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Belleville :Life

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Belleville :Life Chapter 1

A handful of taxi cabs were crawling the damp city streets pursuing the remaining tourists. Drunken couples waved their last farewells to the bars of the old town before slumping in the back seats and heading to their hotels. The air swirled with the mixed aromas of fine wine and trash. This was an elegant city, on the surface at least. It was like a couture dress with dirty underwear. In the center a grand gothic cathedral towered over a river that snaked by and a thousand slate rooftops huddled together for warmth. It was late, cold and about as quiet as it ever got. The sensible locals were tucked up at home in the warm, chatting on the intercity computer network or maybe watching John Lennon's late night chat show on television.

A few miles out, away from the chic shops and cafes, the Inter Chime chemical factory sprawled across the north east corner of the city. Its industrial pipes, buildings and frameworks created a mazelike pattern across the skyline. Even at this late hour steam hissed from its many vents, giving the air an unnatural quality that made the nostrils vibrate. The odd light flickered here and there; the skeleton staff was barely conscious. Nothing else stirred and a cold ground mist made it hard to see more than fifty feet from your nose. Only the local wildlife might have noticed two dark figures by the factory fence. A brown Belleville delivery truck was parked, lights off, its familiar yellow logo barely visible in the darkness. It was a little late for deliveries.

The two figures, one larger man and one tall but much thinner, crouched by the wire fence with their breath making puffs of white in the cold air.

"Benny?" the larger man whispered. He studied a piece of paper in his chubby hands anxiously, his voice unsure. "What are we stealing again mate?"

The taller man, Benny, was all dressed in black and systematically slicing a large circle in the factory fence with some heavy duty wire cutters. His accent and his looks were both vaguely eastern European. He spoke cockily as if he broke in to factories every day. "Stereo Isomer Polymer you dumb idiot! Right there, top line, black and white," he nodded confidently at the piece of paper and continued to cut.

Rather than be offended by such a dismissive insult, the large man was preoccupied with nerves and apprehension. Why wasn't he wearing black, he was still wearing the same brown leather jacket and dirty jeans that he'd had on all day? What happened if they got spotted, there was sure to be guards, armed guards with guns no doubt. He was positive that Benny was packing a weapon of some sort and all that black made him look like some kind of Special Forces ninja. The large man was Martin Cahill, a husband, father and so far out of his depth that the 'idiot' insult was probably a depressingly true depiction.

This really was not the time to screw things up. His job was delivery, pick up and drop off, he did it every day. This was just a different kind of pick up than usual. If Benny thought he was an idiot, then he'd rather be a live idiot than a dead one. He put his pride aside and persisted.

"Yeah, but what's that then?"

Benny stopped cutting and turned to speak. "Look my friend, who cares, it's in that building, in a box." He motioned with the cutters at an old factory shed a hundred feet from the fence. "We go get the box, load it in the truck, get scarce, get paid and then we all live happily ever after." He grabbed the paper from Martin’s hands and stuffed it into a pocket. "Didn't you ever go to burglary school?"

Martin chuckled, forgetting his nerves for a moment.

At the side of the delivery truck a large shadow shifted. The truck had been parked to cast a useful blackness over the two men, while blocking the view from the main road, which was empty anyway. Two large green eyes opened in the dark, a giant figure was lurking by the truck almost invisible. The eyes were the brightest green you've ever seen, like the color of some unnatural radioactive material created in the basement of the Inter Chime factory itself. They took a step out from the shadows, revealing a massive silhouette against the moonlight.

"Problems?" asked the menacing figure, with a voice like gravel being slowly ground in to dust.

Benny and Martin jolted from their conversation, suddenly alert as mice in a cat farm.

"No problems boss, we're all good here," broadcast Benny dutifully.

The figure grunted and disappeared back into the shelter of the truck. Benny shakily resumed cutting with a little extra speed. The bright green eyes glared for a moment and then slowly closed.

A circle of wire mesh dropped neatly onto the grass. Benny moved closer to Martin and flicked his uneasy eyes back towards the truck "Look my friend. You're new, I get it. Just do the jobs, don't ask questions and don't get Vincent involved."

Martin knew all too well not to get on the wrong side of Vincent of Belleville, even the sinister characters that lived there tread carefully around him. Truth be told, Martin was trying to impress. After all, this job was great money. If you wanted to get the good work in Belleville, you had to get in with the big boys, and they didn't come any bigger than Vincent. This simple pick up was an opportunity to a much more lucrative lifestyle.

"You ready Martin?"

Martin puffed his cheeks, gulped down a few deep breaths and nodded. Benny rolled down his black hat over his face; it had two tiny eye holes that made his Special Forces ninja outfit complete. Martin meekly pulled up his collar as high as it would go, a hat or a scarf to hide his face would have been handy right now, but it was too late. They headed off across the crisp grass towards the shed, trying to keep as low as they could. Vincent's green eyes followed the figures as their outlines dwindled in the darkness. As they ran the mist swirled and settled again. The distant cars out on City Avenue and the faint hiss of the factory were the only sounds to be heard. Impatiently, the green dots stared intensely out from the blackness of the truck’s shadow, never blinking, never moving.

The brief silence shattered; an alarm bell rang through the air like a foghorn in a library. A sprinkle of lights turned on around the complex. It was as if the factory beast had been awoken from its slumber.

