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Emerald Evolution

Her eyes were green.

Her eyes were green.

There was no denying that the woman sitting opposite was attractive. Her dark hair fell carelessly on her shoulders and framed her lean face. She was of a thin build and had spotless golden brown skin that looked as smooth as silk to touch. Her thin, closed-lip smile indicated that she was approachable and kind.

It was her eyes that hypnotized him, though. They were green like emeralds but sparkled like diamonds. As he continued to stare, he was spellbound for it was like looking into deep green wells filled with all the stars of the night sky.

“So what do you do?” a pleasant voice roused him from his fascination.

He realised he had been gawking at her eyes for an indefinite length of time. He again noticed the bustle and relaxing piano of the background and recalled that he was in a restaurant.

“Alejandro’s on 7th ” he reminded himself in thought, “and don’t stare”.

She didn’t seem fazed and was now gazing patiently keeping eye contact and awaiting an answer.

“Really? You’re going to ask that?” he smirked, attempting to avoid the question as he had done so often before. “Of all the things you could ask about me, you want to know my job?”

The smile began to increase at the edge of her mouth, but she didn’t let down, “Well I already know you don’t drink, so I assume you are career oriented.” He had indeed already refused a drink from the waiter with the explanation: “I don’t drink”. “So yes, that’s right. Of all the questions I could ask, this is my first for you” she laughed a lovely girlish chuckle, “and I believe you’ll find this is the first question most people will ask on a first date”.

He smiled and to himself thought “So I’ve found…”

Aware that she would not allow him to avoid this question he responded, “I work at a liquidation firm”.

“And what do you do at this liquidation firm” she inquired.

“I’m a liquidator”.

“A liquidator at a liquidation firm” she beamed, “Who would have thought? What does a liquidator at a liquidation firm do? I don’t think I’ve met one before”.

“There’s more of us than you think,” he paused, preparing to tell the lie he had rehearsed and told an excessive amount of times, “I’m appointed to wind up the affairs of a company, firm or… of people” he paused momentarily, “When their affairs need to be ended… you know… for example, when they owe a lot of money but continue to spend. That sort of thing.” He paused for a moment and tried to break eye contact but realised he couldn’t bring himself to look away. “It’s part of a government agency.” He added trying to seem casual.

Her smile had disappeared and she examined his face inquisitively as if to try and read whether this was the truth. She took a sip of her wine and before she had swallowed he hurriedly prepared his own question to try and change the subject off himself and onto her.

“Since careers are your topic of choice, what is it that you do for a living?” he probed.

She ignored his query, “Do you like being a liquidator?”

Now he laughed, “I think you answered my question; are you a therapist by any chance?”

She grinned revealing her flawless smile of bright, white teeth and opened her hands as if to say “you caught me”.

She persisted, however, “So… do you like it?”

“I do” he muttered hesitantly. He was usually a very talented liar, but he knew he was very unconvincing on this occasion.

She gave him a dissatisfied look and her green eyes were filled with disappointment. He could feel guilt well up and overrun his body.

It made him feel like a boy again seeing this gorgeous woman challenge him and not back down. Most dates he went on he was able to avoid these questions with his charm and he found that most women enjoyed the mystery surrounding the handsome, rich man sitting opposite them at the dinner table. This woman, however, actually gave him the desire to tell his story. He craved opening up and telling her everything that he had kept inside. All of the things that tormented him and festered away his happiness like maggots on a rotting carcass.

He decided to try honesty with her for the first time. “I loathe it. I ruin people’s lives so that I can live in luxury.” She didn’t seem taken aback by this blunt statement, “I can’t sleep most nights and I fear that my only escape from this misery is through the gentle embrace of death.” He smiled now to gauge whether he would be able to pass this off as a joke.

She appeared unfazed by what he had revealed and watched him with a blank face. “Quit,” she declared as if she had stumbled upon an impossible secret that no one could possibly have thought of.

“It’s not that simp-“

“Do you have email?” she interrupted, a smug look was now upon her face.

“Do I… Yes” he was now sniggering as he understood where she was going.

“Email your boss a resignation. Problem solved.” She was beaming now and appeared awfully pleased with herself. “Shall I order you a beer to celebrate now?”

