It had been weeks.
Weeks of watching this one hit. He could've been done with the contract the day he had gotten it, but for some reason, this man was elusive. Not that the rich bastard had gotten any wind of being watched, but for some reason, he was always surrounded by people. Someone was always blocking his fatal shot. At first, it had been annoying.
Then he had gotten used to watching the man's daily habits.
By week one, he knew everything he could know about the guy without actually talking to him.
Week two had gotten him a bit closer to listening in on the man's conversations, finding out what he was really like.
Week three made him actually want to go up to the guy.
For some reason, this man was a challenge. A challenge to figure out, a challenge to kill. As a hitman, Shiro knew better than to take challenges lightly. He knew better than to face them head on. So, what was it about this bastard that got him all in a bind? The guy seemed boring, sounded like a human ice cube, and perhaps the only thing good about him was that he wasn't hard on the eyes. Which was a great thing, seeing as Shiro found himself watching the guy very often.
As he fumed silently over why the guy had such an effect on him, the otherwise thorough and professional hitman found his chance to get close to the man. His driver. While it was strictly against policy to bring down more people than what was on the contract, the odd assassin found a way to surpass that little notery. He simply pulled out the oldest tactic in the book; a knockout. Shiro was able to drug the balding driver and stuff the body somewhere else. Luckily, the clothes fit him well enough, and he was able to get into the rich asshole's car by jimmying the lock.
Now, sitting outside of the building the rich bastard called his work office, Shiro wondered what exactly he would do with the man so close to his reach...
Byakuya Kuchiki was a naturally suspicious person. At times, he could even be considered a bit paranoid. Honestly, someone in his position had to be somewhat cautious. He was the sole heir to his family’s vast fortune, the CEO of Kuchiki Enterprises, and a successful businessman in his own right. It was in his best interests to be constantly watching his back.
Still, as careful as he tried to be, he had no reason to suspect that someone had taken a contract on his life. People envied him, sure… He was young, handsome, powerful, and filthy rich. But was that reason enough to want him dead?
Someone certainly thought so…
It wasn’t uncommon for the Type-A businessman to work late into evening. Tonight, however, he had plans to dine with an old friend at one of his hotels, and he required some time to unwind before meeting her for supper.
The flagship of Byakuya’s luxury hotel chain, Seireitei, was located in the heart of South Beach, but his main offices were in downtown Miami. If traffic ceased to exist and he was the only one on the roads, it would only take about fifteen minutes to drive to his home on one of Miami’s posh little islands, and then another ten or fifteen to make his way over to the hotel. But, unfortunately, he had to share the road with thousands of other rush hour commuters, and therefore, the short drives could take as long as 45 minutes each.
He was already feeling a bit rushed, and didn’t bother to check if his driver was sitting in the front seat. But, honestly, why would he? It wasn’t like his driver was ever not there… That was the man’s job: to sit, wait, and drive.
Byakuya laid his briefcase down before sliding onto the cushy leather seat.
“Time to go…” he said briskly, eyes focused on his watch.
Shiro watched with trained eyes as the target moved from the corner of his vision. The man hurriedly made his way around the limo, sliding onto the seat. The hitman smiled to himself, nestling the hat that covered his eyes tighter over his head, so that it fully shaded his eyes. Unfortunately, with his cursed genetic make-up, his uniquely colored eyes would not go unnoticed. Which would be bad for him if he was trying to escape the scene, or if the target managed to get away.
The pale professional ignored the man's request at first, reaching over onto the seat to dip into a small case he had brought with him. Inside was his baby; a stainless-steel, mirror-sheen finish .45 pistol, with a top of the line silencer fitted onto the barrel. It was light, it was nice to look at, and it got the job done oh-so-well. And currently, it was either going to scare the shit out of this stuffy businessman or put a nice, round hole through his brain.
Whichever struck his fancy.
Jabbing the button that rolled the partition down into the console, Shiro watched as the small black piece of glass made it's way down some. When he was sure the rich asshole could see nothing but the top of his head and the rear-view mirror, the professional looked up into the mirror, bringing his gun high enough so it would reflect for Mr. Richy to see it. Shiro didn't hide the smirk that played on his lips.
