The Assassin's Equal

By Jane Bishop

Chapter 1: Hunt

A gunshot echoed through the stillness of the morning air. Just seconds later, a panic-stricken bird took to the skies and soared away.

"Damn it," said Ryan Hunt. "I must be losing my touch."

Carefully, the assassin loaded his rifle again and lay in wait. Soon, he spotted a suitable target, a female duck with her babies waddling behind her. Ryan took aim and fired, staring in disgust as it hop-skipped away at a frantic pace.

"Another miss," muttered Ryan. "What am I even doing here? I should be practicing on people, and not some stupid birds." He stopped halfway through loading his rifle, a grin slowly spreading across his face. Yes, that was what he would do. Practice on people. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea. Practice on people. He would pick a random person to be his target, then take them out. Much more exciting and risky than birds. Ryan liked taking risks. He liked excitement. He liked playing God, deciding who lived and who died. He would practice on people, on a certain someone in particular. Ryan Hunt would kill.

– – –

June Lennings lived with her aunt and uncle at the edge of town. She went to the local high school, got good grades, had plenty of friends, and generally led a normal life.

June Lennings hated that.

Her mother had died when June was young, and June never remembered having a father. Often, she would imagine what he would look like. Did he have brown hair? June thought so, because her mother had blonde hair in all the pictures she saw, and June didn't quite have blond hair. Hers was more brownish. Her father probably had brown eyes too. Was he handsome? June imagined him that way. Tall? Probably. Kind and gentle? Maybe, but judging by her own wild and free spirit, he probably wasn't the gentle kind. But no matter who he was, June longed for him. She longed for her mother. She longed for something different than this. And sometimes, she longed for something out of the ordinary to happen; something unexpected, and wild. On that fateful Thursday, she got her wish, and it turned out to be more than she bargained for.

Thursday was dismal and rainy. June got up at five, tried to go back to sleep again, but couldn't. She got dressed as quietly as she could, then walked over to her desk where she pulled out a drawer and started rummaging. After removing all the contents of the drawer, she reached into it and felt around before she found the back, then pushed. The desk made a quiet clicking sound, then the bottom of the drawer opened to reveal a hidden compartment. Inside was an old photo. It was of baby June and her mother, but the picture had been torn through the middle so there was only half of her mother. The other half – the one that probably had her father on it – was missing. Many times, she had searched for the missing half, but never found it. Gently, June lifted the old photograph out of the compartment and held it in the dim light of her window, then on impulse tucked it in a small notebook and stuck that in her pocket. After that, she went downstairs, scribbled a hasty note on a piece of scrap paper, and headed out.

– – –

June's aunt, Mary, walked into the kitchen to start preparing breakfast, when she noticed a small piece of paper set on the counter. She lifted it up and found June's handwriting on it. She read it.

Gone to school. Already ate breakfast. Stopping by Erika's house before I'm home, so might be late. Love you.

June

Mary smiled and placed the note in her pocket. June was such a good kid, and it was a shame that her mother had died. Mary took eggs, butter, and sausage out of the fridge and started up the stove. She took a pan out of a drawer, tossed in the butter, and watched it sizzle, all the meanwhile thinking about June. Little did she know that this would be the last time she would hear from her.

– – –

Ryan picked the high school as the place of the kill. He hadn't done a child in a while, and he thought that it would be an interesting change. Not like it would make a difference; someone would get killed anyway. But still, this would be entertaining. He stationed himself in a clump of bushes, and waited patiently, searching for a target. Finally, a yellow school bus pulled up at the front, and students piled out. Scanning the crowd of kids, who were yelling, shoving, chatting, listening to music, and having a good time, he spied a young, dirty-blond haired girl, no older than the age of sixteen, and smiled to himself. He had just chosen. The girl was talking with another girl, also around the age of sixteen and with electric-red hair and a colorful outfit. Target number two? No, thought Ryan. Just stick with the original. Somewhere, a bell rang and the students started migrating towards the building. He couldn't quite get a good shot of the girl, so instead he sat back and sipped the coffee he had picked up from Starbucks. It would be several hours before school was out, and Ryan had a lot of time to kill. He laughed dryly at the joke. Patience was a virtue. Ryan Hunt could wait.

