There is a pile of money left on my bed. It is unusual to be paid so early on a protection job. Perhaps they sense I won’t be staying long. I’m even more surprised by the availability of currency. American dollars are hard to find. Any dollar is hard to find when you’re a fugitive. I guess it pays to be a war criminal. I stack the cash up without bothering to count it and leave the bundle inside a wardrobe. It will stay there untouched next to a half empty bottle. I take this vial and observe a pale blue liquid kiss the glass as it sloshes around. I place it back inside the wardrobe and before I leave my quarters I remember to grab my gun. The most dangerous time is when everything has been prepared, all is set out, and there is nothing left to do but wait. It is too easy. The heat has made me complacent. Even if I do not intend to use this weapon, I should at least maintain the charade. Yes, this job is wretched but I shall have no qualms or pangs of guilt when it is over.
Leandro and his mother are fighting outside. The gruff voice and high-pitched whine penetrate the villa walls. For a group of people on the run, they do not care who hears their conversations. It does not surprise me. If they are willing to employ a complete stranger to protect them then they are clearly reckless. I have only been here three days, spending two with them, and have already earned their trust – however much that is worth. They do not know my real name and think that I am some kind of mercenary. There are plenty of guns for hire in this country. I just happened to switch places with the right one. I have seen that fascists are brutal. Now I know that they are stupid too.
“I know she doesn’t love me.”
I watch from the terrace. The mistress does not flinch as her lover and his mother speak openly about her. Instead, she slips out of her gown and melts into the pool.
“You should be less concerned with sleeping with this prostitute and more focused on getting us asylum –”
“You should be less concerned about who I sleep with… more concerned with your own asylum mother!”
Leandro’s eyes flex within their sockets. I skirt around the edges of the patio to avoid that sharp gaze. Their argument continues and for one last time I appreciate the sleek form of the mistress gliding along. Her movements are nonchalant. I cannot decide if the water resists this caramel wisp or if she has seduced it into submission. The woman is seamless with the ebb and the ebb is seamless with her.
I hear Mr. Marshall come outside. He places a tin on the rusty garden table by the pool.
“As you both know… it’s never good to argue on an empty stomach. Come. Eat some cake.”
The sun is at its highest. I feel my feet baking on the ceramic tiles. He cuts three pieces and places them on separate plates. They scratch against the metal surface.
“Doesn’t she want any?” he looks over towards the pool.
“No. She has her figure.”
“Well, if she’s not going to have any…”
They do not bother to offer me any. I am just a hired gun. They do not even notice me. This is my job. It pays to blend in. And I certainly do not want any of the cake. Mr. Marshall devours his piece whilst Leandro Nicosia, war criminal, fugitive, and troubled son, eats slowly.
“I thought you made lemon?”
The fat servant collapses to the ground. I watch the Adam’s apple throb as his eyelids intermittently shutter his eyes. Leandro spits out a half-digested morsel of cake but he has eaten enough. He staggers and reaches for the hands of his mother. A limp body slides down the frame of the old woman and joins Mr. Marshall on the floor.
“You’re paid to protect us! So protect us!”
The screech is hurled in my general direction and I lament her failure to start eating the cake. It would have been an appropriate way for her to die. I approach slowly. The words flow easily.
“Your son has slaughtered a lot of people, a lot of my brothers, my sisters and their children.”
The gun feels hot. I am thankful that I remembered to take it. Silently she dies as her lolling head releases a wine red spray. The drops scatter in the air like fireworks sparkling in the sunlight. They splash onto the ground and soak through the tiles. I hear the wet patter of footsteps behind me. The mistress, water sashaying off her body, stares at me. For the first time she looks vulnerable. Those erotic lines quiver as I speak,
“In my room there is a pile of money. There is also a drink of a certain kind. I suggest you take one of the two. Or… if you wish, have some cake but your figure…”
I leave her there under the careful watch of the trees.
We are a young outfit with much work to do. Perhaps one day I will return to this paradise.