It was a combination of the sound of a buzzing phone and someone banging on the front door that roused Rena from her restless slumber. At first, she attempted to ignore it. Who could be trying to contact her at midnight? Irritation stirred within her as she rolled onto her side reaching for the noisy little contraption. She had been trying to get an early night for once. Sod’s law, this is. Grumbling she tossed her phone at the floor, it bounced and made a protesting clattering sound. It lit up once again but she couldn’t be bothered to look at who was ringing. Rolling back onto her back she closed her eyes and waited for sleep to claim her again. Eventually, the phone stopped. The knocking stopped. She was just beginning to relax when she heard something. She sat bolt upright in the bed and grabbed browning nine-millimetre semi-automatic gun from beneath her pillow. Carefully, she slipped out of bed, hastily making it before grabbing her phone, switching it off, clambering stealthily onto the wardrobe and into the vent. She had just closed it when she heard the sound of the main door opening.
Rena waited. And waited. It seemed like she was waiting for eternity. And then she saw it. Her bedroom door handle twisted and the oak creaked open slowly. Rena concentrated on regulating her breathing. She wasn’t afraid. No. She could handle intruders. Even armed and professional assassins. They were child’s play. What Rena felt caused her hands to tremble. It caused sweat to bead on her brow. It caused warmth to swell in her chest, exploding in ribbons within her body like little fireworks. Rena called it mild anger. Elizabeth called it rage. She’d always been able to hide easily. Rena supposed it was a risk, hiding in the vents. She could only hope they weren’t trained professionals who’d studied her. If they were they’d check the vents. If they were amateurs, then they’d be sloppy enough to forget. The dark-haired woman frowned. Come to think of it she didn’t know who was hunting her. It could’ve been the police. But then again cops didn’t break in stealthily. They much preferred making a loud, heroic and dramatic entrance. Shouting and badge flashing, as she called it. No, whoever it was, they weren’t the police. That narrowed it down to; trained assassins, mercenaries, spies, burglars…. or him. But Rena knew well enough the last thing he would do is send people to harm her. In fact, she could remember the last time someone threatened her life. They’d been found dead off the coast of South Africa three mornings later. So that scratched him off the list. It couldn’t have been spies. Well, it could. But not British spies. She was a British spy. And if she found that any of her colleagues had snuck into her apartment at this time of night she’d torture them on principle.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have much time to think any further as the first intruder appeared. He was all in black. Cargo pants, weapons vest hidden beneath a jacket. She caught a glimpse of the shining strap of bullets her sported. Average height, muscular, he sported a head of bright red hair. She could see it in the moonlight. Not a spy then. Spies were far subtler than this man. They were trained to blend in. If she’d been in his place she’d have posed as a drunk neighbour who’d forgotten her key after a wild night out with her friends. The weaponry he sported was superior to the average burglar so he wasn’t one of those. So, a mercenary. Or an assassin. Assassins tended to work alone.
“Gustaff! Wilhelm!” he hollered in a thick German accent. She watched as he switched the main bedroom light on, surveying the room. Pride swelled in her belly at how immaculate and unlived in she’d managed to make the room look in a matter of seconds. She heard heavy footfalls from the corridor and two other men entered the room. “She’s not here. She must be out. Or she’s gone away.”
“Then we search the place.” Another thick east European accent replied. “Be careful though, in case she returns. We don’t want to leave a trace.” No sooner had he finished his sentence than she heard him and the other man leave the room, the door creaked slightly as they left. Mercenaries. She waited for a couple of minutes until he was just in front of her and concentrating on her dressing table before she made her move.
