I ducked for cover behind my blue Ford Transit car as I heard two deafening gunshots whiz past my left ear. The shattered front window shards falling hard on the pavement only just milliseconds after. I didn’t believe the crazy bitch would actually do it! She pulled the trigger on me, not once, but twice!
‘Jesus Fucking Christ, Freyja!!’, I screamed as I hugged the pavement. ‘What. The. Hell is wrong with you??!’
For what seemed like an eternity, I got no response. I could feel the sweat beads starting to form on my forehead. My heart started beating so violently it shifted both my lungs sideways. An uncontrollable shiver began to take over my entire body.
Why in the world did I dare her to shoot?! , I thought to myself. Am I really going to die here? How in the hell was I supposed to know she was still carrying that pistol around in her purse? What the hell did I do??!
In that moment as I lay on the rugged pavement, I realised how little I really knew about the ‘love of my life.’ She was really going to kill me!
Just then, I heard her stilettos begin to come closer to the car. Slowly, deliberately. Almost as if she wanted me to hear them. Then she stopped. I rose to a crouching position to steal a glance through the side mirror, but it was a pitch black night at that time. All I could make out was a faint silhouette about ten feet away from the car.
Why in the hell are the street lights out? I observed. Did she do this too?
I listened hard. But all I could hear was the blood pumping into my ears like a drum. Now I could feel cold sweat through every pore. From what I could now infer, she was moving towards the front. So I crawled towards the rear of the car, hoping to God she wouldn’t fire any of the remaining rounds. Just then,, I heard her voice.
‘Heeeey! That’s cheating!’, she joked icily. ‘You promised you were gonna stand still, darling.’ Another unfunny joke.
‘Stand still my black ass!’, I yelled back in panic. ‘And quit it with the shitty jokes, will you? You were never the funny…’
BLAM! BLAM !BLAM
‘Holy Shit!!!’ I screamed and cowered as I heard the bullets pierce through the steel doors.Two just above my head and one punctured the tyre to my right. Did pistols have armour piercing rounds? Was that even possible? I wondered. My body melted like the ice caps as I tried in vain to maintain control. My heart skipped a few dozen beats. Medically speaking, I was dead.
‘Oh my. You were saying something very interesting before I rudely interrupted you. I’m so sorry… Darling.’ she joked. ‘It’s just the two of us out here. So I can promise you my full undivided attention. Please continue.’ She let out a little chuckle.
I said nothing.
I always disliked her sarcasm when she was mad. Just then, I heard her take a few more deliberate steps towards the front of the car. This time, I tried to move around the rear of the car. But my body was shaking so violently I couldn’t move any muscle with control. All connection between my brain and the rest of my nervous system had been severed. I pinched my left thigh hard. Move dammit!
Just then, I remembered something that made my blood run cold. In all the years I had known this woman, she had never missed a single shot. In all the years she took me along to watch her ‘work’, she had never made a mistake. She was always clinical. Assassination was her profession, and she was the best at it.
So why in the bloody hell did she miss five times?
The realisation hit me like a wrecking ball, and now I was pissed. The vile bitch had some damn nerve. She was actually toying around with me! And she was probably loving every goddamn second. How had I not seen this any sooner?
I then realised she had stopped moving. I knew this time it was for dramatic effect – because it worked so damn well. My lack of knowledge about her exact position had me shaking like a tremor.
Taking a crouching position, I tried to peek from around the rear to see if she had walked past the front of the car. Instead, I came face-to-barrel with her pistol. She had snuck up on me and I had no clue how. The pistol was only two inches away from my face so I could feel the heat still emanating off it. It felt warm, but smelt of instant death. I shifted my gaze very slowly from the barrel upwards towards her eyes.
‘Hi,’ she whispered.
‘Hi,’ I whispered back.
‘You look like shit.’
‘I know,’ I replied defensively.
‘You always say that. I hate that.’
‘Oh. Do you?’ I teased. She then pulled the pistol closer to my face and placed the tip of the barrel firmly between my eyes. Hot!
‘As a matter of fact, I do. Darling. I’m not playing games.’
I remained calm. But the marble-sized sweat drops on my face proved otherwise.
‘Tell me.’ I said to her, as I now began to assume a sitting position.
‘Tell you what?’ She replied.
‘Tell me what I did to deserve …this.’
She looked straight back into my eyes, pistol still pointed in my direction. She spoke.
‘It’s not what you did, darling… it’s what I didn’t do.’
‘They‘re back.’ She pursed her lips nervously. ‘And like last time, they’re after you.’
‘Be more specific.’ I interjected. ‘ A few people have come after me ever since I met you. Who’s it this time? The Hoxha family? The Silvas?… Cranberry?‘
She looked away.
‘None of them, darling.’ She then turned to look back at me. ‘It’s The Twins.’
No. Not them.
‘Los Ramos Gemelos.‘ I uttered. This. Cannot. Be happening. ‘What for? What do they want now?!’
‘Like I said before, it’s not what you did. It’s what I didn’t do. They found us, and they want me to finish the mission I was once given.’
