"تذاكر من فضلك! Tickets please!"
Another rap sounded on the door, and I stood, slipping my Beretta 92F into the back of my waistband as I walked to the other side of the small compartment. To my left, Marta shifted on the bed, scooting out of view from the door without me even having to ask her too, drawing up her knees to her chest as she watched me.
I gave a nod to her, before briefly pressing my ear to the door, listening for any unusual sounds. I heard a cough and a sigh, the kind a bored and underpaid conductor might make.
Putting on an effortlessly light smile, I slid open the compartment panel and stood in the entrance, making the gap between myself and the tanned native that stood before me just wide enough so that my own body blocked any view inside the cabin as I leaned casually up against the doorframe.
"Tickets." The man repeated again in a thick, bored accent, switching to English as he saw that I was American, while his eyes dropped lazily down to my hands to look for the required scraps of paper.
I assessed the scene, saw that there was no one else out in the corridor, and decided upon a plan of action. Decided to strengthen our cover story.
I mimed a brief pat down over all my pockets, before pausing with a slight frown as if thinking.
"June!" I called out lightly over my shoulder, and Marta glanced up, though it took her a fragment of a second to realize that I was speaking to her. "Would you mind getting me our tickets? They're in your backpack, I think."
She rose gracefully off the bed, a bright yet complacent smile on her face. "Yeah, of course. One sec."
Moving across the compartment to the other cot, she fumbled through our backpack as if looking for them, though she and I both knew I had stored them in the left side pocket.
After a brief period, she "found" them and walked over to join me, passing the tickets to the conductor with a cheery smile, while flashing the engagement ring on her finger with a stroke of genius. "Hi, sorry. Here you go."
I had given that ring to her to wear as part of our cover: two American tourists, recently engaged and going on a trip across the globe to celebrate. To complete the look, we had gone on a shopping spree while waiting for Jason and Nikki to get their tickets, as we had wanted to enter separately with plenty of time and distance between us. I had bought a fresh pair of clothes for Marta and I, using only cash of course, as well as some other supplies that we needed, and her ring.
She hadn't said a word when I gave it to her, only looked at me for a long time before slipping it on her finger; a perfect fit. It was the expression in her eyes that got to me. I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t read a thing. And that never happens.
I only felt a brief spasm of something, as she took the small band from me and slipped it on her finger, almost a possessive elation, before it was overpowered by a strange sense of guilt. Guilt that it wasn’t real. That I would have to take that ring off at some point. I felt almost like I was cheating her in some way.
The conductor took the tickets from Marta's hand, his eyes alighting briefly on the ring. He couldn’t help it. It was a bright little thing. He glanced up at the two of us leaning into each other in the doorway, my arm resting loosely about Marta's waist, while the tiniest hint of a smile, that I swear looked real, hovered about her lips.
I didn't have to fake being proud of the woman by my side, her performance so far had been perfect. Once again playing her part brilliantly, just as she had done in the morgue in Manila. Going off of my actions and words as if it was the most natural thing in the world. As if we actually were a happy American couple, touring the world with nothing but an exciting future before us.
You missed your calling, Marta. You could've been an actress. Probably would have been less dangerous.
The conductor glanced at us, and put the pieces together. Punched holes in both of our train tickets before handing them back with careless, dismissive nod.
"Thanks, have a nice day," I said smiling casually at him, taking the tickets.
He shrugged and began loping down the hallway to knock on the other doors. I wouldn’t have to worry about him. He saw us as we wanted him to see us.
Marta slipped away from me and went back into our compartment, while I took one last glance down the corridor before sliding the panel closed and locking it.
The flimsy bar lock wouldn’t do much. Anyone could lift the hatch with nothing but a credit card, so I set about making things a little more secure, tying both the handle and the lock to the bedpost beside it with one of the loose straps off our backpack. When I was done, I tested it and found that neither the lock or the handle would budge till I had removed the strap. It would have to do for now.
