I need to leave but… what is worth the risk if Kei ever finds out? I wonder as I look out my bedroom window. A gravel road twists left to right until it joins the highway a half mile away, concealed by a groove of deciduous trees. Staring at the pale spring greenness of the leaves matches the colour of his eyes and makes me think of him: Neil. Of course he would be a good reason to leave Shadow. This terrorist organization took his entire family away.
By some miracle, Neil and I have kept our relationship going for over one year. We were walking by Bower Ponds.
"Amy would have loved this place," Neil sighs. The expression on his face was one of tenderness, and grief.
"Amy?" I ask. Neil didn't look at me, but did inform me Amy was his little sister.
"What happened to her?" I note his emphasis on the past tense. Part of me regrets finding out what happened to her: Shadow had killed her. Not only did Shadow take his little sister Amy away, who at the time was only 10, but also his younger twin brother Kyle, and his parents.
The guilt I am feeling is unfamiliar too me. I have never felt regret, or felt like a monster for taking loved ones away from others, feeling more than justified that they were getting their justice. It wasn't fair, that these families could be safe while mine was destroyed. But I felt horrible. Right then, I remembered a memory I had suppressed for years: it was the year 2005, and it was summer time. Kei had just asked me to help them come up with tactics to get into London, England and bomb a bus and some underground trains. I gave the tactics and suggestions on how to hide to the munitions since I was a senior to the new recruits. The new guys had not realized it was a suicide bombing.
I had gone with them to London to make sure the mission was successful. Out of one of the doomed train stations, I saw a family of four emerge just in time to get caught in the blast of a bomb. The bodies were still whole, but battered to the point they were almost not recognizable as human beings. The empty eyes of the little girl struck a cord, and sorrow had engulfed me. I pushed the sorrow away and locked it away, not knowing I would meet the sole survivor, not aware he had even survived.
I love Neil with all my heart, and I know he feels the same way, but it never ceases to amaze me he loves me of all the women of the world. The one reason he should hate me only makes him want me more: I am a member of Shadow. This means I kill hundreds of civilians a year along with the occasional politician. He should hate me for taking part in what took his family away, and even more so since I had provided the tactics and weaponry.
I told Neil I had helped in his family's murder, the shock on his face hurt. He turns away and asks if he could be alone for awhile. He said he would call me when he was ready. I left, but I dreaded his phone call. It could either be to dump me, or set me up to caught by the police, or worse, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Between the three, I dreaded him dumping me the worst; because of him I found meaning in life, and I got my own life back. Not the same one I would have had in Iraq, but a life that I lived as me even if it was secret.
A week later, my cell phone went off. Only two people had this number: Kei and Neil. I could hardly answer it because I was trembling so bad and almost fainted when I heard Neil's voice. He asks to meet me at the Kerry Wood Nature Center on the three mile hike that night. I agreed, even though it was more than likely a trap. Admittedly not a convincing trap since the volunteers locked up for the night but a police warrant can get things. I met him in the trees, where I found him sitting on a fallen log. He stood up when I approached, and said six words: "Come back to Ireland with me". Now it was my turn to be stunned, all I could choke out was a "what?" I couldn't believe it. He wanted me to go to Europe with him. "I can't blame you for killing my family. The one responsible is the one who decided to bomb London in the first place." His eyes had a green fire that threatened to envelope everything within reach. My own eyes were open wide. Neil wasn't blaming me. In his own way, he forgave me for helping in his family's deaths. "Shadow kills its own members with suicide bombings." It was a statement; not a question.
Ducking my head, I say yes. Neil than said "Come with me, please. I can't...I won't stand it if you die too." I look at him, and saw nothing but the truth, desperation and unfathomable love in his eyes. So badly do I want to leave with him, but tomorrow, I had a mission to attack Calgary's TD Square Mall. You do not miss missions unless you heave a death wish. When I said no and gave my reason, Neil understood, and suggested tampering with the bomb so people wouldn't die. He explained, "If you make it look like bad equipment, you can't be blamed and Kei would have no reason to hurt you."
Another reason to leave is I don't want to kill another human being, but this is minor compared to Neil. I have grown use to pulling the trigger of any gun, and it doesn't bother me as much as it use to when I was younger. As a child who had never pulled the trigger of a gun, it was sickening the first couple of times I shot somebody but I became use to it. It is sad how use a person can get to killing.
Looking out the window again, I see the remnants of the moonlight reflecting off the trees and make me think of Neil not too long ago on a night when the moon was full. The moonlight that night was bright enough it turned his light brown hair too wavy silver wires and bleached his already fair skin white. In the reflections of his eyes, I could see myself, serene and happy. My storm gray eyes had looked like their own mini silver moons. I could see how he saw me.