The huge figure of Vincent came to life too, striding out from his concealment and up to the hole in the fence. Now visible, the frightening figure was a mind crunchingly awesome sight. A colossus, seven, eight feet in height at least, built like the truck he'd been leaning on. He had arms you could climb up and fists the size of buckets. He was wearing a black hooded sweater with the hood pulled way over his head covering his features like an intimidating rocker. There was something about him that wasn't quite right. He stood hunched and crooked, but it was his fists that were the wrong most of all. They were covered in matted fur, black as the night with thick pointed nails like the claws of some wild animal. His face, deep within his hood, was hidden but those green eyes glared out sinisterly.

The alarm continued to reverberate through the cold. The faint sound of yelling and glass smashing could just be heard amidst the din. A flashlight waved around near the old shed and a dog began to bark fiercely. Vincent growled deeply and crouched down by the hole for a better view. Shortly, the flashlight reached the shed and a moment later the alarm stopped abruptly.

The mist wafting across the grass made vision difficult. Eventually a faint shape came through the darkness, at first it was hard to distinguish but then the shape was lit up by the dazzling beam of the flashlight. Two figures could clearly be made out running straight towards the fence. Breathing heavily and carrying a large plastic case, Martin in front and Benny behind. The yelling could now be heard more clearly.

"Hey, stop or I’ll shoot, you thieving crows!"

"Just keep running, keep running, run run run," Martin thought to himself.

BANG, a gunshot split the air and echoed menacingly. Martin's heart skipped, guards with dogs and with guns was too much. He focused on the fence and the truck.

"Just keep running Benny." The thud behind him barely registered. It was more difficult to ignore the case suddenly weighing twice as much and dragging behind. "Benny?"

Martin stopped to look round; Benny was a few meters back writhing around on the floor with a red face contorted in pain. A little further beyond was the impending sounds of dogs and a bright torch light in the mist. Benny managed to spit out just enough words.

"Keep running you idiot!"

Martin knew enough to listen to that one. The barking was almost upon him and there was no way he was getting caught. Leaving the case he turned to the fence and began to sprint. Up ahead, a frustrated Vincent was squeezing his massive black frame through the hole, spitting and growling he yelled at Martin.

"The chemical, we must have the chemical."

"The guards are coming, I can't lift it," Martin panted.

Vincent roared and bounded angrily into the factory complex like a massive animal. Martin slowed to a jog, fifty stone of hair and muscle was coming towards him at speed.

"Move you idiot."

Idiot? Three times in one night, they must be on to something. Martin did his best to get out of the way as Vincent steamed past, but the sheer force of the beast knocked him flat to the ground.

He caught a glimpse of the night watchman appearing through the mist for maybe a second or less. The frail old man must have been in his sixties. Dressed in a spotless brown security uniform, ironed with what could only have been an anvil. He carried a large chrome torch in one hand and a small hand gun in the other. A mean looking black and brown Doberman strained at a leather leash wrapped round his wrist. The expression on his lined face was simple, disbelief. The most disturbing creature imaginable was pounding straight at him.

The dog was lucky, it died quickly. Vincent trampled straight over it and most of the dog’s body was crushed deep into the grass like an unwelcome bug under a hefty boot. The night watchman was not so lucky, the impact flung him across the grass like a rag doll and the torch spun away and settled, casting light over the grizzly execution that followed. Vincent skidded to a halt, tearing up the grass with four sets of giant claws. He turned and freight trained again at the stricken watchman. The old man was choking on blood, his fingers fumbling at the gun lying to his side, but the message from his brain could not quite get through the mangled arm that seemed barely connected to his body.

The scene that transpired next cannot be written here, some things should never be told. Martin, still lying on the grass, turned away to shield his eyes, but the gargled screams and the sounds of ripping and tearing made him sick to the stomach. He stared at the grass for a moment trying to find another place. The struggle seemed to go on and on until a prolonged scraping and a hollow crunch put an end to it, silence. Martin gripped the grass, his fingers dug into the earth so tightly it was as if he feared he could fall from the planet. Shortly the sound of a large animal panting filled his ears. He turned slowly coming face to face with two glowing green eyes and a monstrous ink black face dripping with blood and saliva. Vincent spat at him.

"Get Benny."

Martin shakily dragged his broad frame from the floor, his weak limbs now running on self-preservation and fear. He dared not look back into the torchlight, for a brief moment his peripheral vision caught a glimpse of a boot but it didn't seem to be attached to anything that resembled a leg. Benny was curled up almost peacefully on the grass clutching a bloody wound in the back of his leg.

"Come on mate; let’s get you in the truck."

He helped Benny to his feet and with a little support they hobbled back towards the hole in the fence. Benny muttered grumpily in a language that Martin couldn't understand, but given that he had a bullet lodged in his leg, he seemed extremely motivated to keep moving. Some distance back in the direction of the shed, more voices became apparent.

Vincent stormed past irritably; he was walking upright again and dragging the heavy case behind him with one clawed fist. He didn't give the hobbling pair a single look as he squeezed back through the fence and heaved the large plastic box into the back of the truck. Checking the label, he grunted approvingly.

“Stereo Isomer Polymer”

As Martin helped Benny through the fence, Vincent clambered up into the back of the truck and as he pulled the shutters down from the inside he hissed at them.


Anxious, they couldn't get back in the truck quick enough. Martin set off racing towards City Avenue, happy to see the factory in his mirrors. The steering wheel had blood smeared on it and for the first time he noticed a deep gash in his right hand. For the life of him he couldn't think how he had cut himself. Benny nudged him and spoke faintly.

"Don't speed you idiot!"

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