I will die in four days.

My thick skull is pounding. I drank as much as I could - top shelf California wine for no less than $500 a bottle. Must have cleaned out around 40 of them, because I was about to pass out. Pedro is lying on his side, having a fit. Looks like a carp thrashing around in the dirt. And one more, foaming at the mouth on the bed. . Sleeping soundly with a sick smile on his face, as if dreaming of luxury.

Christopher Mills seems to have no sense of discretion. He’s weak to the smell of cash, and completely blind when it comes to big money games. Eight minutes after I called, he showed up at the hotel. A real cash money guy. Once I’d scared the shit out of Pedro and knocked him around a bit, rather than kill him, I fed Mills a line about running the blockade to settle accounts between Curtis and Castiglione. The bait smelled a bit fishy, but well, sharks are known for their quick bite. Mills ate it right up.

Last night, the three of us carefully planned the settlement talks with some wine to grease the wheels. Well, well, things are starting to heat up already. Mills was in a good mood, being given a first-class seat. A full-course dinner for two at the best theater in Seattle. The executives were to watch from the audience. It’s really just a freakshow with a nice face, and the executives are, in effect, the supporting act. This would be an exceptional card to rival any big year-end grudge match - the underworld’s finest showman or head honcho couldn’t dream up a better idea. Show biz is like a fireworks blowout. A dreamy front-row fantasia that transports you from the ringside to the other side of the world with lavish flashes of color.

So, here’s a question.

Q: What happens if you kill Seattle’s Top Two? Please provide the correct response. You have 30 seconds to get it right. If you run out of time, you die.

The answer is simple: hire Mills to book someone who can kill both of them … I don’t remember much after that. Absolutely jack shit. I feel like I’m going to blow chunks.

The guy who got himself booked for the gig … was me.

Wine is a poison that will wipe your whole memory. Quit fucking around, Birkin, this is important, remember. Who was your best shot at killing Curtis and and Castiglione? 30 seconds is pretty short. I ain’t dying in a shithole like this!

Dan: The answer’s simple.
That would be me.

Birkin: Should’ve known.

The devil lounged on the couch and took another sip of his damned wine.

July 4th, 10:18 AM
Hotel Don’t Move

Try to keep up with the story I’m about to tell you.

Imagine the best fucking ride of your life. Taking the brand-new Trans-Am and heading south, along the coast, to your destination. Farewell to the north, your wildest dreams always await you in the south. I’m fed up with living with the gloom in this damp town. The West Coast is calling. I’m going to make a name for myself in that town. That’s right, with a bouquet of a dame in the passenger seat. She goes hysterical when I get a good job on the coast and the headliner material starts rolling in. You’ve got to stand out if you’re going to be anyone’s stylish, old boss. Not even a flashy femme fatale can resist, and you’re throwing out your back on the daily. A no-holds-barred court battle with the broad in the lawyers’ arena. Exciting days like this might just outshine paradise.

But then, what’s this all about? The dame in the passenger seat is dressed up all chic, and what’s more, lets slip a little peek at a stupid big revolver. Is this some new Fendi shit? If that’s it, they really must be going with bold design concepts this season. Can you imagine something like that?

Let me clear things up a little. Sure, I’m driving, but I’m also being taken for a ride. Glancing over, rather than the lovely legs of a lady, the Devil’s handgun glistens with bloodlust. In other words, this is a Death Drive.

Birkin: Dan Smith. Let me ask you something.

Dan: Just some thing? What about two things?

Birkin: … what?

Dan: Then I’d have to kill you on the spot.
A figure of speech to spell out a murder. Not a bad pun, if I do say so myself.

Dan: Let me tell you something.  

Birkin: Oh, just one thing? Not two?

I hate to recall what happened next. That son of a bitch shot my right hand. Blew my little finger clean off. For a left-handed batter, the pinky grip was an important precision machine that could control the direction of the ball down to the millimeter. Getting any money for my batting average would be tough from here on out. If I hadn’t been driving, I definitely would’ve used that moment to hit an oversized home run through Dan’s skull. Losing a finger is a small price to pay to kill the devil himself. But the moment wasn’t ripe, and Lady Luck gives me the cold shoulder once again.

Dan: Don't forget who we're here to kill.
You wanna come after me now? Huh?

Birkin: The hell are you on about? 
Our only aim is Curtis.
That ain’t changing.

Dan: A bastard like you has the killer instinct of a booger.
Did you really think you had the criminal power to take out your superior, the Killer 7? Huh?!

Birkin: What do you …

Dan: Listen carefully. 
I’ll tell you something.
Words are a means to an end.
Every word you say is a record.
Every word you record on a tape recorder is a declaration of your intentions.
A declaration moves people.
If what I say moves the world, then every word must carry the resolve of a monolith.
There’s no errors allowed in the details of an execution.
Even a shit-level assassin like you can at least make sure to spell-check your manifesto.

Birkin: Yeah. You’ve carved that lesson into my little finger.

Dan: It’s your mouth that gets the rest of you into deep trouble. Watch it, or I won’t hesitate to kill you at any time.

The way I see it, the devil’s the one that gets you into deep trouble. No, no - Dan’s very existence was trouble. I’m met with disaster, and I’m giving him a lift. Is something even more terrible waiting for me when I get there?

The sun beats down on the Trans Am. I feel like my brain is about to boil, which about sums up where I’m at right now. My heart is about to hit the boiling point of fear. I’m not even sure what that means anymore, but the point is, I’m at my limit. I should never have dealt with that devil.

We’ve arrived at Castiglione’s mansion.


July 4th, 12:00 PM
Castiglione’s Mansion

I don’t remember how many henchmen there were.

