Such a Vicious Cycle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A 19 year old boy must work for a secret organization to keep his girlfriend alive. For this mission he must work for a madman named Jacob Vicious and gather as much information as possible.

Submitted: June 04, 2013

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Submitted: June 04, 2013

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Such a Vicious Cycle

“Where is it? What did I do with it?” Curtis shouted. He inspected his keychain after waking up believing that his flash drive would be there. “There is no way I could have really lost all of that work.”

He began throwing around things in his cheap, old rented apartment. “Okay, okay,” he whispered to himself. He had the key to his apartment and the key to his old Mustang that was parked out back. Ten minutes passed and the bedroom looked as though a bomb had just gone off, which wouldn’t have been strange for Curtis; he’s had to live his life on the edge since leaving high school. His desk was turned on its side, his nightstand was upside down on the other side of the room, his bed was blocking the doorway to his room, and his clothes were strewn across the floor.

Curtis hadn’t always lived in old, cheap, broken down apartments. He was a nineteen year old African American boy who, simply by chance, was employed by “The Family.” Of course this wasn’t his real family; this was an underground organization that made him dangerously gather information on their enemies. The only real family he had was his hard working mother, and a fifteen year old brother Silvain. Curtis’ mother believed he was in college. His brother knew what Curtis really did for a living which Curtis felt guilty for. Curtis got Silvain involved in an assignment that almost got him killed. Curtis spoke to his brother more often after that. There were also a few aunts and uncles, but they rarely contacted Curtis, his brother, or his mother.

The missing flash drive carried information he had gathered from watching over a man by the name of Jacob T.B. Vicious. Jacob Vicious was famous in the world for being great at whatever he did. He gave to charities. He was a talented singer songwriter whose songs were always at the top of the Billboard Charts. He was extremely wealthy. He was a good friend of the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of the United States. He was a great author. He was an actor. He had an amazingly talented and beautiful wife. It was his second wife. His daughter had a different mother. Now older, he had become an important business man. Vicious Enterprises was known throughout the world for making everything from household appliances to motor vehicles to weapons. However, he was also the head of an enemy organization, and, worse, a killer. Vicious had killed many of “The Family” and any people who potentially had gotten in the way of his plans. Now “The Family” wanted revenge. They knew Vicious needed to be stopped. “The Family” had very strong morals and believed in a strict honor code.

The flash drive contained all of Curtis’ information about Vicious. Everything from his past, to his schedule, to the things he bought and even the receipts for these purchases. Curtis remembered where he left the flash drive. It was in the office that he used when gathering information. Curtis’ job was especially dangerous because he was constantly within enemy territory.  “The Family” disguised him as a simple young personal assistant to Vicious.

Curtis was so sure that he was done working secretly under Vicious that he had gotten careless and left the flash drive in Vicious’ building. He thought he could just hand the flash drive to Mr. Shin when he was asked to. Now he had to go back to that building. He didn’t like the thought. He got dressed quickly and waited until it was just past seven. As Vicious’ assistant his job was to keep track of everything that happened in the company. There was a copy always being made on the flash drive. It had as a small picture of Zia stuck on it. The job also included helping to arrange Vicious’ schedule and to bring a cup of hot chocolate in the mornings.

Suddenly, a call came in from “The Family.” “Damn.” Curtis knew never to ignore a call from them; he had read the contract carefully. He could die. Curtis took a deep, deep breath and exhaled smoothly and slowly waited for the fourth ring to finally answer, “Hey, Mr. Shin.”

Mr. Shin had a hard British accent. Curtis had never met the man in person, but he just assumed that the name “Mr. Shin,” was an alias. “Hello, young Curtis. I’m sure telling you is not needed, however, as a matter of procedure I must say that you will have precisely,” Mr. Shin took a short pause, which Curtis’ experience with “The Family” told him that Mr. Shin was checking the time, “sixteen hours, forty-seven minutes, and twenty nine seconds to send us the information.” He resumed, “Don’t be late. The penalty for this can be fatal.”

“Yes, Mr. Shin.” There was a long pause.

“And now you have even less time. Do you understand th— … No.” he said with a laugh, “that would take even more time to explained.”

“I have almost everything I need.”

