In order to cheat death…sometimes…you have to die.
Iker the Unseen has eliminated Renault, one of the Triumvirate, and in the process has made his difficult life…nightmarish.
When the remaining members of the Triumvirate want Iker eliminated, they mobilize the DCE-Dark Council Enforcers to get their revenge.
But not everything is as it seems.
Someone is controlling the remaining members of the Triumvirate, someone ancient and powerful. Someone who stands to gain by having Iker removed from the board.
Now, Iker must uncover the identity of this Daystrider before the DCE eliminates him and those close to him. In order to uncover the influence in the shadows, Iker must walk in the light.
Release date: July 9, 2023
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 87
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Daystrider (Iker the Cleaner)
Orlando A. Sanchez
I stood in the center of the empty street.
They had allowed me the choice of the location, which meant they possessed an inordinate amount of confidence in their proxy.
I had chosen James Street, a small street downtown which sat between Madison Street and St. James Place. At this time of night, it was deserted and provided ample cover for my evening meet.
“I don’t like it,” Sabine said in my earpiece. “You realize he works directly for Garcia, a clan head who also forms part of the Triumvirate?”
“Duumvirate,” I repeated. “They are not a Triumvirate currently. Only two of them are left.”
“And why is that, do you think?” she asked. “Could it be your retiring Renault permanently may have something to do with it?”
“It has everything to do with it.”
“Are you sure they know it was you?”
“Yes, there is no doubt they know about my involvement in Renault’s demise,” I said. “It was made evidently clear.”
“Solis warned Renault beforehand,” I said. “I’m fairly certain he leaked enough information to the clan heads to point the rest of them at me.”
“He wanted Renault to kill you?” she asked incredulous. “It was a test?”
“A test of my skill,” I said. “Apparently, I passed.”
“He nearly had you killed.”
“If he wanted me dead, he had ample opportunity,” I said, recalling that he too possessed the Mark of Bahkri. “He certainly has the skill to eliminate me, if he so chose.”
“By Bahkri himself,” I replied. “At least, according to him. I can’t outslip him. That much is certain.”
“There’s always a way, we just have to find it,” she said. “You need to get proactive about Solis. That test could have been fatal. I doubt it will be the only one.”
“I believe my demise was the plan,” I said. “We need an extraction protocol in place—one that involves our walking away should he decide I’m no longer useful to him.”
“I’ll get it up and running immediately.”
“In any case, I would hazard to say that killing Renault was not well received by the remaining members of the Triumvirate.”
“You think?” she asked. “They sent Regis, their top Enforcer, to meet with you. He’s there to end you. Do you really think this is going to be a civil conversation?”
“Initially, yes. At least until weapons are drawn.”
A string of French curses was her response.
“At least let me get on site,” she said. “I can set up a contingency plan. Something to deal with Regis in case this goes sideways.”
I looked up and down the street. I had picked it because it was easy to surveil—which also meant Sabine would be discovered almost instantly if she set up anywhere near my location.
“No,” I said, leaving no room for argument. “He is a Lead Enforcer. He would sense you and dispatch you. You would be wondering why you were sitting in a pool of blood before you realized it was your own. He’s too dangerous.”
“I’m not exactly defenseless,” Sabine protested, but I knew she had accepted my directive. She was no match for a Lead Enforcer, especially not this one. “Can you at least keep me patched in?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said. “No promises.”
“Do you really have to meet with him?” she asked. “Why not have this conversation over the phone?”
“Like you said, he’s here to kill me,” I said. “That would be difficult over a phone.”
“You can evade him,” she countered. “Indefinitely, if need be.”
“That sounds exhausting. I’d rather not have him hunt me down,” I said. “Besides, do you know another way I can gather information about inner Dark Council machinations?”
“You mean besides going to war with the entire Dark Council?”
“Yes, besides an all-out war—one I would lose.”
“You know she’s not going to let this slide,” Sabine said. “At some point, she is going to confront you about this.”
“I’m counting on it. Talk later. My guest is here.”
I pressed the comms in my ear, ending the call, as I looked down the street and saw a figure approach. He wore the typical Enforcer uniform—black suit with dark accents and a red silk tie. An affectation I had been reluctant to relinquish myself.
I did try to enjoy the small pleasures.
He stood some distance away, assessing the threat I posed.
“Somehow, I imagined you as…more,” he said, waving a hand in my direction. “Taller perhaps.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” I answered with a slight nod. “I’m usually enough, more than enough, in most cases.”
“We shall see.”
I recalled what I knew about the man.
Regis Marquez—Dark Council Lead Enforcer for Clan Head Garcia, a member of the Triumvirate—was an accomplished Enforcer, a combination of skill, ruthlessness, and savagery that had to be experienced to be understood.
He struck fear in the Enforcers he led with good reason. He was nearly unsurpassed in his skill as a swordsman.
I had defeated him once.
I didn’t know if it was possible again, not with my current wound.
“You don’t need to do this,” I said, considering prudence to be the better part of valor. “Garcia and Petrov can nominate another candidate for the Triumvirate.”
“You know that’s not possible,” Regis said, his accent adding a slight musical lilt to his voice. “You did the unthinkable. Now they must salvar el honor—save face. You must be made into an example. You must be punished.”
“Punished as in killed?”
“Punished as in killed,” he answered solemnly. “Like I said, the unthinkable.”
“I wouldn’t say it was unthinkable,” I answered. “More like improbable. How did you know it was me? It could have been any other cleaner.”
Regis shook his head and smiled.
“Impossible,” he said. “I was on site. I saw the security at the Duke house. Only you would have been able to get in there and out again…alive.” He was one of the few Enforcers that knew about my ability to slip. “I especially liked the touch of the UV lights and leaving the hat. That fooled most of the others. Everyone knows how you are about your hat.”
“It was painful to abandon,” I said. “I truly liked that hat.”
“It worked on almost everyone, but I knew better. Then it was confirmed.”
“I don’t know,” he lied, though his eyes glistened with the truth. I was going to have to do something about Solis at some point. I filed the thought away. “All I know, is that Clan Head Garcia requested my presence, and now, I am here…with you.”
“What gave it away to you?” I asked. “Before the confirmation.”
He drew his blade—a Soulsplitter like mine.
“That,” he said, pointing at my blade with his own. “You took the weapons with you. If you had been killed, your weapons would have been on the floor beside you.”
I tipped my hat at him.
“An excellent point,” I said. “My oversight.”
“You are an excellent cleaner,” he said with a nod. “One of the best. I hate to kill you.”
“You are a superb Enforcer,” I said. “I hate to die.”
He gave me a short nod of acknowledgement and lunged forward.
It was a feint.
One that would have ended my existence, had I been a fraction of a second slower.
I needed to end this now.
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