marianXedixMature

the adventures of the 'assassin-for-hire' Neufendelle brothers

                “MARIAN!”

                He was screaming at me again. I cringed, dangling by my shoelaces from the rafters, a length of steel piping in my right hand and an ancient revolver in my left. My brother came storming in from the doorway, grinding the ever-present cigarette between his molars and shoving his glasses up the bridge of his nose. A dim lantern flame glinted from his slicked-back tresses, then again from the shine of his boots. There was a loud, clattery-creaking, all to the result of his weight, squealing as he practically stumbled down the steps in the sinister wavering of my basement lights. I glanced about, at the glass bottles stacked beneath me and the demolished target I’d set up against the soundproofed walls. Though as it seemed, not soundproof enough.

                “You ungrateful little shit, what the fuck are you doing up?”

                “Is that meant to be taken literally?” I grinned, sarcasm riddling through my face. “But anyway, I’m up here…because I’m thinking…that this is much better training than the boring crap you tend to do!”

                An angry growl erupted from his chest and out of freaking nowhere comes his over-shined, glossy-black Desert Eagle, pointing it smack towards my face, his teeth grit together in some kind of shit-crazy smirk…grin…almost-roaring display. I could feel my expression dropping in the slightest, but tried not to let him see it, a bratty smile glued to my face. But then again, it must’ve just pissed him off more—I wasn’t sure I thought that it wouldn’t—because the next thing I knew, he’d re-aimed and fired. My face hit the floor, my body breaking over the glass bottles and crashing down across the rotting wooden bench, snapping it instantly. My hands set to flame with an almost unbearable stinging, the glass cutting into my palms and forearms.

                “You fucking bitch!” I screamed at him, forcing myself up onto my feet, blood trickling slowly down past my eyes and down my cheeks, a small glistening coat of it already on the floor. “I’m gonna shoot your ass to…” But I grit my teeth as he re-loaded his little baby, his eyes narrowed, cigarette ground to little, bitty pieces, limply hanging from his mouth. He spit it onto the stairs.

                “Come upstairs. Now.”

                Reluctantly, I did as I was told, my now-useless arms hanging at my sides as I tried to tough my way past the pain. In my mind, I was wondering what the fuck was wrong with him, and why he had to send me crashing, but I wasn’t really all that surprised he snapped. After all, I’d insulted his hissy little training method.

                He poked me in the back with the barrel of his psychotic handgun and led me up into the hallway of our overly spacious five-bedroom. My eyes were panning for the slightest glimpse of Sydney, but sadly, no such liberation would come to me that evening.

                “I gag to think you’re a Neufendelle, sometimes, you little punk.”

                My feet were stumbling their way towards the bathroom, I realized, and he spun me into it with an excessively fierce hand, shoving me with an open palm so I went sprawling on the floor, streaking the silver tiles with red. He strode in, almost nonchalant, and shut the door behind us.

                “I retch to think you’re my brother,” I glared. He knew I didn’t mean it, but saying it made me feel better.

                “So casually, you say that.”

                “So casually, you shoot me the fuck into a pile of broken glass. I would’ve gotten down if you’d just fucking asked.”

                “Stop saying fuck, you little fuck,” my brother hissed at me, ripping open one of the cabinets and pulling out a roll of gauze and a bottle of hell-knows-what. In that moment, my insides were screaming desperately for Sydney. “Now hold still, or you’ll bleed to death.”

                “Now I wonder whose fault that was.”

                “Shut up. Now. Or I’ll fucking shoot your brains out your shitty little head.”

                “Someone’s angry. Shouldn’t I be angry?” In truth, I wasn’t. And I wouldn’t have been. I was now being injured on a weekly basis, all thanks to my one-and-only sadist of an older brother.

                But he was busy; slathering a stinging concoction over my arms and up across my forehead, then wrapping them tight, all without meeting my eyes. Once again, thankfully, my bones all felt intact, and it was but my skin and muscle, and a bit of pride, that had been torn open.

                “Damn, I fucking hate you,” I sniffled at him mockingly, pretending to wipe at phantom tears and poking his knees with my toes. “You should fall off the Earth and fucking die, you fucking cunt.” But I couldn’t help but to start grinning my own, sadistic little smile. “Bitch.” His eyes remained placid, his glasses sliding slowly down his nose. “Whore.” He sat on his knees, his elbows perched atop them, and his head hanging to the level of his shoulders. “Sadist.” I leaned forward and pulled out the pack of cigarettes from his pocket, struck it against my thigh and pulled out the familiar, rust-and-eggshell cylinder. “Addict.” My sore fingers shoved it into his then-open mouth, and his lips closed around it as I pulled the gun from a limp hand, sticking cold metal to the base of his jaw. “Motherfucking murderer.” Still pointed for the sky, I pulled back and squeezed the trigger, igniting the tip of his addiction. “Or should I say—brother-fucking?”

                “Shut the fuck up.”

                “Oh, come now, Edix, can’t I have a little fun?”

