(ch 8) the Price of a Life (Mark)
Aria wasn’t talking to him. She had completely cold shouldered him after the ruckus at the table had occurred. It seemed that Aria didn’t care which child it was, whether or not it was hers. She always intervened in his business.
Mark was alone now, staring at the walls in the master bedroom, glaring at the show that was talking in the background. He should have realised that Aria would not accept this kind of attitude. He hadn’t expected that she would threaten to call the police, though. That was one step further than she had ever gone with him, and he didn’t see it as a step towards something good. The next few days should have been for the boys to leave, and then peace and quiet. If Aria was walking into their future in this way, it would be unacceptable for him.
With his wandering thoughts, Mark wondered what he would do about Gabriel. It was obvious that if he were to straight up kill the kid, the coppers would be on his arse in a split second. Not to mention Aria would kill him. There had to be a way to get rid of his kids so that they never returned. He had enough money to hire someone to do the job for him.
With renewed energy, Mark sat down at his desk, raising the sound of the telly, so his wife would not be suspicious. This was certainly the best idea he had ever come up with. His head started spinning as plans blasted through his mind as one. He would need to find someone that was desperate enough to follow through with such a mission. Maybe a kid off the streets? Or a teenager in an orphanage?
He was eager to find what he needed immediately, but it was past midnight. Leaving right then would be more risky for him than any gain or advantage. He would leave the next morning with the morning light.
With this promising feeling of an actually better future, Mark allowed himself to go to bed and smile. For the first time, he didn’t care that Aria was sleeping in a different room. He didn’t care that she was angry. If he thought about it, he didn’t care about anything. His dream would come true as soon as he could find a way to take care of his latest plan.
Mark didn’t bother turning off the show, as his mind came up with idea after idea. It wasn’t too long before he drifted off to sleep.
~DAWN~ December 22nd
For the second time in a few hours, Mark was happy that Aria was not sharing a bed with him that day. He heard no sound coming from anywhere, so it was easy for him to slip out of the house once he dressed himself. Knowing he couldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, Mark put on a pair of jeans with a hoodie and then strolled to his car.
Feeling like treating himself for being so clever, Mark drove to the Starbucks. ‘I’ll have a chicken caprese sandwich heated, with a salted caramel cold brew.’ The woman in the window smiled at him and he beamed back, passing her a tenner through the window. She looked uncomfortable, but took the money from him, winking for good measure. Mark wouldn’t have taken the money back, no matter her reaction, but he appreciated the thought.
The line wasn’t very long that morning, as most people were still in their beds, sleeping. Once he had his food, he drove to a park to think through his plan and eat. He found a bench to sit on, taking out his mobile and searched. Adoption, it seemed, was the wrong approach. Adoption meant he had to love a child and deal with their needs and wants. He definitely didn’t need more of that, so finding a runaway from the street was a better option for him.
Mark was drinking his cold brew when he noticed the boy a distance away. He was very tall, perhaps taller than himself. Mark didn’t let himself get intimidated, and instead waited for something to happen. The boy, however, did nothing objectively wrong. Curious, Mark took the last bite of his sandwich and threw the wrapper into the rubbish next to him. He stood and walked towards the boy, ready to defend himself if necessary. But the boy was only reading a book! Frowning, Mark wondered if he should even bother with this one. When the boy took a broken cigarette from his pocket and lit it up, blowing the smoke into the air.
That was more like it. Mark nodded his head in satisfaction and stopped in front of the boy. Hoping he had judged correctly, Mark coughed politely to catch his attention. The boy had cold eyes, and when his hand reached for his pocket, Mark almost fell backward in fear. Did the kid have a knife? He kept his face calm and made no move to leave.
It seemed they had reached an impasse, as the boy stared at him while he stared back.
‘What do you want?’ The boy broke the silence, scowling as the cigarette burnt down before he could get much out of it.
‘Well, I can get you more of those if you like.’ Mark pointed to the broken stub and shrugged as if it were easy, which, if he thought about it, it was.
‘Yeah, alright.’ the boy nodded. Mark thought it was too young to be smoking, but he didn’t want to anger the boy before he gave him his thoughts. He would need to feel out if this was the right boy, otherwise he would have a bunch of coppers on his head and he’d end up in jail.
‘My name is Mark-os’ he bit his lip, realising he didn’t want this boy to know his actual name. It would be a huge mistake if it would be easy to identify him.
‘Hullo Marcos, my name is Hayden.’ the boy responded while following him.
