Chapter 3: A Job

The street was deserted, dark, and quiet. It appeared that Warren was the only one around, this fact becoming apparent as he did a quick inspection of the area. Of course, he was early for the rendezvous with the Hatter's informant, who was scheduled to bring the intel and some "gear," whatever that could be. Warren couldn't quite figure out why he couldn't just go and pick up the stuff himself, but this was a direct order, no doubt part of some carefully-concocted plan. The assassin couldn't risk screwing things up, so here he was, out in the wet and dark, waiting.

The Hatter had been extremely cryptic during their exchange, in fact not divulging any information on the hit itself. Rather, he'd given Warren a time and a place, and then told him that someone would be along to fill him in. Warren had to admit, his curiosity had been piqued, which may have contributed to the fact that he'd shown up about a half-an-hour early. He was now standing near the mouth of an alleyway, just out of the light of a streetlamp, and was waiting for whoever the Hatter had decided to send.

What time is it now? he thought. It has to be near nine, which means they should show up soon. He didn't bother to check his watch, though. It was, after all, very off. What can this job possibly be, anyway? Hatter said it's taken a while to negotiate things, so it must be a pretty high-profile target I'm going after. And just what did he mean by, "You'll have fun?" Come to think of it, it's been a long time since he's been so vague…

Warren's eyebrows scrunched together as he went through various possibilities. Briefly, he scanned the street again, and then repeated this with the alley behind him. There was a turquoise neon sign about halfway down that advertised a shady place specializing in scantily-clad women and copious amounts of various substances, legal and otherwise. However, the assassin severely doubted that the Hatter's guy would have anything to do with that place. So Warren simply stood there, camouflaged in the shadows and lost in thought.

The streets were still wet from the recent rain. Thus, they reflected the light from the few streetlamps that were still functioning (which were few), creating an almost hypnotic effect. By contrast, the various buildings of dark bricks loomed imposingly overhead. Warren couldn't see a single light in any of the windows; blinds were drawn tightly, occupants were out, or nobody occupied the spaces within. But if one thing was for sure, this wasn't exactly the friendly side of town. He hoped the informant would arrive before anyone got the stupid idea to try and mug the White Rabbit. Warren didn't want to create a mess when a mess wasn't worth it.

At last, there was the sound of tires on the road, and Warren turned to see a black sedan start down the street. Its windows were heavily tinted, so he couldn't quite see who the driver was, but he was almost certain that this was who he'd been waiting for. Just in case, however, the assassin remained in the shadows, cautiously watching as the car got closer. Just to be sure, if the person behind the wheel was the informant, they would know exactly where Warren was. Sure enough, the vehicle stopped in front of the alley, and at that point Warren materialized from his position and walked around to the passenger side. There, he opened the door, slid in, and shut it behind him.

Rendezvous successful…

"Hiya, White."

Warren's eyes widened ever so slightly as he figured out who was behind the wheel. He wasn't at all surprised – after all, he'd been dealing with Alice for years. Of course the Hatter would send Alice. No, what was bothering him was that the move made perfect sense, and yet it didn't at the same time.

"I've got the file," offered the blonde when Warren didn't answer. "We'll be stopping by somewhere quickly first."


"Somewhere" turned out to be a cheap-looking motel only a short drive away. If it were up to Warren, he wouldn't even want to be seen near the place, let alone stay there. Alice, on the other hand, seemed quite comfortable. She easily pulled the sedan into a parking spot, cut the engine, and hopped out. Warren heard the trunk pop open, and then a rustling as a large duffel bag was withdrawn.

"Coming?" she asked while Warren sat, half-in, half-out of the car and checking his weapon, the single pistol he'd brought along.

"Is the target in there?" he questioned, Alice meanwhile waltzing up to one of the room doors. Without skipping a beat, she produced a keychain with the motel logo on it and in an instant had the door open.

"Nope," she answered. "This is just a temporary hideout."

The car chirped briefly as Alice locked it, and Warren had no choice but to follow the woman inside. As soon as he'd shut the door behind him, a package was shoved into his face.

"You can change in the bathroom," she said cheerily, emptying the contents of the duffel bag onto the bed. Warren caught a glimpse of some grenades, at least two rifles, several pistols, and a knife or two. "Keep the shoes, though. Leave everything else here."

"What about my pistol? I brought it along," he informed her, switching on the bathroom light and wrinkling his nose as he stepped in. The place looked ill-maintained, with a grubby bathtub, peeling wallpaper, and a sink that probably leaked. Part of the wall looked like it had suffered extensive water damage.

