticed they lost another.

The work was swift from there, the flashlights on their weapons were insufficient in finding Creeper. They turned to run to the light across the hall but soon found themselves on the floor, choking on blood.

The shots would definitely be heard in the central council room. Creeper heard footprints approaching, at least twelve pairs by his estimation. 

Another set of guards were charging toward his location from the other hallway.

No one could see it, and it wouldn’t have made much difference considering his mask, but Creeper was smiling.

Too easy.

Creeper jumped off a nearby desk and touched the shadow that led into the ventilation system, dematerializing into the shade. 

Instantaneously through the ventilation system, Creeper appeared in the electrical room. He Killed the technicians and guards with a flurry of shadow-assassinations and simply turned off the power. Destroying the generator would cause the backup generator to initialize emergency booting, but an off switch subverted that precaution. It would take a minute or two longer for the technicians to recognize what was happening and turn on the backup generator.

All the main lights were off in the building. 

Creeper traveled through the unbroken shadow path of the ventilation system into the central room where the senators were bunkering down. The lights turned off made them panic. 

Creeper appeared next to one senator, peeled from the shadow in that surreal, haunting way, and let the man peer into the whites of his eyes.

“Boo.” Creeper said tonelessly and slashing his throat before the man could even scream.

Flashlights were turning on and seeking the invisible location in the shadows that Creeper appeared from, to one by one dispatch Daedal’s government.

The guards switched tactics to aim their flashlights only at the senators but quickly found their own ranks dwindling when they did so. The senators were trying to retreat as the guards were trying to form a perimeter of light. Some guards shot into the air but revealing Creeper for a millisecond did little to pin the assassin down.

Some of the senators began to clasp their hands around their necks in an attempt to protect themselves. Creeper killed these ones with a stab to the heart or lungs.

A few tried to reason with Creeper, shouting that they would give him whatever he wanted. There was really nothing else they could do. The council room was huge and there was just too much space to light. The guards did their best but the lack of reinforcements and the delay with the back up generator made them isolated. Screams of panic filled the air and drowned out the orders the guards were trying to relay.

Creeper, with his domain so vast in this building, could appear at one end or another. Any senator able to retreat out of the main room died just the same as the rest.

Creeper’s omnipresence struck such paralyzing fear into the senators that a few broke down crying, a couple soiled themselves, one even took his own life before Creeper could get to him.

The massacre ended with the groaning of nearly a hundred dying humans. The backup generators kicked on and the gallons of spilled blood congealed into pools on the carpet and stains on the table and smeared blotches on the wall.

Snuff arrived, shirtless and bloodied himself. His eyes darted around and he licked his lips under his mask at the scent of all the blood.

“You have five minutes before we leave. Where is Bodysnatcher?” Creeper asked monotone.

“He turned on the backup generator. Woo!” Snuff started collecting the blood in vials that he could drink over the next few days.

Creeper found a vent and appeared in where the backup generator was located. Bodysnatcher was there feasting on someone.

“Why turn on the lights?” Creeper asked, devoid of emotion, other than perhaps curiosity, but a flat curiosity.

“Don’t like eating in the dark so much.” Bodysnatcher managed to say between bites. “I always have to eat in the dark.”

“You have five minutes.” Creeper left him to it and made his way outside of the building. All guards were dead both inside and out. The military would arrive soon to find nothing but the carnage the Headless left.

Creeper walked past the destroyed helicopters and the mound of corpses. Fires were starting to grow and sirens were blaring in the city. Creeper sat on the wall, with one leg dangling over the edge and the other leg folded inward to the thigh of the hanging leg, and waited for Snuff and Bodysnatcher to finish up. Creeper stared into the night with flashing siren lights and geometric buildings, thinking nothing.

Snuff and Bodysnatcher approached from behind, both clearly elated and satisfied by the night’s work.

“Are we going back to Garghent?” Bodysnatcher asked.

“We have one more stop to make.” Creeper said.

They left the murder scene…

Creeper knocked on the door to the mansion. A butler of some sort answered. His eyes grew wide for a second before he regained his composure. The butler knew of Creeper well enough to know that if he was going to be assassinated it would already have happened.

He cleared his throat. “You are here to see the Gentleman Rabio?”

“Yes, is he here?” Creeper inquired. The butler didn’t have to debate whether to lie to the assassin or not.

“Ah yes, right this way. He was entertaining some guests earlier so I will inform him of your arrival. Will your friends be joining you as well?” The butler said, meaning Snuff and Bodysnatcher.

“No, they will wait outside.” The butler led Creeper through the foyer and into a large room with furniture, grand paintings and other lavish decorum.

“I will fetch the Gentleman now.” The butler excused himself and came back a few minutes later with Rabio, who was already drenched in sweat.

