Another prompt to short story! I love when things take on a life of their own! I hope you enjoy!
From The Inside
Ten Years Ago
The building was on fire. The screams from outside were making my ears ring. The fire burned from rooms away. The crackle and pop were right behind me. I had to run. They would know it was me. I could burn all the evidence and they would still know. There was no time. I dropped the knife Victor gave me. It was engraved. I was paid for a hit. That’s all. He knew what my job was. There was no unspoken law between us that I wouldn’t take pay from anyone else. I was caught in the middle. I was in the middle of a war.
And I killed her.
I killed his girlfriend.
I killed my old friend.
I was played.
I didn’t know it until the fire was licking my skin.
Now I needed to run.
Six Months Ago
I always knew he’d find me, eventually. I just didn’t know it would be like this. I didn’t know I would be soaked through and through from the rain, crouched in an old rotted out doorway, my knees to my chest. Whenever I would hug myself tighter, I would wring water out of my torn and depressed clothing. The jacket, if one could even call it that, held the little I had left. There wasn’t a phone for me to use. No money in my pockets. No hope left lingering in my eyes.
Twenty years ago, when the world we all knew ended it took the hope with it.
Ten years ago, I was making a living. I was doing whatever I needed to do to not only survive but thrive.
Then it all ended.
I had to leave.
I started running from house to house. Most abandoned. Some were welcoming. Other homes, I had to fight my way back out. The end brought out the crazies. It showed everyone what they were truly capable of doing to another human being. It taught everyone survival.
He didn’t look the same as he did all those years ago. There were bags under his eyes. He had aged from the young, strong, and terrifying man I knew. I knew he would find me because he had to. I owed a debt. He always collected. When he finally showed up to collect, I couldn’t say no. Actually, I could. I had nothing to lose. Yet here we are having a silent conversation deciding the other’s next move.
His hand made its way towards me slowly. He was trying not to scare me. He didn’t want me to bolt and leave him behind in the rain again. Thunder rumbled in the distance as I slowly reached out as well. He let go of my hand once I was up on shaky legs and gestured for me to walk down the alley towards the main road. The rain picked up and I nodded. I kept a few safe feet between us not wanting to have a trick played on me.
“If I was going to kill you, Kay, I would’ve done it back when you were sitting in a ball looking pathetic as ever.” His voice was deeper than I remember, but it had the same edge to it. “We have some things to discuss. They could be mutually beneficial.” I pulled back more at his words and stuffed my hands inside torn pockets.
“Things that would benefit us both?” I cleared my throat trying to sound more sure of myself like I once did. “I doubt it.”
“You’re living on the street or in abandoned homes and never stopping.” I stopped in my tracks feeling the rage within bring some lost part of me back to life.
“I couldn’t stop running or you would have killed me.” My hair was clinging to my face matted with dirt, dust, and a little blood from a fight the night before.
“Well, I can’t kill you now. Can I?” He began moving forward again.
“And why can’t you?” He didn’t respond just looked at the ground and smiled. Occasionally, we would have to step over bodies. Sleeping or dead I couldn’t really tell. We stopped in front of a large old hotel. It was deteriorating on the outside, but I knew he wouldn’t let himself stay somewhere like that let alone live there.
“Bren,” a younger man with raven black hair walked up to us, “take Miss Kay up to room 323. Please.” The young man’s dark eyes seemed to be one large blackened spot at the center. “Get cleaned up. When you’re done Bren here will bring you to me.”
Why would I want to clean up for him? Why would I ever want to do anything for him? I was being dragged by the arm away and I finally gave in and was dragged to a stairwell. I followed Bren silently and took a look around when we stopped. I tried getting a layout of the place to the best of my ability.
“Right here.” I felt my right brow rise at him. I doubt he could see it. The dirt was caked everywhere on me. “I will wait out here.” He turned and leaned against the wall ignoring me as I went in.
I went to lock the door and realized the lock had been removed. So, he wasn’t trying to keep me there forever, just for the time being. I peeled off the destroyed tatters that resembled clothing and made my way into the bathroom. I turned the shower on and was immediately thrilled with the hot water. I let it pull the grime from me and watched it swirl down the drain. My muscles welcomed the warmth and relaxed for the first time in about a month. I took all the time I could enjoying it before climbing back out.
When I got back to the room I couldn’t find my “clothes” anywhere. I started checking drawers when I realized they were filled with fresh clean clothes to wear. My old clean clothes. He kept it all here. I slid into them easily and with more than an ideal amount of room. I had to poke a hole in one of my old belts to tighten the pants to where I needed and made my way out of the room back to Bren.
“After you.” He jumped a little at the sudden sound of my voice.
“I didn’t even hear you come out of there.” I shrugged and followed him quietly. “The boss has been looking for you for a long time.”
“Not long enough.” He chuckled beside me at my quick and quiet response. We walked silently after that to a large room. It looked like it used to be a conference room at one time, but now it was set up like a security room.
