The journey through the woods was a treacherous one. Beau was injured, not fatally but enough to sap his strength, but he’d press on. It was cold to his sensibilities. He was used to treks through dense foliage, but in his natural habitat it should be hot. The hot and near unbearable humidity steaming through the swamps outside New Orleans, that was who he was…
— — —
The Atchafalaya Swamps – 8 years ago
This is it, Beau Bergeron thought eagerly. My first mission, after this Beau would be officially inducted into the Assassins Guild of the New Orleans Crime Syndicate, or La Guilde as it was more commonly known.
He and a group of Assassins were making their way through the woods under cover of darkness to the Atchafalaya River. The Thieves Guild, sister to the Assassins in the syndicate, had uncovered a rival crime boss in île Tigre (real life Morgan City) that had failed to make his tithe to the Guilds of New Orleans, a possible indication that he had gone rogue. Their team was supposed to take him out and the Thieves would install one of their own as a puppet leader. Cut and dried, as far as the Assassins were concerned.
“Dis job beneat’ us”, an older assassin said bitterly in his broken English. French had been the official language of his home for eons, and though everyone was taught it as a child, English had been making its way through their people for years. Much to the chagrin of Beau’s family and friends.
Beau was a member of the upper class, his father a high-ranking official both in the “legitimate” government as well as in the Guilds. As such, he was highly educated and fluent in many languages, having enjoyed a lavish education and lifestyle, but he also wanted to make his own way. He had insisted on joining the Guilds as a commoner, like anyone else.
“Vous devez être conscient de votre patrimoine, mush mouth!”, Beau growled.
SMACK! His head was nearly knocked off his neck by another in their group. “You mind yo mannas, garçon,” another member said, probably not much older than Beau himself, “Yous not initchiated yet, don’ matter who yer daddy is.”
Beau nearly tripped across a root as they reached their destination, an airboat at the bank of the river. “Lighten up, Beau. Erbody’s talk like dat t’ese days”, another initiate said as he entered the boat.
“Pas moi.” Beau said simply as he climbed into the boat himself.
There were five of them in all on the team, himself and the other new recruit, two mid-level members, and the older man who led them. Beau himself remained quiet on the journey downriver, but their leader would tell anyone within earshot (which was pretty much all of them, as he had to yell pretty loudly to be heard of the noise of the airboat) of his glory days, how he’d been involved in the assassination of world leaders and high-ranking officials. Beau happened to know, due to his father’s position, that most of his stories were inflated. His name was Henri Baptiste, and his most significant action was on the man’s own initiation as part of the filibuster that ousted Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala on behalf of the United Fruit Company. He was a competent leader, but behind the times.
The boat swiftly moved through the river delta, the occasional gator or nutria-rat swiftly passing by as the team moved ever closer to their objective. The rival boss had the city entirely under his control, but the rivers were untamed. An arrival by boat would lend them the element of surprise.
The team arrived at the dock without fanfare, the boat’s engine having been shut off just outside visibility of the city as they deftly paddled up to shore. Each man was dressed from head to toe in dark blue in order to maintain their cover, and each put on a blue mask to cover their features and attached silencers to the pistols they brought with them.
Their target made his headquarters at a hotel called Cannata’s. The team made the several blocks to the building. The streets were deserted, owing to the time of night that the team had chosen to commit their actions. It was a relatively sleepy suburb compared to the violence that was about to commence.
Cannata’s was a three-story, red brick building with white windows that stood out among the residences and minor businesses that surrounded it. The bottom story consisted of a reception area and hotel bar. One of these would need a replacement in the morning. There could be no witnesses to the Assassins’ at work.
“Bienvenue!” the young woman said cheerfully, followed by a look of confusion at her from behind her desk.
It’s probably her first job, Beau thought. WHACK! One of the team nailed her in the back of the head as she went to scream. She wouldn’t make another sound.
“You”, Henri said coldly as he pointed at the initiate who’d told Beau to “lighten up” earlier. The indication was to shoot her, execution style in the back of the head. The initiate moved with a precision born of many nights practicing for this moment and aimed his pistol at the back of the woman’s head. She was wearing a typical secretary’s uniform: white office-style button down shirt, and a grey skirt, her thick, black glasses now askew across her face as she now lay strewn across the desk. One might have considered her attractive or cute if one had that capacity.
The initiate’s hand began to shake. “I-I…”, the initiate stammered, unsure of whether he could kill in cold blood, “I don’t think-” and a sound like that of a wet sack cracked by a lead pipe sounded as Beau’s bullet lodged in the back of the initiate’s skull. The initiate wouldn’t say another word either.
Henri nodded as Beau performed a [I]coup de grâce[/I] on the secretary himself. The penalty for hesitation was death, and Beau held no such moral qualms about killing.
The team, now four strong, calmly and silently entered an elevator at the far side of the room with no indication that anything had gone awry. The hotel staff had slowly been either paid-off or replaced with plants by the Thieves Guild in preparation for the Assassins’ arrival. The request for a team had been many months in the making.
“I’m sorry, mon amis, but this floor is…”, the man was felled by a knife to his throat as his friend reached for his firearm. The man never made it as another team member slit his jugular. The way he had spoken was far too formal to have been a native. It was almost British. The amount of embezzlement by this boss must have been even worse than the Guilds had realized.
The top floor they exited onto was reserved entirely by the rogue. He did it once a week, and though the Thieves who had scoped the place didn’t get close enough to see what it was, they theorized he indulged in some vice that the boss didn’t want getting out to the public.
He had two more men posted at the entrance to the door of his room. They were felled as quickly as their fellows. Henri kicked in the door as the team entered the room in complete silence, guns at the ready. The rogue had another guard posted in a corner of the room, it was a honeymoon suite with an in-floor hot tub and oversized bed, Beau put his third round through the guard’s head.
The boss had a shocked look of horror as he lay completely exposed on the bed. All four assassins’ weapons trained on his person. There were at least three prostitutes on the bed, petite blondes, vaguely of European descent. And it was at that moment looking upon their naked bodies that the Assassins learned the dirty secret of the Boss of the île Tigre mafia.
Not one of the girls could’ve been a day over thirteen.
“Vous êtes malade,” Henri said simply, and at that all four members unloaded their weapons into the Mafioso’s head.
“Git Down! All o’ you,” one of them said, as the girls let out screams and attempted to run. Every one of them was gunned down before they so much as stumbled.
And with that the members of the Assassin’s Guild of the Guilds of New Orleans Crime Syndicate, silently took their leave of the situation, Henri tossing a coin to the hotel barkeep, the man’s fleur-de-lys brand on full display on the side of his neck, indicating membership. The barkeep would know what to do to get the place ready before any “legitimate” authorities showed up.
Not long after that night Beau had received his own white-hot branding on the side of his neck. Like many within the Guilds he filled in the scar with a black-ink tattoo in the shape of the ancient symbol.
— — —
Beau felt that tattoo in the present day in this far away land. His coarse fingers ran over its shape as he exited the woods and entered the clearing in which the battle of the Temple had so recently been fought.
The searing pain was a lesson learned on that night so long ago, and that lesson would get him through this mess…