I braid my hair as I descend the stairs, folder tucked under my arm, and make my way towards the living room.
I walk by the boys who are all crowded in the kitchen, yelling at Devin to quit trying to cook.
I stand in the hallway watching for a while before Devin notices me. He smiles and waves before elbowing Cody and whispering something to him with a devious look on his. Cody swings at him and Devin cracks up. Cody’s eyes meet mine.
I gesture with my hand for him to follow, as well as the rest of them. I make my way to the spare dining room. I vaguely remember Devin telling me they only used this one for large crowds of people. They all enter one after the other. Devin still with his smug and devious smile on his face.
I pull a picture out of the folder I brought and place it in the middle of the table.
“Yes, we came to Cody’s because it’s safer, no that was not the only reason.” I start as I point to the picture.
“Oh, you’re finally going to share information with us?” Jason mutters, my glare turns icy, and I continue on as if I didn’t hear him.
“How do you get at someone if not physically?” I ask.
“Emotionally.” Chase answers.
“Exactly.” My attention turns to the picture on the table, “This is Zack Martin, Tony’s eldest son. He attends college in this area”
“I didn’t know he had any kids,” Cody says as he reaches over and takes the picture in his hands.
“He has two sons,” I reply. “And in some sick way, he actually cares about them. Probably because of his wife.”
“What happened to his wife?” Devin asks.
I let out a sigh. “She was a good woman, nothing like Tony. But when the Split happened, she had to make a choice. Stand with her husband and children, or stand with the agency.”
“She went with Tony,” Cody grumbled in annoyance, already convinced of this.
“No actually.” His bewildered gaze meets my eyes. “She stood with the agency, she stood against him.” They all stare at me in surprise.
“Not many people would do that,” Jason says.
“Like I said, she was a good woman.”
“How did she die?” Chase questions.
“She died in the fire.”
“I thought you lit it after all the good guys were out,” Cody says.
“I did, she ran back in.”
“Cause there was one person left in the building, and she ran in and saved their lives, but she died in the hospital week later.”
“Who did she go back in to save?”
“The fire had to be started from the outside in. Someone had to make sure the fire was spread.”
“She went back in to save you,” Cody whispers.
“It was supposed to be a one-way trip. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
Everyone stares at me, I clear my throat and grab some papers from the folder.
“Tony took his sons with him during the Split, and no one ever heard from them again. But I did some digging and I found Zack. Every year Tony throws a party for his sons at his house, that’s the only time he’s ever home. We need to get invited to that party.”
“So we get close to this Zack guy and get an invite to the party. Easy enough.” Cody says.
“Yeah, one flaw with your brilliant plan.” I bite back. His eyes narrow.
“And that would be...?” He trails off, leaving me to fill in the blank.
“Tony’s younger son. We need to make sure we don’t run into him at all.”
“Why?” Chase questions.
“Because he’s more dangerous than his brother and Tony put together,” I respond. “Luckily he’s hardly ever home, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be keeping tabs on his family’s activities.”
“Great. Exactly how good is this guy?” Cody asks.
“Put it this way, if he and I went up against each other in a fight, we’d be pretty well matched.” I can see in their eyes that they think they can take this guy. “But, if one of us were to get in a good enough hit, on the other, they’d be as good as dead.” I pause. “And that’s against me, no offense but we saw how well you guys can hold your own against me so none of you would stand a chance.”
“How is that not offensive?” Jason snaps. I roll my eyes.
“You knew him didn’t you?” My attention turns to Devin, “He was in the agency wasn’t he?”
“Yes, I knew him. He was in the agency, Zack wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean he can’t defend himself.”
Devin seems to be pondering something before he speaks again.
“He was on your team wasn’t he, he was the one that betrayed you.” He states more than asks.
I look down. “Yeah.”
“That’s why Zero didn’t want you on the mission alone,” Chase speaks up. “And that’s how you know Tony.” I just nod in reply.
“How did he recognize your dagger, and not you?” He questions. I pull the dagger from my boot tossing it the air and catching it by its blade. I hand it to Chase. He turns it over in his hands.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” he mutters as he stares at the carvings in the handle and the silver blade. His expressions turns to one of puzzlement. “What’s this scratched out?” he asks as he hands me the dagger.
“Nothing.” I slide it back into my boot.
“Where’d you get it?” he questions.
