Red eyes, white hair, red eyes, white hair, his brother is dying, just like Daniel.
Alice’s mind seemed to process nothing else than those words on her way back to Daniel’s hospital room.
What had he said he was, an albino?
Alice had seen many deformities, missing appendages, and wicked skin diseases, but nothing like him. He seemed to be healthy, a bit starved, but otherwise nothing was missing, it was just the red eyes that were unsettling. Surprisingly, that made Alice shudder with fright, and she could never forgave herself the expression he must have seen in her face when she saw him. She vowed that if their paths ever crossed again, she’ll tell him that she understands.
She remained with her brother a bit longer, puzzling over the reason why Darien Wiltrose had sought Ere and her out. Something else had grown inside her; it was a sense of paranoia, like they were being watched. She kept throwing furtive glances at the doorway and making sure her brother was still breathing. Finally, the doctor suggested she should go home and sleep. He promised her that if anything happened, good or bad, he’ll call her. However, she smiled and shook her head.
“I will know if something bad happens, my heart will tear itself from my body,” she told him. “Besides, you won’t be able to reach me, our phone line got cut.”
The sun was just a wavering orange line over the horizon. Daniel had had some coughing fits through the week, some serious, but he was still alive. Some nights, Alice’s heart ached and she ran to the hospital to make sure her brother was okay. She would find him sleeping soundly and her tensed muscles would relax a bit. After making sure her brother was okay, she’d venture to room 370, where she’d find the albino kid sleeping on the couch, his hand gently holding on to his brother’s hand. It was a very tendering sight to behold, but Ere, sensing someone watching, would wake in a jolt and his eyes would immediately search the door (which had a glass aperture for people to look inside). Alice would quickly flee. The thought of him catching her looking was appalling.
A bag of her most recent filching swung against her thigh. The objects created a gratifying sound that made her proud of her accomplishments. Within a week, she had learned how to swiftly and dexterously take jewelry from their owners. She was eager to pawn them, but she had agreed to meet Darien Wiltrose here, today.
She glanced at the hospital clock tower. It was twenty minutes past their meeting time. She immediately regretted coming. He had wasted her precious time, time she had to make money.
And like an omen, Darien Wiltrose walked through the garden, with his white suit and a white rose daintily perched in his suit’s pocket. He wore that condescending and arrogant smile that made Alice wish he’d be run over by a truck.
“Good afternoon, my dear Alice Solent. I hope you didn’t wait too long for me.” He reached for her hand, but Alice retracted it in disgust. There was a mocking glimmer in his pale blue eyes. “Ah, I see the bruises on your neck have healed quite rapidly. You’re indeed a survivor, people I like.”
“How do you know my name?” Alice tried to keep her voice controlled, suppressing her anger and fear.
“Well, you see, I’ve been watching you. Not for long, mind you. Just enough to know that you really need help and I have the kind of help you need. You have the kind of skills and determination that qualifies you for the job. So, congratulations, you’re officially hired!” He spread his arms in a grand gesture.
“You are insane. You’re just wasting my time.” She walked around him.
“It could save your brother, remember?”
Alice stopped. She turned around to face Darien, eyes burning with hate mingled with hope. “What kind of job are you talking about, and don’t be vague about it.”
“Let’s say I am a very important person, who needs special protection…A different sort of protection. You see, I am a firm believer in preemptive attacks and as such, I need to be ahead of everybody else. I’ve gathered information that leads me to believe that my life is in danger. Are you following me so far?”
“You should go to the authorities; there is nothing I can do to help.”
“For such a bright girl your imagination is very insipid. I don’t blame you, growing up struggling the way you did. Let me put this in simpler terms, let’s say in chess, when the king feels threatened, the player can do three things: move the king to safety, protect the king by sacrificing a piece or…”
Alice’s eyes widened in abhorrence, the evening had lost its warmth. She finished the sentence for him. “Or you kill whatever is threatening the king.”
“Good girl.” He reached inside his suit and retrieved a manila envelope, handing it to Alice. “Your target.”
Alice heart beat wildly. She felt dizzy. She could not believe that this stranger was asking her to kill for him. To kill. She knew that people kill for money, but she never considered going to extremes. She looked at the envelope, unable to fling it away like she wanted to. She just thought of Daniel and how he needed her. She reprimanded herself for connecting these two together.
“Come on, take it. I promise the remuneration will be grand. Your brother doesn’t have much to live, with this treatment he might have five, maybe more, years to live. You don’t have to worry about your mother anymore; she’d be taken care of. You will get a clean slate, reinvent your life, go to college, anything you want!”
He spoke so lightly of it and she hated herself for listening.
“However, I have two conditions once the job is done, which I suppose meets your survival skills. Don’t get caught and never talk about this to anyone. Provided you breached any of those conditions, your brother will surely die with you in jail, lining up for death sentence. Believe me, these people are evil.”
He pushed the envelope into Alice’s trembling hands.
“I’ve never killed before,” she whispered. She felt stupid, she wanted to scream at him to stay away from her, to throw the envelope at his face, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. This was a way out.
“Oh I’m sure you’ll learn how to. In this envelope you’ll find directions to a weapon and the address and everything you need to know about the target. You have one week to complete the job.”
“What, one week?!”
“One week Alice. After that week, your life problems will be solved. You can start over again, how many people do you know to have that opportunity?”
“Those people don’t have to kill for that opportunity.”
“One week Alice, that’s all I give you. Don’t contact me; I’ll know if you carried the job successfully. Think about your brother, your mother, and your life. You’ll be a positive impact to this world.”
She didn’t notice when he left. She hadn’t even accepted the job. She was just numbed with disbelief, clutching the envelope to reassure herself that this was real. Alice walked to Daniel’s room and what she saw horrified her, Daniel was coughing up blood again, and with it, his life, and he wouldn’t stop despite Alice pleads and the nurses’ help. She bolted out of the hospital, fumbling for the slip of paper that would direct her to her weapon. She had decided to take the path of a mercenary.