"Good Afternoon, Mr. Kuchiki. I was wondering if you'd like to play a little game?"
Why were they not yet moving? Could his driver possibly be asleep at the wheel? Honestly, this man had been in his employ for quite some time, and should know better than to keep the fussy billionaire waiting.
Byakuya was leaning forward to press the intercom button again when the partition began its slow decent. He shifted gracefully to the center of the seat, prepared to give his driver an earful.
What was this?
The first thing he noticed was the hair, stark white and thick, where his driver’s balding pate was covered in a dusting of mousey brown. Next, he noted how the driver’s dark cap was angled quite sharply… His eyes darted to the rear view mirror and saw how the cap’s rakish tilt obscured the stranger’s gaze.
His pulse quickened as sharp eyes took in pale, almost corpse-like, skin.
Before Byakuya saw the gleaming gun, before the pallid hit man opened his leering mouth, it was obvious that something was very, very wrong…
His driver was gone… And this strange man had a gun…
The Kuchiki heir did not take kindly to threats of any nature, most especially threats against his life…
Though Byakuya’s heart was pounding, he kept his poise and was able to appear calm and collected. Was this a hit? Did someone actually want him dead? Perhaps not… Perhaps it was something more…complicated. Like a heist, or abduction…
What did the fiend say? A game? Did he want to play a game?
No thank you…
“Good afternoon, indeed…” he said slowly, his voice cold, even, and just a touch bored. “Unfortunately, my answer is…no.” He cocked his head, trying to get a better view of the stranger in the front seat. “I do not...play...and...I am not fond of…games…”
Like the guy had a choice. The pale hit man cocked the gun, smiling as it clicked back into place. He fiddled with the ammo feed ramp as well, unloading and loading the gun, trying to look bored. Inside, he was giddy as a fucking schoolgirl.
"Hmm..." he began, humming to himself. "Well, maybe I should've said we're going to play a game, Mr. Kuchiki. Because, really, you don't have a say in the matter," Shiro punctuated his statement with a laugh, glancing up at the mirror to see Kuchiki's expression. The savage grin continued to stay plastered on his face. "It's not a difficult game, Kuchiki. A man as smart as you should be able to figure out how to answer, and answer quickly. Stall, or pull any shit with me, and I will show you exactly how serious I am about all this." Professionalism in place, the ghostly figure set the gun down in his lap, crossing his legs, and putting his hands together to rest on his thighs. He liked this part of the hit; playing with his subjects. Sometimes he even got to torture them.
It was such a damn rush, no matter how many times he saw the same scared faces. Although, this man was incredibly good at keeping his cool, not letting any of the panic seep into his expressions.
"While I am a professional, I do often times given my targets the chance to level with me. If there is a reason that would prevent me from killing you, I'd love to hear it."
Level with him? Excellent. If he was willing to negotiate, then he could certainly be bought. Everyone has their price... Everyone.
He leaned back against the limo's sleek leather seat while quickly contemplating what to say. Of course, the instinctive, "fight or flight" part of his brain was screaming at him to run. But the more pragmatic part of him knew that dashing out the door would likely lead to a bullet in the back of the head. Byakuya Kuchiki was a proud man. If he had to die, he would face his enemy without fear and die like a man.
That's not to say he would go down without a fight... And in this case, the pale fiend in the front seat seemed to be offering him a chance to talk his way out of the hit. He wanted to play a game... He wanted a reason...
He obviously wanted to engage the Kuchiki in a battle of wills... Which just happened to be his specialty...
Byakuya gave a barely there shrug and cocked his head slightly. "There are several...viable...reasons," he began, "though none of them have to do with me, personally..." He paused to contemplate an imaginary speck of dirt under one of his immaculate fingernails. "One reason could be the extraordinarily well-hidden cameras that record the happenings in both the front and rear seats of this vehicle. They are triggered by motion sensor, so I can assure you that they've been recording our little tête-à-tête for several minutes now..."
