1964-11-30 - Hell's Bells and Buckets of Blood
Summary: All a man wants is a little rest and a place to read his book. Does that ever work?
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: The Last Firstborn - Celldweller
bucky wanda 

OOC Note: Written by Wanda, Bucky is linked because hey, all these cutscenes are for obvious reasons.

Cold. Hunger. Suspicion.

No escaping those factors on a mission. Old friends slipped around him in a heavy greatcoat, clearing his mind of the gnawing ache in his belly and the throbbing lead-point drag behind his eyes. He wiped the grit from his lashes.

Moving through the tangled urban warren differed little from crouching in the birch forest near a dacha. These tall brick buildings punched up to the skyline, red fingers dipped in grime. He knew low-slung manors under sagging roofs stuffed by bird’s nests and years of leaf litter best. But compared to the Siberian night, what could this place possibly offer?

Lights flashed off the abandoned cars, broken glass capturing a lurid neon sign in distorted ripples. He passed on, skirting puddles that smelled of chemicals and oil, the dark grime of urban living.

I miss the forest. The air in this place tastes like dust and burning charcoal. He dipped his head. If he had a scarf, it might take away the awful smell, but scarves were hard to come by. As much as gloves or proper ammunition. You did the best you could with what you had.

Imagine that trainer now. Here I am in America. Free. Walking. I have a book!

Fulfilling the mission came first, before he could rest. Purpose drove him past the dumpsters lined up in cattle car lines into a courtyard. Too open. Too many entrance. Not suitable for a night. He scanned the squalid little plaza and turned into the smaller alley.

They watched him here. He sensed them, insects under the thin bark. Eyes from on high tracked where he walked. Hidden faces behind cheap blinds measured his progress in any given direction. He thought of them as ravens perched in the canopy. No problem. Old friends, those kinds of birds.

Unseen birds. Laughing birds. Their parliament knew better than to bother him. He let them be, and he walked on. In places such as the squalid ghetto of Hell's Kitchen, as anywhere, the birds needed to watch to feel safe. That was fine.

Litter strewn about the street was nothing surprising or new, but he liked the feel of the forgotten corner where the walls closed in and the electric wires strung thick and wide over the air. In the distance, he heard the lonely screech of a train passing on the rusted rails, and this too was good.

Somewhere he might rest, out of the way. The lessons were always clear. Secure the exits. Sweep the vicinity at least four times. When you’re in the clear, take precautions to backtrack. Lock down the area before you rest.

So far nothing. Nothing different from any other part of the sorry, grungy streets overshadowed by tenement buildings and a smattering of mismatched shops filled by empty shelves and glowering men. He dared to eye a perch, the same one he passed three times.

Nothing much to speak of, a covered ledge where a shorter brick building backed up against a flat wall. The overhanging stairway landing was the best part, keeping him out of the rain. Access might be tricky if he couldn’t already jump it from the ground and slither over the top. Up there, only a pigeon passing by might notice his presence.

He heard the footsteps while throwing his near empty bag on the satchel. He stole it days before and kept little but socks and a few odds and ends tucked inside. The only meal he scrounged, a bun and a dingy apple, bounced against the paperback book.

Six? Old habits never truly die. He spared a glance aside, seeing the first of them coming down the alleyway. Another of the metal dumpsters blocked the opposite end, not insurmountable but something slowing any departure.

They knew it too. One scaled that route, the glint of brass knuckles on the rim when he hauled himself up. Their bruiser. That left four more in sight, and he expected another up above. Two, really.

“What you think you’re doing out here?” The chorus began by the second man, short and black hair slicked back. His accent made him European, nothing known to the homeless man.

“Seems to me he needs a reminder who owns this place.”

That was the leader. Leather coat, heavy way of moving around him. His shock of ginger hair burned against the worn out brick. The others deferred to him, no interrupting when he smacked a pipe into his big paw.

Candle man. You want the pain. Dogs waiting for someone to strike the first bite, they smelled hungry and eager. Too confident. He entered their territory, an unknown cur.

Under their scrutiny, the young man stood up a little more, rubbing his shoulder. In a t-shirt and grubby sweats imbued by the reek of the street, he was not imposing. Too thin. Too small.

Measurements went quick. Good odds for them. He didn’t look like a pushover, but they miscalculated entirely in their swarm tactics. What worked well to bring other bums into line depended on intimidation and superiority of numbers.

“C’mon boys, let’s teach Patsy here a lesson.” The man with oily hair carried himself well. Low center of gravity, favoured his left leg, kept his fists up and therein lay his fatal flaw. Too slow by half, and left his side open. Enough space for a foot.

The young brown haired man bided his time. Second warning. When they closed in, their thoughts were too clouded by testosterone and slanted desire for the fight. No one listened to the whisper of fear, that precious gift pricked to survival. They saw a veteran, a stranger, in their territory. It couldn’t be tolerated.

They did not see him casually fall back to the first punch and rotate, spin with it, opening up his back. One jumped, wrapped an arm around the stranger’s neck and shoulders. Momentum spin them around together in a demented tango, and then the soldier’s instincts drove through.

He swept the thug over his shoulder to the ground, hurling him harder than necessary when the threnody of shattering bones and popping joints followed a distasteful scream. The thug bounced away without his assailant paying the least attention.

Fists flew, but so slow, so terribly so. Microseconds of reaction time don’t make all the difference. Practice does. He jumped into the brawl joyously, deflecting blows on his arms and using his elbows to jab openings. They knew boxing but they had no idea about spetznaz fighting techniques, much less an expert looking only for the right to sleep.

He wasn’t expecting the gun.

The first shot went wide, the second snapped over his head when he ducked. Iron bar clubbed him on the side, and he saw their wide eyes, the rictus grins of anger-pain-pleasure.

His mouth stretched tight when the next bullet tore a bloody hot line across his leg. Their shouts mingled with his own grunt. Silent. Even in pain, silence is your ally and your shield.

Volya was wise but who else could be beaten to a bloody pulp or put to the knives without a noise?

He lashed out a palm and hooked under a jaw, ramming back the thug two, three, four steps. Lover’s turn and a hard thrust slammed the back of the fellow’s carrot head into the bricks. He clasped his hands together and rammed his elbow down atop the bushy hair, keeping him down. The bend probably saved his hide.

Another bullet, too close, and there was half the clip down and out from the one astride the dumpster. Those funny metal knuckle dusters weren’t going to do a damn thing, so he went for the Glock.

The soldier smiled to himself and sprang across the field to knock him flat. No use throwing any of the detritus in the alley, and besides, the fight would be over soon enough. Learning in the street taught men things, but if they were not born wolves, what would it matter?

“He’s a fucking devil,” gasped Patrick Monahan, until late the enforcer for a certain band of thugs in Hell’s Kitchen. He backed up, to no avail.

The saints weren’t listening tonight to Irish sinners begging for God’s grace. God wasn’t listening.

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