Lane standing on wobbly legs looked at her friend in front of her. Her mind was still refusing to put the information it was confronted with into a coherent picture.
"Why are you here?" Lane asked. It was not the first thing that passed through her mind it was however the first thing that seemed to make sense.
"Why are YOU here?" Monica replied. She looked utterly shocked. Not because there were two dead bodies lying on the ground but apparently because she was seeing Lane standing in front of her. "Fuuuuuck!" she complained. "Fuck. Fuuuck. FUUuuuUUCK!" Monica closed her eyes shook her head, opened them again, seeing that Lane was still there. "Fuck?"
Lane had no idea what she was supposed to do, so trying to get her sense of reality back she decided to concentrate on Monica for the time being. She knew her. She obviously did not really know her, but she knew her well enough to see something familiar in her maybe even something comforting if she focused really hard. Besides Monica had saved her life. "Thank you." Lane said. "For saving me." she added for good measure.
"What?" Monica said, still shaking her head, making little steps backwards and forwards trying to decide what to do next. "I didn't save you."
Lane after a moment of hesitation pointed towards the man is white, pink, red now also with a slowly growing edge of brown. "You killed him."
"Yes." Monica answered. At least that was a pure simple fact that they could both live with.
"Thus saving me." Lane concluded.
"Thus? Really? Who says 'thus' at a time like this?" Monica waved with her arms fighting her exasperation. "And I did not save you. For that I would have had to know that you were here in the first place. Fuck. Also, you being here makes me wonder what you are actually up to. La PUTA que lo parió!" Monica had to go back to her native Spanish to properly vent her frustration. "I mean, here we are on a nice little vacation, just us girls trying to leave the SHIT," she waved in the general direction of the dead bodies, "from our past behind us. But oh look! Monica, why don't you go one one last fucking job? You still owe us for that one time in French Guiana. It's easy. The Pale Man is here. Right under our noses. You want to have your revenge and we need him killed. Win-win. Oh and please be so kind as to fucking hurry. He should not kill his mark if at all possible. Sure thing, I say, because I have no other hobbies. But OK, it is a job. I owe the Pale Man a basket full of death. So after that I'll be able to sleep again. But here YOU are. Of all people. With the mark that was supposed to survive very dead."
"What?" Lane asked fury rising again in her. "Are you really trying to say that I am in any way or form involved with... this?!"
"I have no idea. But here you are in an empty street in an suspiciously empty part of the city with two dead people."
"That horrible piece of shit over there," she pointed at the man in blood, "killed who ever this poor fuck is. Who, by the way, just happened to run into me. That fucking wanker over there tried to kill me which you might have noticed. I mean I'm not sure as you were to busy SAWING HIS HEAD OFF!"
"Yeah. That is all very convenient isn't it? But no, I'm really the idiot here. You pretending to be my friend and dragging me into all of this."
"What kind of crack are you smoking?" Lane past both her hands over her head, trying to prevent her mind from exploding. "What you say doesn't even make sense. Also YOU don't to get to act all surprised. I actually do just work in an office and the biggest sin I committed in my life was letting Martin convince me that he was a decent human being. You on the other hand are obviously a hobby murderer. Why should I work with any of these people? I have no idea who they are! If I was 'after' you or what ever you think my cunning master plan is, why should I be here and blow my cover. I don't even know enough about you to tell you in what million other ways that is stupid!"
"So what were you doing here in the middle of the night that is so much more plausible?"
"I was looking for a place to go shopping!"
Monica was dumbstruck. "You were looking for a place to buy shit."
"Yes. Remember? Our deal? How we were going to look for some crazy artefacts? With the one finding the most outlandish one winning?"
"That is your more plausible explanation?"
"Yes." Lane crossed her arms.
Monica snorted. "Really?"
And Monica started laughing. At first it was only a tiny chuckle but grew up to become a big unstoppable roaring laugh that shook Monica to her core driving tears into her eyes. At first Lane was irritated by that reaction. But as Monica kept laughing, with the unreality of the situation sinking in Lane could not help but follow suit.
When Monica could finally breath again "Are you OK Lane?"
