Chapter Eighteen: Mission
"What did you just say?"
Vienna touched the tip of her ear with her nails.
She must have heard it wrong. To make the effort of coming to this suffocating hospital just to see if her fiancé was still alive, especially after daring not to show himself for days - her face twitched when she found out that he wasn't even there.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Dunkley," said Paula, the head nurse of Greenwood Hospital. "Chief Matthews suddenly filed for his vacation days last night, and said he won't be back for a while."
Vienna's eyes turned black. "Did he at least tell you where he was going?"
The head nurse looked at her in confusion. "I'm sorry, but as his fiancé, shouldn't you have already known this?"
"He must have forgotten to tell me," she answered with gritted teeth. "I'll see him later anyway," she added before turning her back to the nurse.
"Bastard," he said under her breath. She had always known she was too good for him. She was a politician's daughter, for crying out loud. She had looks, money, power, and holds the position as one of Tommy Hoperlion's top designers.
"He's just a doctor," Vienna grumbled.
Except he wasn't just a doctor, her head thought. He was a genius who could manipulate the board of directors whenever he wanted, a righteous surgeon who fought to give patients without money a free operation, and one hell of a good-looking man, to add.
He was the perfect man for her, and she was definitely a right fit for him.
How could that bastard leave her like that? They were supposed to book a hall for the wedding today. Of course, she had already planned everything, but it was no harm to show the groom how things will go beforehand.
Vienna bit her nails in frustration. "Derek, you son of a bitch. Where did you go?"
She checked her phone to see if he had left anything, but couldn't find even one dainty message.
As she starts to make her way out of the hospital, she saw her father's driver waiting for her in the driveway.
"Ms. Dunkley," said a tall man wearing a plain silver suit. "Your father wishes to speak with you."
"How did you find me, Wilson?" Vienna asked as she followed him into a black Lexus.
"Your father said I would find you here," he replied as they start to move.
Vienna grunted in irritation. "So now, even my own dad thinks I'm pathetic."
"Do not worry," Wilson said as he looked at her from the top mirror. "It seems your father had run into problems last night as well."
"Yes. It seems a woman had crossed your father's eyes."
Vienna laughed at the idea. "That mule? How impossible!"
"Senator Roy was killed last night, and our people were too late to help, but someone had seen your father locking lips with a woman. They said she was one of the killers."
"And all this happened while I sat alone in my condo," Vienna cracked her fingers.
"Derek Matthews, you better prepare yourself."
Erin suddenly felt cold.
As she slowly opened her eyes, a flash of white light blinded her. Irritated, she quickly turned her head to her right - and found Derek sleeping peacefully in the seat beside her, his arms crossed and his head jerked in her direction.
Her eyes widened, and her body jerked up instinctively - in shock, at the most.
"Is everything okay, ma'am?"
She looked up to the direction of the sudden voice, and saw a woman in a tight ponytail and silk cap smiling at her.
"I'm fine," she replied, blinking in confusion.
"We'll be serving lunch in exactly two minutes," the woman replied, and then she looked at Derek. "But your companion seems too tired to eat. I can serve his lunch a little later."
She shook her head. "I'll wake him up so he could eat with me."
The woman excused herself, leaving Erin to sort her mind out.
It was like a fairytale- waking up to a completely new world. Needless to say it was an exaggeration, but still.
It was like being given the very piece of cake you've been longing all your life.
"Whew," she stretched her neck as she looked outside - there was nothing to see but light blue fluff.
"London, huh," she muttered.
Going out of the country certainly wasn't in her agenda last night, but there she was, sitting in a first-class flight to London, England.
A flight consisting of herself and Derek.
"Who could have imagined," she whispered.
After their talk last night, Derek pulled out a small envelope, revealing two platinum plane tickets.
"It's from Jacobs," said Derek, "even our passports are in there."
"How-" she stopped. "Never mind, I think I know."
"I don't really want to ask," he replied. "He said your mother wants you to go to London, and sent the tickets to him to give you."
"But why two?" She grabbed one, and he grabbed the other.
"But the hospital, and your patients," she said in concern, "and Vienna. What will you say to her?"