Behind me I heard Marta sigh, and I turned around to watch her sit down heavily onto one of the beds. Having to no longer play June Monroe, she let her mask slip, showing me her true state. A little of the brightness had left her eyes, and her form slumped with the telltale signs of exhaustion.
Frowning slightly, I walked over and sat down next to her. "You okay?" I asked quietly, watching her face.
"Yeah, I'm just so tired." she mumbled, passing a hand over her eyes. "Is it alright if I sleep for a bit?"
I was still worried about her head injury. Though she had cleaned away the blood and hidden the cut under her hair, and though she had been doing pretty good so far in the hours since, I still had my concerns.
I wasn’t a doctor, but I thought I could recall something somewhere saying that whenever someone has a head injury or is concussed, their natural instinct is to feel overwhelmingly exhausted. The problem was, I didn't know if I should let her give into that instinct, or try to keep her awake. I doubted whether even Marta knew. She wasn’t your average family quack.
So I kinda settled for both.
I passed her a blanket, and she curled up gratefully into a little ball on the bed, her knees just brushing my thigh from where I was still sitting beside her. Her eyelids grew heavy, but I could see that she was trying to stay awake for just a bit longer.
"So, what's the plan?" she murmured, turning her head slightly so that she could look up at me.
I shrugged. "I'm waiting on Jason's word for the exact details, which I'll get at 6:30, but one way or another, we'll get out of the country. Maybe catch a boat across the channel to Spain…."
"And then?" Marta whispered, her words slurring into each other slightly. She was fading fast.
"And then we finish it. We tell everyone everything. Go public. Go loud. Go hard."
"And then?" I barely heard her next words, it was almost as if she whispered them in her sleep.
I didn't have an answer. Staring out the window and watching the scenery fly past, I realized that. I had no idea what I was going to do next. Once I did my best to burn Byer's empire to the ground, all of my plans and scenarios were cut short. They just stopped.
I knew what my answer should be. And then we go our separate ways to build our lives up from scratch again.
It would be easy for her. Hard at first, but easy in the long run. I would help her of course. Give her a new identity. Some cash to put her on her feet. Make sure she settled in a country that she would be safe and comfortable in. Honestly, I could picture Marta living peacefully and anonymously in some comely brick house by the Westminster.
I would be easy for her. Me, not so much.
My entire life I've done nothing but look over my shoulder. Always scanning for a new threat. A new target. My entire life has been dictated to me, step by step. I was the pawn in some shadowy intelligence agency chess game, ordered to do the dirty work for them because they were too afraid to do it themselves. I was the sin eater.
I've always been on the move. The longest I've ever stayed in one place has been four days. To settle down someplace would seem like signing off on my own death. No, I wouldn’t settle down. I would wander, moving from place to place, seeing the world and remaining invisible. Remaining the ghost I've always been.
I looked down at Marta. She was already lost in a deep sleep, curled up beside me, her face and body relaxed while her breath came even. Her lips were slightly parted and a small strand of her hair had fallen across her face, fluttering with each breath. I had an instant déjà vu of our first night in the cabin on Lauro's boat. When I had awakened with her curled up beside me.
With a small smile, I captured the offending strand of hair between two fingers, tucking it as gently as possible behind her ear so as not to awaken her, though my light touch turned into an even lighter caress down her cheek.
She stirred slightly, burying her face more into the blanket with a small exhalation, and I smiled, withdrawing my hand.
Yes, I knew what my answer should be. But it wasn’t the answer I wanted.
Settling back into a more comfortable position, I withdrew my Beretta out from the back of my waistband, sliding out the magazine and checking how many bullets I had left. Not much. I was running on just two soft points.
Leaning back, I fished out some spares from my pocket, sliding them into the magazine till it was maxed out, before popping it back in and chambering a round.
In her sleep, Marta winced at the sound.
I smiled softly to myself, and gently took up her hand in mine, marveling at her smooth skin. Leaning my head back against the wall with a sigh, I sat there, with my Beretta 92F hanging loosely in my lap, staring out the window as I waited for 6:30, Marta's hand clasped gently in mine as I watched and waited, feeling her pulse beat against my fingers like an echo of her words.