"Not at all." Lane answered, her laugh transforming into sobs. "People just died in front of me. I have never seen a dead person before. Even when my grand parents died I never went to see them after they were dead..."
"You'll get used to it." Monica said in a soft voice.
"No. You will get better at enduring it though."
Lane took a long shuddering breath, trying to get her emotions under lock down. This was not the time nor the place to break apart. This. this had to wait.
"We need to get away from here." Lane said.
"Yes and we have to do it quickly. After the spectacle that we just produced the police will be here soon. You go ahead around that corner over there."
"Because I have have a few things left to do before we run away."
"Are you sure? This is not going to be pretty..."
Lane looked Monica in the eyes. Behind the tears her eyes were growing clear and hard.
"Right." Monica did not even try to convince her, she knew that time was running out extremely quickly and they had to get a move on. While they could not hear any sirens yet that was mostly because the police weren't idiots. They would approach silently and only go into full cop show mode when they had surrounded the area.
She took a bottle and a spray can out of a deep pocket. She first knelt over the man that had died in Lane's arms. She opened his mouth to spray coolant into it until his teeth were frozen solid. Then she doused the man with liquid from the bottle. Taking care not to touch the liquid she turned the corpse around pouring the liquid over the other side too.
"Want to help me out?" Monica asked.
"Drag the Pale Man over here."
"o...kay..." Lane walked towards the nearly decapitated man. At first she thought she would be overcome by revulsion. But seeing the face of the man, his mouth half open, she felt a surge of hatred flaring in her. That motherfucker had not only tried to murder her but he was had also had his fun while doing so. What was horrible was his wound. He felt empathy for his mangled body but not for the person that once lived in there. She grabbed one of his legs and started pulling.
"Won't his head come off?" she asked.
"No. The tendons around the spinal column are very strong."
Monica repeated the process with the Pale man. Spray mouth, douse body, flip around putting the Pale Man on top of his victim. "I'm sorry about this pal." she apologized to the victim the precoded to soak the the back of the dead assassin in the liquid from her stainless steel flask.
"Step back." Monica told Lane. She took out a lighter and carefully with her arms stretched out as far as possible ignited her improvised funeral pyre. It instantly went up in blue angry flames leaping up towards the sky.
"Didn't you tell me that disposing of bodies wasn't as easy as in the movies?" Lane asked with her eyes wide.
"This is not supposed to get rid of the bodies but of evidence. In the heat their frozen teeth will break apart and with their skin their faces and their finger prints will disappear. And if I where you I would stop looking."
"It can hardly be worse then this." Lane said with her eyes still wide with horror. Then it got worse. The corpses started to move. They twisted around slowly moving their arms and legs.
"Turn. Around." Monica said.
"How? Aren't they dead."
"They are. Move." Monica turned Lane around with gentle force pushing her away from the burning bodies.
"You know how sirloin stakes shrink and curl around the fat?"
"Urgh." Lane was about to try to go for another round of vomiting, her body confident that there was something left to throw out when suddenly sirens started blearing.
"Shit!" Monica spat through clenched teeth. "We were to slow. Fuck. Move, run. We might still find a way out." She shoved Lane around the corner.
"But we are running directly to where the sirens are!"
"It's a trick. They are trying to towards the direction where there are no sirens but most police men. It's easier tu surprise someone who is trying to ambush someone running right into your arms." She shoved Lane again making her run into the general direction of the sirens. Before even reaching the half way point of the short narrow street, they heard another sounds. Barking.
Now Monica's calm started to fade. She stopped in her tracks looking back towards the street they had come from. Still lit in the flames of her improvised bonfire. Apart from the sizzling sound of the fire burning flesh and fat there was only tempting silence, while the sirens had just got company from dogs. It was still a trap, but running into it meant a few more moments of freedom.
While Monica was deliberating what to do, Lane had finally snapped, she was kneeling in front of a wall scratching the stones.
"Can you wait with going insane?" Monica asked "This is really not the best moment for that."
"I'm not insane." Lane said with a grim voice. "Maybe it wasn't a one way door. What kind of a secret would it be if you could just stumble through it?"
