Prequels:

I. Nowheresville

II. The Scarlet Letter

two sides

III. Two Sides of the Coin

By: Nate Susvilla

Some relaxing music played accompanying his hardly loud conscious breathing—a cross  between moaning and snoring—as he sunk himself in the bath brimming with lukewarm soaped water and as an aroma oil burned.

A ring on his mobile cut his musing. As he opened his eyes, he spotted a few small red dots scattered on the walls. He jumped out of the bath, dried his hand to pick up the phone. “Yah?” he greeted. “Hey hey! How’ve you been?” he carried on after a quick pause. “Right now?” he asked, the phone pinned between his ear and shoulder as his hands dried his body entirely. “Everything alright?” His gaze hopped from the dots on the wall to random objects, resting on his reflection finally, scatter-brained.

“Right now? You’re here?” he asked. “Noh-noh-no! It’s just that I’ve something to…,” he hesitated. “But tis o’right! I’ve plenty…” he said and was interrupted. “Of course  it’s o’right! My, haven’t seen you in years!” he screamed. “Where exactly are you now?” he asked. “Shit, you’re practically here. I’ll meet you at the station.”

He sprayed to wash the dots off, till they disappeared. As he bent to drain the tub, a few more dots came into view by the toilet bowl’s side. He wet toilet paper sheets and scrubbed the dots off. Squeaky clean. He disappeared into a vacant room and reappeared dragging a huge black bag into his room.

 

He emerged from the building’s main door, curly hair tousled and damp, lipping a cigarette reaching out to his low jeans pocket for a lighter.  He held forward his unzipped jacket’s hoodie as the cold outside replaced the little warmth the enclosed building engulfed. He churned out smoke as his boots continually stomped through some brick alley that led to a bridge. He stopped to pick up a €2 coin slot in the brick’s crack. A quick pleased sigh escaped him.

He tossed the cigarette butt as he crossed diagonally some bleak park that had only a duo of elderlies debating about local politics over coffee. He picked up his steps and sprinted to frighten the pigeons away rousing disapproving wails from the distracted seniors. A victorious diabolic smirk grew on his face as he sneaked out of the scene.

His phone rang. He held it out, snuck a peek, pocketed it and looked up . The phone rang again. His hand disappeared into his pocket and quickly reappeared, without the phone. He continued walking ignoring the vibrating and wailing ring.

He rolled up his sleeve to check the time, as he tapped his foot while standing on the station platform’s yellow line slobbering on an unlit cigarette while covertly continually flipping his phone. He looked around and was amazed at how mobile people had become. He recalled getting from his little town of Vsetin to Brno was like a day commute. The honking alert of the arriving train snapped him out of reverie. He turned, moved back and had his eyes fixed onto the arriving train becoming more and more prominent.

He skimmed through all windows eager to chance a glimpse of his sister. As the train came to a full stop, he moved further back to lean on one of the platform shed’s posts. His eyes jumped from one exit to the next as his heart raced hoping to catch his sister descend the steps.

At last, aided by a middle-aged man walking down the narrow steep steps was a grown woman of whom his last recollection was fully wrapped and a lot less shapely. He rushed to her direction and screamed, “Look at you!” opening wide his arms as he got closer to Ann who only had to open her mouth widely in extreme delight as she welcomed a longed, long, choking and intense hug that left her teary-eyed.

As the two loosened their clutch, he clipped Ann’s head with both his hands, dried her tears with his thumbs and smooched her. “Look at you! I hardly recognized you,” he said as his face moved away from Ann’s wrecked face still overwhelmed with joy. “You have grown into a beautiful woman!”

“Oh I missed you, Marcus,” Ann finally said as she recovered from an excessive shot of joy. “You never came to visit me!”

“Ahh,” Marcus said. “Well, you’re here.” Another heartfelt hug from the side and a kiss on her side head.

“You must be the brother,” Joshua interrupted and offered his hand, “I’m Joshua.” “Marcus,” Marcus said and took part in a reciprocally firm handshake.

