One

Chapter 1: Pussycat

Prompt(s) Used: “Use the first line of a nursery rhyme as the first line of a dark narrative”

 

“Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?”

“Shut up.”

He cackled at that. Typical.

“How was the weather in London, Kitty? Did the Queen send me her regards?”

“My assignment was in Edinburgh.”

“My dearest Rain, do you take everything literally?”

I refrained from responding. Since I started surviving by taking the lives of others, there have been few things that I don’t take literally.

It goes without saying that not all assassins operate this way. The ones like me are few and far between. I usually encounter the ones who act like Jude — laid back and excessively cheerful. I can’t stand them. They remain untouched by the weight of human life. Jude is by far the worst offender of that. On his first assignment, he didn’t even hesitate. “Lot’s of people die every day. I’m hardly making a dent,” he said.

If it were up to me, he would have gotten the codename “Sunny”, had it not been already taken. He agrees with me on that. The dealer’s big on irony, though, so he got the codename “Hail”.

“The target slashed my thigh,” I allowed my unbuttoned and unzipped pants fall to my ankles to reveal the piece of duct tape hanging off my skin, “Where’s Snow? I need stitches.”

“You’ll have to make do with me, darling. Snow just got back from his assignment. He’ll be in his room crying for the next four or so days.”

“Fine.”

“Oh? You’ll let me touch you? To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“My aversion to bleeding to death. Get the stuff now, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I stumbled over to the crimson-spattered lounge chair and almost felt thankful for all its disintegrating glory. Pretending to be able to walk steadily on both legs had been a bother. If someone had found me this badly wounded, they would have dragged me to a hospital.

Hospitals have records. Records have contact details. Contact details lead to people who I rather die from exposure than meet.

“Block or no block?”

“Wha-,” I cleared my throat, “I mean, no block.”

He handed me a towel. It was the first clean thing I’d seen since I entered the hideout.

“I’m going to rip off the tape. If it starts bleeding, you know what to do.”

The tape came off. My thigh wasn’t just bleeding. The edges of the laceration was weeping milky yellow fluid. The odour filled the room. I let out a guttural scream as the alcohol swab ran over it.

In a few minutes, I was all clean and stitched up. Jude was many things, but incompetent nurse wasn’t one of them.

“I’m going to have to send for another bulk order of antibiotics,” he sighed as he tossed me the last blister pack of tablets, “Take it easy for the next month.”

“I can’t. I have that assignment in Cannes. Some politician on holiday.”

“I don’t care. You can’t go.”

“Jude,” I pulled at the edge of his sleeve, the only thing I could reach, “I have to. I need the money.”

“If I catch you leaving the hideout I will kill you myself,” he grinned, “You’d die anyway, and I haven’t been granted an assignment in a while.”

He was looking at me like he could see through me. His eyes were unfocused and his lips were parted. But I saw it. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.

Bloodlust.

 

*****

“Where to?”

I winced.

“Store.”

“On the day that you’re supposed to fly to Cannes? How coincidental. You won’t mind me coming along with you, will you?”

“Fine.”

Jude was smiling as he walked behind me. I just knew it. He wasn’t like this because he was concerned about my health or my safety. He just loved messing with me. He knew how badly I needed the money from completing that assignment.

“Hey, Rain, let’s go here. I need to get more towels.”

I complied. After all, he was in charge of keeping the hideout stocked with necessities. I’ve always wondered how he managed to be given that responsibility. It seemed to me that he would be better at assignments. It was odd that he hadn’t been given one in almost six months.

“Do you know why you haven’t had assignments in a while?”

For the first time, he looked taken aback. He was probably more surprised at my timing than the question itself.

“Don’t know. Maybe she’s not too pleased with my performance.”

“How can that be? You’re the best out of all of us.”

“That’s debatable,” his voice trailed off.

I knew better than to keep asking. An apparent lack of conviction was a sign of bubbling anger for him. I preferred not to make a scene in the middle of the towel aisle. I wouldn’t want the merchandise to be deemed unsalable. I had nothing against the owners of the store.

“I’m done,” his voice was muffled by the looming pile of towels he had in his arms, “Do you need anything else?”

“No.”

He walked over to the counter to pay up. As he stepped away from me, I imagined a pair of grey wings sprouting out from his back. One of them was mangled and twisted in an irreparable way.

“You!”

I looked around. It definitely wasn’t directed at me. I looked straight ahead.

It was directed at Jude.

“I know you. You killed my brother!”

“You must be mistaken. I’m just here to get towels.”

“I would recognise those filthy eyes anywhere. I can see your demon soul through them.”

“Sir, if you don’t stop, I’m going to have to exchange some harsh words with your supervisor.”

Click.

Jude had a gun pointed at his head.

“Rain,” he called out like he was asking me to come out of my room for dinner,” Run!”

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