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The Man Who Died Twice (Just in this One Scene)

The Man who died Twice (Just in this one Scene) Ace didn’t know what he was doing in a suburb like Ede Valley. He was used to the hustle and bustle—and general violence and mayhem—of the city. Back there, he was somebody; he’d started from nothing, built his livelihood, his business. People scattered when they saw him approach. That was true here as well, but he didn’t get quite the same high from soccer moms trundling little Timmy away from the strange man with the funny sunglasses. Yep, he certainly missed the city, but he’d be back there soon enough, just as soon as he got this whole “deal” mess sorted out. He didn’t know why he was coming here now of all times. His business was booming, the world was in the palm of his hand. Maybe that was exactly why: he’d done everything he’d set out to do. It was time to reclaim his collateral. Of course, that hadn’t been the terms of the original agreement, but did Ace look like he gave a flying fuck about the fine print? Actually, don’t answer that. You don’t even know what Ace looks like. Yet. See him here now, in his dark suit and omnipresent mirrored sunglasses, sitting at the counter of a smoky, quiet British pub. He could tell that this was a suburb because even here, in the shadiest part of town, people merely snuck glances at him over their pints and muttered to each other. The bartender, he noticed, was new, a young kid with near-dreads and a frankly ludicrous number of tattoos. Probably one of those new-age hipsters or something. He sincerely hoped the pub hadn’t changed hands. But considering that from the neon sign to the dark interior, it for all intents and purposes appeared that no time had passed since he’d last stepped foot through that door all those years ago, he sincerely doubted that was the case. “Hey, kid,” he called to the bartender, who was currently taking stock of the fine liquor selection displayed with an unmatched flair behind the bar. The kid looked up. “Can I get you another?” He swore, kids these days just had no manners. “That’s ‘can I get you another, sir’ and no. I’m here to speak to your boss. Probably.” Sighing, the kid didn’t move. “Seems like everyone is. He’s in the back with a… client right now. You’ll have to wait a minute… sir.” The kid had some spunk, Ace had to admit. It was truly difficult to fit that much sarcasm in one syllable. He made a note to himself to tip the cheeky brat later. Ace was just about to order another drink while he waited, when with that unnaturally uncanny timing of his, the owner of The Smiling Goat strode through the back curtain, directly after a pale man in a truly fugly sweater vest. “I’m sorry, Marcell,” Cowell was saying, “but for all your years and power there’s nothing you can do for either of them. Inconvenient as it is, both little miss Sabrina and the scary dragon lady made their deals fair and square.” The pale man took a deep, clenched breath, briefly revealing unnaturally white teeth. “You know, Cowell, someday you’re gonna get exactly what’s coming to you.” “And lucky you will no doubt still be around to witness the glorious event first hand.” Cowell grinned as the pale man nearly growled. “Now if you’ll excuse me, unless you’d like to stick around and have a pint, it appears I have other business to attend to.” He gestured the pale man out onto the street and turned back to the bar. He blinked once, as his owl-like eyes fell on Ace, and shook his head. “Ace, is that you? My god, it must be… bloody years since I’ve seen you last.” “I’d hoped it was the last,” Ace stood and shook Cowell’s hand. Slimy stick of a man though he was, Cowell had a firm handshake. Ace had to respect that. “Doesn’t everyone,” Cowell recovered effortlessly. “Now, if you’ll just follow me to my office we can—” But he didn’t get a chance to finish, for just then the door was kicked open, and the pub went silent. Ace instinctively reached for the gun under his jacket as he saw several vaguely familiar faces enter the dark bar. For a second, however, he thought he must be dreaming, because he never thought in a million years that he would see this assortment of faces together. Half of them were the pinched, Italian faces of the Mirelli’s, and half were the pasty, Russian faces of the Borozovs. “What in the ever-loving fuck…” Ace began. “I agree!” Cowell cut in. “Why on earth would anyone kick in that door? I had to pay a specialist to get it to stick like that.” “N-no, that’s not…” Ace shook his head. “Never mind. This might be my fault. These chucklefucks clearly tailed me.” The four men stepped through the doorway, and still with the utmost calm, Cowell motioned for the patrons to leave. The men let them go. Clearly they wanted to handle whatever it was they were here for quietly. “Hands where I can see ‘em,” said the short one, waving a pistol nonchalantly through the air. Cowell and the bartender stuck their hands up, the latter looking slightly on edge, and after gesturing to the tall one to watch them, the short one turned to Ace. “You really didn’t think we wouldn’t catch onto you playing both of us?” he asked. “We’re not stupid. Once we all realized you’d been uh… consortin’ with our greatest enemy, well, loyalties run deep, so now you’s gotta die.” Ace rolled his eyes. “Look like it matters to me? Go on, do it. I dare you.” The short one looked a little unnerved, but thinking he’d called his