– – –

June utterly despised the bus. It was always at least ten minutes late, crowded, noisy, and in general, chaotic. The only thing that kept June from going insane was her best friend, Erika.

Erika was the enthusiastic type, with a different hair color and flamboyant outfit every week. This week, Erika had mismatching socks, a green plaid skirt, a red vest over her blue long-sleeved tee, and electric-red hair. On top of that, she had a pink Hello Kitty backpack, and a rubber ducky raincoat.

"Hi June!" she said as June clambered onto the bus.

"Hi Erika," responded June, noticeably less motivated.

June took a seat beside her friend and looked out the window. As the bus shuddered and started rumbling forward, she could see her stop diminishing into the distance.

"So how was your night?" she asked.

"It was great!" replied Erika. "ok, so Tanya was like, oh my gosh! And I'm like, what? This is on AIM by the way. And Tanya was like, did you hear about…"

June couldn't help herself. She was starting to drift off – time on the bus often did that to her – when out of nowhere an eraser hit her in the head.

"Hey June! Pass that back!" came a voice. Colin, the dreamy guy that every girl had a crush on. Well, almost every girl. June thought he was an idiot.

"Watch where you're throwing that thing next time," she said irritably, chucking the eraser back.

"June," whispered Erika.

"What?"

"Colin just talked to you!"

"Yeah, well Colin hit me in the head with an eraser."

"And he said your name!"

"So?" said June.

"He's so dreamy!"

"Erika, he's way out of your league. Besides, I think he's a moron. He didn't even say sorry or thanks."

"He's still the cutest guy at school," said Erika.

June sighed and shook her head. There was basically only one thing that she and Erika disagreed about, and that was their taste in boys.

The bus ground to a halt. After the brakes let out a hiss, the driver opened the door and the rumbling of the engine intensified. Students scrambled for their belongings and the door, in the meanwhile blocking the aisle, so June was forced to remain in her seat while waiting for a gap in the line of students. Colin passed her by, talking with his friends. Briefly, he glanced in her direction and smiled, then exited the bus. June raised an eyebrow and curled her lip slightly.

"Did Colin just smile at you?" breathed Erika.

"I don't know," said June. "He might have just been laughing at a joke.

"I think he likes you," said Erika as they climbed off the bus. "Lucky."

"He does not!" snapped June.

"Does too."

"Does not!"

"Why don't we ask him then?" said Erika.

"No!" said June. "I would never, in all of my life–." She was interrupted when the bell rang, signaling for everyone to go to their classrooms.

"I'll see you during lunch period!" said Erika over the crowd, waving at June.

"Ok!" replied June, shouldering her backpack and following the rest of the students inside. Before she entered, she shuddered slightly, feeling like someone was watching her. Colin probably, she thought. What a creep.

School went by in a blur. During math, she vaguely remembered doing logarithms, and in biology, learning about DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, she reminded herself. In history, she doodled on her paper instead of paying attention to her teacher. She'd already learned about the Civil War before, so she knew everything they were covering.

"Miss Lennings," said the teacher.

A line here, a dot there, then fill that in, thought June as she scribbled a person on her paper.

"Miss Lennings!" repeated the teacher, a little louder this time.

"Huh?" said June, snapping out of her reverie.

"Miss Lennings, have you been paying attention?"

"Yeah," replied June. "Yes I have been."

"Then I'm sure you won't mind telling us when the battle of Gettysburg took place."

"It took place in July of 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and lasted for three days before the Union won," answered June. "It's said to be the turning point of the war."

"Very good," said the teacher, narrowing her eyes slightly before turning back to the board.

The rest of the school day continued in a similar fashion. During lunch, June sat by Erika and her other friends in the cafeteria, listening to their chatting and sometimes putting forth her ideas. The other classes after that went by even faster than the other ones. Before she knew it, it was time to go back on the dreaded bus and home.

"Hey! June! Over here!" came Erika's voice over the noise of the school kids. The sky had lightened up over the day, and by now the sun was shining.

"My gosh, school was such a bore!" said Erika as she caught up with June.

"Glad to see you enjoyed it," replied June.

"Mister Wright gave us a test today, and it was hard! You know what Mister Wright is like."

"Yeah," laughed June. "Whoops!"

