"The world knows me as Snow Leopard. I prefer to be nameless."
Snow Leopard. Impossible. Not this skinny, normal looking teenager.
"You? Please. I've heard that Snow Leopard can take down an army with nothing but a garbage can lid."
She threw her hood back, revealing a dead-set expression on her porcelain face and a curving scar on her right cheek that looked like the spot of a leopard.
This was the stuff of legends.
Her almond-shaped eyes studied me momentarily, darker than her gleaming black hair, and then she was gone.
I had a second to react before I realized that the supposed Leopard had appeared behind me and was holding the sharp edge of a trash can lid at my throat threateningly.
"Satisfied?" she asked, in an uninterested way that didn't betray the slightest hint of fatigue.
"Yes, yes." I muttered back, eager for the rusted metal to be a safe distance from my arteries.
The lid moved away and the Leopard was a blur again, before reappearing beside the blonde.
"Miss Ripley is my current employer. She has my undivided loyalty."
Great. So this 'Ripley' could kill me without lifting a finger herself.
"Will you accept my deal now, Blake?"
Screw it, I couldn't pass up a chance to fight with the Leopard.
"Fine. On one condition."
"And that is..?"
"Tell me why. Why choose a pothead like me to do your dirty work when you've already got a mercenary up your sleeve?"
Leopard chuckled, but Ripley shrugged instead.
"You'll see your purpose eventually, Blake. We all do, don't we?"
"That's not the answer I wanted."
Ripley chuckled this time.
"Who said that life was about getting things you want? It's more about learning to make do with whatever mismatched pieces of the puzzle you get thrown at you."
Great, I was going to be working for a perfectly vague philosopher.
"I don't need your pretty metaphors, thank you very much. Just tell me how much time I have."
Leopard stepped forwards.
"I will be debriefing you on the task and making sure you know the plan. Miss Ripley will be contacting our team through the safety of a messenger."
Messenger? Did she consider herself a deity or something?
"Ookay then. Wonderful."
I was starting to tune out as she continued, feeling the back of my head cautiously and poking at the soft clots forming.
Fascinating how the human body worked, closing up wounds of its own accord, in perfect harmony for the sake of preserving the unit.
But certain units, like me, just had much more fun loading in the drugs and alcohol.
Didn't matter anyways.
Just as likely to get shot in my field of work as OD'd. There were days when the hectic side of my life caught up and the only way to escape the whole realization of how fast I moved or how close things got to ending was to submerge myself into the ecstasy of the mind-affecting.
Pills, cigarettes, syringes, brownies, crystals, cough syrup...you name the form and poison, I had it.
Part of Sally's secret compartment was just drug paraphernalia, actually.
Paul had been holding bets with me each year that I would get either a liver failure or lung cancer, but my body had managed to take the beating without getting too bad.
The odds weren't getting any better with the years though.