The Lightest Part of Shadow

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  1. I lay in the king sized bed of my London flat. My bare chest covered with scars of bullet holes, former lacerations and the like rose and fell gently as he breathed. It must've been an odd thing to watch me, knowing that while awake I was one of the most wanted men in the world simply because I made killing easy, efficient and clean. There was always a slim chance to be caught of course, but for me it was even smaller than most other hired guns. Technology was like that, I suppose. But to think about what I'd done and what I could do would give a person an awkward sense of self realization that I wasn't the boogeyman, that I was human. Maybe that's what made me all the scarier...

    In my dreams that were buried in my subconscious like seeded flowers, I watched the death of my parents, my childhood and my innocence all at once. It was perhaps my curse, it always had been. Yet it pressured me to strive, to stay alive. In a world where shadowy faces were worse than the guns they so often brandished. It was those faces, obscure and just out of sight that spun the hands of fate for some else. In this case, it was Blake's parents. Shady eyes make shady lies after all. Words were like bullets in a gun--once fired you can never truly undo the damage that they do.

    I looked on as my six year old self watched my parents--Charles and Cecilia Reardon pack their things into a vintage full-size Plymouth 1950 Delux. Dad always liked vintage cars. My father was a consultant for a large diamond company and my mother was his secretary she was always more organized than he was. As for me, well, I stood there in front our family butler tears streaming down my face and as I looked down at myself standing there right along with hi with a face void of emotion I felt the need to smoke. Because what was about to happen wasn't so pretty.

    "Better brace yourself kid, it's gonna get bumpy." I told the memory of my younger self.

    As my parents started to drive off, the younger me broke free of the butler's hold in an emotional outburst. I watched myself starting to run, run towards their car as my father turned the ignition and it sputtered to life. I continued to watch as my life had been irrevocably turned right-the-fuck-upside-down. The car exploded into a fire ball, pieces of metal sent flying like shrapnel of a live grenade. I didn't stop running right away, no time just seemed to stop flowing and I suddenly felt like I was running in place. That was probably because my heart stopped from the concussive blast that had hit me and sent me sailing, but my brain, my mind was still firing and still think I was running towards a car, towards my parents.

    Yet that car was no longer a car, just a twisted heap of metal and my parents were no longer my parents. The blast generated so much heat it had fused them to the car seats, hand in hand. I was a brat then. I knew nothing of how the world worked, how it could be so inconceivably cruel and unkind. It was like watching old cinematic movie reels; The faces of my parents on different occasions smiling, laughing, crying, yelling, screaming. It's amazing what your brain remembers when it's being timed till the moment it shuts down and dies. I almost remember my mother face the day I was born. That angel who held me safe and warm in her arms and who never seemed to really let me go.

    Roderick would finally get me breathing, resuscitating me in a chaotic world when all I wanted was to follow my parents. Well, I guess them's the breaks. The first thing my ears caught was the sound of gun fire and the panic in people's voices as they ran past. Guerrillas were storming the area and making contact with UN forces in the region. As my eyes took in the sight through what I could only describe as someone placing beer goggles on me while I was tripping on LSD--There were multicolored shapes shapes scurrying about with fires pluming up out of nowhere and gunfire--the sound of machine gun one moment then a tank blast the next that rocked the area like a miniature earthquake.

    My butler kept yelling for me to get up. That we had to go. I couldn't see the carnage unfolding, but I could feel it vibrating in me, pulsating through the ground. It was enough to make me nauseated. I would turn over onto my belly pushing myself up slowly. My knees were wobbling, I was bleeding from my nose and from my ears. I had also pissed myself all thinks to the explosion. I lifted my head up and as my eyes cleared I suddenly felt like I was in a war. Guerrillas climbed onto one of the tanks before dropping a molotov cocktail into the inner compartment. I could hear people screaming, could smell burning flesh though that could have also been from the wreckage of my parents car that now lie in a burn heap behind me.

    The cackle of machine gun fire was very real, several men dropped like sacks of brick, one even losing an arm was crawling on the ground screaming. I couldn't tell if adrenaline was flooding me, or if it was just an insane amount of fear but I gripped my head and screamed. Probably not the best move I could have done, but given the situation it was probably very understandable. My butler quickly grabbed me, dragging me into the nearest building. What I didn't know then that in March of 91' Sierra Leone had come under a state of civil war. The Revolutionary United Front or RUF, with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, the NPFL, had intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years, enveloped the country, and left over 50,000 dead.

