“Come in,” said a deep voice on the other side of the door.
I’d only had to wait a few seconds for his response after knocking, but I wished there hadn’t been a reply at all. More than anything else, I just wanted to walk away. I wanted him to not be there waiting for me in his office. But that wasn’t the case.
After leaving the construction site, I’d done only the bare minimum in fixing my appearance before coming here.
Showering within a few minutes and changing into some more appropriate clothing as quickly as possible. After all, I wouldn’t be able to show myself in the state I’d been in after the accident.
There was no backing out now. With one final deep breath, I pushed open the door and faced the man I knew would be there.
Even in the dim light of his office, I could still make him out clearly as he sat behind his desk. His clean-cut dark hair and expensive suit only adding to his imposing presentation, his blue eyes having a way that made you want to squirm away under their gaze. This was the man many feared… and rightfully so.
“My sweet Raven,” he greeted, standing up as I entered. I moved to the centre of the room and avoided his eyes, casting my own down to the ground in a sign of submission and apology. “Sorry for keeping you waiting, sir,” I said. “I came here as quickly as I could.”
“Ah… yes, understandable.”
I heard as he walked around the desk to stand in front of me, his hand coming up to pinch under my chin. Instantly, my pulse began to quicken. What would be the punishment waiting for me this time?
“Look at me,” he instructed, pushing my head up. “Tell me what happened.”
There was no point in lying to him. He would find out the truth even if I tried to deceive him. He always did. There was no such thing as hiding a secret from Eric Reid.
“I failed to bring in Miles Kennedy alive, sir,” I answered slowly. “I apologise for my carelessness.”
He clicked his tongue three times in disapproval, causing me to flinch involuntarily in surprise at the abrupt sound. Despite that though, I still remained firmly in his grasp. “So disappointing, Raven,” he scolded, “So unlike you.”
“I… I lost control,” I admitted,
And I felt as his grip then tightened on me, his other hand coming up to wipe something away from my temple. Upon him inspecting it closer-up, I saw that it was blood.
I must have missed a spot in my haste to get here as quickly as possible. “Such a pretty girl on the surface, my Raven” he mused, looking at his hand as he rubbed his
finger and thumb together, removing the blood as if he’d just picked up some dust. “Yet looks aren’t everything, as we well know. Did anyone see you?” His eyes flicked back to my own as he asked the question, shooting ice-cold fear through me.
“N-no, Father,” I answered. “There were no survivors. Zac is the only person I’ve been in contact with prior to coming here and I had already reverted by then. He didn’t see anything.”
He held my gaze for a few seconds, almost as though he were trying to see if I were actually telling the truth.
Evidently, he felt assured by my response in the end.
“Good,” he simply said.
And, finally, I felt his grip on my face ease off slightly, allowing me a moment of reprieve to breathe.
“You need to be more careful,” he said. “Do you want people to lock you away and experiment on you? Never forget that you cannot trust anyone.
A parent’s love may be unconditional, but others will never understand and accept you for what you are.”
I could feel as tears wanted to sting at my eyes but I bit them back, knowing that showing weakness would not help my situation or appease him in any way.
If anything, it would only make things so much worse. But I knew I shouldn’t let it weigh on me too much. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t heard these words countless times before. “I’m sorry, Father,” I whispered.
I didn’t want to speak too loudly, not trusting my own voice. But relief immediately flooded through me when he took a step away, and I watched as he walked back to his desk to sit down.
With a quick shuffle in the draw next to him, he proceeded to pull out two glasses filled with what looked to be whisky.
Whisky… and a small plastic bottle I was all too familiar with. It was my medicine to help with anxiety and post ‘accident’ side effects.
“Here, take it,” he said, holding them out towards me. “And you don’t need to worry… I won’t be sending you for punishment.”
I quickly approached to grab the items, not wanting to test his patience. “T-thank you, sir,” I stammered in shock.
He held up the glass in a ‘cheers’ and I reciprocated the gesture before taking out one of the small pills from the bottle. In one swift movement, I downed t he drink and the pill without wasting even a second. I’d never been more grateful for alcohol than in that moment.
