Avengers Prologue 1: Just a Night Out
There was a stale odor of cigar that hung heavily in the air, much like the noise of music that poured from two blown speakers which did nothing to drown the garbled conversations all around him. This was not a comfortable place for a man with highly tuned senses, however one such man sat with a glass mostly full of ginger ale — watered down by the copious ice the bartender used to pad the bar’s bottom line. The smoke hindered his vision, its dry grasp strangled his sight and he stared downward at the bar. Instead of relying on the sight that had so often been his key sense, there was a trick Sam once told him that he’d been willing to give a try, to shut out the noise and focus on the familiar and bring a different sort of focus to the mind.
A woman’s voice walked into his path, the cigarettes had aged her much beyond her years, but nothing she had to say was worth the oxygen her life wasted. He filtered his focus across the conversations of two more couples attempting to arrange backroom deals for favors, one primarily sexual, and the other he’d have to phone Luke about. Contract killing in Luke Cage’s turf was suicide enough; the guy could at least finish his drink before he spent his last years as a puppet mouth piece from some prison alpha’s crotch.
Thinking himself clever of his analogy, he combed through a handful more voices before the crack of a billiards cue snapped his focus to a new direction.
A small sip of ginger ale and a slow breath brought his surveillance back, only a moments distraction but no less fortuitous. Two voices at the pool table argued rules of a game they tried to make more complicated than it should be, but one voice struck a chord in his mind. He found something familiar, albeit vaguely.
He turned his stool and gave the pair, as well as the would-be murderer, a quick glance and returned to feigning attention to the crowd at large. The next several seconds were less than comfortable as an electric hum moved across his brain and then after a moment of waiting a woman’s voice broke silence into his ear.
“Primary target will take a moment, but your secondary came back already.”
He said nothing and Monica continued, “A low-level Maggia enforcer, out on bail for attempting murder on a dockworker’s wife. I’ll inform Luke while we wait, send a protection detail to the former target’s home, just in case.”
The comm channel snapped when the connection broke and after clearing the distraction he pulled himself back to the billiards table and attempted to listen in to the talk. The pair was sober and he caught the tail end of a dollar figure but nothing else to connect. He knew Monica’s search could take up to an hour depending on the quality snapshot his contacts captured, and he turned to order another drink. The bartender already had his order ready and with a wink he handed it over.
“Is that all you have for me?” Lye, the bartender asked with a wry smirk.
“Yep.” Was the customer’s only reply.
He was nothing if not consistent, he mused the comment inside his own brain while remembering something Nat said several a few months ago. ‘The weakest ones always pine over the impossible, they make the best pawns if they’re kept wanting.’
He shook his head slowly, he wanted to laugh over the simple nature of women in his line of work but whatever the tools they employed he could only find jealousy in himself. Always impossibly beautiful, they made the job look so easy, but men didn’t always need violence as a first retort, but it seemed to be the go-to tactic immediately.
“Positive match on your primary target,” Monica’s voice returned and quickly vanished again.
He smiled, “Hey Lye” the bartender heard and quickly jumped to the customer’s need. “Those two at table six, they regulars?”
He topped off his question with a smile and a gaze that tore through the bartender’s guard. Lye blushed, his face was bright red and he stumbled through his answer. “Puppy love, what a great tool to add to the drawer”
“They come in every now and again, usually with a larger group.”
“You don’t say.” He slid a ten dollar bill across the bar, “another ginger ale, keep the rest.”
“You are too kind,” the bartender spoke without trying to hide the large smile.
He smiled back at the bartender, “They any good?”
Lye paused and glanced back at the table and pretended as though he was trying to remember, “Yeah, I guess. They usually walk outta here with a round or two paid for by some sucker or another.”
He nodded and sipped from his glass, “Interesting enough. Willing to take a bet?”
The bartender shrugged, “Why not?”
“You askin’ or tellin’?”
The bartender glared back with a little more seriousness in his eyes, “Stakes?”
“I win, drinks are on you from here on out. I lose…?” He motioned to Lye to finish the statement.
“Coffee in the morning is on you.”
“You’re a bold one!” He winked and placed the drink down. “Let’s see how lucky one of us will get.”
The patron turned on his stool and stepped down, he moved slowly and somewhat deliberately through the smoky haze that stung his eyes, thanks mostly to the contacts Monica made his wear. He waded through the hazy room and passed across several open pool tables and ultimately he stopped at table six. The two men already at the table paid him little attention until he spoke up. “I hear you guys run this table.” The patron braced himself with both hands and brought himself slightly lower, “What’ll it take to take it from ya?”
The pair laughed, “Man you haven’t a clue. This is ours, if you want it, you’re gonna have to play for it.”
