By the time they stopped running, the scene of their crime was nearly a mile away. The biggest of the group, now wearing his gleaming prize to keep his hands free, was winded. The other two were tired enough to be nauseous.
"We... have so... got to steal... a damn car," said the smallest. A petty crook even by the most generous of criminal standards, Jimmy never had any plan that didn't involve stealing something from someone. Not the most physical of people, a mile's run was a lot more than he ever wanted to do again. "I know.... a good place... for it."
"Screw that," the big man said again. He was the leader of this trio by virtue of sheer size and the fact that he basically had none. Virtues that is; Trey defined amoral. "As soon as we pawn this thing, we can buy a damn car. Maybe even just trade it for a set of nice wheels. Something with rims and a kick-ass stereo."
That left Marco, the middle man. He was the one first up whenever a head needed caved in or an old lady needed her purse stolen. He would do anything, a trait Trey found very helpful in a flunkie. They hadn't moved up to killing people during robberies yet, but it was only a matter of time. When they did, Marco would definitely be the first one shooting. "That sounds great, T. I could go for a hot Vette with room in the back for some honeys."
Trey shook his head and spit into the gravel of the alleyway. "Vettes don't have back seats, dumbass. But you can bang bitches on the hood just fine." The body gesture Trey made to go along with his statement was something unprintable.
Jimmy caught his breath and hoarsed out a rough laugh. "Hell yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! When we gonna ditch that piece o' bling?"
Trey touched the thing, shifting it on his brow. The headband was a solid chunk of gold as far as he could tell. It had a strange crest of some kind on the front, maybe some Catholic school logo or something. "I dunno. It's weird looking, but the Shark oughta be able to fence it with no problem." Sticking it under his jacket, Trey turned to leave. "Let's head that way."
"Fine with me. I could use a cold one or eight right now." Marco was referring to the beers they'd be buying with the money just stole as soon as they reached the Hellhole, a rundown bar off Kingston Pike and Watley. The place was one of Shark's favorite hangouts. If he wasn't there now, he would be before the night was over.
Unfortunately for Trey and his boys, someone had other plans for them.
Jimmy was the first to drop. His brains were a heavy coating of meat and bone on the alley wall before the other two even heard the gunshot. It rang out from overhead like the angry voice of God as Jimmy hit the pavement. The hole in his head was big enough to pitch a baseball through.
"Fuck!" shouted Trey as he ran for the nearest piece of cover, a dumpster covered in spray paint and ten years of abuse. Marco turned to follow him, but his legs stopped working once his spine was no longer contiguous. It was still attached to his skull, but the explosion of his chest took several key vertebrae with it. He dropped in a haze of crimson mist, folding awkwardly in the middle of his former ribcage.
"What the hell?!? Who are you? What the fuck do you want?!" Trey pulled his piece and popped off four blind shots into the alley. he had no idea who to shoot at or where they even were; this was an act of ballistic desperation.
A quiet voice called out, the echo of the narrow street making it impossible to determine its point of origin. "Such language, Mr. Engel. I would have expected better from someone troublesome enough to require my services."
Trey fired again, this time aiming across the alley at the windows he could see on the third and fourth floors. "Who the fuck is M...?" His question was cut short by his sudden lack of vocal cords. Or a larynx. Or a throat of any kind, actually. His head bounced twice when it struck the street, coming to rest face down in Marco's pooling blood.
A few moments later, a shape plummeted to the aging asphalt nearby. The man seemed no worse for wear after having jumped down four stories, rising silently and smoothing the front of his long coat with his free hand. The other was holding a massive rifle with three barrels, a particularly rare and vicious item of field artillery called a Trident-AAC. The AAC part stood for Anti-Armor Cannon, but it worked equally well on people as evinced by the carnage at the shooter's black leather booted feet.
"I must say, Matthew, I am disappointed." The man's face was concealed behind a paratrooper's dark gray all-weather mask and a pair of low-light optical glasses. "For someone clever enough to have evaded the Ordo Michaelaeus this long, you were no trouble at all to hunt down. A pity..."
He walked over to the bullet-severed head and knelt to pick it up. "I had been hoping for more of a hunt." Then he turned it over in his hand and peered at Trey's face.
"Ah." He dropped it after prising off the Holy Seal. Standing up once more, the sniper put the enchanted headpiece in a small dark satchel and took a PDA off his toolbelt. One touch brought the small hand deck to life and a second brought up an image of Matthew Engel. It took less than a moment to confirm the mistaken kill.
Beneath the mask, a thin line showed that the man beneath was smiling. "Matthew, Matthew, Matthew. My faith in thee is once more restored."
By the time police arrived to investigate the gunshots, all they found were the charred remains of three people in a burning dumpster...