Lithely she slipped out of the vent at the speed of a bullet and kicked the first man in the face knocking him out. His head hit the mattress and she released a small breath when no sound had been made. Reaching forwards, she grabbed his cuffs and tied him to the bedpost. Her gentle hand frisks him until she finds his ammo and taking it for herself. Silently she padded over to the door and peeked out into the living room. She could see two other men. One with blonde hair and brown eyes scanning the fireplace with hunting eyes. Another tall dark-skinned with dreads that had been pulled into a ponytail, stood guard. She begins to pad out into the dark hallway. Perfectly navigating the floor to avoid the squeaky boards. Screwing the silencer onto the pistol she took from intruder number one she crouched down in the darkness and scraped her nails against the wall. She was close enough to the guard than she was to the man searching the fireplace. She drew his attention. He rolled his eyes and approached thinking it was a pet of some kind. A dog or a cat. She was crouched low enough for him to think so. She shifted a little to the side in the darkness. He walked past her towards the bedroom and she promptly stood to full height and followed him into the room. Upon seeing the chained up body of his fellow comrade he turned to alarm the final intruder but before he could open his mouth Rena pressed the silencer to his forehead and smiled, pulling the trigger. Intruder number two fell back and landed on the body of intruder number one, who opened his eyes and gasped quietly at the sudden heavy movement on his body. Rena sighed and gritted her teeth before lifting the pistol again and pressing it against his chest, fired. Once again she ventured out into the dark corridor and slid along until she was at the barrier where the light from the living room meets the shadows of the corridor.
Intruder number three was still scouring the fireplace. She knew exactly what he was looking for. But she’d moved it. That little box with her whole life inside of it. She’d shifted it on a whim last Tuesday and filled the secreted space with cement. She always said I had great instincts. Slowly she encroached. About four feet away she lifted herself up to stand on a table. He still hadn’t noticed her. Knelt on the floor looking up into the fireplace with frustrated searching eyes.
“Looking for something?”
He spun around, his gloved hands un-holstering his weapon. But he was slow. She was already aiming at him.
“Where did you come from?”
“I should be asking you that. It’s my apartment.”
“We checked all the rooms.”
“Not thoroughly enough. You’re sloppy.”
“Where are my men?”
“Don’t worry. The first shot killed them.”
“Where is it?”
“Where’s what?” She cocked her head to one side, an innocent expression masking over her features.
“Don’t play coy.”
“Well then, why don’t we play twenty questions. I’ll answer your questions if you answer mine.”
“I don’t think –”
“No. You seem to have overestimated your authority over me. You do not have the upper hand. I do. You’re alive because I want you to answer my questions. But rest assured, once I have them I am going to kill you and you can join your buddies in my bedroom.” She pointed her pistol, aimed and shot at his right shoulder. The noise that ripped from his throat was comical enough to make her laugh. His head fell back, eyes wide in exquisite agony and his jaw was agape in pain. Rena thought it to be extremely funny. She stifled a giggle.
“Let’s try this again, shall we. Question one. What is it that you’re looking for?”
He clamped his mouth shut and grunted in pain a few times before calming down enough to answer her. Rena relaxed her stance on the table and waited patiently, she eyed him expectantly eyes scanning over his body pondering on where next she should shoot him. She stifled a snort at the glower he sent in her general direction.
“The box.” He ground out as he grits his teeth. “The box you kept behind the fireplace…. clever little bitch moved it, didn’t you?”
“Obviously.” She rolled her eyes. “Question two. Why would it be of any interest to you?”
“My employer is very interested in it. He’s very interested in you.” A horrid grimace of a smile stretched his normally handsome face and it sent an unpleasant chill through her. She stiffened her stance again.
“Are you supposed to be smiling or grimacing? Because I really can’t tell right now. It would be such a shame if you were smiling. You’re quite handsome when you’re not smiling.”
He spat at her. So she smiled sweetly before shooting him in the left knee cap. He cried out much louder this time. Unfortunately, she couldn’t relish it as much. There was a little whimper through the walls and she frowned, mumbling a curse under her breath.
“I would very much appreciate it if you could be quiet. The neighbours have a new-born baby and it takes hours to get that little brat to shut up when it starts howling.” She waited for a moment when he quietened down again and the whimpering through the wall stopped. A bright smile of triumph stretched across her features. “Question three. Who are you working for?” The intruder bit his lip and glared defiantly at her. She scowled, “You’re a slow learner. Remember to keep quiet now or it’ll be more painful for you. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth, that’s supposed to help.” She shot his right hip. He fell back onto the nearest wooden chair. She nodded a little, a feigned expression of sympathy flitted over her. She studied him. Bloody gushing from his shoulder, knee and now his hip. Sweating profusely above his brow. She tutted a little, “I’m so very sorry about all this but you’re not doing yourself any favours. If you would just answer the questions I wouldn’t have to make your life more painful than it needs to be…. it’s going to be good that I kill you afterwards though. Being shot in the hip makes it nigh on impossible to walk straight again. Being shot in the knee means you’ll need a walking stick and that shoulder will always hurt when it’s cold and rainy.”
