The lights from the streetlamps come closer over us, shines at us, comes closer continuously and then it disappears under the roof of the car. I sit passenger, staring out at the dark, trying to calm my mind. I look over at Aaron, his eyes are straight forward at the road, his knuckles white from grabbing the steering wheel too tightly. I crumble together on the seat, scared, tired and feeling empty at the same time, from all that’s happened. I feel disgusting, dirty.
- I’ll drive you to my place. You can sleep there, and take a shower.
He says it without taking his eyes from the rear mirror, obviously keeping an eye out for potential followers. But there’s none.
- Thank you. For getting me there I mean.
My voice cracks, and tears fill my eyes by the thought of what I’ve experienced. He looks at me, smiles a faint smile and looks back up again.
- There’s some candy in the glove compartment. Eat it. You need sugar.
I open it and take the candy, noticing the pistol shoved in there. I take a quick glimpse at Aaron, whose eyes are still on the road. I open the bag and start eating the sweet liquorice, studying Aaron’s emotionless face.
- What are you thinking about?
I ask him, without knowing whether or not I want to know the answer. He looks down on the radio, turning the volume down.
- Nothing interesting. What did they want?
I know what he refers to immediately. Firstly, he doesn’t want to share with me his thoughts, but it’s fine. Secondly, he wants to know why they kidnapped exactly me.
- They wanted to know all I know about you, and much more.
- Like for example?
- It didn’t make sense to me.
- Maybe it does to me.
I breathe in heavily and out again.
- They wanted to know who you’re working for, and where you are. I knew none of both and couldn’t answer their question therefore. They tortured me…
Tears flood my eyes again and I start shivering. He places his right hand on mine, as a means of comfort, I suppose. His face is however even tighter now that I told him what the men wanted.
- I should have killed them. But you were there. I didn’t want you to see it.
My heart stops beating for a second, and my head explodes when I hear the words. Kill them. How can he say it so calmly? He’s talking about removing someone from existence. My blood freezes to ice.
- Sleep Elisabeth. I’ll wake you when we get to my place.
I wake by the sound of the car door slamming. Aaron left the car, and a moment later he’s by me, taking off my seatbelt and lifting me up from the car. We’re in a garage. My eyelids are heavy, and the calm movements Aaron’s body calls upon my body feels as a lullaby lulling me to sleep. We walk outside, and then inside a lobby, towards an elevator. A man is sitting by the front desk.
- Good evening Mr. Sanders.
The man nods to Aaron, and he nods back. I hear the ‘pling’ from the elevator which has arrived to bring us to Aaron’s flat. By judging from the lobby, this isn’t a cheap place to live. The elevator starts ascending, and I look behind us. The elevator has a big window, overseeing Chicago. It is beautiful with all the lights in the distance. We stop on the top floor, and we leave the elevator, which brings us immediately into a hallway. The walls are painted in a calm, dark grey colour, and the floor is wooden. Aaron, still carrying me, walks down the hallway and towards a door at the very end. He opens, and we enter a dimly lit bedroom. It is wide, yet furnished so well that the space doesn’t seem empty. In the left end of the room is a big bed in a white shade, with dark grey sheets on it. A fireplace is in front of, lit with a warm fire. By the big panorama window facing the city is a sofa, facing the window, which is black, with red cushions. There are big, white curtains at the edges of the window, which are complementing the also grey walls, and the oak floor.
Aaron puts me down and takes off his jacket, revealing a holster under each arm, each supporting a pistol. He takes them out, and leaves them on the bedside table. He turns around and looks at me, studying me.
- You really need a shower. Here, let me show you to the bathroom. I’ll bring you some clothes.
He walks out the door, and shows me down a few metres down the hallway, towards another door, leading to the bathroom. He opens it, and it appears just as stylish as the rest of the flat, or at least what I’ve seen. It has marble tiles on the floor, just about 4 feet up the wall, and then turns into, again, dark grey paint. The shower is big, and is made with glass doors, but with tiles on the lower part, following the wall’s pattern. Next to the shower is a bath tub, which is big enough for two people to sit in comfortably. There’s a countertop about 6 feet wide, with a sink in the middle, and a big mirror on the wall, having lamps hanging over. I can’t help but drop my jaw.
- Here’s a towel, and I’ll bring you some clothes… I haven’t gotten any clothing for women here, but you can sleep in some of mine. I’ll have someone buy some clothes for you so that it’s there for you when you wake up. You can sleep for as long as you wish. Feel free to explore the apartment.