He looked past Joshua to look at a young man and Joshua cleared the view to introduce the young man, “And this is Christian.” Marcus hesitated to extend his hand but Christian came near and said, “Oh hi.” “Hi,” Marcus said as he held Christian’s hand.

“You all must be starving. I mean how long a ride was it?” Marcus asked.

“Ugh, tell me about it,” Ann said looking at Joshua who shook his head as if to back up Ann’s revulsion.

“Famished,” Christian said almost the same time.

“I know of a good all-you-can-eat. Anyone in for some Japanese?” Marcus inquired.

“I’ve actually yet to go to one,” Christian said, rather nervous.

“The virgin,” Ann murmured to Marcus, side-eyeing Christian then winking.

“Really, huh? You’ll be an instant convert,” Marcus said smiling at Christian. He started moving bidding the rest to follow him. All four leisurely moved along with other passengers that easily glided past them. Joshua held Ann by the shoulder and watched Christian and Marcus pace forward steps ahead of them.

“They do have beer there, no?” Christian asked, his tone serious.

“Sorry, just milk,” Marcus joked.

“Fresh mother’s milk, I suppose,” Christian quickly replied rolling his eyes toward Marcus expecting a playful comeback.

“Hell man, they have beer!” Marcus said apparently not in the same language game.

“Umm, my budget per day is twenny,” Christian said putting seriousness back to his tone. “I hope I won’t end up washing dishes,” Christian said downplaying his concern.

“Less than twenty, drinks excluded. But don’t worry…on me.”

“I wouldn’t say no to that,” Christian said as his eyes lit up.

“Just today. Don’t get used to it,” Marcus was quick to remind him.

“Of course. And oh, I was talking to your sister about the likelihood of me staying at your place…for a night at least?”

“One night. That’s all I can give you. You take the couch,” Marcus said, in a sudden change of tone—authoritative, firm. “I’ve only two sleeping rooms and obviously my sister gets the other one. There’s a locked spare room, my store, that’s off limits.”

“Dude, of course. Nobody’s invading your privacy,” Christian said, a little stunned. “The Japanese strike me as a healthy bunch. Well, ingenious technologically too,” Christian said trying to undermine the awkward moment. Silence.

Joshua was frustrated he could only imagine what the two were talking about. The two were silent. So were their minds. Since they boarded the train the night before he could no longer hear silent voices.

“We’re here,” Marcus said as he opened the door for everyone.

As everyone filled out the order slip with their excessive respective orders, apparent silent phone calls kept interrupting Marcus. Ann noticed, held Marcus’ hand and signaled for him to take it. Marcus stepped out. Ann, from where she was seated, could see Marcus in an intense banter with the caller. Marcus finished the call pissed, came back to rejoin the group looking a little sidetracked. “Who was that?” asked Ann as Marcus settled back in. “Some guy…work. Ah, tis nothing,” Marcus answered. “You did get me my salmon, didn’t you?” he added as he veered off from a likely scrutiny of his private life.

“He did. Marcus, what do you do anyway?” Ann asked striking back the spotlight onto Marcus. Marcus always had a ready answer to that. But now for a second, he hesitated. He had always been honest to his sister and now he had to tell a lie. Something his system refuted. But he went on anyway like a contriving salesman devoid of shame. “Real estate,” he said.

“Right,” Ann said nodding, seemingly convinced. “Take a bit of that green stuff. It’ll sorta ready your stomach,” Joshua said covering Marcus’ ass as he lured Christian into a prank. “This much?” Christian asked as he scooped out a bit of wasabi with his finger. “Twice that,” Joshua recommended resulting to a chuckling amusement from Ann. “After you,” Christian said winking, spreading wasabi back onto the edges of the plate.

– – – – o – – – –

“Whew! Finally!” Christian uttered in a quick victorious squeak having finally picked up sushi with chopsticks without squeezing the inside out of the wrap. Sarcasm was put aside as everyone enjoyed their meals patronizing each other. It was just hard to tell.

