Anita’s office is red, the walls carpeted in drapes hanging long and gilded.
“I said to kill Petra and Malik. Not burn down the Flower!”
“Petra and Malik were inside.”
“Two lives! I paid you for two lives! But how many died?”
“I didn’t think to count.”
“You think at all! Any moron can set a fire! If I wanted matches I would pay for them! I needed you gun! You knives. Your damn-subtly!” Her little hands were fists against her desk.
Ink was silent.
“If you don’t explain you die, you understand that Ink?”
Ink was expecting guards. One at the door in. One in the office. Two at the bedroom door, or in the lobby. But they'd be distracted. Torn between duty and pleasure. How alert can men be in a brothel?
When the street curved the Flower came into view. Three stories of arched windows covered in cascades of flowers and light. Laughter poured through the glass and spilled onto the street. The ivy bloomed in orange and yellow against the light of the lanterns. Outside officers stumbled into each other, their ruckus energy welling up in fists and hysterics. They crowded the street outside the Flower while women on the balconies beckoned them back indoors.
"Ma cheri!" They called to the men.
"Ma fluer!" The men hollered back in German and drink soaked French.
Ink wasn't ready for this many. Malik kept a guard but tonight it looked like the entire garrison was on leave. Twenty men in the streets, who knew how many men inside. The first gun shot might go unnoticed, but two? Soldiers knew gun shots. They'd be quick to respond.
Ink's mind was working. A side door? A leap from a terrace to a balcony? Find a strong enough cable and maybe...
And then there he was. Ink's pulse froze. He wore a full uniform of the empire, tassels and a commander's stripes. His eyes watch the crowd, smoke curling from his lips. His face lit on the inhale. In a single motion he turns and stubs out his smoke.
Ink had to be sure. Years had passed, it couldn't be. Ink shoves forward, pushing through the crowd of soldiers. The man reaches the entrance, the light pours out. And through his torn left ear. Where there should be arcing flesh there is a missing triangle.
"Watch yourself dog." The man pushed Ink back knocking him into another drunk soldier. The solider cried out and swung around. Voices all around are turning on Ink now. In the doorway the man stopped and called over his shoulder.
"Finish up out there. No bodies tonight."
The man had Ink by the collar now and he lifted him up, "Commander! He was staring at you weird."
"No bodies tonight, Riso." The figure turned and Ink could feel his glare.
Riso shook Ink's collar again and a PLINK echoes in the night. Everyone stared at Ink's gun.
The man looked back at Ink. "Okay Riso, just one body tonight."
"I know you!" Ink's words shocked him. The strength of them. The ferocity. "You ruined me! You ruined me!"
The man's silhouette against was full in the door. His shoulders were broad and proud even in age. His face was obscure. The knife-holed-ear cast a broken shadow on the street.
That's when everything went wrong for Ink.