He is called King, and at the moment, he is in a hurry. Typical to his kind, he tries not to show it, but his stride is just a fraction too wide to be natural and his long neck just a measure too stiff. He cut through the crowd like a shark through water, as graceful as he is deadly, with none of the wandering eyes and tired shuffles of his fellow travelers. An overnight flight is never easy, but purpose fuels his body. Purpose, as well as an urgent need for answers… perhaps a dash of vengeance as well.
He has a strange quality about him, one that casual observers can't quite put their fingers on. That is, if the casual observer notices him at all. It is nothing about his stature that makes him invisible, he stands at a very above average 6'4". There is nothing unremarkable about his face, in fact it is quite a handsome face, or so he has been told by those who do see him. He is not an old man past his best years, his sparsely wrinkled face mark him as no older than thirty. His clothes are not cheap rags; they are well-tailored and fit him nicely. Attractive, athletic, well-dressed, yet somehow the sum of all these parts results in a perfectly invisible man.
Which is exactly the idea.
A tight but breathable indigo T-shirt clings to his torso, a pair of elegant but durable slacks comfortably wraps his lower body and his arms are thrust into a black leather jacket that somehow seems dull. His handsome features seem to be locked into a carefully engineered blankness. His body is a picture of physical fitness, but of a kind that is not body-builder yet not quite long-distance runner. In other words, he is an extraordinary picture forced into a very average frame. All but his eyes, of course, which behold a gleam and a focus that would not seem foreign in the visage of some large predatory cat.
On careful inspection there is also something oddly militant about this man called King. Well-tailored his clothes may be, yet they seem to be carefully selected so as to never restrict his movement. His hair, though thick and shiny, is shorn not-too-fashionably close to his skull. His long-fingered hands can pass for a pianist's if not for the suspicious scars across his knuckles. His rugged face bears the signs of bones broken and re-broken. His is a lifetime of violence hidden behind a thin veil of sophistication.
But of course, no one ever notices such things on an invisible man.
A single black Adidas duffel bag awaits him at luggage pickup, circling lazily on the plastic conveyor belt. Long fingers wrap around the short, padded grips and a leanly muscled arm hefts the container away from its mechanical carrier. Powerful legs carry him through the Arrivals hall and a flawless, but fake, government ID speed him through customs as well as security.
He is not at all concerned about the potential felony he has committed.
That pair of hunter's eyes search crowd, brown irises sweeping the massive terminal like high-tech security cameras, leaving not an inch of opening for the unexpected. He finds his targets, laser-like vision locking on to the two men standing in the distance. His fine-tuned eyes easily pick out the name scrawled with a sharpie across the cheap cardboard sign. It's not his name, but it serves the same purpose.
He strides toward his pickup in that noiseless, sinuous gait of his.
They don't speak, not a single inquiry or even a word of greeting. A simple exchange of nods, as though that little motion already speaks volumes. In silence they walk out into the parking lot, where light snowflakes danced innocently in the air. Like mutes they climb into a modest ford suburban, its forbidding black paintjob striking a hard contrast with the pasty snow that blankets the ground. The slightly modified engine chokes to life and large wheels crush a patterned trail onto the gray slush. The man called King gazes at the snow through a layer of tinted glass and thinks more of desolation than purity.
It's been a tough week.
They drive in oppressive silence, the English countryside whizzing by unappreciated. This is not a scenic tour, and they are not concerned about speed limits. Like a streamlined phantom the van deftly maneuvers through the sparsely populated highway, passing unnoticed to early commuters and traffic constables alike. No sirens erupt; no profanities stemming from early road rage follow the black streak of a vehicle. It pelts toward its destination uncontested.
Over the horizon, the church's modest steeples thrusts against the sky, white-splotched black against gray. Stained glass windows make feeble attempts to break the monotony of stone, their multi-colored luster muted in a testament the solemnity of the day. The suburban rolls into the empty patch of snow that serves as a sort of parking lot, though no other vehicles occupy it at the moment. Heavy, bullet-proof doors swing open and rugged boots stomp down into ashen snow. The image, field of snow, grim sense of purpose, men at his back, brings a brief moment of déjà vu to King. The nostalgic moment does not last. Sucking in the stale morning air, he walks toward the church's wooden gates, the small, thrashing monster of dread suppressed in the depths of his stomach.
The interior is dusty, dark, and the air smells of decaying paper. The darkly clad man strides through the aisle, his light footsteps nevertheless stirring up a thin cloud of dust. Three men stand at the altar; they are not priests, though some would say they serve a purpose just as holy. They are varied in height, girth, and are shrouded in shadow, but all retain a certain quality about them, an aura of deadliness akin to the predatory air of men like King. One of them speaks.
"That is far enough, hunter."
The man called King halts, his piercing eyes rest on the three motionless silhouettes.
"I come, as you summon. Why have you taken me from my prey?"
There is silence, and it is oppressive. The three do not discuss, they do not communication, but any man can see that a message has been passed and an agreement arrived at. One of them speaks again, it is the same voice.
"A sin has transpired. One among us lies dead. One you knew well."
The ironclad heart of King sinks a few inches before being borne up by fury. So what he was told is true and a hunger for details replaces the craving for truth.
"How did it happen? Who is his killer?"
"That answer eludes us."
Silence again, this time filled with uncomprehending surprise.
"You don't know." It is a statement of confusion, trying to grasp impossibility.
"The sinner knew our ways. He eludes our hunt."
The three speak monotonously, but the worry and confusion is more than evident in their voice. Or rather, in the voice of the one who speaks, but one speaks for all.
The man named King is not unintelligent; his razor-sharp mind pokes and prods at what lies before him.
"We've kept our secret for a century and a half. Our cover is and always has been absolute. How could someone know our ways or even our existence?"
The answer comes to him before it is spoken. Another impossibility, but just one among the many that seem to have crossed the threshold of feasibility today. The words that are spoken next only remove what little doubt was left.
"He may be among us. A snake in the weeds."
King does not speak. The men at his back do not speak. The three do not speak. The empty benches bear silent witness to the gravity behind such a simple statement.
He doesn't question it. There are more pressing matters.
"Where do you wish for me to begin?"
"In Cairo. Where it happened. Clues may have been left."
"If he knew our ways then that's unlikely."
"Nevertheless, that is our only focal point. Perhaps being there will put a new perspective on the mystery. Fill in some gaps."
"I take it that arrangements have been made?"
"They have. Your current prey will not escape."
"Who have you assigned?"
"That is not important, he will meet his—"
"As the man who tracked down this sinner I demand to know who is picking up my hunt. Tradition allows it."
There is a sigh, perhaps of frustration, perhaps of resignation. The voice speaks again,
"Very well. The hunter Hawke will find him."
Hawke. The name turns over in King's mind. Traits and abilities are drawn out of crystal clear memories and set down on a mental list. The man named King nods—Hawke will do.
"I trust the hunter. My prey will meet his just end."
The three remain silent, but their satisfaction is easily detected. There is a sense of finality, broken by a question.
The question seems out of place and out of character. A tinge of uncertainty colors his otherwise monotone voice.
"We should think that obvious, hunter. You know the departed better than all others. He was your teacher, was he not?"
The Three speak true and their truth brings memories.