Everyone left the restaurant overly satisfied. Christian was delighted of Eureka proportions for this gastronomic find that never really found its way to his dining table that would be filled generally of fast-food and an excess of processed meat. The cuisine was new to him but definitely something he’d be scouting for when he got home.

– – – – o – – – –

Now at his place, Marcus ushered in the last one, looked around and went in. Christian and Joshua found their seats in the large leather sofa while Ann looked around—an apartment dominated by grey, black and white contrasted by original earthy paintings, wallflowers, posh decors and figures screaming affluence and lush bonsai trees here and there. Ann cackled in appreciation a few times. “Dope! Classy and ultra-modern!” Christian said the obvious.  “This is what drug-money can buy, huh?” Christian continued on saying. It was received rather indifferently. “Kidding,” Christian dismissed his own pointedness. “We kinda have the same taste actually.”

“Ah! You two, come look! This was us back in the day,” Ann said referring to the framed photo by the desk. “Even at a young age you exude attitude. Bitchiness, if you will,” Christian, who was quick to get a sneak, said. “At least I’m consistent,” Ann said.

Marcus gave everyone a tour of his apartment giving them a peek of every room but this one, which he kept locked. “This is where I store valuables and stuff. Obviously, it’s locked,” he explained flashing his teeth after. “That’s where his drug-money is!” Christian exclaimed.  “Oh shut it,” Ann rebuked Christian. Marcus ushered them back to the living room as he tried to recover from the blow of Christian’s yet another uncalled-for straightforwardness or sarcasm, he could not tell the difference.

“You play?” Christian motioned having spotted a bass guitar lying next to the door.

“Well, ya,” Marcus replied.

“He plays the piano too,” Ann added.

“Tops! Drums too?” asked Christian.

“Yeah…No, not really,” Marcus hesitated.

“What sorta genre are you into?” Christian asked.

“You mean what I play? Or what I listen to?” Marcus verified. Christian widened his lips downwards and flipped open his palms.

“Well I dunno,” Marcus continued on. “But I really love playing jazz. And I love listening to anything really. Anything but pop, mainstream. And I try to avoid full-on metal.”

“What’s with the pop-allergy?” Christian asked. “I dunno. I kinda like discovering musicians on my own. It makes it more personal. It’s like you have something unique that belongs to you. But if they go mainstream or if somebody discovers them or a lot start listening to them I start to kinda lose interest in them or their music.”

“Interesting,” Joshua said. “What I think? Quality music should be shared—worth playing to the world. But then again quality is relative with all the differing genre preferences we have. Well, to each his own. Have you any favorite band, artist?”

“True, that. That’s just me…how I choose songs in my iPod,” Marcus said. “And I don’t particularly have a favorite. Anybody honest really…singer-songwriters. You know, they’re like those artisan traders we hardly see nowadays. Everybody else really seems trashy to me…those manufactured ones. They’re no different than those profit-maximizing capitalists. What sells their music are the scandals, the marketing. I mean what’s the point really?” Marcus opined. There was a short pause. He then continued on, “And oh blues, I like listening to blues. And a bit of alternative rock.”

“What do you think of Gaga?” Ann asked.

“Well, she’s very musical. And I respect her for writing all her songs. But not my kinda music,” Marcus answered.

“You said you’re from Amsterdam?” Marcus said turning to Joshua who just nodded but turned his body frame to face Marcus. “I was there to study supposedly. They have like one the best schools for music there. Rotterdam, they have there more of like world music.”

Supposedly. You didn’t finish?” Joshua asked.

“Kinda hard as I was supporting my schooling myself,” Marcus said. “And sometimes, again this is just me, what one needs just are the basic tools. Real creative people can take off from there, can create something magical out of that small grain planted. I guess the more you stay in an institution like the school, the more you lose your creativity, the less you become in tune with your own voice.”

