Author's Note: A friend of mine returned from his military days in Iraq recently, and over coffee tonight, he was telling me the story of the first time he ever killed a man. It inspired this, along with a song that I know by a German band called 'OOMPH!' The song is really dark, and so this story became really dark. The song is called 'Das Letzte Streicholz,' which translates into 'The Last Match.' Despite the fact that my story is a bit horrible, I hope you enjoy. Reviews make me very happy, just saying.
Nate knelt by the bathtub, shaking violently. His stomach heaved and he worked to calm himself. There was nothing left in his stomach for him to lose, anyway. He pulled himself unsteadily to his feet and turned the faucet on in the sink, filling his mouth with clean, cool water, then rinsing his face off before looking at himself in the mirror. His eyes were red from smoke and tears, accenting his cerulean eyes, making them appear all the brighter. That didn't help the fact that they were wide and haunted in his too-pale face.
He didn't dare go back to sleep, unwilling to risk reliving the most horrible moment he had experienced in thirty years. He went back into the dark hotel room, searching through the bar for a drink and settled himself in a chair, his hand shaking around a tiny vodka bottle that was empty as soon as he lifted it to his lips. The clothes he had been wearing that day were lying on the bed and as the air kicked on, he caught the cloying smell of gasoline and ran back to the bathroom, retching.
He retrieved as many of the alcohol bottles that he could carry, holding his breath as he went back into the room, then settled himself in the bathroom where he wouldn't smell it, draining as many of them as he could as fast as he could.
"I had no choice." He tried talking to himself, but the sound of his voice only made him feel sick again. Nate didn't know that he could rationalize this. He had been through the basic training when he joined IYS over ten years ago, but it wasn't thorough enough. Not for something like this. No, this was something that no human being should be prepared to do. He felt weary, heavy and tired. Nate's head lolled back and he was asleep.
"You made a mistake, Nathan Ford, in returning to Russia."
"I was doing my job. Some of us make an honest living." Nate flinched as the three handguns trained on him cocked. All it would take was the tiniest bit of pressure from the index finger and Nathan Ford would be dead. These men wouldn't hesitate to kill him. Then again, he was going to die here anyway.
"And some of us don't. You put my brother in jail."
"It's my job." Nate replied. "If I didn't, I wouldn't have gotten paid. I have a family to support."
"Yes... your wife... Maggie, I believe her name is?" Nate didn't react. "And a son. Barely two years old. Sam." Nate's head shot up.
"If you lay a finger on my wife or little boy-"
"You'll do what? You're dead, Nathan. You just don't know it yet."
He lowered his head, closing his eyes against tears, wishing he had time. It seemed so unfair that he was going to die here, now. He was half the world away from his family, and it was wrong that Sam should grow up without a father, that Maggie should raise him without her husband. He murmured a silent prayer, his hands tugging hopelessly against his own cuffs, used against him. The keys were in his pocket, but if he moved to get them, he would lose his life all the faster. I love you, Maggie, and I'm so sorry, Sammy. Daddy's not going to make it home this time. "Your word, Belikov. You get me, and you leave them alone. They've done nothing to you."
"Of course. I'm a man of my word. I get you, and your wife and little boy go free." Nate nodded. He could be content with that. "Goodbye, Nathan Ford."
He couldn't help it, really. Maybe it was cowardice, but he dropped to the floor as the guns went off. It wasn't quite fast enough. A bullet sank deep into his biceps, another one in his shoulder. He was lucky though. Three guns going off at such close range meant that Nate wasn't the only one who was shot. He was one of three who were shot. He heard the other two fall to the floor, groaning in pain. He raised his head and found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"You really can't help yourself, can you Ford?" Belikov asked dispassionately. "Trouble follows you everywhere you go." Nate glanced around. Two of the enormous gasoline tanks that lined the room had been punctured. He could smell it, the odor filling the warehouse despite the open doors as gas spread over the floor. He pulled his hands out of his shirt pocket and lit a match, holding it up. The air stilled and Belikov's eyes widened.
"Shoot me and this hits the floor. I'll be dead, but so will you." He threatened.
Belikov backed away slowly and Nate stood and strode past him, taking off running towards the door. "You're going to regret this, Ford!" Belikov called after him. "At least, you will when you get home to a murder scene. How much does that family of your matter to you?"
Nate stopped dead in his tracks. So that was his choice. Either give up his life or forfeit Maggie's and Sam's. He looked at the matchbook in his hands, one match left, and his third option occurred to him. The thought of it made him sick, but thinking about losing Maggie and Sam, or giving up his life to someone who would likely go after them anyway weren't alternatives that he wasn't willing to take. He struck the match and watched it burn in his hand for a moment before closing his eyes and murmuring a prayer. He dropped the match and took off as the gasoline ignited. The blast threw him and he woke up to the sound of sirens and black smoke curling over the burning building. After putting out the fire and confirming the identities of the charred remains of the bodies, the police listened to his story and they let him go.
Nate woke up abruptly, leaning over the toilet again as his stomach heaved and he rid himself of the six tiny bottles of alcohol he had gotten into his stomach before falling asleep. He got up, stumbling back into the hotel room and transferred his clothes that still smelled of gasoline and fire and threw them into his suitcase. He picked up the phone and called the number of someone he knew would understand.
"Sophie, I don't know what to do. I don't... I can't..." He was shaking, his voice rough.
"Nate, calm down. Tell me what happened."
He took several deep breaths before he spoke again. "I killed three men."