                He blew smoke in my face, and then seized back his handgun, shoving it down the back of his pants, and then taking me by the back of the neck. Before I could insult him some more, he knocked our foreheads together, and my mouth opened, inhaling that oh-so familiar scent of cigarette smoke and gel and steel and oil, but altogether…it was just the heady aroma that was Edix. His tongue ran past my teeth and I shuddered as he cackled menacingly, pushing his hips, crushingly, into mine before standing and walking out the door like nothing happened.

                “Be up at seven, we got a job.”

                Glancing at my watch, I sighed and pulled myself to my feet. It was four thirty.

 

 

                “You up yet?” Edix was growling at me, sitting at the foot of my bed with yet another cig in his mouth, playing almost obsessively with a butterfly knife, a near-murderous look in his eyes.

                I rolled onto my stomach and stared up at my alarm clock with stinging, hurting, deadly shit-tired eyes, and then rolled back into my sleeping position. A rumble came from deep in Edix’s throat, and he was suddenly standing over me, a foot to either side of my hips.

                “Do I have to stick something up your fucking ass to get you to wake the fuck up?”

                “I have another five fucking minutes, asshole,” I informed him, pointing a scabbing finger towards the clock. But I was sure that all he was seeing was me flipping him off.

                Suddenly, my blanket had been ripped off of me, and he threw open the window that hovered just above my headboard, and then sat his bony butt down on my stomach. Then out of absolutely nowhere, he had his tongue pressed onto my bare chest, and the smell of smoke and spit and newly-showered-and-gelled Edix was enough to send me into a fit of coughing, his cig hovering right over my face as he continued to bathe me in sticky mouth-fluid. I groaned and began to push him off, pulling myself along the bed sheets towards the shower, now desperately wanting to drift into the steam….

                “You up yet?” came Edix’s momentarily low, husky voice, his calloused trigger-finger popping its way down below the hem of my jeans.

                To my horror, I realized I’d slept in my jeans. And then as I looked down…I saw scarlet-brown among the white. Fuck it all, I had to do laundry. Now upset, and disgruntled by the inhuman amount of spit on my chest, I lifted myself up from beneath my almost-rapist brother and slammed open the door to the shower.

                “No time for that,” Edix was saying, leaning on the doorframe and pulling the Desert Eagle from his ass crack. Or well, the general area thereof. “Just put some clothes on.”

                “No!” I pouted, and I stripped stark naked, save for the soaked bandages around my forearms. Flying the tap wide open, I turned to face him with my ruined hands on my hips. “I’m going to clean up, because I’m not walking around in public looking like fucking Bloody Mary.”

                “Bloody Marian,” Edix corrected for me, shutting the door behind him and sauntering over, continuing to ‘wash’ me with some sort of horny abandon.

                I waited for the steam to rise from the curtains and cloud the mirror before pushing the man away, climbing through to my blessed shower and undoing the bandages. Edix poked his head in to observe the reddish slop go down the drain.

                “Almost looks like you got your period,” he grunted, and then withdrew.

                “You just get so fucking horny seeing me like this, don’t you?”

                The trademark Edix snicker wafted up and over the curtain rod, and he was suddenly groping me through the curtain. I sniffed, and swatted his hand away before soaping myself down at lightning speed, and shuffled the suds through my hair. Edix was clicking something against the countertops. Something metallic. I wondered if he’d shank me on the way out of the shower. I rinsed myself off and exited with increased caution.

                But of course, instead of a shank, I got a fondle, and he was hissing fuck at me when I slammed him in the nads so I could get some clothes on. That was generally how I had to do things in the morning, and at that rate, the prick was going to either be severely mutilated and not have any children—of which I wasn’t counting on anyway—or evolve into having steel testicles. It was a toss-up, in my opinion.

                “Where we going today?”

                “Park,” he reported, lighting up and clicking the toe of his boot against my carpet. “We got some rich bitch to stalk. Got a brat. Going for the husband first and foremost…but we’re supposed to take them all, regardless. Some executive asshole sent the message straight to Sydney…must be desperate to give us his contact.”

                “Or he’s out to kill a lot more of them mo-fucking con artists,” I chuckled, pulling a belt off the door handle and cracking it playfully against one of the frames to my closet door.

                Edix didn’t say anything more, his eyes fixated on me.

                I had soon shrugged my way into a tight long-sleeve and a pair of my usual, leg-hugging jeans. They were generally the most practical thing I could have, considering the business I was in, baggy slacks were bound to get caught on a tree branch somewhere, and I’d be screaming for my pissy big brother to shoot me down again. It had happened numerous times in the past. Edix just stood there watching me. He was, again, dressed in tight clothes, but lighter in shade, as not to seem conspicuous. We had long since learned not to dress like Goths and emos--or sadists--despite the fact that we generally fit the bill to a ‘T’.

                With a wispy movement, my brother was suddenly at the door, pulling it open and grasping my wrist, pulling me down the hall towards the room that was kept locked in case of emergency. Though that hardly made sense, for in emergency, it would’ve been best to be kept open.