“Ah, that looks better.” I felt myself sneer at him.
“You kept all of my things. Why?” I assessed everything around us not seeing any available weapon.
“Times are hard.”
“Feeling sentimental or something? I didn’t think we were that close.” I circled the small table between us trying to keep my old face on.
“Truth is…” He stroked his small amount of scruff trying to tread lightly, “I need an assassin. You were the best one I knew of. The only one who ever got close enough to get to me, and I am willing to compensate you for your work.”
“Clearly I didn’t get close enough.”
“Cute.” I stopped moving and plopped myself down in a chair trying not to show pain where all my bruises were on my back. I adjusted to comfort and stared him down some more.
“Why bring me in now? I am sure there are people qualified to do what I used to do.” I realized then the only reason was because instead of me being recruited to kill him he wanted to hit his enemies first. “It’s because they are looking for me to ask the same of me, but the other way around.” He smiled and looked back at the door where Bren was watching us both.
“Yes. However, I intend to pay you what you deserve. They can’t.” I leaned forward, put my elbows on my knees and rested my chin on my hands. He knew he would be losing a lot bringing me on. This was him showing me he would risk it all to bring me in and make me one of his. The number one. No one else would know what I did. I would be the perfect weapon, and the only weapon that could take him down.
“From where I stand what happened to Claire was a tragic accident.” Her eyes open in terror popped in front of my face. The flames reflected from her brown eyes into mine. She was already gone, but she was still judging me. “I have an idea who placed the hit, but I do know the fire was meant for me. Whoever it was screwed up.” I straightened up and shook it off. I thought to myself that I didn’t miss. I never missed.
“Who placed it?” I needed to keep the mask up.
“Talbot.” The darkness reappeared in Victor’s eyes.
“What’d Talbot want with you?” He held up two fingers to Bren and the younger man disappeared.
“Money. I took over some of the shipments coming in the city gates.”
“I remember.” The black trucks flashed before my eyes. Victor had me busy as ever. Until Talbot found me.
“We made a great team.”
“We did.” Bren was back putting two crystal glasses of a dark amber liquid in front of us.
“Why’d you run?” I choked a little on the liquid which made it burn more than the fire from that night. “I went to the suite to find you, and you were gone.” I set the glass back down and looked at him. Observing everything. His slight twitch of his upper lip. His jaw tightening.
“Talbot’s assassin.” I held myself straight up and leaned onto the table. I made sure to hold his gaze. “Assassins. They were after me.”
“I was your number one. Your right hand. I was Claire’s confidant. I knew things that you didn’t. I found out who she was. I went to Talbot. I tried to make a deal to help you save face.” He leaned in swirling the liquid in his glass.
“Why would you go to him without backup?” I chuckled a little at him making him more tense.
“Why wouldn’t I. I was the best remember?”
“Who was she?”
“Claire was Cassandra Nessar.” Victor sucked in a quick breath.
“Nessar? No!” Victor threw his glass.
“Yes. She was the daughter of Talbot’s right hand. She was hired to hand over your secrets and I found out. I went to Talbot when he was supposed to only have two guards. Cassandra’s dad was there. I didn’t know.” Victor put his head in his hands. “I told them I would kill her for what she did to you.”
“Was it you who killed her?”
“Yes, I went to confront her. She wasn’t alone. I wound up confronted by Eliana.”
“Talbot’s daughter.” I nodded trying to push through.
“Turns out she was quicker than me.” I leaned back and lifted my shirt showing him the scar from my right him up across my left ribcage. He reached forward and the second he touched me my scar was on fire and I put the shirt back in place.
“Why didn’t you come to me?” I looked down.
“I barely made it out of there. You wanted me to come tell you the woman you loved wasn’t real? You wanted me to tell you what I did? You would’ve killed me yourself back then. You were impulsive, cruel in many ways, and you looked at me like I was the enemy some days. I know what she was telling you about me.” He looked away his eyes were slightly glossed over.
“I would’ve trusted you.” I laughed and shook my head. He jumped up and put his hand on my throat and slid the chair and I back to the wall.
“You… would’ve… killed… me.” He let go and flipped his own chair back. I let out a few coughs and started rubbing my throat. I straightened back up and felt myself harden further. “Still impulsive I see.” I kept my eyes on him, but caught Bren placing himself between the two of us. I gave him a small head shake and watched him back up to his original place. “And you wanted me to come to you?”
“No… Yes. Maybe it wouldn’t have all ended up the way it did.” I laughed harder.
“What would you and I have wound up working things out? Would we have made a go of the on and off between when you were or weren’t with Claire?” He looked straight into my eyes. Broken. Not the same Victor I knew.
“Is that so wrong?”
“You knew where I was for how long?” He didn’t respond. “How long?” He looked up as I yelled at him.