The heavyset man poured himself a drink of some strong spirit into a crystal goblet. Proper manners would never allow for him to pour his own drink, it breaks the code of conduct and is a breach of aristocratic propriety. 

But a man should pour his own drink before he dies, thought Rabio, justifying his actions. He took a long sip, avoiding eye contact with the masked killer.

“Oh my! Where are my manners? Would you like a drink?” Rabio offered, spewing the words out with spittle.

“Think nothing of it. I do not drink.” Creeper replied emotionlessly.

Rabio downed his glass in one long, savory gulp.

How did he wipe out the entire government of Daedal? I even leaked the information that the Headless was going to attack. They had anti Creeper measures in place! What kind of monster  is this man?”

Rabio’s mind raced to a solution as he poured himself another glass. “Do you mind?” He asked of Creeper. Creeper gestured him on. He’d give the Gentleman the luxury of a last stupor.

Rabio began to rant. “You see, I knew Amenais was going to pull something like this.” He took a swig. “It’s why I tipped off Daedal about your… job.” He belched. “I never bet wrong, that’s my thing you know? I told ‘em now was the time to send Creeper in to… do what you did. They never sent me extraction. Knew they were going to off me too.” He finished his second glass. Fortunately for him, his large frame meant getting really drunk allowed him at least one more glass, maybe two. “That’s why I had to then tell Daedal you were coming. Amenais should’ve had me come back to Garghent first, and then kill me.” The sting of the liquor made him pause for a second. “Sloppy work on his part, the bastard.” Rabio shook his head. “Guess it’s all the same to you, so long as you’re getting paid.” There was only half of the third glass left and Rabio was feeling its effects. 

Damn, does death make you get drunk easier? Mighty selfish of death to rob a man of his last drinks.

“You get paid yet?” Rabio asked, still rambling.

“Only half so far.” Creeper said out of politeness. 

“Ah, well… wait.” Rabio turned to the butler. “Mathis, you have a copy of the contract right?” The butler nodded hesitantly. “Grab it will you?”

“At once, Gentleman.” Mathis bowed and hurried out of the room. 

“I wrote the contract you see. Sent it to Amenais. You know he doesn’t write his own contracts anymore? Something about his eyes stinging when he reads. Old folks, right?” Rabio himself wasn’t out of his thirties yet. “What’s going to happen when the old man dies? You’ll need a new contractor right?” Rabio finished the third glass and tried to force himself to pour a fourth one but his clammy, shaking palms betrayed him and he dropped the goblet. He was scrambling for it when Mathis returned.

“Here you go, Gentleman.” He handed Rabio the paper.

Rabio smiled but hoisted himself from the ground, abandoning the goblet.

He skimmed through it and was hyper aware of a looming darkness surrounding him, metaphorical, at least for the current moment.

“Ah, ah! There it is, in the fine print!” Rabio cleared his throat as he realized it had cracked in his excitement. He quoted from the paper, “the issuer of this contract retains full responsibility of the actions therein caused by the contractee… Wait, that’s the wrong part!”

Creeper drew his knife.

“Just got confused with the fine print! Here, here. ‘When the contract is complete any remaining payment will be remitted in full to the contractee.’ You see?”

Creeper didn’t respond.

“If I pay you the rest of the money, that means the contract is fulfilled. Since I am the technical procurer of this contract, the responsibility of payment is mine, although I was included as a hit for this contract… I’m, I’m co-contractor. Yes, that’s it! I pay you right now, full amount and the contract is complete!” Rabio swallowed hard.

“Okay.” Creeper said.

Rabio eyes grew wide for in some sense, Creeper agreeing to this was more terrifying. In some macabre, gloom way. This was a man bound by nothing. And Rabio had no choice but to bind himself to him.

“If Amenais finds out you’re not dead, I’ll have to kill you both. I’d rather not lose my contractors, it’s inconvenient.”

Rabio nodded profusely, his loose skin flapping from the force. At this point Rabio kept his mouth shut.

Creeper walked out of the mansion and rejoined the other members of the Headless.

The three assassins stalked their way out of Daedal. 

Out of the gates and in the clear Snuff stretched and relaxed, “oooh, what a day!”

Bodysnatcher was using a splinter of bone to pick flesh out of his teeth. “Daedal people taste strange, must be the diet of seafood they eat.”

“Was it gross?” Snuff asked.

“No, just salty. Might need to stop at a village to eat a peasant on the way back to Garghent. It’s a shame you didn’t kill the fat man, I was looking forward to the delicacy.” Bodysnatcher flicked the bone toothpick away.

“That reminds me Creeper, why did you let him live?” Snuff asked.

Creeper shrugged in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. “He never loses bets.” 

Creeper would have felt bad tarnishing such a reputation.

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