“Good.” There was a click and the line was dead.

Curtis took the stairs down to the first floor knowing that the elevator was out of order. He opened his mailbox, remembering that he hadn’t checked it last night after getting home, and found nothing. It took about twenty minutes to drive to work in his Mustang every morning. He put the key in the ignition, and carefully maneuvered out of the driveway. On his way there he began to think about why he was doing this job, this undercover work. Zia… It was his girlfriend. They met in the third grade and they’d been close ever since. She had long black hair. She had beautiful dark skin. She was a goddess. She was usually so cheerful, yet she could also be as cold as ice. When she didn’t want to speak to anyone she would’ve just shut down. She could be so condescending and sarcastic at times. That stopped her from having too many close friends. She only had Curtis, his mother and brother, two girls – Reina and Jewel – and a gay guy named Paul that had grown up in the same orphanage as her. She loved speaking to people when she wasn’t pushing emotions away. But now she couldn’t speak at all. She was in a car accident and was being kept alive by “The Family.” She was unconscious and had been for a year prior to Curtis’ current assignment. “The Family” had taken an interest in Curtis only after researching how talented he was. Curtis was fast, strong, extremely flexible, and he was a third degree black belt. He knew that in order to keep Zia alive, he would have to work for them for a certain amount of time. He still tried to keep her out of his head mostly. Thinking about her too much could’ve gotten him killed. He did get paid for his dangerous labor at least.

 When “The Family” made the deal with Curtis, a representative who refused to name himself met with Curtis in an old Family diner on a cold snowy night in December during his senior year of high school, wearing an all black suit made Curtis sign a contract. He waited patiently visiting Zia almost every day for two months. He was starting to get anxious when, out of nowhere, some anonymous person called him to give him his first job. Every other day after school, he had to work with an attractive twenty-seven year old woman named Mary Nightwire for a few weeks, in a lab that “The Family” had bought just for her. She was a new recruit and she accepted the job that “The Family” gave her gladly after seeing the lab. Curtis was really smart, but Mary was brilliant. She graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She had her Masters in Science and Engineering. Now she made everything that Curtis needed for his assignments. Also because of their ages and the amount of time they spent together they became friends. This helped Curtis mentally since his work made him seem distant to his friends. After graduating he moved out of his mother’s house. “The Family” sent his mother information about him being enrolled in Morehouse College, though he wasn’t really in Atlanta, Georgia.

His job was on the “rich” side of town as he called it. He parked his car. He entered the beautiful, gigantic, hundred and ten story glass building with a bit of apprehension. He once again felt like he would never leave the building alive. He had felt like this for the last seven months.  For those seven months he felt like his secret could be revealed at any moment. He could’ve defended himself well having been in his karate class from age seven. The separated him from friends and family. He still knew that he would be killed if the people there found out who and what he was. Vicious and his guys played no games when it came to enemies. Curtis already knew about the people who Vicious had killed.

Curtis took his ID out before entering the lobby. He scanned the card. He made small talk with the employees and waited for Vicious to arrive.

 “Good morning Mr. Vicious,” Curtis said with false enthusiasm. He made sure to bring a glass of hot chocolate and a Boston cream donut to work.

“Mr. Browne. Come with me.” They took a smooth elevator ride to the fiftieth floor. In most elevators Curtis would’ve felt light-headed. This one was made to ensure comfort for all passengers. Curtis felt that these luxuries were wasted on people like Vicious. Walking through the fiftieth floor made Curtis feel like he was in the home of a rich Asian man, from a few of the Asian dramas he watched whenever he had time off like “Secret Garden” or “Lie to Me”. Mimicking the dramas, everyone was female. They were all Asian and they all bowed making a path for Vicious, straight to his first office. The walls were lined with pictures of Vicious, once again reminding Curtis of the man’s obvious narcissism.

They finally got to Vicious’ first office. “You have been working hard for the last six or seven months.” Vicious said, “You are an excellent employee. I want to give you a promotion.”

“Yes, of course sir!” Curtis exclaimed feigning excitement the way he was trained to.

