Palindrome

1

Second story in the series


Splattered in yellow paint, one man gathered the remaining paper boxes from the deteriorating container. A younger man nervously checked between his watch and the painted man.

“W-w-we gotta go. I dunno how much longer we can stay here without…without gettin’ caught,” he said, throwing the overfilled duffel bag over his shoulders.

“Why the rush? You made sure no one was here, right? Heh. I don’t blame you for hurrying if you know this is Rift’s warehouse,” a rough, voice hummed behind them.

The thieves slowly looked back at the short man. His hoodie pockets concealed his hands, and the afternoon rays cut ominously across the aged animal mask. The masked stranger wore a black hoodie three sizes too large and baggie sweatpants sweeping the floor. He was—

“—White Rabbit,” the man with yellow painted hands clicked his tongue.

“White Rabbit?” his partner echoed, looking between them. He proclaimed, “W-w-why he’s shorter than what da r-rumors say.” He straightened up and tested the weight of the pipe in his hands.

Unphased, the masked man tilted his head in response. A pipe wouldn’t be his weapon of choice, but he guessed it was a valid option. If he didn’t know his enemy was a werecat who could take a hit, he too would use a blunt object.

No, that was a lie.

He preferred guns. Unfortunately for them, even if they were armed, normal bullets wouldn’t kill him.

“H-how did ya get in here, little rabbit? A-a-a-are ya lost!?” the boy yelled. He charged at White Rabbit and swung the pipe.

The masked man instantly ducked and propelled his head into the other’s gut. White Rabbit planted his bare feet against the cold concrete to balance himself as the other stumbled towards the floor. The mask’s ears sprang back into their original position.

The targeted man coughed and rose to his feet. “Why you little…”

“Let’s go. If he’s the real deal, we don’t wanna mess with him!” the painted man said as he grabbed his partner’s hand and dragged him towards the exit. He left a trail of white boxes in their retreat.

“Argh…but!” The younger whispered, “I-if he was da White Rabbit, we-we’d have better chances survivin’ if we put up a fight.”

White Rabbit stepped back when the younger man’s exposed skin started turning blue and bubbled. His companion blocked the view.

“I already decided that we’re leaving.”

“I didn’t answer your question about how I got in here,” White Rabbit spoke up. The armed man looked back to see the masked figure stand there idly with hands still hidden from view.

“While you two snuck in through the window,” he pulled out a singular key from his pocket, “I simply used the front door.”

He tossed the key towards them, and the armed man instinctively reached out to catch it.

“Nice,” White Rabbit complimented.

“How…Why are ya givin’ this to us?” the young one asked warily, his skin returning to normal.

“It’s my force of habit to lock the doors behind me.” White Rabbit kneeled to the floor and propped one arm on top of his knee. His other hand touched the bottom of his mask. “That bag seems heavy.” The two of them looked at each other. “I doubt climbing the rope would be as easy as descending it.

“Besides, I allowed you to get this far. It’d be unfair if I didn’t offer you the chance to finish the job.”

Withdrawing his revolver, White Rabbit gave them thirty seconds. The two stared at him in disbelief before their feet shuffled forward. Taking their chances, they broke into an awkward sprint. He debated adding some extra time for the stalling, but he was getting hungry. Not to mention dealing with roaches was far below his paygrade.

He sighed.

A favor was a favor, and he needed to get back into good graces with Boss.

The man possessed the key to unlocking the fashion constraints about White Rabbit’s wrists and ankles. Phasing into a werecat was excruciatingly painful for the restraints didn’t adjust to his size. If he returned to being a “good boy,” maybe Boss would loosen the irritating leash.

That’s what he hoped.

That’s why he rose, took aim at the roaches, and fired a single shot from his revolver. The bullet soared cleanly through both men. They staggered a bit. The one with the weapon dropped first. The other looked back at him with emptiness in his eyes before crumpling beside his partner.

“Oh. They had seven seconds left,” he uttered in his normal voice—a bit soft and melancholic for a hitman.

White Rabbit was no more. For now, he was Theodore Kyrndrom wearing a mask resembling a white rabbit. He was T-K to associates and White Rabbit when need be. Theodore holstered his weapon within his hoodie pocket and approached the corpses.

He was only instructed to eliminate the roaches. Returning what they stole wasn’t in the briefing reports, but he was curious to this warehouse’s operations. He doubted anything good.

Rift had a foothold in practically every organization, political party, and illegal operation in this city.

Boss was a smart man; perhaps, too clever for his own good. He rarely said no to a deal and asked how and why ‘til the interviewee turned blue in the face. If it were any other man with the wealth and influence as he, they may have met their downfall already.

Boss was careful, and he trusted very few people. Those who he openly said he trusted could have their brains splattered on some alleyway’s walls. If anything went through the improper channels, everyone involved would be dead. Maybe something happened in the past that made Boss so paranoid. He never bothered to mention it to Theo, or maybe he did while injecting him with some experimental drugs.

It couldn’t hurt to look what the roaches were trying to carry out with them. If he was lucky, he may be assigned as the muscle to recover the rest of the stolen goods.

Theodore unzipped the duffle bag and sensed someone else in the warehouse. Whipping around, he reached for his revolver.

An explosion sent him forward.

Before he hit the ground, a shower of bullets rained down on him. How many enemies were there? Was this a trap? Should he call for back up?

Shit. At this rate, he may lose consciousness. When the barrage paused, he took the opportunity to crawl out of sight of the window. With a grunt, he partially transformed into a snow leopard to force a handful of bullets out his body and to expedite the healing process.

It wasn’t very effective.

He ached, and he lost too much blood. Should he dial for back up? He never imagined reinforcements would come to the roaches’ aid so quickly.

Earlier when they were stuffing their bags, he had scouted the area for anybody who might have been the getaway driver or assistant to the roaches’ thieving plans. He hadn’t seen anyone else and had gone inside to ambush them.

Boss wasn’t going to like to hear about any of this.

“Come on out, ya little piece of shit. I know yer there.” Instinctively Theodore phased back to his human form and withdrew the revolver.

Sucking in his teeth, he pulled out his phone from his back pocket.

Tsk. Destroyed. So much for that S.O.S to headquarters.

The phone slipped from his hand. Shit. His vision wavered. He tasted blood on his lips. The spinning warehouse grew dark. The warehouse grew darker…The warehouse was…dark.

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Palindrome