I turned Death’s business card over as I walked. HASSAN IKRAM, C.E.O. OF IKRAM CORPORATIONS. Something about his card seemed more ominous today than when I looked at it yesterday.
Again, I was at the payphone I had used to call him last. I wanted to make this call quickly, because I could see my breath. It was 11:40, and I wanted to go to bed. I dropped quarters into the phone, then punched in his number.
Three tones later, Hassan answered. “Hello, Hassan Ikram of Ikram Corporations. How can I help you?”
“It’s Fifteen. I’m calling to talk about the deal.”
“Ah, perfect. I have an opening tonight. Can you make it here by 1?” He replied.
God fucking damn it. “Fine, I’ll be over as soon as I can be.”
“Perfect. Same place as last time. I’ll look forward to seeing you.” With that, he hung up the phone.
“Hassan, you son of a bitch,” I whispered. Fog left my mouth. “Fucking damn it.”
I ran home. I wish I could drive up there, instead of fucking biking.
I went down into my basement, opened all of my locks, and immediately started typing away. I got onto Hassan’s site, and punched in his username. The usernames were easy to access, because they were literally just the last name followed by the first name. What I needed was for my algorithm to figure out his password. I knew he wouldn’t pay attention to my attempts to sign in. I didn’t trust him, so I was going to take every action I could to prevent him from harming me.
I got upstairs, and grabbed a match box, one of the ones that I stole from the first crime scene. I opened it. There were still four matches inside. Those were all that I might need.
The algorithm was working away when I checked on it. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but I was willing to wait for as long as it needed.
I went back up stairs, and tried to find the nicest clothing I could. Shelby had some solid advice about dressing well for formal events. Unfortunately, my closet is pretty barren. I ended up just putting on a flannel and jeans. I suppose it would also be fitting, considering how cold it was that night.
I continued searching around my house for whatever resources might be helpful. There were no others. Everything that might be useful to me was at the police station. It looked like I was going to be making a stop before I left to meet Death.
I returned to the basement and waited for my algorithm to succeed in its task. After about thirty minutes of waiting, the algorithm had finished. “Welcome, HASSAN,” the screen showed me. The second big break for my algorithm. Perfect. I started searching through all of his options and settings, looking for his security.
Of course, I found options to scan the cameras. I could look at his facility and see everything he had in place for security. For the most part, it was just cameras and an alarm that goes off if you break any windows, or any locks. Currently, the motion alarms were turned off, most likely in anticipation of my arrival.
Perfect. I was in. Lastly, I went and looked for his account security. It was also an easy find. Within, I changed his password. I was able to look through my algorithm’s log to find the last password used, and used it to allow me to change the password to a long string of random digits and characters. He wouldn’t figure it out before I showed up, and I’m certain he wouldn’t be willing to tell me about the vulnerabilities, either.
I stood up, stretched, and shut down the computer. Death wouldn’t be able to see me arrive, and thus I would have an advantage there. I left the house, and walked back to the police station.
Hero was at the front desk for the night. It seems like Shelby must have changed his position. “Hey, Fifteen. Forget something?” He asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’ll be in for a while, though, so don’t be too surprised if I don’t come out soon.”
Hero nodded. “Sure, take your time.” I continued past him, and heard him say “Must have forgot a report or something.”
I quickly got into the locker room, and pulled my gun and its holster out of the locker. Then, I headed back to the garage. Luckily for me, the garage was empty. This was just the opportunity I needed. I took a set of keys and got into a car. It started without a hitch. I left the station.
Swiftly, I drove to Hassan’s office building. I was there by 12:57. “This had better be worth my time,” I muttered to myself once again. I opened the door and let myself in.
My heart raced as I climbed the stairs. I was actually going to be placing myself under Hassan’s thumb. I knew I didn’t really plan to serve him, but this still felt so very wrong. I found myself doubting this decision again, but it was a three to one vote. I had to follow through.
I stood at Hassan’s door for longer than I would like to admit. Eventually, I convinced myself to open it. I knew I was safe, I had disabled all of Hassan’s security measures.
Hassan was at his desk, typing furiously. Once he saw me, he immediately stopped and pushed his keyboard away from his hands. “Ren, welcome. You’re right on time, I just finished up what I was doing.” Hassan had bravado, for sure, but he still looked slightly nervous. He was probably trying to get his security back online.
“Yeah. Let’s talk, Hassan.” I took a seat in front of his desk. “I’ll accept your deal, but under one more condition.”
“Go on, I’m listening,” He said.
“I want to know what you’re planning. How do you benefit from the horsemen’s rebellion?”
“Hm. Well, I do suppose that is only fair. I’m gaining market. You remember Mr. Brown, correct? Well, after his and his family’s passing, his store went on sale. I bought it, and rehired everyone who had been working there. This gave me a business advantage.
“That’s the biggest reason why you attack people with money. Often, they’ll put their businesses up for sale, and I’ll buy them. Even if they don’t put their business up for sale, they’ll be in such a state of turmoil that their business will suffer.
