This story is by Beleria J. Fulks and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“So Sarah, I see your sister is doing worse.” Mr. Wings hummed, lips pursed. “Halo Syndrome huh? That’s too bad.”
Sarah entangled her hand into her sister’s. Halo Syndrome referenced the blistering of skin around the victim’s forehead. The first signs were nonspecific; a cough, fever, chills. However, once the halo set in it wouldn’t be long before the organs would go into failure. Luckily, the disease was curable. The problem was the medicine was monopolized by the rich. A poor woman like her couldn’t get it.
Her sister laid in bed, her breaths strained and her forehead shined with sweat. Sarah placed a hand on her cheek, the heat of her sister’s face singed her fingers.
“Let’s make a deal Sarah.” Mr. Wings’ eyes were razor sharp on Sarah’s form.
“His name is Damian Wilks, he is the new upcoming CEO of Global Enterprise. He’s inexperienced but talented; someone you want on your side or snuffed out.” Mr. Wings stood over Sarah and placed his hand on her shoulder. She tried not to flinch.
“However, when I inquired him to join my business he refused. ” His jaw clenched at the memory. “That was the wrong answer.”
“Wilks is your new target, and if you kill him I will give you the medicine. Your sister can stay at my estate for now but move quickly; I’m afraid time is of the essence.” Mr. Wings looked at Cassie with forged sympathy. Sarah scoffed. No pity resided in his black soul. This was simple revenge, and she was the pawn that executed it.
But if it were to save Cassie…
“I accept your deal.” Sarah turned to Mr. Wings and held out her hand. With a triumphant smile he shook it, his smooth manicured hand gripped her calloused one.
Now alone with her sister, she left to get water from the adjacent bathroom. When Sarah returned Cassie was bent over the side of the bed, retching in the trash can beside her. When Cassie finished she looked up, eyes bloodshot.
“Drink this,” Sarah urged and gave her the cup. Cassie’s hands trembled as she brought the cup to her lips. She swished the water around, spat in the trash and sipped again.
“I asked for the lobster bisque, what does it take to get good customer service around here?” Cassie huffed, a weak smile pecked her chapped lips.
Sarah chuckled and rolled her eyes. Leave it to Cassie to find a joke in everything.
“I’m going away tonight.” Sarah said vaguely, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Don’t play coy, I’m dying not deaf.” Cassie retorted. “I heard what he said…do you have to? ”
Sarah sighed. It was a secret everyone knew but seldom spoken: the rich hired the poor to do their dirty work. She had stole and killed in exchange for money and food. As a kid she balked at the idea, but as an adult and three years of being Mr. Wings’ mercenary, she realized that morals did not put food on the table.
“I have to kid, you know I do.” A sad smile ghosted her lips as she ruffled Cassie’s hair. “Get some sleep.”
Cassie slid back into the covers and closed her eyes. Her labored breathing chipped at Sarah’s heart. She looked down at their intertwined hands, Cassie’s pale hand contrasted sharply to her own mahogany. Yes, they were not blood related; but their bond ran deeper than genes and chromosomes.
Five years ago, Cassie snuck into her house to get away from a harsh winter. Instead of chasing her out, Sarah allowed her to stay. Cassie was her only family now, her parents died in a fire and her older brother passed from Halo Syndrome.
Sarah left the Wings Estate with one thought in her mind: ’I will kill Mr. Wilks.’ It was her only option, if Cassie died she didn’t know how to be alone again.
It was 10:00pm and Sarah was at Mr. Wilks’ front door, pizza box in hand. Her nerves twisted underneath her skin. Jitteriness was normal for her before a mission; it made her feel less like a monster.
Once again, Sarah wondered what her parents would have thought about her life.
‘Definitely disappointed.’ Sarah mused.
And her brother? She knew what he would say.
‘For family you do anything.’
Jason was her protector; he pummeled anyone that teased her, he gave her the last bite of his meal. He was her hero and his death shattered her; Cassie was the only one that picked up all the pieces.
The smell of meat and cheese broke her out from her thoughts. The plan was bizarre but workable; she wire-tapped Mr. Wilks’ phone and heard his delivery order. What was easier than a target that invited you in?
Sarah rang the doorbell.
Mr. Wilks opened the door with a polite smile. She returned it before she shoved the pizza box to his chest, he tripped and fell backwards. Sarah entered and closed the door, in one smooth motion she pulled out her gun and trained it at his head.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Mr. Wilks shrank back, his arms across his face. Sarah ignored his pleas, fingers on the trigger. She hesitated when she noticed a faded but large burn scar on his forearm. Her brain grasped at the faded memory; her brother burned himself with boiling water in the same exact spot.
“Move your hands, now!” Her voice tough but inside she was a mess of emotions.
He threw his hands down, pockmarks dusted his forehead.
Her blood chilled, her body froze. Sarah’s mouth gaped in shock. ’No’. Her stomach churned and rolled at the revelation.
“Jason?” She sputtered.
He stared, confusion lit his face, then disbelief. “Sarah?”
Sarah’s emotions strangled her until she was lightheaded. Her shock bled into elation, ’He’s alive!’before it was snuffed by horror. She was here to kill her brother. This was a Shakespearean play; this was almost humorously tragic.
His emotions mirrored hers. “Sarah…”
“Remember when dad cleaned houses for that rich family?” Jason started abruptly.
Sarah shook her head.
“Sometimes he would bring me along. I made friends with the family’s son while he cleaned.”
Sarah lowered her gun, engrossed in the story.
“The family noticed, but strangely encouraged it. They treated me like their son. Everything was great until I got Halo.” Jason’s eyes became distant.
“His parents gave ours a choice: In exchange for the medicine, they wanted to adopt me.”
Sarah eyes widened. Adoption between the rich and poor was strict. The adoptee could not contact their birth family until the adoptee’s retirement, it was the law. Supposedly so the adoptee would not be distracted by two families, but the ugly truth was the rich did not want their money and goods to be smuggled back to the poor.
“So you see Sarah? I couldn’t come back but I wanted too! You have to know that.” His eyes pleaded. Her heart drowned at his words. It was like he was resurrected only for him to be buried once more. His blood would not only stain her hands but also taint her soul..
If Sarah didn’t kill Jason, she would be at peace to know that her brother was alive; that he was now a phone call away. She couldn’t live with him and he couldn’t support her until after his retirement, but when the time came they could be a close family again.
But Cassie…her joy withered. When everyone died Cassie was the angel that broke in and made her whole again. If she didn’t kill Jason, her only happiness would disappear. Plus, Mr. Wings did not take kindly to failed missions; Sarah would be severely punished.
“Could you get the medicine for Halo Syndrome?” Sarah asked, hopeful.
Jason stuttered, “That medicine is highly controlled; they would tracked me instantly if I took it.”
Sarah cursed. Jason would be in serious trouble if he got caught. However, Mr. Wings was one of the most powerful men in the city; he could bend the rules and no one would bat an eye. Jason was not born rich; he didn’t have the same luxuries.
Sarah looked at her brother, his eyes wide with fright. She lingered at his face. She committed every feature to memory.
Sarah lifted the gun, her hands sweaty on the grip. Jason sprang to his feet, hands in the air. ”Wait, Sarah please!” His eyes were frantic.
“To me Jason, you died a long time ago. Cassie is still alive and I can’t let her go. I…I love you Jason.” Tears threatened to fall.
Jason’s face was streaked with tears. “I love you too little sister.”
Sarah shot twice. Jason was dead before he hit the floor. Sarah dropped her gun, fell to her knees and wept.
It pained her to kill Mr. Wilks, but for family you do anything.