Death's Catalyst (Part 4)
"Who the hell're you then?" barked the tallest whilst fatty edged towards the window. I looked left and right in a shifty manner making squeaky noises, "Oi I asked a question dumbass." he snarled again pulling his gun, fatty did the same when a few steps away.
"I- I- I..." All I had to do was stall for long enough for Maxim to be with the others safe and sound, then I could just make a run for it. Carefully keeping my bloodied arm out of sight I waited for them to ask more questions - if they saw the wound it probably wouldn't take long for them to figure out the shot had been aimed at me and therefore I wasn't just some common burglar.
"What you done with him?"
"Who?" I whimpered biting my lip,
"You know who we're talking about. We need him back missy, give him over now or you're dead in the next thirty seconds." hyping up false panic I held up my hands and began to pant,
"Look I dunno who ya mean man! I was just gonna rob the joint! I ain't got whoever you're talking about! Why would I steal a person?! Not gonna fetch much is it?" I wailed, the men looked at each other,
"You gotta a name or what little girl?" grumbled fatty taking a step towards me, he stank of fried food and I couldn't help but grimace, "Whether you're lying or not, you're coming with us."
"Not likely fatty!" I laughed nervously stepping back out the window shaking my head, he growled and came closer, "Look mate I'd stop walking towards me if I were you. Or at least stay out of kicking range,"
"Got a bit of mouth on you now then?" he grumbled coming out onto the ledge, it groaned under his weight, I stopped walking and let him get closer, or just close enough at least.
"Seriously mate, stay away or you'll be unconscious before you can count to three... that's me assuming you can do that anyway."
"So another filthy Witch are you?"
"What're you talking about? Witch? Me? Look you caught me and I hadn't even got inside yet, no harm done right? Just back off and I'll scurry off okay? No harm no foul!"
"Nah I don't buy it."
"Just get her Barry!" shouted shorty from the window, Barry obliged and was on the floor in the next three seconds as promised. It had been simple enough; throat, skull and then back of neck as he stumbled. A simple equation to equal an unconscious Barry, well usually, in the circumstances of being shot in the arm made it a little more harmful to me than usual. My arm screamed in agony but I couldn't afford to stop. The other two then made their way through the window but I knew enough time had passed and all there was to do was make a run for it.
Therefore I did.
Unfortunately having gone well past the chute I needed another way out, watching the car drive off with the rest of the traffic I knew Maria knew what the other escape route would be. I'd never liked jumping rooftops. Then again getting shot didn't look like such a nice way to end the night either. With a roll of my eyes I ran round the other side of the building along the little metal girder, the final barrier came into view, I readied myself and made the jump. Like a cat I was up onto the little metal bar and then soaring through the cold city night air like a bat. I could just imagine the shock and awe in the minion's faces, it'd have been glorious to see, I hadn't evoked awe in anyone for quite some time. Coffee girls don't usually. The air slipped by, giving a warm welcome home, seemingly having missed my company. I laughed a little when landing seamlessly on the other side of the alley upon the opposite building's roof. Triumph ran up and down my spine and although I'd have loved to look back to cackle at the two dumbfounded fools I had to keep in mind that they still had their guns. I didn't have a gun. I had one knife - that was my lot.
Continuing to run over that roof and then the next I'd thought myself in the clear, it was fairly misty that night and no shots had been fired beforehand. Looking down I saw a secluded road, it was only flats in the area and would be fine for the others to drive alongside. I stopped to wait for them to turn up - but what I hadn't banked on was the two minions having damn good aim at long distance. A shot pinged by my foot, missing by mere millimetres. Loosing my footing I felt my weight drag me down, falling two floors before finally grasping a ledge over a window with my good arm, the stone was rough and unforgiving against my sweaty flesh, cutting into my finger joints as I clung there. Gasps ripped from me in desperate whimpers whilst I hung there, frozen by shock. Panic continued its arrogant dance round my head, turning my nerves to jelly as it screamed in my ears. When my breathing calmed down I heard a faint plopping sound, like a leaky tap. Looking down I saw my crimson blood spatter against the next floor's window sill, providing a convenient ledge for me to topple onto. Carefully I let go to land shakily, those within the flat thankfully hadn't noticed the woman on their window ledge and therefore I was free to linger for my transport.