A paper had flown out of June's hands. She lunged to get it, and somehow managed to catch it in her free hand.

"Got it!" said June. She stopped suddenly and frowned. "What is it?"

Erika was standing still and staring at something. Several other kids were doing the same. Erika pointed.

"What's wrong with Mike?"

– – –

The bell rang. It was time. Ryan Hunt surveyed the crowd, looking for the girl. He had his rifle at hand, loaded and with the scope attached, and was ready for the kill. He'd been waiting for hours, patience wearing thin. When he finally spotted the girl, his hand instinctively reached for the trigger. Now, now Ryan, he told himself. Not too hastily. He looked through the scope and tried to center the girl. Should he go for the head or the heart? Heart, he decided. More dramatic, and somewhat less gruesome. He smiled to himself. Practice on people, a voice whispered in his mind. Do it!

"Yes," he said quietly.

He centered the scope on the girl, sweat beading on his forehead while he concentrated. He smiled again, savoring the moment before the inevitable. Goodbye little girl, he thought. Goodbye.

Ryan Hunt pulled the trigger.

Right at that moment, the wind picked up and a paper was swept out of the girl's hands. She lunged to the side and snatched it up again. The bullet whizzed past her, leaving her unscathed.

"Damn it!" Ryan wanted to shout. Helplessly, he watched the aftermath of his actions.

– – –

Mike was clutching his chest. He was making choking sounds, like he couldn't breathe, his eyes wide.

"Mike?" ventured a boy.

All eyes were on Mike now, and everyone was silent. Mike toppled over. Immediately, several students rushed to his side.

"He's… been shot!" said one.

"Quick! Someone get a teacher!" said another.

A hubbub broke out, and several seconds later, the adults arrived.

"Out of the way!" shouted Mr. Wright. "Back up! Give us some room!"

"Alright, everyone calm down!" yelled the principal. "Be quiet!"

The students fell silent.

"Margaret, call an ambulance," said the principal.

"Too late for that," said the school nurse. "He's dead."

There was a stunned silence as the words sank in.

"He's… what?" said the principal shakily.

"Dead," said the nurse quietly, though everyone heard her clearly.

"Call… the police," said the principal finally. "Get everyone inside and away from the windows. We'll wait for the officers to arrive and tell us whether it's alright for the students to go home."

Nearby, a window shattered from impact with a bullet.

"Everyone in!" shouted the principal.

Students pushed and shoved, striving to get to the safety of the building.

"Erika!" shouted June. "Erika!"

"June! I'm over here!" yelled Erika.

"Where?" shouted June. She tried to pick out her friend from the seething mass of students but to no avail. Then June froze, a sudden insight coming to her.

Mike had been standing right behind her. If she hadn't moved out of the way, the bullet would have killed her instead.

The gunman had fired at her, hadn't he?

No, that can't be it. I'm letting my imagination run rampant. But what if he was…

June ran. She pushed and shoved against the other students. She had to try to get away and find out why the gunman had tried to kill her. If her theory was right, he would go after her and leave the school alone. Suddenly, June was seized from behind.

"June, where are you going?" shouted Erika.

"I don't know!" yelled June. "But I have to get away. Look, I'll call you when I can… I have to go. Goodbye Erika!"

That was the last time they ever saw each other.

June dashed off into the crowd, which was thinning out by the second, and finally broke free. Running like the devil was on her tail, she dashed willy-nilly down the sidewalk, then yelped as a bullet went right by her head and smashed into the brick wall of the school. Without looking back, June scurried through the maze of yards and houses, soon losing sight of the school.

– – –

Ryan shook with cold fury. How could this happen? It was unthinkable! Damn it. Damn that girl. Damn the whole world, for all I care. How, could, I, miss? Teachers swarmed out of the building to check on the boy, but it was clear that he was dead. Ryan fired another shot in his rage, smashing a window in the process. The students went into a panic, and headed towards the school, the dead boy now forgotten. For a moment, Ryan lost sight of the girl. Then he saw her again. She was talking to the red-haired girl, saying something he couldn't hear. Then she ran. With an angry sneer on his face, he fired at the girl. It missed by inches and instead hit the school. The girl flinched visibly, then ran into the neighborhood. The assassin loaded his rifle and ran to his car, which he started up with a violent jerk of his wrist after he stuffed the key into the ignition. The tires squealed as he maneuvered it out of the driveway. Then he floored the gas pedal and sent it springing forward after the girl. He wasn't about to give up yet.

