Pink Walls

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Day Two [Part I]

“Unfortunately, I do.”

The first thing I did when I managed to get my eyes open was drag myself to my feet and stumble to the digital clock on the door of the fridge. I didn’t care how uneven the floor felt or how fast the world was spinning around me, I needed to get moving.

12:02. I watched the blinking numbers for a whole minute until my mind made sense of them—two minutes after midnight.

Daniel’s knockout drug was a powerful one but I had built up resistance to its kind over the years. Fortunately, he wasn’t the first ‘client’ I had who had drugged me so I was more than ready for the disorientation I was currently experiencing.

The fact that I had been unconscious for almost fourteen hours was more likely due to me being exhausted than anything else.

But without doing a thing, I had made it to Monday.

Damn kid really is a cub. Cunning as hell.

I leaned over the sink and spat out the cookie crumbs that were still on my tongue then rinsed my mouth and face under the running tap, ignoring the smudge of red on the floor of the kitchen and the painful throbbing beneath my skull.

“Just two more days.” I chuckled dryly and pulled the fridge open to get a jug of milk and a pack of frozen peas.

Oddly enough, I felt refreshed, no longer at my limit and struggling to move my body in time with my mind. Everything looked and felt sharper despite my growing headache.

With the contents of half the jug sloshing in my queasy stomach and the peas pressed against the wound on my head, I reached into the bin and pulled out the file.

Dusting the wet dough off the manila, I tossed it to the counter and got a cleaver from the knife block.

Reaching down, I pulled Frank’s knife from my boot and dropped both beside the file before turning to search the drawers for a lighter and the cupboards for alcohol.

If I was lucky, Daniel was still alive and all I had to do was find him. If I wasn’t lucky, I would have a lot of explaining to do.

I could just imagine Ron’s expression when news reached her that I lost the kid.

“You should have read the file, Kay,” she would say, tapping her two-inch nail extensions against each other while thinking of a way to clean up my mess. “I told you so.”

I shook the image out of my head. The last thing I needed to think about were consequences and repercussions. I just needed to survive until Wednesday and everything would set itself aright.

In the cupboards above the sink, I found the mother lode of incendiary mayhem behind three layers of cereal: Everclear.

I grabbed as many bottles as I could without getting dizzy and set them on the counter. I was more than sure that I had a concussion from the fall so I had no time to wonder why there was so much high proof alcohol in a house that had been acquired for someone underage.

I gathered all the kitchen towels and cut them with my knife before dipping them in a pot of cooking oil and leaving them to drip dry.

I glanced at the fridge—12:15—then sucked in a deep breath and made my way up the stairs as quickly and quietly as I could manage.

On the bed in Daniel’s room, I saw the coat Alex had given me and in the pockets, I found the car keys, gloves, cable ties and the set of throwing knives Ron had ‘gifted’ me.

I wore the gloves and stuffed the cable ties into my jeans pocket but left the coat behind, making my way into the bathroom to collect the first aid kit I had looked for after I had taken a shower earlier.

While I hadn’t expected Daniel to drug me, I had known that the kid was up to something—they always were.

This wasn’t the first time someone I was meant to protect had stabbed me in the back, but it was the first time I had been passive and let it happen.

That was a fault on my part. I had truly underestimated the kid and hadn’t kept my guard up at all. It was a rookie mistake, and one I would not make again.

After pouring everything in the kit onto the bathroom floor, I unceremoniously tossed a cap of methylated spirit onto my wound and wrapped a bandage around my head while the sting faded.

I twisted open the cap of an aspirin bottle, swallowed three pills then shoved the bottle into my back pocket.

Before leaving the room I grabbed Alex’s coat then wiped down the blinds and door handles with a towel I had snagged from the bathroom.

Back downstairs, I draped the coat over one of the couches and used the towel to wipe the places I had touched in the kitchen before wrapping it around my neck and taking the gloves off.

I stuffed the oily napkins into the open bottles of Everclear then washed my hands, replaced the gloves and wiped everything down one more time with the towel. Again, I ignored the blood staining the floor and instead went to work positioning the bottles all around the house.

