Morumbi, which had its own set of rules, was separated from Jardin by a fence. The physical fence itself wasn’t much of a barrier, and Michael, who was only 11, frequently scaled it to head to the superior quality kick-around spot with his friends. Instead, the real obstacles against the lower class entering the posh marble neighbourhood were the glares received from the security. People who had lived their whole lives in Morumbi, as most of the residents did, stuck out like a sore thumb if they dared to venture to the other side. Aunt Marion, a rich relative who visited on occasion, and also the closest thing Michael had to a mother, constantly remarked on Morumbi’s smell, a stench of festering garbage which invaded the nostrils, suffocating the opportunities for everyone trying to make a life for themselves. Anyone from outside Jardin walking around the the gates and buildings was scrutinised by the aviator sporting mannequins, rifles slung over their shoulders as they lounged against the doors which provided their employment. Rumours of brutal beatings and death in the night for stray kids who get too close to the houses were in abundance, the overpaid, overdressed statues springing to life to display the callousness required to earn the highly paid position of bodyguard. Aunt Marion fervently denied this, echoing the thoughts that allowed the people wrapped in crisply laundered sheets with the relief of air conditioning to sleep at night. But Michael’s closest friend Javier claimed that he had witnessed it many times with the work he did, running round delivering special packages to the rich. Javier talked a lot of shit, but he had also heard a lot about the goings on in the neighbourhood. Javi was always looking to improve his lot in life. He wanted to be ‘el patrón,’  the boss, by the time he’s had his first child, so he could be a better father than his was. He had his whole life planned out, and was willing to work for it. If he had to take a few risks on the way, he didn’t see the harm in it. He always thought he’d come off best in any situation. The confidence he had was why he was in the line of work he was. Work he had started introducing Michael to.

Michael always felt like the pristine whitewashed walls were hiding something. The ugliness he had heard about was concealed under layers of marble luxury. The hairs standing up on the back of his neck were sharp enough to slice through butter, as he attempted to inconspicuously stroll down an enclosed hallway to reach a glistening door handle. “Oi Javi!” He screamed through clenched teeth. “Coming.” Javier sauntered down with the cockiness of a 13 year old who knew he could scare adults. “Don’t worry, I know this guy. He’s a pussy. Some journalist. He won’t be any trouble. Besides,” he smiled, reaching into his backpack. “That’s what this is for.” He lovingly pulled out a gleaming Smith & Wesson .500, his cleanest possession, before concealing it in the front of his grimy jeans. Michael felt a tightening in his throat at the sight of the deadly weapon. Seeing the cold feet from a thousand paces, Javi, playfully punching his friend on the shoulder, quickly darted towards the doorbell. The musical tune sounded hollow and distorted, causing a furrow to unveil on Javi’s face. He shrugged, tucking the revolver into his waistband. “How well do you know this guy?” Michael prayed that Javier’s answer would give him some peace of mind. “Pretty well. I gave him some tip offs and proof of the murders round here. For a price. We got a working business relationship. He’s a good customer.” A journalist with a drug problem. Figures. Anything to numb the feeling of your lone voice being drowned out. Reporting the truth in this day and age was getting increasingly difficult. The internet provided an outlet to communicate, but it could also be dangerous, with Government audits on everyone.

All of a sudden the chain on the door rattled sharply before the door creaked open. They both gave a start, looking at the cleanly cut suit calmly standing before them, inviting them inside, an invitation which they dutifully accepted. Javier looked rattled, standing uncomfortably in the lounge, but composing himself, he spoke. “Where’s Julio?” The man smiled coldly, his grey eyes still somehow fixed on both boys at once, a dull doorway into his soul. It was a door Michael didn’t want to enter, a barren wasteland swept of kindness or mercy. His eye suddenly twitched, causing Javi to flinch. Michael didn’t even feel himself react, but he knew he moved somehow. “Julio’s dead.” The evenly measured voice carried a hint of amusement, like it was a fond memory. “How? Why?” Not even his recent growth and voice change could make Javier sound like anything other than a frightened child. “He died because he got involved in something that wasn’t his business. Something some rich, powerful people didn’t want him to know about.” His eye twitched again. “Something that you seem to be an expert on. Javier Pedro Gustavo.” He lingered on each syllable, delighting in Javi’s squirming. “Also, I really should introduce myself. You can call me Gabriel. I work for a state branch called the SNI.”

