We were excited; there was so much to do today, on our eighteenth birthday, that we almost forgot to celebrate and as we were just leaving the little flat in the centre of town, our father took us both in his arms and kissed us both lovingly and drew us into our little dining room after having covered our eyes. I could hear my sister giggling near me and then the low, soft husk of my father’s voice, his tone full of pride as he removed his hands to reveal the room covered in balloons, ribbons, streamers and more. “When we come back tonight, we’ll have a party like neither of you have ever had before!” He gestured to the far wall where a large pile of oddly shaped parcels, all wrapped in brown paper packaging with blue, red, green and golden string holding the paper closed. At that sight, I felt my heart jump into my throat, not for the last time that night.
It had only been the day before that the call and card had come to us: a hit. Indeed it was a very special hit for my sister and I as it was to be our first true job that we ourselves had planned, with our father’s guidance and approval. It would be the three of us working together, a unit in perfect harmony as we always had been.
It was only an hour later, not long after 9, that we moved through the shadowed outskirts of the back alley cross roads. There were skips and large metal bins throughout the odd opening, all overflowing with bulging black bags of stinking, rotting food and other assorted filth. We split up as we had agreed, I on the right in a dark doorway which had been boarded up years before, my father and sister in the scaffolding above me, one at each end.
We didn’t have long to wait.
A group of tall, broad men entered the arena, not realising the danger they were walking into: how could they? They were like gazelles and we were the lions and leopards waiting in the grasses and the trees, easy prey. I shifted my position, checking her blades and loosening them in their sheaths so there were no errors: time to move.
The way the alley courtyard was set up there was only one blind spot for the guns that my father and sister wielded, the exit we had actually come through ourselves which lay directly under the scaffolding, while the guns could cover everything else, it was this entrance way which was my designated area, mostly due to my preference of blades over guns. It was a wipe-out mission after all so no escapees allowed.
We waited as the small gang huddled together waiting for their friends, almost making it too easy for us. We knew that our first mission would not be overly taxing, but it was almost as if some invisible sheep dog had herded these men together in the perfect spot for us! And they called themselves a gang.
As the other half of the group appeared on the scene, loudly calling to their friends and wrapping each other in boisterous hugs, I began to make my move. From the doorway that I had been crouched, I was some 100m from the entrance where the scaffolding ended; somewhere I couldn’t have settled in originally due to the open nature of its surroundings. I heard nothing, but I knew that my father and sister shifted in their positions, waiting for the moment that the men noticed me. That was the signal. Quietly, my eyes ever on the group and breath feeling as if it were held, I began to sneak towards my destination and slowly but surely, the 100m decreased down to 90, then 40 and then 10.
The heel of my shoe had caught the metal of an old floor level cellar door, and the sound echoed loudly around the area. For the second time that night, my heart flew into my throat. The men in the group went silent. Above me, I heard my sister shift silently, ducking as the group looked about them for the first time. I watched silently as a mouse came from its hole, grabbed some stuffing from an ancient mattress and disappeared back from whence it had come.
Finally, the moment passed and the mutter of “rats” could be heard before the conversations started up again and I finally let go of the breath that I hadn’t been aware I’d been holding. It was another 30 seconds or so before I plucked the courage up to continue my 7m quest, but already it was too late.
As I came into view, each member of the group before me turned and a gun sounded. I only had enough time to realise that something wasn’t right before a cacophony of noise erupted above me and I dove backwards, toward the exit I had been covering as the steel posts and wooden planks tumbled down around me and above me, with two screams sounding, though they were cut off too quickly.
My heart had bypassed my throat now and was thrumming in my ears, tears falling down my cheeks and pain from the middle of my back and below, where the once organised structure was atop of my limbs, though I knew that if I stayed as I was, I would surely die.
Adrenaline filling my body, numbing the pain and the screaming in my ears, intensifying that one instinct that mattered: the one that preserved life. With more strength that I could normally manage, I wrenched myself from under the scaffolding and began to move.