Don't Blink, is a series of flash fiction-esque shorts I started crafting a couple of years ago to give one of my oldest characters his time in the spotlight. The Gatekeeper series serves as a short intro to the methods of Diam Bleu Rousseau, the Black Frenchman from Italy with a penchant for conserving oxygen for the masses by ceasing others from existing on this earth.
Ushering a select, contracted few through the gates of hell.
Gatekeeper | "Mom & Pop"
The latest attempt by the Harrelson Corporation to gentrify the famed Tompkins Village area in NW Washington DC--was being met with as much animus as the first four attempts, and that was without the citizens knowing of the criminally nefarious plans for the area. Today's turnout for the protest however seemed to equal the number of attendees from the previous ones combined, despite the cold March morning.
Justin Harrelson, co-founder of the commercial real estate group of the same name, had come down today to personally talk at protesters versus converse with them. A counterproductive decision, to say the least, bringing out upwards of a thousand people to this corridor of the city.
The score for the civil unrest was supplied by bucket boys, sitting on the curb opposite Big Wallace's Market. The popular mom & pop deli and convenience store that sat right in the middle of Tompkins Village, supplying breakfast, lunch, and snacks to generations of black and brown kids from the neighboring high school and university -- recently was forced to close due to exorbitant increases in taxes and rent.
Rhythmic percussive melodies were beaten against the bottom of white and blue buckets, while men, women, and children chanted their displeasure with the intended actions.
Staring through the hollow drum cadences and shouts for respect was a man the color of onyx, with electricity in his eyes, that stood a shade under six feet tall. He was dressed in a charcoal gray peacoat, mid-wash denim jeans, a cream-colored, cable-knit, hooded sweater, and a pair of 990s.
Diam Rousseau blended into the crowd and his surroundings seamlessly, thanks in part to his frequent trips to the city to visit his twin sister. This current chameleon act was important because he was given this job a little less than thirty-six hours ago, so he needed to remove as many negative variables as possible for an optimal outcome.
While scanning the area for added security in addition to the police present, he noted one man posted on both sides of Big Wallace's which sat on a street corner. There were two more on the sidewalk behind Diam approximately one hundred feet apart.
"Where the fuck are you Justin?" he asked in a barely audible whisper.
A chorus of boos began softly before quickly crescendoing from behind the Frenchman. As he turned to see a smiling Justin Harrelson being escorted through the crowd toward a makeshift podium.
You arrogant bastard, this is all a joke to you. You could have been dropped off at the front by the officers on assignment.
Thumbing in a quick text, he waited for last-minute confirmation on the preferred time of death. Everything about this contract ran afoul of the man's preferred arrangements, but the dossier he was provided framed a dire need for immediate action. Less than ten seconds after he hit send, the response came.
DO NOT LET HIM MAKE IT TO THE PODIUM
With just two big, burly guards protecting him and the police forming a human barricade closer to the front of the gathering of people, the crowd parted like a zipper, closing behind after he passed.
Noting his window, Diam rubbed his hands together and blew on them as the trio approached. Stroking his hands over the frayed ends of his scarf, he stepped to the side as they neared.
The booing was at music festival levels now, but the small earplugs worn by the man known as Portiere were concealed by the crimson red scully on his head. He fell in with the crowd that zippered behind Justin and his security, flicking his wrist four times below the waist and beginning to boo.
The cold, plus numbing of the senses from the sheer volume of people and the boos, prevented the enterprising real estate mogul from noting the pricks from four fiberglass needles dipped in poison extracted from the phyllobates terribilis, golden poison dart frog.
Rousseau began booing louder with the rest of the crowd as he dropped the single-use needles smaller than those of the medical variety onto the asphalt and ground them under his heel. Turning to head away from the crush of people, he pulled out his cell and told no one in particular that he was on the way to work after grabbing some breakfast.
"Gotta go make that money huh bruh, I understand. We'll finish things up here for you," said an older man in Diam's direction.
"You know how it is," he replied removing any semblance of his Italian accent.
The next sound heard came from the police barking orders for everyone to get back. That order was followed by a call for the EMTs as a murmur from the crowd provided all the confirmation needed for the man who traveled nearly 4500 miles to...provide more oxygen to the world.
The poison from a golden poison dart frog was enough to kill ten humans. Administering four times the dose served two purposes -- to assure swift & immediate death and to throw off any tox screens due to its origin and mirrored relationship to morphine.
Diam hailed a cab over leaving a digital footprint through rideshare and headed straight for the airport. The clothes he had traveled to the States in were in a bag along with two hundred dollars, that he had given to a homeless man at the bus stop this morning. Pulling out his phone he sent a text to his Operator.
Diam: la fine!
11030611: Another soul has been ushered into the afterlife by the Gatekeeper
Diam: that was your one time to use that joke
11030611: Understood. My apologies Portiere, uh Diam. Yes, sorry. Which do I call you?
Diam: you don't. Contracts and payment, that's it. No more. Arrivederci!
Putting his phone away, Diam asked the cabbie to turn the radio to the classical station. The man looked in the rearview mirror with his eyebrow raised, caught off guard by the request. The blank gaze he found unnerved him and sent a shiver up his spine that led him to quickly spin the dial to 90.9 FM.
The pair rode on in silence, with the passenger beginning his standard unplug and reset following a kill.
Click below to read "The Gatekeeper" as seen in my 2018 release, Unacceptable Behavior.