I nod, and he turns and closes the door after him. I turn towards the mirror and look at myself. I look terrible, to say it mildly. I have dark circles under my eyes, and the eyeballs themselves are red. My eyes are swollen from having cried, and my hair is extremely greasy. I look to my left and discover a dock station and an iPod. I switch it on, and look through the music library, and decide on Dean Martin – That’s Amore and I undress.
I enter the bedroom again, my hair slightly dripping down my back, but Aaron’s not there. I remember his offer to let me explore. So I do, because the shower felt so refreshing that I don’t feel tired anymore. I walk a bit down the hallway, and into an opening in the wall to my left, and I enter a big living room with, again, grey walls and oak floor. A fireplace is also in here, yet it is less romantic, and more modern. It is placed to the left of some sofas, and on the wall in front of these is a big television. The room is wide and open, and has a piano in the opposite corner of the fireplace. I walk further in the room and find another opening, leading into the kitchen. There’s big counter space towards the wall, which supposedly lies against the bedroom. There’s a door in the middle of the big window to the right of the counters, which has a door in the middle of it, leading out onto a balcony. I walk out there and stand for a while, just inhaling the fresh air. It feels great against my bare legs. I’m wearing a pair of Aaron’s boxers and a shirt of his.
I step inside again, and walk out into the hallway, and walk towards another door, the one next to the one leading to the bathroom. It is locked. I wonder what’s hidden behind it, but I suppose that I’m not allowed in there as Aaron has locked it. Next to that door is another door, a last one. It leads into a stairwell, which leads upstairs. I walk up, and discover myself to be in another hallway. Here’s just a few doors. I open the first one, leading into a library. The room is filled with bookshelves filled with both old and new books. I open the next one, and find myself in a mini-fitness room. I see treadmills, benches, and much other stuff.
I stand in front of the last door, and I open it. Inside I see Aaron standing with his back towards me, him talking on the phone.
- Are there any other means to the contract? I see. No, I agree to the terms. When is it due? Can it be extended, I’ve encountered a minor… Crisis. Understood. I’ll book a ticket immediately. Thank you.
He hangs up, and I stand there, unsure of whether I should hurry and close the door silently, but as I hesitate he turns and see me. At first I believe he will become angry with me for eavesdropping, but he smiles.
- You appear to feel better.
- I do, thank you for letting me in, that’s very kind of you.
He sits down in the chair behind the desk, opening up his laptop. He looks at me over the screen.
- Elisabeth, you haven’t slept properly for a week, please go downstairs and sleep.
I change my weight on my feet, considering whether to ask about the locked room or not.
He looks up from the screen.
- I found a locked room downstairs, and I was wondering if what’s in there…
He seems troubled for a second, but then smiles halfway.
- Do you really want to see what’s inside?
I nod shyly. He does same gesture, just more stiff.
- Fine. Tomorrow, if you go to sleep now.
- Okay, goodnight.
- Goodnight Elisabeth.
I turn around and close the door after me, walking downstairs and into the bedroom. I walk towards the bed and lie down under the duvet. They feel to be recently changed, as they are soft to my skin. I lie down, looking out the window in the other end of the room, and I close my eyes. I dose off into deep sleep.
I wake up from feeling fully rested, and sit up into the bed, stretching my arms up in the air. I look around, and discover that I’m alone. I remember where I am, and exit the bed and walk out the bedroom. Firstly I walk into the kitchen, thinking about making some breakfast, but Aaron came first. He is standing, bending over the stove.
- Good morning.
He turns around by the sound of my voice and smiles.
- Good morning Elisabeth. Did you have a nice sleep?
- I did thank you, and you?
He looks troubled and turns around, continuing to cook.
- I haven’t really slept.
That’s all I can decide to answer. I walk towards the table set in the middle of the room, and sit down. Aaron comes over with a plate of breakfast – British style. He serves eggs in a basket, bacon and some beans. I thank him, and start eating, slowly. The taste overwhelms me, it is the first time in a week I ear proper food, and the warmth from the food fills me fast. Aaron sits down in front of me and reads the newspaper. I remember the room which was locked, and his promise to show me today. I clear my throat and clench my teeth.
He looks over the newspaper, getting eye contact with me.
- Would you show me the room which was locked?
He sighs and pulls his hand through his hair. He seems frustrated.
- I will. After you’ve eaten your food.
I nod and look back down on the plate. Half of the food is left, but I already feel full. I choose however to try and push the rest down whilst looking at him.
- I’ve chosen to take you under my surveillance whilst the men who took you capture are still after us. I have reported them, and they’re now being tracked down.
- You told the police?