He couldn’t hold back his laughter and he felt a warm sense of glee replace the guilt that had been present just moments earlier.

“Well, there you go! You are an exceptional therapist” he chuckled.

She shrugged her shoulders and now the two of them were laughing together, all the while he was still transfixed with those eyes.

His phone vibrated in his pocket.

His laughter was interrupted and his heart dropped. “No, not tonight,” he thought.

As casually as he could, he spied a look at the screen of his phone under the table.

MESSAGE: NO NUMBER

“Damm.” He didn’t even realise that he had let this out in an audible sigh.

“Something wrong?” her face still had remnants of laughter, but worry was now the dominant expression.

“I… I have to go… it’s for-“

“If you have to go for work, then don’t worry. I’ve fixed this remember?” He thought she was joking again but this time, there was no hint of jest in her face.

He could not think of something to say, but he wished more than anything to make her laugh again. Her deep green eyes were now filled with disappointment and he felt the guilt rise. “We haven’t even ordered dinner yet.”

“I’m sorry” is all he could manage to whisper gloomily. He stood and began to pull out a bank note from his wallet. “Here’s money for your dinner if you’d like it.“

“No thank you,” she fumed as she imposed upon him an expression of pure revulsion. “If you’re going, just go.” She turned away and fixed her eyes on the wall next to the table as if the look of him was too abhorrent to even set eyes upon.

“I’ll call for another date? “ The hope in his voice caused it to become high pitched. He now felt more like an infant boy than he remembered feeling when he actually was an infant boy.

“Don’t,” she said bluntly, still maintaining eye contact with the wall.

He turned away and began dawdling sulkily towards the exit of the restaurant.

“Unless…” She projected her voice over the noise of the restaurant. He turned, optimism rising. She was unfazed by the people who had begun to gawk due to the bickering they had overheard.

“…Unless you quit. You deserve to be happy and I can tell you are far from it with this job”.

She turned to give him one final look with those deep pools of green before returning to the wall.

That last look she had given him was etched in his memory. The green wells were not filled with shimmering starlight anymore. They were filled with burning embers, dissatisfaction and revulsion.

He was still contemplating those eyes when he realised he was well and truly out of the restaurant and had now walked three blocks from the restaurant in the cool winter air.

“Head in the game now. Focus!”

He knew he would be unable to remove the thought for some time, but he had to try. None the less, he took his phone out and opened the message. It read:

FROM: NO NAME

Katrina Lindebraun

Address: 72A 2nd Street, New York, NY 10002

Call: +1 212-254-3791

He briefly observed the surrounding area to confirm no one was standing within earshot. Most people were busily passing by completely unaware of the phone call that was about to be made in plain view. He called the number.

A flat male voice answered, “You accept?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“We need verbal confirmation. You know the protocol,” the voice showed no signs of emotion and was completely unaffected by this question.

He exhaled, “yes I accept”.

“Katrina Lindebraun is believed to be alone at the given address between twenty hundred hours and twenty-two hundred hours.” He examined his watch and noted the time as twenty hundred hours. “Discretely accessed through a door in the side ally. Once entered she is believed to be in the second door on the left. Both doors have been confirmed unlocked. Caucasian female, heavy build, light hair. Height and weight are five foot six inches and one hundred and fifty-five pounds respectively. Middle aged, approximately forty years old. She is not believed armed and has zero combat training. It is believed she is unaware that she is a target. She is not considered dangerous.”

He could feel rage beginning to rise for what seemed like the first time in his memory. He had never let anger take over his actions before but he couldn’t suppress it now. This was a completely harmless, seemingly innocent woman! “If she’s not dangerous then why am I doing this?!” he fumed boisterously, forgetting that he was on a public street.

The voice disregarded this outburst and was, again, completely unfazed, “Destroy the phone at the completion of this call. You will find a new burner phone in your apartment”. Beep. The voice had hung up.

He paused for a moment not certain what he should do with this new found temper. Gripping the phone with all his might, he let out an almighty shout and hurled the phone into the pavement sidewalk.

“AAAGGGHHHH”

He stood motionless for a moment and allowed himself to breathe deeply. Visible puffs of air were clouding around his face due to the brisk temperature of the evening. He had received training on dealing with his anger many years prior but it seemed so long since he had needed it that he couldn’t properly recall what to do.

