Chapter Three

Friday, December, 11th, 2015

Sasha woke uneasily from sleep, recalling the theft that had begun it all. The curtains were closed and the air conditioning drowned out most of the noise from the neighboring rooms, but something stirred her from rest. The faint glow of the setting sun leaked onto the floor. Her stomach growled.

“Ugh.” Sasha’s body ached from hunger and over-exertion from the previous night but she paid it no mind. Soon, she would be used to the weight of the axe. Soon, her body would adjust to falling three stories. All she needed was more training. Before anything, she grasped for the phone, praying to the heavens she did not believe in that there would be a call.

There was not.

Sasha stood, forcing herself to place the phone back on the nightstand. She wanted to throw something, to hurt something, but she did not. Save for putting her axe through the wall, there was nothing she could do.

Why was he ignoring her? Surely two months would change his mind?

“Of course not,” she mumbled to herself. “He does not change his mind.”

She hated to think of Summit Freeman like that. Her father was a vicious man, but she still cherished him above all others. He had made her a killer, a job Sasha enjoyed immensely. At least she did before. Back when it earned her the approval of her beloved, and utterly unimpressionable, father.

Things were very different now.

Now, she was holed up in a room that had to be no bigger than a prison cell with a toilet she could smell from her bed. The tub was ringed with brown lines. The bathroom door was broken off its hinges but still hung precariously open.

She used to have a beautiful apartment with space and a kitchen and climate control.

Her stomach growled again. It had been too long since she had last eaten but the cost of the room was depleting her meager funds. Until her father contacted her with a new job, she would have to scrounge and ration. These days, when the people she picked could only donate twenty dollars here and there, that often meant going without meals for forty-eight hours.

That period was coming to a close.

She dressed simply, donning the black sweater and leggings she knew as home along with her thick boots. Her Kevlar vest molded to her ribs. Dinner would be uneventful, but she would hunt later. With reluctant fingers, she picked up that dreaded scarf off the floor and wrapped it around her head, paying special attention to masking her nose and mouth. Hopefully, it would mean the difference between remaining under the radar and being recognized. Again.

She was better than this. She had always been better than this. Sasha had trained with the best teachers and studied under graduates of the most prestigious universities in the world from the moment she left the womb, leaving behind her first victim.

Sasha had never gotten the chance to meet her mother.

It had never been a topic brought up by her father and she had stopped asking long ago. She never got much information out of Summit and, eventually, his blatant disregard for the woman who must have been his wife at some point, turned to irritation that she would dare to ask again. And so, she had learned not to care as well.

She had grown up within marble walls. A staff of servants had been hired for the sole purpose of keeping her comfortable. Keeping her healthy. Keeping her strong. It was not out of the ordinary that she would not see Summit for days, or even weeks, at a time. He was a busy man. And she became a busy girl.

She missed it.

Even when he was distant, at least she knew that he cared. As she grew older and he could trust her to carry out his will, he would watch her train and smile. He smiled often for her, only when she gave him the things he wanted. She wondered if he would ever find enough worth in her to smile again.

Sasha cursed herself for the carelessness that had brought her to this. To fighting for food like some stray dog!

 

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

She had stretched when she woke the afternoon following the heist at the British museum, muscles tensed to spring in case of danger. Her eyes darted about the room, ensuring all was how she had left it, but it was not. The sun was still up in the single window that she kept uncovered, the entrances to the apartment were heavily locked to prevent intrusion, and her alarm had not yet gone off to wake her, so what had? In small, measured movements, she peeled herself out of bed, going to the window. The last curtain was pulled closed.

Another shrill ring echoed through the apartment. “Damn.” Her voice was so thick with sleep that it was near unrecognizable; so tired.

The ride home had taken hours. Sleeping on the plane was completely out of the question—too many people to watch—so upon her arrival home, barely three hours ago, she had only managed to type out a few words to her father about her success before dropping dead under the sheets. She still wore all black, had even forgotten to remove her gloves. They hindered her as she grabbed for her phone in the dark.

Sasha had always preferred the blackness, adored it. In every facet of her life, she had been forced to learn to operate best when submerged in it. This time was no different. Her cat-like eyes found the small black square that was her cell on the nightstand, the screen turned down to hide the shine. She lifted it to her face.

“Hello?”

The voice that answered was one she knew well.

“Your email,” it hissed.

The click of the other end disconnecting was quick to follow.

No one was around to see but she still did not let herself drop the emotionless mask. This was her life and, for the most part, it was enjoyable. Chasing, killing, and collecting had always been what she was good at. They were all she had ever been taught. All that had ever kept her father the slightest bit interested in her. She dared not dwell on those thoughts, they did no good anyway. Rather, she distracted herself with what he had said on the phone.

Body exhausted, it somehow managed to drag itself to the computer left out and open on the bed and got to work at retrieving his email.