Monica had to admit that Lane's lunacy had a very impressive quality of a calm to it. The wall suddenly swinging aside revealing a big black hole leading into the dark below gave Monica the impression that it was also surprisingly contagious. Maybe it would also work on dogs?
"Don't just stand there," said Lane grabbing her sleeve and pulling her towards the opening. "move. Come on hurry up." With that she pulled her into the dark, the light of the moon, the stars, and the fire sealed away by the wall slamming shut again.
At first the dark damp air felt like a gift to Lane. No more horrible things to see, no barking dogs, not the strange disturbing sound of human flesh slowly roasting, all gone. For a moment it was like standing in her bed room, in the night, after some strange dream had woken her up which she had to shake by physically standing up, walking a few paces in her room, trying to reorient herself. The scratching noises coming from the wall behind her followed by the muffled voices of angry men quickly brought her back to what for lack of a better alternative had to be reality. She new that she wasn't far from the stairs. This was after all the way that had brought her into this surreal situation. But where was the fucking light? Her was was lit when she had come up stairs. She pawed the wall searching from a light switch.
"There you are!" Monica said, turning on a small electric torch. The torch produced a bright powerful beam that suggested that it was trying to compensate for its minuscule size. "Light!" Monica said grabbing Lane's arm. "I hope this magic door of yours leads to somewhere safe?"
"I have no idea about safe," Lane said squinting "it will buy us time though. Not much though, not if one of the police men know how top open the door too."
"Well, let's get a move on then. You lead the way."
Lane went ahead down the steps again right into the lower market that was still bustling with activity. She had no idea where to go. But right now every direction was better than standing still or going back.
"What is this place?" Monica asked as she noticed that they had not stumbled into just the metro version of the bazaar above.
Lane shrugged. "I told you I was looking for a place that sold real artefacts, things with deep dark secrets, instead of the usually tourist appeasement crap. Well here we are. You should feel right at home."
"I wish we were not on the run. This place is amazing!"
"I wish we weren't on the run either. But for slightly different reasons..."
"Come on. Let it out." Monica sighed.
"You are a murder!"
"I saved your life.!
"By accident. You said so yourself. Right before giving me the murderer eye."
"Yes by accident. So. You are still alive. I still saved you."
"Yes. So? At least I was not going through that whole 'No witnesses!'", she imitated the Pale Man with a husky voice that sounded nothing like him, "shit and then went on to murder you."
"You looked at me as if you wanted to kill me next." Lane said. With still enough adrenalin in her system to find that infuriating rather then terrifying. Although in one corner of her mind the idea that she was travelling with a cold blooded assassin was starting to grow in different colourful directions. All of them horrible enough to giver her nightmares something to work with for the coming decade.
"I thought you were some kind of traitor or double agent... or something."
Lane stopped turned around facing Monica. "How on earth. Would that make ANY kind of sense whatsoever, Monica?!"
"I doesn't. But seeing you there, in a high stress situation? The mind wanders."
"And if I had been a double agent or whatever. Would you have killed me then too?"
"I don't think I can answer that question in a way that won't make me sound like a psychopath."
"Lane I am sorry. I didn't want to drag you into this. Let's move on the people are starting to look..." she gently moved Lane forward. As she touched her Lane recoiled from her, but clenching her teeth let her touch her and move her into the direction were the general flow of the crowd was going."
"I did not want to get dragged into this." Monica continued. "That was shit from, from another life. One that I thought I had left behind."
"We need to go to the hotel." Lane said shoving her hand under her crossed hands to stop them from shaking.
"I'm thinking about this situation. I'm trying to be rational. Analytical. That is the only thing that is keeping me from a class 3 nervous breakdown."
"Class 3? Is that serious."
"Yes that's serious. Really really serious. No listen. We need to get back to our hotel. Get our shit and go away. Far, far away."
"We should get back to the hotel. Where we should get a shower and a good night of sleep. There is no need to run anywhere."
"You just murdered a man."
"There were no witnesses."
"But we left the crime scene full of shit. Hair. DNA. Footprints. The have dogs that sniffed us out."
"They will hardly come looking for us at the hotel. They did not even see us."
"What kind of assassin are you?"