“You didn’t need to shoot me to begin with.”
“Yes, I did. Now, answer the question.” She snapped sharply, eyes narrowing at him, lips pursing and that shaking rage coursed through her again. She waited a moment but he didn’t answer. So she shot his left hand. He swore loudly and bit down on his lip hard enough to draw blood. He was trying to keep quiet as she scrutinized him. Good, he’s learning. “Aw, so many veins and bones in the hand. It’s going to be a bitch to zip your fly. Come on, now. Who sent you. Name him. Name the man who sent you to die.”
“I,” He hissed through the pain, “I don’t know his real name.” she raised the gun again and scowled at him. He raised his right hand and spluttered in protest, panic overcoming him. “Wait, wait. I know him by his alias. He’s been watching you and your sister for quite some time. It’s how we knew where you were, where to look for the box…until you moved it....Berlin.” He struggled to stand, but he managed it and slowly began to approach, an icy glint in his eyes.
“There. Now that wasn’t too difficult to answer, was it? One more question. Just one. Does your mother know what you do for a living?” he glared at her, wincing as he tried to reach behind his back for something. She pounced. Jumping from the table and grabbing onto the ceiling light as she trapped his head between her thighs twisting and squeezing as her elbows barrelled down onto his head over and over again from above. He suffocated. Gasping for breath, flailing about and trying to grasp on to her for purchase. But she was too good at this. They’d trained her well enough. She wouldn’t release him until the last tremor and breathe had left his pathetic body. Once he stopped twitching Rena relaxed, her body releasing his from its reptilian grip. Her legs were all bloody. Bugger, I really liked these pyjamas.
She walked back into the bedroom, switching on the light. Flinging her suitcase onto the bed she glanced at the dead men beside her. Rena reached out and caressed the dark man’s face.
“So handsome.” She tutted, “What a shame.”
Switching her phone back on she noticed twenty missed calls from her sister. Immediately she dialled back. Elizabeth picked up after the second ring.
“Rena, thank god! Where’ve you been? I need to tell-”
“D’you have any idea what time it is Lilibet?”
“Yes oh. Nevertheless, I imagine what you’ve got to tell me can’t be as bad as three armed mercenaries breaking into my apartment and trying to kill me.”
“I’m fine, Lilibet. Save the dramatics for when I get to you.”
“You’re coming over?”
“Well, I’m not staying here, as much as I love the motherland.”
“Thank god. That means I don’t have to persuade you.”
“Yes. Rena, something’s happened. Something bad and it involves the two of us.”
“Yes. You know how today was my first day at work?”
“Yes. Congratulations. Did you get the hamper?”
“Fortnum and Mason? Yes, I loved it. I’ve had to hide it away from Tom.”
“You were saying.”
“I woke up late and I was going to have to rush to make it. But the second we left a helicopter and all these other feds arrived. Apparently some criminal on the most wanted list just walked in and handed himself in after avoiding law enforcement for twenty years.” Rena froze. Her stomach dropped and she closed her eyes. She gulped, swallowing her nausea.
“What’s that got to do with us Lilibet?”
“That’s just it. He wants to make a deal. Be an informant. But he has terms. Lots of ‘em. And the most important one? He’ll only speak to you and me.”
“Sounds a little high maintenance if you ask me.” Rena smirked a little as she heard Elizabeth laugh.
“Yeah, he’s got an ego alright.”
“A name would be helpful Lilibet. When I get off that plane I’m dropping my luggage off at the house and diving straight in.”
“I’ll pick you up. I know you and Tom aren’t exactly best friends –”
“You mean that I hate his guts, sure.”
“I know. I’ll be nice until I find my own place. I know you love him very much.”
“I love you too. It’ll be nice to have you back. I miss you all the time.”
“A name please Lilibet.”
Rena hung up. This is going to be a rough ride.