The First of Many

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Chapter 5

Hannah loved Summer.

It was her only respite from the life of slaughter and seduction that was almost all she could remember – when the injections wore off and she was kept grounded for a few months as the effects ran their course, before she would be broken down and rebuilt to start the year fresh. She spent her school years at the department base in Russia, but returned to Chicago for the summer, where she was kept to simple, nonlethal jobs, that wouldn't require her to think about consequences that could lead to dangerous decisions.

Hannah didn't understand at first, when Giovanni led her to a basement door and said: “This one's easy.”

She did understand, however, when he placed a cold gun in her hand.

Hannah didn't react. “Where?”

He shrugged. “He's behind that door. Nico shook him up pretty bad, he shouldn't even put up a fight.”

She thought of telling him that if Nico had truly shaken the man up that badly, he'd die of blood loss before she even shot him. After all, Nico was the most bloodthirsty of them all, disturbingly good at getting answers out of unwilling people. The word torture wasn't used in the Family, but it didn't change the reality. Hannah entered the room, gun already raised.

The man had his eyes closed, shaking violently. Tears streamed down his cheeks, tracing pale lines in the dirt and blood masking his face.

“Stop that,” she ordered sharply, wondering why her hand was shaking.

Calm down, Solomon. It's just a kill. You've done this a million times before.

“Please,” the man begged. “Please, don't do that! Please, I have a daughter, I love her so much, please, let me live!”

“Stop!” she ordered, shaking harder. The gun fell out of her hand and she glared at him, a familiar fury burning through her veins. “NOW LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!” she screamed.

“Hannah, what are you doing?” asked a voice behind her.

Giovanni stood at her back, gun lifted, disappointment and sadness shining in his eyes. “I expected better from you, Hannah,” he said after a moment, lifting the gun.

“No, Gio,” she said quietly. “Please, don't do that...”

The gun fired with a thunderous bang. The man didn't even have time to scream before the bullet pierced his throat.

Hannah didn't flinch: nobody ever left the basements alive.

Giovanni looked over at her. “I thought I knew you better than this, Mirage,” he said sadly.

“Gio, please,” she whispered. “Look, I can disappear. You know that. Let me out of this place, and you'll never hear from me again.”

“I can't do that,” he said. “This is my family too, and you don't stay powerful for long if you start letting people go. You're the weak link here, and if we don't get rid of you, everything falls apart.”

“Gio, please... I love you. Don't hurt me.”

The words were forbidden amongst them – I love you meant death and pain and tricks and blood, but she couldn't help it – it was the only thing that she could put between herself and the bullet.

A conflicted look crossed Gio's face, and his grip on the gun tightened as his hand shook.

He stared at her for what felt like hours before finally, he lowered the gun, nodding once.

“You'll die in a week without your injections,” he said. “Go on, see if you can hide long enough. You'll come crawling back, then I'll kill you.”

Hannah nodded shakily and approached him. She wanted so badly to kiss him, but couldn't. She turned and fled.

There was a bang as she crossed the threshold, and pain exploded in the side of her head. She kept her mouth shut and kept running, shoving away the realization that Giovanni, the only one she had ever truly cared for, had just tried to kill her when her back was turned.

She ran to the wall-safe of the house before Gio could catch up, and raided it for cash and her papers. She ran away without so much as a glance over her shoulder at her home.

She never said good-bye.


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