"That came out of nowhere... I don't know. An unhappy one?"
"I mean how comes that you jump from rooftops like some kind of ninja, totally murder someone and then think that walking away is enough to evade the police? That can hardly been the first time that you... did something like that." Lane shuddered. Despite the heat of the lower market she had started to sweat.
"Maybe we should sit down and have a nice cup of tea. Then we can talk all these things through. OK?" Monica said leading ehr towards a stall that served costumers what looked like fancy kinds of iced tea. Served from big bulbous bottles coming in all colours of the neon-rainbow. When she noticed that there were things floating in the 'tea' things like eyes for example, she gently steered Lane into another direction. "Look over there that place looks much better!" Monica said.
"That place sells books."
"Yes but it also looks more comfortable. But you are right. Tea!" She usher her friend further along, now looking more closely at what was sold at the stalls around her. She was only now beginning to notice that the things that were sold her were far beyond curiosities but more the type of things that back in Chile was sold by the brujas, the magos and the more entrepreneurial archaeologists. Her father had always warned her to be extremely careful around these people and never, ever to trust them. She felt her stomach knot together. The sudden wobbling of Lane reminded her that she had bigger problems right now, like her fiend going into shock. Also her father had always been a narcissistic arse. With renewed determination she carefully dragged Lane along looking for a stall that sold tea or coffee. Even witches and Satanists had to like a cup of tea every once in a while.
A dozen or so stall further on she finally found one that seemed to sell tea, normal tea and normal soft drinks. There even was a kind of little back room in form of a little tent that held a few low tables surrounded by big cushions to sit in. On top of the tables stood large crystal hookah's. The tent was empty so she could place Lane on a big cushion far away from the entrance where she could either lie down if she wanted to or lean against a tent pole. Monica had just sat down herself, after making sure that Lane would not fall over when the man whose stand this was entered. He was extremely polite, his friendliness turning into genuine concern when he saw the trembling Lane. Monica explained to him that she Lane had just heard terrible news about a death in the family. She just needed to sit down for a while, drink a tea, things would get better from there on out. The waiter nodded saying that he would make her a special herbal infusion that would soothe her nerves and that if they wanted he could give them a strong weed to smoke to take off the edge from the pain. While Monica was very tempted by the idea of a strong smoking weed, it was neither the place nor the time for that. So just the tea.
The tea came, the waiter went away again to leave Lane to her grief. Monica sat close to her, holding her in one arm patiently waiting for the sobs to subside. He Lane's shiver were receding only shaking through her every few minutes Monica made her drink a few sips of tea. It was difficult to tell the flow of time in the lower market, Lane had learned to measure time without the help of a watch or the sun. Instead she listened to the world around her. When they had arrived it was late but the lower market was still bustling. Sooner or later the crowds would change, maybe more people would come tempted by the night to go and look for the supernatural lurking below their city, maybe they would just return home as even warlocks and grave robbers had to sleep, liking to wake up at an hour when the shops and banks with the most annoying opening times were still open. Time would tell.
The market never grew silent but it grew more quiet. With the markets nervous activity also went Lane's despair. She had gone through the events of the night endless times. Her desperate brain repeating all the most horrible details over and over again. The exploding skull, the sudden strange smell of cordite and what had to be the smell of the brain. Initially this was like scratching an itching wound, breaking of the scab, pulling open the wound, slowly ripping it wider open. Whenever she thought that now, this time she had remembered everything there was to remember, some gruesome detail sprang right back up in front of her minds eye and it started all over. In time though the horror lost its bite. She became numb to what had happened while she started to notice her surroundings. She was sitting in a tent. On a big comfortable cushion, with her back leaned against Monica's body. She was given a sip of tea by the woman she had though of as a friend.
"Who are you?" Lane asked, her voice dull and creaking.
"That, is a long story."
"You said that we could take our time." Lane's body twitched a bit as the thoughts of why they should hurry made another surprise appearance in her consciousness.
"Yes. I said that. Where to start." Monica leaned back her head looking up at the fabric forming the tents ceiling. She bit her lower lip deep in thought. "Well I think the starting point for all my problems would be my father. My father is an arsehole."
