Part 3 - Measure of a Man
"I want him dead." The flamboyantly dressed man wearing the sharkskin suit has new teeth, implants to replace his own which were rotting away. Being a Russian immigrant to Hub City in the late eighties when the city was still new, Dodonovich had established himself as one of the first of a new group of criminal enterprises in a modern metropolis in America.
While his suit may be tacky, his mind and body were supremely-honed. Dodonovich neither drank nor smoked and rarely abide anyone who did. He trained regularly in all forms of hand to hand combat, hiring the best teachers and trainers possible. His former life as a mercenary gave him an awareness of all kinds of weapons and their uses.
But what served him best was his understanding of the criminal mind. He knew men's minds, their fears, knew how to dash their hopes, knew what they wanted and could manipulate a man for his own needs. But he was both a sadist and a masochist, taking his love of pain and pleasure to extremes.
His mouth still hurt because he had insisted his oral surgeon replace all of his teeth on the same day. He wanted a mouth filled with the beautiful teeth he saw on his television. He heard actors and models replaced their teeth when they became famous. His surgeon had advised against it. After throwing quicklime on the first surgeon in a new Hub City landfill, his new surgeon was only too happy to perform the surgery to his specifications, terrible though they may be.
The second surgeon was paid handsomely to forget Dodonovich's face and the threat of his children ending up in a wood chipper ensured his lack of memory. The pain made him angry and it made him focused. Pain can be wonderful for focusing the mind, sharpening one's awareness to what is important. As he sat looking at his lieutenants, his face swollen, wrapped and drugged out of his mind, their terror was absolute.
His two bodyguards stood at the door to the loft they were using as a headquarters. Massive terrifying specimens of humanity, their shaded eyes were never seen behind their black as night sunglasses. Both seemed to have a preternatural awareness of danger, only adding to their mystique. But the lieutenants knew one thing. They were loyal to Dodonovich and could not be bought for any price.
The loft apartment they were meeting in was a place his lieutenants did not come to often, and so did not worry much about being followed. After Dodonovich's bodyguards swept the place, they came in, turned on the lights and waited. Contemporary and modern, none of the lieutenants wanted to be here, because meetings in unknown places sometimes meant fewer people would be leaving it. The two men finished their sweep, even checking for electronic listening devices, but they never spoke unless they were spoken to by Dodonovich. Each seemed to know the thoughts of the other and it was thought they were twins.
"Boss, we don't know if its Carlucci." Samuel was a weasel-faced man with a nose too long and eyes too close set together. Both flaws together enhanced the overall effect of a man who had been converted from a weasel by an unknown means. It was not true, but it never stopped the rumors. Samuel's nature was also a survivor, so when lesser men had played their hands and come up short, somehow Samuel outlasted them with an almost animal cunning. Right now, he was doing his best to deflect the wrath of his boss of ten years. Being alive this long meant he knew the ropes of stating the facts, without making excuses. Dodonovich did not abide excuses well.
Slurring and spitting, Dodonovich did not let up. "What do you know?"
Flecks of blood-laced spit landed on the table and the lapel of Oron, the bulldog of Dodonovich's lieutenants. Ugly, would have been giving him a kindness to describe his features. But he was not hired for his looks, he was hired for his tenacity, his dogged determination, his un-killability and his legendary sense of smell. His suit, custom-made for his stocky frame was impeccably cut and his grey shirt and tie seemed perfectly designed to match.
"I have never smelled anything like it. Ever." Once Oron locked onto a smell, he never forgot it. He was a bulldog in human form. Short, squat, powerful as any three men, his arms were as thick as another man's thighs, his chest a barrel with bands of muscle rippling through it. When Oron was not at work, he was working out, testing his strength by ripping telephone books in half, or tugging trains with his teeth in his spare time. "I looked at the scene when police left. I saw clawed feet in tar up to scene. Forklift needed to remove rest of car." Oron looked visibly shaken.
Oron was a terror in and of himself. He had been shot at least two dozen times, seen without a shirt he was a patchwork of scars and back room surgeries, resembling Frankenstein more than a man. No one knew where Oron was from and no one was going to ask. He was the first of Dodonovich's men and no one knew what kept Oron in the employ of Dodonovich. Whatever it was, if Oron was afraid of it, it was something best avoided.
