Victor Zsasz left Don Falcone’s office somewhere around 2:30 of the morning. It hadn’t rained yet. The night sky looked strangely clear. Inside, the hallways of The Manor were lonesome. Victor’s steps made their way through them with easiness. Up in the terrace, he still could hear the party agitation. It would last, he guessed, until the first hours after dawn – that if following previous years traditions. He resolved that this gave him plenty of time to work. So he headed towards the ground floor, preferring to take the stairs instead of the elevator. When he was summoned to The Manor, he always preferred to pass unnoticed.
When Victor arrived to the ground floor it was almost empty. All of the guests were upstairs enjoying the evening, and they had left the place deserted. Here, across the whole room, millions of paintings were on the view. They were big and colorful. Most of them from the Italian Renaissance – or so used to say Don Falcone. For Victor it seemed as the old man found some inspiration on them. Yet they awoke from him nothing but indifference. Victor left them behind with no further thoughts.
He crossed the entrance gates, feeling fresh air hitting his skin. Outside the yard was quiet. Aside from the Manor, they were no other houses nor buildings in at least a mile. Victor’s car, a silver Lamborghini parked near the entry, was just where he had left it. He opened the door, and let the folder Don Falcone had given him fall on the co-pilot seat. He rarely found any use for this kind of information. When offered, he took them rather as a formality. Victor took a pause before getting in the car. He tried to remind himself that this job was important and that it had to be as clean as possible. Tonight there were no time for distractions. Out custom he palmed his left pocket, finding some reassurance in the .30 Luger he found inside. He tested it for bullets and put it back in his jacket. He suppressed a smile.
Victor turned on the car and put it on reverse. A strange sensation was starting to stir inside him. He tried to kept it there as a warm, motivating feeling. Soon the highway appeared before him. He’ll be meeting with his girls downtown. They had sent him the address of an underground club near the Central Heights. They had been, apparently, having fun without him. But that hardly mattered. Tonight he would have a little bit of fun of his own. Victor pushed the car accelerator, and made his way towards the bright lights of Gotham City.
There were few persons who would dare to go across the city at this hour. Not at least, in these neighborhoods. Since he could remember, the dim streets of uptown and midtown had their malls and locals closed before past eleven o’clock. Some restaurants ran over until later, yet most of them were protected territory and wouldn’t have risked otherwise. This was normal for Victor; Gotham citizens had always been wary to go out passed the nightfall. After all, at this hours this city had little to offer but to robbers, drunks and hookers. Decent people, if there were any left, were better hiding behind locked doors.
However, something had changed recently. Victor could sense it in the air, in the ever growing city pollution. And he was not the only one. Lately, avenues were more deserted than normal, back alleys in which drug addicts and prostitutes used to gather were suddenly desolated. Now, not even the city scum was too fond of hitting the streets past midnight. And it wasn’t like Victor was particularly interested in discovering why. Yet this concerned the city, and by extent, it somehow concerned him.
He turned the wheel in an intersection, approaching the cramped avenues of midtown. On the watch next to the glove box it marked the 3:15 AM. It was still early. He had planned to be over by five; but if he was careful with time, it would be done even before that. He was about to pass over the bridge when he felt his phone vibrating on his pocket. He had an upcoming message.
Meet us at the back of the club. – ZZ.
Victor didn’t pay it attention for too long. He just put it back in his pocket and stared back on the road. He had just entered Cobble Hill and soon, all the houses and buildings across the car windows started to transform. Larger than before, they become more complex in design and architecture, the advertisements were more colorful, more numerous. Downtown started to emerge at Victor’s sight. And in the dimness of the night, lights were suddenly shinier.
Things were different in here. Despite of everything that had happened during the last months, streets and avenues didn’t went empty after dark. Locals stayed open all night. Parties and nightclubs filled the air with loud music. Drugs and alcohol were consumed in tons. Here people were not afraid and life was up from sunset to dawn without further interruption. Victor liked this. When he found himself out of work for too long the dark extravagant bars of downtown were able to provide him of a temporary amusement. Many types of urban wildlife could be found in here. And in occasions, if he was lucky, he could perform a discreet, unpaid work for some of Gotham lost souls. And this was always a refreshing task.