That night he asked me for the second time to leave Canada with him. He has been here in Canada for work for the last three years. He lives across in Ireland, a small town far from its border with England. Like the first time he asked me, I couldn't go because of a mission, unless I wanted Kei to slowly shove bamboo splinters under my nails and pour molten mercury down my throat. But now, two weeks later, I can leave since I don't have any missions for the next week, so Kei wouldn't look for me until the weekend at the earliest. I have all my reasons to leave, but that doesn't mean Kei will let me go, she never will. Rolling onto my side, I slide off my bed quietly. A quick glance around my Spartan room reveals no little treasures to take with me.
Ever since I moved here with Kei so many years ago, the only gifts I have ever been given are a disgusting variety of weaponry and all of those are from Kei. Those will not be needed in my new life. I never wanted to see a gun again.
She took me in during the early stages of the Iraq War. At the time I was twelve with my parents dead and no where to run. At first Kei was a gift from heaven, but when she revealed her true colours I started wishing I died in Iraq with my mom and cousins.
Meeting Neil three years later was the only reason I didn't shoot myself. Neil is a true angel sent by God. Strangely enough, angel is a word Neil uses to describe me. Angels do not kill people and are certainly a lot more compassionate and loving than I am, and a lot more beautiful than I ever could be, but Neil just keeps calling me angel no matter how many times I tell him 'angel' doesn't describe me.
Just as I was slipping out my window, my partner in crime decides to barge in without knocking. His jaw drops open, and with the enthusiasm of the madman he is, he starts to scream "TRAITOR". I only allowed him to get the first syllable out before I tackle, and pulling out my own handgun, shoot him in the forehead. I shot him where he didn't feel any pain. His blood stains my hands along with the hundreds of others I have killed. Quickly I stole his cell phone out of his pocket, and jump out the window. Shards of glass scratch my hands. With ease of flowing water, I roll from feet to my shoulder and back up to my feet without breaking a stride. Behind me, I hear Kei scream for me to stop, and when I didn't, I hear her curse me to the blackest pits of hell. Praying she didn't have her rifle on her or find my gun collection underneath the floorboards, I dialed Neil's cell phone number. As if he was waiting he picks up after one ring, "Hosanna?" his voice hopeful.
"Neil!" I gasped. Between breaths I told him to hurry and meet me at the end of the lane, where it meets the highway. Even though I don't hear anything, I know he is celebrating. Without another word, and just before he hangs up, I hear his car in the background means I'm coming. And nothing is going to stop me.
A cramp burns in my side, but I can't slow down with Kei undoubtedly pursuing me. Even the familiar rush of the adrenaline shock can't keep me going. I kept thinking of Neil in order to keep me going. His calm and warm presence that attracted me to him in the first place fills me, and gives me wings. Even though he has had to return Ireland due to work taking back there, he always came back as soon as he could, whether for work or holiday and sometimes even when there were no long weekends.
It was silent in the trees except for the thump my feet made on the ground. The dull thud of my feet on the ground matched the even tempo of my heart. A dull rumble of a car moving faster than the speed limit breaks the silence and gives me another adrenaline flush. The rumble isn't mixed with the small pings of pebbles bouncing off the metal of a car, meaning it is Neil and mercifully not Kei. With a burst of speed, I broke out of the trees and saw Neil standing outside his rental Subaru explorer. Despite our situation, he still hugs me close to him and even with his coat on, I can feel his heart beat, and his body heat seep into my own body. Just by being beside him makes me feel safe and not just because he is physically strong, but I know I am his and he is mine for the rest of our lives.
At five feet, five inches, I just barely see over his shoulder, and in the trees behind him, I see the glint of moonlight off bleached blond hair and the white silver barrel of Kei's rifle. I shove Neil down behind a tire of his car on our side of the road. Kei's bullet destroys the driver's window where Neil was just standing a second ago. The only sound I heard from the shot was the whistle, so quiet it was almost silent, of a bullet as it races through the air. A second round where I hear nothing takes out a tire. Cursing with enough fury and colourful words that even the devil will run from, I pull Neil after me as I dart across the highway into the trees on Kei's side of the street. It is nothing more than a distraction for Kei, and also she can't see us as well from the top if a tree if we are below her. I told Neil to head back to town.
"Why not come with me?" he pleads,
"I got some business to finish," I explain. Kei will find and kill us no matter where we go if she isn't killed first. Neil starts to speak, but I cut him off, "Just hurry and go before she finds you. I can't guarantee I can protect both of us with just a handgun," my voice was clipped with stress. It was a bad idea bringing him here, but I can't regret it now and he would have followed me where he most definitely would have gotten shot. Looking at me with a desperate plea to live, he reluctantly heads back to Red Deer.
