Darkness was palpable. When it is dense and it rains, the rain drowns everything. I usually had to be careful about making sounds. I had to wear boots for the tasks I needed to undertake, and with it I compromised my stealth. I didn't worry too much anymore. One cannot be too careful. I have seen the best fail in the field. What is important is that I am present. There was a need to think about things that were not of immediate concern. Days and nights of training paid off as I willed myself into the moment. I could hear the sound of my boots and also the noise of the rain drowning it. Today was a good night for work. I could travel fast. The night cloaked my body and the rain shrouded my presence. I blended. For an untrained eye, I was invisible. For a trained eye, I would not face opposition. The assurance fueled my confidence, and anxiety dissolved into focus.
We did not know the names or details of people. We had a description and any relevant information that was needed to find and execute them. Our expertise lay in how we executed and the story and interpretations that would get formed around that incident. We usually did not hide a body to make someone disappear. This just aroused questions, even if we looked through all the loose ends. Where humans were involved, no plan can really be foolproof. Omissions, mistakes and tardiness were often crafted. The human mind is such. On inquiry if it found a conclusive answer, whether one agreed with it or not, people stopped to look and ask questions. Discussions were good, and so was investigation, because once it was closed it would never be looked onto again. Our clan had perfected the art of camouflaging in plain sight and we were sought out and trained for that. There were times, when framings had to be done, where the guilt was pinned on someone who did not do it. But it was rare and undertaken with much and careful deliberation. The clan was not concerned with why and what of the matter of executions. It was concerned with the how of it.. They simply sold their services to the highest bidder. If there was a moral or a principle of choice then it was not known to me. I was simply a skilled hand. Rumour had it that some of our senior elders were integrated into the society and their identity was a matter of grave secrecy. Only a few privileged knew, and those who knew lived at great peril.
Today, my target was an old man, who ran the commerce of the city. He was attending a banquet as an honoured guest. His demise was to be at a public place. I had taken to running as it saved time, although that was against what we were trained to do. Sometimes I liked to do things my way, I did not feel like I was of “one mind”, hence I planned to arrive at the place early to gather myself. It was not according to the protocol or our education, but it was the best I could think of at that moment.
I was out of breath by the time I reached. For a moment it seemed that a passerby noticed. He shook his head and dismissed it as wind laughing sheepishly at his friend. I let out a breath I did not know I was holding. It was time to focus on the task.
It was bright inside, and I had to change to fit in. I had to adjust my clothes and check my face. Attractive women were everywhere, and I would blend in by standing out. It was a costume fest. Unusual was expected and not frowned upon. My face was beautiful and painted. I changed my clothes from black to bright red. Some women practised martial arts dressed like me, so my lithe movements were not very unusual. To try and cover up too much sometimes tends to grab attention. The norm the mind dismisses. We were taught to speak if caught and to always have a good and acceptable explanation for our presence. One had to be careful not to give too much information. Most people would register us as strangers who were passersby with the usual day to day challenges.
I was in luck that day because I saw a bunch of women walk in dressed like me. It was disgusting, but a job is a job. I was to woo my target and I was the prize with six other women who will be responsible for his pleasure. I joined the women and we quickly made our way to the greying gentleman, who was on a path of declining virility. If this was a bribe or his aspiration was not a question in my purview to ask. Now that he was in my sight, such details did not matter. Only what served my purpose mattered.
I had to make sure he noticed me so that he would call me close. I needed that proximity for the job to be done. The music started to play as the lights were dimmed. It was a beautiful place, with everything orchestrated. Workers scurried unnoticed, and the owner stood in the dark corner with gleaning eyes. He had a helper next to him whom he would instruct when he spotted anything that required attention. The place had a network and a hierarchy. There was nothing that could not be attended to in the shortest time.