"It's not that he is evil," Monica continued, "not at all, he tries to be as good a man as he could possibly be. But when god was giving out the gift of the dick he put a massive amount into his personality and seeing that I'm an only child little elsewhere..."
"I'd like to blame him more. It's hard though. I knew that his parents were old school 'abuse a child until it comes out right' kind of people. The shit he had to go through everyday through all his early years never broke him but they certainly cracked and bent his personality to a point beyond repair. Even back then he tried to control his shitty personality. It even led him to study law. He wantd to become a lawyer to bring a bit more justice into the world. That went to shit with the rise of Pinochet. Democracy went out of the window. It was all the rage back then in South America. So far for justice. My father became even more angry more bent. Partially because even now that he had fought his way out of the grasp of his parents there would still be no justice, he would not have not have his independence or power. In part he also hated him self because he kept his head bowed. He may have gritted his teeth but her certainly was not risking his neck by opposing the junta. He told himself that people who rebel openly vanish. But he knew that he was simply afraid like all the others.
Something broke that day in his soul. His bitter idealism changed into something more sinister. He decided to turn himself into a sort of vigilante. He told my mother about his plan. She backed him up. To her Pinochet and the others were worthless scum. Petty little bullies who had punched their way into power, little pricks who now that they had power kept punching, because that was as far as their ambition reached. Violence with the sole purpose of gaining power. Nothing else. Her contempt even today has not lessened a bit. She still hates force used for its own sake."
Lane had turned around, now sitting upright again, her hands clamped around her still warm cup of tea. The events of the day slowly being pushed out of her mind by Monica's story.
"So they worked out a plan. My father was in the dirt already. He had clients who were from questionable background already. These were the easiest cases. It usually ended with a judge caring more about his new car more than the law. My father started courting these people. Soon he became one of the most despised lawyers in the country. Quite the feat considering the times. What people did not know was that he got to know most of the top of the line criminals and more importantly the information they would not tell even their own mothers. He used that knowledge. Very carefully. To orchestrate little accidents. Moments were things went wrong in strange ways. Prodding the criminals to lunge at each others throats. It worked. The underworld started to turn more and more against it self, often angering the corrupt government that did not care about crime as long as it did not come near the people in power.
As time moved on my father and my mother both started to work as assassins. Don't ask me how that happened. I asked them myself. They just shrug telling me that it was just the thing that they had to do. The next logical step. They would choose among their targets. They would always get the job done. There were never questions asked. There was just the mission. Another thing I can't understand. There you have two obvious mercenaries who could not give less of a fuck about who they kill yet the crime lords loved them. My parents were so reliable, so unpartizan. So off they went killing key players. They always choose the guilty. People with enough blood on their hands to make their deaths a mercy..." Monica paused for a moment. "Do you want another tea? I need a drink."
"Yes another tea would be nice." Lane said mechanically. For the second or was it the third time this evening she did not know how to react. Even her feeling were a mess. She watched Monica leave the tent. She saw her old colleague, her friend. However there now where all this disturbing things she knew about her which did not fit that person at all. Monica looked perfectly normal, she behaved perfectly normal, she talked like a normal human and yet, and yet the was a murderer apparently from a family of murderers. They seemed to have a code of ethics, their criminal hunting ways had a Batmanesque quality to it, but that only made it worse. It was such a well reasoned gentlemanly form of violence that made it look even more deranged.
Monica returned with a small water glass filled with a dark green liquid in one hand and a teapot and a tea glass held in the other.
"So where was I?"
"You parents took money from criminals to kill other criminals..."
"Yes. Right. More tea?"
"er... yes please."
"So there they went killing people. I think one of the things that made them such a myth was that when they killed people they remained unseen. Cars went without breaks on mountain roads. People go some serious food poisoning after a banquet. Or they just died of a sniper bullet in their heads when they were relaxing during their holidays in their supposedly secret retreats.
Into the middle of this I was born. Pinochet still much a power corruption never stopping. From when I was child I was raised to become part of the family business. I got my first rifle when I was five. I executed the first criminal when I was 10."
