Chicago: The largest city in the state of Illinois, the third most populous city in America, and home to the most deadly group of assassins in the entire country – including Washington and Florida. Trust me; if you ever wanted to raise your kids in a safe city, Chicago was definitely not the place for you. Honestly, you were better off in Brooklyn.
A year ago, I’d been part of this group of assassins. We called ourselves The Fraternity and we dedicated our lives to fighting people who needed to have justice delivered to them; criminals who just walked away scot-free after taking away the lives of so many people. That’s why we weren’t like every other assassin that roamed the streets of Chicago. We didn’t kill just anyone; we just eliminated the people who went around shooting people’s brains out, and then walked around the city without a care in the world. In the Fraternity, we’d all been different, but there was one thing every single one of us had in common – we hated the scumbags that became our targets. People like them made us sick to the very core, and that’s why most of us had even joined the Fraternity in the first place.
I’d been sixteen then – young, free-spirited, and one of the best assassins the Fraternity had ever seen. I was also the youngest out of them, not to mention the only female. The only reason the heads bent the rules to recruit me was because of my strange connection to Slick. When the heads of the Fraternity had first noticed me, they kept a close watch on my every move, so obviously, the eventually learned about Slick, and it wasn’t long before they figured out that the only reason for a Black Widow spider to follow me around everywhere I went without ever harming me was because we had some kind of unnatural connection towards each other. They were right, of course.
The next thing I knew, one day, when I was walking home after hanging out in the café till almost closing time, a couple of older members of the Fraternity conked me on the head and dragged me off to their headquarters to be sworn in. At first I had been shocked to see that I was the only girl in the entire building, but then Archer Blaine, the youngest out of the group of assassins that had nabbed me off the street, explained that the Heads wanted me among them because they thought that my connection with Slick could be a great advantage.
They were right about that too. I ended up becoming notoriously famous for killing my targets by injecting them with minuscule amounts of Slick’s venom with a single stab wound to the neck. The Spider’s Bite, they called it – My signature kill. That’s how I became The Black Widow.
I ended up rising to Archer’s level in a matter of a couple of months, soon becoming one of the most lethal assassins the Fraternity had ever seen. Two months in, I already held the respect of every single person in the field. Even assassins outside of the Fraternity knew who I was.
But no one knew the secret that I kept buried away. Slick wasn’t the only inhuman thing I could communicate with. I could have an hour-long conversation with basically any animal that walked this Earth. Dogs, Bats, Caterpillars, Iguanas, you name it – I could talk to them all. The Heads of the Fraternity only thought that Slick and I shared some kind of weird telepathic connection. They would flip the hell out if they ever found out what I was really capable of. Personally, I was hoping to keep the extents of my talents hidden from them. I didn’t even want to think of what they would do if they found out.
Probably hunt me down and force me to re-join the Fraternity, so that their freaky scientists could poke and probe me if I had to guess…
This was the thought that was dancing in my mind as I sat in my favorite spot in Pedro’s Café, sipping on a piping hot cup of cappuccino, trying to finish analyzing a poem for my literature class the next day. “For once, then, Something – By Robert Frost”, it was called. Normally, I would have been too engrossed with the flowing, musical tone of the poem to even remember my coffee, but tonight, something was nagging away in the back of my mind, and I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what it was.
“You look distracted.” My head snapped up at the sound of Joe’s voice. He was standing behind me drying a dessert dish with a napkin, a look of concern plastered on his, now acne-free, face.
“I’m fine.” I said, mechanically. I’d been using this excuse a lot in the past couple of days.
Joe’s eyebrows knitted together in a frown. “Yeah, right,” He said, pulling out a chair for himself. “If you were fine, you’d have already been done with that,” he pointed at my open book, “and that,” He nodded towards my cup of cappuccino, “would have been untouched, and ice-cold.”