– – –

June was scared out of her wits and bone tired, but she continued on doggedly. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. That was all she thought. Somewhere not far behind her, she could hear the snarl of an engine.

Hide!

Her instincts overwhelmed everything else, so quickly she ducked under a porch, backing into the shadows and trying to make herself as small as possible. A black Mercedes passed her by, driven by a man with brown hair. He had an expression of anger on his face, and was holding a rifle.

"The gunman," whispered June to herself.

The man slammed on the brakes and banged his hands on the steering wheel. He closed his eyes, breathing heavily, and trying to regain control over his temper. Soon, he started to calm down. The man reached up to sweep a lock of hair out of his face, then opened his eyes again. June held her breath as the man parked the car in a driveway, soon after taking his rifle and stepping out. A million questions raced through her mind as she crouched there, frozen in place by fear and hardly daring to breathe. Then one thought surfaced above all others.

Somehow, she had to get the car.

The man started walking away from June, and he had the keys. Cautiously, June crept out from cover and grabbed a ceramic garden gnome. The man was only feet in front of her. Calling up energy from some reserve stores she never knew she had, she sprinted the rest of the way and sent the gnome crashing down on his head. It shattered and the man dropped like a stone. Frantically, June searched his pockets and found the keys, took the rifle from him, and made towards the car as fast as she could. Ryan groaned and tried to get up, nearly cutting himself on the remains of the gnome, which were no more than shards.

"Hey!" he yelled. "You! Come here!"

June ignored him and unlocked the car hurriedly. Ryan picked himself off the ground and dashed at her. With an echoing bang, she slammed the car door, locked it, jammed the keys into the ignition, and put the car in reverse.

"Come back with my car!" shouted Ryan. He banged on the window and tried to open the door.

June slammed down the gas pedal, and the car sped backwards.

"Stop! I'm not going to hurt you," lied Ryan. June knew better. He was trying to kill her.

June took the car out of reverse and eased the pedal to the floor. The car reacted and June was slammed into the back of the seat. Tearing down the street at more than seventy miles per hour, June was terrified. Calm down, she thought. Keep a level head. You can do this. You just got your driver's license, remember?

June couldn't remember. She clutched the wheel with such a ferocity, her knuckles turned white. Periodically she glanced at the rear-view mirror, trying to see if the man was coming after her. He wasn't.

Ryan tried to run after the car, but he was no match for it and soon lost it from sight. After catching his breath, he expressed some very colorful language.

Shoot, shoot, shoot, Shoot, SHOOT! First he'd failed to kill the girl. Then he'd gotten his car stolen by her! He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pistol. He'd known it had been there the entire time, but only now had he registered that he could have used it. Suddenly, a strange thought occurred to him. Even if it had been in his hand while he had been looking through the windshield at the girl, would he have used it?

Yes, fervently said one part of his mind. I'd have shot her and been done with the whole damn thing. But surprisingly, the other part said no. Somehow, when he looked in her face, it was like he was seeing some remnant of the past. He wanted her to die, but he also wanted her to live. Ryan stood there, torn between the two thoughts. It was a strange feeling, and one that he had never felt before. Would Ryan Hunt really kill her?

– – –

June slowed down as she got to the main road. She switched on her signal light and turned left. What do I do? What do I do? I can't go back home. Can't go to school. Should I turn to the police? June racked her brains. What would her aunt and uncle do if they were in this situation? What would her mother do? June didn't know. She was badly shaken, dead tired, and very, very scared. She wished none of this ever happened. She wished her mother had never died, and that her father had never left. She wished that they were all one happy family.

A honk snapped her out of her daze and she swerved just in time to avoid a truck. I can't keep this up, thought June. I just can't. Maybe I should just lay down and die. Or better yet, why don't I let the gunman have me?

No! screamed her brain. I won't die! I can't! People are depending on you!

Deep down inside, June knew people really weren't depending on her, but she refused to acknowledge that. She needed every shred of hope there was, even if that hope was a lie.