“You do not yet have a college degree but I don’t think you need one. You are extremely talented. You are intelligent, hard working, and you have a knack for problem solving. In this world someone like you will prosper. Right now I’m will prepare for my flight to Japan. My daughter, who is a year older than you, will be taking over this branch of my company while I am gone. Help her out when she needs it. I don’t want you to get any funny ideas.” Vicious said with a sly smile, “Though you’d have to be gay not to. You have seen my daughter.” Vicious took out a picture from his breast pocket, “Beautiful isn’t she? Maybe, I could have you marry her. I’d make you a part of my family. You’d take on the name Vicious”

He thought what his life would be like if he married the man’s daughter. He could be rich and protected from “The Family.” He could’ve forgotten about Zia. He could’ve contacted his mother and brother and they could’ve lived happily for the rest of their lives. He also thought about the people he knew that were killed by this man. Just remember, he’s a killer, Curtis reminded himself keeping the smile on his face. He had to think this during his interactions with Vicious. Even with everything Curtis knew about the guy, he sometimes found himself under Vicious’ little spell. He seemed like a nice guy to everyone. If Curtis didn’t think about the people that died at the hand of Vicious, he’d forget about his mission. Plus he loved Zia too much give up on her.

“I’d be honored sir.”

“Of course you would. Look at her.” The father looked at the picture of his daughter a little longer. “There isn’t much for you to do today, Curtis. Since I’m just getting ready to fly to Japan you can just make sure everything is running smoothly. Now that I think about it my daughter should be here today,” he said finally putting the picture away. There was something old about Vicious’ stare when looking at the picture. Curtis could feel the intent to kill in the man’s eyes. He wouldn’t kill his daughter, would he? He has to have some type of heart. He is human.

Curtis took the elevator to the fifth floor to finally get to his office. “Alright, it should be…” he looked in a few drawers but it wasn’t there. Just as he was about to panic he noticed a lump in a sloppy stack of papers. “Found it.” The flash drive was underneath those papers. He put the flash drive on his computer and checked the data. It took about thirty minutes. He listened to some music. This was the only place in the building where he felt safe because thirty minutes looking at this anywhere else would have gotten him killed. The floor Curtis worked on was mostly quiet, almost any sound echoing through the freshly polished glass and beautifully cut oak wood patterns that made up the interior of the wide and narrow corridors. Not many people worked on the floor which was pretty big and no one would’ve come in his office. “Okay, nothing is missing.” He didn’t look at the flash drive itself until all of the data was done being processed. The picture of Zia was slightly bent as if someone had blankly messed with the picture. It had alerted Curtis.

Curtis began searching frantically for anything that would show that someone was watching him. He pulled out some of the cold metal drawers to his desk. He didn’t see a mike. There was nothing that seemed out of place in his empty metal box of an office. He tripped over his chair falling face first near his desk. “Shit,” he said, his voice muffled by the hand he used to rub his face gently.

“Hey Curtis, what’s up?” The cheery voice made Curtis jump. He hit his head on the desk. His brain had to process what was just said after getting over the shock of falling and of someone sneaking up on him. He did not even hear the door open and he didn’t see it necessary to lock the door since he planned on leaving and never entering this building again. 

He looked up to see Cassandra Vicious standing in the doorway of the office with a smile on her face. The smile was definitely something that seemed out of place to Curtis. He met her only twice before. On both occasions, she didn’t seem as though she could smile. It was like she was gone and her body was an empty shell. It was like she didn’t know who she was or where she was. She was in a daze being dragged around by her father to meet new employees. Her eyes were simple and gray; they had no life in them. When she looked at Curtis to shake his hand, it seemed like she was looking through him, like her gaze did not stop at him but past him. He’d seen that look before. It was on Zia’s face when she was only seven, when she came to Curtis’ school after losing her parents. It was the look of a person going through despair, unable to take on the challenge of living anymore.

“Hey, you’re taking over this branch of the company, right?”

“Yeah,” she said unenthusiastically, “guess what: I found this flash drive with all of the work that you are supposed to do on it. I saw some other stuff about my father too, like the things he buys, his moods. Is the flash drive yours?” She asked, her words brimming with sarcasm. Curtis tried to repress the look of shock and anxiety that he knew he was making. From Cassandra’s mischievous grin he could tell that he failed. “Is that girl your girlfriend?”