                He pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked it with a long-learned expertise, opening the door with the same turn. For once, asshole-ish-ness didn’t seem to be on his list of things to-do for that morning, so he was in and out of our storage with record speed, pushing me onto the stairs so I sat awkwardly, sprawled backwards. He bent over me and attached a knife here and a round there, a receiver to my ear and a transmitter to my collarbone, held in place with an inconspicuous little waterproof band-aid. He hovered over me a bit longer, his nose scrunched, and then he smacked me flat in the stomach. My teeth clenched and became visible, and with a strong thumb he pried my mouth open, vacuum-sealing his to mine and sucking all the air out from my lungs. He pulled away and grinned a wicked grin before groping me again, spinning, and sauntering away with that usual, bad-boy stride. To the work car it was. I composed myself, straightened by shirt, and followed after him.

 

 

                God fucking damn, I like ice cream.

                The kind on a stick. Comes in individual packages, sell them at convenience stores.

                I’d bitched at Edix enough on the way down that he even stopped to buy me one…or twenty. I supposed that he was finally taking some of the medication that Sydney had subscribed, picked up, sorted out, and forced onto him. Or then again, maybe he was trying to buy his way into my bed again that night, he was as of yet quite far away from it, considering the stunt he’d pulled the night before. Those sorts of wounds were a bitch to heal, and I kept reminding him that I wasn’t ever in the mood to look like some whipped-up slave boy getting prodded in the ass.

                But in any case, I had to work my way around my ice cream bar and soak in my surroundings. We’d been standing—or well, at least I had, since he’d taken his seat on the other side of the playground—for at best a few hours. I checked my watch. Twelve-oh-three, and my legs were beginning to cramp up. At least my bag doubled for a cooler, I’d brought along a whole box of ice cream, and had it been any hotter, I was damn well sure they’d all melt and I’d just be in a bitchier mood than I already was. I contemplated Edix’s aforementioned comment about my period.

                 I glanced back to see him sitting at a bench, facing away from me, flanking a sidewalk that was flanking an in-park byway. It was a bit like that park from New York, I noted, with a shitload of roads criss-crossing their way through the fields and playgrounds and hobo breeding grounds. I licked my ice cream.

                As always, my brother toted a suitcase, his normal glasses swapped out for tinted ones, more appropriate to mid-day stalking sessions. My eyes lingered once again. Since starting in this business, my detail perception had grown oddly keen. There was a high brick-and-wrought-iron wall to fence in the park, bordering a four-lane street, and just before me a busy traffic light, though accommodating only three directions, given the fact that—duh—there was a wall. Low rhododendrons lined a flagstone path, where black-sprayed aluminum light posts sprouted up sporadically like trees. I stood north-east of a white, marble-coated fountain, whose basin was decorated grossly with disturbing mermaid-cherub creature things and sprouted beams of water from some arrow-toting man’s fingers and, god forbid, his nipples. I had no fucking idea what the sculptor was thinking. Men do not lactate, I swear on my grave. Green benches and trash bins and recycling receptacles, all made with recycled materials, as said by the little signs some delusional freedom-loving ‘save-the-fucking-world-by-putting-your-bottle-in-THIS-one’ asshole had staked into the ground. Then it was just the grass and trees; red-blossomed dogwoods, and magnolias, and poplars, and wispy, weeping cherries. Then there were the broad yellow-leaved ones that I couldn’t name, given that I’m not a fucking biologist and you’re delusional if you thought that I was.

                A lick for the ice cream stick.

                Behind me, a shitload of kids were screaming and laughing. It was your normal, everyday mid-city playground. It was a two-tier duo-level thing probably made out of dyed water bottles, sitting on some crap-tastic, dirty-looking mattress of recycled tires. There were monkey bars and little tunnels, a set of swings and one of those dangerous, kid-killing merry-go-rounds beside a sandbox. Fucking hell knew what sort of diseases were lurking around in there…it was probably a treasure trove of cat shit. Nine kids, I observed. Six parents. Two dog-toting joggers who were intent on running in circles. At that moment, eight passers-by. Nine cars at the small, in-park stop, one motorcycle. And finally, one, somber-looking smoker sitting with a gun down his pants, hoping to hurry up and kill one of those peaceful park-goers and her spawn. What a damper. In my mind, I was snapping my finger and sighing, ‘shucks’.

                Marian.”

                His voice was soft, humming out from the receptor he’d earlier crammed in my ear and activated once setting foot in the park. My eyes travelled to our car, parked far off at the park’s parking lot. It was actually quite irritating, to think to park in a park parking lot. Made my brain boil.

                I sucked a bit on the ice cream again before casually putting my index finger to my ear. I’d long since put some ear-buds into place, hooked up to some nonexistent MP3 player, when in truth, I’d had absolutely no boredom relief besides my outwardly dull surroundings, the sound of Edix’s constant blowing of smoke in my ear, and my overly delectable ice cream for the past several hours.

                Targets confirmed.” He blew smoke. “They’re positioned South-East of your position.”

                I peered over to see a brunette. She was a far cry from a supermodel, and it was actually quite unnerving.

                “You’d think that such a rich man would have a fox for a wife, but no, look at that worn-down little whore. Almost a pity.” I paused and then returned my back to the tree. I’d already noticed everything about the woman previous to my brother’s little pointing her out. “Little blond one is the daughter.”

                “You’re sharp,” Edix commented roughly. He wasn’t good at giving compliments, but again, he was most likely bulldozing his way into a fuck fest that evening. “Find out anything else?”