 

Marcus offered the guys beer and Ann wine. Over sips of wine and gulps of beer, they shared a good laugh supportive of each other’s attempts to give everyone else something to be larking about. When strangers devoid of judgmental stance have torn down their defensive walls and are stripped down to their clean slate selves meet, it’s not hard to see them click; When they hold their guards down, disconnect their minds from stock prejudices, biases and stereotypes, veer their thoughts away from obligations and worries and just let whoever in while letting their true sincere selves out in return, and just have a laugh and enjoy the moment; It was that moment—when lasting friendships are forged—at least to Joshua. It had always been something he looked forward to experiencing while travelling.

 

Marcus served ordered pizza for dinner where the laugh and merry-making lingered. Christian was first to suggest that everyone retire for the night.

Everyone readied for bed and later dozed off.

Christian woke to pee in the middle of the night. As he glided back to his makeshift bed with eyes partly shut leaving the toilet unflushed, he noticed some familiar smell. Like a shot of espresso or a pungent lemon squeeze, the smell whisked his sleepiness away as he sniffed to zero in on the source. He went to flush the toilet closing the toilet door before him and resumed sniffing.

Having spotted the likely source—the locked room, he attempted to open the door. He slightly hammered the door with his shoulder exploiting the weight of his upper torso while his hand kept turning the door knob.

He ended his futile efforts as he tiptoed his way back to the sofa and in so doing, he awakened Joshua. “Hey, I think this guy’s got some weed farm inside that fuckin’ room,” Christian suggested hardly whispering.

“You’re sure they’re not your socks?” Joshua joked.

“Look who’s talking! Dude I swear I can smell flowering weed from a mile. I knew this guy’s hiding skeletons in his closet.”

“Sshh, you’ll wake him up. And tis none of our business.”

“It’s just that…dude, I wanna smoke pot!”

“You don’t even smoke,” Joshua accurately figured given the little time he’d known Christian. “Weed ya…it’s just that at my place it’s hard to come by,” Christian replied.

Nosiness ruled over Joshua as he joined Christian in silently barging into the locked door. They both touched their cheeks to the floor and simultaneously got up to agree with their eyes the very likely truth given away by the smell coming out of the door slit. Christian’s face lit up—eyes and mouth quickly opened wide—and fists punched the air above as if reveling over a win.

“And you think you can score grass from this guy?” Joshua uttered.

“Dude, your pessimism is beyond me,” Christian answered.

Joshua came back from the loo and found Christian laying on the couch abstractedly gazing at the ceiling. As Joshua blanketed himself, Christian rose up and began talking, “You know what I think?” Despite Joshua not answering, Christian went on to say, “This guy’s a drug dealer. I mean, look at this place of his…posh location, and look around you! How can a fuckin twenny suttin douche afford all these?” Upon seeing he had no audience in Joshua, Christian pressed his behind on the sofa saying, “So  much  for speech-making,” almost to himself.

Now his back pressed onto the slightly frigid leather sofa, Christian enveloped himself with a duvet when some fixture just popped out of nowhere that had Christian recede in fright.

“I don’t mind you guys prying on me, forming whatever opinion,” Marcus said, very stern, in his pajamas. “But just one thing, keep it to yourselves. I don’t want trouble with you. I welcomed you here coz you are my sister’s friends. I don’t wanna throw you out.”

“Whoa dude, I mean I’m cool with whatever you are…what you do,” Christian said, a little scared. “Don’t want no trouble indeed. You can rest in peace…oh, by that I mean sleep worry-free.”

Marcus walked back to his room while Christian, in spite of the lecture, walked around examining every piece of appliance and furniture he could find interesting. He later stood by the window and marveled at the night lights, the silent rustle of water in the canal and the peacefulness of late-night Ljubljana winter. He went back to the couch and finally dozed off.

At dawn, Joshua sat on the breakfast bar leafing through the pages of some men’s magazine while Marcus was making coffee. As Christian [still in a haze] turned up his grunting breathing, Joshua and Marcus looked on, then at each other in amused disbelief.

Ann got out of her room and uttered, “Ugh, this guy’s a mammoth of a snorer.” Then quickly to her brother, “Marcus, what are those blood stains on the floor?”