    There was also the fact that my father, the consultant, had lobbied to ban the import of blood diamonds from Eastern Africa. This rallying call pissed off a lot of smugglers and warlords in various countries on the continent of Africa. He would take a major export that funded their militias, their armies--their drugs. It was no wonder they were pissed and wanted him dead. That said, at the time I couldn't keep from bawling like a baby. My brain was so hung up over them that I had failed to realize how much I was in pain physically.

    My ears drums were ruptured, I had a concussion, second degree burns. Aside from those I had cracked ribs and I could not, for the life of me, stop shaking. But while that was all bad news, it was about to get worse. As I observed quietly cigarette in between my lips burning the fictitious paper away as if counting down the seconds, knowing that nothing that I said or did would hold any true bearing the man that would sell me into slavery opened the door, gun in his hand. He popped a cap in my butlers crown like it were just a wave to say hello. Casual, remorseless. But hey, I got it-- maybe not then, but he was doing a job. It was all business for him and he didn't like snot-nosed loose ends.

    I screamed, my mind simply couldn't take anymore loss. Shrieking I scrambled over to Roderick who had a clean cut bullet hole straight through his head. From the bottom of his receding hairline, through just above his occipital bone. I began crying and sobbing uncontrollably. In less than an hour everyone I knew, everyone that was close to me was dead. The blood draining from their corpses like free flowing red ink. I remember trying to hold Roderick's brain matter in, least the parts that I could plug the hole in the back of his by means of my small ass fingers.

    A child should never have to plug a bullet hole with their fingers. Then again, they shouldn't be sold into slavery to be "adopted" by a local warlord. My associates always wanted to know if I was really adopted or not. Being of caucasian ancestry, I didn't exactly fit in with the rest of the negros. But I tell them if they mean if I was beaten, starved, dehydrated and drugged till I no longer cared--then yes, I was adopted.

    The leash of a warlords control on the hearts and minds of his child labor force relied extensively on the distribution and use of drugs that were deliberately addictive. Why watch someone when you know they'll be back for their daily dose? Why pay them? when all they will want is a quick fix? Why love them when the more you punish them and you beat them, they take their ruthless aggression and unbridled anger straight to the grave. Those days I spent as a child soldier, I don't remember too well. I was too busy trying to stay alive when kids like me were getting blown to pieces.

    I've done some pretty fucked up things, shot innocent people. I've shot their kids, their dogs. For a while I'd forgotten I was a slave. Hunger, pain, tiredness tends to do that. You sleep with one eye open and a hand on your gun. You start to look at things in a different light and the lines of right and wrong blur. Then one day, the drugs don't make you forget. They don't take the pain, they don't ease your heart. It's like touch a raw nerve, that almost electric vibe that jolts you when you conscious comes knocking to make your sins painfully clear. When mine did, it didn't take long for me to decide where I was, was not where I needed to be. I didn't want to die in some ditch, as just another unknown.

    If I was going to be marred and forsaken, it was going to be on my terms. I would eventually kill my would be father, shooting his entourage before making good on my escape with one of the trucks we had stolen. I was 16 then. When I was 18 I joined a private contracting company, Valkyrie. It was an Brittish-based company but it was founded in Norway. Been with them ever since. The pay is good money, made around £50,000 British pounds or 71k in US dollars per mission. Eventually I worked my way to the top, although some other contractor companies were pretty pissed if I wound up taking their clients out through non-conventional means.

    My life was one big ball of fucked up, but it was mine.

    I heard my cell phone ring even in my sleep, and just like that the slide show stopped and I was back in my room. I picked up my phone and sat up slowly on the edge of the bed. Rubbing my eyes, I touched the touch screen while rubbing the bridge of my nose.

    "Hello, Blake here." I slightly groaned as I took my sweet ass time waking up.

    "Hello Blake, I have a job for you." An older man's voice rang through the phone. "Assassination and retrieval. We have a high priority target. Suspect is male, early fifties. Five foot eleven inches--dark brown, curly hair. Brown eyes and has a scar on his right palm. He is control of a SDXC that holds the names of British agents in place in the German government."

    "Alright, send the records to my phone. I'm on my way." I answered.