                “Talking to some other old woman who says the daughter, Felicia, looks like her dear old pappy. And the target’s name is Emilia…the extra, I heard the target call her ‘Wy’, probably Wynona.”

                Edix was blowing air from his nose, given the ferocity that I was hearing. He spoke a few moments later, “Good thing you didn’t die last night, ‘Ian.”

                “Tell me about it,” I snickered, my eyes going skyward, wondering what I’d ever do without that delusional man by my side. Life would surely be much too easy then. By default, I’d die of boredom. “So I’m suspecting the little girl is supposed to be a target as well.”

                “Fuck… yes. I told you that.”

                “Okay, okay, don’t get your fucking panties in a knot.” Sometimes, he was just being pushy about the whole thing.

                A breeze decided to blow in at this point, and it rustled against Edix’s microphone before it ever hit me. It was a bit deluding to sit around with those microphones. Just a bit. But it was here that I heard the now-familiar voice of Emilia, our unattractive target, speaking to her buddy about how she was going to one of the corner shops to pick up a few things before going back to the car—they’d parked a few blocks down to get some exercise. And good old husband was meeting them there. I could’ve laughed aloud at how fucking stupid she was to straight-up tell me where she was going. I whispered what I’d heard to Edix, and then finished my ice cream with a final suck. I opened my bag to retrieve another when…god damn, I’d eaten the last one. Gritting my teeth, I allowed for my bottom lip to jut out in a very uncharacteristic pout.

                I’m going to tail them,” Edix stated. “Meet me there.”

                “You’re tailing them?” I gawked.

                Would you rather we lost them?” He growled, unpleased, into the microphone.

                “No…I was just…ugh! Why do you always get to fucking do it?”

                I’m fucking older,” he stated simply, and he began to stand up from his bench, stomping out his latest cig and stretching. “Deal with it.”

                “Fine, whatever,” I pouted grouchily, walking out towards the opening in the park-bordering wall, tossing the ice cream stick into a trash receptacle. “Cunt-faced bitch.”

                Ungrateful fucktard.”

                “I hate you.”

                Just shut the fuck up and leave.

                “Stay out of my room then, I swear I’m sleeping with a fucking gun tonight.”

                Edix went cold. I could feel his eyes watching me as I left, and didn’t bother to turn back.

 

 

                And then, I was still made to stand out in the blazing hot sun.

                The place was just a dinky little convenient store on the corner of King and twelfth, without even a gas station to make it useful. Edix was nowhere in sight, and neither were the goddamned targets. Five minutes turned into ten, and then twenty, and before I knew it, it was bordering on the hour. I’d long since wished that I’d slipped into the place to buy myself another ice cream bar, but of course, my brother would probably have a bitch fit if I missed them in the process. Obediently, I leaned against a wall to the side, out of view if they were to spontaneously show up, see me, and then wonder why the hell I was following them. Very subtle. My face tended to be recognizable. It’d probably be the death of me, I would remind myself constantly.

                I was just about to ramble on to myself about my surroundings again when the sound of footsteps alerted me to someone’s presence. Casually, I glanced around the corner towards the park. Sure enough, Emilia was coming up the walk with her fingers being grasped by the tiny thing, completely absorbed in the little freeloader.

                Remaining unnoticed, my eyes followed them through the automatic doors of the convenience store. My fingers trailed the wall as I turned the corner, my eyes glued to their backs as they headed for the snack aisle, the foremost aisle to the store. The place was typical, with soda machines to the left, and freezers lining opposite walls. My Converse had magically willed themselves to the door, and I was glancing in for them, lingering at the door without the motive to go in. Again, very fucking subtle. By the end of the day, I was wondering what had been wrong with me.

                “Prick. Move,” Edix growled, thwacking me in the chest open-handed, his cigarette falling away from my shirt as he entered.

                WHEN?” I hissed after him, trying to keep conscious of the fact that the targets were in earshot.

                His glasses flashed back towards me, and he touched his fingers to his collarbone as he slowly receded into the store, saying, “be patient”, and then rustling the fabric against the mic to piss me off. “Come in before they see you.

                I obeyed immediately, and strode straight for the freezers. Fiercely—though quietly—I pulled open the door, and swiping several ice cream bars up off the shelf, turned back to the front of the store. Wrinkling my nose, I pretended to be grossly interested in the toiletries while they fawned over the candy bars. Edix was calm as ever, flipping through the headlines of some local newspaper and shifting purposelessly through the magazines.

                Finally, to my deliverance, our unpleasantly stalked females were advancing towards the checkout counter. I wrapped up my toothpaste-viewing, and unceremoniously made my way into the line behind them. Somehow or another, Edix had disappeared, and my brow hardened slightly, feeling the wrinkles across my forehead. But I only allowed it for a short moment, remembering our always-key word: Discreet. I had to be completely and utterly unassuming…

                “Will this be all for you, ma’am?” the register was asking, pulling the goods over the counter to scan them.

                I leaned quietly against the empty space beside them, staring off for the clock above the door, decorated with beer bottles. How family-oriented.

                I felt someone’s eyes on me.

                Softening my features, I looked down at little Felicia, her hand still interlocked with her mother’s. Cheeks reddening, she smiled a little bit, and I returned the gesture. Gratefully, I could be good with children, given that I wanted to be. I dealt quite often with a screaming, tantrum-riddled Edix, after all.