Blood quickly came rushing up Marcus’ head easily coloring it red. Yet he tried to hide his alarm by turning about pouring coffee on the mug saying, “Wait, what blood? Hold on…” Marcus said. His immediate physiological response to Ann’s in-good-faith directness almost seemed like something Marcus could control as he quickly reverted back to his natural pale skin color. “Here you go, sir. Your dose of caffeine,” he said as he served Joshua his coffee and walked past Ann. “Serve yourself, dear sister…imma clean out the mess I made.”

Marcus reemerged from the room with no sign of distress, calm as the misty sea, saying, “Blood indeed.”

“Human blood?” Ann inquired right away as she poured her a cup of brewed coffee. “Looks like…and it’s mine. I cut myself while reaching for that luggage…something sharp was sticking out.”

“Was it big?” Ann rhetorically inquired.

Before Marcus could answer, Christian rose up to stretch his arms releasing a loud yawn. He stood up and screamed, “Joob-ya-na morning, ahhhh!” as he faced the glass window with  both his hands fed into his crotch. “Did I pronounce that right, by the way?”

Suddenly, everyone heard a sharp bang and just saw Christian falling flat on the floor. It became clear what happened when something red just bled out of Christian’s head and a small hole in the glass window became obvious. Everyone was shut in shock. Another sound of a bullet piercing through the glass window was heard that had everyone down to their knees and palms. Joshua crawled to Christian’s side. Christian looked lifeless, lips together, eyes open but blank.

A handful more shots were heard. Marcus was quick to grab screaming Ann by the arm ushering her to the locked room’s entrance. “Hey, leave him he’s dead!” he said addressing Joshua.

Marcus crawled to his room as Joshua held Christian by the hand trying to pull him into the locked door. Christian suddenly convulsed and some bullet popped out of his head and rolled on the floor. Joshua released Christian’s wrist and watched with excitement Christian breathing back to life. A few more shots saved Joshua from explaining to Christian the situation. Christian himself crawled away to safety. The three were on their bellies when Marcus came crawling out of his room.

He reached for the locked door’s knob to insert the key slightly stalled by the utter shock of seeing Christian alive. He finally managed to open the door, gave Christian another quick surprised look and went on with getting everyone through.

And weed indeed greeted them all. Pots of weed and aquariums of mushroom filled this room. In the middle, there was some wooden square almost leveled to the floor the handle of which Marcus grabbed. It revealed a winding staircase that led to some poorly lit room. “What the fuck is going on?” Christian exclaimed sidetracked by the excess of grass he just witnessed and the adrenaline rush taking over. He tailed the fleeing souls running for their lives.

They were led to Marcus’ box and exited out of some door leading to the building’s courtyard. Marcus waited until everyone got out and closed the door before them. Ann who had no expression other than her pale complexion held Joshua’s hand and quickly squeezed and shook Christian’s hand uttering, “You’re alive,” almost in a whisper.

“Uhm, yah! I didn’t die, did I?” Christian inquired ramblingly. Joshua looked on giving Christian a look of consensus. Marcus beckoned for everyone to hurry up. Everyone shadowed him like those ducklings tailing their mother as they took the bricked track going out.

“Get in,” Marcus commanded the panic-stricken troop as he unlocked the doors of this red car parked along this backstreet. Everyone hopped in. Marcus started the engine and rolled away as he fixed the mirror to spot any stalking vehicle.

“We haven’t been completely honest with you,” Joshua confessed as Marcus maneuvered their way out to some major road. “I’m really sorry about the shootout.”

“Shut your mouth and fasten your seatbelt,” Marcus said as he changed gear having discovered a car not far behind. “That black sedan, see that? We hafta lose that,” Marcus said.

“How is it that they can still track you?” Christian challenged Joshua. “I nearly died back there. You owe me!”

“You owe him!” the eavesdropping Ann, leaned back and chided Christian. “If it weren’t for him you’d be in Hell by now. He saved your whining ass!”

