It was the perfect crime.
However, death grabbed a soul when one least expected, and while I had outsmarted countless men, I couldn’t outwit death forever.
My blood trickled down the mirror, the black room engulfing me silent except for the flatline ringing in my ears. Trotter had kept me alive till the cops came and ran—as every member of the Undead were instructed if ever a situation were to occur—when they found us but I must’ve flatlined.
Funny. One false move. One betrayal.
And the mission I’d worked on since I was twelve years old crashed and burned.
Who would remember me?
The reflection in the mirror laughed, long pointed teeth growing from the snarl on the other side. Blood spurted from my bruised fists. I hit it again. Again.
“This is what you deserve,” a voice called.
“Never! I’m going back!” I shattered the glass and the reflection vanished.
“Face it, Colt.” His voice burned my ears. I’d heard it for years, always the same words, the same laughter. “You failed. The job went bad. Game over. Look at me.”
No, I wouldn’t face him. I’d killed him. I’d watched his eyes as I took his final breath. I had laughed in his face as I served his justice.
I wouldn’t accept this fate.
Even if I did deserve it.
“How many did you kill after me?” Jin asked softly, voice echoing in the darkness surrounding me, the light flashing again from his direction. But I didn’t look over.
“They deserved it,” I snarled, feet scuffling in the shattered glass. Searching around the room, panic rising, I tried finding an escape. That was a rule in the Undead: there’s always an escape. You just have to find it.
Did the same rule apply to the dead?
“Didn’t you swear I’d be the last?” Jin laughed and his voice grew closer. Shivering, I ran on, but the room never ended. Where was I? Hell? Purgatory or something? How could I know. But it definitely wasn’t Heaven. Not that I’d expected God to welcome me with open arms after all I’d done.
“Let me out!” I shouted, footsteps slowing. How could I escape nothingness? How could I find a way out of the abyss?
“I saw the whole thing,” Jin continued. “You actually did it, kid. I’m impressed. But it means nothing. One closed operation is a small droplet in an ocean of evil that will continue to fester.”
Legs and lungs burning as if fire coursed through my body, I stopped.
Was this my legacy? Ending one human trafficking ring by gruesome means? Outsmarting the feds till Freddy tipped us off and handed us over to the very government that prospered off of the wicked we’d tried defeating?
One trafficking ring had ended—but Jin was right.
How many more remained unnoticed?
I hadn’t ended them all. Could it all be ended? By anyone? Ever?
Rage pounded through my chest. “Shut up!”
Jin’s smile sank into his voice. “I warned you, didn’t I? You shouldn’t have played with me. I gave you everything—”
I took off running. I’d promised myself I’d never have to hear the man’s voice again.
“You also mentioned never repenting,” he called after me. “Such a proud, arrogant boy. How is that treating you now, Colt? Do you feel like begging God now?”
Ice cold air slammed my body and I staggered backwards. I had no weapons, but then again, how could one fight nothingness, anyway? I can’t fight what’s not there. Which leads to an inevitable doom.
Screaming into the blackness, I forced each leg forward. My lungs screamed. Legs giving out, I clamped my eyes shut and hit the hard ground, unable to fill my lungs with air.
How could I feel like I was dying if I was already dead?
Jin’s voice pierced my ears, lie after lie suffocating my mind as my abuser drew closer. I’d fight him—if I could breathe.
Tears stung my eyes. I sucked in a breath but nothing happened. I tried again. Fear clawed my chest as I looked up at Jin. A dark scar ran down the side of his neck where I had killed him. He grinned and knelt beside him. “Give up.”
What did I have to fight for? I was dead.
“Come on,” he insisted. “It’s over.”
But it wasn’t. Was it?
I gasped and a frigid air hit me again, rushing into my lungs. I cried out, jerking, and the darkness dissolved.
Blinding light flooded my eyes. A voice rattled in my brain: “Colt! You’re alive!”
Hayes. He gripped my shoulders and pulled me close, shivering. “It’s okay, we’re fine, you’re fine. Doc fixed you up. W-we made it out. I-I went in for you before the cops showed.”
I stared at his face, dazed, unable to move out of his arms. “Huh?” I’d heard a flatline—I’d died. Hadn’t I? Had it all been some weird dream? Outer body experience?
We sat in the back of a van, Doctor Marty sitting nearby with a smirk.
“We…” I murmured.
“We did it.” Hayes grinned. “We ended the ring. We got out.”
“Freddy…” I shut my eyes again, the pain from the gunshot wound in my shoulder throbbing.
“Dead.” Doc sighed.
“But we did it,” Hayes repeated, squeezing my good arm. “The perfect crime, just like you said, and nobody died except…”
Except our friend who sold us out. And I’d shot him.
I looked up again, smirking weakly. “Yeah. Not too bad. We’ll do better next time.”
“You’d better. You’ve got blood stains in my van.” Doc huffed and Hayes grinned, pulling a blanket over my body.
I closed my eyes and focused on Hayes’ voice as he droned on about how he’d pay Doc back.
We’d done it.
And we’d do it all again, hopefully without the near-death experience. But maybe… I’d have to repent if I wanted a new fate.
Fast-paced and an interesting twist or two by the end.
Angela R. Watts