The only other person who knew about the cameras was Byakuya's estate lawyer. In fact, it was he who had recommended the heir have them installed in all his cars as a safety precaution. Every now and again, the young heir would review the digital feed, just to see what his driver was actually doing while he waited around. The camera never caught anything of interest in the front seat. The back seats, however, were occasionally the sites for some very steamy "home movies." The angle wasn't the best in some of his older limousines, but he'd managed to rectify that with that all of his newer cars.
A smirk, a chuckle, a feeling of intrigue.
Of course Shiro wouldn't know about the cameras in the car. He had never thought of having to get into the car when he had been handed a contract. He was given access to a very nice semi-auto sniper rifle, which he was supposed to use in the first place.
"That's very wise of you, Mr. Kuchiki, but it's nothing I can't possibly deal with." Shiro removed his cap, setting it in his lap, so that the bastard in the back seat could see his eyes. This situation was obviously going to end great, or horribly. Letting the asshole see his eyes at this point wouldn't make much of a difference. He gazed into the other's eyes, eyebrows quirking at the thought of this moment working in his favor. "I've been a professional assassin ever since I hit my sixteenth birthday. Cameras are not something I worry about anymore, not after so many years of practice." The ghostly assassin held his gun up to the rear-view mirror again, waving it slowly from side to side.
"Now," he began, smiling pleasantly. "Let's try this again. Is there another reason why you should not lay dead in your vehicle?"
Money. That was the reason, and they both knew it.
Of course Byakuya wasn’t going to bring that up immediately. He did not want to seem desperate, and he wanted as much time as possible to evaluate his adversary.
An assassin since age sixteen? He didn’t look very old… From what little the businessman could see, the pale hit man was probably in his early to mid 20’s. Then again…it was hard to tell with those odd, amber-colored eyes. The eyes were…creepy. Like a cat’s. There was just something strange and otherworldly about this guy…
Anyway, even if the hit man was only 19 or 20 years old, he was obviously good at his job. Byakuya didn’t know much about that line of work, but he imagined it had a pretty high turnover rate.
The Kuchiki heir held the younger man’s gaze evenly.
“Of course,” he drawled, “I said before that there were several… Though rather than bore you with anything else that might relate to my safety and your eminent capture, perhaps it is best if I simply cut to the chase…”
He raised one speculative eyebrow and paused for a moment before continuing.
“Though I doubt you will tell me who, maybe you can tell me how much? If you have been studying me for any length of time, you should know that I have the means to offer you double, even triple, the compensation.”
Byakuya’s voice never wavered. He did not shake, he did not sweat, he did not flinch or cringe. He never tapped a foot, swallowed hard, or chewed a fingernail. He remained poised and gave away nothing. It was as if he was discussing a business venture, or merger, with a potential rival or ornery client. There was nothing in his being or manner that attested to this being a negotiation for his life.
“So…” he said finally, “it comes down to money. It is not so much whether I should lay dead in this car. This is more about whether or not you would like to be a wealthy man.”
The icy billionaire punctuated his words with the faintest hint of a smirk. “The choice is yours…”
Shiro pretended that he was thinking about the offer. Of course, his mind had already drawn the conclusion the moment he had stepped into the car. The pale hit man was always looking out for number one, in everything he did, so after many weeks of watching the man, he knew killing the guy could potentially be unfavorable. It was obvious the bastard had lots of money.
The ghost of a man smiled.
"Hmm... I do love money, but..." The assassin trailed off, tapping the tip of the silencer against his chin. "I am notorious for carrying out any contract with ease." Shiro pressed down on the automatic switch that lowered the rest of the protective glass between them. The quirky young man opened the case next to him, putting the safety back on the immaculately clean gun, and unscrewing the black cylinder that attached to the nozzle. He turned his head around to look at the rich asshole in the backseat, smirking.
"I think, though, for my own benefit, I will have to take you up on your offer. You being dead doesn't really matter to me. You being alive, well, that gives me more chances to blackmail you for money, huh?" A laugh. "Well, if you'd ever like to give me more money, Mr. Kuchiki, I'd be willing to lend my services."