bluff, straightened up again, and fired. Once, twice—always doubletap—and Ace fell to the floor with a small thump. All present looked at his corpse for a second, including Ace himself, from over the short one’s shoulder. He would say that he hated dying, but usually he was already gone before the pain really hit. That didn’t mean he wasn’t still absolutely pissed. “That… was a really nice suit.” All four of the men turned towards him with looks of abject horror on their faces. A gentleman might have given them a few seconds to react, but Ace was no gentleman. He punched the short one right in the face, and all hell broke loose. Even with his ability to not die backing him up, Ace was no slouch at hand-to-hand combat. The short one was nearly down after that one punch, and the butt of Ace’s gun against his forehead knocked him out of the fight for good. By then, the three others had recovered from their surprise and had begun to advance on him, guns gleaming in the dim lamplight. But Ace was ready for them. “What do we do?” the bartender kid turned to Cowell, who merely looked vaguely amused at the scene. Just then, a bullet zinged directly over their heads and hit the old wood crossbeam. “This, Tommy, is the part where we duck behind the bar to minimize the risk of a bullet ricocheting and hitting us.” When the kid looked about ready to resist, Cowell simply grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him down with him. “You see, I could easily come back from something as simple as a bullet, but you on the other hand,” he made a hissing sound between his teeth, "not so much. And I’d not like to see your rather pretty face marred by blood today.” The kid blushed slightly, and opened his mouth to comment on this, but was interrupted by a body being dragged across the bar directly over their heads, bits of broken glass from smashed pints rained down on them. “Ooo, I’m going to have to replace those,” Cowell muttered. “Sorry about the mess,” Ace shouted over the sound of someone’s jaw breaking. “I’m trying to minimize the damage but you know how these things go.” “Well, you’re trying your best, and that’s all that matters.” The last man standing, one of the Russians, ran at Ace with a pool cue he’d found lying around, but Ace shot him clear through the forehead before he ever reached him. He barely even had to look. When all was said and done, there were six bodies on the ground. Two of them were Ace. After tapping them lightly to make sure none of them were getting up anytime soon, he sat back down at the bar and wrapped on the counter. “Hey kid, how about that drink?” The kid and Cowell appeared from behind the bar, and after a second of taking in the scene, the kid blinked and mumbled, “Um, yeah, sure.” Miraculously, the liquor display had not been harmed in the slightest. “So, why are you really here, Ace?” Cowell leaned against the bar. “I hope it wasn’t just to trash the place.” “I think you know what I came for,” Ace sighed wearily, and took a hard swig from the bottle of whiskey that the kid had just passed him. “My deal.” It was clear that Cowell already knew the answer, but he asked anyway. “What about it?” “You know, all those years ago, I thought I had outfoxed you. Hell, you gave me the ability to not die for nothing in return.” He stared off into nothing for a minute. “But I misunderstood, didn’t I?” “They always do,” Cowell grinned a little, pleased with himself. Ace continued as if he hadn’t heard him. “But it wasn’t for free, was it? Cuz while you gave me the ability to not die, that also means… that I can’t die.” “You’re lucky,” Cowell said. “Most people don’t live long enough to realize what their deals truly mean.” He straightened up abruptly. “So, good for you, well done, a pat on the back, nice to see you.” “Is that it?” Ace asked. “I was just hopin' that since I’d figured it out, you know, learned my lesson and all, that you could…” “Remove it? No can do, I’m afraid,” Cowell chuckled beginning to turn away. “You mean you won’t do it?” “Not won’t, can’t,” Cowell shrugged. “Once a deal is made nothing can be done.” Frowning, Ace processed this for a second. He gazed down at the bottle in front of him. “Then make a new deal with me.” He gazed, stony-eyed, behind his sunglasses. “I’ll give you my ability to not die, and in exchange, you allow me to die.” Cowell opened his mouth, and then closed it again. He did it again. Finally he frowned. “That… is a loophole that I had not considered. I sincerely hope no one else finds out about this.” He turned back to Ace. “Normally, I wouldn’t allow it. But I like you, and you’ve provided me with entertainment for the afternoon, so I’ll allow it just this one time.” They sealed the deal with a firm handshake, and that was that. Ace took one last swig from the bottle, stood, and put a twenty on the counter. “That’s for the kid,” he glared pointedly at Cowell. The daemon waved pleasantly as Ace made for the now broken door. “See you around.” “No offense,” Ace paused, “but I certainly hope not.” He walked out onto the sunny street and blinked for a second, even with the sunglasses. As he started walking, he happened to see a woman across the street, watching him. She had been watching him for years. “Not yet,” he muttered and kept walking. There were still a few things he needed to take care of first. But once those were done, he’d be ready to step into her cold, loving embrace with open arms.

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