Sasha, it read, lacking any and all endearments or greeting, just as it always did. Your late reply is not appreciated

 

From: Summit Freeman

To: Sasha Freeman

 

Subject: Reply: Grocery List

October 22nd, 2015 at 3:01 PM

 

Sasha,

 

Your late reply is not appreciated. I believe in our last conversation, I told you to finish up by one. Staying out so late will not be tolerated, and if it persists I will be sure to revoke all of your privileges, including that apartment. If you’re not going to follow my rules, I’m not going to continue to spend thousands of dollars for you to live on your own. Your lack of discipline will be changed. Whether you change it, or I do it for you, is completely up to you.

I just saw some troubling news while watching television this morning. I wondered if you’ve heard of it. It seems the museum was robbed only a few hours ago and a precious, priceless, artifact stolen. The news people blame it on the weather; they say it never would have been possible if not for the poor conditions. I disagree. I think it takes too much time, dedication, and skill for the weather to make much of a difference, especially knowing the culprit’s history of success.

They say two men were killed inside. I have never been one to value human life, but I can surely appreciate that if the thief were as skilled as they should be, spilling blood was unnecessary to complete the task. However, I’m sure it was done in the most tasteful of ways. Still, I think it would serve a greater purpose if the thief did not let it happen again. Even when done in the most refined of manners, to take life unnecessarily is sloppy.

I enjoyed our dinner this evening very much. Once you have had the chance to rest up, I’d like to invite you again tomorrow night. I believe you have something to give me? I don’t expect you to stay the night, after all I know you’re very proud of that little place, but it is completely up to you.

Before you join us for dinner, could you pick up a few things?

  1. Toilet paper
  2. Paper towels
  3. Peanut butter

 

Sincerely,

Father

 

She skimmed through the passage with enough self-control not to roll her eyes, though she desperately wanted to. Summit Freeman was a stern man, very stern, bordering on downright obsessive compulsive. For as long as she could remember he had been devoid of all patience, wanting her well-versed in fighting styles and firearms as well as in the basics of English and arithmetic but never caring enough to teach her himself. Instead, he kept her in the care of tutors from sun up until she was falling asleep in her lessons. It had been better to save the school work for last. She did not have any scars from falling asleep in those.

“Where’s the−” she stopped herself in her tracks. Keeping quiet in case of eavesdroppers or cameras was a habit, but she could not help the confusion spreading through her when she saw neither a payment amount nor a meeting place. He did not have a new mission for her?

“To take life unnecessarily is wasteful…”

If she possessed any semblance of a sense of humor she would have laughed. Wasteful? For the first sixteen years of her life he had conditioned her not to bat an eyelash at the sight of death. Until that birthday, she had never been outside of the backyard, an arena established for the sole purpose of training exercises in view of her father. She had killed three people there: Tutor one, tutor two, and tutor three.

She never killed inside the house. Summit would never have allowed that, after all the carpets were pristine and white where she had been raised. Replacing them would be expensive, but it would also mean having people in the house to do the work, which he detested. Strangers were strictly forbidden from entering the premises for any reason, unless they were invited inside by the host, usually for a meeting. In all cases, those strangers did not leave.

By the time she had finished reading the email, the day had slipped away into late afternoon. Her stomach growled, desperate for the food she had refused to take from the airline. “Sleep. Sleep. Sleep,” she muttered inwardly as she walked to the bed but for the wrong reason.

The covers were barely disturbed, but they were disturbed enough that she made the bed over again. As usual, she pressed her hands into the bedspread and stroked it aggressively, until she could be sure it was perfectly flat. When that was done, she removed her dirty clothes, replacing them with another combination of equally dark leggings and a sweater. Outside, the sun was setting. She would need to be heading to his home soon, concealing the envelope of cash from the robbery in her briefcase.

She would not be bringing peanut butter and they were not having dinner together. Even when she had lived in his home, they had never sat down to eat at the same table at the same time. Sasha was sure they never would.

“Sleep,” she groaned. When that word slipped out yet again, it was quite clear, even to herself, that she had gone slack. As a child, she had been forced to stay awake for days at a time and still keep a clear mind, but in her “old age” it had become quite impossible.

“Old age,” she rolled her eyes. “Twenty-one must be hell.” She did not know the answer yet, that day was still a few months away.

When her second boot was finally laced tight she left the comfort of her bedroom in search of her briefcase. It was black, leather, and unlocked, just the way her last one had been and her next surely would be. For now, it was empty, but she was sure to change that.

Dancing into the kitchen to no music, Sasha sought the instrument she had left in the sink to soak days ago. Once the door closed behind her, the smell of bleach hung in every inch of the room. A black handle protruded from the chemical pool. She took it eagerly.

“Hello.” She turned the blade so her reflection would show in the sparkling steel. She investigated her teeth. Immaculate, as usual.

She wiped the knife with a paper towel before she placed it, ever so delicately, in the brief case.

Probably won’t even use it.

Her next stop was the laundry room. It had taken hours to remove the blood stains from her favorite coil of rope, as well as three cycles through the washing machine. It hung over the wall to wall clothesline. The dryer would have done it damage and she would not want that so the rope did not make as many appearances as she personally would have enjoyed.