I knew they’d find us eventually, I just never thought it’d be so soon! The Ramos Twins was an intercontinental cartel whose main business was killing. Their leaders were once mentors to my fiance, Freyja. This infamous cartel, run by the calculating, yet psychotic brother and sister duo had taken Freyja under their wing when she was just 11. They had just learned that a young girl at one of the many orphanages they controlled, had tried to kill one of the patrons in charge – Hugo Van Dijk.
Hugo had raped and murdered Freyja’s best friend, Levi, 12. And he walked free due to his numerous political connections. Also, Levi was never registered on the orphanage’s records, like most of the other kids. So Levi technically didn’t exist. Freyja would not let her friend’s death go unpunished. That scumbag Hugo had to pay!
Besides having hundreds of dummy companies around the globe, The Ramos Twins cartel kept a tighter hold on the orphanages they controlled. They were the perfect place for recruiting children they could groom into lethal henchmen and assassins. By trying to murder Hugo, Freyja had displayed two great qualities invaluable to the twins. Motive and willpower. She was a rare gem. The Ramos Twins, the actual twins, adopted Freyja and turned her need for vengeance into a fine weapon. Hugo was their employee. But he was always just a tiny, insignificant cog in the Twins’s machine anyway. The time to dispose of him would come.
Just 20 months after her failed murder attempt, and under the watchful guidance of the Twins and her instructors, Freyja was finally allowed to exact her vengeance on Hugo. Much to the amusement of the twins, she chose to kill him with an icepick while he was balls deep in a male escort. Hugo had just paid for his services at the rundown Dunny Motel outside of town. Hugo was her first kill, and a twisted birthday present for Freyja at age 13.
That kill happened 18 years ago.
I snapped back to the present day. My mind still racing like a dynamo, I turned to look at my fiance. I realised she had lowered her pistol.
‘Freyja’, I said, ‘We do not have to go through this again. We outsmarted them once before, we can still do it again.’
She laughed a little. But then stopped when she saw the look in my eyes.
‘Oh… you’re serious.’
‘Yes I am.’ I replied firmly.
‘Your ignorance is always so damn cute whenever you don’t fully realise what you’re faced with.’ She replied with a smile like Athena’s.
You see, since killing Hugo, Freyja went on to become the most lethal assassin for the twins in all of Europe and South America for the next 11 years. These two continents were the cartel’s turf. As an employee to the twins, Freyja could only operate in these territories as per the requirements of the Intercontinental Cartel Truce. The Widow’s name was the talk in all cartel circles. Any kill characterised by a close range, poisoned sharp instrument was her calling card.
I learned from Freyja that most assassins wanted to be known for their kills, despite the fact that they all desired anonimity. A fat, juicy contradiction. As a result, some assasssins would go out of their way to devise a killing method unique only to them. It could be anything. Gas-specific, blade-specific, asphyxiation – anything. And Freyja was no different. They called it professionalism. I called it Ego.
But all that changed for Freyja 4 years ago, when she was sent by the twins to eliminate a rather small-time, unknown nurse in Dublin. This was a completely different target from Freyja’s high profile ‘cleaning’ jobs – a ridiculously easy target. She had 1000 different ways to kill this unsuspecting nurse, but she chose to have fun with him first. So she decided to stalk him into the men’s toilet of a shopping mall with an icepick to try to intimidate him first… Me. A lot happened after that incident.
But that was four years ago.
This was now.
‘The Twins are after us again.’ I panicked a little. ‘It was only a matter of time. But how did they manage to find us? Our cover was excellent. And why the hell will you shoot at me without warning?!’
‘I’m trying to save you.’
‘Yeah right! I totally see how that works.’
‘Are you mad?’
‘Well, does it look like I’m happy?!’
‘Well, I’m sorry I shot at you then.’ She muttered.
‘Go fuck yourself, Freyja.’
She tossed the pistol away casually onto the pavement. The clattering sound it made seemed unusually loud at night. We sat on the pavement in silence, while giving each other the coldest shoulders we could muster. At the same time, wondering what we could do to deal with this new problem. After a little while, I scoffed.
‘What’s so funny?’ She asked.
‘The irony of what?’
‘The irony of… us.’
‘You’re not making any sense, I don’t remember you hitting your head that hard.’ She looked at me quizzically, so I let out a sigh.
‘See Freyja. I’m a nurse. A damn good one. And you’re only the most beautiful assassin I know.’
‘I take life,’ she said.
‘And I preserve it.’ I replied.
We smiled at each other. But in both our gazes, was full acknowledgment of this new predicament we had found ourselves in.
‘We should leave now,’ I interrupted, ‘ and think of a way to stop them for good this time.’
‘I don’t want to, darling. Not this time.’ That was surprising.
‘That’s not like you.’ I snapped back. ‘ And what’s that even supposed to mean?’
‘It means I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of running, I’m tired of of looking over my shoulder, and I’m tired of always being a pawn to the twins.’
‘In that case, become the King.’
‘You don’t understand. After all that’s happened to me. To us. Even if I did become King, the twins will always be the player – The Puppeteer. They will always decide my every move for me, analyse my every breath, and execute my every decision. All the while, making me think that I’m in control, That we are in control. That is their genius. So darling, even if I was King, to them I will always remain a Pawn in their fucked up game of chess.’
‘You don’t know that. We hurt them once already. We crushed the Belarusian cartel three summers ago, and turned the Intercontinental Cartel Truce against them. Remember?’