“You don’t share the same morals that every other horsemen does. You’re ruthless. A true renegade. That’s exactly what I want. Someone who won’t stop at any boundary to get what they want done. You fit that role perfectly, and I have seen as such. Personally, I’m glad that you’re accepting my deal.” Hassan smiled, and it seemed like his nervousness went away.
“Wait, you don’t actually care about changing the social standing in our country today? The huge divide between rich and poor?” I asked.
Hassan shook his head. “Frankly, I’m profiting greatly off of said class divide. The frustrations of the poor allow me to utilise it. Not to be rude, but my father always told me to utilise whatever resources were available.”
“I see. So what happens if our rebellion does cause a huge social change?”
“Well, I would hope that Ikram Corporations is remembered for their generous donations to the cause. I stay in business, and gain even more opportunity to increase my reach.”
“What if the other horsemen all vote against you?”
“I have the money. They don’t. Frankly, they won’t have a choice when it comes down to it. I will still hold more sway than the three of them combined. Democracy doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked for many years. They don’t know what’s best for the country, anyway.”
“You and War are friends, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes. A long while before I inherited my business, War took me in. My father told me that I needed to live on the streets and learn the real value of money before he let me have the business. I spent four years out there, with War. My father died, and I was left with the business. I took it. I appreciate what War did for me, but that isn’t going to stop me. I can’t let anyone get in the way of my business. It will always come first.”
“So the rebellion was just… an investment?”
“One that’s paid off thus far, yes.”
I was silent for a moment. Hassan didn’t have anyone in mind but himself. Really, did I have any room to criticise? I never cared for anyone else, so why should I expect Hassan to? Business was business, right?
“So when will be done expanding your business?” I asked.
“When there’s nowhere else to expand, or I die. Simple, really,” he replied.
“What if you die young?”
“Well, despite everything I just said, I left War everything in my will. If I am to die before him, then he can consider my debt more then repaid. Although, I already consider my debt repaid. Either way, someone has to have the business, and I do trust him more than anyone else.”
Again, I didn’t have any reason to criticise Hassan. I never cared. I only ever looked out for myself, too. I stood up.
“Well, this was a nice talk, but I have work tomorrow morning. I assume we can discuss more at a later date?”
“Of, course, Ren. Have a good night.”
I walked away from Hassan, but stopped in the doorway. There was one thing I was missing.
“Hassan, I just realised why this felt off for me. I’ve been missing something.”
“What’s that?” He asked in response.
“You literally don’t care about anyone else at all. They are all just means to an end.”
“Now hold on-”
“You just admitted to me that almost everyone in the country is just a resource for you to utilise!” I took a step back into the room.
“I think you-”
“I’ve spent the past week, at least, learning a few things. I used to not care about anyone else, either. Sometimes, I still don’t think I care. But I know for a damn fact that I do care about others, even if I don’t think I do.” I took another step.
“Ren, this isn’t to say I don’t care about anyone else. I just-”
“Every other one of the horsemen told me to take this deal to find out what the hell you’re up to. Even Pestilence did, and he hates me. Well, at least distrusts me greatly. They put their trust into me, and I am not going to let them down. That’s how I know I care about them and what they want done.” Quickly, I approached Hassan’s desk.
“I’m still sympathetic to the cause-”
“Shut up, Hassan. You aren’t sympathetic to anyone. You’ve been lying between your teeth to everyone this entire goddamn time. I sick of it.”
“Ren, don’t you dare accuse me of things you aren’t aware of! You don’t have the full picture!” Hassan stood up from his desk, and began to shout at me.
“Fuck off,” I replied. “You are entirely selfish.”
“No. I refuse to be-” I drew my gun and pointed it at Hassan, interrupting him.
“Ren, hold on now. Put the gun away, and let’s talk. There has clearly been a misunderstanding between us.”
“There has been no misunderstanding, Hassan. Your death means that War will inherit everything you have. I know that War won’t betray everyone who believes in him.”
“Ren, that isn’t my intention.”
“Shut up.” I shot Hassan in the leg, and he quickly fell.
“Fuck! Ah, shit! Fuck!” He cried in pain.
I took a step over to his alcohol cabinet, and tore it open. I took out bottles, and threw them around the room. They shattered and the liquids spread. I took a couple and poured them out over Hassan’s desk and his chairs.
“Ren, what the fuck are you doing?” He demanded.
I didn’t reply. Instead, I tore his phone off his desk and threw against the opposite wall, away from him.
“Ren, what the hell?” Again, I didn’t respond.
I took one last bottle from his cabinet, and poured it over Hassan himself. “You made it clear that if you died, War would inherit everything,” I took the matchbook out of my pocket, “I’m making sure that happens.” I struck one match, and tossed it on top of him. The alcohol caught quickly, and Hassan shouted in pain, writhing on the floor.
I dropped another match onto his desk, and the last two I dropped onto other spots of alcohol. The flames spread quickly. I left Hassan’s office, and went back downstairs. The top floor was totally aflame.
I got back into the car, and drove away. Slowly, it began to snow.