"The more guns, the merrier. You might need it later."

Warren undid the cord to the package and peeled back the brown paper. Inside was a neatly folded tuxedo of pure white with a bit of gold trimming at the cuffs and collar, the latter having the two small initials of "WR" embossed in tiny letters. This little detail made him smile, and he quickly switched from his normal pinstripe suit to the stunning eveningwear. It fit perfectly. Finally, to top the outfit off, he added his signature white gloves. Then with some final adjustments to his bowtie, he exited into the bedroom – where his jaw promptly dropped to the floor.

Alice was a beautiful woman. It was a fact that was impossible to deny, and one that had managed to successfully get her close to targets on more than one occasion. Tonight, however, "beautiful" didn't do her nearly enough justice. The word "breathtaking" came to mind, yet it still seemed inadequate. Her strapless evening gown started at a powder blue near the top and transitioned into a midnight blue at the hem. The artfully-arranged folds in the dress helped to accentuate her feminine curves, and the way the material cascaded from the waist down conjured up the image of a flower. He long blonde hair, meanwhile, had been partially pulled back into a semi-braid, with the rest left to swirl down past her bare shoulders in waves of gold. Very little makeup had been applied to her face, yet she positively glowed in the poor lighting of the motel lamps.

"I see the suit fits," she told Warren as he stood dumbfounded, gaping at her like a fish. "It looks good on you."

"You don't look too bad yourself," he managed to force out, although he realized this was probably the biggest understatement of all time.

"You like it?" Alice spun around in a circle once, letting the gorgeous silk and gossamer garment shimmer in the light. "Hatter helped me pick it out."

Now that was a bit of a surprise. Warren hadn't known that the man would have such good taste in women's clothing, of all things.

"Did he pick out mine?"

"Of course," snorted Alice as if it were perfectly obvious. "Granted, we had to guesstimate the size a bite," (doubtful), "but I think it ended up really well. Did you notice the letters?"

"I did," said Warren.

Alice smiled. "My idea."

Warren felt himself turning slightly pink against all odds, so he cleared his throat and tried to get back to the task at hand. "So," he said, "what's the situation? Hatter was pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing."

"As you might have guessed, the job's big," replied Alice, withdrawing a manila envelope from the bag and holding it out for the assassin. "Really big. That's why we're being partnered up." One thing cleared up. "It's just the two of us, though. We're not getting any support this time around."

"Then again do we really need it?" he told her, his eyes darting back and forth as he scanned the paper in his hand, the one he'd removed from the packet. After a brief moment, a frown formed itself on his face. "We're killing Bill Patrellis?"

"We are," Alice said solemnly. "Our very first hit in Parliament."

"You do realize how difficult this if gonna be, right?" The paper was tucked safely back into the envelope and this was then placed in the room's ashtray. "And at a party of all things."

Alice lighted a match and set it on top of the envelope, where the flame caught and started eating away at the flammable substance. Neither of them needed the information anymore; it had already been memorized at this point.

"Since when has a job been hard? You are the White Rabbit, aren't you? Knowing you, you probably won't even receive a scratch."

True enough. Warren unnecessarily fixed his bowtie again and watched as Alice divided up the weapons on the bed. A whole brace of pistols was reserved for the blonde (handguns were her specialty), while Warren got the two rifles and the bladed weapons, in addition to his own pistol that he always kept in reserve. The grenades were a last resort thing that either of them would have access to. After this detail was cleared up, they began repacking the weapons in the bag for later use.

"What's the party for, anyway? I don't suppose I'm lucky enough to have ended up as a waiter?"

"Not at all. You're my gentlemanly escort. As for the party, what's the point of any party? All these people are there to dress up, hang around while getting slightly drunk, and talk about boring stuff, like the weather."

"Except for Bill, who'll be sneaking off for his office at eleven-"

"-which is when we take him out," finished Alice. "Until then, we just sort of loosely keep an eye on him."

"Simple enough," shrugged Warren. "What about security?"

At this, Alice gave him one of her mischievous looks that almost always meant she had something up her sleeve, and not necessarily something nice either. "Just leave that to me," was the answer Warren received.

Oh yes, this would be quite the evening…

– – –

Two figures emerged onto the small gravel path and nonchalantly began walking, pebbles crunching underfoot as they went. As far as anyone could tell, they were just another couple, out for just another party. Not too far ahead, another small group of people was doing the same, all dressed formally. Everything was completely normal. Under control.