“Blackmail should not be necessary,” the Kuchiki heir said smoothly, his heart rate beginning to settle once he realized the genetic nightmare in the front seat had put away his gun. “Since your work generally entails a contract, I would like to contract you not to kill me—through this hit or any other that might be placed on my life.”
“As for your services,” the heir continued, arching one sleek eyebrow inquisitively, “I cannot imagine I will be needing a professional assassin any time soon… However, I am quite curious to know who hired you.”
The brunette billionaire leaned forward slightly in anticipation, though his features remained as neutral as ever. “I honestly cannot imagine who would go to such extremes.”
It was true. Byakuya was vain, but he didn’t have any delusions of immense popularity. He knew he was generally well respected, but not always well liked. He was obviously unaware of some hidden enemy or rival. Who would stand to gain from his death? One of Kuchiki Enterprises’ grumpy old Board of Directors? No… The loss of the brilliant young CEO would be a financial disaster for the company. A jilted lover? Definitely not. It wasn’t like the privacy-loving heir really had any of those, anyway.
Shirosaki turned his body around, his arm leaning up against the railing of the window, and looked straight at the CEO. He allowed the man a pleasant smile, shrugging nonchalantly.
"As much as I would love to rat out the cheap bastard, I'm still good at what I do, and that means keeping secrets." The pale young man placed a finger to his lips, chuckling a bit. "While I can obviously be bought off of a hit for a price, information is an entirely different subject. You can certainly see where I'm going with this." A large, Cheshire cat smirk played across his features. As much as he was a good killer, Shiro was also a good businessman. All those home-school psychology lessons had seen to it.
"And, as far as my services go, I meant bodyguard work. Nobody would want to touch you if they saw hide or hair of me. That's what makes me so good at my job; fear. I've won my fair share of pissing matches, Mr. Kuchiki. People generally stay the hell out of my way."
“I would imagine so…” Byakuya said, a subtle trace of dark amusement evident in his deep voice. Cool gray eyes surveyed the younger man in front of him. Spidery blue veins were evident under his alabaster skin. And his eyes…such an odd color. The sheer peculiarity of the hit man’s appearance could certainly be intimidating. He looked almost…ghoulish. Just give the man a black hooded cape and a sickle blade, and he would be the Grim Reaper incarnate.
“As for the information I desire, just name your price.” He leaned back in the seat again and crossed his legs with an easy grace. “For my safety, I need to know the person, or people, who sought to terminate my life. For my personal interest, I would like to know how much it cost…”
How much was his life worth? Byakuya didn’t know how much it cost to hire a professional killer, but he knew it had to be expensive. One million? Two? Possibly more? Whoever placed the hit must have relatively deep pockets…
The haughty heir hoped the contract had cost his mysterious enemy a small fortune. However, he’d told the assassin that he’d double, or even triple, the fee. And that was before they began weighing the price of information…
Oh well. Even if he ended up shelling out five million dollars, it should prove to be money well spent.
Shiro idly wondered if the man knew how much it took to hire someone of his status. Professional assassins always had a high and low price, but he was quite possibly the best of the best. Depending on the situation, the pale young man could make anywhere from $250,000 or $1,000,000 in just a couple days. He could almost make that money in a day if he worked fast enough. Of course, jobs didn't come piling in every day, but the money he made from them lasted quite a long time.
All the thought about money got him questioning if he should really tell the man the truth. Sure, he could tell the guy who ordered the hit, but the payment... Well, he could always make up some outrageous number. He'd probably get away with it, too, seeing as Mr. Kuchiki had very deep pockets.
Oh...what to do...
"Well, my contractor wanted you dead, desperately, so he was kind enough to pay me about $750,000 up front." It was a lie, of course. He had been paid somewhere around $250,000 up front, and was promised $300,000 after the deed was done. "Selling any information I have would require me to ask for another $200,000. If my benefactor ever caught wind that I ratted him out to you, well, let's just say, he could hire about five other people to come after me." Shiro smiled, pretending to total up the sum on his fingers. "I guess that's brings us up to, oh, I would say, $950,000. Although, you so graciously told me that you would double my offer. So, that would bring us to..." The ghostly man laughed. "$1,700,000. Hmm, guess that'll pay my rent for a little bit." Shirosaki smirked.