Although I knew it wouldn't help, curiosity made me look at my arm, the bullet had gone straight through but didn't seem to have broken any bones, but even so my arm was now useless in a tattered fleshy mess. How I wasn't screaming in agony I couldn't fathom, I assume now, looking back, that it was the shock that kept me slightly numb to it - aware that it was incredibly painful but not quite feeling the full extent. I laughed when looking back and seeing the days I could be shot three times and not even blink. It had been like a kiss on the cheek when at my most ruthless. But I didn't want to become that again, I'd much rather feel the pain than become that monster again, that thing of the night that thirsted for blood over all else. The rumble of an engine interrupted my nostalgic moment as the car purred round the corner and stopped just below me on the other side of the street.
Nimbly I grabbed the window sill and swung down before letting myself drop two stories into a soft pile of trash bags. Peeling a banana skin off my head I saw Maria come over, worry across her gaunt face as she watched the blood dribble off my hand onto the street. Looking down at it myself I smirked and gave a shrug,
"Part of the job description Maria, you know that as well as I do."
"I don't know how to thank you Clio,"
"A shower, bandages and a strong drink would make a bloody good start." She smiled and opened the car door for me, Maxim sat beside me but I didn't look at him, merely staring out the window as rain began to fall. It would wash away my blood from any ledge or street, letting it slide down the drains and never be thought of again. I'd done it. I'd become a ghost once more, but more importantly, I'd saved Maxim. A smile stretched out my lips and I laid my head back, letting sleep take me into her soft arms.
Run run run. Don't look back that would be foolish. Just keep going. They don't know what you look like, you can't be found again. Maybe though? no! They didn't see your face did they? No, not at all. Right then just keep running till you lose them, you can't go straight back to base can you? That'd get everyone in the shit, just keep running till you know you can kill them without only causing more issues. God damn I'm tired. No you're not just keep going - watch out for potholes you moron! Shit that hurt, my ankles gonna swell like nobody's business. A corner, an alley. Perfect there's a bin too. Breath as quietly as you can, you can do this, last job and then you're out. There they are, you can hear them coming can't you? Fuck my ankle! Focus. Just focus Clio you're fine, you know you're fine. You need to stop talking to yourself like this. I'm not, I'm thinking to myself. Entirely different. Pull the trigger. Didn't see that coming did he? Nah, arrogant pig. Bugger there's the other one, just shoot!
Not everything is washed away by the rain.
With a jolt I woke. The smell of cleanliness stinging my nose. He was still asleep, I groaned as my bones ached from sleeping sat upright. Time to get up and move a little before I froze in the one position. Stood above him I felt somehow less guilty - that I was looking after him now at least, perhaps that made up for it? I snorted. No it didn't, it didn't even scratch the surface. Yet even so I continued to sit by his side, captivated with the way his thick eyelashes flickered with dreams, chasing after them with all his might. The bruising across his muscled torso was beginning to fade, but it had been a week so if they weren't then I'd have been getting worried. The cuts were now pink instead of a bloodied red brown, now clean and healing. How I wished all scars would do the same.
A cup of steaming tea was placed by my side and Maria laid a hand on my shoulder,
"Clio sitting here isn't going to do any good,"
"I'm not moving,"
"Why do you continue to feel so guilty?" she huffed sitting next to me, I couldn't look her in the eye, "He simply needs his rest, we're keeping him sedated so he doesn't injure himself further. Stop worrying yourself."
"I can't stop worrying about him Maria. Never." I breathed thickly, "You can't imagine the torture I went through for five years, every time a siren went, or a news flash came on about rebels being hung in Time Square. I couldn't sleep for worrying."
"You still love him don't you?" the question hung heavily in the clinical air. I swallowed, the concern was in her eyes when she saw the dark circles beneath mine - those purple bags that held all the undreamed dreams, the hours of restless turning, the nights of hating myself and all that I had done. My lips parted to answer but I found them dry, barren of words as I breathed heavily, gasping as though panicking. Maybe I was. Looking back to his sleeping face I felt my eyes once again grow warm with relinquished tears.