The two assassins strode on.

First step, thought Warren as he went hand in hand with Alice. Get past the security at the main doors, since there's no other way in – yet…

"Invitation please?" drawled the doorman when they'd finally arrived at the front entrance. He was a man with a crisp black tailcoat, and a face that sagged slightly.

Alice handed him the fancily-printed paper, two fake names proudly displayed on the front. There was a brief pause as the doorman consulted a guest list, but when he looked up he nodded.

"If you'll please remove any metal accessories and step through the detectors, then. Precautions, you know."

"Of course."

This maneuver was completed without a hitch, and after they had gotten their belongings (Alice her jewelry and Warren his pocket watch), they proceeded into a large, well-lit area where guests were busy mingling. Warren offered Alice his arm, and they descended down a flight of marble stairs, on the way attracting not a few awed, curious, and jealous looks.

Step two, mingle. Find Bill. Get his prints.

"Do we split up?" whispered Warren while attempting to paste a smile on his face.

"We have half an hour, so time's not too much of an issue."

"We'll stick together then," decided the white-haired man. He was feeling a bit uncomfortable with all the attention he and Alice were getting – with their looks, Alice's especially, it was unavoidable – and being near her made him feel slightly better. It wasn't as if he would admit it, though.

"Do you see him?" he heard from a gaggle of bejeweled ladies, all of which were holding champagne glasses. "He is the hottest guy I have ever seen."

"Can't say I recognize him. Who is he?"

"I don't know, but I'd love to get to know him better. Way better…"

"Oh, c'mon, he's taken. Don't you see that girl on his arm?"

"She looks like she walked off the cover of a magazine. They both do."

"Must be some rich guy."

"Added bonus."

"Don't you have a boyfriend, Lindsey?"

"Don't remind me…"

Against all odds, the assassin found himself blushing slightly. He just hoped Alice wouldn't see.

"Any sign of him?"

"Not yet," replied Warren, his eyes roaming around the room as he tried to locate the man they were going to kill. There were waiters with trays, clusters of guests, and sunglasses-sporting security guards, but Bill seemed to remain elusive.

Has he even shown up yet?

The two slowly made their way to the refreshment table, all the while exchanging handshakes, receiving compliments, engaging in small talk, and trying to blend in. It felt a bit weird to socialize with these strangers, acting like a normal civilian, after a straight week of assassinations. However, Warren couldn't exactly say he wasn't enjoying himself. Sometimes change was good, and this wasn't an exception. When they finally did make it to the table, Alice grabbed a glass of punch, while Warren stuck to some kind of bread spread with caviar.

"You hunker down here. I'll do some scoping," said the blonde, and before Warren could object she had drifted over to a group of women.

"Gee, thanks," he muttered, crunching into the bread and chewing thoughtfully. Not bad. He'd have to get some cans of caviar later.

"So, who would you be?" came a voice from the left, in a not unkind tone. Warren turned to see a man in black formalwear, accented by a green silk handkerchief. He had slightly-graying brown hair, sharp eyes, and slight laugh wrinkles. His face was instantly recognizable.

"Mr. Patrellis, it's a pleasure to meet you," replied Warren, holding out a gloved hand. "William Reed, but feel free to call me Will."

"Bill," he said, heartily accepting the handshake. "And I assure you, the pleasure's mine. I trust you're enjoying this little get-together?"

"Oh absolutely." The assassin smiled. "If I may say so, there's quite the guest list."

"A necessity, I suppose." Bill shrugged. "Many rich patrons of the city have made generous contributions to the city, and to the government. This is the least we could do to thank them."

"Will the Prime Minister be joining us tonight?" This was both a meaningless and a tactful question, as Warren hardly cared about the Prime Minister, but would be worried about the extra security.

"Alas, no. It seems that his trip to the Lower Countries has met some setbacks so he wasn't able to make it."

"From what I hear, the political upheavals there are threatening to start again."

Bill took a sip from his champagne glass before answering, "Negotiations between the government and the rebel faction are underway. We expect a compromise to be reached by sometime in August."

"That's excellent news," said Warren with a nod, and a slight peek to the side to see where Alice had gone. She had somehow joined in a discussion with a group of young women, but she, too, gave a quick look at Warren. Their eye contact confirmed that she knew what the situation was.

"So tell me, Will, what exactly are you involved in?"

