The Shadow

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Apologies

Caeli

I was packing my suitcase for the flight when there was a knock on my door. That was highly unusual. People tended to barge into my room and begin talking, asking questions or giving me some information. I moved quietly, picking up a dagger and holding it behind myself as I made my way to the door, ready to defend myself if I had to.

Opening the door a crack, I relaxed slightly when I realised who it was. I was still angry at him, and that anger cut through the calm I had felt.

“What do you want?” I asked bluntly, opening the door fully and allowing him to see my dagger. Was it a method to intimidate him? Maybe.

“I… why did you answer the door with a knife?” Syrus asked me, too distracted by the weapon to answer my question.

“Because you knocked, no one ever knocks,” I told him, I thought it seemed reasonable, but it still confused him.

“So it was suspicious?”

“Well… yes.” I answered, spinning the ring dagger around my finger before putting it down on the bed. “Back to my question, what do you want?”

“Well, Sinclair told me that if I don’t smooth over the situation with you, then I’d be out of-”

“You want the money.” I cut him off. He shrugged his shoulders in agreement. I wasn’t in the mood for a fake apology. “Go tell Sinclair that you apologised, or whatever, I don’t accept bullshit apologies,” I told him, turning my attention back to the clothes I was packing away carefully. I always packed my bags neatly, in an almost over-organised fashion. Probably from never owning much and wanting to take care of it all.

“No, I…” he paused as I turned to look at him. “I wanted to apologise.” I scoffed at the words and looked back to my suitcase, going to pick out which shirt I would pack next.

“Sure you do,” I replied. He then moved to sit down on the bed next to my suitcase. A tactic to make me look at him or acknowledge his presence. I couldn’t ignore him, especially when he had chosen to be below my height.

“I do. Thing is… before all this, I was in school, in an orphanage. It was different for me then, I didn’t have to work hard for anything, what I worked hard at was pissing everyone around me off so much that they kicked me out of the orphanage the minute they could. As soon as I was, I tried to make a better life for myself, be a better role model for Nylah. But it was hard, I was used to being that person who everyone either wanted to be or be with. I don’t mean that arrogantly, it’s just how it was.”

“Sure,” I whispered, not bothering with a volume louder than that. Syrus almost had me interested, almost had me feeling sorry for him. But, I didn’t care about what school life was like for him, I didn’t get a chance to have one myself.

“I guess when we got into this life, I assumed it would be the same. But it was so much harder.” He could see that I still had yet to gain an interest in what he was saying, that what he was saying wasn’t enough just yet. “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t understand how the world works, I was raised in a Christian orphanage after my mother died and Ny’s father, my step-father, abandoned us. So I found a way to see the world, found where I thought I fit in… and then it all changed again. What you told me, that I made that girl uncomfortable, it was a shock, and it made me question everything, and then I got defensive because I realised that how I saw myself wasn’t how I was. If my mother saw how I was acting…” He trailed off, shuffling uncomfortably on the bed.

“I see how I hurt you, and I need you to know my problem isn’t with you; it’s with authority. But none of what I’ve told you excuses what I did, and I’m so sorry for what I did and what I said. I should never have questioned your ability, should never have said what I did… I don’t know you, but I know that you’re more capable of protecting Nylah and myself than I am. If you can forgive me, which I don’t expect you to, I would like to know you better, and after what you said last night, about trusting people... you were right. But the word you were looking for wasn’t ‘alliance’, what you and Sinclair are looking for are friends.” He finished, it was a good apology… I guess. And he had a point about Vincent and I looking for friends. He stuck his hand out towards her, looking for a truce.

“You have to listen to me from here on out,” I told him, he grimaced.

“I’ll try my best, it will be a work in progress… besides, I think you understand that. I don’t know much, but I know we are as stubborn as each other.” My eyes rolled at his words, but he was right. The promise of change was good enough for me, so I clasped his hand in mine, and we shook on it.

“It sounds like you’ve got some issues… um, if you need, I will do my best to listen if you ever want someone to talk to.” I told him after we shook hands. He then stood up from the bed.

“I will do my best to listen if you ever want someone to talk to, I hear it makes someone more attractive if they’re in tune with their emotions…” he said with a smirk, I closed my eyes and shook my head for a second.

“I think you might have just jumped straight past the point of that,” I responded, picking up a shirt and folding it.

“No, I think I found it.” He said while nodding his head before he walked to the door. He grabbed onto the door handle and looked back to me. “Good chat.” He said. I smiled and nodded.

“Good chat.” I agreed, watching as he left the room. I sighed as I looked back at the bed, the duvet now crumpled from where he had been sitting. I let it stay that way for a moment before I smoothed it out.

Maybe there was a sliver of hope for him.

***

The next job that Vincent lined up for us was simple, so simple that I satisfied my curiosity on Syrus’ leadership capabilities. He wasn’t as bad as I had thought he would be; he made reasonable decisions but, somehow, could not plan very well. With some help from me, the plan we made was foolproof.

At least, that’s what I had thought.

The plan involved each of us, we all had to be present for the heist to move ahead smoothly and efficiently… and it had; until one of Vincent’s bad debts came into play.

“We have nothing,” Vincent repeated the same statement again, I tilted my head back as I sat on the ground. I hated being held against my will.

