We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin. It looked like something straight out of a Hallmark movie. I snorted at the sight. "Not what I was expecting for a safe house."
Clover cast a sideways glance at me as he led us up the snowy pathway. "Looks can be deceiving. Just wait."
His cryptic response sharpened my senses, reminding me to stay vigilant. It was getting exhausting having to keep my guard up. That and the fact that I was going on two days without sleep. We've been on the run for the past twenty-four hours. Our mission was compromised. Someone on our team crossed us. Now there were dangerous people looking for us all over Lithuania's borders. We were forced to split up since we had no idea who the traitor among us was. This was Alpha's best solution to keep everyone safe until we either figured out who betrayed us, or things blew over.
Judging by what we were sent here to do, I doubt it'd blow over anytime soon.
Unfortunately, I got stuck with our least chatty member. It wasn't because my teammates were being assholes. That was just how our sorting arrangements worked. Alphabetically. And D comes after C, so we were always paired together.
Clover circled the vehicle to the backside of the cabin. He parked it and shut off the engine before turning to look at me. "What do we do first, Dutchess?"
Clover might be a man of few words, but he'd never miss an opportunity to taunt me with my code name. It's been over a year since I earned it from our Assasin's Guild, yet that didn't make it any easier to hear. Though, I guess I should count my blessings that they didn't give me Doll Face or Darling. Still, I preferred something tougher. Like Dragon or Death.
I rolled my eyes at him as I unbuckled my seatbelt. We'd been butting heads since the moment we met. I could handle the petty barbs he threw at me. What I couldn't stand was that he still treated me like a recruit. "Check for intruders."
He smirked and reached behind his seat to grab his backpack, then hopped out of the vehicle. I followed suit, easing out of the passenger side and shouldering my own pack. Next, I checked my holster to confirm my handgun was still attached to my hip and unclipped it. I'd gotten too familiar with the weight of it, so I ingrained a habit of checking it every time I moved. With the profession I was in, I couldn't risk being complacent.
Clover led us to a backdoor and we both took up a side with our weapons drawn. He gave a hand signal letting me know he'd open the door and I'd do the sweep. I nodded, glad we were at least on the same page regarding this.
He wrapped his fingers around the door's latch and the high-security lock scanned his thumbprint for clearance. Once it beeped he wasted no time and swung the door open. I instantly jumped into action and pointed my gun inside. Then my body took over, recalling the motions and procedures to sweep the house. We fanned out and searched our halves of the cabin before we judged it safe.
"Alright, we should check in with Alpha," Clover said as we met in the kitchen. He pressed a series of buttons on the microwave and then, to my surprise, the fridge swung outward, revealing a hidden stairwell.
I arched a brow. "Just wait, huh?"
He grinned and gestured for me to go first. I did, gun still drawn, and once I reached the bottom the motion-activated lights turned on. My mouth fell open in astonishment. The secret lair looked more high-tech than our home office.
"Well this should keep the cabin fever at bay," I murmured drolly.
Clover stepped around me, making a direct line for the different communication devices. He ended up with a gadget that looked like a glass tablet. He placed his whole hand in the middle of it, and seconds later a screen flickered to life. I was duly impressed.
I watched him as he used it, mesmerized Apps he opened, and the security features he checked. It nagged at me that he was familiar with a device I'd never seen before.
Finally, he brought up the list of contacts. Only they weren't displaying familiar names. "How are we going to contact Alpha or the others if their information isn't here?" I questioned.
Clover peered up at me from under his lashes. "The contacts aren't the names of agents. They're the names of the safe houses."
Ah. That explains it. "What's our safe house called?"
He sighed irritably, like my question was inconveniencing him. "Seclusion."
I kept my eye on him as he sent a quick group message to all the contacts saying we were clear and ready for communication. It didn't escape my notice that none of the others sent a similar message. Anxiety gnawed at my stomach, worried that they might not have made it to their havens.
As I'm about to comment on it, three messages rolled in simultaneously. Relief filled me when they all confirmed their welfare as well.
"I'll set this up. You take a seat," Clover instructed me.
"I want to watch," I responded crisply. I had no reason to suspect Clover was the traitor, but if this happens to be my only method of communication with my team, I needed to know how to use it. Surely he'd understand that.
He eyed me for a second before tipping his chin, then showed me the easiest way to set it up.
The screen installed into the wall blared to life, dividing into four sections showing all my team members for our mission. The box that displayed us was bottom left. Above was Alpha and Bear, Eclipse and Flag were next to them, and on the bottom right was Grave and Hunt.
"Ah, Hello guys. Good to see everyone's alive and well," Alpha spoke with a forced grin on his face. "I've been worried."
"How long are we going to be in hiding?" Eclipse demanded, not even returning a courteous greeting. I nearly rolled my eyes at her impatience. She's never taken her survival seriously. I had often wondered how she ever made the team.
"Only time will tell," Alpha replied arcanely.
My eyes narrowed on him. He seemed uncharacteristically upset. I got that we had a traitor in our midst, but one thing I knew about Alpha was that he was always calm and collected. Even at the most outrageous times. Six months ago, during another mission, I found him lying in a pool of his own blood. He had two gunshot wounds and a shard of glass protruding out of his neck. He shrugged it off like it was just another Tuesday, as though he weren't dying. Needless to say, I'd never seen him like this before.