She pulled into a parking lot and checked her wallet. Inside was her driver's license, fifty dollars, and an old receipt from when she went shopping for groceries. Fifty dollars would be enough. Next, June crawled over to the passenger side and opened the glove compartment. She sifted through the various odds and ends there, including boxes of ammunition, and finally found five more dollars and a pocket knife. That's a start, she thought. But best leave the ammo there. Out of curiosity, June pulled out a paper and read it. It was a list consisting of many names, all of them crossed out. She pulled out another piece of paper and read it.

John Larkson

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown

Height: 5' 6"

Something that looked like coffee had been spilt over the rest of the paper, so she couldn't make out any more of the writing, but next to the name, written in red pen, was the word "terminated".

"The gunman is an assassin?" whispered June. "Then why does he want to kill me?"

June slumped back in the driver's seat and watched as it started to drizzle again, making little water droplets appear on the windshield. She was in one heck of a mess, with no way to get out again. Desperately wanting to go to the police, but also curious about who the assassin was, June was unsure of what to do.

Can't go back home. Can't go to school. Can't trust the police. Where do I go?

– – –

Ryan was playing Grand Theft Auto. He stopped the next car that came by his way and pulled the driver out, threatening him with the pistol.

"I want you to walk that way," said Ryan, pointing at the direction he wanted the man to walk.

The man, his eyes wide with fear, nodded and started walking. He hadn't even gotten six paces before he fell stone cold dead.

Ryan lowered the gun and climbed into the car, then started driving in the direction the girl had gone when she made off with Mercedes. All this trouble for one stupid girl. But again, Ryan wasn't going to give up yet. He would go to his apartment to pick up some gear before he went after her. A nearly impossible task, he realized. She could be anywhere by now. Ryan turned left onto the main road and headed towards the downtown area. Little did he know, a black Mercedes pulled out of a parking lot and started following him, always careful to stay several cars behind him…

– – –

June awoke with a start. She groped around and tried to feel for her alarm, hoping to hit the snooze button but instead having her hand come in contact with something cold and smooth. The rifle. June groaned. It hadn't been a dream after all. She wished it had been. Blinking owlishly and starting up the engine, she was about to pull out of her parking space when she spied a green minivan drive past. The man at the wheel was unmistakable.

The assassin.

Without a second thought, June turned the Mercedes onto the road and went after him. She switched on the wipers and set the radio to the news.

"And now with Veronica Tyler, live at the local high school," said the radio.

"Thanks Jim," replied Veronica after a brief pause. "Today a tragic incident took place here at the high school. A boy by the name Mike Newman was shot and killed during the period before boarding buses. The killer fired two other shots after that, and still has yet to be identified, though officials are working on several leads which they think may determine the identity of the gunman as well as his motives. Fortunately, no one else was hurt during the initial shooting, but several blocks away, forty-year-old Paul Dunkin was found with a bullet wound in the back of the head, which we believe to be the cause of his death. Police think that the same person who killed Newman also killed Dunkin, and are searching for evidence which may point to the killer. Additionally, June Lennings, another student, disappeared during the commotion. Erika Neely, June's friend, was among the last people to see her, and her whereabouts are still unknown. All in all, we've suffered three terrible losses, but are doing our best to find the missing student and the one responsible, so we can put him or her to justice."

"Thanks Veronica," said Jim. "Up next, it's rainy folks and it's expected to continue on like this for the rest of the day. Tomorrow there's a possibility of scattered showers and maybe even some thunder, so if you're planning to go out be sure to dress for–!"

June switched off the radio. Two people were dead, and it was because of her. She wanted to cry.

Why me? Why did all this have to happen to me? I should have just died. I should never have been born.

But you were born, whispered a voice in her mind. And this did happen to you, whether you like it or not. Now it's up to you to set things right.

"Yes, I do have to set things right," said June aloud. "I don't know how I'll do that, but I'll try."

And so, with her jaw clenched and her eyes fixed on the minivan with grim resolve, June made her choice.

They were arriving downtown now. Doing her best to stay out of sight, June had slight trouble keeping up with the assassin. Finally, he pulled into a parking structure, and June hastily parked in a lot a few blocks away. Just a few seconds later, the assassin emerged from the parking structure and started walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction from June. She got out of the car and started following him.