"And, as to who your real killer is, it was someone in your family. A cousin, who seemed quite jaded."
That was all Byakuya needed to know. He knew instantly who it was: his spoiled, lazy, junkie of an older cousin who’d blown his own substantial inheritance in the course of three, ill-spent years.
That greedy little… Jaded? Ha. That sorry excuse for a Kuchiki didn’t know the half of it…
“Interesting…” he mused, nodding his head slowly, somewhat lost in thought for the moment.
While part of the billionaire was absolutely furious at the selfish fool-of-a-cousin’s audacious attempt at guile, another part of him pitied the worthless man. Byakuya had been helping to support the bastard for the past several years. Even if Byakuya didn’t agree with the cousin’s frivolous lifestyle or non-existent work ethic, they were still family. The reserved heir hadn’t realized that his cousin was so desperate. Perhaps the loser had figured himself to be prominently mentioned in the Kuchiki heir’s will. Hardly… And definitely not now.
Byakuya was surprised that the duplicitous bastard was even able to scrape together 750K. Truth be told, the vain heir was rather pleased with the amount. He would have hated to hear that his life could have been bought for much less.
There was, of course, the chance that the hit man was lying… It didn’t seem as if these “contracts” were actually written down on paper. And it seemed unlikely that a professional killer would take pains to be honest. The man had to posses a rather loose set of morals just to be adequate at his job.
Even so…it hardly mattered. 1.7 million seemed more than a fair price to pay.
Byakuya blinked his steel-gray eyes twice and looked up to find Mr. Reaper still leering him. The heir folded his hands in his lap and easily returned the young man’s intense gaze. “Here is my proposition,” he began evenly, “To show my appreciation for your willingness to negotiate, I will round up the fee to two million dollars even.”
The CEO raised one sleek eyebrow before continuing. “Will the extra $300,000 be sufficient to solidify a contract that forbids you from terminating my life, Mr…”
The young assassin instinctively perked up as the "cha-ching" sounds of money ran through his mind. So, this little risky venture of his turned out to be well worth the effort.
If it hadn't, well, he wouldn't have stuck arourd for clean-up... Shiro smiled wide, almost grinning from ear-to-ear. He could grow to like this guy, if he was willing to shell out a nice amount of money once in a while. Never mind that he somehow interested the smirking killer, although, Shiro couldn't come up with a good reason why.
"I would say we have an agreement, Mr. Kuchiki. As to what you can call me, well, I guess you could call me by my code-name." The young, pale killer smiled politely, holding two fingers to his head, and saluting. "Shirosaki. At your service."
Byakuya gave a curt nod. “Very well, Shirosaki…” The odd name rolled off his tongue with surprising ease. “I will have the money ready for you tomorrow afternoon—in cash, of course.”
“Now, then…” the businessman drawled, “if you are truly ‘at my service,’ you might as well make yourself useful and drive me home. I assume that you have my personal address committed to memory?”
“Besides…” There was a faint twinkle of cold mischief in Byakuya’s flinty eyes. “The black chauffeur’s cap rather suits you…” Indeed, the shiny black cap was quite striking against Shirosaki’s shock-white hair and pale skin. The Kuchiki heir had never met, or even seen, anyone like the amber-eyed assassin before. The young man had such a devious look about him... Yet, the aloof brunette couldn't deny that Shirosaki was mildly intriguing...
Shiro let a playful smirk replace his smile from moments before as he put the cap back on, pulling it down at a low angle.
"It's nice to know that it's pleasing on the eyes," he said slowly, turning back around to start the car. "Unfortunately, though, I can't say the same for you. Your attire doesn't suit you." The young hit man looked up into the rear-view mirror once more, as the limo began rumbling. "I like it better when you're...dressed down." Before the CEO in the back could come back with a response, the pale assassin pressed down on the gas pedal, tearing into the street.