Sam couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he read the notification on his phone. A shadow fell across him. He hurriedly turned it off, tucked it in his pocket, and glanced up. It was just a fellow passenger returning from the washroom. His heart pounded.
His head whirled with the possibilities. How was he going to do this one? Kidnapping, the text had said. Well, that was simple enough.
Sam stood up, holding the headrest of the seat in front of him until his stiff muscles allowed his legs to straighten. Golden wheat fields flashed outside the window while he made his way to the washroom at the end of the car. There he could go over the assignment in peace.
The victim—Alana—looked like a tough cookie, albeit a cute one. She was on vacation with her boyfriend of exactly one year, Roger. It was Timothy, his best friend, who had ordered Sam’s services this afternoon.
A voice came over the train speakers, announcing their entrance to the outskirts of Paris and requesting everyone be prepared to disembark. Sam knew it was going to be at least twenty more minutes, so he settled more comfortably on the toilet and went over the details another time.
When the train stopped, he ducked his way out of the crowd, then around a few alleys and up the stairs to the little apartment he called home. Tonight’s income was going to pay rent for another week. He needed to prepare himself.
The streets were busy with tourists and locals alike, but it was easy to find his target. Cropped leather jacket, blue striped dress, black combat boots, blond hair under a red beret. She was touching up her cherry lipstick in the reflection of a shop window. Roger was nowhere to be seen.
Sam strolled down the sidewalk toward her, but stopped to chat with the florist, Cecelia. “I might come by to get some flowers later,” he said.
She was all pink cheeks and long lashes as she replied, “I’ll save some for you. What colour?”
“Something violet, but not too dark.”
Then he switched to mission mode. Alana was adjusting her beret now, glancing toward the shop door, obviously thinking that Roger was taking too long. The timing was perfect. He tipped the beret down over her eyes and grabbed her shoulders, pushing her into the alley. He shoved her against the brick wall and covered her mouth with one hand.
“One sound and I’ll blow your brains out,” he hissed, tapping his free hand against the bulge in his jeans pocket.
Her eyes widened, then narrowed. Her knee came up but he clapped his own together. While he was distracted, her fist connected with his nose. His eyes watered. He pinned her hands to her sides.
“Dirty move. Don’t try that again.”
Her eyes smouldered and her teeth bared. He was right, she was a tough cookie. He pulled the cloth out of his back pocket and pressed it against her nose for just a moment. Her eyes rolled upward while her legs gave out, but he stood her back up.
“There we go. You asked for it. Now, come along.”
She stumbled along while he pushed her through the streets. No one payed attention to the young man leading around his (as they probably thought) drunk female companion. They made their way across the river Seine and toward the fenced-off cathedral of Notre Dame. There was a hole in the fence behind some bushes on the less busy side, and he maneuvered her through.
She started regaining strength in her limbs when they were halfway up the steps, but was too out of breath to fight him. They reached the porch between the two towers. He held the cloth to her nose again, and she tried to hold her breath, but the exertion forced her to inhale the chloroform once more.
While she was dazed, he untied the rope from where he had wrapped it around his left calf beneath his loose jeans and used it to bind her hands behind her back. He secured the loose end to one of the pillars and leaned back against the opposite one, waiting for her to recover and planning his speech.
The sun sank closer to the horizon, bathing everything in warm light. Her regard slowly focussed into a glare, and once a level of ultimate hatred had been reached, he knew she was completely lucid again. He stretched and folded his arms across his chest.
“Looking at Paris in this light, all I can think of is my mother. She would have loved to see that sunset. I wonder if she’d be proud of me?”
The question had a very definitive answer written over her face.
“She always wanted to see the view from up here,” he continued. “But she never got the chance. So I make it a priority to allow others the privilege. At a reasonable fee, of course.” He sighed. “Not very talkative, are we? Did I make your ropes too tight?”
Her loathing could have set him ablaze. “Why are you doing this?”
“She speaks!” He grinned. “Well, mostly for the money. But partly for the thrill. The adrenaline.”