“Right, I owe him,” Christian said looking at Joshua. “I mean why are these people after you again? Can’t you just turn yourself in? You know, I didn’t sign up for this!”

“Enough of this nonsense!” Marcus chastised them as  he adjusted the mirror’s position. “We have a car to lose.” Marcus sped off hardly alarmed.

“Once we’ve lost the car, can you drop me off? The last thing I want right now is to be near this guy, “ Christian said referring to Joshua.

“He has nothing to do with this.” Marcus butted in. “These men are after me. I’m sorry if I’ve dragged you all into this.”

“I knew it!” Christian yelled.

“How is this about you, Marcus?” the sullen Ann queried.

“I dunno, Ann,” Marcus hesitated.

“Didn’t you see his plantation of weed back there? I am positive it has something to do with that,” Christian insisted. “I’m running out of patience with you, big mouth,” the irritated Marcus dished out rather almost calmly. Even before Christian could return the scolding, Joshua hushed him to which he obeyed with a heavy heart.

 

An hour or so of driving led them to some inn next to a gas and carwash. Marcus pulled over and decided to rest to Christian’s disapprobation.

Marcus got them a room and as everyone got settled, Christian hardly won by the idea of pulling off the road switched on the TV, browsed thru channels and stopped at the familiar sight. A news report showed Marcus’ apartment building being cordoned off. Marcus got closer to the telly when the newscaster’s words started to make sense.

The report told of a shooting incident targeting likely the sole individual registered to the address. While no shot body was found, that of a female’s wrapped in black plastic bags was discovered in one of the rooms. The body found was believed to be that of Rebecca Moore’s, a British model who had been missing for days.

Quickly upon the revelation of the dead body, all heads turned to Marcus, who could only do a single intent blink suggestive of an infidel man cornered by his inquisitive better-half. Before he could say anything, all heads turned back to the TV as the report detailed the likely cause of death showing explicit images of the model’s body with countless cuts.

“I can explain,” he started, reassured nobody looked pejorative. “I brought her to my place and found her dead in the bath. Those cuts…I say they were self-inflicted. There was nobody else in the bath with her.”

“Where’d you meet her? I know that girl,” Ann asked.

“I didn’t even know her. All I knew about her was she was escorting for my boss. From what I understand she was supposed to stay with my boss till Friday. I figured she got ditched early. She was walking alone back to her hotel, wasted, when I saw her. I told her I’d walk her to her hotel but she insisted to come to my place instead. She was whining the whole time about how unhappy she was with her life.”

“How’d she end up with those cuts?” asked Christian.

“I let her use my bath as I offered to drive or walk her to her hotel after. I was making her ginger tea but she took forever in there so I became suspicious. I knocked, called her name but I got no answer. I had to break in. Well, it was unlocked. There I saw her lying in the bath with cuts all over her body. Some cutter I happened to leave inside the bath apparently was used.”

“Why didn’t you call the police? Or have you?” Ann asked.

“I thought of that. I tell you I was gonna,” he answered quickly. “But the fact that my boss would know eventually she was with me scared the hell out of me. So I figured since nobody knew she was with me, I’d tell nobody and just dispose of her body myself.”

“Dude, this all seems routine to you. I have a feeling this isn’t the first time you are disposing of a body. Something’s telling me you have one hell of a job. I mean who’s this boss of yours? What do you do exactly? And those weed back at your apartment, what are those? You’re a puzzle. That’s what you are. Hard to solve.”

Joshua’s lips were mum as he listened silently validating Marcus’ incredulous story and formulating theories of his own. He looked at Marcus bereft of guilt and shame then at the news anchor spewing out gibberish after gibberish. Ann had her arms crossed under her breasts sharply studying what Marcus’ face was painting while Christian escaped to the bath to pee and later came out despising the mess he got himself in.

“You know I should have just gone to India,” he said holding his hands to his waist revealing his growing tummy. “This whole trip was a mistake. I’m supposed to be on holiday here.”

