The Sun's Penumbra

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Write a story including the line “I can’t say it.”... view prompt


Crime Suspense Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

[Physical violence, Gore, and Implied Abuse. Vauge Mental health Issues.]

She loaded the barrel and twisted, counting down to her revenge. In exactly eight minutes and twenty seconds these bullets will tear into Arnie Lynn’s head. By Sunday tomorrow, Eva will be free, one way or another. Fifteen rounds is all she needed to kill the underground’s infamous bogeyman. From their basement to the top floor, every last criminal here will die— and surely, so will she. How fitting that the weapon they’ve created will be their undoing? 

They’d never be merciful once she was caught. Once a gun misfires once, no one cares of its past efficiency— it’s discarded like any other. All the busywork they shoved on her, the dirty and menial work she's done over her years will become irrelevant. They’d tear her to bits before his body cooled. 

Arnie Lynn, his idiot successor, his executives, his criminal empire: she had a new kill list— a self-appointed one.

In hindsight, she understood why others called her a ticking-time bomb: growing up an assassin, it was always a matter of time before she broke. A morbid smile broke out on her face as she made sure her remote detonator was still there. She’s sure no one ever expected her bomb to be so literal. Should’ve thought twice before letting her plan all their emergency exits. 

Eight minutes, said her watch. Eight minutes until her first act as a free woman, and a few more until she made her final kill. Eight minutes until this base is blown to smithereens.

Until yesterday, Eva Lynn was the pride and joy of the most dangerous gang in the country. In a few minutes, she’ll resurface as their greatest enemy. 

The old base’s hallway crevices were great for hiding in. As a kid, she’d made a game of eavesdropping on her father and his buzzkill executives. Its darkness never scared her, even then. Every squeaky floor tile engraved itself in her memory. She traced her past footsteps with ease, only peaking out to assure she hadn't been seen. Her breaths came in quick and quiet, just like a perfect weapon should. 

Last night, she let herself dream of sunny skies and sandy beaches, of cocktails she’s never had and swimsuits she’s never owned. Of waking to daylight and sleeping through its night. Eva usually knew better than to hope, but the anticipation of today kept her restless. She wanted a glimpse of an impossible future.

When she woke her moonlight-kissed phone, she began to plan.

As Eva dove into a closer hiding place, she wondered where her detective was. The one who put her on this path, Detective Owen Thornwood. If she’d never gone to kill him, she'd have never yearned for freedom at all.

How did it go so wrong? The detective was far from the first policeman she’s been ordered to assassinate— she was to make it look like an unfortunate robbery gone wrong, and that’s exactly what she set out to do. She had a gun to his head when he spoke and changed her life forever. 

Eva left him alive (albeit threatening him to quit his job in the process). She’s still not sure why.

Later that day, she lied to her father for the first time. Said something about not finding him and not wanting to raise suspicions. No one suspected a thing. She threw up afterwards. 

She deeply regretted it two days afterwards. The detective immediately returned as a professional criminals’ annoyance, to her immense regret.

When she came to finish him for good. He tricked her into coming over for dinner that Friday. It was obviously a ploy to find incriminating information, but she decided it could be useful. They met and traded harmless info before devolving into a big screaming match. Then he invited her back. It became a weekly thing. Their shameless digging infuriated them both every time. For some reason, he kept inviting her, and she kept coming back.

As much as they argued over their respective careers, her detective lit a spark of life within her. He infected her with that dangerously bright hope.

Look where that got her.

Cold and clinical. That’s what she was known for —a shadowy creature who felt no emotion, their masterful strategist, his depraved tool— this white-hot rage was foreign to her. Weirdly electrifying. It accompanied her every step as she inched closer to the locked meeting room. 

In eight minutes and some change, city policemen will come crashing through the door and raid their main hideout. A truly secret police raid. She can only assume Owen is the one who planned it, weeding out all her dirty cops from context clues. He really thought he did something there. Poor detective didn’t realize she’d bugged his phone the day they met. If she’d found out about it any sooner, the whole base would be evacuated by now.

But she didn’t. No one else knew— far too reliant on her loyalty to assume she’d turned on them. Even criminals trusted each other on occasion. A little misplaced trust will lead them all to their doom.

She let herself settle. It’ll all be over soon.

Someone shuffled outside her hiding place. She jumped out, grabbing their shirt and forcing them down until her gun brushed against their head and she squeezed—

“It’s me,” he whisper-shouted. “Eva— Eva, it’s—” 

Eva turned him around. Her detective’s wide brown eyes stared back at her. She got up, shoving him into the wall.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she snarled back. 