– – –

The apartment building was mostly empty except for the assassin, who strode to the elevator and pressed the button. The doors opened with a ding and eventually closed again, blocking him from June's view. She hastily walked in and checked the floor it was going to. Then she dashed up the stairs until she reached floor three and waited, peeking through the small window in the door. The elevator doors had already closed and the assassin was walking down the hallway to apartment 310B. When the coast was clear, June crept out and went to apartment 308B, which was being cleaned. The maid had temporarily left to get something out of the supply closet, which gave June a chance. She threw the violin case she had found from the car over her shoulder, opened the window, and climbed out onto the small ledge. Briefly, she looked down and carefully inched towards the window of room the assassin had gone into. If she fell, it could mean a broken neck – or worse. June peeked through the glass, and saw that the assassin had gone into the bathroom. Praying that this window was unlocked, she heaved on it, and was rewarded with it opening a small crack. The assassin was taking a shower, which hopefully would cover up any noise she made, so she opened the window enough so she could crawl through and entered.

The apartment was neat, and relatively empty. The only pieces of furniture were a bed and a chest of drawers, but scattered around were several cardboard boxes. Experimentally, June opened one and found ammunition in it. Carefully laying down the violin case, she opened it and pulled out the rifle, after that taking out the few rounds left inside to compare them to the rounds in the box. They were the same. She picked up the rifle and walked to the chest of drawers to examine the picture frames. On the far left, there was a small photo of the assassin and two other men. The assassin was slightly younger, and had his arms around his friend's shoulders. Though June hated to admit it, he had a nice smile. The other pictures were all similar to that one, but June froze whenever she got to the last one. Delicately, she picked it up and admired it in wonder and examined it. Was it really…

Abruptly, the shower stopped, and as June whirled around, still clutching the photo, she knocked down another frame. After that, she could only stare in horror as it fell to the ground and shattered.

– – –

The first thing that Ryan heard after he turned off the shower was breaking glass. Puzzled, he quickly got dressed and emerged, finding an all too familiar girl standing in his apartment.

"You!" he shouted, reaching for his pistol.

June bolted for the door and yelled as a bullet ricocheted off the wall, inches from her head.

I will not die, was June's only thought as she raced for the stairs. Kill her, was Ryan's only thought as he went after her. June took the steps two at a time and yelped as another bullet just barely missed her foot. Ryan swore, cursing his bad luck. Finally June burst out onto the roof, Ryan hot on her heels. It was then that she realized her mistake. Whirling around, she aimed the rifle at Ryan, who already had his pistol aimed at her.

"So, what now? There's nowhere left to go," said Ryan.

"I can always jump," said June, her voice quivering slightly. Ryan laughed.

"Believe me, you'd be dead before you hit the ground. I'd see to that."

"Really?" said June. "Would you really shoot me?"

"Of course," snapped Ryan. "I've been trying to kill you, but somehow you've managed to elude my grasp. I, Ryan Hunt, am one of the greatest assassins ever, yet a little girl manages to get away from me. Tell me. How?"

"I inherited the will to survive," said June. "It runs in the family."

"Oh really?" mocked Ryan. "And who are your family?"

"My mother died when I was little, and my father left before that."

"So how do you know you inherited it?"

"I now know who my father is."

"And who is that?"

June smiled a sad smile and pulled out the little notebook from her pocket. She then took out her half of the photo and put it with Ryan's half. The two matched.

"You," she said. Ryan stared in disbelief.

"I beg your pardon?" he said, bewildered.

"My mother gave me this half of the photo before she died. The baby in the picture is me, and the person in the middle is my mom. On your half of the picture is the other half of my mom, and you standing right beside her."

And then Ryan laughed a bitter laugh. "If you really think that's me, then you're wrong."

June frowned. "But…"

"Just take a closer look at the picture."

She did, scrutinizing every detail. And then she gasped when she saw something.

"You can see the resemblance, can't you? But you can also see differences," he sneered. "That…" He jabbed a finger at the photo. "That is my younger brother. I am Ryan Hunt. That is 'little Chase,' mummy and daddy's favorite." Ryan spat the last word. "Perfect Chase. Wonderful Chase. So I suppose you're his little brat?"

