The Italian hitman called Leon felt almost high on the feeling of relief.
He had made it out.
Out of hardship, out of hell. Of course, he never knew he was living in hell until Mathilda had thrown herself into his life- until she showed him how beautiful the world really could be... But where was she now? Safe, the man thought affirmatively.
But his thoughts now were not on the girl, but on the brilliant, blue patches of clear sky beyond the double-doors of the building.
Thinking back, he couldn't recall a time when the sky looked so blue.
He walked with a slight limp down the filthy hallway from the apartments, the lively streets glistening in sharp, white glares from the sunlight- speeding cars, and shattered glass bottles reflected from the rays. He blinked his dark eyes ahead, beyond the glass doors. He didn't realize his mouth was hanging open, nor did he seem to notice the pain of his shoulder where a bullet had been fired into him earlier. If he did, he really didn't care.
He was free. The gas-mask had long before dropped from his hands, but the heavy suit of the police uniform stayed on, and made the wounds underneath the rough metal bleed more fiercely. His heart beat steadily under a set of solid ribs, and his lungs expanded slowly as he inhailed the clean scent of the promises of Tomorrow.
I must rent a new apartment, he thought at length. One Mathilda and I can live in peacefully for awhile. His pacing had slowed as he neared the sunlight, his eyes intranced with the world as a newborn calf would be. For a long while, he added to himself.
A man by the name of Standsfield had been waiting for this moment; to find and kill the Italian hitman known as Leon. How could he have gotten past the policemen? was Standsfield's first thought when he saw the man. But the gas-mask on the floor hinted exactly how he had done it. So his second thought was this: Kill him.
Standsfield raised his gun, stepping out of the shadows of the apartmants. He walked a few steps, placing himself directly behind the other man. The shadow of a shadow.
The scene before he pulled the trigger- how odd that it should remind him of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5! Standfield smiled calmly, and he felt his eyes dialate expectantly- waiting for the blood to spill.
A small, gentle pull of the trigger- as gently as pulling a newborn closer to your chest- and the bullet flew forward in a bang of powder.
Standsfield walked more slowly, but more confidently, forward as the man called Leon fell at an odd, pained angle, before falling on his side against the ground. Smiling softly, Standsfield approached the man with a near smug expression, yet he sympathized with the man's pain- since he himself took pills for that sort of thing.
He moved Leon fully on his back, and stood on either side of the man. He wondered if he was dead.
What the hell...? Standsfield noticed Leon was gripping something tightly with his left hand, and so he bent down to pry his fingers open, putting his gun into the back of his pants.
The man on the ground stared up at him and-
-wondered if he had the strength to speak. The pain in his back had opened up the other painful sensations in his body, making his vision darken with spots of red and black. The bright, clear sky made his eye sockets throb, sending white flashes in his brain.
He struggles to recognize the man, so he asks, "Standsfield...?"
With a short nod, and a sweet smile, Standsfield replies, "At your service." He had planned to jerk the whatever-it-was out of the dying man's grip, but Leon moved his hand on top of Standsfield, drawing his curiosity. He watches as the other man lets go on what he was holding, and pushes something into his hand.
As Leon grasped Standsfield's hand with both of his, his blood coating the other man's skin, Standsfield feels a sudden pang of remorse. He gave the hitman a questioning look. Leon was dying, but was he really seeking comfort..?
But then Leon spoke, his voice gargled and stained. "This is...f-from...Mathilda..." he said.
Mathilda? Standsfield was both surprised and mildly amused, so as Leon's grip fell away from his hand, he opened his now-bloody-fingers.
The look on Standsfields face- the horror, the sudden shock of his gift- made Leon smile inwardly. It made Leon feel as if the world was finally going his way; the enemy was alarmed, but it was too late for him to run. Leon felt like laughing.
Leon's mind blackened, and he quickly lost the ability to hear, taste, smell, learn, speak, and love. He died just as Standfield's hands reached toward him like God from above.
After checking Leon's body briefly- discovering the dozens of fully loaded grenades strapped to his chest- Standsfield, his head glazed with a new sweaty dew, stood up straight, and just stared as he held a small, round metal object- a grenade safety pin.
So he got me after all... Standsfield thought to himself, his eye brows raised slightly, eyes closing. He opened his eyes again. The pin was still there in his hand.
"Shit." he said quietly, as if voicing his opinion out loud would make him wake up from his sudden nightmare.
But- after suddenly wincing after mentally counting off the seconds till explosion- the grenades did not explode.
Standsfield didn't realize he was holding his breath until he let it out; he didn't notice his eyes were closed until they hurt from being shut so tightly. A wave of hot nausea swept over his body, waking him from his trance.
One glance at Leon made a smile jerk on his lips. The grenade he had given him was a dud. The metal ring was slipped around his middle finger as he stood, and clapped his hands loudly once- twice- and gave a short, bark-like laugh.
