The cigarette smoke was choking Krystina as she lay huddled under the bed, hiding from the strange men in her home. They had burst in and started screaming at her father in Japanese, calling him trash for "marrying the Spaniard bitch" and having "disgusting spawn" with her. She could hear her mother's labored breathing from across the room and she cringed. She knew her mother would be found first and probably killed. Even at ten, she knew that was inevitable.
She heard her father yelling right back at them, pleading like a coward. Krystina set her jaw. He should be fighting for his honor, she thought. Not begging like some awful dog about to be put down. These were Krystina's last thoughts of her father, before two gunshots silenced his begging. Guilt surged through her as she didn't feel anything like sadness, but instead she felt relief, mixed with rage. Relief that his keening yells were silenced, and rage that he hadn't defended himself.
The rage was so blinding that she felt herself start to shake under the bed and she bit down on her fist to stop herself. She had to wait. Otherwise, she would end up like her father. Dead, on the ground, and without honor. Her mother, on the other hand, let out a wail. Silence! Krystina pleaded inside her head. Please! She didn't want her mother dead, she loved her mother. Her feelings for Mama were deeper than for Papa. But it was too late. She heard the men's creaking boots and the cigarette smoke flowed inside the room when they walked in.
They were speaking in Japanese, no doubt to scare her mother, who only spoke Spanish and English. Krystina bit down on her fist even harder, tasting blood but not daring to move. If she moved even one inch, she would be found and killed. A raspy old man's voice called out in perfectly accented English, surprising Krystina. She'd never heard such clear English, not even from her father.
"Mrs. Lang. I can hear you crying. I can assure you that you and your daughter will not meet the same fate as your husband downstairs if you just reveal yourselves and come with us." His voice was as smooth as honey, and for a moment, Krystina almost moved from her spot. She knew better, however, than to listen to him. Something told her not to move, so she didn't. Unfortunately, her mother didn't get the memo.
Maria Lang slid out from the wardrobe. Krystina guessed she looked beautiful, as always, because she could only see the edge of her long skirt and her sandals. There was the click as the rifles loaded and were raised to point at Maria.
"Pajarito," Maria began in Spanish. "Close your eyes." Krystina felt her eyes fill up with tears, the tears spilling over her cheeks and landing on the cuts she had from the glass. It stung. She did as she was told, closing her eyes tightly. Bang. Bang. The thud of her mother's body echoed in her ears. Even more than that, however, was the sound of the men's laughter, like hyenas.
"Miss Lang!" The flight attendent shook Krystina's arm and she was pulled out of her dream. The smell of crappy airline food and old lady perfume reached her nose and she opened her eyes, glaring at the flight attendant. The blond woman quickly straightened and bit her lip, her eyes full of fear. Krystina smirked, amused that she was scared so easily. Raising her eyebrows, Krystina looked the woman up and down as if waiting for something. "Oh!" The woman said nervously. "Um, we're about to land in London. The pilot thought you should be alerted."
"Thank you-" Krystina looked at her name badge. "Cheryl." The flight attendant smiled nervously as Krystina picked at her sweater for a moment before glancing up at the attendant. "You're still here." The woman's eyes widened and she picked up her tray and hurried out of Krystina's private compartment. She had bought out the whole of first class, just like she always did whenever she traveled.
She looked out of the window, putting on her cherry Chapstick. The landscape of New York City was very exciting to look at, she had to admit. Sleek metal structures jutted from the surface, shining in the mid-morning sunlight. Krystina squinted at them and slid on her sunglasses.
A senator had phoned, asking for her services. Strike number one. You didn't ask The Hyena to kill someone for you. She offered her services. He'd mentioned that he wasn't sure about asking a girl to do a man's job. Strik number two. Krystina sighed sadly. If he struck out, she'd have to kill him. It wasn't something she wanted to do, but if it had to be done, well, c'est la vie.
"We will now be landing in London, England. If everyone would please buckle your seatbelts, thank you."
Beck was sitting at his desk now, his chin leaned on his hand and staring at the Hyena file. He still hadn't opened it, despite his desire to see Jason's look of jealousy when he did. Jason was one of the Agency's premiere agents. He was the kind of agent the Director paraded around to the rookies and the government. Blond hair, blue eyes. He really was the golden boy.
"So, you open it yet?" Jason's voice came from behind Beck, surprising him. Beck jumped and turned around with a glare. Jason grinned and grabbed the file from his hands. "Then let me." He started walking to his own desk. Beck leaped to his feet and followed behind Jason, trying to get the file back.
