1. Haifa, Israel
She's knows now, at least, that he's been watching her closely for a lot longer than she'd realised. But there isn't much she can do about it now. And really, she's so tired of this game, so tired of running, so tired of having to always be ten steps ahead of the pack, it's almost a relief to be caught.
Her mind swims with the distinctive fog of a tranquiliser, and she's still not completely conscious. But she is aware enough to feel the plastic zip ties digging into her wrists, strapped together tightly, with another holding her ankles and knees in place. Despite this, she's still relatively comfortable on the bed, with a pillow beneath her ear, and a light blanket to protect from the chill.
And even if she could slip these bonds without stripping the flesh from her wrists, there isn't really anywhere to hide here anyway. He has them holed up in a tiny studio apartment until his extraction team arrives, and the place is, well, a dump. She's been here in Haifa a few months now, and he has probably been here just as long, but there isn't a homeliness she would've assumed she'd find in a place like his. It is practically an empty space, save for the mattress on the floor and a few milk crates playing the part of furniture.
The lock turns, and her eyes dart towards the front door, and he shuffles in quietly with a paper bag in one hand, jangling keys in the other. He sees she's awake straight away, and gives her a tight smile, "You're up." He says, lightly, and sets the bag of groceries down in the kitchen.
She blinks, and keeps her face expressionless. "You should have killed me when you had the chance." She says quietly in her mother tongue, but there is no doubt he can hear her.
"Where's the fun in that?" He retorts in kind, though his accent is a little strange, as though he learned Russian from a native Japanese speaker.
She doesn't reply, and sets her head back down on the pillow, but keeps an ever watchful gaze on him as he unpacks the bag onto the bench, not bothering to put things away in cupboards. One of the apples he fishes out doesn't even make it that far, and instead he bites into it with a crunch that is so sudden and surprising it actually makes her flinch, a little.
Eventually, he returns his attention to her and crosses the few steps between the kitchen and the ratty mattress she lies on, and crouches down beside her with the half-eaten apple gripped tightly in his teeth. He stares at her for a few moments, and she can't help but meet his gaze, which is unblinking and oddly unnerving. It's been a long time since she's felt unnerved.
"So here's the deal." He says bluntly, removing the apple. "You're disarmed. I'm armed. You're drugged. I'm not. But unless you make a move on me, I'm not going to kill you. How are we doing with that so far?"
And then he pauses and waits for her to respond. She doesn't react. He doesn't seem surprised. He takes another bite of the apple, chews and swallows.
"I was sent to kill you, and like you rightly pointed out, I should have done it earlier. But I think that would be a waste, I think you could be valuable. I think you could teach us something... And here's the thing..." He shifts his weight a little, before leaning back to sit solidly down on the floor with a thud. "I think you'd like to live. Would I be right in thinking that?"
Again, she gives him nothing but silence. And yet she wonders...
"I understand." He shrugs, "It's a lot to process. My handler isn't taking it any better than you are, right now. But he'll back my play, either way. He trusts me. You just have to let me know what you want me to do." He reaches behind him and retrieves a hunting knife from a sheath on his belt and holds it clearly where she can see it.
"So either you don't accept my offer, and I'll make this as quick and painless as I can, though I'll be honest with you, up close and personal kills aren't really my forte." He sounds genuinely apologetic at that, which is curious. Most people who end up in this business enjoy watching people squirm before they die. He dangles the knife between the hard knuckles of his fingers and continues on. "Or." He says. "Or, I can cut those bonds of yours and let you have a shower, get yourself cleaned up. I can make you a sandwich, or you can have an apple! They were on special at the market, so I got a few extra..." He waves his own apple at her, and the smell of acidic, sweet fruit tickles her nose, just as the unexpected lightness of his tone sets her off kilter, a little, but he sobers up quickly. "And when the extraction team comes to collect me, you can come with me of your own accord."
"It's up to you." He says finally, takes a final bite of his apple, and then waits. Waits for her to respond. And she can tell that he will wait as long as she needs, that he won't get impatient and decide for her.
She does as he says and weighs it all up in her mind, tallies her ledger, decides on the best course of action.
"I could do with a shower." She says.
Author's Note: I have this completely written but will be staggering the posting over the next week or so! Please read/review!