Well I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve just got to play this smart, Curtis thought. “Yes, she is my girlfriend.” He answered, “Could you close the door?”

She closed the door slowly and quietly turning the doorknob as she did it so that it didn’t make any sound. There wasn’t as much as a click when the door shut. She locked it slowly as well which caused it to make a barely audible snapping sound

What are the right words to use right now? Curtis asked himself, how about this, “You obviously know what’s on here. Why didn’t you tell someone?”

“I do want to see my father get what he deserves.” She looked at Curtis’ expression change slightly again, “He killed my boyfriend and blamed it on your organization.” She said with a small nervous laugh. “I’m sure you remember that about two months ago, my father escaped a burning building unscathed. There were no burns on his flawless skin.” Cassandra continued while obviously holding back tears, “Do you remember who owned that building?”

“Justin Cane.”Curtis answered.

“Do you remember who died in that building?”

“William Cane.” He replied. I never expected to hear about this again. Of course he remembered. How could he forget? He could have saved the guy. If he were just a little faster, if he were just a little stronger he could have saved a life.

“Yes, my father introduced us to each other. I fall in love with him. Then my father snatches his life away when marriage comes up. He burns the building with William inside. His father didn’t even care. William wanted to marry me.” Tears began flowing from her eyes. To Curtis the huge lonely office seemed to shrink suddenly as though it was a metal box prison. “I’m not even sure why he is keeping me alive anymore. He doesn’t need me anymore.”

Something doesn’t feel right, Curtis thought. Sure enough he heard footsteps outside of his office. They weren’t too close but they were close enough. He shushed Cassandra. There was second door that Curtis never used behind the metal bookshelf in his office. It was closer to the long hallway that led to the elevator than the door he always used. He walked over to the bookshelf and said, “Help me move this.” It took more effort than he thought it would, but they finally moved it just as the footsteps outside stopped. It was dead quiet.

Curtis took a deep breath and slowly opened the door, just a crack to peer outside. He found about twenty of Vicious’ men camped outside of the door Curtis usually used. They had guns. Fear made its home in Curtis’ sternum as he came to the realization of what he was going to do next: run under gunfire. I’m only nineteen and this with be the second time I have to do this. He knew they would kill him if he screwed up or slowed down.

Curtis opened the door completely and took Cassandra’s hand. She made a strangled sound as Curtis took her and ran for his life. There were gunshots grazing the corners as Curtis ran with Cassandra’s hand in his. The guns were fired at them. Vicious wouldn’t have wanted his daughter killed though. Since Vicious knew that Curtis was his enemy he could have told his men to kill Curtis without harming Cassandra. How am I still alive? Curtis thought. He needed the fastest route to the first floor. It was hard to think under fire.

Suddenly, the intercom boomed throughout the entire floor. “You forgot one small piece of information: I’ve been watching you the whole time, boy.” It was Vicious, “Your work was sloppy. I guess can’t expect much from you Curtis.” Where’s the help when I need it? Curtis thought. He had an idea. He had to get out of the building. Hoping and praying he wouldn’t be killed, he kissed Zia’s picture and whispered, “Help me get out of this one.” He made a phone call. No one answered but he knew that someone from “The Family” would come and help; he just needed to survive.

He turned another corner and there he was wearing his signature Italian grey and black suit: Vicious. “Silence. I want to speak to Mr. Browne.” Vicious shouted on the intercom using a small radio device. The shooting ceased. “I was serious about having you becoming my son-in-law.” He said it with a great smile but his anger was obvious.

“I’d hate to be related to someone like you.” Curtis replied curtly. He put Cassandra behind him blocking her from Vicious. “Go to the first floor,” he told her. He looked back at Vicious, “How did you know?”

“How did I know what? That you betrayed me? That you manipulated your way into my company? That you’re working for “The Family”?” Vicious paused, calming himself. “What I said before wasn’t true.” He turned his neck slightly to the left, “Charles, come here please.” He gestured towards the corner.

“Yes sir.” A skinny weasel of a man came around the corner.

“This is the person who has been watching you. It seems he’s never trusted you since you joined the company.” Vicious clarified.