"Come on, Jason, it's my case!" Beck grabbed a rolling chair and shoved it towards Jason. Jason fell with a yell onto his face, the file toppling from his hands. Beck bent down and grabbed it easily. "You want me to open it?" He raised an eyebrow at Jason. The older man nodded, sitting up and dusting his shirt off. Beck turned on his heel and went back to his desk, sitting the file down and opening it slowly. Holly drifted over, leaning over Beck's shoulder. The scent of her honey and lavender perfume filled his nose and clouded his head, making it hard for him to concentrate.
The front of the file was decorated with pictures of one girl, the Hyena. Beck was surprised to see she looked almost normal. There was a black and white picture of an eight year old girl with two braids that reached her shoulders. She looked Asian, but she had freckles as well. He could see them better in the next picture, which was more recent. In fact, the back of it said it had been taken in the last month. The Hyena's hair was a rich chocolate brown color, almost the same as her almond shaped eyes. Holly let out an impressed breath.
"Well. She's pretty, isn't she?" Holly said, tilting her head to one side. "Surprising that they've got such a recent shot of her, though. Wouldn't you think she'd try to keep her appearance under wraps?" Beck glanced at Jason, who was already shaking his head.
"A big name assassin like her doesn't care who finds her, because she knows she can kill them," Jason said. Beck saw how that would be convenient. He flipped to the second page, showing a photocopy of her birth certificate, with one major thing missing. Her name, and the last names of her parents had all been whited out of the certificate. Holly blinked.
"Did someone tamper with our files?" Holly asked, frowning. Beck shook his head.
"I don't think so. I think that's how they found it," he said and Jason huffed impatiently, looking at Beck.
"You expect me to believe that no one on Earth knows this girl's name?" Beck shook his head in reply. Holly reached down and grabbed a list clipped to the birth certificate.
"Here are her aliases. Genevieve LeFleur, Joleen Norris, Maria Garcia, Kaylee Harper, Victoria Flynn, Annie Brewster, Christina Ling, Bella Rochester-" Holly was cut off as Jason snorted.
"Jesus Christ, how many name changes has this girl had?" Jason said, leaning over Holly's shoulder to get a better look at the list. "There's at least twenty more!"
"I suppose you can't exactly go by one name if you're going to be the world's deadliest assassin." Beck smirked, taking the list from them and glancing it over. "What I'm curious about is how she got into this! I mean, she's only sixteen."
"And you're only seventeen, Beck." Jason said with a snort. "Maybe she was put into a government orphanage like you were." He watched as Beck flipped the page. Beck kept his face closed. Of course the tactless Jason would mention how he was put into one of the Agency's orphanages for their fallen agents' children.
Beck looked at the next page, showing two Japanese death certificates for a Hector and Maria. The last names were whited out on these as well. Underneath the two death certificates were pictures of a crime scene. Holly nearly choked.
"Dear God," she said quietly. "Her parents were murdered." Holly was right. Her parents had been murdered brutally, and according the newspaper clipping underneath the pictures, by a Japanese gang. Beck stared at the pictures, swallowing hard and remembering the night he'd found his own parents lying dead on the floor of their London flat. The similairities between Beck and The Hyena were starting.
"Mum? Dad?" Ten-year-old Beck Bryson yelled as he walked through the door, dressed in his football uniform and holding the ball under his arm. He dropped the bag with a thud on the ground, expecting to hear his mother run in and scold him. There was nothing but an empty silence.
Beck slowly walked through the halls, his cleats thudding on the wooden floor. He didn't see or hear anyone, and it was beginning to make him nervous. Had his parents been called out on a business trip again? No, he answered himself, they would've left me with Jessie. And they would've left me a note. Then Beck smelled it. The fresh scent of gunpowder and blood mixed together, and he stood stock still in the door of the living room.
Lying on the couch was his mother, the front of her shirt soaked in blood. Her face was frozen in a look of horror with her eyes wide open. Beck bit back a scream of horror, but his face was as white as a sheet. He felt tears coming but he beat them back, remembering what his father had always told him. Men don't cry. Beck knew he had to go to the next room, even if he knew what was waiting for him.
Taking a deep breath, he walked towards his father's study. The door was shot up and splinters of wood were scattered on the floor. He pushed the door open slowly and stepped inside. There was his father, half in and half out of his chair. Beck assumed that he had heard the gunshots when his mother was killed and gotten up to go see what was going on, when he'd been shot himself.
Swallowing hard, Beck stared down at his father. He couldn't stay here. He knew that. He'd have to go somewhere, anywhere but here. So Beck grabbed his bag and his ball and took off running down the street without another look back.
"Beck? Beck?" Holly was shaking his shoulder and frowning. "You okay? You looked sort of dazed." Beck blinked up at her, confused. Oh, right. He was supposed to be looking at the Hyena file, and here he was reliving his awful childhood.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Let's just get back to the file."