Chapter 9

"Did you really think that I would just let you kill me?" Leonard 'Leo' Pash asked. This is just too strange, I thought, that one man would be willing to die, begged for it even and this man would resist…something is going on here…

"I was kind of hoping for it." I replied dropping the box and the act. The box fell apart on hitting the floor. He laughed.

"Can I get you a drink?" He inquired, "I have to admit I'd like to be downing one when it happens." So he was just being weird before? I don't buy it.

"No thanks." I hated to use another needle, it was so easy but I didn't like being alone with this one, he scared me. As I stuck it in his arm quickly, he turned and slashed me with a knife in the thigh. His eyes widened and he pulled the needle out as he fell to the floor.

"Dammit!" He yelled. God, my thigh hurt.

"Son of a bitch!" I yelled back and kicked him with my other leg. He was already convulsing on the floor and I wasn't sure if he could even hear me anymore. I tied off my wound right away to avoid blood dripping on the floor and leaving evidence behind. "Goddamit!" I spat, running my bloody hand through my hair before I thinking about it. I sighed and carefully cleaned the scene before taking my leave. God…was I crying? Was the pain that much?

"How did this happen, Ashley, you're not one who is usually so careless." Our physician, Mark Kimbly asked me, stitching up the shallow wound on my leg and taking time to do my physical that I had been putting off.

"The damned bastard slashed at me when I got near enough to give him the injection." I explained staring down at the floor. I could see Elliot and Karin talking outside the room through the window in the closed door. "Mark, the men I killed today…they both suspected I was coming and knew I was there to kill them." They were deep in conversation, probably about how badly I'd just screwed up. An injury could cost me dearly…such a mistake!

"Who did you happen to kill today, if I may ask?"

"Ian…something, and Leonard Pash." I sighed staring at Karin's red face. She must be defending me. Elliot hates me…dammit. "I should have studied Pash's technique closer; I moved in much too fast."

"You're young, Ashley, you'll be quite alright. Please, don't be concerned."

"I'm not," I replied no longer able to watch the discussion outside, "Not about my health anyway. I just want to make it."

"You will, my dear, you will." He gave an uneasy laugh as he noticed what I had been looking at before, "There are some mistakes you will never make twice. Those should be the public ones; the ones you learn from. It is the mistake you repeat that will be the death of your active career; those are the mistakes that you keep hidden. Time will show which person you are." My pictures! I thought. But I repressed it; no one would know. I was raised for this and I would not change now.

Karin came in and Elliot after a hard glance at me walked sternly away and out of sight. She stood by me for the remainder of my physical, shifting from foot to foot and avoiding eye contact with me.

"Well," Mark said at last after the silence that ensued upon Karin's arrival, "You're as healthy as ever so get out of here and take it easy on the leg, alright?"

"Yes, sir." I answered with a smile and a nod before walking out. Karin had to hustle to keep up with me.

"Ashley," She whispered, "What really happened?" She inquired. I stopped in my tracks and stared at her. What really happened? What happened? She thought I was lying? No. It couldn't be, not Karin. "Ashley?"

"Exactly what I said, Karin, the jackass slashed me with a goddam knife. Don't you believe me?" I bit out putting unnecessary stress on each word.

"I thought…I thought it might be fabricated. I thought…you might be in trouble." She stammered. I must have looked terrifying or incredibly angry because she immediately began back tracking, and for that matter stepping away from me. I advanced a step, following her. "I'm sorry, Ashley!" Her voice became higher, "I thought that you had maybe…hurt yourself."

"On purpose?" I questioned, advancing again. She backed into the wall of the corridor.

"Ash'?" Andy put his hand on my shoulder, "What's this all about?" I relaxed and stepped away from Karin and turned to my competition.

"Karin's just mistaken about something, that's all." I replied. Andy had a girl with him. She was girl around our age with less talent, not to mention looks. The girl glared at me as Andy ignored her hand trying to pull him away from her. He bent down and examined the bandage on my leg.

"Here it is." He smiled, "I heard some bugger nicked you." Andy looked up at me and I backed away a step so he couldn't see up the skirt Mark had given me while my black pants were mended and cleaned. "That's what this is about isn't it?" I nodded with a glare at Karin who stayed cramped against a wall. "And here I thought you knew Ashley better than that. Do you have time for me, Ashley?" Karin shakily began to check her clipboard.

"Of course, Andy." I replied before she could get to my schedule. "Just give me a minute, ok?"

"No problem." He said good-bye to his date and she stalked off with a glare as I turned to Karin.

"Don't ever…ever question me like that again." I commanded, "You should know better. Revise my schedule to include Andy. There won't be anymore killing on this list, ok? Turn the leftovers in and get the hell out of my sight." I walked over to Andy and heard Karin break off around the corner at a run.

"She'll live." Andy shrugged.

"She's been acting strange lately, Andy. Like she's not as trustworthy anymore." I confided quietly as we walked down to a Quiet room.

"You're being paranoid; Karin's just worried about you because of all the killings. It's so rare to kill at this magnitude that she's concerned about the psychological ramifications." Andy replied. I leaned against the door of the room.

"How many Andy?"

"Enough. You?"

"The same." I sighed, "It is kind of exhausting, isn't it?"

"It is. And you know the person who becomes Associate will undergo psychological tests to make sure."

"Of course." I answered blankly. "Have you heard anything about what they do to you?"

"Nothing solid, just rumors. Mock torture, stability training…I don't know. I've even heard tales of mass killings; but like I said nothing solid." Andy replied running a hand through his hair.

"I see." It didn't sound so bad. Anything for Elliot; I loved him so much. There was no risk not worth taking for him. I would do anything and I would prove it.

"Listen, you're finished with your list, aren't you? That's what you said." Andy said breaking my thoughts.

"Yes I am."

"So am I. Let's finish our reports and turn them in together." I nodded and stopped leaning on the door.

"Can I change first, really quickly?" I asked.

"Sure. Can I watch?" Same old, sex-crazed Andy. He smiled suggestively at me. I stuck out my tongue at him and turned my nose up.

"Not on your life!" I replied haughtily.

"You know my door's always open for you, Ash'" He put his hand on my shoulder and winked.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I know what I want." I promised. How little I knew. How little….Andy was such a good guy. How I ruined it all. Soon it would be gone. All gone.

"If you don't cooperate, you'll die! Give us names and your sick existence will continue, don't you want that?!"

"You know so little. You think after all I've been through, that I'm afraid of death?"

"You damned murderer!"

"I'm not. You see, they asked to be killed."

"You bitch!" I laughed. I laughed.