Finn, however, wasn’t concerned with their chatter. His eyes were locked on the street addresses that they passed. Thirty one, thirty two, thirty– He stopped suddenly. “We’re here.”
The apartment building was non-descript, innocuous — a bit run-down, perhaps, but a woman was hanging laundry out of her window and children were playing on the stoop. Clearly, Callahan had taken refuge here as a regular citizen. Just another soul trying to make his place in the world and not someone who sold and traded living people. Not the monster he was.
Without hesitation, Finn moved inside the foyer and bounded up the dark narrow stairway (“Apartment twelve,” Alyx had said). He found the number on the door, he marched right up to it and shifted his balance, about to kick it down with all the rage in his body when Alyx grabbed his forearm.
“Finn, hang on,” she whispered angrily. “Look.” She nodded toward a small device above the door. Finn hadn’t noticed it. It was hidden in the shadow of an overhang, a small, shiny black thing. A security camera. “He’s probably ready for us. We need to take this carefully.”
Finn’s expression darkened. Carefully? If Alyx thought he was going to wait one more second to give a vicious ally-trader what he deserved, she was crazy. “Maybe there’s another way around or–” she was saying, but he didn’t care. Shaking his head, he muttered, “‘I’m ready for him,” under his breath and then, in one motion, much to her chagrin, he swung his heel against the weakest point of the door, making it crack and fall with a thud.
Alyx groaned her distaste, but her gun was in her hand in an instant and she didn’t say a word as she followed Finn over the broken door, and inside the apartment. It lay silent — eerily silent. Finn glanced at Alyx. Alyx glanced at Cai. Cai shrugged and then they split up, each taking a different path into the dimly lit rooms.
Slipping his own gun into his hand, Finn pressed through the apartment, ears alert for any sound. The carpet crunched underfoot, he could still hear the children from the street, but the inside of the apartment was plunged into quiet. It was a normal sort of apartment. The walls were a non-offending light tan, the furniture, what little of it there was, was non-descript and generic. It didn’t seem like the home of a vicious criminal, it could have belonged to anybody.
But whoever it belonged to, they weren’t here. The bedroom was empty, the kitchen was empty. He whipped open a pantry door and found nothing but shadows and cobwebs. The hallways, too, were quiet as a tomb. The more he searched, the more Finn’s hopes plunged and his desperation rose.
Finally, after digging through a pathetically empty closet, he marched, frustrated, back into the main room. Both Alyx and Cai were standing by the front door. Cai had already holstered his gun and Alyx, a woman who was on her guard even in comfortable situations, looked practically relaxed. Clearly, their searches had been just as fruitless as his.
“No,” Finn muttered, practically seething as he approached them, “No no no, this cannot be happening.”
Alyx exchanged a worried glance with Cai. “Finn…” she began, hesitant.
“Don’t tell me he got away. Don’t tell me he’s left already,” Finn growled, pacing the living room furiously, feeling an incredible urge to puncture a hole in that perfectly nondescript tan wall.
“Maybe we can figure out where he’s headed next,” said Alyx quietly, but Finn just groaned his frustration.
“No, you don’t understand!” he insisted. “This was it. This was supposed to be it. Today. We were so close!”
“I know, believe me I know, but–”
“Where the hell is he?!” Finn demanded, but before Alyx could answer, Cai, looking suddenly alarmed, crossed straight through their conversation across the living room, stood before a set of tall green curtains and looked down.
“Uh. Guys — “
Raising his eyebrows, Finn hurried after Cai and what he found made him halt so sharply Alyx nearly ran into him. Amongst the light coming in beneath the curtain, playing across the carpet, was something else. Something dark. Something red. Blood.
Finn found himself holding his breath as he tore back the curtain, revealing the open door onto the balcony beyond. And sprawled out on the concrete balcony floor was the limp body of Callahan, his limbs fallen over the ground at odd angles. His eyes were wide, startled, and vacant. Crimson pooled from his middrift, a river of blood flowed toward their feet.
“God,” Alyx breathed, breaking the tense silence at last. “This — this must’ve just happened — look how fresh the wound is … “
“And I can take a guess why,” said Cai quietly. Their eyes fell toward one detail in particular: part of Callahan’s ear had clean chunk chopped out of it. Just like an ally. But that wasn’t all.
“He was stabbed in exactly the same place he stabbed me,” Finn muttered, feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck as his hand subconsciously rose to touch the spot where the scar still ran across his chest.
As he stood there, gazing at the body, Finn felt nothing — no pity, no sympathy and no validation. It may have been a victory, but it didn’t feel like a victory. Callahan was dead, that was what he wanted, right? Then why did this sight fill him with such a vicious sense of wrongness? And before he could think to do differently he heard himself growl, banging his fist on the balcony railing, “Who the hell did this?! Who else was here? How did this happen?!”
Unsurprised by Finn’s unpredictable moods, both Cai and Alyx simply blinked at him.
“Well, if my source knew he was here, he had to find out from somewhere — who knows where else the information went?” she said, crossing her arms over her chest.
“The important thing is that he’s dead,” Cai suggested softly, but Finn yelled, “No! You don’t get it! I was supposed to do it. He was mine!”
Cai regarded him with a mixture of concern and confusion, but Finn couldn’t look at him anymore. He couldn’t look at Alyx. He couldn’t look at Callahan’s corpse either. He tore back into the living room, brushing past the both of them. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! This isn’t how I wanted it. Five years! I gave five years to killing this man and someone else finishes him?! How? Who? I fucking need to know who did this!”
“Well, we might be able to find out.” Alyx caught his eye meaningfully, then tipped her head upwards. Finn looked up and saw what she was looking at. Something small, black, shiny. The security cameras.
In the blink of an eye, Finn rushed through the apartment to the bedroom where he’d seen a console screen. Cai and Alyx crowded beside him, and Alyx typed something into the keyboard. And there it was. Hours upon hours of security footage. She chose a recent one, from only the night before. The screen showed Callahan moving around the apartment, speaking on his COMM, reading a book. Alyx scrubbed through the footage, and then, it happened so fast Finn almost missed it — a shadow moving behind him —
“Stop,” Finn hissed. “Play it there.”
They all froze as the footage continued: Callahan was picking through his bookshelf and didn’t notice as a small hooded figure crept up behind him and suddenly, as far as Finn could tell, held a blade against his neck. They struggled, and the hooded figure was small but powerful and confident in the way they rammed their knee into Callahan’s stomach, grabbed him by the shoulder and shoved him into a wall, making the bookshelf overhead rattle.
In the struggle, they moved off-camera toward the balcony. There was no sound on the footage so Finn leaned in, his nose almost touching the screen. He watched as the hooded figure withdrew their blade and planted it right where it belonged: Callahan’s gut. Whoever they were, this person could fight. There was something oddly familiar about them …
As Callahan writhed on the ground at their feet, the figure re-sheathed their blade swiftly and briskly, business-like. Their hood had fallen off in the fight, and when they went to adjust it, that was when Finn caught a glimpse of the assassin’s face and his chest stilled.