The sound of water. It's one of the few things that helps me organize my thoughts, takes me to a place of tranquility. I used to come this this very beach often with my parents when I was a little girl. We'd spend hours here building castles in the sand, playing in the water or even digging small tunnels that connected to each other so it was like my own little water system. The water would drain back into the ocean, but I was persistent. My father would help me lug another bucket to the top of the tunnels where we would dump it and watch the shapeless liquid run through the maze built by my own hands. My mother would watch on the side lines, laughing as she peeked over the thick book she was reading. The salt in the air. It's as if I'm six years old again right now.
The sound of my phone going off snaps me from my thoughts. I see the name. I know who it is and for that exact reason I have mixed thoughts about answering. It's my client, Mr. Peters, and the last time we spoke he left me rather speechless. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's like a punch to my stomach. It's shocking a first and then dissolves into a dull ache. He ordered me to kill a man and that's not something I offer up. With destruction the party that has been affected will live on suffering, trying to fill a hole in themselves that will never seem filled. To kill someone would mean to end them right then and there. They'll feel nothing. To me, it's useless. Seeing Peter's name now makes that pain reappear.
"Mr. Peters," I say when I finally click the accept button on my phone. There's a pause and I wonder for a moment if he hung up. I'm not so lucky.
"Ah, Sadie, I got your message from yesterday. You said you had something to tell me?"
"Yes," I answer as I build as much confidence as I can muster. "I just wanted to let you know that when I get home I am refunding the amount of money you sent me."
"Oh, how come?" He asks a little too innocently. "Is something the matter?"
I look around the beach to make sure nobody is around me. "I am sorry, Mr. Peters, but I can't go through with what you've asked me to do. I can't kill someone."
"Oh." The line goes dead for a moment. "I thought we spoke about this the other day?"
"And it's all I have thought about since--"
"Do you want more money? I can have another cheque sent to you by tomorrow morning if that is the problem."
I can't help but notice how simply he speaks about the matter of the death of another person. It's as if he has hired me to remove a raccoon from his attic. "No, the money is not the issue."
He sighs heavily on the other end of the line. "Sadie, we've been over this. The Altos have done some very bad things. They have hurt lot of families."
"And I am sorry to say this, but those families are going to have to deal with it."
"That's precisely why I came to you!" He loses his cool but regains it quickly. "Your parents would have wanted you to do this."
Two things make me laugh. One is that fact that he believes somebody's parents would want their child to kill for them. I know I deal with some mentals, but the more I deal with Peters, the more I realize he has tipped past the point of complete lunatic. The second is the reality that he actually brought my parents into this conversation.
"Don't you dare bring my parents into this," I spit, not caring about Peters. He's no longer a client. He's a nuisance.
"Your parents would have wanted--"
"My parents didn't know what they wanted," I cut him off. "They thought they wanted a child before they dropped off the face of the earth. Couldn't give me a word of what was going on, but they had no problem taking all the family funds. They just tucked me into bed that night and I never saw them again. So, please, keep the family card in your pocket." My face is burning and my tranquility has turned into huffing and puffing.
Peters finally returns. "Sadie, I know this is hard for you to understand, but please believe me when I say I have your best wishes at heart."
I ignore him. "How do you even know my parents?"
"We worked together until Vita Alto's husband burned us all," he answers. He then tells me about where they worked and how supposedly my parents were attacked. I shove it to the back of my brain to think about when I feel like it."I know you don't believe me, it's a crazy story, but if you need proof, you can get it."
"You said in your message that you were able to get Vita's husband's wallet?" He continues without waiting for my reply. "I'm sure he has a business card in there somewhere. Use it to find his workplace. You don't have to go in, but I can assure you that you will find what you are looking for there."
"I'll see," I say to him, not suggesting if I will check it out or not.
"You'll go," he chuckles. "You're as stubborn as your father and as nosy as you mother."
I don't laugh. I hang up. That's not to say I can't get what he's said out of my head. So I stand there, looking across the water's surface, doing all I can to ignore the words Peters spoke. I can't. Without hesitation, I have Nick's wallet in my hands and I am searching for anything that can lead me to his workplace. Business card, brochure, even a scrape piece of paper with directions will do. I get something better, though. A key card with an address imprinted along the edge. I head there straight away.
It's not a long hike from Gobias's house so I decided to jog there. Jogging has become therapeutic to the point where, like the waves at the beach, it can help organize my thoughts. I've got nothing to do on my way there, so I go over what Peters said about my parents.
Supposedly my parents didn't desert me when I was six years old like I had believed. When I had woken one Sunday morning, they weren't there. Our house had been abandoned, what else was I to think? From what Peters said, he, my mother and father and Nick Alto had all worked together at the Science Lab. They had all been great friends too, until one of their experiments went wrong and took seven lives. Nick betrayed them by pinning the blame on my parents. So my parents ran off. My parents leaving me in the middle of the night was supposed to be seen as an act of love and sacrifice. To give me a chance to live without being hunted. I don't know what I think about this news. Is it real or not?
I make it to the address a half an hour later. It's an old shack of a building. Broken windows line the walls, the wood trims destroyed by bad weather. The grass is over grown in the front, but as I venture through it and around the back, I am shocked at what I find.
A fingerprint scanner and a place to swipe the key card I stole from Nick. Peters said that I wouldn't need to go inside to find what I am looking for so I go for the first thing that comes to my mind.
The bins on any lot will always give me answers to my questions. They are usually always the first things I check when I take on a new client. There's a lot of junk on the top, almost like it is disguising whatever's underneath. Once they are out of the way, I find files, some dating all the way back to the seventies. Peters said that Nick was the top criminal in Sunset Valley. Nick's business could hack into computer terminals, aid in a robbery, be hired as a getaway car. Heck, from some of the files that I read, he'd been hired for assassination. Peters wasn't lying when he said that the Altos had hurt a lot of families.
It isn't until I see her file that it feels like the world around me stops and all I can hear is the sound of my own heart. It's my mother. I remember her and I know that the black and white photo attached to the file is of her. She's smiling to somebody out of sight. Those dimples. They're the same ones I had seen when she'd look over her book when my father and I were playing in the sand. I look at the big, red letters under the photo. My heart starts to quicken and then it feels as if somebody's squeezing it with their bare hands. TERMINATED.
Well, I think as I climb out of the trash bin. The temperature has fallen and it has started to rain. That puts the nail in the coffin. For so many years I had blamed my parents for leaving me when in reality, they didn't have much choice. I hate myself for thinking so narrowly, but yet I have enough sense to push my emotions under the surface again. The Altos will pay.