Day Three [Part VI]
“You look terrible.”
I didn’t look at Daniel.
My gaze was fixed on my hands and fingers; my skin red with blood—my blood, her blood. . . our blood.
The color stained my nails, cuticles and the creases of my palms. There was some on my face, my neck. . . My shirt was probably soaked to but since it was black, I couldn’t see it.
I could feel it though, with every breath I took, glueing the soft cotton to my bruises.
It was stuck to me and I wanted it gone.
I didn’t want any of it on me. I wanted to burn the shirt, the jacket, my jeans and everything in between. I wanted the memory of what happened today to be incinerated then seared out of my mind.
But even if I burned the ashes till they turned to nothing, I wouldn’t be able to change the fact that I still had blood on my hands.
A bullet might have done Amelia in, in the end, but she would have died anyway. Even if I had managed to knock her out, she would have died from blood loss long before she could arrive at the nearest hospital.
The moment we started fighting, it was set in stone that one of us would die, and it wasn’t going to be me. It couldn’t have been me.
You aren’t the reason she died, I tried to tell myself, but the guilt just wouldn’t go away. A part of me just didn’t want to let go.
There was little difference between killing someone and being the direct cause of their death, and the distinction blurred itself too often for me to just put it behind me.
The moment I stopped feeling guilt, was the moment I would have no problem with killing. And I couldn’t let it get to that.
If this ache in my heart was necessary to keep my conscience alive, I was okay living with it for the rest of my life.
I got to my feet, and was immediately reminded of the throbbing pain beneath my temple, the stitch in my side and the cuts on my back. I blinked back the dizziness and scanned the gravel for the car keys.
I couldn’t remember what I had done with them but I knew that they had to be on the ground somewhere.
After some searching, I found them a couple steps away, in front of the tire of the car I had been thrown against, and scooped it from underneath layers of shattered car window.
Then I turned to Daniel, or at least where I knew Daniel would be.
He was in the middle of a six man formation, safe and out of sight.
The men were in the same blue and white uniform worn by most of the hotel staff but with the addition of assault rifles strapped across their chests.
Their serious gazes comforted me in a way. Immediately, I was sure that they were the type to do their all for a job and I knew that Daniel had been well taken care of in my absence.
The moment I walked to the car and unlocked it, the security detail shuffled forward with him in tow, barely any gaps between their bodies.
I glanced behind me, in direction south of the hotel, my body screaming in pain and my mind blissfully numb.
I wasn’t going to give that sniper the chance to kill Daniel.
I held open the passenger-side door and one of the men broke formation to stand beside me, shielding Daniel completely as he got into the car.
I shut the door and nodded at him in gratitude.
When I took a step back, he took my place and blocked the window. Another man stepped forward to hand me the change of clothes I had requested.
“And the property from your room,” he added and dropped a small paper bag into my hand.
I didn’t remember leaving anything behind but I accepted it without another word. I didn’t want to be here a second longer. The two things I hated were standing out in the open and being in the mercy of someone else, and I was both at the moment.
I walked past the men and got into the car, sitting straight in the driver’s seat and overly conscious of how much blood I had on me.
I stared at my hands then resisted the urge to wipe them on my already stained jeans.
I tossed the clothes to the backseat and turned to Daniel. He had his duffel bag clutched tightly to his chest and looked a little pale. “Put on your seatbelt.”
He did so without making a fuss.
“Gloves.” I stared at the moon that had appeared in the sky. It was nothing but a hazy silhouette outshone by the setting sun.
“Get me gloves from the glove compartment.”
Daniel stared at me for a moment, his mouth open like he was going to say something, but he thought better of it and did what I said.
He tossed me the gloves but also pulled out his file.
I didn’t comment on it and silently put on the gloves. They were white and got stained the moment they touched my skin but I had already ruined Alex’s coat, I wasn’t going to make him throw his car away too.
I shut the door, started the car and backed out of the parking space, slowly, so that the men could continue to provide cover for Daniel’s half of the car and keep the sniper’s view obstructed.
“So,” Daniel began to say as we drove through the hotel’s gates, leaving the its staff behind us to lock it back up. “That woman, she. . .”
“Get down.” I reached over, grabbed him by the neck and held him down.
Just as I began to accelerate, the windscreen splintered with a sharp crack.
I let go of Daniel and floored the gas until I could almost hear the engine begin to protest.
I only took my foot off the accelerator when I could no longer see the hotel in the rear view mirror.
My pulse was a steady string of beats in my ears, echoing the thumping of my heart behind my rib cage.
That had been a close one.
Daniel sat up, his eyes widening when his gaze fell on the bullet trapped in the car’s windscreen. It would have pierced through his headrest if the glass hadn’t been bulletproof.
All of Alex’s cars were armored but I wasn’t about to take chances with the Carmosinos after what had happened with Amelia.
If someone had been left behind to kill Daniel, they were certainly going to do it. I didn’t just survive the fight of my life to leave the success of my mission in the hands of a sniper who may or may not have forgotten their armor-piercing ammunition at home.
“This is crazy,” Daniel whispered, his fingers digging into his file. “They really want me dead.”
I bit back a sigh.
I wanted nothing more than to rest my head on the steering wheel, shut my eyes and take a break, but there was no time for that. The closer it got to Wednesday, the more people would try to prove their mettle by killing Daniel when no one else gad manage to.
Up until the very last moment when I handed him over to his family, I had to be vigilant. The Carmosinos wanted revenge for something he didn’t do and the hitmen his brothers hired wanted something he didn’t have.
He could die by the hand of any of them and that made the city all the more dangerous for him.
“Did. . .you have fun?” I asked, my heart rate steady again. I was tired, annoyed and fed up of being hunted down, but Daniel had to have been feeling worse. He was just nineteen but so many people wanted him dead as a consequence of him being forced on a throne he didn’t want.
I had been ‘just nineteen’ once, so I wasn’t going to blame him for tangling with Alphaz and being the catalyst for a war no one could afford to have when I hadn’t done much better for myself when I had been his age.
“Yeah.” He reached into a pocket on his bag and tossed some cash on the dashboard. Hundreds.
I looked away from the bills, willing my thoughts to not go back to Amelia. “So much money,” I said instead.
“I was lucky today.” He shrugged and started playing with his fingers.
“Heard you ran into some hitmen on your way out.”
“Nothing the security detail couldn’t handle.” He clasped his hands. “Look. You. . .”
“I’m your bodyguard. It’s my job.”
“What happened to her? That woman.”
I loosened my grip on the steering. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. “She died.”
“Oh,” he said, still not looking at me.
I guess there must have been something in my voice that made him know that the topic was a touchy one. He dropped it and asked, “Where are we going now?”
“We can’t go to another hotel. There are probably snipers waiting for us at each one.” I stared at the hints of red staining my gloves. I had five knives remaining and suddenly that didn’t seem enough anymore.
I cleared my throat, and decided that it would be best if I moved on to something less morbid, for the both of us. “Your other apartment and where you work. Which is closer?”
He thought for a while then told me the addresses.
I nodded, visualizing the map of the city in my mind. We were getting closer and closer to home, and I didn’t like it.
“We’ll go to your apartment then,” I told him.
I tried not to think about the fact that it was just twenty minutes away from the alley where Frank and I lived. . .and eighteen from Olly’s apartment.
I tried not to think about anything at all and just focused on getting us there alive.