The Contractor was unhurried in his exploration, relishing the shiver of a spooked horse rippling down The Huntresses leg, triggering a rush of her pulse and shift in body weight under the catch of his gloved hand. He leaned into her body, not quite ready to release her back to the wild urban jungle knowing that once this moment was over The Huntress would return to stalking her quarry. The hum of boundless neon lights reflecting from the pooling wet of the alley floor and the crowds of clicking heels all searching to find their way were calling and it was time to move on. The Contractor pressed his face into the wild hair tangling against The Huntresses neck, betraying himself for a brief moment, breathing her in while stroking her skin and tucking the ruby strewn dagger back into the fold of her boots. He stepped back, one hand still trapping both her wrists and picked up the pieces of their shared past, acknowledging the history and refusing the future. Piercing The Huntress one last time with his eyes, The Contractor released The Huntresses wrists and turned on his heel, striding into yawning emptiness of the city streets and disappearing into the void that consumed them both. The game was on.
The Huntress felt a sudden shift in temperature as The Contractor examined the gift, glancing at her with stony eyes warmed by a sun breaking through summer storm clouds. Yes, this was going to be a difficult job, had she only known this prior to accepting. She noticed, however, that this sudden surge in warmth did not extend to her arms being released and felt the dull emergence of pins and needles spreading down her fingers. The Huntress, now growing bored of the game, spoke up.
“I believe that belongs to me.”
“You still carry this? After all this time?”
“I like it. It has also helped me out of a few troublesome situations.”
The Contractor gave The Huntress a ghost of a smile, an understanding that their current arrangements were purely professional, not personal. “A talent for trouble, still? Who would have thought?”
“I thought sarcasm was my line of defence”
The Huntress returned to her teasing of The Contractor seeking either to provoke him into action or to release her from restraint, the numbing force of pins and needles now spreading through her upper limbs. The Contractor responded by retracing his previous steps with the cut-throat tip of the blade, listening to the grind of metal on metal, pressing the tip down harder until the grinding became the ripping of silk thread seams belonging to the tailored trousers recently acquired. There was a sharp intake of breath as The Huntress weighed up the situation and the potential collateral damage. Offering favours to tailors was an exception, rather than a rule, but that looked set to change as the tear became wide enough for The Contractor to slip his naked hand inside the pocket he had created, sliding his hand down the amber skin of The Huntresses thigh.
The Contractor took his time in ascertaining how the scene was going to play out. He noted the goose bumps erupting over The Huntresses skin, from her neck, down her décolletage, disappearing under the facing of her outfit. Ever methodical and meticulous in nature The Contractor worked his way down The Huntresses body, gauging the strength of the steel scaffold corset with his free, bare hand, reacquainting himself with the dipping curve of her waist and the flare of her hip. He paused momentarily as the corset ended, inspecting the brocade edging and continuing his way down to The Huntresses boots. Fingering the velvety suede lining of the black burnished boots The Contractor continued his search as The Huntress shifted slightly, still pinned to the wall, still unable to exert anything but her approval. The Contractors curious fingers continued their investigation, his eyes gleaming, daring The Huntress to protest and knowing that she never would. Sliding further down into the boot he finally found what he was searching for, warm from the heat of her body and secured to her thigh. Drawing it up slowly and with precision, The Contractor pulled a lustrous dagger from The Huntresses boots, embedded with fiery rubies shimmering in the shards of moonlight piercing the dingy alley. Tilting the dagger towards the moon he found the words he was searching for; “Never want again” engraved with the fine calligraphy of an expert craftsman. The Contractors mood seemed to immediately shift from aloof disdain to consolation, attaining knowledge of a prize that was seemingly treasured, one he awarded long ago in another era.
The Huntress, ever in denial, continued to blame her restrictive corsetry for her continuing breathlessness. While aware of The Contractors current responsibility she also knew his style and that did not include asphyxiating people in dark alley ways. Despite The Contractors choice of occupation she knew he did not go in for outright violence or an extravagant scene; much akin to himself he liked neat, disconnected executions which highlighted his superb skill. Gathering her hazy, carbon soaked thoughts The Huntress tried to decide whether the situation was going to lead to predicament or pleasure. The Contractor was in a superior position, supplying predicament with his sheer brute strength and force, which The Huntress knew was perfectly capable of delivering pleasure. Her mind, drunk on a lack of oxygen, teased her for a brief moment with recollections before quickly sobering up with gasps of air, gathering thoughts and making deductions. There was a job to be done, however they both knew that only one of them could be successful and tonight was not a night for business. That clarified that matter. All that remained now was revisiting facts.