"There's nothing to say to her," he replied. "But I've sent the message to the Senator."
"That there will be no wedding happening."
Erin stared at him like an owl in daylight.
Derek almost laughed at her expression. "Why? Did you want it to happen?"
Erin shook her head immediately, and then she stayed still.
She almost forgot what she did last night.
The bar. The man she killed. Victor Dunkley.
How will she explain all this to Derek?
"Are you alright?" He asked her suddenly, and she looked at his face.
Derek Matthews - her childhood friend, her high school lover, the boy who broke her heart and now the man who is slowly trying to piece it together.
How could she have been so blessed?
Erin nodded but didn't say anything else, and followed him as they boarded the plane. It took off a few short minutes later.
Nothing happened afterwards, as Derek fell asleep too fast, and so did she.
"Hey," she finally touched his shoulder, "Wake up, it's lunch time."
He didn't react, and she shook him one more time.
"Derek," she said a little louder, "come on."
She nudged him one more time, except this time he grabbed her hand.
"Five more minutes," he whispered, but he didn't let her hand go. This time, Erin flicked his forehead. His eyes shot up.
He touched his forehead as he stretched. "That wasn't nice, you know."
"You should have woken up then," Erin replied.
Derek turned to look around the other passengers - men in tailored suits snoring loudly in their seats, an intern typing furiously in her laptop as her boss spoke of a business deal in Taiwan, and a few women who each boasted about their children's chances to Julliard.
Uninterested, he turned his head back to Erin, who was busy picking a magazine to read while waiting for food to arrive.
He watched as her fingers slowly touched each page of the travel magazine, eagerly looking for an article to read. At one point, he thought her fingers seemed too slender; so were her shoulders. Like a fragile porcelain doll that people were too afraid to touch.
But then, Derek noticed as her eyes shot up and her lips formed in a huge grin. Erin was pointing to an article made by someone named 'Ada,' regarding the travel industry in Seoul and Incheon.
She was explaining something to him, but he wasn't listening. Instead, he just looked at her.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" She finally snapped.
"Like what?" He asked.
"Like I'm some sort of magic trick," she said. "Like a disappearing act waiting to happen."
Derek grabbed her hand, and he held on to it tight. "That's exactly what you are," he replied. "That's why I'm watching you carefully. So you don't disappear again."
"I won't," Erin said to him.
"Listen to me," he whispered. "Whatever happens now, have faith in me. I may not remember much, but I know enough," he pauses, "so if there ever comes a time where we have to separate again, know that I will always come to find you."
Erin nodded, yet his last words weighed on her mind. What did he mean by that? Has he come to realize the sort of trouble she's in? She remembered that Chief Jacobs has had talk with him a few times, but has the fear finally gone through his head, and now he wants to leave?
"Have some trust in him!" A voice in her head yelled, and she felt like slapping herself for giving him an ounce of doubt. The fact that he was accompanying her to London was enough to prove that he wanted to help her. She should just stick with that.
"Tuna sandwich?" The flight attendant interrupted as she rolled down the aisle with the food cart.
"Yes please," Erin said as she went to grab the packets from the woman, unaware of the red crumpled piece of paper hidden from Derek's sleeve.
For the first time in her career, Aris had found herself bleeding on the job.
Worse, she made contact with the very person she would rather not have.
Her legs were very close to losing movement, while her arms gushed of blood from an ambush attack held right in the middle of the day in Bordeaux. It wasn't that she was out of shape, nor was she weak. It was because she was caught by surprise, and so she wasn't prepared.
She underestimated the agenda for today - she simply believed it was a normal business trip, so she acted carelessly, forgetting to survey the area before moving.
This could very well be her fault. It had been too peaceful lately, and so she had let her guard down.
Now, she's in a bit of a pickle.
After an intense two-hour session with French investors, Gary Dean decided to grab a late breakfast in a downtown bistro. As he sat alone in the restaurant's patio, he was caught off-guard by the pouring sound of gunshots coming to his direction.
Before he could escape, someone had taken a hold of his hand to lead him away from the scene.
It was a woman with red hair.
Gary can't see her face, yet he can't help but become curious of it. She was wearing a knee-length dress, bright red heels, and her left hand gripped on his arm.