Charles was a jumpy, edgy type of guy. He was always stuttering nervously and he didn’t seem to fit in well, not that Curtis really fit in himself. However, Charles was useful to Vicious. He didn’t stand out much, so he could gather information easily without being noticed. He was devious. “I knew that there was something strange about you compared to the other employees.” Charles said shifting uncomfortably. “You were too perfect. You made no mistakes Curtis.”

“And because of Charles here, that was your biggest mistake.” Vicious added.

As they were talking Curtis thought, more than once, about running. I could just run away. He knew that he wouldn’t actually get away. Plus he still didn’t know how they figured it out. He was scared out his mind but he had to hear more. “You still didn’t tell me how you found out. Why are you doing this now?”

Charles laughed meekly, “That’s simple. I slipped a small microphone in Cassandra’s hood. Everything you two talked about in your office was recorded. Well it is not your office anymore.” He said pulling out a small pistol, “Boss, do you want me to shoot him now?”

So this is how it ends for me. Curtis thought.

Vicious looked at Curtis’ carefully. “No, I’ll take care of Mr. Browne myself.”

“But boss, you shouldn’t have to dirty your hands with a simple child.”

“Do you want me to kill you, Charles?”

“N… No sir.” He stammered. He bowed and walked around the corner shakily without turning his back to Vicious.

“Now, back to you,” Vicious started walking toward Curtis. Curtis backed away he tried to run, but before Curtis could even turn around, Vicious’ charged at him and had both hands around his neck. He lifted Curtis two feet off of the floor. He could have crushed Curtis’ windpipe.

Well this was unexpected Curtis thought, but I won’t die like this. He started trying to pry Vicious’ hands off of his neck. He was punching Vicious’ arms. Then he brought his legs up and pushed off of Vicious’ chest as hard as he could. He landed on back gasping for air. Vicious simply waited for Curtis to stand. He was ready to fight.

Jacob Vicious was neither fat nor extremely skinny. He didn’t seem particularly strong either. He was fairly tall, about six feet four inches. That was what Curtis thought until he took a hit from him. He blocked it, but the force from the blow made him lose his balance. He took an offensive stance. Vicious’ smile widened. “Are you going to take this seriously now? You could die if you don’t.” Vicious was on the attack. He was using Muay Thai. He moved in letting loose a flurry of attacks most of which could have easily broken Curtis’ bones. He blocked and dodged them as well as he could. Vicious hit a metal wall breaking through with his fist.

Curtis knew he couldn’t get hit with one of those punches. If he did, he would’ve died. He needed to strike at the right moment. He had to be a little unfair about it. He knew he was fighting for his life. Vicious pulled his fist out of the wall. Curtis readied himself. He took the closest object he could reach and threw it a Vicious. It was easily dodged, but while ducking Vicious wasn’t ready for a roundhouse to his neck. He was finally able to get a hit on this guy. It wasn’t enough though. Vicious took his head in his hands and turned his neck left and then right making two loud cracking sounds. “That was a nice kick, but you can’t beat me.”

Curtis backed into a wall, trying not to look as scared as he was. He touched his pocket. Where’s Mary when I need her? I should have something. He thought. He quickly fumbled around in his pocket.

“There’s nothing else you can do now. I hate sounding so cliché but give up now while you can.” Vicious warned, “It will be less painful that way. Oh, who am I kidding? No it won’t,” he said laughing.

He found two things that Mary made for him in his pocket: a modified camera that looked like a fly, a mini flash bang. It was the size of a half-dollar but slightly wider. It took one minute for the chemical reaction to work. It was slightly defective because Curtis messed with the chemicals in a few of the coins while Mary was making them. Curtis was going to have to stall for a while. He pressed down on the face of the coin. Curtis began counting down, fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty-seven… Keeping his fist around the coin, he threw another roundhouse kick aiming for Vicious’ neck.

“I told you it won’t work!” Vicious shouted angrily. He grabbed Curtis’ leg before it made contact. Vicious swung Curtis into the wall on the other side of the corridor. It hurt Curtis badly but he still held on to the coin.

Forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight, thirty-seven…

 He walked over to Curtis and punched him in the stomach twice. Vicious picked him up by his shirt with both hands. “I should’ve killed you a long time ago little boy.”