“It was a gift.” I spread out some more papers. “These are Zack’s normal everyday routines, and schedules. All we have to do is pick a place to introduce ourselves.”
We continue going over the papers, coming up with different plans and scenarios in case something goes wrong. We work for another two hours before Cody’s mom enters, telling us that dinners ready and introduces me to Cody’s dad.
I take my seat at the table, next to Devin and across from Cody, Chase sits on Cody’s left, Hayden next to him, then his mom. His dad sits at the head of the table with his wife on his right, and Jason on his left. Hayden glares at me the entire time.
I listen to his dad catching up with the rest of the boys, before finally addressing me.
“So where are you from?” he asks politely.
“Where I grew up? Or where I was born?” I ask.
“Oh either one.” He waves his hand dismissingly. I see all the boys leaning forward in their seats, waiting to see if I’ll answer his questions when I never answer theirs.
“Alaska,” I reply.
Chase’s fork clatters to the floor. Cody begins choking on his food.
“You grew up in Alaska?” Devin asks, eyes wide.
“What’s wrong with that?” I challenge.
“It’s so cold.” I roll my eyes at his reply.
Cody’s dad smiles, “Were you an only child?” The entire atmosphere changes, Cody clears his throat.
“Dad why don’t-”
“Oh quiet Cody, I’m trying to get to know your new friend here.”
“No, I wasn’t,” I reply, my eyes now focused on my plate, of now untouched food. Cody quickly changes the subject, asking his dad about I don’t even know what.
Somehow the topic was changed back to family. I was listening to everyone talking about what they did for Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and New Years. I try to tune them out completely but it does nothing.
I grip at the armrests on the dining chair, and notice Cody watching me quietly, almost as if sensing my complete and utter discomfort.
“So what is it your family does for the holidays?” The question is directed at me, I know. But I can’t seem to focus on anything at all.
I’m done. I can’t sit here any longer.
I stand up so fast the chair goes flying back into the wall behind me, tipping over. But I’m out of there before it can hit the ground. I swing open the front door and practically rip my helmet off my bike, I pull the keys from my pocket.
The front door swings open, and footsteps approach me.
“Where are you going?”
I turn to face him, “I need some air Cody.” I shake my head silently. “I need to clear my head.” I swing my leg over my bike. He stands in front of it.
“Move or I’ll run you over.”
“I know you will.” He replies, “But come on, what’s wrong?”
“I’m not used to that.” He gives me a bewildered look.
“Use to what?”
“That.” I gesture towards the house. “The talking, the catching up, the...the family.”
“You had a family didn’t you?” He asks softly.
“Yeah totally,” I reply sarcastically. “I was born in Alaska.”
“So I grew up in the agency.”
“I’m not following,” he states. I run a hand through my now unbraided hair.
“As soon as I was ‘old enough’ my father tossed me into the agency because he didn’t want to raise me. My mother died in a car accident when I was little, and God forbid my Aunts or Uncles would take care of me. My brother and sister got the same cold shoulder from my father as I did. We were never raised by him, and we never saw each other until we were in our teens.” I pause quietly as I stare at the helmet in my hands. “There was no such thing as family, or love to us. It was just the next mission.”
He stares at me quietly, his eyes soft. “We were just agents, and that’s all I still am.” I finish quietly.
He takes a few hesitant steps towards me and gently takes the helmet from my hands, hooking it back up to the bike.
“Let’s go inside,” he says, his voice barely above a whisper. His eyes are wary, as if afraid I’ll punch him or blow up at him, but I don’t do anything except stare back at him. I make no move to move.
“We don’t have to go back to dinner. We can just go up to my room and watch movies or something.” He says. I raise an eyebrow.
“Fine.” I finally answer. A look of relief covers his face.
We walk back into the house and pass by the dining room heading up the stairs. He closes the door behind him.
“What do you want to watch?” He asks softly.
“I don’t need your pity for me, Cody.” I snap.
He just rolls his eyes. “So you’ve said.” he gestures for me answer his question.
I just shrug. “I don’t know. I’ve never really seen many movies.” I mutter, feeling slightly defeated.
“Alright. I’ll pick,” he replies, grabbing a random movie off the self beneath his TV and popping it into the disk tray.
He takes a seat on one end of the couch and me on the other.
I watch the movie for maybe the first forty-five minutes before I feel myself slowly starting to drift off.