                The parasite actually didn’t seem that bad, given that her mother was practically a hag. Slap on another ten years, and she actually might’ve been a little hot. According to the file, she was only about seven…it was still a long way until she’d start growing any womanlier, but given, my as-of-yet nonexistent pedophile urges were tingling. Blue-eyed and almost unhealthily white, she gave me an innocent eye-batter. She smiled again, and I did her the pleasure of lifting my hand for a modest greeting. Her mother didn’t notice.

                “Thank you for your business, ma’am,” spoke the clerk, and she slid across their change, watching as Emilia threaded her arm through the bag handles.

                The pair of them made for the door, and swiftly, I leaned over the counter and scanned my items into the bar-reader. The clerk looked at me in shock. I glanced at her nametag.

                “Thank you, Layla,” I grinned one to her, watching as she turned a bright shade of red. I slapped a twenty on the counter, “keep the change, mm’kay?” Using my forearm, I slid the bars off the counter and into waiting bag before spinning on my heels and striding off for the door. Layla was left staring dumbly after me.

                Fuck me, I’d lost them. I darted for the corner and glanced for every direction…but they were gone. Despite my speedy checkout…I’d still lost them. Edix was nowhere in sight either, to my remote horror, and I scratched irritably at my chest. The whole motion was compulsive, and it spread quickly to my face. Anxious, my mind flew down for my toes and I set off in what I felt to be the best direction.

                Meekly, I put my finger to my collarbone, “Edix?”

                “What?” He asked me, surprisingly relaxed, and I almost drew back as he continued. “I have them, don’t blow a fucking gasket.”

                “I wasn’t!” I gawked, and I paused. “You got a location?”

                “Of course,” my brother was articulating. “And good ol’ daddy is with them now.” He paused, and I knew immediately the evil fucking look he was giving. “Almost too easy.”

 

 

                There were times that I really, really didn’t understand Edix’s motive behind the way he carried out missions. Seriously. By the time we’d gotten to the house, we’d learned practically nothing about them; their address had been given to us in the request details, right along with their names, pictures, and descriptions. I wondered if he was just trying to scare them or something, attempting to be seen, or some shit like that. There was seriously no point of having got up at seven in the morning to be standing around staring at them until the sun was practically turning in for the day.

                Given, I had ended up in my now-usual mission base: a tree. I’d climbed so many god-fucking trees in the past few years that it wasn’t even funny anymore. Somehow or another, missions were intent to push me into some form of vegetation, up a tree or through some sort of shrubbery, just waiting outside as backup while Edix did his own thing elsewhere.

                At least this time, I had a perch with a view. The kid had left her drapes open, sitting—quite dumbly—in plain view, newly dressed in some frilly rich-family lightly colored outfit. I scowled, leaning back for the tree trunk and rubbing my bruises from the night before. I urged myself to stay awake, I wasn’t getting too much of a thrill just watching as she scribbled away into what looked to be a sketchbook. Edix, on the other hand, was off doing something I would of course expect to be much more entertaining. When it came down to the final part of any mission, he was usually the one who staged it, and at that moment, I expected that he was just setting up for then.

                Emilia had chosen this moment to open the door to her daughter’s room, and she was saying something. The kid nodded, with a stomach-churning enthusiasm, and then hopped off the bed for her mother. With her hand at the switch, the room went dark and thusly, so did my small form of entertainment.

                “Edix…where are you?” a whisper from my lips.

                There was no reply. I scowled once more, feeling the contraction of my cheeks. That asshole tended to ignore me at all the boring times. Made my life of boredom all the more…boring.

                “Edix?”

                Doing a little tinkering.”

                Scowl turned into smirk. I gripped the branch beneath me, and tilted my head to the side, as if to press the receiver even further into my ear, “what’s that supposed to mean?”

                What do you THINK it fucking means?

                “Hey, hey, don’t get so defensive!”

                I heard a metallic click. From past experience, I deduced it was an electrical box. So that was what he was up to…he hadn’t gone that route in a while. Blinking monotony from my eyes, I tapped my transmitter as if to get his attention again. Despite his generally asshole-ish voice, it made me shiver when he didn’t respond.

                “Edix?”

                Again, he didn’t answer.

                “Earth to pedophile.”

                It wasn’t usually a winning tactic to insult the guy, but I was now getting a bit desperate. In our line of work, silence between us wasn’t a good thing. Perhaps silence in high tension, but I didn’t think he was inside…not yet. Homes around those parts kept their electrical boards in the garage; they made for eyesores in the house.

                “Speak to me, please.”

                Once again, my receiver wasn’t getting anything, save for the almost-constant hardly-audible electrical buzz, there to me I was, indeed, wired. The sky was growing dark, and I couldn’t help but to feel an eerie pull at my stomach. Either he was being an asshole, or something was happening. At worst, he should’ve at least given me a grunt or something. Some sort of paranormal mask began to slip across the back yard, a stirring across the surface of their pool. The in-water lights flickered on, and the ripples began to almost glow.