“We know about the museums, the music box, the Incan artefacts. Come on Sinclair, you just have to tell me where they are.” The man who had us captured said. I knew most of the people that Vince had a history, mostly bad, with. But I had never seen this man face to face before, so I wasn’t sure who he was. Or how we came to be in debt with him. But there was a faint feeling of recognition, I had seen his face somewhere before…

“Don’t have them, the money we got from them… gone too. Have a long list of debts to pay off. I can’t give you anything. Bigger problems to keep off my back than you.” Vincent replied, and while he kept talking, it gave me a chance to reassess the problem at hand.

They captured all four of us and restrained us in various forms. Tied the other three with rope and chained me to the floor with cuffs around my wrists. They knew who I was, that explained it. It would be a challenge to get out of, much harder than the others and their measly rope.

But I was resourceful, and I handled challenges well. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done.

“You still have them, Sinclair, and you owe us a good chunk of money. Judging from how much all of those things you got your kids to steal is worth… you give it to us, and we can call it even.” The man told Vince again, I looked over to the Dawsons as he did. They were both still, unconscious from the gas they had used in the room that they had lured us into. There was never any treasure… it had been an elaborate trap. Too complicated, in my opinion, for someone just owing money.

“Vince, what the hell did you do this time?” I asked, still unsure of what was going on, but more focused on the why. Why had this man gone to such lengths to capture us?

“I promised money to these guys if they could…” Vince trailed off. It took my most disappointed glare for the man to continue speaking. “If they could give me leads to a bigger treasure, it led me to the Order of Shadows and the Dawsons, I might have forgotten about the owing of money.”

“There’s more than that, Sinclair, or have you forgotten I have a brain?” I said, watching from the corner of my eye as Syrus and Nylah moved. They were finally waking up. That meant I could try to find a way out.

“I may have racked up a bit of a tab… I get our weapons through this guy sometimes, like your daggers, and our fake passports and paperwork. Just trivial stuff.” As Vincent spoke, I realised why I recognised this man. I had seen him on the news, on wanted posters.

“All of it through these people and you forgot to pay them?” I hissed, Vincent shrugged his shoulders. Shrugged his shoulders. I couldn’t believe it. “Bullshit, Sinclair.”

“Fine, I never had the money, I always lost it-”

“To gambling, women, men, alcohol, cigars, yeah I’m aware of your expenses,” I stated, breathing deeply to keep myself as calm as possible. I needed to think, had to find a way out.

“I pay for a roof over our heads, fuel for the plane so we can go the places we want to, for food, so we don’t starve and for people to keep quiet when they threaten to talk. I do the right thing with my money too.” Vince argued, I rolled my eyes.

“My hero,” I stated sarcastically, gently pulling against the chains to test how strong they were discretely. The chains were durable… but there was a specific, important part to the restraints that wasn’t. “How much does he owe you?” I asked next, looking back to the man I now recognised.

“Just shy of eight-hundred thousand…” the man answered, it made me sigh.

“You lured us, gassed us, kidnapped us and restrained us all for less than a million dollars? Seems like a lot of effort to me.” I stated, a bored tone in my voice, I had to act like I didn’t know why this was all happening. “You can have the artefacts,” I said, and Vincent looked at me like I had just betrayed his very being. I gave him a look that made him keep quiet.

“So you have them?”

“Of course we do, we haven’t had time to sell them yet,” I told the man, eyeing where the plate connected to my chains screwed into the floor. It was loose. The sound of Vince groaning in protest reached my ears. “They can have the artefacts, Vince, honestly. I mean, what’s the price if we don’t give them to you?”

“One of you die, we still get our money.” The man told us, so I looked back to Vince with my hands in the air.

“Can’t argue with that bargain,” I said. My focus turned back to the man. “Hey, quick question.” He seemed shocked that I was questioning him. “I’ve seen your face before… on the news. The story was something about a human trafficking ring, wouldn’t have anything to do with you, would it?” I asked, he seemed a little taken aback by her accusation but didn’t deny it.

“Caeli, I would know if I was working with-”

“No, you wouldn’t.” I cut Vincent off. He nodded his head as he realised I was right. “How does he have these connections, Vince? To weapons, illegal paperwork? It’s all needed for human trafficking. And the Order of Shadows? There has to be a reason you lead Vincent to them.” I stated, the man was looking a little afraid. He knew that I had worked it all out at that moment, knew exactly who I was and what I was capable of. He worked with the people who made me this way. The kidnapping wasn’t about the money, it was about me.

“Between you and me, I know that this whole kidnapping thing wasn’t about the money that Vince owes you. It’s about selling me off, isn’t it?” I asked, but the man kept quiet. It was enough of an answer for me. “They want me for a reason, multiple reasons actually. They think I belong to them… but you didn’t know something. They trained me to break out of any form of restraint. Even this one. I’ll show you.” I told him. He seemed to realise the mistake he had made when I stood up and pulled hard on the chains, the metal plate giving way and giving me a fun weapon to use.

He went to fight me, but he was nowhere near qualified enough to do so. Within a minute, I had the chain pulled tight around his neck, his face turning red as he attempted to suck in air but couldn’t.

“I am honestly sick to death of people underestimating me, not taking me seriously,” I said nonchalantly before I let out a small laugh. “Sorry, silly me, it’s you who’s going to die, not me.” A few seconds after pulling the chain tighter around his neck, his body fell limp. I let him fall to the ground after holding him for a moment longer, making sure it wasn’t a rouse. I searched his pockets, finding the keys to my cuffs, and freeing myself before I untied Vince. We then untied the Dawsons, who were now fully awake. Vince went to Nylah, so I went over to Syrus.

“That was pretty badass,” Syrus told me as I untied his rope, I smiled and looked into his eyes.

“I’m aware of that.”

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