Tryout for the Ten collaboration. I write best when writing something story-driven, which is why this try-out does not read exclusively like a character introduction but also the introduction to my interpretation of the plot involving the character I am writing about. FYI, Miller, in this chapter, is meant to be something like the monkey of the organization (I use that term loosely--organization) responsible for it all. A small fry, in other words.
The reddish-brown lines that seemed to cover the walls like a spider's web and the cracked mirror covered in dried spit gave it a foul look, but this room had the scent of a floral perfume which made it livable. A single bulb hung from the center of the ceiling and cast a dirty, dim light on everything.
The desk below the mirror was littered with lipsticks and blush, several eyelash curlers strewn here and there, a bowl of potpourri that had been knocked over long ago, and a few water-stained notes from Aslan.
Most of them threats, the notes. Vahide was not worried about them, and it was not because she knew the threats were empty. In fact she knew they were not, but whatever Aslan did to her was fair penance. Most of her life had been earned and most of it was bad. She was not an angel and had no delusions about it.
Vahide sat on the stool in front of her small vanity. Most of the spit was in the center of her mirror, making her to lean to one side to see her reflection. Carefully, she applied the red lipstick that was the trademark of herself and her peers. It was a mark that said to those around her, I am a prostitute: you may use and abuse me and I will thank you for it. To her it was no better than sporting the mark of the beast, but it was a necessary thing.
Her make-up applied, she took one last look in the mirror and knew business would be good today. That counted for something. She stood up, her eyes on herself, said, Allah seni kahretsin, and then spit.
Aslan was across the street, already gesturing for her to come to him, when she stepped into the bright morning sun. When she was half way across the street, he began pointing to a car parked a short walk away. It was a nice car; shiny black, no older than a few years. She noted it and kept walking toward Aslan, but saw his eyes graw large and threatening, his gesturing toward the car more emphatic. She turned and began walking toward the car.
"Vahide!" Aslan called from behind her. She turned to him. "Make this one happy, he is a special customer!" Vahide nodded and then proceeded toward the car.
As she approached the passenger door it opened. "Get in," a voice said from the dim interior.
"I was going to," she said to the voice and then climbed in.
The driver was a pudgy Englishman, thin-rimmed glasses with gold colored (real gold, maybe?) frames. He was wearing button-up shirt with bright and colorful patterns and khaki shorts. She knew what to expect; his type came around here once in a while, usually bringing with them a pocket full of money and peculiar requests. Not that she would see any of that money. Aslan always took payments in advance for her. It had come to a point where she did not even know how much of her money she was getting.
"Where will we be going?" Vahide asked. Instead of answering, the man put the car in gear and pulled into the street. It wasn't until they'd traveled a few blocks that he answered.
"Does it matter to you?" he finally said.
"No, sir. I was only asking."
He looked her up and down as if to appraise her, never veering off course. "Call me Miller. Save your sirs for Aslan."
"Miller. That is a very manly name."
"Save your brown-nosing for Aslan, too."
"I am sorry. I did not mean to offend you."
Miller grunted. Vahide shifted in her seat. The car drove on. By the time they'd crossed the town line, the silence was becoming uncomfortable for Vahide.
"What can I do for you, Miller?"
"This looks familiar," he said, ignoring her question, and then pulled off the road. He parked behind a boulder a small distance from the shoulder. "Well, here we are. What do you think?" he asked.
"It is a nice place," Vahide said, the quiver in her voice apparent.
"Does your lap speak back to you?" he said.
"I'm sorry?" She turned to look at him.
"That's better. If you are talking to me, then look at me. That is what we Englishmen call tact. You should learn it."
His pudgy face initially struck one as friendly, but his eyes were far from that. She wanted terribly to look away. Aslan seemed to know this man, though. That meant she would probably be safe. Safe from death, anyways, but Aslan had sent her to men who got their kicks by hitting women before.
"Chin up. Let me take a look at you."
She complied. He studied her face with an intensity she did not like. Not at all.
"Hard to believe you're a murderer," he said flatly, and the all of a sudden the situation seemed entirely different.
Vahide's expression didn't change--she held it stolidly--but the twitch of her eyebrow did not go unnoticed. Miller's eyes darted slightly up and then back down. He smiled and let out a curious chortle.
"No need to panic, my girl. I am not an officer. Moreover, I know that it wasn't your fault. Aslan put you up to it." He paused, as if waiting for a response. A moment later he started again. "In fact, I know he has put you up to most everything you have done for quite a while. It's wrong, you know."
"I--" Vahide started, but the words were choked off. Her face began to flush.
"I am certainly no Ghandi, but what he does to you and the other girls is going too far. I'll say it and say it loudly: I hate the bastard. Don't you think what he has done is as wrong as I do?"
"I do," she managed.
"Then I have a proposition for you. It's simple, really. You kill a few people for me--bad people, of course--and I will make Aslan pay. I'll even let you help me do it. When it's all done, you will get a new life in a new place. Wherever you want. Whatever you want."
"Oh, bollocks. Of course you can. You've killed before, and that time it was an innocent person. Maybe you didn't want to. Maybe you would never do it again--I don't know. But I am asking you to take out the scum of the earth. I am asking you to take out Aslan, nine times over. These people are just different types of Aslans."
Vahide stared into her lap, intermittently watching Miller through her peripheral vision. She flinched when he placed a small stack of cash on her lap, in front of her face. The stack was small, butit appeared enormous to Vahide. On top of the cash was a small note, and on the note were written nine names:
- Godfrey De Vries
- Elias Heikkinen
- Tony Blake
- Kamali Ncube
- Ebisawa Hitomi
- Alexi Bogdanov
- Mei Yu
- Thiago Torres
- Michelle Sanchez
"I have a flight out of this rats nest shortly. I need your answer. This is real, darling. It's now or never."
"He'll kill me if--"
"Aslan won't do anything to you. Everything will be taken care of."
Vahide lifted the money from her lap and counted it, then turned to look at Miller. His expression was one of impatience. "Is this an advance payment?"
"Will you do it or not?"
The money was more than Aslan had ever given her at one time. Her profession--she dared to call it that on occasion--made her inherently skeptical, but why would someone say this? A possible answer to that floated just beyond her grasp, and she forgot about it a moment later.
"I will," Vahide said.
"Very good. Find them, kill them. Simple."
"Where can I--" she started.
"You will get no help from me. That goes against the rules. That money is not an advance. That also goes against the rules. To my knowledge, the people on that list are all still alive. You will get nothing until they are not. For now you still are what you are, and we both know what that is. The money is for this. I do hope you're good," Miller said, and then began removing his belt.
Vahide did not need another reminder of why she had agreed to this ridiculous plan--what she stood to gain, what she could be rid of if everything was legit--but that did not matter. For the time, she still was what she was.