Mark took this time to pay attention to the boy’s clothes. Despite his classiness of reading, Mark took note of the other things on the boy. The smell Hayden gave off, the way his clothes hung loosely on his body and his lack of fear of strangers.
‘Are you a runaway?’ Mark inquired, hoping he would get his answer then.
‘What’s it to you?’ Hayden snarled at him.
‘Chill, kid, I have a job for you if you have nowhere else to go.’ The boy didn’t look at him, but Mark could tell he was listening with how his ears perked up.
‘I can give you a place to live, a school to go to, and a whole new wardrobe and pretty much anything you need.’ Mark took pleasure in how the boy had widened his eyes in shock and want.
‘There are conditions though.’ Mark amended. ‘Before that, are you hungry?’
Hayden nodded again, his eyes remaining blown out and wide with shock, as if his birthday had come early.
‘Alright, come,’ Mark intoned, leading Hayden towards his car. Wondering if his sons would do the same and follow a stranger, but he realised he didn’t care either way.
‘I have one condition as well,’ Hayden warned, almost glaring at Mark and daring him to disagree.
‘Well, first see if you agree to my conditions before you bring in yours. I also think you should eat something before making any decisions.’
Hayden sighed, but didn’t bother responding.
‘Starbucks, okay with you?’ he asked, driving back in the direction he had come earlier.
‘It’s all the same to me.’ Hayden deadpanned.
Mark was beginning to think this boy really would do his job. It didn’t seem like he cared about anything. Frowning, Mark wondered what the boy’s condition would be.
‘So I can order anything?’ Mark asked him, testing to see how Hayden would respond. All he got was a shrug, and Mark felt his confidence spike up. He went into the Starbucks drive-through a second time, deciding to order a second coffee. Thankfully, someone else was watching the window. ‘I’ll get two salted caramel cold brews and one chicken caprese sandwich heated, please.’ Deciding not to be too friendly this time, Mark merely nodded his head and drove to the pickup window.
Mark drank his second coffee a lot more slowly than his first. He wanted to give Hayden time to eat, as well as an opportunity to think well about what he wanted to do.
When Hayden had finished, and they both had nothing to do, Mark started his car and drove it back to the park.
‘First, I need to ask some questions.’ Mark began, leaning back in his seat. ‘And if you aren’t altogether honest, this arrangement will not work. Do you understand?’
Hayden raised his eyebrows and gave Mark a thumbs up, almost sarcastically.
Mark held in his growl, knowing that he needed to get this done, and if Hayden would do it, that would save him a lot of time.
‘Holy crap, old man, hurry with your questions!’ Hayden was getting impatient, and if Mark was being honest with himself, so was he.
‘Fine. First question. Do you currently have a place to stay or not?’ He could see the hesitancy from Hayden well enough and knew the answer before he said it out loud.
‘No, I do not.’
‘Are you currently in the age of schooling?’ Mark didn’t think it mattered, he could forge a birth certificate if he needed, but it would be easier if he didn’t have to.
‘Yes, I’m almost sixteen.’
‘Are you willing to kill for money?’
Hayden turned to him incredulously. ‘Are you fucking crazy?’
‘Does it look like I’m joking around? Name a price or get out.’
Hayden gaped at him, his mouth opening and closing. ‘What were your conditions?’ the young man asked him rather than answering his questions.
‘I don’t want you to act like a needy child in front of me. I will provide for you everything you need to fall into the role that I need you to do. I will also give you a place to stay until you get accepted into the school I need you to go to. Once there, I will not need to provide you with where to sleep because it’s a boarding school. I also don’t want you to contact me unless you have completed the job.’
‘And what exactly is this job?’
‘I want you to kill my two sons.’
Mark was sure he could hear a pin drop in his car if he tried, but he was patient. He knew he could buy this boy with money. All Mark had to do was stay relaxed and patient.
‘And you will accept my condition and give me the amount of money I ask for?’ Mark smirked behind his hand.
‘I’ll tell you my condition first.’ Hayden told him, sitting up a little in his intensity. ‘There is someone that needs to come with me to this school. I am responsible for her, so that means if you are doing this, you need to be responsible for her too.’
Mark rolled his eyes. ‘Sure, give me her full name and your full name. You can send it to me later in a text. One more person doesn’t really make a difference to me, as long as she does not know of your job. A secret is only a secret as long as one person knows.’
‘Yeah, yeah whatever.’ Hayden mumbled.
‘So? How much do you want?’ Mark asked him, curious about the price of a life that this boy had in mind.
‘Fifty million dollars.’
A truly evil smile curled over Mark’s lips.