“I have had eyes on you for about three years.” I felt myself stumble back.
“Three. Years.” I felt a tear flow down my face. “You swear things would have gone different. You make it sound like you cared. Like you loved me. And you left me on the street scared out of my mind and running for three damn years?” I walked past him knocking my shoulder against his. He tried to grab my arm, but I slid out of his grip.
“Bren, take me back up to the room.” Bren didn’t look back at his boss. I decided right then and there I wanted it all. The money, the loyalty of his men, and the power. I wanted everything he had. He watched me suffer. Now it was my turn.
“You okay?” I looked over at Bren forgetting he was there.
“I’ll be fine. Just figured out I have some work to do.” He nodded and kept quiet until we got to the door to my room.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” I smirked at him and pulled him in close. I put my cheek against his and let my lips brush lightly near his ear.
“I need to clean house.” He pulled back. I expected wide eyes and fear. I saw understanding. “He keeps you close?”
Two Months Ago
“Bren! Can you come help me out please?” I was in a thigh high, skin-tight, little black dress. The zipper undone. He came in and smirked at me. I looked at my reflection realizing how different I was four months ago. I had been eating, working out, doing my job again, and I was in a loyal relationship with a true partner in crime. Victor wasn’t aware of the relationship outside of work, and we used that to our advantage.
“Who is the target tonight?” He slowly zipped up the dress and goosebumps jumped across my skin.
“Antonio. He is the last real target that we would need to worry about. You’re in charge of shipments. I’m in charge of keeping things under control. I know how to handle the finances. He has had me running books since we got rid of Alli. All that’s left is the overseer.” He nodded and pulled me flush against him. We stared in the mirror at one another.
“Be careful. He has been getting handsy.” I felt his hand slide up my thigh and I smacked it away turning around. I kissed him almost knocking us both back into the big red chair.
“He will lose the hand before he gets anywhere.”
“I meant be careful with Antonio. Victor has been getting handsy.”
“Antonio doesn’t worry me. If things go sideways, I can handle him and Victor.” He kissed the side of my head. “And if something doesn’t, you’ll be there.” He nodded.
That dinner was a bloody one to say the least. Antonio started picking apart the recent fires. I defended them. I didn’t feel anyone untrustworthy was welcome. Antonio threw a glass at me. Victor got up and I held my hand in front of him. He sat down turning red.
“Antonio, is the reason you’re so upset because you hired them all? They were obscenely loyal to you.” He stood up and leaned over towards me. “From what I understood there was an uprising within the ranks.”
“What are you implying?”
“I’m not implying anything. I am saying that I know they weren’t loyal to Victor, and yet they stayed and did only what you asked. They would nod after you gave a side nod. They wouldn’t move the second he asked unless you okayed it.” Antonio picked up the knife. “It is you.” He threw the knife and it made a shallow cut across my cheek. I wiped it and leaned over the table. “Did I get it right?”
Victor moved to Antonio’s side and I reached under the table grabbing my new hunting knife. I threw it straight into Antonio’s chest. Victor watched him fall backwards and stared at him. I walked around the table. Victor was breathing shallow breaths.
“Next time, you better make sure to kill me first.” I squatted down twisting my knees away from him. I gripped the knife and twisted hard. I smiled a knowing smile that Victor couldn’t see. Before he could get a word out to spill my secret, he was dead. I pulled the knife out and he was gone.
“You couldn’t have waited to hear him out?” I threw the knife on the table staining the beautiful gold cloth.
“We hear traitors out now?”
“When you are pointing fingers at someone we have both known for a long time, yes!”
“I thought you wanted me as your right hand, Victor. Wasn’t that the point of bringing me back in?” He sat down and slammed his drink. I poured him a full glass and sat back down. “Bren.” He walked in the door and looked down at the floor. “Clean up. Aisle two.” He looked at Victor trying not to laugh or stare directly at me.
“Take him down.” Bren nodded and I caught a small look of pride in the mirror on the back wall. Victor slammed the whole glass and I sent the bottle back down to him for another. I sipped mine waiting until he was hammered to leave the table.
The final game was just beginning.
Over the next few weeks, I had made sure he saw the dead walking the hotel. My people lined the halls waiting for their next order. I was slipping small amounts of acid into Victors drinks now and then. I wanted him to slowly suffer. One night I decided that it was time, but I wanted him to do it to himself. I drugged him up enough to watch him run down the hall from demons. I watched him yelling for them to leave him alone, and when the time was right I watched him tumble over the railing. He broke his neck and lay there bleeding. He reached up and was choking on his own blood.
I felt nothing.
I had won.
Yet I felt nothing.
I didn’t feel it though. Not until I sat in the stupid conference room in the throne like chair giving out orders. I placed my people carefully and watched them scatter like worker ants to their new positions. I watched the money come in and the fear grew on those who looked down on me before. I realized then I wasn’t done.
Talbot was next.