He pointed a finger at Leon, stepping lightly on his toes, unable to keep still after the addrenaline rush he recieved from his near-death expericane. "You almost got me!" he told Leon, his eyes glowing. "You were so close- then...man..." He put a hand to his chin, shaking his head. "...so close..." he muttered.
Back to the drawing board, he told himself. That little brat still needs to say hello to Uncle Standsfield. Stepping over Leon's body, Standsfield walked out of the hallway, putting his blood-stained, shaking hands into his pockets. He drew out his iPod, putting in the headphones simotaniously.
He joined the crowd in their steady walk to nowhere, while- behind him on the corner of the apartmant complex- policemen scurried all over the place, some going in-and-out from the building, all shouting and blowing whistles, large metal shields nearly hitting each other in the hustle.
Standsfield walked in-step with Beethoven playing in his ears; a long dead musician playing on an unseen piano. The man was smiling.
Above, the sun was shining.
The sky was so very blue today, he mused, glancing upwards. Maybe I should stop for a cup of coffee before I hunt down the girl. His eyes scanned the area, and he found a building marked Cafe'. Walking more lightly as the music changed the tune, the man was in such a good mood, that he stepped out of character for a moment, opening the door for an elderly lady as she tried to enter the Cafe'. When she thanked him, Standsfield smiled warmly and welcomed her just as gratefully.
By the time he was inside the Cafe', he was humming, tossing both pointing-index fingers in the air around him.
"...I'll be dead by tomorrow." was the first urgent excuse the woman had heard in years. But this girl sitting there in her office- this girl who looked like a torn up, stepped on, raggedy-anne doll- she was obviously not lying.
She had received hundreds of children, all of which enrolled in school by their parents. She only turned down those who couldn't afford it, or if their child did not meet the qualifications of the school. Leaning back in her chair, she examined the girl. She called herself Mathilda, and it was clear to her she was an honest child- if she believed her trust was well-earned.
So how could she not accept the girl? With a sad, sympathetic nod, she signed the papers and welcomed Mathilda whole-heartedly, then watched as the girl brightened up, thanked her, grabbed her plant, and skipped out of the room.
Such an odd girl... She watched with weary eyes out the window as the girl passed by the other students, who socialized friendily on the front steps. But the girl kept walking.
She must be going for a walk, thought the woman. I do hope she wont cause any trouble here...She looked down at her files, and began writing on a pink sticky-note pad.
Had she still been watching Mathilda, she would have seen her started digging into the earth with a stick.
Mathilda's hands were already raw from the day's torments, so the rough, splintery wood of the stick did not help much. Regardless, she beat into the earth, using it like a shovel until she made a hole deep and wide enough to put a potted plant in it. Or a small, dead kitten.
But it was neither; Mathilda removed the leafy plant from the pot and burried it in the earth, near the large tree in the yard of the school. She moved the dirt carefully around the plant, blanketing it in.
She briefly thought of watering it, but remembered Leon had only hours before.
Leon... Big Tony claimed Leon was dead...but no. Deep inside her heart, Mathilda belived that a part of Leon still lived on; it lived in the things he loved. Inside the plant. Inside of her heart...
Mathilda looked around herself slowly, pondering their situation.
"I think we'll be all right here, Leon." she said. Her eyes locked on to the sun as it glowed in green, transparent rain through the leaves in the tree.
It was a beautiful day.
Smiling, Mathilda looked at Leon, and stood up. She looked back towards the school where her future laid, where the students watched her with curious, guarded expressions. She smiled again, and waved.
Brushing her hair back from her face, she walked towards them in an effort to move on. This was her life now. There was no going back.
But Big Tony was wrong: Leon was not dead.
Skipping lightly through the grass, Mathilda felt like singing because she had a secret that know one would ever understand; that Leon was still with her.
The coffee was warm, and bitter. It made his neck itch.
Standsfield scratched his neck, and tipped the waitress before leaving the Cafe', not even hearing the woman behind the counter call out desperately, "Come again!" as if that one cup of coffee made of her whole paycheck.
Now where would she be hiding? thought Standsfield. He drew a cigerette out and lit it with his lighter, bringing both objects from his jacket pocket. He returned the lighter to the cozy darkness, and started walking down the sidewalk.
Mathilda, Leon had called her. Mathilda wanted him dead. Standsfield smiled, the cigerette clinched loosely between his pale teeth. That little girl had guts, sure. But she couldn't kill him- she would sooner be strung up on the ceiling fan in a dozen pieces then taking one step towards him. He was too clever.
But she's clever too...he chided at himself.
A spasm shot across his eye, and he head quite suddenly began to ache. Pausing on the sidewalk, people moving around him on all sides, he took out a retangular pill case and opened it as he began to pant. Just one, he reminded himself. He picked up a green and yellow pill and tilted his head to the sky like a chicken who has just taken a drink of water. He placed the pill between his teeth, a hot salavia building in his mouth, and he bit down on the pill, savoring its sharp, cooling burst of relaxation. He swallowed the rest of it with ease, and pocketed the case, feeling much better.
He resumed walking, but his smile was gone.