Snouts low, golden eyes hard and focused on the lectern, they loped up the aisle. There were seven of them. Fabien had gotten as far as:

ďWhen I was a student here at the Pritzker School of MedicineóĒ

before he noticed them. By then it was too late. Not as if there was anywhere to run, but four hundred and fifty people tried anyway. Fabien went down in a flurry of grey-black fur as torn robes flashed across my field of vision. Never saw the alpha male hit me. I shrugged him off, easy like, and then the other five hit me. Two on my arms. Two on my legs. One at my throat. My collar exploded open. My Dolce & Gabbana tie bit into the back of my fat ass neck, then burst into silk ribbons of tamarisk and obsidian. My favorite tie. Cost me seven hundred.

Iím guessing you want to know who the fuck I am and what the fuck Iím talking about. Not much to tell. My name is Levi Rucker, but everybody just calls me Ruck. Bodyguard for Fabien Desjardins. Was bodyguard for Fabien Desjardins. Should have known Stanford Sutton and the People Against the Transformation of Humans would do some shit like that. Fucking wolves. But then Fabien had only been my first gig, and Big Cat Smooth doesnít give out three hundred page dossiers with his merc assignments.

Not that any of this is Big Cat Smoothís fault. Fabienís death is all on me. But I donít need to be indebted to Big Cat Smooth anymore than I already am. From what I hear, Iím lucky to be alive in the first place. When I was in college, I bounced at the Soul Spot over on 87th and Stony Island to put some scratch in my pocket. That was how Big Cat Smooth found me.

The Soul Spot is this little throwback juke joint for grown folk. I was there to make sure young cats like me who wanted to step with the grown folk didnít try to shoot up the place. Three weeks after I started bouncing, Big Cat Smooth came up in there flanked by two of his mercs, looking for me. I was naÔve. I had thought I could just walk into a club off the street and theyíd make me door muscle.

Back then I had been six-foot-eight, three hundred and seventy-five pounds. What club wouldnít want me on their door? But things donít work like that in Chicago. No bodyguard, bouncer, security guard or bounty hunter could get work in this city without going through Big Cat Smooth first. Even the mayor handpicked his security detail from Big Cat Smoothís Mercenary Guild.

Miss Laurie knew that, but she needed door muscle in a bad way. When she hired me, she never asked to see a guildcard, and since I was just nineteen she would pay me under the table. From what I hear, Big Cat Smooth went easy on me that night. Not many people who freelanced merc were given a choice, let alone the choice I had been given: guild or broken legs. But then it wasnít everyday Big Cat Smooth came across a big motherfucker like me who can do what I do and move like I move.

Those wolves never had a fucking chance. Seven more closer to extinction. After the one at my throat ripped off my tie, I hit the floor and rolled. Heard a yelp and felt bones split and crush and snap beneath me. It felt fucking orgasmic. So I rolled again. Heard another yelp. Just a foreleg this time. Saw the wolf whimper and hobble away on three legs down the right ambulatory. Saw the alpha female tearing out Fabienís throat.

Every year for the past three years, Fabien had the University Of Chicago Pritzker School Of Medicine jack him off when he spoke at Winter Convocation, the beloved son he was. And each year I warned Fabien about being predictable. The commencement ceremony was always held in the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the corner of 59th and Woodlawn. It was straightforward when it came to security, but that didnít mean one of PATHís bullets couldnít find him. And they had every reason to put one through his head.

Five years ago, the Chicago Council of Guilds sold Fabien land to build an estate and a small, private medical center. The Council didnít give a fuck about the Lincoln Square residents who were against the deal. The Council also didnít give a fuck about the land itself: California Park and Horner Park, side-by-side public green spaces used by families for recreational activities. All that mattered to the Council were the free organ upgrades Fabien gave them whenever their dicks fell off or their tits reached their bellybuttons.

Which, of course, pissed off PATH. Not that they could prove anything shady was going on in Fabienís medical suites, but if there was one thing that made ex-wives, ex-husbands and hentai girls talk, it was scratch. But no amount of scratch could overcome the power and influence of the Council. Roma Russo, an investigative reporter with the Sun Times, found that out when her editor dismissed her sources as bitter and disgruntled.

So, with the Council in his back pocket and no threat of exposure for his illegal non-guild sanctioned activities, Fabien hired me, a live-in bodyguard with bison muscle and bone grafts, as a big fuck-you to Stanford Sutton and PATH.

But if it were up to Big Cat Smooth and Ignacio, I would be a much more complex moddy. Originally, I was supposed to be agha, like Big Cat Smooth, who Iím not ashamed at all to say, is fucking beautiful. That night he came into the Soul Spot I couldnít help but be transfixed by his slitted yellow eyes doing that weird reflection thing cat eyes did in low light, his short triangle ears twitching independently at every sound, and his well-groomed jet-black fur glistening over sleek muscles as he told me with slow, deliberate softness how he would shatter my legs with a twelve-pound double-faced sledgehammer if I didnít join his guild.

