Ren stood in the doorway of her training room. Guns glinted dimly in the darkness, resting on the shelf across the room. Her easel stood like a sentinel against the wall, a blank canvas offering a tantalizing route for creation. She’d always been good at creating and cracking codes. She ran her hand through her thick wavy mane and looked away. She’d spent years trying to forget all the bad things that had happened to her, and now it was all coming back with a vengeance.
“If you really wanted to forget, then why’d you build a training room that looks exactly like the one at Birdsong?” she asked herself.
She shook her head and leaned against the wall. She still couldn’t believe that she was being asked to train all the people she’d worked with before. She’d only been five when she’d started training. How on earth was she supposed to train people older, wiser, and stronger than her?
“Your strength may be more mental than physical, but you are still one of the strongest people here,” Fagin told her, standing behind the six-year old Ren as she aimed her knife at the target. “Never let anyone tell you that you are weaker than them. Even the smallest crack can break the ice.”
Ren reached out to touch the small girl in her mind, as if to warn her. Fagin had been her mentor before he’d taken control and tortured her. That’s why it bothered her so much when he’d thrown her into the pit, when he’d begun starving and beating her.
“You’re only six, and you’re the best assassin in the entire world. No one suspects a child,” Fagin said gently, watching thick blood drip from the corpse’s mouth onto the carpet below. “This is your first kill, my dear. There will be many more, and you will continue to get even better. Your skill set is designed specifically to play on your strengths. You blend in well with everyone, you will never stand out.”
Ren continued to stare at the blood dripping onto the carpet. To this day, she could still hear it as it fell to the floor.
Ren gritted her teeth and grabbed a rifle from the rack, noiselessly screwing on the silencer.
Fagin stood in front of a window, his back turned to her. “Fifty confirmed kills in the past few months. That’s a new record, my dear. And that’s not counting all the deaths that can’t officially be linked to you.” He turned toward her with a smile. “You are my shining star. That’s why I want to offer you something special.”
“What about Tracey?” the young Ren asked. She was always concerned when Fagin tried to leave him out of things. Things always went bad for her when her best friend wasn’t involved.
Fagin gritted his teeth tightly. “That boy is a hindrance to you. That’s why I’ve taken certain measures to make sure that you can focus on your training.”
Ren felt her stomach sink through her feet, through the polished marble floor. “What did you do with Tracey?” she screamed, knife held tight in her small fist.
Fagin sat as his desk and fixed his dark gaze on her. “If you do not continue what I ask you, then your friend will die.” He pressed a button on his desk, and two older members of Birdsong casually walked into the room, as if they weren’t carrying a bruised and bloody Trey between them. Livid black and purple bruises covered his pale skin, and blood dripped from various tiny cuts.
“Tracey!” she screamed as she lunged toward him.
Fagin watched with interest, then raised a finger lazily in the air. One of the men holding Trey struck Ren against the side of her head, opening a small cut on her cheek
“If you refuse to do what I ask you, then I’ll kill him. It’s very simple, really. Just kill whom I wish for you to kill, and your friend lives. If not…” Fagin’s voice trailed off and he nodded toward the two men. They pulled tightly, and Trey’s arms popped as he screamed in pain.
“Stop! I’ll do it! I’ll do whatever you want!” Ren cried, on her knees in front of Fagin’s desk.
Fagin towered over her, a cruel smile playing on his bloodless lips.
Ren lowered the muzzle and aimed at a target. She could still see Fagin’s face, his white lips pressed together in a poisonous smile. She pictured him at the end of her rifle and fired it repeatedly at the dummy. After she’d emptied the magazine, she threw the rifle down and grabbed a serrated knife from the wall and stabbed the dummy. She could hear Fagin’s taunts and feel his breath down the back of her neck as he watched her, always too close. She took the knife and tore out chunks of rubber where the mouth would have been as she remembered how it felt when Fagin had kissed her, shoved his tongue in her mouth and tried to take her. A feral scream tore itself from her throat as she severed the dummy’s head from its rubber body. She felt a hand on her shoulder and swung the knife behind her. Trey caught her hand before she hit him. She dropped the knife and fell to her knees, crying. He pushed the rubber corpse to the side and held her tightly. She fisted his shirt and buried her face in his chest.