"I never stopped," I whispered, "But now he will never love me back, how could he?"
"Clio time heals-"
"No it doesn't. Time does not heal everything." I snapped, she flinched,
"No Maria, time doesn't do that! The pain I feel for losing my parents is just as excruciating, the agony of leaving him is still fresh in my mind, seven years, five years? How long do I wait? Time is a teaser Maria. All it does is tease us with healing things, when really the only way it heals is by making us forget. That's when we're supposedly healed. Only I don't want to forget. I can't forget."
"You're not the girl I knew five years ago," she spoke softly and not really to me, she looked down at the ground, probably hoping for me to argue, to assure her I was that girl. To promise her the world was just how it always had been, that these dark days were simply a phase. But I didn't. That would be lying and I wasn't going to lie to her - if I had to lie to everyone else there had to be somewhere it stopped.
"No. I'm not that girl. I'm a woman now, a woman who kills people for a living and feels nothing for it. All she feels is for you and the man beside us. But he can't know Maria. Promise me. I want your word as my friend and as a Witch."
"What would that matter to you?"
"Your word." she nodded and I took a few steps back,
"Thank you. As far as your brother is concerned I merely work for the group now all right? An employee."
"Okay Clio." she sighed with a sorry shake of her head, "How's the arm?"
"Fine. I think I'll go work it out a bit, gym's up the stairs to the left?"
"The right actually." I was impressed by how well outfitted they were, but the base was huge. Four floors up, plus a basement and a bock wide. It's front was a derelict warehouse - made possible by a few hundred masking spells, Maria had said that even if a government patrol came inside, they would hear nothing and see nothing. All the floors would be deserted and crumbling. I had to admit it was impressive - if anyone said otherwise they were clearly deluding themselves or simply had too high standards. In the lift I caught a reflection of my arm and cringed, it was still badly bruised, the muscle not taking too long to heal thanks to an on call elf who could use their healing talents, but they weren't as accomplished as they could be and therefore I still had a little damage to contend with. But moving it was supposed to help, so move it I certainly would.
About three hours straight I'd spend in the gym, running, pushing weights, using the punch-bag. The last being my favourite. I'd never really worked out properly before - only running in the mornings. Yet I felt the need to do something and as I currently had no one to kill I had to take my frustrations out on something else - be it machine or hanging lump of bound leather. Stood beside the red bag about twice my own height I began to bind up my hands, feeling the slight twinge in my arm, that flicker of anticipation as my bicep contracted. The white tape made my skin look even more like honey as it wound round my thin wrist and worn hands. No longer did I have soft, supple hands, I had the worn leather of a killer. Bounding over buildings, climbing drainpipes, gripping guns, knives, and throwing just as much, it wore at the flesh. One needed a tough shell to counteract this. I grinned at my blushing opponent, I'd managed such a shell all over, though on the rest of my body it was more of a mental barrier, impenetrable to guilt, remorse and hesitation. At least within the vital moment, once the lights went out the ghosts would return and of course one thing in particular always sneaked past my well built defences. Him.
My teeth snapped together and my fist thrust forward, smacking into the bag with a crack, again and again I pounded on the red skin. My breathing was slow and steady, teeth bared and eyes ablaze as I lashed out. How long I went for I couldn't say, all I know is I kept going till the room spun and I landed on my knees, hugging the thing I had beaten so much for support as it moaned on it's chain. My gasps turned to whimpers and my whimpers turned to sobs, no one else was in the gym, I sat there sobbing like a wounded animal till my throat burned with unvoiced agonies. Tears trickled down my nose and spattered on the ground like my blood had. Stop it. With this short break came time to think about my arm, it seared by my side, angrily scorning me for such an overworking. What was I thinking? I needed time to heal! It screamed through my nerves and I groaned at it to shut up, to man up and take the beating like everything else within my body. Ignoring the wails of my arm I got up and went to the running machine, whacked it up to full pent and ran like I'd never run beforehand, jumping on occasion, running backwards and hopping on and off the conveyor to practise agility, nimbleness and also to show off to the empty room just a little. My throat began to burn once again and so I stopped, slowing the machines pace till I could stand on the belt and simple slide off to wander through to the showers.