Pink Walls

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Day Three [Part V]

“We can still walk away.”

One of us was going to die. That was how this was going to go down, I was more than sure of it now.

It wasn’t going to be me.

I couldn’t let it be me.

I sat up and spat out the blood that had pooled in my mouth from the little scrapes my teeth had scratched into the lining of my cheeks when Amelia had punched me.

I laughed, wiping the dribble off my lips with the back of my hand. “You really are a masochist.”

She shrugged, good-naturedly at that. “You put up a good fight,” she said. “If I didn’t need to kill you, I might have thought about recruiting you.”

“Me?” I got to my feet again and held up my arms, no matter how much it hurt to keep fighting. “I’m too old for that, aren’t I?”

“I could pull some strings.”

“You?” I raised an eyebrow, ignoring the pain that flared at that side of my head when I did. “Aren’t you rouge?”

“I really hate that word: rouge.” Amelia barred her teeth. “I won’t be if I bring you back as a gift.”

“Thanks for the offer.”

“Will you take it?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll just have to carry your corpse up the mountain to your lover’s doorstep.”

I was barely able to dodge her next attack. Her calf landed on the car behind me, and its hood caved in from the force.

I grabbed her by the boot, intending to throw her to ground again, but she kicked with her other leg. When I freed one hand to block it, she struck my face with her good hand. The target has been my jaw but I turned in time and it only glanced the side of my face.

We stumbled away from the car together, her legs tightening around my neck. When she locked her ankles, I knew that I was in trouble.

If I had had any doubts before, I was sure now. She was trying to knock me out cold.

I pulled her up by the collar of her uniform before she could throw me down.

She snarled and tried to punch me. I grabbed her fist with my other hand and fell to the ground on top of her.

The throw knocked the air out of her and her grip on my neck loosened.

I used the opportunity to roll away.

We both got to our feet again and were trading blows again soon after.

I had the upper hand because she had one fist out of commission, but that didn’t stop her from finding an opening to bury a punch into my solar plexus.

When I doubled over, she grabbed me by the hair, and immediately I knew what was going to be next.

I didn’t wait for her to get revenge for slamming her face into my knee. I turned, feeling some of my hair come loose in her tight grip, and threw my elbow into the side of her face.

Before she could let go of me, I grabbed her hand and pulled us both to the ground. The moment I landed on top of her, my hands went around her neck. She glared at me then slammed her knee into my back hard enough for me to her a crack.

The sudden pain layered over everything I already felt made me loosen my grip.

Amelia smacked me away the moment she felt it then grabbed the front of my shirt.

Before she could slam her head against mine, I kicked her off me.

She groaned and landed a couple paces ahead of me.

For a moment, we were lying on the ground, more hurt than not.

I laughed, all the new scrapes and bruises covering my skin throbbing with pain like they were begging for attention. I had glass in my hair and down my shirt, and hopefully a not-broken rib.

Amelia laughed too, her thoughts probably echoing mine. I had dealt more long-lasting damage in this fight than she had but she probably knew that I was still hesitating.

A well-placed knife could have ended this all a long time ago.

At the thought, my fingers inched towards my belt, but I caught myself and pulled back.

It was just a few hours till Wednesday. The sun was just about to set on today. Was killing someone now worth the guilt I would have to shoulder for the rest of my life?

It probably wasn’t.

“We can still walk away,” I told her, propping myself up on my elbows. At this point, the gravel piercing into my skin felt like cotton in comparison to all the other pain I was dealing with. “Forget that all this happened.”

“You know that’s a lie.”

Yeah, I know.

We went at each other again but with much less gusto than in the beginning. For a long while, it was a punch for a kick, a jab for a hook, a block for a block—no exceptions.

We were locked in a stalemate, just dealing damage without being able to pin the other person down and end them. And all I could focus on was not letting Amelia knock me out while I waited for her to pass out from blood loss.

Then it happened.

She slipped up and somehow I got her in a sleeper hold.

My vision seemed clearer in that instant. I no longer saw double.

This was the moment I had been praying for and I wasn’t about to let it slip through my fingers.

I maintained the choke hold, despite Amelia’s frenzied struggles and the slippery blood that coated my fingers.

When she went from throwing her head back and stomping on my toes, to scratching and pulling at my arm, I knew that she was tittering right along the edge of consciousness.

Just a little more. . . I brought us both down to our knees, more exhausted than anything.