I flashed a defensive look in her direction. Of course we did. It was in every paper and on every goddamn news channel. How could she not remember??
She turned her head slowly towards me and smiled. But her eyes didn’t. I understood immediately. This was her way of telling me that I was too focused on the pond and missed the ocean.
‘The papers always say one thing, but yet the reality is always different. Yes, we did manage to turn the ICT on them. It was supposed to crush them. Or so we thought.’ She paused for a moment. ‘Didn’t you notice that the twins got even more powerful right after we naively got rid of Julia Ivankov?’
‘Of course I knew all about it. So what?’ I didn’t notice shit.
‘All we did was help the twins assume monopoly of contracts across the Eurasia border as well as grant them free access into Asia. The Ivankovs were merely a barrier between the twins and their expansion into greater Asia. When I took out Julia Ivankov, the idea was to make the Twins look responsible. The bad blood between the Twins and the Belarussians was no secret. All we had to do was reignite it. The Truce would then take out The Twins for breaching turf rules. I thought I was getting my ticket out of the game, a life with you and leaving the twins exposed with their pants down. All at the same time. I should have known it was all too good to be true. Instead, we granted them free access to the continent without even realising it.’
‘But the Mishima Clan controls the greater part of Asia. Surely… surely the twins couldn’t gain grounds without facing them.’
‘You’re right, but that’s where it gets interesting.’
‘I’ll only tell you this because it’s just the two of us out here now. The twins wouldn’t go to war with a cartel of similar size. It would’ve been extremely costly for both sides, and a waste of valuable resources and pros. Common sense. But that’s not why the twins didn’t go to war against the Mishimas. As a matter of fact, they didn’t need to.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Akira Mishima – The Mishima Clan’s patriarch. Put the honor or legacy of a Japanese warrior at stake and he’ll commit harakiri than suffer embarrassment. The twins had something that could discredit Akira Mishima and the entire Mishima name for generations to come. They managed to force even that creature into ceding a large amount of control to them.’
I remained silent. Clearly overwhelmed by the amount of information I was currently processing. The Oni himself bending over for someone? This was unbelievable. I heard that 7ft psycho of a patriarch killed two of his own grandchildren because they had ‘dreams’ and would not adopt the killing ways of the Mishimas. His killing ways.
‘So what did they use against Akira?‘ I asked, perplexed.
‘His false claim to a samurai bloodline, and the fact that he’s an actual coward despite his reputation.’
‘What do you mean? That demon is scared of nothing.’
‘Well, you see darling, Akira is a fraud. And the twins had known about this for a long time. He’s ruthless, yes. But most of the stories you’ve heard about his deeds, savagery and proud samurai lineage are exaggerated and untrue. This lie was started by Akira himself while he was a young and prominent yakuza. But the lies grew out of proportion and became too much for the brute to handle. That’s when the twins came in to offer their assistance. Albeit reluctantly, he had no other choice but to strike a deal with those maniacs.’
I was beginning to understand.
‘Akira prides himself in his warrior lineage more than anything. But even as ‘a proud descendant’ of the samurais, Akira is scared of dying more than any other living creature on the planet. It would be a simple cover up if all the members of the Mishima Clan were related by blood. But most of Akira’s clan of assassins is made up of real, proud descendants from various samurai lineages – ready to accept the consequences of their job or to die for their masters at any given moment. His brutality and charisma seduced even the finest killers in Asia to join his clan.’
‘I see.’ The implication were becoming clearer to me.
‘So you do know what would happen to the reputation of the Demon of The Rising Sun if it was revealed that not only was he a fraud, but that he was also hemophobic.’
‘Hemo-what??’ I choked.
‘Hemophobic. That means…’
‘I know what that means goddamit! I just don’t believe it.’
‘Well you better start believing asap.’ She jested.
The absurdity of this joke had me speechless. I really did not believe it.
‘You mean to tell me that that demon gets scared at the mere sight of… blood??’
‘But..’ I stammered. ‘But murder is his MO. His line of work. His specialty.’
‘I know.’ She laughed. ‘But that’s not all. He has a serious gag reflex to go along with that phobia of his too. That’s why he became an expert in racking up kills through asphyxiation and internal bleeding through blunt trauma… with his fists.’
To this day, I still think that sounds terrifying in its own way. But I could see how that could tarnish his reputation within his proud warrior-minded clan. Just then I remembered something.
‘In all the stories I’d heard about the son of a bitch, he’d never used a blade or a firearm. I always thought his tendency to beat most of his victims and subordinates to death was due to a strong dislike of weapons. Or maybe even an innate tendency for violence. To be honest, I kinda thought that made Akira very scary, yet strangely cool…’
‘Things are never what they seem, darling.’ She interrupted before I could finish. ‘ A fraud’s still a fraud no matter how you look at it.’
I noticed the slight change in her tone. Freyja had a strange way of letting her jealousy shine through. It surfaced whenever I complimented another woman, or when I complimented another assassin’s method or skill.
A deep sigh managed to escape my nasal cavities. Another thing worried me.
‘Here’s one thing I do not understand, Freyja. I take it not everyone in this business is a fool. If he was so big a fraud, how in the hell has he manged to survive this long and remain virtually unchallenged?’