                “Edix, seriously…” my voice was getting softer, shoulders clenching, so rigid they were practically up to my ears. “If you don’t say something soon, I’m gonna come down there and…”

                I trailed off, a sulky, pouty expression taking over for my body. He was probably alright, finding amusement in my agony. Going down could jeopardize the mission, and that wasn’t something he’d likely forgive me for. He knew that as well as I did, and it was keeping me in check.

                But when his voice came back for me, the alarm in itself was practically enough to send me flying off the branch.

                I’m following them to dinner. Stay here and bug the rooms, I’m going to try and drug the little girl…

                Clamped on to the tree for dear life, I glowered unrestrainedly, “Why do you get to do it?!”

                Just do it, Marian.”

                “But you’re scary-looking, how do you expect to get close to her?” I said, trying my best for logical reasoning. My brother tended to like things if they were valid, albeit insulting. “She’s already crushing on me from the convenience store…I wanna do it!”

                The sound of a car door opening reached my ears, causing my skin to prickle a bit. I scowled; my driving desires were kicking up. I listened as he pulled out his lighter to ignite yet another cigarette.

                “I’m pretty sure her mommy said to stay away from smokers.”

                There was yet the sound of a car door shutting. He was contemplating it. I’d yet to work my way completely into his fuck-faced brain, but he was arguably rational. Talking was the best way to find success with him.

                “Come on…you know how you hate the way my bitchy little fingers fail at planting bugs and being creepy, hiding in closets. You’re super-win at that. Can I do it, please?”

                Stop being such a fucking whiner,” he said roughly, and most likely through clenched teeth.

                “But Edix!” I groaned.

                Whatever. Fine. Don’t crash the car or I’m fucking killing you. Hurry up.

                “Yes!”

                My unadulterated joy was echoing through his ear, and it made him snort irritably. I covered my mouth, and then looked towards the ground. With one, fluid movement, I hopped backwards, off the branch, and as I fell, caught it in my hands. I shot myself forward, rolling with momentum, a backwards turn in midair...looking for the ground… I unrolled myself just in time to stick the landing, my hands straight out in front of me, knees bent, to keep the sound generally muffled.

                Stop being a fucking gymnast and get your ass over here!” Edix hissed into his mic.

                Tail between my legs, I obeyed, scurrying off towards my brother.

 

*****

 

                With our distance came an almost-welcome silence. The receiver went dead in my ear the moment I’d driven far enough away. All I had was the lingering address he’d given me, of yet another park where I was to wait. I was far from being in a hurry, and contemplated checking out a local shop I’d been meaning to get into. Edix probably would’ve shot me to know what I was thinking (which was, generally, outside of the mission), and was once again keeping me at bay. At least the time lag was enough to make me drive just a tad over the speed limit, no more than ten miles overboard.

                Edix tended to drive in silence, so the car was always set for my channel. My thumb instinctually found the power button, and I leaned back in my seat. I had half the heart to just park and then take a little nap as I waited for their dinner to come to its end, but once again, my asshole’s fuck-angry voice was prodding my subconscious ear.

                It was a wonder that I hadn’t grown to be exceedingly patient. Patient, I could live with, but I wasn’t exceedingly so. Edix had left his stash of questionable sodas in the back seat, and I reached for them, pulling out a few and stowing them in a plastic bag he’d shoved carelessly under the seat. He kept the safe ones in the center console, I remembered abruptly, and took one out just in case I needed it. Staying intelligent, on my part, I kept that one in my jacket pocket. The ones on my jeans DEFINITELY weren’t big enough for that.

                I found myself a bench on a circular plaza-like thing; one of three that composed the hillside park. The construction team had flattened the place into three tiers, all centered around these grey-stoned plazas and their—god forbid—fountains. It was more for festival purposes than the last one we’d visited, it was pretty heavily wooded with firs and conifers, and generally empty. Moonlight swept the ground that was too far for a lamppost’s reach, and the fountain’s inner lighting mechanism was much of what kept me occupied. Made the resident cupid look like it was dancing.

                As things went, my plaza of choice had been the middle one. After twitching there for a few minutes, I ran to the topmost tier to wire it with surveillance bugs. Sydney was good for something. Flicking the video receiver open, I checked to make sure the twin cameras were operating properly before heading back to my bench.

 

*****

 

                It seemed that Edix’s nagging was actually good for something.

                Keeping me awake.

                In fact, had it not been for the small detail of the utter…racket of Felicia running down the stairs, I would’ve missed her entirely. Snapping open the video monitor, I realized that her parents were still lingering on the plaza above, huddled together sort of close, in discussion…. Meanwhile, little blonde had decided to throw pennies at the naked love-angel. Rubbing my teeth together, I shut down the compact-sized screen, and shoved it in my pocket. It bulged uncomfortably, and I quickly transferred it to my jacket once again.

                There was a steady stream of plips as the girl threw one coin after the other, probably wishing something along with them. I bit back the scowl, and cracked open my safe can, taking a swig and staring up towards the sky.

                I waited until the plips were no more, and her little body turned for the stairs. Halfway there, she stopped, and I could feel her eyes on me, a bit in confusion.

                “Hey, you’re that boy from the park! And the store!” She said abruptly, though the tone of words also betrayed some form of delight. I guess I wasn’t the only observative one roaming these parts.

