They sat in silence for a while. Lane sipped her tea never taking her eyes from Monica. Every once in a while Monica took her glass trying to get a few more drops of liquor out of it.
"Couldn't you have," Lane asked "just said no?"
"To your parents or who ever asked you to do the hit tonight."
Monica stopped trying to drain the last drop of her drink. She put the glass back on the table, slowly but with force so that it made a loud 'clunk' noise when it impacted the surface. "The Pale Man killed my friends. The first two people who I really connected with, the first who I could really love without having my guard up and who felt for me the same way. They were more my family than my insane parents and their ridiculous 'mission'. He took the only thing away from me that felt normal. Not that I would know normal. I've heard about it, read about it and seen it in films. But Anya and Javier were the ones that made the world feel like I imagined how it was supposed to be." she paused again, staring at her glass. "I know this will make me sound even more like a monster. Still: today is the only time I did not kill in cold blood. This time I killed full of rage. I wanted that piece of shit to die."
"How does it feel?"
"No, taking revenge."
"It feels... I don't know. It's hard to explain. It feels, at least right now, like a shitty hamburger."
"Like a hamburger?" Lane's brows did not care about the gruesome topic of the conversation, this was their cue to wander up her forehead.
"Yes. Like a bad one. A McDonalds one. You have this deep gnawing hunger. And there it is this tiny hamburger hidden between two soft squishy buns that are more air than anything else. It isn't what you really wanted, or what you actually need. But it is there and it smells really nice, its alluring fragrance what pulled you towards it in the first place and you are hungry, so you eat it. It does help against the hunger for a short while, but then your stomach starts grumbling again and you feel cheated and nauseous."
"It was a mercy..." Monica's mouth twitched in disgust. "One that he does not deserve. This is a point where I strongly disagree with my parents. They say that the people we eliminate deserve death. The only people who deserve death or people who have made peace with themselves and are ready to leave this world. Criminals don't deserve death. They deserve punishment. The Pale Man took at most fifteen minutes to die, most of that time he was unconscious. How is that just? He should have been convicted by a court. All his crimes acknowledged by society, turned from a legend into the sad excuse for a human he was and then he should have gone to jail to rot there forever. I would actually pay for a doctor while he was inside the prison so that he would have to dwell in prison for many decades with only his guilt and his shame as company. Instead he has fled to oblivion while I remain behind with his blood on my hands. While he turns into dust I live on..."
"You stopped him from murdering others...?" Lane did not even know why she was comforting Monica. Finding out that her nice colleague from work was a mass murderer did change her view on her considerably but she did not know why. Monica's words showed her in a rather harsh light. But the person before he still looked very much like her friend. The fact that the only reason Lane was still alive was because of Monica's intervention was also slowly sinking in.
"Yes. I stopped the Pale Man. But that plan always works so great. We've been killing murderers since the dawn of time. That never seems to have stopped anyone though. I'm sure that I was born innocent but look at what I became. They turned me into an executioner. Does anyone even give a fuck about the executioner? Some decides that a murder is so vile that he needs to be shoved off of the mortal coil, but who actually gets to get his hands dirty? The executioner."
"You parents forced you." Lane tried another approach.
"Maybe. The pushed me down that path and I didn't know better. But that does not take away my own guilt. Fucking coward."
"I beg you pardon?"
"Not you. Me. Hiding behind my parents and then escaping to Britain into a nice and boring middle class life. I'm Catholic mostly on paper but I am sure that penance doesn't work that way."
"I... I don't know what to say..."
"That's OK. It's time that I take responsibility for my actions. As a start I will never kill anyone ever again." That, as it turned out was easier said than done.
* * * *
Lane had waited one cup of tea to see if Monica was going to say anything else. So far her friend had just sat there jaw clenched her eyes focused on infinity asking it if it was looking for trouble.
"I still think that we should get our things from the hotel and make our selves scarce." Lane said.
Monica's eyes shifted from infinity to Lane.
"Yes. That again."
"I already told you that thanks to your little emergency exit we have nothing to be afraid of. No one has seen us. We didn't leave any significant traces. I am in no police data back. Not my fingerprints not my DNA, nothing. Wait... did you get in to trouble in the past?"
"What? No. Still have you seen all the cameras all over London? Your picture and mine are certainly in a police data bank."