As much as I wished I could use them as Molotov cocktails, the last thing I wanted was to actually burn someone’s house down. They would be useful diversions, deterrence maybe, and if I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to commit my first act of arson.

I grabbed the lighter and shoved it into my pocket then swiped the cleaver from the counter. As much as I wished I didn’t have to use it, I knew I did.

The Carmosinos were a relentless bunch, even if they had seen Daniel leave the house, they would still attack just to make sure that they hadn’t been tricked somehow.

Among the ranks of hunting dogs the Carmosinos had, there was always a competition to kill the mark first. It was rare that they would work together and split the glory evenly, and that fact made me wonder whether the man and the woman from earlier had been together.

It’s possible that they aren’t Carmosinos, I thought just as the doorbell rang.

On my way to the front door, I tossed the towel over Alex’s coat, blinking rapidly to clear my vision and prepare myself for what was about to happen.

I put on the lights on the porch then looked through the peephole to see that it was the man that had been scouting the house that was now standing on the porch.

Just on time. I waited for a moment then hurriedly undid the locks on the door and pulled it open.

I slowly replaced the look of surprise on my face with a welcoming, but confused, smile. “Hello?”

“Yes, hi,” the man greeted and smiled just as sweetly—just as fake. “I’m your neighbor from two houses across,” he pointed somewhere that I didn’t bother looking at, “and I heard some distressing sounds coming from here. Just wanted to check up on you and see how you’re doing.”

“Oh?” I pretended to consider his words then laughed, motioning to my head with all the fingers of my right hand while my left gripped the meat cleaver tightly. “I’m a little clumsy. Sorry for the disturbance.”

My attempt to close the door was foiled by his foot.

“Do you live alone?”

“Yes.” I fought the urge to grit my teeth and flipped the cleaver so that its edge was facing away from the stranger. “Unfortunately, I do.”

“That looks like a pretty bad head wound. I’ve been trained as an EMT. I can check it out for you.”

“No thanks, I’m—” I shut my mouth, cut off by the almost magical appearance of a gun in the man’s hand. I blinked, wondering how I had missed it.

“I insist.” The hitman grinned, and I took a step back, glad for the absence of an inked cross at the back of his right hand.

He wasn’t one of the Carmosinos dogs.

“What do you want?” I let my warm gaze morph into an annoyed glare. “Breaking into my house like this is illegal.”

The man shushed me and motioned for me to move back with a flick of his wrist. “Tell me where the boy is and you won’t get a hole in your lung to match the one on your head.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The man took a step towards me and raised his aim to rest on my chest. “You have one more chance then I’m no longer playing nice.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I repeated calmly and backed away again. Just one more step. Come on.

“You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” the man began, now a couple inches into the house and directly opposite the open door.

There we go. Without a change in my expression, I slammed the blunt edge of the cleaver into his wrist.

The gun clattered to the floor but the noise was drowned out by the howls of pain coming from its owner as he held his hand to his chest.

I slammed him into the wall behind us then kicked the door shut, well aware of the fact that the gun was still within reach.

The hitman threw a punch aimed for the wound on my head but I blocked it with my right arm.

When he scrambled off me to get the gun, I flung the cleaver in his direction and watched the knife sink deep into his back.

I tried not to think about how much damage I was causing when I kicked the hitman in the jaw, throwing him away from the firearm.

While the man rolled on the ground in agony, I picked up the gun and dismantled it, tossing the body and the magazine in opposite directions.

Soon he was on his feet again, the bloodied cleaver now in his hand and a venomous snarl replacing the cool smile that had once been on his lips.

I lunged forward to throw my body over the couch behind me, snagging the towel as the cleaver’s blade sunk into the spot I had just occupied.

The man ripped the knife out of the ruined furniture, glared at me then vaulted over the couch to meet him in the center of the living room.

I raised the towel above my head when the cleaver was swung in my direction, wrapped it tightly around the man’s wrist then twisted. Hard.