Curtis continued counting down as he was beaten. Luckily, Vicious wanted to savor the moment. He took about more than twenty seconds to walk to Curtis. “Five, four…” he whispered.

“What did you say?” Vicious demanded.

“One,” Curtis said, flipping the coin directly in front of Vicious’ eyes while closing his own tightly. It made a small hissing sound. Vicious was blinded completely by the light. He curled up in fetal position screaming, “What did you do? My eyes! My eyes! My eyes!”

Curtis was slightly disoriented as well from the sound of the flash bang grenade coin. His ears were ringing. He could still here someone yelling “Boss! Boss!” It took a few seconds for him to notice that it was Charles. He also brought back up. Guess they don’t have too much faith in their boss. “Kill him!” Charles shouted. Everyone was shocked to hear him shout. Curtis took advantage of this. He was up and running.

Curtis sprinted around the corner so fast that he almost knocked Cassandra to the floor. She hadn’t done as Curtis asked. “Why are you up here we have to get down stairs right now!” He shouted.

Then Curtis heard the sound of bullets ricocheting once again in the metal corridor. A second later there was an explosion. It wasn’t on the floor that they were on. “Let’s hope that’s them.” They ran full speed down the hall. They made a right. Bullets zoomed past the top of Curtis’ head taking some hair off. A bullet scratched his arm. It was a graze, but the wound stung like hell. It made him run harder with Cassandra’s hand in his. They turned another corner and he let go of her hand and they ran side by side in the wide hallway. They still had a long way to go before they would reach the stairs; waiting for the elevator was not an option.

“I know a short cut.” Cassandra took the lead. She turned left and stopped at a door. She opened it and walked inside. Curtis followed. They walked into a storage room. It was filled with big, metal crates. Curtis looked inside of one. Guns. When he touched one, the cold steel sent a chill down his spine. He closed the crate and looked around. The sight of guns reminded of the pain from the bullet that grazed his arm.

“Hold on.” he said to Cassandra. He ripped a piece of his shirt and wrapped it around the wound. He tied it using his teeth and his free hand.

“About William,” Curtis started, “I am the reason why he died.

“What?!” Cassandra shouted. She grabbed Curtis by his collar. Curtis was worried that she was too loud. “Wait. You were there? You killed him? You kill people because your fake boss tells you to?”

“No. Let me explain.” She let go of him “I tried to save him. I wasn’t fast enough. He was on an elevator when I saw him,” Curtis gulped hard. It pained him to have to recall that memory. “I rushed to him. The elevator was stuck between floors. I reached for his hand. He took it. The fear in his eyes scared me. He was yelling. He said ‘my leg is stuck. My leg is stuck.’” Curtis paused, “I asked him what his leg was stuck on. He let go of my hand to show me. I was about to get inside of the elevator when I heard a snap. Then I froze when the elevator started moving. It dropped fast for about five seconds until I heard a crash. I hurried down the stairs and got out of the building. ‘The Family’ made sure I wasn’t in the newspaper and your father thought I just got out before him. I know that Vicious caused his death but I couldn’t save him.”

Cassandra stared blankly at Curtis. Once again, her eyes were lifeless. Curtis waited for about thirty seconds and her eyes started to regain color. She breathed slowly, and then sighed, “Thank you for trying Curtis.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah I’m fine. I won’t cry. I’ve done enough crying. I’m ready to go.”

 “Alright I’m ready.” They heard heavy rapid footsteps outside of the room. Fortunately, it was coming from the hallway they just left. Vicious’ men were running right past them. Cassandra cracked open the door parallel to the one they came in through.

“The stairs are straight down the hall to the left.” Cassandra whispered, “I don’t know if anyone cares that I’m his daughter anymore, so let’s hurry. If “The Family” is here like you say they are, then I might get out of here.” She made a small nervous laugh and turned back to the door.

“Let’s go then.” He whispered.

 They quickly made their way down the hallway. They made a right and finally reached the stairwell that led to the lobby. “Ahh!” Cassandra shrieked. The sound made Curtis’ blood run cold. He spun around to the sight of Cassandra holding a wall with one hand and a bullet wound on her leg with the other. Blood was trickling down her leg from her thigh which was under her hand. Her pale skin was getting paler. Luckily there was no one in the stairwell.