"Yes together with 12 million other faces. The problem with collecting masses of data is that you just get noise and no signal. Besides the only people who ever saw us are dead. They are also almost impossible to identify. If we just take out luggage and run away from our hotel we will be doing the police a big favour by starting to act suspicious and even then it will hardly be noticed by anyone."
"I think you are looking in the wrong direction. I remember you telling me that you were supposed to kill the Pale Man before he killed his target."
"Well you failed."
"That's because I was contacted to late. That is hardly my fault."
"How many times have you worked for people other than your parents."
"And this cousin of yours... he isn't really your cousin."
"Of course not!"
"So who is he then?"
"A contact of my parents. One of the many pieces in their insane game of vigilantism Go."
"And this contact is one of the good guys?"
"What good guys?"
"Like your parents. Is he playing for team justice or is he a criminal who thinks that he is hiring the service of some renowned assassin family?"
"He's a criminal a local power-monger. He organises things for the local criminal powers. Helps illegal operations go smoothly, launders their money, puts the right people for the right work into contact with each other, that sort of thing..."
Lane's hand moved towards her mouth, fingers twitching nervously. "Did you parents talk to you?"
"Today. When you were told to take care of this?"
"No. My parents pretend that I don't exist and I pretend right back. That they went through a lackey for this was just added insult to injury."
Lane's hand now moved further up to cover her eyes. "Monica."
"You've been had."
"You said the guy who gave you the job was a criminal who specialises in communication. I would guess that rumours of you leaving your parents would be doing the rounds sooner or later. You have been a high profile assassin for more than a decade, your parents special strategy seems to be to stay centre stage in the gleaming limelight. So I would think that people in the world of crime know your face... If someone saw you living the exiting life of a b-tier office worker after you disappeared not long after the Pale Man destroyed you 'dram team' that individual could come to certain conclusions."
"That sounds all nice and almost plausible. But how should my contact have known that I was here. At the same time like the Pale Man. That's one hell of a coincidence."
"Just because something is very unlikely does not mean that it's not impossible. Imagine you are a criminal sitting there in your spider web of crime and information and one day two juicy flies land in your web. Monica Lobos de la Torre, if that is your real name and the Pale Man her arch-enemy."
"Yes that is my real name and you analogy sucks. If we are both flies the spider would personally kill us both."
"That's not the point here and you kept your name?"
"Of course. Why shouldn't I?"
Lane was still resting her face in her hand, she looked at Monica with wide eyes between her fingers.
"How did you even survive so long?"
"I beg your fucking pardon?"
"You have been killing key figures from pretty much every crime syndicate that has a presence in South America and then you think you can just wander away from that without anyone ever thinking of taking revenge?"
"Revenge? It was just business. My parents haven't been killed either and they are very open when it comes to what they are doing."
"Just business. You mean like that Pale Man?"
"That fucker killed my brother and my sister!"
"And he did that just to fuck with you? It was not a contract that he got which he did because that's his job."
"He was a sadist. I'm not..."
"He did a job just like you did. And you wanted to kill him for what he did to you. Now think about all the people you eliminated.For you they were criminals that had it coming. But for many other people you are the murderer of their loved ones I bet my left kidney that at least some of them would like some revenge. Just like you did. They might want to kill you or they might want to fuck with your parents. Or they see you now as a free agent devoid of any loyalties, that looks both suspiciously like a traitor with no honour at all as well like an agent of considerable skill open to new offers not attached to the strings that you parents attached to everything."
"No buts. The guy who gave you your job today wanted the Pale Man dead. He also wanted his target to live. The target is very dead and if he was carrying something important you better hope that the poor fucker swallowed it because in any other case we are in incredibly deep shit!"
"I will be in deep shit. Not you, you aren't connected to this in any way..."
"Apart from hanging around with you in public every day? If they can't get to you they will probably use me against you to blackmail you into action."
Monica stared at Lane for a while, her eyes growing wider as the implications of Lanes words were sinking in. "What you say, could be correct. But you might also be just incredibly paranoid."
"I could be, but I'd rather find out from a safe distance. So, what about it? Even going back to the hotel is a big risk now, but we might want to get our shit because we might be on the run for quite a while."
They got up, left the tent and after paying the waiter tipping him generously reminding him that they never had seen him. With that out of the way the worked their way towards an exit that they thought would be close to their hotel.
"How do you know so much about crime anyway?" Monica asked as they disappeared into the crowd.
"Have you never watched crime shows or read a proper thriller?"
"What kind of child were you anyway?"
"One that was busy killing people."