  2. Most people had the wild notion that having a parent who travelled a lot and got new postings very so often was extremely fun. Honestly, it wasn’t as glamorous as people believed it to be. While there were certainly fun aspects to it, it did get tiring after a while. There was the fact that every house was never a home and by the time it did come close to becoming a home for them, her dad’s job would probably root the entire family up again and drop them in yet another location that would usually require half a day on planes and waiting in transit before they were thrust into a total change in environment and culture. Immersing into a new place, making new friends, finding local places to be new haunts, it could get to a person and eventually it did.

    After enduring it for over eight years, her mom had called it quits on the marriage, walking away when her dad refused to consider leaving his job. June still had yet to figure out why her dad had considered his job more important than his marriage and wife but at seven years old, it hadn’t been on her list of priorities at all to figure out any of that – and nearly ten years later, it still wasn’t something that she thought about, much less dwelled upon. She had followed her mom back as soon as the separation began but when her mother went from Ms Bradley to eventually becoming Mrs Klinsmann two years later, June had gone back to following her dad around the globe, happier to be with her dad than to try and carve a new family dynamic with her mom and step-dad.

    It wasn’t that she held the same opinion as her mother in the first place. To June, traveling around the world on a fairly regular basis had been a rather grand adventure in her childhood. Sometimes they were only in a certain country or city for weeks instead of months and it felt like an unexpected holiday where her dad whisked her off to somewhere new and amazing before they returned back to wherever her dad’s latest posting was at.
    As a child, having to start over in a new school was no big deal either. There were always new people to meet and new friends to be made, June easily disappearing into the crowd of students by the time recess rolled round, happy to join in the games on the playground. It wasn’t so much the case these days. She was lucky if she made a few friends at any given time and usually they became social media acquaintances, only connected by flimsiest ties of friendship and even then it was mostly for show rather than a genuine interest to keep connected to one another’s lives. It was why she didn’t mind whenever her dad came back, telling her that they were moving yet again.
    That being said, she really couldn’t appreciate the change of view this time.

    “You know, Kyoto is so much more interesting than Berlin. The Star Festival was coming up and you like all sorts of cultural holidays as much as I do! We could have had an awesome time, I could have worn a yukata.” Juniper scowled for a moment, displeased that she was about to miss out on an activity that she enjoyed before continuing. “Not to mention, we must have been here like three times already in the last year.” She observed, even if her attention had already wandered off onto another topic, dismissing her former musings.

    The traffic was bearable enough and her dad’s employers had sprung a car for them so at least they were enjoying a comfortable ride. It was more often than not that they tended to have arranged transport but it was beginning to dawn on her that every trip to Germany so far had earned them a very fancy limo ride, one that came completely stocked with drinks and snacks which she had originally taken advantage of, figuring that how many times in her life would she get to ride in a limousine? And yes, she was shameless enough to admit that she had abused the every available button that was inside the car, thrilled to bits by the novelty. After all many people, no – how many kids could brag that they had sat in a limousine before?

    Matthew Bradley merely shook out his newspaper once before becoming engrossed in the business section of the paper that the chauffeur had provided them. June made a face, her dad had been on her case, insisting that she should start reading the papers too but the only time she cared for it was on Sundays when they printed the cartoons in colour. “You’re sixteen and you’re my daughter. The last thing I need you to do is to have some fanciful idea where you’ll be whisked off your feet by some charming guy who will fill your head with some nonsense about one true love. Besides, we go where my bosses tell me to go.” His reply was in the same mild tone that her dad seemed to have perfected.

    Her mom used to complain that it drove her nuts whenever they argued and her dad would keep the same rational voice that he used at work. She still did whenever they started making arrangements for June to spend six weeks or so with her mom and step-dad every year – June had insisted that she would do any time of the year except her birthday because as much as she loved her mom, there was no way she wanted to spend her birthday in a boring restaurant when her dad could arrange something so much better in her opinion.

    That reminded her… “Mom’s gonna be calling you soon. Since you have me for the summer this year, she wants me to spend Christmas with her this year. She says she has a friend who has a house in Bali, she thinks that it’s the perfect place to experience a reverse Christmas in July kind of thing.” June told her dad as she pulled out her phone, squinting a little at the screen before she adjusted the brightness level.

    The brunette opened up the chat app to check the last conversation that she had with her mother, one that involved a rather lengthy diatribe about how ‘Bali was the place to be for the hols’ – sometimes June’s mom could drive her a little nuts with how eccentric her mom could be. She suspected that suburban living could addle a person’s mind after a long period of time. It only confirmed her own hypothesis that she needed to think and consider a career that would involve lots of traveling and less of staying put otherwise she might just become every female’s worst nightmare – their mother.