“…Because I will be needing your presence tomorrow,” he continued. “The mayor is holding a charity event and, with Miles now gone, it complicates several issues I was currently dealing with. Namely… there are important documents I believe could now be in the wrong hands. I’ve been told those ‘hands’ are attending the event tomorrow.”
There were only two reasons I was ever brought to these events; as security… or, in rare circumstances, as a spy. Given his emphasis on ensuring I didn’t inflict injury during punishment, I could only assume it was the latter option.
A few bruises weren’t of any concern if I were merely there waiting in the shadows as a security precaution. Facing important acquaintances though? Well, that required a high level of attention to my appearance.
But the people at these high-class events weren’t stupid. They would already know too well who my father really was under his businessman façade and would keep their distance. Most people knew but it was just that no one had the power to do anything about it. Father had his hand in so many networks that it was impossible to ever pin anything on him.
Given that, I wasn’t exactly sure how I could be of any use… unless… unless he was hoping that I’d help with a more intimate persuasion.
“Ah… and who will I be becoming acquainted with?” I said delicately, trying to phrase it the best way I could Immediately, father laughed so loudly that I almost dropped the glass from my hand.
“Sharp as always,” he said, a dark smile spreading across his face. “I’m unsure of who exactly has the documents, but I have managed to pinpoint it to one family who Miles was close with. His warehouse bordered their land, a smaller town just north of here. Certainly not the bustling city we live in, but it’s quaint. Has a certain… small charm, I suppose.
Their own mayor is meant to be in attendance tomorrow.” A town up north..? Nothing immediately came to mind, but perhaps they were too small to be mentioned during my studies. As far as I knew, it was mostly just wilderness up north.
“Take this,” my father said, handing me a manilla folder. “It has everything we know about him which, truthfully, isn’t a lot. I trust in your training to handle it appropriately though. Just do as you do best.
Flash him that smile of yours.” I shifted uncomfortably at the thought, wondering how best this should be handled. Upon a quick glance at the folder, it looked as though the man, Victor, was a fair bit older. Married, even.
Though no details of the wife. Widowed perhaps? How best to persuade a man was always a risky game without the full details. I would need to tread carefully.
“I understand,” I replied, glancing back up at him from the papers.
Only it was then that I noticed his expression didn’t match the light-hearted tone of his voice just now, instead finding his eyes boring into mine. “…You cannot fail this time, Raven,” he said sternly. His words felt more like a mixture of both an order… and a threat.
“The documents pertain to my business. Just find out if Miles sent the papers and then immediately disappear again. We’ll handle the rest.”
That was the last thing we spoke about before I left back to my room. I already knew what would be expected of me tomorrow night and knew there were things to organise prior to the event. Now all that was left to do was prepare myself.
But upon finishing what I could, and despite my exhaustion, I found I still couldn’t sleep well,
The entire night I was plagued by fits of nausea and nightmares. Nightmares of a wolf running through the forest, searching for something within its depths. Not the kind of peaceful naivety you’d expect a beast to feel as they lived out a carefree life… but one of purpose.
As if being beckoned forward by something… or someone, It was as if the black wolf and I were one, though I watched on only as a spectator. Observing silently as it sprinted through the trees with an increasing desperation, showing no signs of slowing. Running faster and faster … running until, finally, a cloaked figure stood before it.
This is who they had been searching for, I could tell. The wolf’s demeanour instantly changed to one of relief from its prior panic, walking closer until it finally laid before the person waiting there.
But, with a jolt of surprise, it was not the wolf who the figure then addressed… but rather myself.
As their arm slowly came up, I mutely watched as a slender hand reached out towards me in invitation, managing to also catch a glimpse of a feminine chin from inside the darkness of the hood.
…And it was within that glimpse that I then saw her lips as they started to speak.
“— Raven,” a different voice suddenly interrupted, cutting her off. And, with that, my eyes instantly flew open.