“Hold on to me,” Curtis said. Cassandra did what she was told with a look of terror in her eyes. “I’m not letting another innocent person die right in front of me.”

There were guns blazing. “We have to move.” Curtis warned. There was shooting on two sides of the lobby: near the entrance and near the elevators. Curtis knew that “The Family” was near the entrance. They crept along the wall, making their way toward the entrance. The doors were gone. Curtis guessed that the explosion he heard came from “The Family” making an entrance for themselves. The faint smell of sulfur was present. It got stronger the closer Curtis got to the big hole in the wall.

Curtis spotted the representative instantly. He noticed the all-black suit. “Help her,”

“Okay, Curtis.” The representative led her out of the

The rest of the men from “The Family” were wearing combat armor like the S.W.A.T. “Throwing gas,” one of the men said. Each person simultaneously threw a teargas grenade. They put on gas masks and ran into the almost toxic fumes. Most of the shooting stopped. Curtis saw one man run up to someone that was trying to escape the gas, coughing and quickly disarmed the person. He smacked the guy with the butt of his assault rifle and threw him to the ground. “Stay down!” he roared.

Curtis heard similar things happening in the smoke. The gas began to clear up after a few minutes. All of Vicious’ men were passed out or struggling on the floor trying to get out of handcuffs. It seemed like everything was just about over. “Vicious is still on the fifth floor.” A few men rushed up the stairs.

“Where is the information on Jacob Vicious?” asked a familiar voice. Curtis made a quick one eighty to find a slender middle aged man with a full head of graying hair and a black trench coat. He did look somewhat Asian as his last name suggested but he seemed more European. He was looking at an old watch. “Time is precious, young Curtis.”

Curtis knew exactly who this man was. “Mr. Shin.”

“Young Curtis? The information?”

“Oh right. Sorry, sir” Curtis fumble in his pockets and pulled out the flash drive. He’d almost forgotten what he came back into this building for.

Mr. Shin produced a Netbook computer from his coat. “Thank you.” He took the flash drive from Curtis and plugged it into the lightweight computer.

“That’s too small. A Netbook computer couldn’t carry all of that information. Your computer is going to crash.” Curtis waited and watched as the data uploaded itself onto the Netbook’s hard drive.

“Young Curtis, calm down and get yourself fixed up.” The computer made a small sound. “It is done. Good work Curtis. Take some time off.”

“Yes, sir I will do that.”

“Get off of me!” said a voice coming from the stairwell. It was Vicious. He was being dragged down the stairs by the men that went upstairs. “I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you just like I killed the others.”

“You’re not killing anyone else. We are giving this to the Federal Court.” Mr. Shin said holding up the flash drive. “This contains videos, photos, written documents, and messages that will have you convicted in no time at all.” Mr. Shin continued sternly, “be patient.”

“NOOOOOO!! You’ve done worse than me. You cannot do this to me.”

“We of “The Family” do whatever we can to help people whatever they may be. You alone are worse than us. And we certainly can do this. This time we are doing it the mostly legal way. We’re backed by the F.B.I.” Mr. Shin argued.

Curtis walked outside through the enormous whole in the wall. In a few years not many will even remember Jacob T.B. Vicious unless his daughter honors him for whatever reason. He thought. All of the tension in his body was released.

“Hey, Curtis,” Cassandra spoke when she saw him, “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Curtis replied. He walked to the medical van and got his wound cleaned. He looked around for the first time and noticed that the usually busy street was empty. He saw all of the Asian women looking at Vicious. So “The Family” can get connections to the F.B.I. and they can block off roads completely. He thought, I’m guessing that’s just a fraction of their power. What will they do with all of these Asian women? He looked at Cassandra. “What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to sell the company probably since its pretty much mine. Then I’ll stay with my mother, my real mother.” She answered.

“That’s good,” Curtis said, “I’ll see you around.”

 Curtis had one more important thing to do before resting.  He had to see Zia. “Mr. Shin, it was nice to finally meet you, sir. I hope to see you again.” Curtis said.

“You definitely will, young Curtis.” He bowed his head slightly and turned toward the truck that contained Vicious and all of his subordinates. Another truck contained the dead ones. The building was getting cleaned out.