    “She is your mother. Allison always did have a strange concept of… trendiness.”

    June rolled her eyes at her dad. Her parents had a weird relationship that bordered along cordial and hostile and she had complained how they were the reason why she might need therapy if she had to play messenger slash mediator one more time.

    The rustle of newspaper only told her that her dad had retreated behind the newspaper. Her parents were forever making strange, pointed comments about the other although June thought they were more cordial than acrimonious on the few occasions that they actually met face to face, exchanging hands on June’s guardianship as though she was a parcel that was schlepped from one home to the next. She smirked before typing it down. Once they had wifi, she was going to probably tweet that thought, using that description to depict her constant state of travel with her dad.

    Despite them having been to Berlin at least a dozen or so times in the last few years, June really didn’t seem to really recall the general layout of the place, probably because she spent more time indoors than out. When they were in London or even in Hong Kong, her dad never seemed to mind if she left the house and spent a day wandering around – although she still had to check in with him hourly, but in Berlin, it was as though she was grounded, forbidden to leave the house unless her dad took her out or if they had dinner with some of his colleagues or old friends which sometimes felt like additional punishment.

    “At least promise me that we’ll have an interesting adventure this round. If I have to stay indoors the whole time, I might actually scream the house down.” June told her dad as the limo pulled up to the curb, stopping outside what looked like a converted warehouse.

    She didn't bother to wait or listen if her father had replied, her eyes now glancing up at the building in admiration. Now this, she could be impressed with. There was something very admirable about making living spaces out of old buildings. They had lived in the loft space of a barn in Melbourne once and it had thrilled June to bits so a converted warehouse apartment was yet something she could tick off her list of unusual home living space.

    Matthew Bradley didn’t have to predict that his daughter was probably making a mess in the bedroom she had called dibs in just like how he didn’t have to predict that he would be receiving a call informing him of a meeting time and place – something that they didn’t have to bother with though since that chauffeur was likely to be waiting for him the moment he stepped out of the building.

    His fingers drummed a beat against the table as he heard a thump and a squeak before June’s sheepish voice rang out, “I’m okay!” He shook his head in amusement. Traveling with his daughter certainly livened things up. After the divorce, his summers slowly grew rather dull and lonely in her absence and he soon found himself counting down to when they would be reunited.

    Traveling was part of his work but even that could wear a person down but June’s bubbling enthusiasm and her wide eyed optimism gave him a fresh perspective. It was also why he was so insistent on all the protection wherever they went. His job title, as far as June knew, was that of an analyst but he supposed he did whatever his employers demanded of him, from crunching numbers to mediation to extracting a country or person from a political situation that required some finesse and smooth talking.

    His own father had called it a gift of gab and Matthew supposed he couldn’t deny that. That same gift in conjunction with his work, however, meant that he often heard secrets and received or found information that were highly sensitive. The latest assignment had been a painstakingly long one and one that he was happy to be shot of now that he had acquired said information and had compiled it into a neat, tidy report.

    All he was waiting for now was a summons.
    • Love Love x 1
  3. (This is still open. Family energy has kept me mostly on my phone where I couldn't fo anything.
  4. I'd always wondered what my life would be like had the things that had happened to me, didn't. Would have I ended up just another snobby rich kid; worrying more about the next fad, rather than the next hot meal. More excited about some flashy gems than a decent pair of shoes to cover one's blistered feet. It was all a matter of one's perspective I suppose. I’d lived on both sides of that fence and shit seemed to smell the same on either end. There was no greener garden just people who were better at lying and deceiving than most.

    Just…better at stepping on someone else to get what they wanted. Any normal person would. Any normal person. Yet normalcy was thin veil, an illusion at best. So many people blinded themselves to things too painful or too hard to deal with. Me, well, I had to deal with it rather I wanted to or not it was one of the perks of being a child soldier. Your life expectancy was shit; you were always walking with one foot in the grave.

    You could feel their hands upon you, those that you’ve massacred while inebriated on the toxin that flooded your veins. Even as I looked at myself straight in the eyes directed from the mirror would watch the old scars on my face, neck and chest begin to bleed again; though no blood was to be found. My skin would crawl, gooseflesh raising my hair on end from the perception that someone’s cold, clammy hands were upon me. Even through this I had continued with my morning ritual of showering, brushing my teeth and grabbing myself a cup of coffee.