“I need to— I came to warn you.”

“Warn me,” she said, tasting every syllable. “Warn me about what?”

“There’s a raid,” he said, of course. “You need to get out of here. Now.

“I know.” She dropped him, leaving Owen to look up at her. “You shouldn’t be here.” What a mess.

“You knew— whatever. Look, I’m not gonna be a cop for much longer. I’m probably getting fired for this,” he nervously laughed. “Talk about quitting dramatically, right?” 

“Tell me about it,” she muttered. 

“It took longer than I thought to find you— but it’s ok! I found you, we’re both ok, we’ll make it—” 

“Owen,” she said. Not ‘detective’, as she’s called him over the past few months. Eva checked her watch. Under seven minutes. “Owen, you need to go. Now.”

“What..?” he whispered, heartbroken. “I… Eva, this isn’t funny.”

In six minutes, she’ll storm into the meeting room. The policemens' chaos’ll cover her as she takes out the entire chain of command. Her father, his right hand, his executives, everyone.

Your mission, he spat. Your target. Her mission was to ensure her gang won at all costs— at least, it used to be. That’s what it was the day they met. 

Things have changed. She had a new purpose, a new person to aim at. Her mind was made up as soon as she heard of the raid. Eva was no quitter and intended on seeing her father’s death through. The utter annihilation of her own crime family. Nothing more, nothing else.

Owen shot her an unreadable stare. He put his calloused hand on her shoulder, the hand that guided her gun away that day they met face-to-face— the one that held hers at her first science museum, that made her first home cooked dinner, that…

“Come with me,” he pleaded. Forget your new mission, just like you abandoned your last. Leave it all behind. For me.

“I—” her father, the kingpin, ruling the underground with his iron fist— “I can’t.” 

He huffed. “Why?” Owen leaned into her space, his short hair falling forward slightly. “Last night, you were ready to leave for good. What happened? Eva, what changed?”

Eva realized she’s in too deep. Her father’s grip suffocated, his ever present claws latched everywhere she could run. He’d never get caught by a simple police raid— no, he’d survive and drag her right back to where she belonged. Owen would die by his spies’ hand and her crushing guilt would trap her underground for good.

Only the pawn he trusted most could end his reign. She realized she’s the only one for the job.

“I never said I wanted out,” she stated.

It was a suicide mission. A creator dies by his creation, a blacksmith to his sword— it was poetic. It fit. 

“Since when do you ever say what you mean? I’m not an idiot, Eva. I could feel it,” but he’d never understand, living his life in the light. She’s glad he can’t.

“I,” she hesitated and drew in a breath, “I… can’t say it.” A confirmation and denial all in one. Once a killer, always a killer. Leaving was never an option for her, and they both knew it.

Owen’s visceral disappointment hit hard. It was better this way. If he hates her, he’ll leave quicker. He won’t care when they find her body in the aftermath. Eva felt queasy at the thought.

Five minutes. She’s behind schedule. 

“Ah,” Owen said, shock filtering through his words. “I… guess I was wrong, then. Let me guess, you have some new guy to kill?” he huffed. “...You haven’t changed at all, have you?” Was it all an act?

I know, she wanted to say. I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish it were possible, that we could— “I have to finish my mission,” her father’s weapon whispered. 

Owen recoiled, unfamiliar hate twisting his features. “...Of course,” he spat. “Your mission.”

Eva effortlessly held back a flinch. “...Fastest way out is down the hall,” she said. “Trapdoor and rope under the carpet. No one knows about it but me.”

“Right. So, that’s it then?”

She looked away and took out her gun, inching closer to the locked door. Shooting the door would unnecessarily give her position away, but she won’t lockpick and risk getting caught. “I guess.”

“...Fine. Do me a favor? Let me know you’re alive before you disappear forever.” he demanded. 

Their eyes met. “I will,” she lied.

He turned around without comment, making his way to the trapdoor.

Eva turned towards the door and waited. She’d made her choice.

One minute, her watch told her. One minute until it all ends.

Apparently your life is supposed to flash before your eyes when you die. On the contrary, she’s never been more at peace. At least Owen will be alright.

She shot the handle. The door swung under her foot as she took aim and fired.

A head-shot for her father. He deserved nothing less. 