‘Wealth. Physicality. Connections. Intimidation. Charisma. It’s no surprise how far those alone could get you in the real world. It’s no different in our world too. Wouldn’t you be enamored by a rich, well-connected, 7ft patriarch that was both charismatic and intimidating?’
I thought about it for a little while.
‘Not really, but I see your point.’ I teased as she nudged me in the liver. ‘ But for such an imposing figure to be a mere puppet to the Twins is really something… So we’re really screwed this time huh.”
‘A fraud in need,’ I blurted.
‘Is a fraud indeed,’ she finished. ‘ And Akira is exactly how the twins managed to increase their strength and influence almost threefold. Not only do they still control their original territories – South America and most of Europe, but also a greater part of all that belongs to the Mishimas too. I almost respect them for their ingenuity.’
Just then, it started to drizzle. This was strange, because I didn’t remember the weather report say anything about skywater for the entire day. But that mattered little, because I was starting to feel cold. How long had we been sitting out here anyway?
I stood up to walk over into our house. But then she grabbed me by the wrist with both hands. I turned to look at her, and I noticed her expression had somewhat changed. It seemed almost melancholic.
‘There are two things I’d been meaning to tell you for a little while,’ she said, ‘but I could not do so earlier. Now is the time, while it’s just the two of us… But before that, isn’t there anything else you’d like to know first?’
I thought hard for a brief moment, sat back down on the now wet pavement and then I answered.
‘As a matter of fact, Freyja. Yes. I do have a question.’
‘What is it?’ She asked.
‘I want to know why you’re telling me all this stuff about Akira now. What does any of that have to do with you shooting at me just moments ago?’
Her eyes watered. ‘… I was just conflicted. I needed to let off steam.’
‘You crazy bitch.’ I growled. ‘How dare you use such a stupid excuse to try to kill me?!’
‘You know damn well you’d be dead if I really wanted you dead!’ She hissed back. Venomously.
She was telling the truth. And because I knew that fact damn well, my blood ran a little cold. Was that why I was attracted to her? If so, then I definitely had issues of my own. My fiance was The fucking Widow dammit. No one could attest to her ability to kill better than I could.
But right now I was angry. And I desperately wanted an argument just so I could let off steam too. The fact that she was The Widow didn’t matter to me, I wanted to strike her for shooting at me. And so we glared our fangs at each other dangerously, waiting for the other person to make a move. Any move. It just had to be substantial enough to justify a counter.
But that move never came, and so the sky’s drizzles gradually became droplets. The face-off became stale, and the animosity slowly dissipated.
‘I… I…’ I stammered sheepishly.
‘You what! Are you about to apologise? You never really do, you know.’ Her face lit up like a beacon.
I frowned. ‘You’re the one who owes me a goddamn apology.’
‘I know,’ she teased.
‘That’s my line.’ I flashed an offensive look in her direction.
‘Well it’s my line now dumbass. Besides, if that’s the face you make each time you’re nursing your patients, then I’m surprised you still manage to keep your job at all.’
We both giggled. We stopped as we heard the McGee’s cat meow in the distance. It was clawing at the front door, trying to escape the rain perhaps? I hated that creature, it never accepted anything I tried to feed it.
‘But to really answer your question,’ Freyja continued, ‘I wanted you to understand just how stupid it would be for us to go after the Twins this time. We had a damn good chance before and we blew it. They used us. Now they’ve grown much too big to fail, just like a Hydra. Cut off one head, and two more grow in its place.’
I thought hard.
‘Okay Freyja,’ I continued, ‘we may not have gotten rid of the twins last time, but we did at least manage to disappear from their radar. We can do the same thing this time. We have you, the Widow, for God’s sake. Possibly the finest assassin on the planet. But we also have allies, remember? Reinholdt, Mandela, Catelyn and Cesar. They helped us a lot when you came up with the plan to take down the Ivankovs. Let’s reach out to them!’
Just then, she bit her lower lip hard and then tears started to form out of her already watered eyes.
‘That’s the first thing I wanted to tell you.’
I began to fear the worst. I parted her wet hair away from her lovely face.
‘What do you mean?’ I pressed.
She pursed her lips as she fought to hold back tears.
‘Reinholdt. Mandela. Catelyn. Cesar. They’re all dead. The twins knew I’d try to reach them, so their assassins got to them this afternoon, just before they gave me the ultimatum.’
Something in me shattered as she mentioned those words. I struggled to catch my breath for a moment.
‘The ultimatum being that you have to complete the only mission you left unfinished all those years ago – to kill me.’ I finished painfully.
Right then, she began to shiver. And then she began to cry. Those four, Reinholdt and his crew, were our closest friends. They were much closer to Freyja than they were to me. They had all grown up at the same orphanage, known each other for a long time, and were all recruited by The Twins at some time in their lives. All of them… except Cesar. Cesar was a nephew to The Twins, and was always in love with Freyja ever since he first laid eyes on her. That was when the Twins first brought her to camp when she was 11. Cesar was 9.
He was a promising young athlete, with a raw talent for combat sports and sharpshooting. If memory doesn’t fail me, he was the cartel’s second best sniper. But he immediately gave up athletics and asked to join his dear auntie’s cartel in the hopes that Freyja would acknowledge him and one day fall for him. The twins recognised very early on how their young nephew’s infatuation for Freyja could become a valuable tool, as well as keep him under their control. So they sent him on several missions together with Freyja, as her lookout and backup.