“Never again will I have to set foot in that building.”  Curtis mumbled to himself.

It took an hour and a half for everything to get done. “The Family” had to make sure there were no signs that they were ever there. “No one will ever know what happened today.”

“It is a part of what we do Curtis.” Mr. Shin said, responding to Curtis’ statement, “We are simply a great shadow. Even Mary knows this. She cannot become known for her scientific achievements unless she leaves us. If she did that, she would lose the lab.”

“I understand Mr. Shin.” And he did understand how much of a hard time a scientist might have, working for a secret organization. It sounded sad to him even though Mary always had a smile on her face.

“Are you visiting the young Miss?” Mr. Shin asked.

“Yes.” Curtis answered with a sad grin.

“Take these,” Mr. Shin pulled a dozen roses out of his car, “I hope she wakes up soon Curtis. This is an obvious burden for you. You are young and you are bearing the burden of an old man.” He paused to look at his watch, “However, we all must carry burdens that may be too heavy for others.”

“Thank you, Mr. Shin.”

“Until we meet again,” Mr. Shin said.

Curtis got in his car holding the roses. “She doesn’t really like roses.” Curtis murmured after closing his door. He put his key in the ignition.

 

 

It took Curtis an hour to get to the hospital. On his way there he recounted the frightening events of that day. He knew that it wasn’t going to be his last assignment. Even with all of the pain, somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I might still do this after she wakes up. He thought. He meant it as a joke but he didn’t know how much of a joke it really was.

He walked into of the hospital quietly. He saw familiar faces. Jewel, Reina, and Paul walked out of an elevator solemnly. The three of them hadn’t seen Curtis in a while. Of course they didn’t know what Curtis did for work.

“Curtis!” Jewel shouted. She walked to Curtis quickly and hugged him as Reina and Paul noticed his presence.

“You know she doesn’t like roses, Curtis.” Paul said calmly. If Curtis didn’t know Paul as well as he did, he would think that Paul was straight.

“Yeah I know, Paul. She’d understand.”

“What happed to your arm?” Reina asked.

“I just got a scratch.” Curtis answered. Reina looked like she was going to ask more but she didn’t. It was obvious that it was more than a scratch but Reina knew when she would be asking too much.

Reina suggested that the three of them leave and let Curtis see her alone since they already saw her. “He needs to see her by himself. Plus they say that it’s better for the person in the coma to hear whoever they are closest to. Hearing that person’s voice, triggers brain activity,” She explained, “so let’s go,” she said taking Paul’s left arm and Jewel’s right arm then pulling them backwards, to the entrance.

The comical scene made Curtis laugh a little. “Good call, Reina.” Curtis spoke softly. Curtis went to the front desk. The lady there knew him well so she wrote up a visitors pass and told him that he could stay for as long as he wanted. Curtis rode the elevator up to Zia’s floor. He walked down the sterile hallway slowly, thinking about what he would say to Zia. When he finally reached Zia’s door he took his phone out of his pocket and put it inside of a plastic bin. He knew that his cell phone could interfere with medical equipment. He turned cold the stainless steel door handle and entered the enormous room. Only Curtis knew how everything was paid for.

Zia was hooked up to a big machine that kept her hydrated and kept her oxygen levels stable. The respirator covered her nose and mouth. For such a huge machine it seemed almost quiet. There was only a little wispy sound and a slight beep that went off with Zia’s heart beat. Curtis took a seat in the chair that sat at her bedside. He grabbed her hand gently. It had become so frail in the year and a half since the accident. She had healed well after the surgery. She had a scar on her leg where her bone had broken. There was a scar above her left eye where a piece of glass from the car had scratched her.

“You saved my life.” He took her hand in both of his and got on his knees. He kissed her hand, “Thank you, Zia. I love you. Please wake up soon.” He fell asleep with her hand in his.

If Curtis had been awake he would have noticed the tear that had rolled down Zia’s face onto her pillow. When he had awoken it had already dried. He didn’t even notice the small traces of salt that would later be cleaned off of her face by a nurse.


© Copyright 2019 Hanif Tariq Ballard. All rights reserved.

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