By Sage Campbell
It’s the day I have been fretting all year. If I made the right choice, it won’t end well for me. If I made the wrong choice, it won’t end well at all.
I shove my thoughts away as I walk down the road. I have to get to the coffee shop before Eli can. He will definitely kill Andrew without hesitation. Why did I tell them to meet up with me at the same coffee shop? Not to mention that I told them to meet me at the same time. That wasn’t part of my assignment! My mission was simple, but no. I had to go and mess everything up.
A white van with some logo for electricals honks at me as it pulls out of an alley. Crap. They found me. I get out of their way, only to turn down the next alley. I tuck behind a dumpster as I hear the van turn into the alley. The doors open and slam shut four times, but I only hear six feet hit the pavement. Someone is trying to be smart with me.
I peer my head just past the dumpster to see my assumption’s correct. Ten men surround the van. John and Vincent are there, of course. John is in his usual stained tank top. He always wears that when he’s on the hunt, which means that I’m on his hit list. Shoot. How did you get yourself into this pit, Akari Naoko? But John isn’t who I’m worried about. It’s Vincent.
John has always been the classic Big Bad Boss, with Vincent as his little rat. Where John is muscular, Vincent is crafty. Where John chooses pure strength, Vincent prefers tools, knives, and guns, and only gets dirty when he thinks he’s won. John will preoccupy the victim and tire them out, and Vincent will come in when least expected. I’d have to be a foolhardy idiot to not be scared lifeless at the sight of them on my trail. I grew up watching them drag their “catch of the day” back to the sewers that we called home. I grew up watching them torture poor souls who had fallen too far in the wrong to be reconciled.
I grab the stun gun from my belt before deciding upon my homemade tear gas. Good thing I decided to wear layers. The other eight men are in all black with an array of pistols and knives strapped to them. I lean back out of sight before one of them can get even so much as a glimpse of me.
“Come on out, Akari. We know you’re here.” John’s voice is thick and booming. “Get out here before you do something you’ll regret.” Too late. At that, Vincent smirks. I can feel it. I take a deep breath and pull out the pin in my tear gas bomb, tossing the bomb so it bounces off a wall to distract them. I watch as it rolls right up to their feet. Just like in the movies. “What th–” An explosion of tear gas cuts him off. Immediately a chorus of coughs and commands begin.
I grab the collar of my jacket and hose it down with my water bottle before covering my nose and mouth with it. I know the gas will still sting, but it’ll help. I grab my grappling hook and wrap it around the back handle of the dumpster and take off. I run around the coughing group of men, looping the rope around anything big, heavy, and slightly portable. After reaching the dumpster, I tie a slip knot with the rope I had tied earlier. Now for the hard part. I get into a crouch and rush to the back of the van. My eyes and lungs burn, but I have to get it done. The guys will find me in any moment and I have to finish this trap. I tie the rope on the bumper of the van before bolting out of the cloud.
Just as I am about to get out, a hand grabs ahold of my wrist. I jab my heeled boot into his foot, twisting around to increase the pain, only to see pain and sadness in Vincent’s face. Sorry, old friend, but I have to go. His hand releases me, and I whip off my jacket, tying it around his arms before he can react. Then, I’m gone, but not before I hear all of the men running into their van. The doors close, the van starts, and as they slam on the gas, everything that I had tied that rope to slams into the van. Those screams were really what I needed today.
I sprint to the coffee house just as Eli begins to make his way towards Andrew. I catch a glimpse of Eli’s dagger and get an idea. I grab the coffee pot from an unsuspecting waitress as I rush behind Eli, pouring the hot contents on him. Eli’s pained screams draw Andrew’s attention to us. Eli whips around to me and his fist nearly makes contact with my stomach. Too predictable. I bring my knee up as I force him down. My knee meets his gut half way, releasing a grunt from Eli. Andrew makes eye contact with me, shrouded in confusion.
“Get out of here, A–” I’m cut off as Eli charges at me, throwing me towards the wall. The wind is knocked out of me as I hit a table. Plates crash and shatter to the ground. People are running out of the shop, but Andrew is staying in place, his eyes locked on me. Eli straightens, chuckling.
“Annie? Is that your name now, Akari?” Eli’s voice is filled with pleasure, and threat. Andrew’s eyes dash between me and Eli.
“Andrew, get out of here,” I groan.
Eli turns back to me, smiling madly, his knife glinting in the light. As he goes to make a slash through me, I lean back and kick him in the chest, hearing the air leave him. He falls to the ground and I go to run past him, to Andrew. Eli wraps his hand around my ankle before I can get away, and let my heel meet his face for the first time. A satisfying crack leaves his nose as his scream fills the shop.
I turn back to Andrew and see horror written all over his face.
“Akari? As in Akari Naoko? As in the infamous villain Akari ‘niece of the man who killed my mother’ Naoko?” Betrayal enters his voice, and all I want is to take his pain away, but I have to finish my mission.
“You really need to work on your background checks,” I say, smirking.
“Why- how– Why would you do this? How did you do this?” Fear. He’s almost where he has to be. He staggers down the stairs, towards me.
“Your father killed all of my family, I’ve come to return the favor.” I’m not sure if this will kill him or me first.
“No. You’re good. I know you–”
“That’s where you’re wrong. You know nothing about me. I’m evil. You’re good.”
“But the carnival… that night on the rooftop…” He stops, merely inches from me and Eli.
“All ploys to get your trust.” Originally, they were, but they turned into the first moments where I was truly happy. When I first felt loved since my family had been murdered in front of me.
Hurt crosses Andrew’s face. “I won’t let you win this fight, then.” He grabs Eli’s knife and stabs it into me. Shock and horror cross his face, but a smile only spreads across mine. I grab the knife to feel the weapon that is the cause of my downfall.
“Good choice. The same one used to kill my baby sister.” I laugh, painfully, before entering the final stage of life. I don’t see a light, but a shadowy figure. I grin even more. I finished my mission. I made the right choice.