    While most people woke up prepared to work 9 to 5, ready for that early morning commute—as for me, my daily tasks were on the small hand held device in my palm. In it I could view your entire history. Everything from your birth certificate, to your school records and juvenile records; how many times you’d been arrested, pulled over or given a parking ticket. I knew when, who and where you were married. I knew your medical conditions—rather or not you could get it up in the bed room or rather that ‘ticker’ has just about had it. Even your credit score wasn’t safe or your dog’s vet visits weren’t safe from me.

    The frightening truth was, I probably knew more about you than you yourself did. After all, it was like I was handed a cheat sheet before the big exam all I had to do was remember in a few hours what may have taken you twenty, or thirty years to do the same. It was a hard process, to remember all those little things that happened to you. Hell, I didn’t want to remember half the things that had happened to me. However, sometimes life just dealt you a shitty hand and the only thing you could do was suck it up and deal with it the best you could.

    “Where is work taking me today I wonder..?” I slid my thumb over the flat screen of my phone, which lead me to a Finnish arms dealer. Antonni Järvi. He worked for Sako, a Finnish arms manufacturer that was now owned by the Italian Beretta Holding firearms manufacturer. Nonetheless, it seemed that Mr. Järvi was doing well as an independent arms dealer. But what made him a true target, and what linked him to Matthew Bradley, was that he was part of the Finnish Parliament. If word spread of clandestine agents were watching sensitive material it would produce a highly volatile situation.

    As I sat at my kitchen bar stand, enjoying my cup of coffee and a cigarette, my thumb rolled down through the list of information on my targets Matthew Bradley, and Antonni Järvi. Matthew was the real target here, no doubt about it. Selling sensitive data to foreign nations and from the looks of it, he had been for some time; Antonni was just a relatively new buyer. I took a sip of my coffee before setting it down and calling the airport.

    “Hello, Sarah? Yes, I need the jet be prepared to go to Helinski Aiport in Finland.” I told the operator in my normally glass smooth voice. “Two hours? Yes, that’ll be fine. Tell them to have a rental car ready.” I hung up the phone and laid it on the counter before putting out my cigarette and venturing back towards the bedroom.

    In a matter of minutes I had stepped into my room, I walked to the far wall and punched in a sequence of numbers followed by retinal scanner. I had always separated my work and my life. I had to in order to assume identities. It was easier than it was, when I had made my first kill it was hard to divide myself from my act. For a long while I could see that person’s eyes staring up at me in terror as I looked down the barrel at them right before I pulled the trigger. It might have been cold, it might have been callous but I knew then that no one was coming to save me I had to save myself. I had to take revenge with my own two hands.

    The wall pushed outwards then slid to the right revealing a small inner room. Set-up on one of the illuminated shelves was my ‘work uniform’ a Mark V Tactical Operations suit. It was used in stealth engagements; matte-black it was skin tight and could be worn underwater. It was a very modular system, capable of many types of additions depending on the area that I was operating in. The Mk V Tactical was a specially designed wetsuit made from a version of Dragon Skin a type of body armor that was fitted tightly around the user's body similar to a bodysuit, making it almost impossible to hear it move. Weight of 4 pounds unloaded and having a thickness of 8 millimeters. The fabric of the suit was interwoven with Kevlar as an outer layer, RhinoPlate within the core material, and made of seventh generation Gore-Tex, allowing it to reduce damage caused by bullets with relatively low velocity, such as pistol rounds and assault rifle rounds fired from long range, though it was relatively weak against bullets from closer ranges, as they maintained a faster velocity, and more power, and shrapnel from 12 feet.

    Pulling the suit on, then strapping my black boots, I pulled his black leather duster. Wrapping my Phantom RX two-tone watch around my left wrist; it was engineered from premium grade 316L steel with an 18k yellow gold fused two-tone finish, the words "designer styling" really could have been invented for this timepiece. A precision chronograph movement with 1/10th of-a-second measuring capabilities worked silently away under the multi leveled dial. It was a parting gift from a partner I had back in the day. Unfortunately fate saw to it we were on opposing ends leading to me shooting and killed my friend.
    I buttoned the two middle buttons on my duster. It truly didn’t look as if I were wearing a stealth suit at at all. More like I was wearing a black shirt and pants that were tucked into my boots. I took the small case containing the instrument of my ill will and headed for the parking garage. Placing my luggage in my passenger seat, I quickly changed the license plate with the car next to my own, with everything in place, I set about my assassination.