Cesar was so talented the twins commissioned his first kill when he was just 12. He racked up a record 122 high-profile kills after Freyja had her first kill. The other tens of small fries didn’t count. Thirteen years later, just when Freyja had started to fall for him, The Twins sent her to kill me. Unluckily for him, she fell for me during her mission – and we have become inseparable ever since.
I was always aware how much Cesar despised me. But I knew he’d do anything for Freyja. I was also always painfully aware just how much affection Freyja had developed for him. She had know him for almost twenty years now. She would bring it up every time I did not react to her drama, and she’d say things like ‘Cesar would never do this to me.’
It worked most times.
Don’t blame me for being a little jealous. Christ! He even put his life on the line to help her take out the Ivankovs, with the singular hope that she would be free and happy from his family. He didn’t care what his uncle and auntie would think of his betrayal. And yet, his love was never fully returned. But now he was gone, and Freyja was left shedding tears of guilt and regret.
I held Freyja close as she began to wail. A lump named Guilt formed in my throat.
‘How could I have known they’d find my friends so soon?!‘ She wailed in torment while still shaking uncontrollably. She then clenched both her fists and began pounding my chest violently. ‘Those bastards! They even killed Cesar too. He was their nephew goddamit!!‘
I grabbed her wrists firmly, and forced her into an almost bearlike hug. She screamed. She struggled to break free until she finally gave in, her screams finally reducing to sobs.
‘I’m so sorry darling.’ That was all I could mutter as I fought to hold back my own tears, and my own guilt. It was raining even harder now. So I picked her up in my arms and walked across the lawn to the shade of our front door steps. I sat down while still holding her. After a few minutes, she finally calmed down. That’s when I decided to speak.
‘We still have help.’
She stayed silent for a little while, gently shrugged off my embrace and then stood up. She turned to look at me with renewed, steely determination.
‘Go on.’ She commanded.
I was a little surprised. So I paused.
‘The cartel in control of the African continent… The Jiweke cartel. We can use their help.’
Her eyes slowly disagreed. ‘No! Not them.‘
Just then, our neighbour Mrs McGee opened her front door to let her cat in. She then turned to face us and yelled, ‘What are the lota yis doing out there?? It’s 2 fuckin’ am…’
‘Go fuck yourself, tramp!’ We yelled back in unison. She scurried back in immediately and sealed the door shut.
I stood up, and turned to look at Freyja.
‘It’s just the two of us yet again, darling’ she said, forcing a smile. I didn’t return it.
I grabbed her by the forearms firmly. ‘I’m very serious here, we still have allies. I may have chosen to be a nurse, but you know damn well how deep my connections run. My family, The Jiweke Cartel is the single, largest, most influential cartel in the African continent. So much so that the twins once sent you to kill me four years ago because I was the heir apparent to my family’s business.’
‘No!’ She pleaded. ‘You know what happened to our friends. I cannot let your family get involved. Besides, you denounced them and refused any contact with them for the past ten years, despite all their efforts to get you back! What makes you think they’ll just accept you now?? Don’t be naive!!’
‘I don’t care!’ I growled back.
I could feel her muscles begin to relax as I still held her firmly by the forearms. She looked at me softly. Was that pity?
‘Maybe you should, darling. Besides your love, the only other thing I ever desired was love from a real family…’
‘STOPIT!!’ I exploded. ‘Those animals are NOT my family!!’ God knows I’ll end them all if I could!!’
She said nothing. Unfazed. She was letting me continue.
‘The only thing those bastards know how to do is kill, kill, kill. It doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty, innocent, with child or just a child. They’ll just simply butcher their way through anybody! They’re worse than The Twins and you know that damn well! And for them to think that I’d ever want to be a part of their twisted charade?! No damn way!! Of course i denounced them! They… they even killed my brother and friend. Just to prove a shitty goddamn point! But you know what’s the worst thing about all of this?! It’s that for the first time EVER, those goddamn twins have left me little choice but to consider help from those barbarians you call my family .’
It was my turn to cry now. For ten years, I had tried to bury the memory of my brother Kambi’s machete-riddled body hanging from the pier. As the blood heir to my father’s business, I was no stranger to the dark side of my family’s business. Our international cover was the Jiweke Investment Bank, as well as many dummy corporations and subsidiaries around the globe. But my family’s real business was the killing business. Everybody knew that. But no one had the courage to confront us, lest they found a loved one brutally chopped up before dawn.
Despite his savagery, my father – The Jiweke patriarch, had a lot of adopted children. But he was extremely doting towards me, his only blood child. I had the finest custom-made education in politics, economics, finance and psychology throughout my childhood. But I never had to leave my living room in Cameroon for any kind of further study. My father had the finest tutors from Denmark, India, Ecuador, England and Canada come all the way to my home to tutor me. For well over 20 years! I never made any close friends except my closest adopted brother, Kambi. Kambi was a genius, a warrior and an older brother. I looked up to him. My father made sure I never took part in any explicit killings. But throughout my upbringing, and as his heir to the business, he made me observe a lot of the fucked up daily routine in his business. This included but was not limited to watching the killing of a crying, innocent family of a debtor that defaulted on a payment, right up to manipulating street orphans into his continental web of spies and child soldiers. Just normal day-to-day stuff.
