Greetings, Loyal Reader!
Now concluding our preview of Chapter 1 of the forthcoming Jason Cosmo novel Noble Cause (if you need to catch up first, start here with part 1):
“What’s this?” said Nestor Breen. He was a pock-faced, greasy-haired, beady-eyed walking cliché of a contract killer. “I don’t work with blue freaks and fancy boys!”
“Oh, yeah?” said one of the Blue Crew. “We don’t need any help from your like anyway!”
“We simply shan’t consort with these lowlifes,” said the khaki-clad leader of the Black Sheep, speaking in the clipped nasal tone affected by his class. “We shan’t!”
“Yes, you shan! I mean, shall,” I said. “Look at it this way. Together you have a slightly better chance of beating me. You win, you can fight among yourselves after. It’s a twofer!”
“I don’t like it,” said Nestor Breen. “But if you insist.”
The other gangs nodded their assent. Eying one another warily, the three groups arranged themselves around me. The Breen Boys favored clubs and knives. The Blue Crew had cheap swords. The Black Sheep sported fancy rapiers with monogrammed mother-of-pearl grips, jeweled pommels, and other adornments.
At an unspoken signal, the killers charged en masse. Giving Overwhelm free rein, I blocked, ducked, cut, thrust, pivoted, kicked, elbowed, and otherwise stayed in constant motion amid the press of my foes. The ground was soon littered with a score of lifeless bodies. None of them mine.
“Impressive,” said Merc. “You’ve come a long way from the fumbling turnip farmer who didn’t know one end of a sword from the other.”
“I get lots of practice, unfortunately,” I said, wiping my blade on the grass. “Who’s next?”
“Quik Kill,” said Merc.
Two trembling young men with the unkempt look of university students stepped forward. They wore blue aprons emblazoned with a cartoon of a homicidal lightning bolt character brandishing a bloody knife.
“What is Quik Kill?” I asked.
“Uh…well, we wrote the business plan for our marketing class,” said one of the young men. According to a badge on his apron, his name was Tab.
“Quik Kill is murder for the masses,” said the other, named Ryan. “If you’re rich you can afford to hire people to kill your enemies, right? But what about ordinary working people? They might have enemies they want dead too.”
“Huge underserved market,” said Tab, nodding. “Quik Kill brings high quality pre-paid assassination services to the average person.”
“Pre-paid assassination?” I said. “What do you mean?”
“It works like this,” said Ryan. “You subscribe to Quik Kill and pay a low monthly fee, right? Then, if you need someone killed, you have an assassin on call. By pooling the subscriber fees of our members, we can hire top talent to do the jobs.”
“It’s like reverse life insurance,” said Tab.
“You two don’t look like top talent.”
Ryan and Tab exchange uneasy glances. Tab said, “We dropped out of Caratha Business School to launch Quik Kill, but we’re short of funding. When our first customer ordered a hit on you, we had no choice but to do it ourselves.”
“The two of you are going to kill me?” I asked, stepping over the remains of one of the Blue Crew.
Tab swallowed hard. Ryan vomited on himself.
“In truth,” said Tab, “we were thinking of dropping the whole project and going back to school.”
“That would be a good idea,” I said. “Unlike Quik Kill.”
The overmatched entrepreneurs scurried from the park.
“Done,” said Merc, as he marked the list. “The mysterious Spider Guild was a no-show.”
“Then I need only stack my foes for the Body Cart, shower, and meet Sapphrina and Rubis for brunch. Join us, Merc! I’m sure the girls would love to see you.”
“I rather doubt that,” said Merc. With a gesture he levitated the dead thugs into a neat stack at the edge of the grounds, saving me the trouble. Next he pulled a rolled up carpet from the interdimensional space beneath his cloak. The rug unfurled and hovered an inch above the ground. Merc hopped aboard. “I’m due back in Rae City to join my lovely bride-to-be for a stuffy luncheon of some sort. Royal pre-nuptial rites are endless.”
I grinned. “My best to Queen Raella.”
“Of course. Can I give you a lift home?”
My stomach churned at the mere thought of flying. “I’ll walk. It isn’t far.”
Merc laughed. His carpet slowly ascended. “Always good to see you, Cosmo. You’re prospering in Caratha. But remember: the most dangerous enemies won’t meet you in the open. So have a care—I do expect you alive at my wedding!”
And that concludes Chapter 1 of Noble Cause — at least the present draft. I’m sure there will be tweaks and edits before it goes to print, but this gives you a flavor of the story ahead. Questions and comments welcome!