    It wouldn’t be but 11:05 in the evening when I pulled up to Matthew Bradley’s house. I retrieved the device from inside the case and stepped from my car. Each step was deliberate; natural and haunting. I was, in every way, a predator. I approached the door, the streetlamp glaring past me me—illuminating everything in front of him while cast a shadow over his face.

    “June! June, wake up! “Matthew her father said in a hurried manner.

    The elderly man, 56 or so, grabbed his daughter in an unfamiliarly tight hold as he urged the half-awake teen ager down the wooden steps. Something was wrong. The likes of a tornado warning wouldn’t have brought this much panic into his movements. He opened the door to the storage under the stairs.

    “June, I need you to listen to me.” His voice was labored and frantic as he produced a gun. And placed it in her hands. “June, they’ve caught me and I’m afraid
    there is no running this time. You shoot anyone that isn’t me- you got that?” He whispered before a knock came at the door.

    “Coming!” Matthew closed the door, but it didn’t quite shut as he had intended.

    “Good evening Mr.Matthews. A lovely him you have here. May I come in?” Bradley stepped aside.
    Heavy footsteps would be heard as I made my way inside. Clad in black, I stopped in front of the fireplace.

    “I’m assuming you know why I am here?” My voice was gruff, yet surprisingly attractive…for the monster that I was.

    “Y-yes, I do. Let me just say that I-“ I raised my hand cutting off Bradley. “No need for explanations. I’m a killer by contract. I am not a judge nor do I judge actions taken by others.” I answered. “Your sins have no bearing on me. You made a living by being fraudulent and a liar. I make a living by being hired to kill—right or wrong.”

    “Now you have two ways of doing this: shot full of holes or…” I sat the captive bolt pistol down on the table. “You can take your own life. Quick, and painless.”
    Bradley sat down in his favorite chair and picked up the piston driven air gun. It had been modified. It would no longer puncture the skull but the force of the air expelled would crush the bones of his temporal lobe. He placed the device against his head, drew in a deep breath while exhaling a solemn apology and squeezing the trigger. The expulsion of blood as the man’s brain matter flung to the walls.

    That’s when Blake noticed a door slightly ajar and raised his sidearm carefully and steady. “If someone is hiding, please make yourself present.”
  5. She never told anyone about the loneliness or the faint memories that she still had of a time where her family began to fracture beyond repair. It was easy enough to explain that her parents' marriage had broken down irretrievably, that her mother had had enough of being dragged around the world and that she longed for some normalcy or perhaps that her dad's workaholic attitude had pushed his wife to eventually walk away. Most people liked an explanation that could be understood and that was common enough that nobody would bat an eyelash at.

    It was something June had learnt after months at the therapist her mother had insisted on both of them attending, claiming it was good for their souls. Personally June wasn't sure about the whole debate about souls, and again neither did she care much about it. If that was to doom her to an afterlife in hell or whatever it was that people who apparently didn't have the right beliefs then it would suck to be her soul then but ultimately, June had simply chosen to forgive and forget.

    Or more specifically, she had chosen to leave it in the past, allowing time to fade out the memories just like sunlight did to photographs. She didn't hold any fondness for them but she couldn't forget about them either so this was ultimately better than trying to 'reconcile with your past' or whatever psychology crap that her mom would have paid two hundred dollars to receive such cliche platitudes.

    Besides time had seemed to change the man or at least, he had gotten a better control over his temper and moods and June didn't have to tiptoe around the man, afraid that even the slightest noise or infraction might earn her a tongue lashing or worse.

    Slumping back in her chair, she glared at the television. It wasn't to say that Berlin was a boring place but being stuck in an apartment - a rather cushy apartment but still a rather big box - in any country was just so damn dull. Once or twice, June had been tempted to sneak out but she found very little reason to do so. She certainly had no intention of antagonizing or disobeying her dad and there was no pleasure to be had in making her dad worry about her safety. That didn't mean that she wasn't going to complain very loudly about the unintended feeling of being grounded once the older man came home.