In a couple of minutes he already was on the agreed place. The ride had been rather quick. He pulled over near the back alley as indicated in the text message, but he saw no trace of his female companions. Victor scanned the alley with his gaze, searching for any sign of trouble. A couple of dumpsters near the entrance. Garbage spread all over the ground. Walls with graffiti here and there. Nothing out of the ordinary. He was about to take his phone to call them when he heard it. The noise of the club backdoor smashing against the bricks, followed by the sound of weeps and women laughs. Victor blinked, and realizing what was happening, he couldn’t avoid a blunt humorous sigh to escape his mouth.
Three leathered dressed girls were the ones to come out the door. At their feet a small, chubby figure crawled on the ground with panic. Nonetheless this only seemed to provoke more laughs from the girls. The poor thing tried to run away, only to be thrown to the ground once again. He fell near the dumpsters, releasing a high-pitched squeal. Victor guessed the tiny man must have been molesting his female friends. They were delicate with those things, he thought with a certain amusement. But he didn’t like to waste his time. And he had already lost some precious minutes coming all the way here just to pick them up.
Victor pressed the horn of the car. And the girl’s eyes, until now stock in their prey, turned to him with a mild surprise. On her faces, for a moment, Victor saw disappointment grow. Minutes later they were entering the car, leaving the beaten, trembling body behind them alongside with the dark alley. They were still a bit too excited – that Victor could tell. Terrie have had her accustomed couple of drinks and Yukio wouldn’t stop cursing under her breath, watching through the backseat window. Mathilda, the oldest one of the team, threw a wary look at him across the rearview mirror. Only then Victor allowed himself the ghost of a smile.
‘Did you girls had fun without me?’ he asked, turning his eyes to the road.
Mathilda seemed relieved. A smile formed across her face, her purple lipstick much more noticeable now. ‘Never as much as when you come along, Mr. Zsasz,’ she said with some mockery. ‘Next time, you get to come too.’
Victor examined her across the rearview mirror for a second, then Yukio, and in the last Terrie. Her eyes were slightly lopsided, as usual when she drank. Her cheekbones looked even pointier alongside with her skinny face. She was taking things too seriously, he through. Booze was never quite well for good performance. Terrie, apparently sensing the way she was been looked at, inclined herself towards the front seats, putting one of her gloved hands on Victor’s shoulder.
‘Oh, come on, don’t get mad. You know how things are with us, Vic,’ she exclaimed with excitement. ‘We just can’t stay put for too much time! We get bored.’
Victor rolled his eyes, not minding it too much. His girls were usually good enough, even when hard drinking was involved. He calmly put her hand off his shoulder, returning her to the backseat. ‘Well, you won’t get bored tonight,’ he assured her. ‘We have work to do.’
The reaction on the girls was completely immediate. Mathilda’s eyes grew wide open. Terrie straightened on her seat. Even Yukio stopped on cursing, turning her small Asian eyes towards him. ‘When?’ she asked.
‘Right now,’ he said simply.
The girls seemed to exchange glances between each other. And Victor had already predicted the wide smiles that appeared across their faces in a matter of seconds. They hadn’t had a proper job in a couple of weeks, and they were eager to do some quality work. He understood the feeling quite well.
‘Where?’ Mathilda asked, searching for her gun in her purse and testing it for bullets, just as Victor had done before. The other girls imitated her almost right away. On his part, Victor put his eyes back on the road and once again pushed the accelerator. The silver Lamborghini made its way thought the night, faster and louder than ever. This time Victor didn’t try to hide his smile. He showed it openly, all of his white pointy teeth naked to the view.
‘Gotham General hospital,’ he said, more thirstily that he had anticipated.