“On a random and penniless wandering. That’s what you’re on. And nobody’s keeping you here, let me just remind you,” Ann flared up. “Leave if you will!”

“You’re right. I have no business staying indeed,” Christian answered back. “I’ll leave and get on with my unconventional venture into the unfamiliar…I prefer calling it that way.

“Do you know where you’re headed?” Joshua asked, slightly concerned. “Marcus, how far off is the train station from here?”

“Depends on which you’re referring to. We are near the Italian border. I say the nearest international station is Udine. An hour drive depending on traffic. We can drop him there. Or I can drop you all there. But we have to do it tonight or early morning tomorrow.” Marcus said.

“Shouldn’t we do it now?” Christian said, intent. “I mean, shouldn’t we go as far away as possible from them? I’m pretty sure they’re trailing…hunting us down. And if we stop we give them a chance to catch up. And your car outside, that’s a giveaway. Shouldn’t we park it somewhere remote? Or shouldn’t we cover it at least?”

“Of course.” Marcus answered. “But I’ve got that covered. The car’s somewhere hidden—auto detailing…figured it’s about time anyway. So unless you’re planning on hitchhiking your ride to wherever, you’d have to wait till tomorrow or tonight at the least. We’re much less visible driving in the dark.”

“Ma-marcus, can you just enlighten us…who are these people trying to kill us…or you,” Ann inquired. “I mean I dunno exactly if they’re after you or us or just him,” she added looking at Joshua.

“Yeah man, we haven’t told you we were being hunted down and we dunno exactly who by,” Joshua said, sat on the bed elbows to his knees. “Well I am being hunted and I just dragged these two into this. I dunno what they want exactly but they sure won’t stop till they got me. They want me alive. That I’m pretty sure of.”

“From the looks of it, they seem to not want you dead,” Marcus tried to explain. “You saw what happened back at my place, they weren’t afraid to kill someone. I’m sure these people are after me. And I don’t wanna get into the details of what I do exactly. But just trust me on this…I will get you out of here, out of this mess, unscathed, and without these people recognizing who any of you are.”

“That’s reassuring,” Christian said rolling his eyes. “Can we get some proper power nap then?” Christian flung himself heavily onto one of the two single beds.

“You are planning to give me one whole bed for myself, aren’t you?” Ann said aiming at Christian a quick admonishing stare.

“You can take this other one here. Extra beds are coming.” Marcus said signaling for Joshua to stand up.

“I’m hungry, Marcus. Can we get them to bring lunch up here?” Ann asked.

“That had been arranged,” Marcus said. “Imma head down.”

Marcus was steps away from the door when his mobile rang. “

Marcus,” he said as he picked up. He was silent just listening to the caller. He then just turned around, pulled out a pistol from his behind and pointed it onto Joshua’s forehead.

“Hey, man. What are you doing?” Joshua admonished Marcus who was rather nonchalant.

“I saw what he could do. If we all die coz we are irrelevant, I say he dies too. How is that?” Marcus said to the caller seemingly ignoring Joshua.

“You are in no position to bargain here. Here’s what I can offer you,” Marcus said still engaged with his caller. He clipped the phone between his head and shoulder, tossed the gun to his right hand, and inserted his left into his pocket. He took out the two-euro coin he had from yesterday. “I’ve a coin here, you pick heads or tails,” Marcus said as he readied to lob the coin up. “I told you you’re in no position to bargain. Get it right and I’ll leave him for you to find and catch. Otherwise, he can’t live to see another day.”

He tossed the coin up in the air, caught it and quickly slapped it onto the back of his hand holding the gun. “Heads! You lose. Sorry.” He then pulled the trigger and disconnected the call. Ann screamed in terror and Christian jumped out of bed awakened by the gunshot, glaring, “What the…!” Joshua’s eyes and mouth were stretched open as he stayed unshaken awash with paleness and jittery twitches as tears rolled down his cheeks. Nothing pierced through his temple.

“I expected pee to be flooding your crotch,” Marcus said winking. “You’re actually worth a lot more than I thought.”

 

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