                “And you’re the pretty little girl who was with her mommy,” I locked onto her eyes, smiling lightly. She began to blush, and then looked around. Mindful of keeping my voice soft, I asked her the most obvious question, “how come you’re all alone?”

                “I’m not!” She exclaimed, her voice growing louder as if in an attempt of forcing me to believe her all the more. A pale finger jutted towards the staircase, “mommy and daddy are up there!”

                I leaned back a bit and tilted my head down, still watching her as a veil of bangs gathered in front of my pupils. She was practically hypnotized.

                “Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to talk to strangers?” I teased.

                “Oh,” she murmured faintly putting her knuckles to her lips. They were oddly pink to the contrast of her face. “Well…if you tell me your name…you wouldn’t be a stranger, would you?”

                The statement took me by surprise, and my face tilted. “No, I guess not.” Instinctively, I searched her eyes for something dark. I wasn’t sure what prompted me to do so—at all—considering the fact that she was only a seven- or eight-year old. Flashing her one of my long-practiced, gentle smiles, I laid it out for her exactly as it was. She wasn’t about to go flaunting the information…and that much I could be sure of. “My name…” she waited patiently, just staring at me as I paused there, “is Marian Neufendelle. It’s nice to meet you.”

                “Okay!” She said brightly, “I’ll remember! I’m Felicia Broader.”

                “What a pretty name,” I spoke, unconsciously luring her closer. “Are you thirsty? I bought a little too much soda for me, would you like one?”

                “Oh of course!” She said without hesitation. It was too easy…her gullibility was almost frightening as she came closer.

                I pulled out a can and cracked it open before passing it to her. She took it and drank almost immediately, without a doubt it her blonde little mind. A voice inside was screaming at me, telling me she was so small, had so much left for her, perhaps a gorgeous figure to look forward to in the future…but I pushed it aside. My Edix voice was speaking louder, and it told me as it always did…stick to the mission. Don’t look back…no regrets…it was just work…nothing personal. Still…I wasn’t sure what was making me so…regretful…

                “Well, my lovely Felicia,” I began with a cracking voice. I grit my teeth in revulsion, in attempt to push through it. “I think it’s time for you to go back to your mom and dad…but finish your soda first, I don’t think they’ll appreciate soda so close to your bedtime.”

                “Okay!” she agreed brightly, and just like that, finished of the sugar-laced concoction and passed the can back to me. A disgusting smile plastered itself to my lips, and my stomach practically did a back flip. The nausea only became worse when she said, “maybe I’ll see you at the park again sometime!”

                My voice grew small, “yeah…okay.”

                Just like that, she ran off, waving to me, dashing up the stairs with her shiny little shoes clacking on the pavement. I slumped into the bench, my eyes refusing to blink, nor my hands to move. On the inside, all I was thinking was…what the fuck did I just do?

 

*****

 

                Thankfully, I made it back first. They’d gone to make a stop somewhere, making my job of getting inside all that much easier. But it didn’t stop me from feeling odd about the whole thing.

                I’m all set,” Edix’s voice poured into my ear, oddly soft, and almost seductive. My skin tightened to the slightest, and I closed my eyes as I parked the car not too far from the house, leaning back into the seat and clenching my fists. Why the hell was I so torn up about this?

                Probably because…nobody had asked us to kill a kid before. She was just a kid…

                “Do we need to kill Felicia? I already drugged her…it’s not like it’ll be any harm to just leave her alive…she won’t remember a thing.”

                No.”

                My face fell. Didn’t know why I’d even stuck up for the little leech, but if Edix said no….

                I guess we don’t.”

                Had we been caught in cartoon-land, a gigantic question mark would’ve magically appeared above my head at this point. My eyes fluttered open and I looked towards the house. There was an odd shape upon the rooftop…and I couldn’t help but to know it was my brother.

                “What?”

                We don’t have to follow through with the child. They’re not in our jurisdiction, after all…she would be an extra kill. If you don’t want to…we don’t need to.”

                “Who are you and what have you done with my Edix?!” I exclaimed into the microphone.

                The figure on the roof jolted, and his hateful stare was enough to spite me from even that distance. A metaphorical tail curled pitifully between my legs, and I ducked further down in the seat.

                It’s just compensation for last night. Don’t expect any more…this is all you’ll get for it.

                “I love you!” I grinned with a wave of relief sweeping over me. I was practically clapping.

                Oh, fuck off.

                “I’ll let you in tonight,” I whispered, and then without anything more to hold me back, I pulled from the car and silently made my way up towards their darkened home.

 

*****

 

                The end was coming just as quickly as I’d hoped.

                After an entire day of a near-pointless case, my ears rejoiced as Emilia Broader opened the bathroom door, oblivious to my presence. Watching her through the closet slats, she closed the door and slowly began to undress, shirtless by the time she’d reached the tap and pulled it open. The revolver was growing impatient between my fingers, but I remained calm, watching her with fierce, focused eyes… A fingertip brushed over the edge of the silencer, and I pulled it up slowly to rest across my chest, dropping my head to the wall behind me. I closed my eyes as the rest of her clothes began to fall away, and willed for Edix to hurry.

