Hint 11. Dress To Kill
I sit alone in my bedroom, nervously folding and unfolding Shark’s note. It’s ten o’clock. The paper says ten fifteen. It’s nearly time. I read the address again. And again. I take a deep breath, hold it in, and make it to my rendezvous on time.
Yellowing dust covers hang over untouched but luxurious furniture. Except there’s not a spec of dust in sight. This old victorian fantasy of a drawing room, despite the effort it makes to look disused, is frequented very often.
Shark turns as I appear, grinning. He whistles, a quick summons through his teeth, and The Lady appears from behind a cascade of old material.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she says as she sees me, striding across the room and slapping a twenty pound note into his palm. “I don’t know why I bother making these bets with you,” she says, tapping her forehead with an accusing finger. “You cheat.”
Shark’s grin grows so much it’s borderline cheesy. They both have a glittering air of excitement and it’s slowly beginning to concern me.
“The Lady thought you’d bail,” Shark says.
“I still might,” I say and The Lady laughs.
“You won’t.” Shark winks. Striding across the room with sudden purpose, he leans over, breathing into my ear as he passes. “I cheat, remember.”
They’re both dressed to kill, quite literally in The Lady’s case. Beneath her signature pistol belt, she wears a black jumpsuit, tight at the bottom, looser and sleeveless at the top. On the one hand, this makes it easier for her to move, on the other hand it highlights her breasts perfectly. I’m not sure which is the primary function.
“The second one,” Shark says.
He leans back against an old mahogany table, legs crossed at the ankles.
“What?” The Lady asks.
“Maya was admiring your cleavage.”
“Oh,” She straightens, pulling coppery hair back from her face and throwing me a quick finger gun salute. “Thanks. You can stay.”
As I watch, she straps a dagger to her ankle, outside the jumpsuit so that it’s perfectly visible, a throwing knife to the inside of her wrist, and a final blade around the top of her arm. By the time she’s finished, she’s bristling.
“She wanted to bring a sword,” Shark says, “but I said no. Despite what she looks like, no one’s going to get hurt tonight.”
The Lady pouts, folding her arms.
“I don’t know why you have to spoil all the fun.”
“What do you need a sword for, Lady? You have two pistols, two daggers, six throwing knives, and a perfectly good set of fangs.”
“Fangs?” I ask, not without trepidation.
The Lady grins, showing her teeth. There are no fangs.
“Maybe I’m a vampire,” she says.
“Or,” Shark holds up a single finger. “Maybe vampires don’t exist.”
Shark looks like something from a nuclear fallout movie. He’s wearing stonewashed jeans, a hoody beneath his jacket, and a red bandana around his throat. The hood is massive. If he chooses to flick it up, he won’t even need his eye mask anymore, it’ll cover his whole face in shadow.
“You like it?” he asks, lifting a hand to play with the scrap of material at his neck. I realise he’s also wearing dark fingerless gloves. They’re leather but, I feel, not a fashion statement. They look like they’d protect his knuckles if he chose to hit someone.
“Yeah, I like it,” I say even though it’s pointless. He knows what he does to me, knows how desperately I want to run my fingers up underneath the clothing.
Shark grins. He’s always grinning.
“Good,” he says, “because The Lady got you something too.”
He tosses a drawstring bag into my arms.
“You like it?” The Lady asks as I peek inside. It’s strangely empowering having such a terrifying woman waiting for my approval. “I couldn’t get you a catsuit or a jumpsuit because then we’d just look like his backing dancers and that’s not fair. Shark always manages to get all the glory even when he’s not at an advantage.”
“Give me a second,” I say, darting behind an old chalkboard covered in cloth. When I step out again, I’m wearing a pair of skintight jeans. They’re ripped in carefully positioned slashes, from top to bottom, and my coffee coloured skin peeks through. It’s the perfect tribute to my standard jeans, T-shirt combo. On my top half, I wear a white tank top and a cropped, sleeveless jacket. I have a pair of leather gloves to match Shark’s although mine definitely are a fashion statement, rimmed with tiny silver studs.
The Lady just nods, satisfied with her work, and I have to be grateful that she didn’t bless my outfit with the same penchant for pointy illegal accessories as she did her own.
“What are we doing tonight?” I ask.
The Lady laughs, a pure, unadulterated sound, glee without limits.
“We’re making history,” she says. “We’re changing the world.”
“But we’re not quite ready yet.”
Shark walks over towards me, fishing something out of his back pocket.
“May I?” He asks. “The finishing touches.”