Killing people.

"The gambling industry. I own a casino out west. We worked in conjunction with Lorry – at least, until the incident."

"Absolutely dreadful. That assassin really must be dealt with. He's killed three individuals this week alone, Irena Tetrov among them. The police will have a hard time letting that one go."

"One man can't escape the law indefinitely. He'll eventually get caught or killed, just you wait," assured Warren, grinning internally despite himself.

"Oh, undoubtedly. But the question is, when?"

This gave Warren a small pause and his cool façade slipped ever so slightly, though it appeared that Bill didn't notice. The man merely gave a look at his watch before taking a final sip from his glass and handing it off to one of the waiters. "Well, I'm afraid I must be going. If you'll excuse me." He then gave a nod, turned, and headed back through the crowd towards a pair of very nondescript-looking doors.

"I have the print," someone murmured in Warren's ear, and a small piece of latex was slipped into his hand. "You better hurry up, White."

Alice then vanished in a swish of blue and blond, and Warren was left standing alone in the crowd. He took a moment to slip the latex onto his thumb before navigating his way to the doors. If there was anything he'd learned over the years, it was, "Look like you have every right to be in a place, and chances are no one will stop you." Confidence was key, and the assassin was rather good at pulling these things off. Almost nonchalantly, he pressed his thumb onto a small scanner and waited for it to register. Luckily, the system didn't seem to be smart enough to notice that Mr. Patrellis had just entered the same door twice, and Warren was quietly admitted into the dark hallway beyond.

Warren wasted no time. He drifted down the hallway, the plush blue carpeting muffling his footsteps, his ears pricked for any sounds, any signs of life. Security seemed to have been focused mainly around the area of the event, however, and so he met no resistance.

"About bloody time!" huffed Alice once Warren had cracked open a window for her to climb through. The duffel bag was unceremoniously shoved in, followed by the woman herself, and weapons were quickly distributed between the two assassins. No further words were exchanged. None were needed, as they both knew exactly what was to happen next. One final look of understanding was passed between them, and then they silently parted ways.

- - -

They were close. Warren could feel it as he cautiously edged forward, the pistol drawn and ready. Another life was about to end, another job to be completed. This was the nature of his work, and through having gone through the motions many times already he still felt a certain thrill as he crept along towards the corner of the hallway. Around this was Patrellis's office, and inside was Patrellis himself.

So close… Just a bit more…

A quick peek around showed a thin strip of light filtering through the cracks around one of the doorways, confirming his suspicions. Good. Warren took a breath and focused, and a few moments later the light went out and the door swung open. Patrellis exited, a package tucked under his arm, and started towards where Warren was hidden. Casually, the white-haired man stepped out and aimed.

"Will!" exclaimed Patrellis. "What do you-?" The sight of the gun quickly shut him up.

"Sorry, nothing personal," said Warren, just as a flash of movement caught his eye. At first, he thought it was Alice coming in from the other end of the corridor – until he realized too late that Alice wasn't a group of black-clad men in ski masks and with automatic rifles.

What the-?

And then all hell broke loose.

The gunmen almost instantly spotted the two men, and opened fire. Forced to retaliate, Warren let loose a few shots of his own, followed by several at the member of Parliament and a quick dive behind the nearest alcove. Bullets chipped away at the wall but thankfully didn't penetrate, which was well and all though how long would it last? Damn! Who were these men? And where was Alice?

Everything was happening at a dizzying pace all of a sudden, and what had almost been a guaranteed success had very rapidly morphed into something ugly. Gunfire was exchanged, with Warren sniping from around the alcove, but pretty soon now the masked intruders might decide to rush the position and just gun him down, in which case he was screwed. If he tried to rush out he'd be shot before he could get away. If he tried for a prolonged gun battle, they'd kill him eventually or security would show up. All options seemed to have suddenly evaporated, leaving Warren with a sinking feeling in his chest. What to do?

He didn't have to worry long, however. Gunfire suddenly ceased, and for a fleet instant the assassin thought maybe they had run out of ammo. That was, until a small object arced through the air, hit the ground, rolled past Warren's cover, came to a halt…

…and exploded.

- - -

Author's Note: I know, it's overdue, but the next chapter is finally here! I am really not happy with it though (this is, what, the fifth draft now? Frankly, I've lost count…), but you do what you can with what you can, I guess. Hopefully the next one'll be better… In the meantime, thank you to any and all who have reviewed! It really boosts my morale here.