“My fee, compensation, ransom, whatever you want to call it. You’re going to give me a phone number, I’m going to dial it, and you’re going to tell them to pay me. Then I’ll let you go. Now, what’s the number?”
She deadpanned. “Call one-one-two.”
He laughed. “Real funny, sweetheart. Now, are you planning on cooperating, or not? Because it’s a long fall.”
Alana’s eyebrows twitched with the first sign of fear before her focus caught on something behind him. Something hit him, square in the back. He stumbled and landed face-first on the stone floor. Roger, it seemed, had brought a knife.
His breath came in short gasps. Sticky red fluid flooded the mosaic tiles under his chest.
“Oh, thank God. Alana?" Roger reached his girlfriend and set to cutting her ropes. "Are you alright? Did he hurt you?”
“No, Roger, I’m fine. I’m so glad you came in time. I thought—I thought he was going to throw me off the roof—I know we don’t have a lot of money—” her words shuddered.
“I’m so sorry I let you out of my sight, Alana.” Then the kissing noises started.
Sam was facing away from them, so he took the opportunity to roll his eyes.
“Did you kill him, Roger?”
“I don’t know.” Footsteps rounded his body.
Sam coughed. More blood spurted from his mouth, dribbling down his cheek. Then his eyes rolled upward and he stopped breathing.
“I think so.”
Her voice was steady again. “Should we call the police? What if you get tried for murder? We should’ve stayed with the group.”
“I don’t know.”
Sam waited for the silence to reach a good level of tension before he sat up and spat out the leftover blood. They both jumped away. Roger shoved Alana and her clenched fists behind his back. Sam took no notice of the knife as he took off his shirt and removed his plated vest with its burst paint balloons.
“What were you saying about never letting her out of your sight? It seems to me that there’s only one arrangement where that’s appropriate.”
They both stared at him, frozen.
He removed the bulge in his pocket, unwrapped the extra paper that had made it appear menacing before, and handed the box to Roger. He slowly lowered the knife and took it. Then his expression cleared.
Sam grinned and bowed. “You’re fast. Sam from Adrenaline Junkies, at your service. I’m gonna have to charge him extra, though. Your girl gave me quite the blow.” He gingerly touched his face, which was starting to swell. It would be blue tomorrow.
Roger returned the look, although tentatively at first, before he shook his head and relaxed his grip on the knife.
Alana looked between the two of them. “What’s going on?”
“Timothy told us there would be a surprise adventure, remember?”
She laughed then. “I thought he meant tickets to go skydiving or something. You’re really good, by the way,” she said, turning to Sam. “Are you alright?”
“Yup. Although he’s gonna have to return that knife to whichever cafe table he stole it from.”
Roger looked at the knife. “That’s going to be fun to explain.”
“Oh, no worries. They all know me down that street.”
“Cool.” Alana returned her focus to Roger. “Um, what’s in the box?”
“Well…” Roger bent to one knee, and her jaw dropped.
“Are you serious?”
He popped the lid of the box, and a tiny diamond glittered from a simple pewter band. “Alana Renae Taylor, will you marry me and be a part of all my adventures from now until forever?”
Alana shot a mild glare at Sam. “Turn around.”
He obeyed while they kissed again. He wiped the fake blood off his cheek with the dirty shirt, then wrapped it around the balloons and vest into a neat little bundle. Underneath his right pant leg was his spare shirt. He untied it and pulled it over his head. Once he was finished, he turned around. “It’s almost eight o’clock, so we’d better be getting back to where we started.”
“Well, the florist, Cecelia, plays double duty for me. If any of the tourists witness my escapades, she tells them when to come back instead of calling the police. Me and my customers-slash-victims all appear happy and unharmed to explain the whole story.”
Alana cocked her head. “Wait. All you told her was that you wanted some violets.”
Sam nodded. “Very observant of you. What I told her was the colour of the sky when I would be back. Tear your eyes away from your fiancé and my handsome self, and look at the sky.”
Sure enough, the amber sky had faded to a darkening blue with hints of lavender.
“By the time we get down there, it’ll be violet.”