Once I confirmed his safety, I looked around for a tree that is climbable and enough leaves to hide me without obstructing a view. Thank God I am right below the perfect tree. Standing up on my tip toes, and I grasp the branch closest to the ground. The bark is rough enough I get a good grip without tearing my hands open. With the aide of practice scaling brick walls, I quickly reach the top of the tree.
Sudden, blinding pain rips through my left arm. I bite down on a scream as I fall toward the ground several feet below me. I barely catch myself by wrapping my legs around a branch which left me hanging upside down; not a very comfortable position. I reach with both arms to wrap my hands around the branch, but the crack of bone is lost in my scream. The bullet had buried itself in bone. Barely keeping back tears, I look down, and see my handgun lying on the ground several feet way. "Are you a bad luck charm?" I demand while glaring at with enough fury even Satan would run.
A cold, chuckle and a click of a gun loading causes me to drop the remaining seven feet onto the solid ground. With a whoosh oxygen deserts my lungs in a scream from my now broken arm hitting the ground. Stars blink in and out of existence as I try in vain to refill my lungs with precious oxygen. Clearing my eyes of stars, reveal Kei standing above me with her hand gun pointing at my guts.
"Good night Assassin," she whispers with her apathetic voice using my name she gave me after I completed my first mission. All I can think is No; I came to far…Neil. A quick flashback reveals the first time Neil and I met at the Bower Mall, where he named me Hosanna.
We were sitting just in front of the New York Fries where I was playing with the straw in my soda. He just asked me what my name was. His eyes interrupt my train of thought and I can only stutter. Finally I admit I don't have one…"Kei calls me Assassin."
I glance up fearing the worst, but his face is merely speculative. "If that is your name, do you mind if I give you a new one?"
I managed to squeak out a yes. Neil leans back in his chair, staring at the ceiling lost in thought. "I want to give you a name you will like, so just let me know when you hear one you like." I just nod my head.
"Okay, let's see, Amy?" I shake my head, in my opinion, it wouldn't be right to have the same name as his little sister's.
Again I shake my head, "Where did you come up with those? I thought you would be doing the whole ABC thing."
"I'll tell you when you decide on a name," he had that amused glint in his eyes that still ticks me off.
"Gabriella, Genna, Geniva, Gili"
"What does Gili mean?" I inquire,
"Next!" I snarl,
"What's wrong with it?"
Rolling my eyes, I say "because I'm not joy."
Neil rolls his eyes back at me, and continues on to the H's, "Hannah, Harlean, Helen, Holly, Hosanna,"
"Hosanna!" I almost shout, "What does it mean?"
Neil smiles, "In Hebrew it means deliver us, in Greek it means praise."
For one reason or another, I couldn't help but feel a name that means deliver us is a perfect name for me. It just clicked.
"Hosanna," I repeat.
When we parted, Neil called over his shoulder, "Lindsey was my mom's name." I froze and looked back, wondering why he would offer me the names of his sister and mother.
Kei's finger slowly moves to the trigger, and I squeeze my eyes shut. The echoing smack of sound a gun makes reverberates through my body, jarring my shoulder even more.
I slowly open my eyes, and sitting beside me with his eyes panicking on my face, reveals Neil.
"Thank God," he whispers smiling slightly as he sees my eyes open. His eyes glow with relief and love.
"Wha?" I finally choke out, "How?" than I notice my handgun carelessly tossed aside by Neil. My eyes widen in shock: Neil is the one who shot the gun. Glancing to my right reveals Kei lying on her face with a bullet hole through her chest, and blood dying the ground beneath her. Realization finally dawns on me; Neil had heard me scream, and ran back. With Kei pointing her gun at me and my gun not to far away gave him his opportunity to avenge his family. Pulling off his jacket, he makes a crude sling for my arm, and pulls me to my feet. Half carrying me, he guides back to his car where he changes the tires. Leaning against a tree trunk, I look up at the sky. Millions of stars like diamonds on blue cloth shimmer across the sky. I am free, is all I can think, Neil is safe and we won't ever be threatened again. Shadow does not keep records of its members as our lifespan are measured in days, not months and never years. I am the exception, but that is just because Kei decided I was of better use alive than dead. I am the last of Shadow, and its legacy will not be continued. I will not kill another human being unless I absolutely have to do it to protect Neil. Freedom. I am finally free. Maybe there is a god out there. Whoever it is, Hosanna in the highest to you. I lean back into the car seat with a small smile.