But it was quite a few. There must have been more than 100 henchmen in this mansion. At that reload speed, they were all rounded up in a superbly handled bullet ballet for two. It’s like a computer game shooter in a bowling center - seems easy to aim at an opponent standing still, but Castiglione’s goons are a fairly agile bunch. A crafty one might hide well, manage to get close, and then shoot you at point-blank range. But for some reason, the bullets don’t hit Dan.

As my eyes gradually got used to it, I realized he was reading the trajectory of the bullet and avoiding it with a wavering paper movement. This guy’s ability to kill is in a different league - I was mesmerized just watching him. Being able to pick up tricks like is directly linked to your criminal power. The reason I’m stuck being the cheap hit-making machine, Batman, is because I’m missing the grind of basic practice. By comparison, that man is a total machine for hitting home runs, and runs on a different system entirely. I’ve been shut out.


All of the small fry have been taken care of. Castiglione is the only one left.

Birkin: Do me a favor.
Promise you won’t kill Castiglione.

Dan: I can’t make promises.
Do you know why?
I can't stop the bullet if the face is rottn.
It’s on you and your prayers now.

Birkin: Even so.
The goal is to get a meeting with Curtis.
Don’t forget that.

Dan: A meeting? I’m not interested.

It’s all over. My plan’s ending in failure. Negotiations are 100% breaking down.

Castiglione: You’re a tenacious little bastard.

Dan: That’s right. I’m here to kill you, and there’s no stopping me now.

Castiglione: Well, then, let’s have a leisurely chat.
Sit with me.

Dan: If you can afford to mouth off like that, you must not mind losing your life, scumbag.

Castiglione: ‘Scumbag’ is a bit cold, isn’t it?
Mario is just fine.
Call me Mario.

Dan: Well then, Mario-kun.
Which will it be? Your choice.

Castiglione: Go on.

Dan: I kill Curtis and let Mario live.
Or, I let Curtis live and kill you.
How’s that?

Castiglione: Before answering, can I ask a question?

Dan: I don’t mind.

Castiglione: What’s your name, kid?

Birkin: That’s Dan Smith.
Pretty good, isn’t he?

Castiglione: I wasn’t asking the sidekick.
Shut up.
An acquaintance of yours?

Dan: He’s just the driver.
No more, no less.

Castiglione: So then, back to my question.
Dan, what’s your plan in all this?
Neither side seems very profitable.
What’s your objective?

Dan: Objective?

Castiglione: That’s right. Your goal.

Dan: Don’t ask me.
Ask the driver.

Castiglione: Hm?

Birkin: The goal is for you to meet with Curtis.
Collaboration and hand-holding between Seattle’s two biggest names.
For that to happen, I need Dan.

Castiglione: Why do you need him in particular?

Birkin: Well, that’s … so that you can become the top name. Dan will kill Curtis at the meeting.

Castiglione: And then?

Birkin: And then what?

Castiglione: You kill him and then what?

Birkin: It’s so you can get to the top.

Castiglione: Your facade is slipping. Well, I suppose I could see through it from the start.

Birkin: Huh?

Castiglione: Your plans are so flimsy.
How stupid are you, trying to put me in the same room as him?

Birkin: No, that’s not what I meant.

Castiglione: What a shame that your stupidity wasted so many of my men.

Birkin: Shit!

Castiglione: You’re not going to make it out of this one alive …

Dan: Oh, how do you figure that?

Castiglione blew the whistle hanging around his neck. As the sound echoed through the mansion, you could hear the sound of swarming footsteps, ten, twenty … more and more just sprouting up. No, no, they’re countless. We’re talking hundred of troops gathering now.

Roswell and Phillip entered the room first with ready expressions. But the crowd swarming behind them looked familiar. I’ve seen them before, especially recently. Yeah, that guy. They were all Samayoru. Maybe two to three hundred Samayoru. When you see that many identical faces, your instincts tell you something’s wrong. What I’m seeing in my eyes, is it a dream or an illusion?

Birkin: Dan, can I ask you a question?

Dan: Oh, really, just one question?

Birkin: Yeah. Don’t let it bother you.
Can you see a bunch of same faces in front of you?

Dan: ‘Same faces’, huh. I see them clear as day.
Because they’re my targets.

Birkin: Huh?

Dan: These things aren’t people.
They’re tactical weapons. Terrorists.

Birkin: Samayoru is a terrorist weapon?

Dan: Look, humans are all made up of the same basic stuff.
Emotions and environment give birth to individual differences.
It’s basic subtraction.
Just subtract the emotions and environment.

Birkin: The same stuff? What are you talking about?

Dan: You’re slower than usual, asking all these stupid questions. Mario is desperate. His operations are huge.

The inside of the mansion is becoming a strange space. Roswell and Phillip’s faces start to more closely resemble Samayoru.

Castiglione: You’re going to die here, so that you can become raw material for your country.

Roswell: Come with us, Birkin.

Phillip: It’s only a matter of time.
Have faith in the efficacy of that drug.
It’s never wrong!

Dan: I’m seeing your true colors now.
What will you do?

Birkin: What will I do?
I don’t get what you’re asking.

Dan: You don’t understand yet?

Birkin: Understand what?

Dan: You’re one of them.
You have the same face.

Birkin: Are you kidding me? That’s bullshit!

Dan: Why would I be bullshitting you?
You’ll understand if you look in the mirror.
Go see.

Birkin: … Shit!

I hurried to the back of the room to stand in front of the mirror. I was so sure of my appearance...

What a fucking letdown. I looked in the mirror, and Samayoru looked back.

A stiff smile pulled across his face.


July 4th, 2:48 PM
Castiglione’s Mansion

To be continued...