"Not as bad as you think. I did not know what I was doing back then. I walked up to some guy who looked like a nice old man to me but according to my parents was a monster who had the lives of hundreds of people weighing on his conscience. I had to cry about my teddy bear. That was easy as my father had ripped off its arm. I had to ask the man to help me and as he did I had to make sure that he pricked his finger on a safety pin. A week later the man died of a strange fever...
I was twelve when I first pulled the trigger on a person for the first time." her drink that had sat untouched in front her since she had arrived. Now she took the glass draining it.
"That was a shit day. Pulling the trigger was easy. I had done than a million times in the shooting range. But I saw through my scope what happened to my target and two of his bodyguards who had the misfortune of standing behind him. That is a something that still haunts me today. My parents were ecstatic. They praised me for my enormous skill. I even got a pony...
To make this story a bit shorter. I got used to the killing. Before I went my parents told me exactly who was my target. What they had done. Often showing me pictures and testimonies of their victims. It was easy to hate them. After I was done they praised me, it was easy to feel proud. When I went into full puberty it became even worse. The injustice of it all. The weak being oppressed the strong getting away with murder. I became a zealot. I became even more famous than my parents. I turned into a legend. Me and Linda."
"Why did you come to England? Is there a target there?"
"What? No. I went to England to leave all that shit behind. It took me a long, long time but in the end I realized that I was not a fucking bit better than my targets and that my parents weren't doing anything to make the world a better place. Fuck them."
"What changed you mind?"
"Anya the one of the Vodka and the gherkins and Javier. My first proper friends. As you can imagine it was a bit hard for me to get close to the kids at school. Sure we would hang out but I could hardly tell them that I was an assassin, right? So the first time I really connected to other people was when I got to team up with them. Anya worked for the Russians and Javier was from Columbia. We became some kind of dream team of assassins. The Russians wanted to expand after the fall of the Soviet Union while Javier was mostly there to earn money for the FARC. So off we went murdering our way through Latin America." Monica smiled at the though. "Those were great times. Not the killing mind you. But having people who actually understand you. Who you can get close too..." tears were now welling up in Monica's eyes.
Lane waited for a while watching Monica who was not openly crying but was caught up in a painful memory. Every once in a while a single tear would roll silently over her cheek. "What went wrong?"
"Nothing really. Monica was working for the Russian mob while Javier was part of a military group that claimed to be a rebelion but passed their time with terrorism, drug trade, kidnapping and other things my parents frowned upon. Turns out that they were keys. Keys into their organisations and once those doors were wide open my parents decided that enough was enough. So they became targets. They were killed. Because that is what happens to murderers. They die violently."
"Did you..." Lane asked with here eyes wide.
"No. No it wasn't me. It was the Pale Man. He killed them."
"I thought your parents killed them?"
"Do you really think that they are so stupid as to kill them themselves. They were under their protection after all. No they chose the pale man because he was at least back then the executioner of one of Brazil's most powerful crime syndicates. They were growing in power, slowly uniting the Brazilian underworld under their iron fist. My parents had calculated that this hit would have the best possible impact. The Russians would be rather pissed about this as would the FARC who always were strong trading partners with the Brazilian criminals.
The Pale Man does not like witnesses so much so after killing my friends he went after me. My parents bless their twisted souls had warned me when the hit happened that something had 'gone wrong' and that I should watch my back. So after Anya and Javier died I was prepared enough to get away with a large scar and one of the Pale Man's eyes."
"And your parents?"
"Nothing. When I was back they told me about the plan. I went ballistic and they grounded me for a month."
"They grounded you? How old were you?"
"And they grounded you like, don't leave your room grounded?"
"Yes. Parents in Latin America are different than in Britain. Trust me. Also after they had my best friends killed. People I had worked with, who they new I truly cared about for over 6 years, I was not going to take my chances with them. So I used the time to calm down and think about my future. Because this ridiculous game of theirs was not going to be part of it.
That led to another grand discussion ending with me getting something of a severance pay. They called it my last allowance and getting an ultimatum for when to get out of the house.
After a few twists and turns I landed in England slowly and surely leading me to our common workplace. There I thought that I had finally left my old life behind me and found a place were I could stay and start a new life.
But well... here we are."