Since I decided I liked my legs whole and unbroken, Big Cat Smooth took me to Ignacioís chop shop downstate to do me up agha-bison after he brought me into the guild. Ignacio was the agha-geneticist whose team did up Big Cat Smooth, and was set up in Carbondale, on the Southern Illinois University campus. He had been this brilliant geneticist at Rush University Medical Center, but got caught in the middle of a black market organ ring run out of the hospital. Wasnít like he was the only one involved. But that was what happened when you were an arrogant asshole and pissed off your guildmaster.

Anyway, Ignacio and Big Cat Smooth had wanted to do me up agha-bison, but I figured I could have the same bulk and strength with bison muscle and bone grafts. I wonít lie; Iím a pussy when it comes to agha-surgery. Grafting has been around for a few decades, but that symbiotic, cross-species cell-injection process bullshit is still new. Donít get me wrong, though. Ignacio is the best agha-geneticist there is, guild or no guild. I donít have to look any further than Big Cat Smooth and see that.

And it doesnít matter I would have been the first agha-bison. Usually, thatís what you wanted; the less agha running around with the same skill set the better. Makes your merc services more in demand. No one would have been able to match my strength. Not even agha-gorilla. But had I went agha-bison, my days of getting ass would have been over. I mean, what woman would want to fuck a shaggy, bigheaded dumb ass with horns? And that was if I could still get a stiffy after the surgery.

Wasnít like I couldnít effectively use the added two hundred pounds of bison muscle and one hundred pounds of bison bone grafted to my frame, though. Ask those fucking wolves. They would have slunk back to Stanford Sutton if it wasnít for the alpha female. She made them regroup for another concerted attack. But they were tentative. Wary. They expected the roll.

Eventually the alpha male gathered his balls and leapt again, teeth going for the jugular. Broke his back with a bear hug. Vulnerable and exposed, the alpha female hamstrung me, but it was a superficial wound. Too much muscle back there. I lashed out with a size 18 EEE Bacco Bucci Crocket slip-on and got her in the hindquarters. Shattered her leg and hip.

Just in case you didnít realize, Iím fucking unstoppable. Iím PATHís worst nightmare. Iím the reason Stanford Sutton tours the neo-conservative television talk show circuit bitching and moaning about modified human beings. Iím the reason he and PATH have partnered with the Southern Baptist Ministers Coalition to protest me as a blasphemous abomination, saying Iím going to Hell for combining my flesh with the flesh of one of Godís creatures.

Fuck Ďem all, I say.

And fuck Fabien. He should have known some shit like this was going to happen. Each year Fabien does the Winter Convocation, I make sure Iím prepared to put my foot up Stanford Suttonís ass in case he shows up. I donít go over my protection schemes the night before Convocation with the Dean of the Chapel for the fuck of it. Skinny-ass bitch refuses to acknowledge my presence unless I use the correct terms for the chapel: narthex, chancel and ambulatory. Fuck her, too.

But like I said before, Fabienís death is all my fault. I had been expecting a close-range assassination attempt executed with a blade or some sort of short range, low-powered projectile. Made sense for me to stand in the ambulatory behind Fabien and off his left shoulder as he sat in the pew waiting to speak. Any assassin who knew his shit would have realized that was the best approach. But then Stanford Sutton got creative on me.

Now, I know what youíre thinking and fuck you for thinking it. Iím a damn good bodyguard. I trailed Fabien three paces to the lectern, scanning the audience, right hand in my holster and on my nine millimeter beneath my black Dolce and Gabbana suit jacket. But who the fuck sends seven wolves into a church to kill someone?

Didnít matter, though. Fabien might have died, but none of those wolves got out of the chapel alive. After I shattered the alpha femaleís leg, she scrabbled across the chancel away from me, paws and good hind leg propelling her across the wooden floor. The other three wolves whimpered. Flattened their ears against their heads. Dropped their tails between their legs. Made to go after me a couple times. Thought better of it each time.

The alpha female stopped when she came up against Fabienís body, and, with a big fuck you to me, lapped up the blood pooling around his head. Unhurried. Slow. Like she was enjoying it.

So I did the only thing I could have done.

I rolled.

# # #

Built for the Kill by Malon Edwards
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition

 

 


Malon Edwards was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, but now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction is set in a near-future Chicago. He serves as a Grants Administrator for the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Older Writers and Gulliver Travel Research Grants, which provide $750 and $800, respectively, for writers of speculative literature.

For more of Malon's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page

 

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On the Road from Galilee

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