“Steady breaths?” he mumbled to himself, uncertain if this was the only advice for anger management that ‘experts’ gave.

In truth, he had felt very few emotions other than despair and shame in recent times.

Those green eyes had roused something deep within him that he hadn’t been prepared for.

“Unless you quit…” The gentle voice echoed in his thoughts giving him a sense of calm that deep breathing had failed to provide, “You deserve to be happy…”

Was it the thought of quitting or was it the person this had come from that made him replay this line over and over in his mind? He pondered for a moment but suddenly snapped to.

“Focus, you have a job to do”.

He checked the time; ten minutes had already passed since he had observed his watch during the phone call. He had obviously been contemplating that voice and those eyes for far longer than he realised. He gauged his surroundings and noted some people walking past him at a quickened pace. “Obviously trying to get away from the bizarre man standing still in the middle of a New York sidewalk” he chuckled to himself.

Noticing the wreckage of the phone on the sidewalk he again couldn’t help himself from chuckling, “The phone is destroyed alright,” it was in several pieces next to where he stood. As he strode away, he wondered if he had given passers-by a fright with his sudden outburst. He had indeed been in such deep thought and blind rage that he had completely forgotten his location. He slipped his hand into his pocket and felt his hip.

His gun was still strapped under his pants.

He set off towards the address given in the message, now with a greater sense of purpose. As he breathed in the crisp night air, he began to feel nobler for what he was about to do.

“There is a good reason for her being a target” he reasoned with himself. He usually tried to give no thought to his targets prior to the task, often somewhat unsuccessfully, but after the lead up to this, he knew he needed to justify what he was doing. He had indeed found that it was better not to know who they were or, for that matter, anything about them. For this reason, he no longer gave his attention to the news or current affairs. He would, too often, see stories about them.

About their murder.

These were the source of his sleepless nights.

“How many children have you left orphans?” the question would nag at him.

“They were despicable humans,” he reminded himself arguing with his own thoughts. In fact, the news stories often revealed his targets were evil people. Corrupt, greedy men or women of power, rapists, murderers, the list, goes on. These weren’t the ones that nagged at him and kept him from sleep, however. The targets that kept him from sleep were a different type of person. It was the people he considered innocent. Although these people were usually ambitious and foolish, he couldn’t help but think how they didn’t deserve to die. These were people that had got wrapped up in events larger than they had realised.

They were eliminated because they were an inconvenience to the powerful.

During training, he was told that the faces of the people moments, before you killed them, would be the faces that plague your sub-conscious. Just as they realised they were about to die the face was filled with emotion; grief, sometimes fury, but most often terror. He never remembered these faces, though.

No. The faces he remembered were the innocent faces he would see on news programs. The cheerful portrait that media had scrounged from social media or a loved one and plastered all over the TV screen and newspapers.

These faces haunted him. These faces and the distraught faces of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and friends who plead through tears on television to find the person that murdered their beloved. And then the children of the targets-

“Stop it!” he was now feeling a cocktail of emotions that was not experienced at dealing with, “Get this done and then you can think about it tonight.” He had already accepted that he would be getting no sleep this evening.

He now realised he was at the address he had been given, a photography studio. The sign above the front window simply read “Lindebraun.” Through the window, it could be seen that photos hung haphazardly across the walls. Next to the shop front a typical untidy New York ally ran into shadow.

“Photography studio…?” He pondered. Most targets were generally at high-end apartment buildings or hotels when he was called for a job, but a photography studio was a very unusual location.

Ignoring his confusion, he confirmed the address was correct and then casually strolled down the alleyway. He sensed the hustle and bustle of the busy street behind him disappeared and began to feel more like himself. A patchy door of peeling red paint stood slightly ajar between two over filled and dinged-up silver bins.

He ensured he was out of sight of the passers-by on the street so he could remove the small pistol from beneath his pants and give it a brief inspection. The silencer was in place, and it was loaded with six bullets though he would likely only need one. He had to admit he got a feeling of comfort holding the firearm in his hand. The cool, smooth surface was moulded to his fingers and, despite the cliché, it really did feel like an extension of his body when he held it.

But the damage it can do…

Disregarding this thought, he pressed on with the job at hand. Behind the door was a plain hallway with several doorways and a small staircase at the end.