Just as her hands fell to her sides, I heard a gunshot. A sound so clear that I could have sworn that the shooter was right in front of me.

Amelia slumped in my hold, her head thrown back by the force of the bullet as it pierced through her forehead.

Instinctively, I let the momentum carry me along with her, and fell to my back. I didn’t feel the impact when I hit the ground, my mind still reeling from what had just happened.

I was covered in her blood. It was all over my face. Some might have even gotten into my mouth but I couldn’t tell.

I couldn’t focus on anything but the now dead woman on top of me. I wanted nothing more than to get away from her. I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that my arms hadn’t been around her neck when we fell.

I wanted to pretend that the reason she wasn’t resisting was because she was just unconscious.

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t because there was still a goddamned sniper out there somewhere and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t Alex.

As it was now, Amelia’s body was my shield. The shot had come from the south, probably from the top of a building just near enough but still too far away to identify by sight, so there was no way the shooter could have a clear shot of me right now.

Obviously, I hadn’t been their target. I would have been dead already if that was the case, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

I knew that I would be gunned down before getting to cover, so I just stayed still, played dead and waited, and waited. . .and waited.

...and waited until I heard footsteps rush towards me.

When I opened my eyes, I found the receptionist crouched beside my head.

“Hello Sir,” he said in greeting, not at all surprised by my bloodied state. “I see that your date didn’t go exactly as planned.”

I stayed silent. I didn’t have the energy to entertain anybody. I didn’t even have the strength to process how I was feeling.

“Just now the Carmosinos sent a message meant for your ears only,” he said after a moment. “They’re asking you not to take the attempt on your life to heart. They know how important you are to the Cisco family and wouldn’t dare offend you in any way. They wanted me to tell you that Amelia was clearly a rogue, they had no idea that she here or that she would try to kill you. They handled the situation as soon as they were made aware and hope you find their methods satisfactory. In your name, they have paid for all the entertainment packages available this month, and wish you a pleasant and undisturbed stay at Hotel Dei Lupi.”

He sucked in a deep breath and added, “They send their regards to Ron Cisco and are willing to put the other matter behind them if what happened today isn’t reported to The Council.”

It took me a full minute to process that. The words seemed to float all around me and I was too tired to catch them. I got the gist of it though.

The Carmosinos had had a sniper watching the hotel, and ordered them to kill Amelia once they saw that she lost the upper hand. They wouldn’t be able to accept it if word got out that one of their invincible killers was beaten, and by me of all people.

If she had won that fight, I would have died. And if for some reason she spared me, I would have been the one with the bullet in my brain.

“Get her off me.” I loosened my hold on Amelia, numb everywhere but where it mattered.

I felt sick.

“Of course.” The receptionist grinned and snapped his fingers.

Two men wearing nylon aprons and latex gloves grabbed Amelia by her arms and lifted her away.

Slowly, I sat up, not able to take my eyes off her as she was zipped into a body bag and carried her away.

I couldn’t believe that she was dead just like that. I couldn’t believe that things ended like this. Even if she had tried to kill me, she didn’t deserve to die so... cruelly, just because she failed her mission.

I rested my elbows on my knees and laughed quietly to myself. How was I even going to survive these three months? How many close calls would there be till then? When would the Carmosinos stop caring about how much Ron valued me and decide to kill me just to spite her? How long did I have before I needed to kill somebody to not die? How many times will I be lucky and have someone else do it for me?

“Sir?”

I closed my eyes. They hurt, just like everything else. “How is he?”

“Alive and unscathed.”

“Any problems?”

“Hitmen. But they were dispatched just as quickly,” the man said. “We got him to your room safe and sound.”

“Get him down here in a security detail,” I said. “We’re leaving.”

“Right away, Sir? You’re covered in—”

My glare was enough to shut him up.

“Of course, Sir.” He smiled. “Anything else?”

“A change of clothes,” I said, looking down at my blood stained shirt and jeans. “And I want our prints cleaned. Especially the kid’s.”

“Of course.” He nodded and straightened up. “It shall be done.”

When he left, I laid back down on the gravel and watched the pinks and oranges of the setting sky. The sound of the hotel’s cleaners spraying down the gravel around me nothing but background noise.

I rested my hand on my forehead and just stared. At the dimming sun, at the clouds, at the beginnings of the night’s constellations. . .at everything.

I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I survived.

I survived.

Amelia didn’t.

My eyes burned, but I didn’t let a single tear fall.

❄❄❄

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