I stared at my target. He was used to attention, but while I stared I stayed away. I did not act desperate. Whatever he did, I watched him unabashed. After a while he could not ignore my stare. As women in the group touched him everywhere, and he grabbed them wherever he fancied, he kept eye contact with me. Being still would be out of place, so I moved to the music and made sure that the drinks were served, without breaking eye contact. I could feel him losing, and I had control. He gestured to me to come closer, and as I moved towards him he nudged the other woman aside. I was standing next to him with his legs between my legs and he sat leaning back on his throne, looking at me. His hand creeped up on my inner thigh. His touch was like worms, but that did not matter. It took everything in me not to react and keep my focus. I fueled the rage I was feeling into the task I needed to accomplish. For me to get access, it was imperative for him to make the move. If I made the move and if he pushed me away all would be lost. I had one opportunity. His hands rested on my inner thigh. The ugly old man was subtle. He sat up slowly reaching for his drink with one hand and with the other touched my woman hood. I kept eye contact. Meanwhile the other girls caught on and realising his preference covered us from everyone's sight, dancing around us and touching him now and then. I had him when a smirk of superiority spread across his face, as he poured his drink on my dress over my breasts. He beckoned me to sit on him with his hand clutching my insides. As my breasts levelled with his face he nuzzled into them. This was my chance. I pulled my dagger without moving and buried it into his side upward, twisting the knife. I bought a curved knife, because that cuts through the insides, and when twisted, causes damage to the internal organs. With the other hand I pressed his face further into my breasts feigning pleasure. The girls with me did better to cover us up, focusing on what they needed to do. If they saw me doing what I was doing, which they would at such proximity they did not react or even show signs of realising what was happening. Blood oozed out and his screams were muffled into groans. I started to moan loudly.
The owner’s eye reached me, and he looked away immediately. He wanted his guests to be pleasured and even contributed to the situation by instructing the musicians to increase the tempo.
I could feel the breath leave his body. His hold losing and his body going limp, I held on leaning into him and making him rest back. I had to leave quickly. I tore a part of my dress and blind folded him. Next, I gagged him with another piece.
Tying his hands was a little difficult without him looking dead, and a girl from the troop reached out holding his throat. The cult always has its arrangements. We are never told, but it is always there. As she pranced around pleasuring his face, I tied his hands and sat down on the floor, and put my head on his lap. I removed the red dress, and was adorned in my black clothes. I changed my hair into a simple do in a jiffy. My dress was like the exotic servers. As the dancers covered my target I slipped through the table and stood up in a dark corner. I emerged to collect the drinks on a tray and carried them off.
My body was strained as I was running back to the nearest hideout. The emotions of the night had started to hit me and my mind was beginning to wander. Those moments of inattention are the worst. For us it meant life or death. Exhaustion started hitting my body and I started to perceive safety. I am not there yet, I told myself. I focused my mind into counts, timely scanning and paced myself as I ran. Training always came in handy when instinct caved. Instinct never operates the way we want, we need to operate whenever it kicks in.
I reached my safe house and let myself in. I could not hold myself any longer, I collapsed as I entered the door. I must have bled on the floor because when I came to there was a small pool of blood from my thighs. This was no time to be angry. I deserved much worse for what I did. Training kicked in as I set myself to clean up and feed my body. There was food in the safe house, there always was. I bathed quickly and ate. I was mechanical. It is best not to feel but to go about business in these moments. I cleaned my blood off the floor and checked my wound. Nail marks were deep and needed stitches. I wonder why I wasn’t aware of the pain earlier. My clothes were soaked and I hadn’t noticed. I heard this happen to some in my cult. It was hushed up, but the talk was there. We were asked to be physically vigilant but emotionally neutral. But some of them could not handle it. Without knowing they would turn to numbing themselves emotionally and that would lead to physical numbness. They would not be aware of the physical harm they were under or injuries sometimes. This served well in the field sometimes, but all ended in a collapse. Such people were called weaklings and they were not looked to in the clan. Names of weaklings were spoken in hushed tones. Those who found themselves to be weaklings did everything to hide it, for their safety came into threat.
I was a weakling, I knew this. It had been a while. It allowed me to rise in ranks and survive, but on days such as this, I could not control my mind. My emotions threatened to surface, and my sanity was seeing its edge. I did not want to die. If I wanted to live I had to kill. Such was my life. Such was the life of all those who were part of the clan. Some were bred and some were taken in as children. Killings became our life. The only escape from killing was death.