"A passerby, perhaps?" He thought. This woman must have felt a strong sense of obligation as she passed by a man who somehow pissed off an entire cadre of gun owners.
Then again, she must be someone a little more involved, he thought, as he realized that she too was carrying a gun of her own.
Gary didn't say anything, and he let her drag him beside an abandoned building.
"Just keep running," she ordered him as she let go of his hand, and in a second she turned around to aim her gun at one of the shooters.
He watched as she pulled the trigger.
The man fell down.
"There's ten more," he heard her say as her head scouted their surroundings. Then suddenly, her eyes locked on his. "Duck!"
Gary followed the woman's orders and bent down, unaware that the woman had just taken a shot in the shoulder for him.
She ignored her wound and in a swift motion, pulled the trigger aimed at the man's heart.
"Nine more to go," she said to herself. When Gary got up, he realized that she had taken a few wounds herself. Her shoulders were covered in blood. Before the woman had realized, Gary grabbed her hand and they ran inside the building, past the lobby, and hid inside a small storage room used to store mechanical parts.
"Are you alright?" He tried to reach her shoulders, but she quickly slapped his hand off.
She looked like a cat - her blue eyes widened from shock of being touched by a stranger.
Except he wasn't just a stranger. Her was her client.
She stood up. "Don't come out," she ordered him. Her hands were still shaky but she figured that it wouldn't affect her aim so much. She bent down to grab her gun and was about to reach for the door when Gary suddenly got up to slam it shut.
"You're not going anywhere," he said to her.
"Get out of my way, Mr. Dean." She hissed at him. "I'm warning you."
He looked at her weapon, and then he looked up. "Seeing that you know who I am, you must be someone sent to protect me. Am I correct?"
She didn't reply.
"What is your name?" He asked her.
She looked away.
This aggravated Gary. He grabbed the door handle, turning the knob. "If you don't tell me your name, I'm going to run out of here."
Like a deer who stumbled upon a hunting rage by mistake.
He could tell that he was starting to get to her skin, because she took one step forward.
"Your name?" He asked again, but still she didn't reply. "Fine," he said as he turned the knob, creaking the door slightly open.
"-ARIS!" She yelled, but then she closed her mouth as she realized that she had just told him her real name, instead of a fake one she intended to use.
Satisfied with her reaction, he closed the door before any of their pursuers could sense where they are.
"Aris, huh." He smiled. What a unique name. It could be a fake name for all he knew, but he liked it.
Aris grabbed the phone in her pocket, pressed a button, and then turned it off afterwards.
"Your security personnel had just received your location," she told him as she took a peak through the rose-colored window glass. " They should be here in exactly six minutes."
"Have we met before?" He interrupted, shaking the dust off his pants. "You seem familiar."
Aris caught his eyes, and she stared at him for a few minutes before replying.
"So we have," he concluded. "Have you been hiding from my sight then?"
Aris was starting to get uncomfortable. This was the very first time she had a frontal conversation with her client. Unlike those in her line of work who preferred to get close to their clients, sneakily entering their personal lives as a friend or a lover, Aris had chosen to act like a shadow - following them from afar.
Then of course, she had made a mistake one time as well. Except that was all in the past.
Needless to say, she had to get out of there.
"People who continue to put their lives on the line for someone else's sake are considered heroes, you know," he said to her. "Then again, there are those who act only because they have been ordered to," he pauses, "like a dog."
Gary started to walk towards her. "So which one are you?"
Sirens were suddenly heard from outside the building, indicating that reinforcements have finally arrived. They came in six minutes, exactly as she had predicted.
Aris turned around to look at a broken window - her supposed escape route. She wanted to leave immediately, to escape from this man who kept on making her feel uncomfortable, but then she found her legs planted to the ground-unable to move.
And it wasn't because she was injured.
For some strange reason, Aris wanted to give him a response. Maybe it had to do with the bizarre rush of talking to a client for the first time, or maybe she just really wanted to have one last chance to talk to him.
Before she could think, she turned her head back to look at him for the last time, and she smiled.
"If I can keep the promise I made with the man I love, I welcome being called a dog."