The man on the left kept his laugh, he wasn’t the one with the familiar voice, but all the same the patron gave him a once over for Monica’s records. He was of average height, closely cropped brown hair and a fairly heavy build. Unlike most of the patrons in the establishment these two took a healthy interest at fitness. But it was the clothing that made the impression slightly more memorable; their belt buckles flaunted their affiliation like amateurs, branded with the letter “H”.
“Images captured, keep them talking I’m adding their files to the database now.”
Monica’s voice came and went as it always had, and the patron brought himself within inches of the unfamiliar voice’s face. “I’ll play, what’s the game?”
“Standard rules, we’ll keep it easy for you.”
“Two on one? Those odds are stronger in your favor than mine.”
“Our table, our rules.”
The patron shrugged and grabbed a cue from the wall, “Fair is fair.”
Hydra agent one laughed while setting up the balls in a compulsive fashion, this man was a stickler for rules. He turned every ball so it was facing the same direction and ensured the pyramid of spheres were uniform before he removed the wooden shaper and the patron smiled at what he thought might be a mid-level field leader perhaps squad leader. The other was wildly pacing back and forth in a semi-circle impatiently waiting for the game to begin, he was not much of anything just a trigger puller, he’d know nothing of value, oddly he was the one with the familiar voice, then again, probably typical of a private that didn’t yet know his place.
Agent two stepped to the front of the table and placed the solid white ball at just the right place and drew back his cue, the smack of the balls were hard and the pyramid shattered all throughout the table, two balls sank into random holes without any calls. Agent one confirmed the score and identified the stripped balls as their targets and left the solid spheres to the patron to sink. “So we never said, but what happens when I lose this game?”
“Drinks are on you the rest of the night, friend!”
The patron nodded, “sure fine, easy enough.”
“Did you have something else in mind?”
“I’m not sure yet, how about we call a penalty on the eight ball just to make things interesting?”
Agent one nodded in the affirmative, “I like the way you think. You got a name?”
“I do.” But the Patron was not interested to give it. He waited until the second agent made a geometry error and failed to sink a fourth ball before taking stock of the table. He was down a solid ball from the initial break, their point from the rules. The white ball stood at the near center of the table and a foot from the felt barrier. The patron looked over the numbers on the spheres and found the lowest number in sequence on the far side of the table and positioned himself behind it, unlike the second hydra agent the patron called his pocket. “One ball, corner.” He drew back and with just the right amount of force sent the ball home and left the white ball spinning but stationary in place, “three ball,” he pointed with his cue, “center left.”
The patron moved through the first four of his spheres and left the two Hydra agents wondering about the mess they made for themselves. Within a moment, the Patron was sitting behind ball seven and it too made the familiar smack against another one of its members inside the pocket, and as he lined up against the eight, “so what’ll it be boys. The easy way?”
The first hydra agent stared the patron down and asked him again with a harsher tone in his voice, “Who the hell are you?”
“Just some guy that keeps amazing company,” He spoke before he pointed to the left center pocket again and spun the eight ball into the hole. “That’d be game, am I right?”
The fresh faced Hydra private’s head almost glowed with a flushed anger and he pushed himself into the Patron’s chest. “Who the fuck do you think you are! This is our table!”
A smile formed across the patron’s face, “I’m going to give you the count of three to take your hands off me, or you’re going to regret it.”
“I want a name!”
The patron’s foot snaked its way behind the younger man, and he kicked the calf out from under the young man. The young Hydra agent fell to the ground immediately and before he could move a muscle, the patron pushed his pool cue into the young man’s throat. “Don’t move, it’ll hurt you worse than it’ll hurt me, I promise.”
The squad leader stared back at the patron almost as though he recognized his voice but still couldn’t place it or his face, “Seriously man, who the hell are you!”
He took two steps back, slowly. HIs eyes darted left and right looking for an exit, but other patrons had taken notice of the altercation and barricaded his path. He started screaming at everyone near him, pushing wider bodies than his own to attempt to make an exit and failed with each try. The patron, meanwhile, kept his pool cue at the throat of the younger hydra agent and a foot on his chest. He slowly unscrewed the top half of the cue stick and with easy precision tossed it through the air like a small javelin. The Hydra squad leader turned his face just in time to see the stick before his smacked him in the forehead.
The blow brought the man to the ground with a perfect circle of blue chalk up against the sinus cavity at the top of his skull. He attempted to get up but found himself too dizzy to hold his feet together, the Patron touched his ear and Monica’s voice returned, “I saw, you don’t need to gloat about it.”
“Come on, gloating is so much fun.”
“Enough with the games Clint, Steve is ready for pick up and we have to process these two.”
“Understood, Hawkeye out.”
The fresh faced Hydra agent’s eyes rolled back into his head and Clint Barton laughed, “That was easy.” He waved down the crowd, “thanks for your help.”
One man in the crowd spoke up, “glad to do it, these clowns won’t be coming back here and that’s the best news I’ve heard all week.”
Hawkeye looked the squad leader straight in the eye, “That’s right; they’ll be going away for quite some time.”