Briar had never started a file before. It was always her father’s job. She reacted to his files, maybe this time he would react to hers.
She closed the manila folder, and with it her wishful thoughts.
34th and 3rd, residential district, apartment 446 of the Sherone building. She had Saturday to get there and...something. Call the police? It was what a regular citizen would do. And to Jackson, that’s what she had to be. But evidence was an issue, and it wasn’t one she had time to solve.
A knock sounded on her door.
“Eleanor, I need to speak to you,” her father’s voice was gentle. Bad news.
She silently slipped the envelope into her desk drawer and opened the door, standing to the side to allow him inside.
“Thank you,” he said, still gentle, and sat down on her bed. She took a seat at her desk and stared at him blankly.
The pause lasted just a few beats too long before he realized she wasn’t going to speak first.
Carlson cleared his throat, “I...I heard about your friend.”
“What about him?”
“That he’s hurt.”
“I know you’re probably angry-”
He blinked at her, “But…” he shook his head, “Regardless, I assume you will be seeking retribution on his behalf-”
“And you want to stop me.”
“Well...yes. But hear me out, Eleanor. You have to prioritize your cover over this...vengeance mission. Let the authorities deal with this.”
“Why did Wenton have to die?”
He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it, blinking slowly. “I...where is this coming from Eleanor?”
“Answer my question.” There was no malice in her voice. Yet.
Carlson worked his jaw, tasting his next words.
“In this business sometimes...sacrifices have to be made-”
“Do not speak to me like a child.”
“You are a child.”
“Answer my question.” There was the aggression.
Carlson sighed, “He was a very bad man, Eleanor. He had very strong connections to the arms trade and certain other rings of the criminal underground-”
“So do you.”
“But he was abusing his power.”
Carlson huffed a sigh of frustration, “Look, I came in here to explain that you should think about your cover as a regular student before doing anything in the name of revenge. I know you’ve never had a proper friend before, just know that your cover comes first.”
Now he was angry.
“Thank you.” Briar stood abruptly and pulled the door open the rest of the way. Carlson got up and left. The door closed with just a little too much force behind him.
Screw Saturday. The manila envelope was back out of her desk in a flash, the address committed to memory. Envelope again hidden, this time where it wouldn’t be found easily, she was gone.
She went on foot. Her father could track a license plate, besides, cars made noise. She wanted to be undetected.
When she reached the address, she pulled on a pair of gloves and climbed up the fire escape to find the locked window of her target. With her teeth gritted in frustration, Briar took the pocket knife from her breast pocket and worked it under the frame. The edge of the blade caught the latch and she shifted tilted the blade, pushing the latch open.
Once that was done, the window opened with just a little catch from the warping of the wood. She froze at the noise.
The sound of the handsome newscaster announcing some celebrity engagement or other blared through the open window, providing the cover she needed to slip inside and close the window with no less jostling than before undetected.
She found herself in a very unkempt bedroom with only the corner of the comforter left on the bed and not a decoration to be seen save a single poster advertising a popular action movie that had come out the year before. A copy of that same movie and a few others of the same genre were stacked against the wall adjacent the closet.
She crept along the wall and peeked out the partially open door. A man in his mid-twenties sat at the couch facing the TV, which had moved on to updating the audience on the latest news in sports.
The gun tucked into the back of her jeans pressed into her back as she straightened up and walked calmly out to the couch. The man jumped and hurled curses at her when she sat down next to him. He when silent, though, when the barrel of the gun pressed into his side.
“Who sent you?” he asked, voice shaking and eyes wide, “Please, I’ll give you whatever you want, I got cash-”
“You like action movies?” she asked. The trick was Queenie’s, but it worked.
“I-yeah…” His wild eyes stared down at the gun.
“Suppose this is one. You’re the henchman, I’m angry ex-military wondering what happened to my friend.”
Those eyes flicked up to her face, realization mixing with the fear in them, “Y-you’re the chick! The one on the list,” he whimpered, “Look, all I did was ask your friend a few questions, I’m sorry okay-”
His adam's apple bobbed, “My buddies saw him with you outside the distribution place, I swear we didn’t kill him.”
His breathing was getting quicker, shallower, and his shoulders were shaking, “J-just your name. He told us everything, my boss is gonna-”
“No, he didn’t.”
The man calmed down suddenly, seeing something in her words that wasn’t there. “Oh yeah, Briar. You pissed off some powerful people you know. Maybe you should have been more careful about henchmen with phones.” He was getting a whole lot more confident with every new piece of information he revealed to her.
She decided to play along. She let her hold on the gun falter just a little. Just enough for the man to notice. Enough for him to think she was scared.
“Who’s your boss?”
“Like I would tell you-”
“Remember who has the gun.”
He wasn’t as scared as before, but his eyes did veer cautiously toward the gun, “No offense, but I’m more afraid of what he’s gonna do ta' me than your little gun.”
I knew I’d need the knife. The blade in her hand became the new object of interest the moment it was visible. She looked him in the eye, “You can lie to your boss,” she said simply, jamming the gun deeper into his side.
“Please-” she pressed the gun harder, certainly enough to leave a bruise, “-they’ve got all this special equipment and stuff. My-my friends, Lucas, was in there for three days last time he lost some product. The boss demoted him after that, now he can just go on the little missions like-like little deals and stuff. When he got his orders he was so pissed-” His face showed her the mistake she hadn’t noticed.
“Where do you get your orders?”
“The boss, but-”
“How do you get your orders?”
The tip of the knife was against his shoulder before he could beg again, “Do not plead with me,” she growled, that unfamiliar anger stirring up inside her.
“Ah-ah,” the man tried to lean into the couch to relieve the pressure of the knife, which had already broken his skin, to no avail.
“Alright, alright, just-just let me go and I’ll tell you his name,” he was still pleading with his eyes.
She pressed the knife harder, “Tell me now, and you die quickly.” Lie.
He whimpered, then hissed when the steel inched further into his flesh. The bloodstain on his green t-shirt grew larger. A drop of blood trailed down his arm.
“Cross! His name is Cross. That’s all I know I swear!”
What Briar did next was very, very violent.
Detective Nolan Latimer sat at his desk, the paper before him illuminated only by the orangish light of his old desk lamp that had once been a gift from his wife. Now it was his only ally in a case no one else wanted to solve.
The graphs, news reports, incomplete profiles, and scribbled out notes glared accusingly up at him. You have everything there is to know, they seemed to say, figure it out already. He sighed, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. He looked away from the mess, instead looking to the picture in the bright red frame that stood above it all.
“I’m gonna get it, honey,” he said to the picture, “Your dad’s gonna get this bastard.”
With a final look at his accumulated failure, he stood from his chair, picked up his coat, and flicked off the light.