It was a cacophony of colors and flashes erupted— as if everyone in the room caught embers of her rage and lit ablaze all at once. A funny sort of domino effect. A room full of mafiosos immediately started shooting at her. She fired back.

His executives went down one by one. They made sure she’d always be a good shot. Funny how it worked out.

Eva dodged their spray of bullets as best she could. They zoomed past her ears, nicking her jaw and slashing her leg. 

Mr. Knox couldn’t order her around anymore, not with that gaping hole that used to be an eye. Head trainer Maud would never correct Eva’s form again with hands mangled beyond repair. That annoying head accountant can’t bitch about her property damage while missing a piece of his skull. 

Her father was dead. She's not surprised, she'd already eclipsed him in every way that mattered. He'd expect nothing less from his fancy puppet.

Eva dived down. Bullets ricochet off of the fallen table she now used as a shield. She’s out of bullets— three guys closed in on her. She threw the table at them, using the momentum to pounce and steal their guns. 

Bodies hit the floor. Their faces started to blend together. 

An eerie quiet formed. A single executive lay cowering in the corner. Eva’s steel-toed boots clicked on her approach, counting down until his death. She vaguely recognized him as her father’s asshole successor. Jackie something— or was it Jamie? Ja…

“They’ll never follow you,” he spat. 

“What are you on about?” she nonchalantly leaned over him. 

“You’re a jealous bitch,” the asshole said and spat out blood. “I know you want to take over my rig—” oh. Is that what he thought this was about?

Bang. It was over. She had won. 

Numbness climbed up her leg, adrenaline leaving her. Followed immediately by blinding white-hot pain. Eva doubled over, crashing into the floor. It bloomed worse from her side, so she touched— her hand came back red. 

Her blue dress-pants turned into shades of purple as blood from her leg seeped through. There was no way she was making it out— not with her mangled leg and bullet wound to the chest. 

At the very least, she’d completed her mission. Not a single mafia leader stood unscathed— not even her. Not that she expected any different. It was time for the final part of her plan. 

Her arm twinged. She grasped the detonator from her belt and stared at it. Eva knew she wasn’t getting out. She’d accepted it, planned it— why did her hand shake?

She pressed it. Sixty seconds to detonation. According to the emergency escape route, all his goons should be in the underground escape tunnel by now— next to the very flammable backup generator. This is the end of her father’s legacy. All of it.

Flashing lights and sounds became clearer as the police moved in. She closed her eyes and drifted off. They’re seconds away from discovering the scene and declaring her dead on site. Might as well enjoy it.

Sixty seconds. Fifty-nine, fifty-four…

Someone shouted. Footsteps thudded, sending vibrations throughout the cold floor.

Thirty seconds. Calloused fingers shoved themselves under her chin, right on her pulse. 

“—va!” yelled her detective’s voice. Owen..?

Twenty seconds. Eva was moved, hefted up…

“Eva! Eva, come on— come on please—”

Ten seconds. What was that idiot doing here? She thought he’d… stupid idiot, foiling her plans again. Like he always did.

Five seconds in, a latch clicked. Her personal escape plan, she realized. The trapdoor. Before she knew it, they were scaling down the building. 

A large bang knocked her back into reality. Zero. She lifted her head to watch her home burst into flames. Everything she was and used to be, gone in an instant by her own hand. Eva turned to Owen, bleary-eyed and pale. She mumbled incoherently. 

“Aw shit,” she heard. She was moved a bit, before he remembered you shouldn’t move injured people any more than necessary and laid her down on the slight-wet grass. “When did you knock your head— that’s—”

“Wha’ now?” she croaked. Can we start this over, not how we started our last? Would you leave it all behind? For me?

Owen could’ve cracked a joke, or panicked over her injuries. He could’ve walked away and never come back. He should, being from opposite sides and all. She’s outlived her use— he doesn’t need information anymore.

“I don’t know,” he joked instead, throat cracking as he accepted her unspoken proposal, “come with me next time I want to save your life and I’ll think about it.” 

No more secrets and lies. No more double-speak and betrayal, is what she heard. That sounded nice.

She weakly huffed. “Depends. Are you gonna… let me bleed out… in the grass forever?” Owen immediately started to panic, evidently forgetting she’s on the brink of unconsciousness. How he ever made detective is an eternal mystery.

Eva closed her eyes. Her cheek brushed against a blade of grass, its dewy smell complimenting the morning sun’s gentle heat.

February 24, 2024 03:20

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