The Contractors bare fingers delicately traced over the soft beating of The Huntresses jugular “You know better than to make such a judgement call.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t dream of judging you.”
“I suppose this is where I should tell you that you haven’t changed. You’re still a sarcastic bitch.”
“You always enjoyed it.”
“I thought you weren’t making any judgements.”
“I thought I was a sarcastic bitch.”
The Contractor tightened his grip around The Huntresses neck, examining her features in a slice of moonlight carving its way into the alley “I have waited a long time. I have little patience for your idea of a reunion tonight.” The Huntress searched The Contractors face intently, gasping softly for air through parted lips. He further tightened his grip, watching with interest as she turned from pink to red and red to purple. The Huntress continued to stare at him, not giving an inch until he slackened his grip. The Contractor returned to stroking her neck, tucking a strand of inky black hair behind The Huntresses ear and running his finger down her earlobe, tracing her jaw line. While anticipating her return he realised he wasn’t prepared for it and needed to buy some time. The Contractors normally ordered mind had been thrown by his earlier distraction and the sudden arrival – how was it that The Huntress was able to enter the city without his knowledge? Unless…yes, that was it. He knew that The Huntress would take full advantage of anyone who crossed her path and his informants were no exception. Idiot boys, he thought bitterly, sadistically entertained by how they would make this amateur mishap up to him, thoughts of punishment further fuelled by the mocking expression upon The Huntresses face. So, she wanted to play. Who was he to refuse her?
The alley running alongside the jazz club echoed with sharp steps, unmistakeable in their origin. The Huntress slipped into the shadows, wearing their cold embrace as silk, enveloped in their caress. The footsteps died away, the frigid alleyway lonely, reflecting the cries of the traffic making its way home to soulless dwellings and heartless relationships. The Huntress paused on high alert, waiting, expecting, almost wanting…except it never happened. Disappointed, she turned to retrace her way out of the alley, consoling herself in the knowledge that the single malt she had been drinking really was quite smooth and there was ample remaining at the bar. Glancing down, The Huntress cursed a cat that had just dashed out from near her feet, streaking its way up a fire escape. Then, without warning, a figure appeared, slamming her body into the rough-hewn brick wall, a gloved hand pinning her arms with surprising agility and power over her head and an ungloved hand curbing her neck, forcing her to look up into The Contractors flashing grey eyes. He pressed his strength and weight against her form, humourless in his suggestion that The Huntress would be going nowhere until he decided she could take leave. The Huntress played a slight smile, relishing the opportunity to consider The Contractors force and her lagging ethics regarding work and recreation “And here I was thinking you didn’t miss me.”
The Contractor eyeballed The Huntress coolly. “Where have you been?”
“Did you expect something different?”
“Then why ask?”
The Contractor continued his steady gaze. “Did you find your prey?”
“I think you already know the answer to that. Let us say I no longer have a marriage. It might still please you to hear that.” The Huntress enjoyed her stubborn, awkward game, knowing that The Contractor would rise to the challenge. She took pleasure in the taunt, smiling and laughing at his confusion, pushing the boundaries until they snapped and he wreaked control from her. He knew her game well, but never let on his uncertainty as to whether he really ever did gain hegemony over her or whether she let him. And he was never really certain as to whether she didn’t know this either; despite her propensity for chaos and recklessness The Huntress was as much of a master in discretion as he was. The Contractor wore discretion as a cloak, The Huntress masking it behind a barrier of supposed ineptitude, which he begrudgingly noted gave her a slight edge. Of course, he would never tell her this.
“I see. What happens now?”
“So many questions.”
“Not enough answers.”
“We both know that’s not true.”
The Huntress gave The Contractor a half smile with glittering eyes, watching the pulse in his temple quicken with a series of incomplete ripostes. Unsure as to how much he knew, this evasiveness was required to ascertain how far he had come with his enquiries of her. While it was a prudent assessment to make, The Huntress was also curious to see if The Contractor had kept up on her goings-on and whereabouts. She tilted her head, holding his stare evenly with an amused expression, fingering her glass and ignoring the waiter taking not-so-surreptitious glances at her corseted figure. The Contractor picked up his glass and drained it, standing abruptly and taking his leave, The Huntress smirked and followed suit, draining her glass and stalking after The Contractor into the obsidian night.