“Second door on the left,” he recalled the monotonous voice from the phone call.

On his left, he noticed that the first door was emerald with lettering “Shop Front” printed above. The second was an intense crimson with lettering “Dark Room”.

He recalled an uninteresting date in which a woman explained that some photographers still used film rather than digital and needed “dark rooms” to develop their photos.

Very cautiously and noiselessly he swiveled the crimson door knob and caressed the door open. It was just as he expected. A small jumbled room cloaked in shade except for a dim red light which gently bathed all that it touched. Photos hung on disorganized ropes that lined the roof.

There was no sign of his target.

The disappointed green eyes flashed in his mind.

He blinked and tried to ignore the brief vision.

Warily he entered the room and noticed two temporary wall barriers like those used in office buildings set up in the back right-hand corner to give a miniature blind spot. A rustle came from behind the barriers.

He began to move soundlessly towards the clatter and pointed his weapon in its direction. As he moved, his head brushed against one of the hanging photos and he froze. He now realised what the photos were of.

Some presented a white-haired man in a well-tailored suit walking with a beautiful woman many years his junior. Other photos displayed the two getting into an expensive sports car by the beach. The last photo he beheld was of the two embracing, her thin body wrapped in his arms and her neck was stretched up to give him a kiss on his lips: the money shot.

Who the man was he didn’t know exactly, but he could be sure that he was a CEO or possibly a politician that had been discovered having an affair.

This confirmed his fear: Katrina was just another innocent victim that had unknowingly become caught up in a conspiracy far more immense than she had realised.

The green eyes of disappointment flashed in his mind again.

Guilt overwhelmed his senses. Rage and despair invaded his body and he began feeling a great sense of uncertainty.

“You can’t do this” he fumed to himself. “You can’t-“

Mid-thought he realised that a figure had moved out from behind the barriers. A heavy-set, middle-aged woman of sandy hair was now standing motionless gaping at the man pointing a gun at her. Terror painted on her face.

Their eyes met.

Before he could think what actions to take her head flung back and her limp body dropped to the ground.

He realised that his finger had tightened on the trigger.

Guilt raged in his body. Despair began to overwhelm him. Those green eyes of disappointment stuck in his mind and he couldn’t shake the thought of them.

He was now on the floor next to the woman in a pool of her blood, his back perched against the wall. Her petite hand, motionless, was in his and he began to weep for the first time in his memory.

His other hand still gripped the gun.

He brought it to his mouth and bit down upon the muzzle with his teeth.

“Do it,” he commanded, “It’s the only escape.” His hand began to shake as he moved his index finger to the trigger. The salty taste of tears filled his mouth and he closed his eyes as he tightened his finger.

The vision of green eyes appeared, filled with more disappointment than ever now.

“AAGGGHHH,” he let out a scream of dismay and hurled the gun across the room at the opposite wall.

He felt the tears stream from his eyes and the guilt went with them. His face was in his hands as he sat and wept.

The green eyes were still at the forefront of his mind. “You deserve to be happy…” the gentle voice echoed again and again.

“You deserve to be happy” he blubbered this aloud through his sobbing.

“You deserve to be happy” he now said it with more force.

The green eyes began to sparkle.

“I will quit this misery.” He spoke it confidently and boisterously. He was now standing and had stopped weeping. He gasped deeply letting the tears dry as he gained his surroundings again.

He glared at the photos that had brought Katrina Lindebraun to her end. The man in these photos didn’t deserve to be protected, and he deserved to be outed. “I will finish this for her,” he thought with pride and quickly snatched the photo of the two figures kissing, folding it quickly and stuffing it in his pocket. He wasn’t sure how he would do it, but he felt he owed it to Katrina to release this photo publicly.

The green eyes in his mind were glorious wells filled with starlight again.

He took a moment to gaze down at the poor woman sprawled motionless on the floor. Her eyes were wide open as if they were staring through the ceiling above at some glorious spectacle beyond the clouds. Blood had dribbled into her left eye from the precise bullet hole in the centre of her forehead.

As he looked into her eyes, he felt a strange sense of hope.

“I will quit this misery” he whispered to himself and a smile spread across his face.

Her eyes were also green.

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