"I'm not a brat," said June, sticking out her chin defiantly. "But you're a bastard, if anything."

Ryan looked like he'd just been slapped in the face. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. I said, you're a–"

"I know what you said!" shouted Ryan, a bit too loudly. June shrank back in fear. Oh God, oh God!

Abruptly, Ryan started chuckling. June, completely shaken, stared at him with a mixture of terror and confusion.

"You really are Chase's kid, I'll give you that. 'Bastard' was exactly what he called me the last time he saw me. Dear Chase. Goody-goody two shoes Chase. You know I tried to kill him?"

June could only stare in shocked silence, so Ryan continued.

"Oh, yes. I remember it like it was only yesterday." He leaned casually against the side of the doorframe.

Maybe I could squeeze past…?

"He was trying to leave the agency. The idiot had fallen in love with your mother, and she had become pregnant. He wanted to stop killing, and be at home with his family. He was an assassin like me, and a damn good one. But he broke a major rule. He gave in to his feelings. At first, I felt slightly guilty about it; he was my family after all. But then, one day, he found me out. We had an argument. We were on a boat. He said something that, well, made me mad. I shot him, and had the gun at his head." Ryan sighed contentedly. "I loved his pain. I could see it in his eyes when I threatened to kill you and your pathetic mother."

"My. Mother. Was. Not. Pathetic. You are, you miserable excuse for a human being." June winced waiting for Ryan to lash out. But he didn't.

Ryan smirked. "That's what you say," he said, "but really, you all were pathetic. That's why I'm alive, and Chase is not. I can still hear the splash the water made when I shoved his carcass over the side…"

"SHUT UP!" bellowed June. "SHUT! UP! You think you're so great, huh? You think that because you killed my dad, you're so great. Well you're wrong. If you're so high and mighty, then how come you haven't been able to kill me for the past twenty-four hours? How come? Oh, maybe it's because you're a dirty coward!"

Ryan had reached the last straw. June realized she had crossed the line when she saw that all traces of anger had been wiped out from Ryan's face. It was now replaced with cold fury.

"Never," he said in a quiet, menacing tone that was scarier than when he had shouted. "Never," he said again, "call me a coward. Do you understand me?"

She should probably have answered yes, but June's blood had to begun to boil. Who did this man think he was? He had killed her father, and now he was going to kill her? No, that was not going to happen. If anyone was going to die tonight, it would be him!

"No!" she yelled. "I'll call you a coward whenever I feel like it, coward! Now – go to Hell!"

But when June pulled the trigger, nothing happened.

"Stupid girl," hissed Ryan. A hand dove into his pocket and it emerged clutching several rifle rounds. "You removed these when you were going through my things, and you forgot to put them back in. That gun in your hands is quite useless right about now."

June backed away nervously and licked her dry lips. She had just run out of cards to play. What now? Her gaze flickered over the edge of the roof, down to the ground. That spot over there… It had plenty of bushes and trees that would provide excellent cover. Provided she didn't break a leg or her neck if she jumped, she might stand a chance against Ryan.

"Just one more thing," said June, tensing herself very slowly. "If you hated my dad, then why did you have this photo of him framed?"

"Because," said Ryan. He cocked his pistol and aimed it at her. "It was his most valued possession, and I took it from him." He smiled wickedly. "I guess every time I look at it, it reminds me that I'm better than him. But enough. Let's get this over with… what's your name?"

"June." June squared her shoulders. "My name is June. Remember that, because when I come looking for you again, I want you to be able to say my name when you beg for your life."

"But you're about to die," began Ryan, but then he stopped. "No, you wouldn't…"

"Yes. Goodbye."

And with that, she launched herself off the roof.

"NO!" Ryan emitted a strangled shout of rage and dashed forward. The air whistled past June as she fell, her hair fluttering in her face. She was falling, ever downward. Suddenly, pain exploded in her cheek as a bullet from Ryan's gun just barely grazed it. Thank God that pistols had less accuracy than other guns. The ground was rushing towards her fast. She braced herself for impact…

The ground was hard. It hurt. June's legs screamed in protest as she hit it, but she rolled forward, diverting the momentum. She was going to make it! She was going to make it!

A shot.

And then June woke up.