    Matthew had been in a funny mood all evening. Something had left him feeling rather twitchy since they had landed in the international airport just days ago but until his business was done here, he was stuck here with just a strange feeling in his gut that he needed to watch his back. Perhaps a competitor? Or someone spying on him? He had yet to spot anything that matched his suspicions but it didn't mean that he could let his guard down. It was why he had been equally curt with June, refusing her entreaties to let her spend a day out, even when she promised that she would keep him updated all day and return before nightfall. She didn't and couldn't understand the situation but Matthew hoped that she never will.

    He had known that his career choice had never been particularly stable and his current arrangement was even less so but he had fallen so far down a black hole that he wasn't even sure that he wanted to get out of. After all Matthew enjoyed his work - and he enjoyed hobnobbing and rubbing shoulders with the world's elite all the while flying under the radar under the guise as just an ordinary businessman or civil servant, depending on which country he was in.

    June had been annoyed with him, having spent the last two days stewing at home while he was out. The girl seemed to think that even work was infinitely better than being stuck at home all day which made his lips twist into a smile at her naivete. It didn't take very much to soothe the brunette's ire though. A few promises of dinners and plays and weekend trips to whatever it was that his daughter had looked up online had cheered the girl up infinitely that she practically bear hugged him and bounced all the way upstairs when she decided that the bed was calling to her.

    Matthew had poured himself a drink after that, happy to nurse a whisky while he did some work in the study opposite the bedrooms. He wasn't paying attention to the time or anything other than his laptop and the papers in front of him when the hairs on the back of his neck prickled, prompting him to look out the window. The unfamiliar sight of the quiet, residential street had his blood curdling. Where were the guards? Where was his protection detail that he had always been assigned?


    He hastily pulled out the semi-automatic pistol that he kept on him at all times, dashing into his daughter's bedroom. Unfortunately this was one of the few times he had caught the girl actually asleep before midnight and he was forced to practically drag her out of bed, hustling down the stairs to the ground floor of the apartment.

    Being yanked awake in the middle of the night was something June kept firmly under memories she did not want to recall. How many times in her childhood had her father done that, dragging her to the kitchen or living room and yelling at both mother and daughter for some transgression that child-June could not remember? It was why she had practically jerked to near wakefulness as soon as her dad pulled her arm, trying to pull the teenager out of bed and down the hallway.

    "What's going on, dad?" She asked, seeing the fear on her dad's face. Was there a fire? Had there been some kind of terrorist attack and her dad's employers were recalling him or bringing them somewhere safe? It didn't make sense to her and it certainly alarmed her when her dad opened the storage space under the stairs, pushing her in and shoving a gun into her hands. "What's happening?"

    The man didn't seem to have time to spare an explanation as he hastily shut the door. It was just unfortunate for all of them that the door was old and it was warped which meant it was ill-fitting and could not fit the frame, bouncing back out and leaving a noticeable gap. June didn't even dare to try to pull it shut, instead leaning further into the musty space and practically quaking in fear when an unfamiliar voice filled the air, drowning her dad's stuttering protests.

    The man - with a voice like that, it definitely had to be a man - had given her dad the option to kill himself or be killed. Even from her spot, June could see it on her dad's face. He was going to protect her. The last thing either of them would have wanted was for the assassin to start combing through the house and finding June in the little cupboard. From her vantage point, she had watched her dad pick up the gun with a shaky hand, bringing it up to his temple and -

    June had shut her eyes, unable to bear witness to such a scene but the aftermath was just as terrible as the image seared into her mind like a brand being burnt into her brain forever.

    She jumped, her grip on the gun tightening, when the assassin's attention had moved, calmly addressing her just as he pulled out his own gun and pointed it at the door. This wasn't some movie or TV show with a standoff of two experienced cowboys. She was a sixteen year old girl with the vaguest idea of operating the gun in her hands and the man had claimed to be a mercenary of sorts. Definitely no competition there.

    A soft noise of fear burbled in her throat, escaping through her lips. Even though her father had made her hide - heck, he had even encouraged her to shoot anyone who wasn't him, June didn't think she had very much in the way of options. Clad in a slightly dusty t-shirt and sleeping shorts, she stepped out of the storage space, barefoot and trembling, the gun still in her grip as she stared fearfully at the man with wide eyes. Her eyes flickered over to her father's body and her stomach twisted. "A-are you going to make me u-use that too?" She couldn't help but ask, swallowing as blue eyes jumped back to the mercenary.
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