"My connection in the Sixteenth, said their preliminary workup had revealed no clues as to what did this, other than what appeared to be hand prints in several sections of the vehicle that had been torn apart." The third speaker was as beautiful as the first two were hideous. But his was the beauty of the coral snake. Lovely to look at, but you somehow knew not to touch it. Dai Lung was from Korea and had worked with Dodonovich for only five years. He was a recent addition but rose through the ranks swiftly.
"The only thing that comes to mind is a government project I might have helped coordinate in Guatemala a decade ago. Some kind of super-soldier project." His sharp mind, and ability to convince others of his sincerity had made him a legendary con man, but he was more than that. Skilled in martial arts, quick with his hands and his mind, made him a thief, pickpocket and all around acquisition-based criminal mastermind. He and Dodonovich were once at odds, but Lung agreed to work with him when Lung's operations were compromised by the Sixteenth. Since then, Dai Lung brought his considerable criminal expertise, technical skills and overall terrifying beauty to work with Dodonovich. Both prospered. So their alliance endured. "This can't be that project, though. Their goal was to create soldiers who were powerful and could pass for human. Clawed toes, does not a human make."
"So what we are looking for is a man. And if it is a man, we can kill him. What I want to know is what you are doing about this? He killed my son. No, I am not weeping, no one hated him more than me. Spendthrift wastrel. But he was my wastrel and no one gets to kill him but me."
"Boss," Samuel began, turning his nose like a radar dish, "I looked into Carlucci first, and I heard he lost a gang last month in a similar incident. They were torn limb from limb and turned into a pyramid of parts. Carlucci was mad as hell."
Dodonovich's color began to change from the furious red he could become to a blushing pink, meaning the worst of the danger was over. His lieutenants leaned back in their chairs, just a bit, sphincters releasing, and their breathing reconvened more regularly. "Lung, didn't the Triad lose a group recently as well?"
"They did. At first we thought it was some rival mob, but now that I think about it, it seemed harsh even for a mob hit. Their men were electrocuted in their car by a power line that happened to fall on them on a back road. The coroner said they did not die right away. There was smoke inhalation and lung damage from breathing in heated air from the forest fire that started around them. Now that I think about it, there were missing door handles and each door had been forcibly broken so they couldn't be opened. There was a kind of art to the hit." Lung seemed to retreat into himself, perhaps musing more on the artistic nature of the hit, or simply jealous that he hadn't thought of it himself. He fancied himself a superior kind of assassin making death an art form. He prided himself on never killing anyone the same way in any given year.
Dodonovich sat down and wiped away his drool with his sleeve. None of his men looked away for even a second. This was the time when he was most dangerous, when he made up his mind to do something. "I want everything we can know. About this person, thing or whatever the hell it is. I want witnesses, I want science, I want your people to do whatever they can, Lung, to find a way to kill it."
Looking at Samuel, "Get my boy's flunky out of jail, pay his bail and keep him comfortable until he tells you everything that happened. Treat him good, be his friend and put him to work in your gang. Learn everything they did that night. I want to be able to figure out what this thing wants and why. While you are at it, I want to meet with the other Bosses. Arrange someplace nice, public, big where everyone can be comfortable bringing their boys. Two weeks."
"Oron, I want you to find him. That is what you do. But I don't want him caught, I want him alive. Go to the Sixteenth, use that fabulous nose of yours and find him. No need to tell you to use discretion in your work. I don't want him to have any idea we are looking for him." Dodonovich never gave Oron too many instructions, his methods were inscrutable but effective. Oron had never spent any time behind bars or had ever been caught in any criminal activity.
Dodonovich's head seemed to droop forward for a second, and a line of drool streamed from the corner of his mouth. His lieutenants did not move because they had not been dismissed. Lesser men had made that mistake, once.
Suddenly his head snapped up, and his eyes burned bright with the characteristic madness they had come to know. His mild and musical Russian accent magically reappeared "Get out there gentlemen, crimes won't commit themselves."
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