But on that fateful day, after seeing my own brother’s lifeless body so badly humiliated on the pier, something snapped in me. I knew it was my father’s doing. I tried to kill him that night in his sleep, and I failed. I was a 24 year old kid, well over six feet and fairly strong. But that ogre grabbed the blade of my machete as I swung it down his neck while he was supposed to be asleep. I thought he was going to kill me in retaliation. But to my surprise, he sat upright on his bed, tossed aside the machete he had just seized off me from his bloodied palm, and then went on to give me a long lecture about how proud he was of me for coming after him. All the while, I was crying over my incompetence for not being able to avenge my dear older brother. That ogre who calls himself my dad said Kambi’s death was a mere lesson for me to learn. He said Kambi was an incorruptible, and extremely competent young man. And that he really, really wished he could have groomed Kambi to one day become my second. But then had to kill him just to teach me that if someone so young and inexperienced couldn’t be bought, then they had to be killed before they became a bigger problem later on. Such was the nature of the business, and that his action was necessary to help me cultivate the focus I needed to become the mandatory heir once I turned 30. It was an extremely brutal, yet very effective preemptive measure.
And then, for the first and only time in my life, I saw that bastard cry. He shed brief tears for Kambi. I was so shocked I stopped crying. What the hell kinda sick contradiction was this?? You’re crying over a ‘son’ you just killed?? I considered him a brother, you oaf!! And you killed him just to teach me a lesson??
A lot more happened that night I wish to forget. So the very next day, in my grief and cowardice, I ran away from home as far as I could. I had connections. I was the only blood-son of the biggest cartel godfather in the continent. I had privileges and I used every single one of them. I changed my identity when I got to Singapore, then in China, Peru and finally in Dublin where I met Freyja. During that time, I chose to become a nurse, it was my way of atonement for the lives me and my family were responsible for taking. I wanted to believe that if only I could save so many lives, it would kinda make up for the ones we’d taken. But deep down, I tried constantly to tame the murderous, vengeful blood I had inherited from my father. I wanted revenge for Kambi, but I always knew how much power that ogre possessed. And I’m not just talking about figurative power such as political, economic and financial power. He had all those, and more. I am talking about literal brute fucking strength. A nuclear launch site would turn tail and run away at the mere sight of Marcus Jiweke. He was a creature, like Akira.
You really are your father’s son, Boy. I remember him saying to me while flashing that wide yellow grin. You clearly have my blood in you.
Every cartel wanted expansion, despite the restrictions of the ICT. So, it was always going to be a matter of time before I was found by my family. And it finally happened – but it wasn’t my family that found me first. It was the goddamn Twins. And I knew it was them because it was the first time I met Freyja. She had an icepick to my throat as I was taking a piss in the Men’s section of Gavanagh’s Grocery Stores. She needed no introduction. I had learned about all 5 cartel’s most notable assassins during my home schooling as well as their MO’s. And I took particular notice of the female assassins because there were so few of them. My ogre dad had done a great job in this area.
The Twins had a thing for important dates. They had Freyja kill Hugo on her birthday. And they tried to have her kill me on my 30th birthday. The same day I was scheduled to take over my dad’s business mandatorily. They meant to send a twisted message to my ogre dad, enrage him and then use this opportunity to turn his allies against him and help them assume control of the continent very quickly and efficiently. So yeah, my death was supposed to be a twisted birthday present to my father, given that I was groomed to take over the family business on that day.
But that didn’t work out as the twins planned. Freyja didn’t kill me. I was saved by the simple fact that Freyja was extremely mysophobic. And despite having an icepick to my neck while I was taking a piss, she wouldn’t kill me until I had finished my business and washed my hands. That small window gave me more than enough time needed to sweet-talk my way out of dying at that moment. As a consequence, Freyja and I eventually got to know each other, fell in love, rounded up some of her friends and my connections and went after the Twins. But!… We had to be patient before striking.
Finally, we got the breakthrough we needed. We got intel that Carla Ramos, sister to Carlos Ramos and one half of the Twins, had a very drunken tirade in front of some of the West’s most political and esteemed guests. This was during a fundraiser for the renovation of the San Esteban cathedral in Malaga. In an unprecedented fit of drunken rage, Carla went on to criticize the church for its role in child abuse. It was all over the Spanish tabloids and tv. But that didn’t matter to us. What was more useful to us was her mention of her hatred for Julia Ivankov and the fact that she wished the Belorussians would disappear before the month’s end.
That was it! Carla had just reignited the Gemelos-Belarus beef for us. And on National TV for that matter!! All we had to do was hurt Julia really badly before the month’s end. Freyja would leave her ‘footprint’ on the scene and the Belorussians would immediately connect her kills to The Widow, the most lethal assassin in the Twins’s repertoire of killers. It would look like the Twins were responsible for it, and entice the other cartels to form an alliance to go after the Twins . It was perfect.