The next hour and a half were spent debriefing, and I noticed everyone's responses felt incredibly off for some reason. It didn't escape my notice that no one brought up plans for interrogations or tried to place who the traitor among us was.
"Clover, is there anything you'd like to share about our failed mission?" Bear asked suddenly, and I detected a hint of accusation in his tone.
I turned my head slightly to peer over at Clover.
He sat silently for a moment reclined in his seat. One hand was in his pocket. The other propped up his head. "I can think of a few reasons it failed. Are you sure you want me to share them aloud?"
Bear's face turned beet red.
"Now, now, let's not forget, we all agreed to this, Clover," Alpha chimed in. "That means you, too."
My forehead creased in confusion. I felt like they were having an entirely separate conversation from the rest of us.
"No." Clover sat up and shook his head. "I would've never agreed to let the blame fall on an innocent. The fact you went behind my back to set that up tells me you knew I'd be against it." He leveled Alpha with a cold, hard glare. "But you did it anyway."
Everyone started growing antsy. My stomach became knotted with anxiety. Blame an innocent? Was I missing something here?
Alpha returned Clover's unyielding stare. "We couldn't have assassinated Lithuania's President without someone taking the fall. This was the least messy option. Everyone else agreed to it. And if you're not in accordance with us, then you're against us."
A jolt of panic shot through me. The way he said it so casually, I almost thought I imagined it.
A slow, menacing grin spread across Clover's face. The look was downright frightening. "Alright. If that's how you want to play it."
Alarm bells went off in my head. "Can someone please fill me in on what's going on?"
My demands fell on deaf ears. Clover and Alpha just continued their strange stand-off, and by the angry expressions on everyone else's faces, they all seemed to be aware of what was going on. I was the only one left out.
"Do you want to tell Dutchess or should I?" Clover questioned goadingly.
Alpha seethed. His jaw was ticking like he was biting off a few choice words he wanted to throw instead. After a moment of consideration, he schooled his features, and if it weren't for his previous reactions, I'd think he had been relaxed all along. "Doesn't matter what she knows. You sealed your fate the moment you crossed us."
My heart lept into my throat. Clover was the traitor? And they knew!? Except it didn't seem that simple anymore. Based on what little I learned from their conversation, my team planned to let some random innocent take the fall for Lithuania's President's murder. Why was I kept in the dark about this? Was it because they knew I'd side with Clover?
My eyes darted between Clover and the screen, not recognizing the individuals I'd spent the past sixteen months with. I felt like I blinked and suddenly they all turned into a bunch of monsters... Or maybe they'd been monsters all along, and I'd been blinded by a sense of purpose they gave me.
"Oh, did I?" Clover countered calmly, and everyone had the good sense to look nervous. Myself included. "I think you have it wrong, Alpha. It was you who sealed your fates. You all chose money over your morals. Now, you'll get what you deserve." He finally drew his hand out of his pocket, holding something out for all to see. Before I could even process what I was looking at, he pressed a button, and everyone on the screen shouted before the feed cut out.
I jumped to my feet and pointed my gun at Clover. He remained sitting in his chair with his thumb still on the button.
"Don't worry Dutchess, you're safe."
I ignored him because I felt like I was anything but safe. "Did you just kill all of them?"
He slowly dragged his gaze up to meet mine. "Yes."
I sucked in a sharp breath and clutched my gun harder. "Why?"
His eyes grew distant. "They planned to make you the scapegoat, and I couldn't allow that."
His revelation was a shock to my system. My knees nearly buckled under the weight that pressed into me, but denial kept me standing. "You're a liar!"
He finally dropped the device and stood. I instinctively took a step back and kept my gun aimed at him. "It's true. It was part of the transaction to have a fall guy, a believable one. The Guild saw you as a threat, too skilled, too smart. It was an easy way to get rid of you and be a profitable sacrifice."
My breath cemented in my chest so strongly that I felt like the air was trying to strangle me. Except suffocation would've been preferable to this. I was loyal to a fault. They knew of my dedication. Yet they turned on me for what, a bit of coin? As hard as it was for me to accept, it made sense. The shock I felt a minute ago ebbed as fury speared into me.
My gaze slid back to Clover. "And you?"
His grin was half smile, half feral. "Me? Oh, I couldn't be bought with something as meaningless as money. Not when I know what has actual value."
My eyes flicked over him warily.
He noticed my hesitation and held out a hand in surrender. "I promise, I mean you no harm, Dutchess. If I were going to hurt you don't you think I would have done so by now?"
I quirked a brow at him. "You better be careful when making a promise, because if you break it, I'll make you choke on those fucking words."
Clover smirked at my threat. "Noted."
I finally holster my gun and nod over at the screen. "Now what?"
"We can either go into hiding and run for the rest of our lives or... we fight back." He winked at me and revealed a wall of guns with ammo, already knowing which choice I'd make. "I think there are enough weapons and supplies to support us for when the clean-up crew arrives."
I smirked and started grabbing riffles and grenades off the shelf. They thought they could betray me and get away with it. Well, they were about to find out why storms were named after people.
Because they had no idea of the havoc they just unleashed. And I was going to ruin them with poetic justice.
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.