I frowned. Sometimes it was a real pain in the ass when your 22-year-old cousin knew you so well. “Just a little preoccupied, Joe. That’s all.” I replied, giving Joe my most peaceful smile. Lying to him wasn’t easy and I needed to pull out all my kick-ass acting skills if I wanted to get the job done properly.
“Preoccupied?” He looked thoughtful for a while. “How come?”
I shrugged, nonchalant. “I don’t know. School’s been pretty hectic lately” I took a small sip of coffee. “And then there was that thing with Kate.”
“Oh, yeah. Sarah told me about that.” He scooted a little closer to me, and I frowned. Of course my mom had told him. She told Joe everything about me. “How’s the skin now?”
I pushed up the sleeve of my black-knit sweater to reveal spotless, slightly pale skin with a pinkish undertone. The rashes were gone. “All better.” I said with a smile, a genuine one this time. “I had to take some antibiotics for it, but all’s good now.”
Joe shook his head at me. “So you’re plotting your revenge instead of concentrating on your homework?”
“Oh, come on Joe. You know revenge is beneath me.”
He snorted. “Don’t you mean that you are beneath revenge?”
I made a face at Joe’s stupid joke. “Ha, Ha. You’re a comic genius Joe.” I suppressed a laugh as my crazy cousin bowed as if receiving applause from an audience, and added, “But don’t quit your day job.”
He stopped bowing immediately after that. “Well, Lexi,” He said, rising out of the chair and picking up the dessert dish again. “I personally don’t think you should be worrying about Kate. You’ve got your finals coming up and can’t afford to be preoccupied like this.”
“Yeah, I know.” I said bleakly, turning my attention back to my poem as Joe retreated behind the counter once more. I didn’t feel good about lying to Joe. The guy was like a brother to me, and I usually told him everything, but it was not as if I could confess to being worried about my assassin ex-bosses coming after me, now could I? It was a secret I had to keep to myself.
“You okay Lexi?” I lifted my eyes from my book and averted my gaze to the table across the room from me where, a middle aged woman sat alone, her nose buried in a large paperback novel. At her feet sat a white, happy-eyed Pomeranian with a large pink bow tied around its neck. Cotton – Felicia Harrington’s faithful pooch – was staring straight at me, her furry white head cocked onto a side.
I nodded slowly, cautious not to draw attention to myself.
Cotton didn’t look convinced. “Come on Lexi. Even lizards lie better than that.” Any normal person would have just heard Cotton whimpering and would have simply figured that she was begging for a piece of Felicia’s Danish – but since I was the freak that I am, I heard Cotton the way I would hear any other human being.
I shrugged. We were too far to have a proper conversation without random people questioning my mental health. Cotton shook her head and said nothing, realizing that she wasn’t going to get anything out of me. Sighing, I drained my cup of its contents and stood up, and with one sweeping motion, I swept my books off the pine table and into my arms.
As soon as I stepped out of the Café, I was hit with a cold late-autumn wind. I pulled my jacket closer around my body and started walking, fast. As I was about to turn a corner to take a shortcut back home, I was almost knocked off my feet when some imbecile stepped in the middle of my path.
“Watch it Fre—” My eyes widened. The man standing in front of me was tall, probably a little bit over six feet. He was dressed in black jeans, a navy blue sweater and a black motorcycle jacket that I immediately coveted.
“Well, well…” He said with a grin. “Alexis Frost. What a coincidence.”
I didn’t answer. I lifted my head to get a better look at him, noting the small tattoo on his left wrist. He had short brown hair with soft honey highlights that kept falling over his face. And he also had a pair of familiar, dark, emerald green eyes.
My eyes appraised him once more, searching all over for something that looked out of place, trying to figure out whether he was a friend or an enemy. When I had searched thoroughly enough, I had my answer. This guy was definitely a friend – Someone I was one hundred percent sure I hadn’t met that night by coincidence. Someone I had been missing for a long time now. How funny was it that he was the last person I wanted to see?
I took a deep breath. “Hey Archer. Nice to see you.”