…or so we thought. Freyja then explained to me that the whole facade was an elaborate bait Carla had set for us. And boy did we not only take the bait, we seized it. Me and Freyja got our forces together and took Julia out. The Mishimas were supposed to recognise the threat to their territory immediately and go to war with the twins. This would normally entice the other global cartels in the treaty to join the Mishimas in the war against the Twins for breach of the International Cartel Treaty’s contracts. But it did not. How could we have known that the Mishimas’s already belonged to The Twins?
Once we took out Julia, the Twins immediately consolidated their forces with the Mishimas and crushed the then leaderless Belorussian faction in a single night! Now over 60% of global cartel territory was directly under their control.
And my idiot self had no fucking clue until now! Damn!
Freyja smiled, then leaned in toward me. The shade wasn’t quite shady enough to shield us completely from the now torrential rain.
‘Aren’t we just perfect for each other?’ she prodded. ‘Both royally fucked, twisted and dysfunctional beyond repair?’
I looked right back at her, and I smiled back. ‘Yes, we are.’
We leaned in close and kissed each other. After what felt like an entire minute, I pulled back. I just remembered I had a very important question to ask her.
‘So Freyja. What was the second thing you said you wanted to talk to me about? Does it have anything to do with helping us get the Twins off our backs for good? We could use some positive news right now.’
She raised a pair of emerald eyes and locked them onto mine.
‘Yes.’ She replied.
A wave of relief surged through me. Freyja had a knack for finding a way out through the toughest circumstances.
‘Tell me all about your plan then.’
‘It’s rather simple,’ she started, ‘we use love.’
‘We use what now?’ I replied. Now she was the one not making any sense. I couldn’t remember her hitting her head hard in the last couple minutes either.
‘I’ve made up my mind, darling. I’ll do anything to protect you, just as I know you’d do anything to protect us.’
I said nothing. This was beginning to feel strange.
‘There’s nothing we can do against the Twins as we are now, not if vengeance is our MO. There is no way we can take on the twins now. Not even if our allies were alive. We can wait, and bide our time to exact vengeance. But that’s only if we have at least 100 years to spare.’
‘Good,’ I joked, ‘I’m gonna live on till I’m 300. So I got time.’
She did not smile. Instead, she took my palm and held it in hers and then began a monologue that felt almost rehearsed to me.
‘We’ve been through so much together thus far. We’ve lived, we’ve loved and we’ve both lost. And through all our trials, we’ve managed to defy the odds. Even defied those that had decided our fates for so long. I may never have said this to you before, but every moment I shared with you was the best I’ve ever had. But right now, I am tired darling. I am tired of running, I am tired of being played, and I am… ‘
Just then, I placed a finger over her lips.
‘What is this?’ I interjected. ‘Some kinda death wish? Are you about to die or something? This isn’t original, you know. I see it all the time in the movies.’
‘You’re rude, you know,’ she replied. ‘ Won’t you let me finish, at least?’
I paused before I replied. ‘Fine. I’ll listen… Not just because it was rude of me to interrupt you, but also because I get the feeling the-write-guy is really starting to draw this story out. And I also believe he’s not sure what he’s writing about any longer.‘
She didn’t seem to understand. But that mattered little to us both. So she continued.
‘I am tired, darling. And it hurts even more when I realise that for every moment I thought I was in control, even that ‘liberty’ was a mere footnote in the bigger picture scripted for me by the Twins. They may have engineered my every deed, and every thought, but if there is one thing I do not regret, it is the simple fact that they led me to you. Every other thing that happened after I met you, whether it was a part of their plan or not, I do not care. I love you very dearly. I just want you to know that. I may be doomed, but this is the only way I can ensure you remain safe.’
Just then, the strangest shit happened.
In one lightning quick move, Freyja pushed me off the staircase into the nearby shrubs. She then ran back in the rain all the way to the pavement, picked up her pistol and then turned to face me from almost 10 metres away. The shock on my face only intensified as I tried to pick myself up. I turned to face her and realised now that she had her pistol pointed at me. I had completely forgotten the pistol was lay there! I rose to my feet slowly. I had no idea what stunt Freyja was trying to pull. I began to approach her, slowly, then raised both my hands to show vulnerability.
‘Stop right there!!’ She yelled.
I stopped instantly. She was shaking, and in the downpour, I could see her tears had now resumed flowing. I had never seen her this nervous. At least not when she had a weapon in her hands.
I began to inch forward again. Very slowly. I was now scared. ‘You don’t have to do this my love. We have been through so much together. We can get through this as well. Believe in your ability. Believe in me. Believe in us.’
She took a step back, and cocked back her pistol. Shit. She was still shaking violently.
‘This is the only way,’ she croaked, ‘I have to do this!’
‘Nonsense!’ I hollered back. ‘Whatever this is, you do not have to do it Freyja!’
‘My mind is made up already. Please, don’t come any closer!’
Now I was both nervous and angry.
‘Do you really believe killing me would achieve anything?!’ I screamed in frustration. ‘Put that thing down right now! I can reach out to my family for help. Let me do something goddamit! Anything! Just give me the chance to try!’
She then smiled. It appeared to me like she wasn’t shaking so violently anymore. She seemed…serene.
‘I’m happy. I always love how intense you get whenever you worry about me, darling. For this, I shall always remain grateful… BUT!’ She roared as I tried to take another cautious step forward. Her raised gun still pointing at me.