The hitman was stubborn but I kept my grip firm as he slowly overpowered me and forced the blade towards my unguarded shoulder.

I jerked my knee into his groin before that could happen then slammed my forehead against his.

The hitman stumbled back and tripped over the coffee table behind him. When he fell, he took me down with him.

I let go of the towel and twisted my body to the right, choosing to fall on the table to avoid impaling myself on the cleaver.

I managed to get to my feet first, and though my vision was still swimming, I knew that I had dealt more damage to the other man—the feeling of his nose getting crushed under the force of my skull had been unmistakable.

While the hitman was rising to his hands and feet, I got the towel and held it in both hands, slipped behind him and twisted it around his neck.

Before he could start swinging the cleaver in my direction, I pulled the two ends in opposite directions then stomped hard on his bleeding back, driving him into the ground.

Without letting off any pressure, I pressed one foot to his wrist and left it there as he struggled and bucked under me.

Knowing that this was the very moment I had been fighting for—and I would end up in an even sorrier state if I didn’t end this now—I didn’t relent.

I strained my biceps and increased the force I applied to the towel until the hitman’s body slacked.

Still weary, I didn’t let go immediately and chose to kick the knife under the couch first.

Hitmen like these were ruthless and cunning, I wouldn’t be surprised if the man had somehow managed to hold his breath during the whole ordeal.

I slid my foot up his back to the back of his head and tied his ankles together with a cable tie.

The instant I loosened my grip on the towel, I fell towards the couch, my chest heaving and my head spinning.

Gathering what remained of my strength, I pulled the last cable tie from my pocket and went to secure the hitman’s hands behind his back.

I held a finger under his nose to check if he was still breathing and was glad to find that he was, however faint the airflow was.

For a moment, I just sat there, my heart racing and blood pounding loudly in my ears while I processed just how much I had enjoyed the thrill of the fight.

My shirt was soaked through with sweat, my gloves had cut in some places and I was sure that I had blood on my forehead, but I was alive—I felt alive—and that was all that mattered.

It was only a second later that I remembered that the man should have been wearing a backpack. And the fact that he wasn’t meant that he and the sniper were together.

I turned my gaze to the front door, a little apprehensive. It was decorative at best, made up more of colored glass than wood. There was also a window looking out into the street, though I couldn’t see out of it because the blinds were still closed.

Depending on where the sniper was, she would be more than capable of shooting into the living room but she would have to do so completely blind.

Unless…

I ducked to the floor as the first of many bullets pierced through the door and embedded itself into the back of the couch.

I barely heard a thing when the next bullet struck the wall in front of me and I doubted my neighbors would either. The house could be pincushioned with slugs all morning and no one would know until the sun rose.

I shifted my gaze to the pockets of the unconscious hitman, ignoring the bullets as they flew all around me. The unexpected barrage only confirmed my theory that the sniper was shooting blind but not carelessly.

After a few seconds of hurried frisking, I finally found what I had been looking for, a barely noticeable bump in the lining of the man’s jacket that I assumed was a transmitter of some sort.

The sniper must have been aiming bullets around the signal it gave off in hopes that she’d get lucky and hit me.

I grabbed the cleaver and smashed it’s handle into the little device as many times as I could. I had neither the time nor know-how to stop its transmission manually.

Without wasting a moment, I sat on the couch and threw all my weight backwards, falling to the ground with it and letting it toppled over me.

A few seconds later, the spot I had been crouched over was bombarded with bullets, and for a moment I wondered whether the hitman was still alive.

That was the least of my worries though. I couldn’t leave the house with a sniper on the loose, and I didn’t have time to hunt her down when other hitmen—and Carmosinos—were still after Daniel.

With a quiet grunt, I threw the couch off me and headed for the kitchen, hoping that the woman would assume her partner had died and come verify his status.

If she didn’t, I would be forced to start a fire large enough to make the authorities show, and use the confusion as a cover to escape.

Either way, I had to be gone in the next thirty minutes.

❄❄❄

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