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JACK SHADOW - CHAPTER 01: 36-24-36 CALIBER PISTOL

If this was some comic book, I’d have a secret radio transmitter hid behind a fake bookcase. Right. Like I live anywhere long enough to collect books. But that’s the movies. Yes, or the comics. The Dragon? Dragon ain’t like that. The Dragon, you’re in a cab, and suddenly the driver starts tellin’ you about a job. And when you look for the driver again, they ain’t never there in the taxi rank. Or maybe you get home and take your jacket off, and there’s a bit of paper in it that wasn’t there when you went out. One you never noticed being put there. One I never noticed, and I’m real good at noticing.

So I can hear you askin’. What if somebody wants something done, and they can’t do it themselves? What if they just make like they’re Dragon and try to get someone like me to do it? Sure. Someone could do that. But anyone smart enough to know about the Dragon had better be a bit smarter. Smart enough to know if they did something that dumb, the Dragon would look for them. And find them. And—well, and.

I get back to the dive I’m staying in for now, and there’s no bookcase and no secret radio transmitter. I didn’t take no cab, and there was no piece of paper in my jacket when I took it off. Or I guess there wasn’t. Because I never got to take it off. Because what there was, was a blonde. A blonde with a glint in her eye, a gun on the table next to her and legs that should have needed a passport for how long they kept going. She got as far as ‘Jack’. As in ‘So you gonna shoot me, Jack?’ Probably because my gun wasn’t on no table. That wasn’t good. The guy on the desk would have told her Steve Metcalf, up in room 14, was a nice enough guy. The Dragon would have been and gone before I got there. So I answered her question.

Dead bodies are a bitch to get rid of. Or they should be.

I figure this one shouldn’t be too hard. The jerk in 17 had so much skirt walking in and out, no one was going to notice one more. Or wonder why they hadn’t noticed this one. She had a bit more class than his usual hook, but the fire would take care of that. So I take her gun, go down the hall and put a bullet in his head. I turn the gas on a crack, put his fingers all over a cigarette, and light it. I leave it lying in an ashtray then go back for her. I figure I give him my gun, put hers back in her hand and take a walk. No big. Another boom in the Big Apple.

Should have worked out fine.

Like I said: if this was some comic book, there’d have been some Clue. A lipstick kiss on the mirror. A note. A little tape recorder that said it would blow itself to bits five seconds after it was done saying something dumb. But like I said: this ain’t no comic book. All there was, was what there wasn’t: the blonde.

Most people I shoot, they don’t get up. But most ain’t none. The ones that don’t, they’re trouble. Dragon trouble. So I slipped her gun in my pocket. I went back to 17 and stubbed the cigarette, dropping that in my pocket too. I cleaned 14, which mostly meant making sure what was there was all Steve Metcalf and none of me. I took the clothes he’d had on when I started being Steve and he stopped, washed his shirt in the sink and hung it out to dry. Dropped his shorts on the floor. The job I was in town for was a quick one, so the Dragon hadn’t had to do anything clever. Steve was still in good condition in the bag. I dragged him out and put him in bed. Then I went back to 17 and lit another cigarette. Or rather, the jerk that lived there did. I pulled my own gear out of its sterile bag and dressed. I did the check—pockets, boot, jacket collar, belt. The rest.

Emergency kit. I never go anywhere without it. Mostly so I get to be the emergency.

I checked 17, and sniffed. Time to leave.

Yeah. I know. Boom. Hey, I never said I was nice. Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares. See? I’ll put it here. Oh, right. You can’t reach it. Nerve paralyzers will do that—like the one I put in your beer. The Dragon say they make it from some tree in the South American rain forest. It acts quick. You just won’t be able to move none.

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