‘This was never about you,’ she continued. ‘ It had always been about me. So I will decide how I go out on my terms. I love you darling.’
‘I love you both very very dearly. We shall meet again soon.’
In a flash, I watched Freyja turn her pistol away from me and point it towards her lower abdomen instead. She fired.
‘FREYJA!!’ I screamed.
I stared in horror as she crashed backward unto the pavement. At first I couldn’t move, but then I mustered the courage to walk over to her. It was cold, it was pouring. I knelt down beside her almost lifeless body and picked her up in my trembling arms. I reached for a pulse. Thank God! She was still alive, but wheezing hard. I didn’t cry. Because I still could not fathom what had just happened. Yes, I had seen it, but I chose not to believe it.
She tried to say something but no words came out of her lips. I looked down at her belly and saw the blood slowly ooze out onto the pavement. I watched briefly as the rainwater led the blood straight into the gutters. Frantically, I placed my hand on her abdomen to try to stop the bleeding.
…It was only then that it hit me.
How had I not noticed this all along??! She had hinted at it so many times? Could it be that it was never just the two of us out here the entire time? But three? How could I have been so naive? And by her saying she loved us both, could that mean.. she must have been pregnant with our child??
I looked at her in horror as the looked back at me, the life fading ever slowly from my eyes.
‘Don’t tell me Freyja…’ I couldn’t find it in me to finish my sentence. I was now overcome with grief. And I could feel another emotion now simmering. Rage.
‘I’m so sorry.’ She whispered weakly. ‘I’m so… so sorry.’
‘How could you, Freyja?’ I croaked.
‘This..’ she coughed up blood as she tried to speak.
‘Shhh!’. That was all I could say I frantically tried to stop her from losing any more blood. I was trying to save her, but even more so, I now wanted answers! She reached out and grabbed my shirt.
‘I’m… sorry, darling. It was the only… way I could keep… you safe.’
‘And what about our child? Huh?’ I asked, heartbroken. ‘I never sought your protection. Never! We were supposed to get out of this together. All of us.’ I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer as I sank unto the pavement with Freyja in my arms.
‘How old?’ I asked in tears.
‘S… seven weeks.’ She replied weakly.
‘Damn you Freyja!’ I cracked. ‘There was never any doubt how far we would go for each other… but this.’ I then Iooked down at her bloodied abdomen. ‘This was never for you to decide on your own. That… that was incredibly selfish. Now, every fibre in my being is telling me to leave you here to suffer. But how can I?’
I could see the hurt intensify in her eyes, and the tears began to roll down her face anew. The pain she now felt wasn’t just from her mortal wound. My words had clearly hurt her now more than any weapon she had ever brandished could.
‘You… need to know.’ She choked.
She raised her hand weakly and turned my face toward hers.
‘At least… look at me. Just… this one time.’
I did. But the sight of her looking so bloodied and powerless almost broke whatever resolve I was trying so desperately to hold onto. I opened my mouth to apologize, but she placed a finger on my lips. And through the pain, she mustered the strength to speak again.
‘I want you… to know. The twins… They gave me two choices..’ she paused to catch her breath. Her speech was becoming more strained by the second. And I drew her closer as I realised painfully, that her time was drawing near.
‘It was either I killed you, and they’d never bother… me again. Or that they’d come for all of us once we… once… we had our child. But I chose to make an even harder choice. A bigger… sacrifice. Now I am broken, and I have failed… us. I chose to take our unborn child with me. But I know you’ll live, darling. I know you’ll survive. You must… survive.
‘My journey ends here. And on my terms. I refuse to dance to the sadistic tune of the twins any longer.’ She coughed up more blood. ‘Hate me if you must… but that matters little to me now. It is done. This is only… the second time in my life… that I made a conscious decision for myself. My resolve is set in stone, and I’ll do it all over again if I had to. That is because I love you. And I’ll journey through Hell and back for your sake. I just want… you to know that.’
Those were her final words. With that, she brought her hand down and I could feel the tension slowly leave her body. She looked at me one last time as she tried to force a smile. I smiled for her. And then, just as I had feared, her pulse faded. Freyja was dead.
In my torment, I let out a feral scream of anguish that tore through the night like a lightning bolt. I hugged and kissed Freyja as my wailing only intensified, and so did the downpour. I begged her to wake up, but she wouldn’t open her eyes. I even held her palm firmly, but she wouldn’t hold mine in return. I prayed again to a God I didn’t believe in, but He would not revive her. I do not remember much right after that moment.
But one thing was made abundantly clear to me now. I was alone.
I had lost my brother once. I had lost my friends. And now, I had lost my love and my child. My sorrow now began to fade and only one thought filled my mind. Vengeance. This was far from over. I was now filled with rage, and I had a clear target – The Twins. I was no assassin. I was no army. I was no cartel. I was nothing but a nurse. But what I was, was my father’s son – there was no longer any reason for me to suppress the bloodlust I had inherited from him. I was despicable, but now I had a mission.
I would take everything from those who had taken everything from me. I’m sorry darling, but this is just the beginning. I promise you I will kill Los Ramos Gemelos. Even if it costs me my life. For me. For you. For our friends. For Cesar. And for our child. Watch over me Freyja.
For I will have my revenge.