She pulled her favorite toy off the clothesline and hung it over both of her shoulders like one would hold a living snake. “I missed you yesterday,” she whispered, placing a kiss to it as she thought with distaste on the way she had killed those guards. She had not been given the chance to use any toys at all. No fun.

She vowed to make good use of them next time.

The sun was nearly gone. Sasha held onto the hope that she would be assigned to a new task at “dinner.” Though the email hadn’t specified his purpose, it was not uncommon for him to assign her to a new mission in the house where he could be sure no one was watching. The anticipation forced her hand in packing away that rope. Her knife joined it for good measure. Sasha could only hope that their presence would not be in vain. She left early, already deciding where she would go for actual food.

Two eggs, sunny side up, three pieces of bacon, four halves of toast, and a side of home fries with ketchup smiled up at her. Every night within South Plainfield was the same: Breakfast special #2. Though her lessons stretched many areas uncommon to the normal student, culinary arts had never been particularly high on the list. They had a cook on the payroll. Personally, Sasha had never met the woman, only her tutors were allowed any verbal or physical contact with her, but the regular stream of strictly healthy breakfast and dinners assured her that she was there.

It had taken her three meal-less days in her new apartment before she had gone in search of such a fantastic place as this. The first time, she had ordered quinoa and raisins, two familiar staples in what had been her diet since childhood. When she could finally be sure her father was not watching, she had progressed to the eggs and bacon and never regretted it a day since. Six months had passed since that day. Six blissful, or whatever she felt that was the closest to bliss, months.

Sasha shoveled food into her mouth with contentment. She ignored the looks she received from her fellow patrons. Sitting alone in an establishment such as this was what commonly got her scrutinized, either that or the constant, scathing look on her face. She was beyond the point of caring. She was glad that no one ever attempted to take the seat across from her. Solitude was her middle name.

Sasha Solitude Freeman.

I must say, it has a nice ring to it.

A young man approached her cautiously, wringing his hands in his apron over and over again. “How are we doing tonight?”

My waiter is afraid of me, she noted with satisfaction. “Fine.”

“Can I get you anything else?” he inquired politely.

She took her time finishing, chewing and swallowing the final bites of food before she answered, savoring the ever-growing pained expression on his face. In the meantime, he sidled awkwardly from foot to foot. “Another water and the bill.”

He nodded, too eagerly, and seized his opportunity to leave. “Right away, miss.”

Miss. She did not like being called miss. Too much femininity was assumed in that little word she found. Sasha was a lot of things, surely, but feminine never had, and never would, make the cut. By most standards she knew her face was thought to be attractive, so she could understand his mistake. It might even be considered delicate to those who did not know the horror that lived beneath it. Did not know all that she had done. Feminine? She was anything but. Years of starving at the hands of her father, lean and mean he had told her, had left her body thin in the extreme. Given her shorter stature, she was more likely to categorize herself as boyish. She liked it; it made slipping through windows so much easier.

Living on her own was so much better than she could have imagined. Three meals a day, rather than two, sleeping for six hours, instead of four…whether or not it affected her discipline, she was not really in the caring mood. She had no plans of changing a thing now that she knew what she was missing.

While she waited for her refill, Sasha let her eyes wander the room, taking in the familiar sights while there was still no need to rush. There were not many people in the dining room, but that was what she liked about it. Most of the occupants, and the waiters, were collected at the bar, some eating, some drying glasses and serving, but all focused around one of the old televisions. CNN played quietly in the background, attention centered completely on the recent robbery of the British Museum.

The anchor’s voice was too far away for her to decipher words, but she noted with satisfaction that the men on screen looked positively baffled. She kept a wide grin planted on her face, savoring the greatness these worthless people knew nothing about. She was committed to sitting there, watching in silence, until her waiter returned, but it was not to be. A photo surfaced beside the anchor’s head. It was of poor quality, and grainy, dark with the nighttime.

A figure, sheathed entirely in black, walked down the sidewalk, back straight, head held high. The waifish phantom held a hat in its gloved hand; that of a uniformed security guard. She held it behind her, as if to drop it in mid-stride. Beside it, a sketch appeared where the anchor had once occupied. A police sketch of the suspected thief, she corrected herself, appeared where the anchor had once occupied.

Sasha paled.

It was drawn hastily, but every familiar curvature was there. The same slim face, high cheekbones, hollow cheeks…. It was in black and white, but it was unmistakable. The police had found a suspect to the robberies, and it was someone she knew well. Apparently, the others sitting at the bar thought the same, because they all scrambled to face her.

“Oh my God,” one gasped, standing when he recognized her as one and the same with the sketched face on the television.

By the time the second one had turned, Sasha had already placed a ten on the table, courtesy of Mr. Henry Burns, downed the ice from her near-empty glass of water, and swept out the door. She carried the briefcase and the envelope of cash with her.

 

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