He smiles, and looks at me, but his eyes doesn’t recognise the same smile; they’re cold as ice.
- No, not exactly.
- Who then?
- Eat Elisabeth.
I finish my breakfast, and I am so full I feel like I’m exploding. Aaron stands up and extends his hand towards me, and I take it. We walk out of the kitchen and out into the hallway.
- Are you sure you want to see this?
I nod, but it feels as though my heart is trying to escape my body. Aaron unlocks the door with a click, and he opens the door. I take a deep breath and he walks in, with me behind him. The room is completely dark, but Aaron switches the light on, and I gasp for my breath.
The room is bright, white walls, white floor, and bright lamps are placed into the ceiling in the middle of the room. The walls are covered with shelves, all of them which are filled with packages, supposedly filled with ammunition, and weapons of all kinds. At the end of the room there’s a big desk which is covered in monitors.
- This, Elisabeth, is my armoury.
- But why do you have such?
- You can never be too sure when you work the way I do.
- But, what do you do?
- I can’t tell you unless you promise me to stay quiet. This is a matter of life and death.
I swallow hard. My head is spinning, and I’m sure that if Aaron didn’t hold my hand, I’d fall to the floor, passing out.
- I will, I promise.
- Would you sign a paper concerning this?
I nod. Aaron leaves the room and closes the door behind him. I sit on the floor for a while, trying to grasp what I’m seeing. This is a part of his dark secret, and I’m afraid I already know what it is.
After a couple of minutes, Aaron comes back with a paper and pen in his hand. I take it, and skim it through. Then I put my name at the bottom of each page.
- Elisabeth, you know this is truly confidential, and that it can risk both your own, and my life if you leak this information?
- I do now…
He extends his hand and help me to my feet.
- Come, I’ll explain to you over a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
We sit down, and I embrace the warm cup with my hands.
- Elisabeth, I’ll tell you my whole story, which will explain most of the things. I won’t share with you the greater details, some are simply too unpleasant for me to talk about.
I nod slowly.
- I grew up in Siberia, in a facility for young orphans. I won’t go into greater detail about what happened there, but it made me able to join the military at the age 15. I was put in a special unit, and I was deployed to Afghanistan. We were performing secret missions, my group and I, but I had to be sent back home due to a bullet to my chest. It hadn’t damaged any internal organs, so I would survive just fine. I was then contacted by an agency, one which specialises in dealing contracts to its employees. Each contract is a kill.
I gasp, my heart is beating at full speed, and my head is feeling heavy with all the information I’m being given.
- I’ve been working for them ever since. The people who kidnapped you are part of another agency, which are my agency’s competitors. They want to destroy my agency, to obtain full control over the market. I believe you’ve taken economy in University, which is why I believe you’ll understand what’s at stakes here. They want to start from the employees, and work their way towards the board members of the agency. I cannot let that happen. Elisabeth,
He takes my hand and looks me deeply into the eyes.
- Elisabeth, I ask you this favour to keep your mouth shut at all times about that side of me. You cannot tell people where I am, or what I’ve just told you. Can you promise me that?
I hesitate for a second, remembering the contract I signed.
- Of course Aaron.
He sighs and sits back in his chair, looking frustrated for some reason.
- Aaron, I…
He looks at me intensely, waiting for the rest of the sentence, but I forgot what I wanted to say.
- Thank you for trusting me.
He smiles and nods, looking as though he has something to say.
He opens the bottle of champagne, pouring it into two glasses. We stand on his balcony, looking out over downtown Chicago. I stand there with the glass in my hand, looking at the stars. Aaron’s flat is penthouse, leaving the lights from the city either level or lower than us, meaning that we can actually see the stars. The moon is full.
- Cheers Elisabeth.
- Cheers Aaron, and thank you again for saving me back there. I don’t know what would’ve happened if you hadn’t come to my rescue.
- You’re very welcome.
We take a sip of the champagne. It tastes sweet, and the bubbles tickle my tongue, dances across it. We stand there for a moment, looking at each other, and then he moves closer to me. I stop breathing, and his lips come closer to mine. His eyes are locked to mine, and as his lips are so close I can almost feel them, I close my eyes. Then we kiss. His lips are soft, warm against mine. We both struggle to breathe. Aaron pulls back for a second takes my glass of champagne and puts it on the table. He grabs my arms and pull me closer, into an embrace. He smells my hair, and whispers in my ear.
- Elisabeth, I don’t know what’s happening to me. I haven’t trusted anyone before, especially not having known them for such short time. I think…
- I think I’ve fallen in love with you…