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"Though her movements had the look of purposeful efficiency, they were bizarre and funny to watch. I realized I hadn’t smiled about anything in a long time. It felt good."

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00 – Prologue

We didn’t mean to kill him.

Dritan assured me this unusual little foray would be easy and well worth the effort. As always, I was foolish enough to believe him. It made me very nervous, though. We’d never ventured this far on our own with so little in the way of solid information. Adding to my nervousness was the sense of confusion I felt. Nothing looked or seemed right here.

The house was nice, but not what I had anticipated. It was much smaller and more modest looking than it should have been. The fact that it had no security system or personnel caused me to question our information all the more.

“Are you sure you have the right address?” I asked, using an accusatory tone one takes with a misbehaving child.

“I’m sure,” he said as he took a long drag from his cigarette, turning away from me to stare out his passenger side window.

“This doesn’t look right—at all.”

Holding his breath, he tilted his head back in irritation, closed his eyes, and let out a long smoky exhale.

“It’s right,” he responded curtly.

We rarely looked at each other when we conversed. Our relationship constantly evolved yet somehow it remained as it had always been: sometimes we were partners, other times bitter enemies, but at all times tied together as brothers.

It was just past midnight. We waited for about an hour after the last light in the house went out, both smoking, relaxing and listening to some new downloads he was overly excited about—just more irritating noise as far as I was concerned.

The plan was simple: pick our way into the house, administer a quick injection on the old man while he slept, wake him, ask a few pointed questions, locate the items we needed, put him back to bed, and move along. Easy.

The girl walked in on us after we’d been unsuccessfully working on him for about twenty minutes. We were in the middle of arguing over a possible dosage error and next steps when a form in the dim light moved slowly past the foot of the bed where we were set up. Our normal reaction would have been quick and deadly for the intruder, but she didn’t scream, act frightened, or even acknowledge us. She just kept moving at a slow pace deeper into the room. Alarm quickly turned to amusement as the situation became clear.

Moving around the bed to a large walk-in closet, she opened the door wider, letting more light into the bedroom and illuminating her small form very nicely. Pulling an empty laundry basket from a lower shelf she dumped a hamper of clothes into it. Then she bent down to gather some dirty boots, a hat and a belt, throwing them on top of the pile.

We looked at each other and then back at the sleepwalking laundry girl. She was very young and pretty; the old man’s granddaughter perhaps? If so, then I felt more assured about this being the right house after all, but still very unsettled that we had overlooked her presence after making such a thorough search of the house initially. Where had she been up to this moment?

Moving out of the closet, she toted the basket—which appeared to be twice her weight—into the bathroom where she then dumped the contents into the tub and poured a generous capful of what was probably shampoo over the “load.” Placing the emptied laundry basket on top of the tank, she flushed the toilet, and walked out into the bedroom once more, a blank expression on her face as she headed for the hallway. Though her movements had the look of purposeful efficiency, they had been bizarre and funny to watch. I realized I hadn’t smiled about anything in a long time. It felt good.

Dritan laughed softly and rose immediately to pursue her, probably to make certain she wasn’t just a very quick-thinking and self-preserving actress whose next move would be to set off an alarm of some kind. He was gone for several minutes while I sat with our host who had slept through the injection but frustrated our efforts by not responding to the smelling salts or any of our actions to rouse him in the normal way so that we could question him. I was growing tense and irritated at the lengthy but silent interruption. What stupidity was Dritan engaging in now?

After what felt like an eternity, he finally returned.

At first, a well-pleased smile played on his lips as he reported, “It looks like she came in through the kitchen. The door was still open with a key in the lock. She put herself to bed in one of the rooms at the end of the hall. I’ve heard of people sleepwalking before, but I’ve never seen—”

Suddenly, concern changed his expression as he looked past me to assess the old man.

“What happened?!”

Even in the low light, the man’s color was decidedly blue now, and I realized he’d stopped breathing while I was busy imagining my brother’s actions in the next room.

After a brief consultation, we decided to let him “sleep.” Resuscitating him probably wouldn’t help now and might leave too much evidence.

We didn’t get any information out of him or the items we sought, though I did find something promising in a folder on the nightstand that I collected for further review.

Always the impulsive opportunist, my brother stood in the doorway looking into the darkness down the hallway. I knew exactly what he was thinking about.

“Artan, I don’t suppose we could just take the girl instead…” he said with a resigned sigh, though he already knew what I would say.

“Besnik would pay a lot for her, for that hair especially,” he continued wistfully.

I could see his point. The addition of the girl’s “company” and the substantial profit from her sale would surely reduce some of the evening’s disappointment. But looking over at the dead man in his bed, we both knew the answer.

“No,” I said, taking charge. “Let’s have one more look around and get out of here before she wakes up.”

Working hard to resist the lure of what would surely be a huge mistake at this point, I added more for myself than for him, “If we need to, we can come back later,” as though it were just an option and not a certainty.


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Chapter Index | 5 Comments

5 Comments (Leave a comment »)

  1. Wow! That was a very absorbing prologue! Can’t wait to read what happens next!

    Comment by Krista O — September 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  2. Wow, this was very well written! I think that you have a definite way with words and I wish that I could write this well. I especially love the way that you are waiting until a couple more chapters to tell us who the men really are! Thank you for such a wise story! I was happy to find this on shelfari!

    Comment by Sami — September 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

  3. wow, this is very intiguing–i was pulled in, from the beginning. the plot is very creative, very original and i liked the descriptions of this mysterious girl who doesn’t even notice these two men drugging the old man(which was interesting as well and made me go into mystery-solving mode as to who they were, what info they wanted from the old man, etc.)

    Comment by sarah doughty — September 12, 2010 at 9:20 am

  4. I’m really intrigued now! I want to find out why they were drugging him and if bad things had happened to her at other times she was sleepwalking. You’ve got me hooked. Can’t wait to go to the next chapter!

    Comment by Cristy — July 1, 2010 at 9:54 pm

  5. The thought of El sleepwalking and doing random actions is quite funny :-)

    I’m happy those two men didn’t take her, too bad Ash wasn’t watching her then. It sucked seeing that was the way grandpa died, I hope they get what they deserve.

    Comment by Danielle — June 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

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