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He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror and utmost annoyance, he saw that somebody had gone into the house unwelcomed. He turned irately towards the tiny living room to see that the wallpaper had been torn down, bookshelves had been upended, and there were shards of broken glass all over the floor. His icy blue eyes flashed as he saw that chairs and tables were overturned, the old couch from his previous apartment had been ripped, and his television had a crack down the middle of the screen.
“How am I supposed to watch The Walking Dead?” he hissed under his breath. He had an annoying habit of making jokes during dire situations.
His breathing hitched as the circumstances hit him. The hair at the nape of his neck stood straight up.
Should he call the police?
Should he run?
Should he stay?
But he knew who the intruder was. This was not the first time something like this had ever happened, and it was definitely not the worst, by the current looks of it.
He heard his cat meowing from somewhere to his left. The tubby white kitten streaked into the room—narrowly missing all the glass—and curled herself protectively around his legs. He ran his fingers through his crew cut in exasperation when he realized that the kitten’s fur had been crudely painted crimson with blood. He scooped her up in his arms while taking out the standardized police-force pistol from his waistband. Slowly, he tiptoed upstairs to his bedroom. The oak banister had been vigorously scratched. He was almost afraid to open his bedroom door, but he buried those foreign feelings down deep; he had been trained for situations like this. Without a moment’s hesitation, he swung open the door to his room. Immediately, he had to fight the sudden urge to vomit. The same blood that was on his cat was all over his bedroom. The cheap carpet from Bed, Bath and Beyond that had once been a pearly shade of white was now stained red. There were pools of blood scattered across the floor. And there, on his bed, was the mangled corpse of the sweet girl from the bar last week.
He punched the wall and heard his knuckles give a satisfying painful snap. He was no longer afraid. This was the third body that The Renegade had deposited at his house. The clandestine organization that “tied-up loose ends” had found him when he was orphaned on the streets of New York City at age eleven and he’d been with them up until when he escaped two years ago. They’d been trying to make his life miserable ever since he left by leaving murder and destruction in his wake. Each time he found the body, the killer—or killers—were gone.
He took one last prolonged, sentimental look at the girl, wishing he had never met her so her life would have been spared. Luke filled the bathtub with leftover acid from the time spent at The Renegade Headquarters and gently placed the girl’s body in it to dissolve any and all evidence of the incident.
“Always leaving me to clean up their mess,” he muttered incoherently under his breath, cradling his injured hand against his muscular chest. “Never going to catch a break; they’re never going to stop.”
Next, he submerged the fake ID with the name Luke Willis.
Luke shook his head. “What a name,” he smirked.
Luke remembered the first time this had happened. He’d been living in Fresno, California, working in the fields. He’d grown close to one of the immigrant workers there. Together, they worked as a team, collecting cotton, grapes, strawberries or whatever was growing that season. On a warm Friday evening, Luke came home to find his friend’s body draped across his couch like a blanket. Luke had cried for hours until he forced himself to man up and be strong.
This time, Luke didn’t even shed a tear.
What was the girl’s name? Sally? Molly? Chloe? He couldn’t even remember. All he could picture were her kind eyes and bright smile as they had bonded over the fact they were both orphans. He had even told her about the jagged scar his dad had under his left eye before he and Luke’s mother had disappeared.
Quickly, he rushed back to his bedroom, packed the small amount of clothes he had into a bag, and took the stairs two at a time to get back down. Luke placed a small, smooth red capsule inside the oven and turned it up to 450 degrees. Finally, he grabbed his cat, shoved the pistol in the front of his pants, and snatched the wad of cash in a drawer in the kitchen before heading out. Luke walked down the street before boarding the public transportation bus at the corner.
“Where to?” asked the bus driver.
“Anywhere,” Luke responded, “as long as it’s far from here.”
The driver nodded. “Salt Lake City is the furthest destination today, if you’re interested.”
“That’s great,” Luke said with a tight smile. “Thank you.” He sat down and stared out the window for the next few minutes.
Luke didn’t even look back as his house exploded a mile away, lighting up the night sky with millions of pieces of charred evidence and burning debris.
Seven long hours later, Luke stepped off the stuffy bus and immediately stepped into a pothole. He cursed under his breath as he limped to the sidewalk.
I’m a purebred assassin, and yet I still can’t manage to get on the sidewalk without impairing myself, Luke thought to himself, shaking his head. He scouted around for a place to sit down and get his bearings, eventually settling for a quaint little bench beside a locus tree. Luke sat down heavily and shifted the cat from his left hand to his right. Thankfully, she’d dozed off at the beginning of the bus ride and woke up only a few minutes before he got off. He watched as she stretched her tiny limbs in his lap.
“How can something so delicate survive all of this?” he asked himself aloud.
“Survive all of what?” a deep voice rumbled in Luke’s ear. He felt the barrel of a small handgun being pressed up against the back of his neck. The cat hissed and tucked its head underneath Luke’s palm. “We don’t want any trouble,” said the man.
“If you don’t want any trouble, then what’s the need for the gun?” Luke asked quietly.
The man was silent, so Luke continued. “Who are you?”
“I am somebody who knows you more than you might think,” the man replied. “Now, come with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Luke said calmly.
“I have specific orders to shoot if you don’t cooperate.”
The Renegade, Luke confirmed in his head. “You would never do that. Shooting me would make too much of a scene, and The Renegade leader wouldn’t want that, now, would he?” Luke knew he was treading on thin ice.
He heard the man behind him click the safety off of the gun. Luke’s heart rate sped up.
“Do you want to test that theory?” the man growled.
“Who are you?” Luke asked again.
This time, the man grabbed his shoulder and squeezed hard. Luke forced himself to keep from wincing. “Listen,” the guy snarled. “The Renegade wants you back. You of all people should know that The Renegade always gets what it wants in the end. Save yourself the trouble, kid,” he reasoned. “Come with me now. Your punishment for deserting won’t be as severe as it would be when we catch you if you run off again.”
“You mean ‘if,’” Luke mumbled. The man didn’t seem to hear.
“So, what’s it going to be? Death or death?” he chuckled at his own joke.
Luke rolled his eyes at the fifth grade humor. “Who. Are. You?” he demanded for the third time.
The man sighed impatiently and let go Luke’s shoulder. Luke took the opportunity to spin around and get a look at his harasser. The man wore a black pullover with the collar pulled all the way up. He had shoved a baseball cap on hastily and tugged it down to shade his face from the eye of society. The man lifted the brim of his hat just enough so that Luke could glimpse a pair of shocking blue eyes—much like his own—and a scar under his left eye.
“Long time no see,” the man grinned cruelly.