“Was it the murders?” Javier croaked. “Exactly.” Another little twitch. “No one in Brazil who matters cares about street rats getting shot up. But get enough people who don’t matter knowing about it via the fucking internet.” He gestured back further into the apartment, presumably to Julio’s corpse. “And the Government has a tough time defusing that, once enough lazy pricks from the Confederation realise living anywhere else as a part of the 99% is hell and do something about it.” Javier nodded, still shit scared, but also sensing an opportunity. “So you killed him. So he wouldn’t tell people? I know heaps of kids who can prove shit. I can help you find them.” “You really are street rats.” Gabriel gave a contemptuous sigh. Not that he would show any more loyalty. “I’ll be able to find them thank you Javier. Possibly with the assistance of your quiet little buddy here.” One more twitch. Then Gabriel raised his revolver and pulled the trigger. Javier hit the floor, a neat little circle in his forehead. Very little mess. Gabriel preferred it that way. The cleaner the better. He holstered his gun, meticulously following the process he had for killing.

Michael gaped open mouthed at the limp body of his childhood friend for what seemed like an age. Then, somehow managing to steel his nerve, he remembered the gun slipped into Javier’s waistband. Michael edged towards the body, feeling a watchful gaze examining his every movement. “Have you known him long?” Michael nodded numbly. “That’s rough kid.” Michael slowly reached towards Javier’s face, conscious of the scrutiny of the Government. Luckily Michael appeared to be able to deliver very little damage. He instead looked fixedly at the corpse, the tears coming thick and fast, not for Gabriel’s benefit, but simply releasing the pain and anguish of a lifetime of friendship gone in a heartbeat. Composed enough to remain subtle about reaching for his only escape route, Michael kept up the tears while making use of what Javi had taught him about pickpocketing. After 15 seconds which lasted an eternity, he finally got his fingers to the cold metal handle. Somehow the smooth metallic feeling of it calmed the fluttering of his heart. Gabriel looked on, whatever sympathy he may have shown dissipated by his cold brick wall demeanour.  “Get on with it. He’s dead.” Gripping the handle, Michael prayed Javier had his gun ready to fire, knowing that he lived or died on this leap of faith.

Gabriel’s growing impatience was beginning to crack his expressionless facade. He moved snappily, a decision clearly made. Moving swiftly and silently, carrying a deadly purpose, he approached the body. All of a sudden, he was looming over Michael, saying nothing but feeling a twinge of pity, shrugged off in a microsecond. It was his job, and he was very good at it purely because he felt nothing at ending the life of an eleven year old. The child was still bawling, arms fixed to the corpse. He wouldn’t notice a thing. Without a sound, Gabriel drew the weapon that was so familiar to him, enjoying the feeling of it’s weight and balance before he raised it to the kid’s head. Putting his finger on the trigger, he briefly wondered why he enjoyed the sensation so much. Instantaneous death. All with so little effort. It amused him somehow, being so detached from the physical effort, yet so responsible for a grieving mother. Abruptly, all thoughts were swept away, replaced by only suffering. His kneecap exploded in agony, as if a searing hot lance had been shoved in, rendering any sensation numb, except for the excruciating pain in the right leg. He didn’t even hear the light scampering of footsteps, but if he had, he would’ve been irritated, both at himself for his carelessness and at the street kid for postponing his inevitable end.

Michael didn’t stop running until he reached the spot. A concealed rooftop. Where he and Javi would meet if everything went wrong. Instinct had brought him here, maybe an obligation to say goodbye or maybe just the more practical reason of wanting to grab the stash of Javier’s product. If he was going to leave town some form of barter would come in handy. He needed all the help he could get to avoid the power of the State. He had witnessed the desperation of the Government to cover up the murders, the brutal killings shattering the lives of anyone foolhardy enough to dig beneath the surface. What’s more, he had a man who would shortly be coming after him, a man who knew exactly how to catch him, a man he had caused a great deal of pain.

The sun softly glowed on the rusty corrugated iron roofs. Morumbi always looked surprisingly pretty in the evening light, the poverty disguised by the shiny glint coming off the cheap metal. Michael had been living rough in the last three months, but that was nothing new to him. He’d adapted to his stomach constantly rumbling in his eleven years living surviving on scraps. He knew that the drugs he had stashed in Rio de Janeiro during his time away could set him up for life, but the risk of selling them was too high, for the time being at least. He had something more important going on. After weeks of searching, he had found a lead to a group of cyber terrorists based in Morumbi. At least that’s what the government called them. Michael was following the stories he had heard from a very nervous man he met on his travels. Some kind of insurgency trying to bring down the State. After witnessing the injustice of living in his country, Michael had a purpose other than just making it to the next day for the first time in his life. He would start working towards finding an address in the morning after sleeping in one of his old haunts, but he had something he needed to do first. He felt burdened by a responsibility to explain what happened to Javi’s mother. If she was still alive. He had to check. With that thought he headed down to see what his life would become.

At almost exactly the same moment, a sharply dressed man sauntered out of a flash building with a very slight limp. After three months of pain and embarrassment he could finally get his revenge. He would first head to Morumbi, the scene of the crime. Then he would find that kid. His boss had told him to clean up any mess. Through any means possible. He would enjoy the coming days, Gabriel decided.

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