                And right on cue, the lights began to flicker. Emilia uttered a sound of surprise as the lights went out and all was dark. And as had been done hundreds of times before, my body seized a will of its own. All in a single, sweeping movement, my mind worked through every object of the room, as I’d memorized it unblinkingly. My eyes snapped shut at the very moment I burst into the room, just as I had done in all the situations risen before. Noiselessly, I crossed the room in but a second, before she could take a bearing of her surroundings…

                The barrel of the gun was in her mouth, my free hand at her throat. A sharp movement about her neck caused me to clamp down even harder, before she could scream, before she could give us away. I leaned in for her ear, dragging her body closer. She immediately began to whimper, groaning, tears streaming down her cheeks and collecting on the hand that I brought to them, pinching the skin around my gun barrel.

                “Don’t make a sound.”

                In the darkness, I allowed the slightest, wicked smile out to clench me, and then I backed away. I stood there in silence, just waiting for it…

                A sob escaped from her chest, and I pulled the trigger. My ears twitched as the bullet took its exit, smashing against the tiles behind her, releasing her face and allowing for gravity to take its course. I spun the chamber in my hands and stuck it back into its holster, reaching for the second of my metal children and snapping in a new cartridge. Edix slowly opened the bathroom door, stepping through before closing it softly behind him. Purposefully, he made his way across the room and snaked an arm around my waist. He leaned forward and exhaled onto my ear before bringing his other arm around and pulling me towards the closet once again.

                “Good job.”

                It was the first time hearing his unadulterated voice since that morning, and my heart was grossly pleased by it. He slid shut the closet door, waiting for poor husband Frank to stumble in. The tap was still running, I realized…

                “Was it only this section?” I asked him briefly.

                He nodded, pulling me back against him as he leaned against the wall. “But if you seem to grow too impatient…I could shut off the power downstairs as well. It would bring that old shit up pretty fast to check in on her.” Something wet caressed the back of my neck as he finished speaking, and chicken skin snapped at my arms. “Do you want me to?”

                I shook my head, gripping the arms around my waist, and digging my fingernails into the flesh as he resigned himself to biting. Though unfazed by my scratching, Edix backed down and ran the bridge of his nose against the softer parts of my shoulder, the chill of metal frames causing an even fiercer wave of goose bumps. He sighed, and then let me go, moving to the other wall of the closet. I was almost disappointed. Almost.

                “We’ll continue when we’re done.”

                “Of course,” I sniffed.

                For the next hour, I was wishing that I’d argued. Water was pooling around my shoes, and I was appalled at the fact that her fat-ass husband hadn’t fucking noticed yet. Of all the dense assholes we’d been sent to take out, Frank Broader was probably one of the worst. Wouldn’t he have figured that the upstairs lights were dead by now? I turned to Edix.

                “Can I take up that downstairs blackout option?”

                “God fucking damn, finally you ask,” my brother grumbled grouchily, and he snapped at the remote.

                From there, it was only seconds before Frank was calling up the staircase. His heavy weight audibly heaving up the staircase. Creaking floorboards as he crossed the bedroom cautiously in the dark. A curse as he tread in water, and then the slam of the door as he flew it open. The lights flew on.

                His scream cut the night, wailing for his pile of bones upon the floor, dropping down beside her and pulling her up despite her horrendously mutilated face, glazed eyes. Edix slid the closet door open on silent hinges, his sinful eyes set on the turned back of his target. The lights went out once more, and we both slid into place. It was routine, and it was enough to make me forget about Edix’s waking urges, if only for a few moments.

                “Sometimes, it’s best not to ruin the lives of others, Mr. Broader, to set fire to companies and end countless lives,” Edix spoke professionally, though somehow cynically, his gun clicking as he loaded it. “Best not to blackmail, to cheat…scam…use…” I pressed the barrel to the back of his head and he froze up. Edix continued. “Best not to provoke the need for our hire.”

                The lights flashed back into life, and for the first time I laid my eyes on him in person. He was fat as fucking whale, but I could see in some aspect, where Felicia might have acquired something of her looks.

                “Don’t you fucking bastards touch Felicia!” Broader screamed vehemently.

                “Oh, don’t you worry about that,” I grinned. “I drugged her pretty little ass at the park today. She’ll be out for the next twenty-four hours…won’t even hear you screaming.”

                Edix laughed mockingly, “Won’t even remember you at all!”

                “Why are you doing this to me!?”

                “No reason but the man who is paying us,” I notified him with a smile.

                “We were instructed to kill all three of you, but children aren’t in our jurisdiction,” Edix shrugged, his gun  still pointed. “She’ll wake up as if nothing happened. To her, nothing would have happened.”

                 “What the hell are you talking about?!” Broader raged.

                “The drugs we gave her destroy everything related to past memories…when she wakes, she’ll have absolutely no recollection that you ever existed.”

                Frank’s face dropped in horror, “you…you monsters! You’re fucking monsters!”

                Edix laughed aloud, a single, echoing sardonic laugh, and he looked across to me, “We’re not monsters.”

                He closed his eyes, and we spoke together, the one line that needed always to be spoken. In the moment before our fingers had tightened to their destinations, we both smiled through the words we knew so well.

                “We’re the Neufendelle brothers.”

The End

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