James Somers / Fantasy / History & Fiction
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*A Sequel Preview of “Descendant” included*
*A Bonus Preview of “The Serpent Kings” included*

2012© James Somers


Mr. Oliver James sat within the French café, Le Braziere, in downtown London, waiting for his contact to arrive. He had come early in order to scope out the area and the restaurant, ever careful to trust no one. Despite the late hour, a number of patrons were still seated eating their meals, or drinking wine.
Oliver noted several older couples enjoying different pasta dishes. Two young lovers sat nearby, having eyes only for one another. Several waiters milled about between tables, looking entirely snooty and proud of their profession as though they were waiting upon kings, or other great dignitaries.
Despite having lived in London for many years, Oliver had never been fond of French food and so had never dined at La Braziere. His contact, one Samuel Loch, had provided Oliver with useful information about the doings of Mr. Black and his associates for nearly two years. Oliver felt fairly comfortable with the man. Still, one could never be too careful. Loch was already ten minutes late.
Oliver sat quite still with a glass of wine before him. When the waiter had offered him a wine list he had been surprised to find Oliver’s glass already full. Oliver, a man of middle age with a gray-streaked beard and slim frame, had smiled politely but had offered no explanation as to how the wine had gotten into his glass. He simply took a sip as the waiter wandered away bewildered, unsure as to what he had been doing at this curious man’s table in the first place. Minutes later he would have no recollection of a man fitting Oliver’s description ever being at the restaurant that evening.
It had been overcast all day. Only five minutes ago, the weather had turned worse as showers came down outside amid a cacophonous concert of thunder and lightning. During all of this, Samuel Loch finally walked through the door, looking worse for wear, completely drenched in his overcoat and cap. He wound his way toward Oliver’s table, ignoring the other patrons completely; something that seemed rather odd for a man that normally would not cross the street without a detailed report of everyone waiting for him on the other side.
Samuel took the chair opposite Oliver and sat down.
“I’m sorry for the delay, Mr. James. The weather’s right nasty out. Anyways, I’ve got something really special for you tonight.”
Oliver took another sip of his wine before he spoke. “Since you’ve made me wait, I should hope so,” he said.
Samuel grinned, scanning the restaurant with his eyes conspiratorially before continuing. “Black is making big moves in London; lots of recruiting among the People.”
“This I know already,” Oliver said.
“But wait,” Samuel said, “you haven’t heard the best part. I’ve a special message from Black.”
When Samuel Loch said this, he stood, pulling a revolver as he did so. When the barrel cleared the table top, he fired it repeatedly into Oliver’s chest. “Mr. Black says your time is up, old man!”
Oliver lurched in his chair with every shot fired. Bloody holes spoiled his white button-down shirt, mingling with the crimson vest worn beneath his suit jacket. Samuel stood over him, firing the revolver until he hit several empty cylinders in a row.
Oliver’s shocked gaze suddenly narrowed, fixing upon Samuel’s face, a wicked grin crossing his lips. He reached forward and took another sip of his wine. Loch’s eyes widened with surprise.
“Did you really think it would be so easy, Loch?” Oliver asked.
His form shimmered in his chair and then vanished while Samuel watched. The other patrons were on their feet, observing the entire exchange with shocked expressions. The image of Oliver in the large wall-mounted mirror behind Samuel suddenly leaped from the looking glass into the real world, pummeling Loch with the silver wolf’s head of his cane.
Loch fell forward across the table, sprawling onto the floor entangled in the off-white table cloth. The other patrons showed their true colors. Each and every one, including even the young lovers, drew pistols and started firing at Oliver.
He lurched away, blurring for a moment as he sidestepped the physical world through a portal of his own making, emerging halfway across the restaurant. Oliver pulled the flame from the nearest gas lamp, sending it into the young couple, igniting them in a blaze that instantly felled the woman while the man ran screaming through the restaurant’s plate glass façade.
Realizing the slippery nature of their target, one of the older couples turned on his new position, unloading their pistols. A wave of Oliver’s hand scattered the bullets into the nearby tables and glassware, shattering and splintering all. Another flick of his finger brought the wall curtains down upon the older couple, binding them fast in a strangle hold the likes of which even an anaconda could not manage.
Oliver turned to four more assassins, posing as patrons, coming around a division among the tables. One of them actually had brought a stick of dynamite to the party. Were they so desperate, he wondered? The fuse was already lit. The middle-aged assassin flung the TNT into the air toward Oliver. As he gazed upon the infernal object it unrolled itself, revealing the tightly packed powder. All of the explosive contents blew backward upon the crouching assassins along with the lit fuse, hissing and squirming like a scalded snake. The powder ignited mid-air showering the assassins in a cloud that blossomed into an inferno around them.
Oliver surveyed the scene. Dead or severely wounded assassins were scattered throughout the restaurant. When he went back to the table he had previously occupied, Oliver found Samuel Loch missing. Apparently he had fled the restaurant.
He sat down at the only nearby table that had not been touched by fighting. Around him the restaurant stood ramshackle and burning. Oliver picked up an empty wine glass in pristine condition, raising it before him. Red wine filled the glass from the bottom up as he gazed upon it. Oliver sniffed the aroma, approving of the vintage he had reproduced. “To you, Mr. Black,” he toasted.
The hammer of a revolver clicked as it was pulled back into firing position. As Oliver turned, a waiter standing directly behind him was tackled from the side by a young girl. The waiter fell heavily to the carpeted floor of Le Braziere with the girl attached to his neck. His gun discharged in no particular direction. Within seconds of her attack, he was completely incapacitated.
Oliver stood, watching the girl feed for a moment before she looked up at him with red-rimmed irises glowing in the candlelight of nearby tables. Not a drop had been spilled. Her skin flushed, suddenly vibrant where it had been pale and gray a moment before. The assassin’s pistol, ready to have placed a bullet into the back of Oliver’s head, still lay in his hand, a single cartridge discharged.
Oliver sighed, smiling at the young girl now standing before him wearing black clothing that matched no particular fashion of the day. Clearly it had been designed for practical purposes like ease of movement only; breeches and a blouse with a hooded robe covering all.
“Do you always leave such a mess?” she said, surveying what was left of Le Braziere’s once elegant dining room.
“Thank you for your assistance, Charlotte,” Oliver said. “As always, your timing is impeccable.”
The girl did not acknowledge the compliment. Constables would soon be on the scene following the gunfire and the charred corpse lying outside. The Fire Brigade would follow on their heels but most of Le Braziere would be destroyed. By the time Oliver James gathered himself and exited Le Braziere, the girl had vanished as mysteriously as she had appeared.

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