I nod, rendered speechless by his vicinity, and he leans over, brushing my hair off my shoulders. He lets the thing in his hand fall, unravelling until it reaches its full length. It’s a thin, black mask, identical to those that he and The Lady already wear.
“No going back after this, Maya,” he says, “are you ready?”
I nod, swallowing my trepidation, and he carefully attaches the material to my face.
Shark steps back, requiring distance to assess his handiwork. He nods, a strange expression on his face. For the first time I wish I could read his mind, to see if I can find out if that really is longing that marks his features.
The sound of heavy material slithering to the floor catches my attention. I turn, looking at The Lady. With dramatic flair, she has pulled the dust cover off a large floor to ceiling mirror. I walk towards her without prompting, stopping squarely before the full length of reflective surface.
I look… fearsome. There’s no other way to put it. I hardly recognise myself.
Shark saunters over, positioning himself at my right shoulder. A minute later, The Lady joins me at my left. I always wanted the superhero outfit but this isn’t it. This is something different. Something darker.
“Take a look, Maya,” Shark says, “You’re proud of your badge, I know, but this is the uniform that matters now. This is the uniform in which you will change the world.”
I look at myself for a second longer, staring into my own, covered eyes, and then I turn back, tilting my head over my shoulder so that I can talk to him.
“You still haven’t told me what we’re doing,” I say. “How? How are we changing the world?”
Shark purses his lips, eyes flickering over to The Lady. A staticky flash of electricity crackles through my head but it is not accompanied by Shark’s words and I realise that they must be communicating privately, in the recesses of her mind.
“I’ll be honest with you, Maya,” he says eventually. “This is something of a test. We want you, we need you. But we’ve been around long enough that we’re wary. We’re aware of the hundreds of different ways people can betray each other’s trust - we’ve done a lot of it ourselves. This cause is of vital importance to us. If you can get through tonight, I’ll tell you everything. I promise.”
“I won’t kill anybody,” I say.
I watch Shark in the mirror as he throws a warning glance over to The Lady. She rolls her eyes despairingly.
“Don’t worry,” he says, “we’re not killing anybody. Not even The Lady, much as she likes to think she’s going to with all that pointy stuff she has strapped to herself.”
“I need it,” she says, with a pout.
“No you bloody well don’t,” Shark replies. “Of the three of us, you’re the one that needs it least.”
“Why?” I ask.
Again they share a look.
“After tonight,” Shark promises. “You’ll know after tonight.”
“Alright,” The Lady claps her hands, throwing the cover back over the mirror and striding across the room. She picks a backpack off the ground, tossing it to Shark who catches it with confident hands and slings it over a shoulder. “Are we ready to go?”
“No,” Shark replies. “Not quite yet.”
He walks over to a massive window, tweaking aside heavy curtains. I join his side, looking over the city below. It’s dark already, tiny orange pinpricks lighting up the nighttime sky.
“What are you waiting for?” I ask.
“The storm,” he replies. As he speaks, voice distant, the wind picks up, ghosting through the orchard outside. It’s a pregnant, heavy wind. A foreboding wind, heralding in the storm.
I wonder how he knew, how he timed it so well. Does The Lady have power over the wind and weather? Or can he read the mind of Mother Earth herself?
“No, Maya,” Shark sighs, “I checked the weather report.”
As thunder hums over our distant city, Shark stands, dropping the curtain back over the empty window.
“Alright,” he says, turning to the impatient Lady. “Now it’s time.”
Instead of the excitement she has been displaying all evening, The Lady nods, utterly serious. She rolls her neck around her shoulders, preparing herself. Shark follows in his own ritual, cracking knuckles and tightening his mask.
The Lady is the first to stride from the room. Shark turns to follow but he stops at my side. He presses a sheet of paper into my palm, tapping it with a finger.
“When we get outside,” he says, “take us here.” I look down, reading the words he’s written in his precise handwriting. It is the name of a building. A building I recognise immediately.
“And Maya… This time, when you disappear, I want you to do it smoothly, no loud noises. It has to be elegant, you understand? Like a whisper.”
“Good. The way you do it at the station is too recognisable. And we’re professionals here, we do things with class.”
I nod again.
For a second, Shark looks as though he’s going to walk out the room, following The Lady, but he hesitates, biting his lip.
“And in the name of full disclosure, Maya,” he breathes, tilting his body in towards me slightly, “when you wear that outfit, the mask… It makes me quite desperate to do all those terrible things you’re always thinking about.”