The Behaviour of Snakes
It wasn't long into Beatrix Kiddo's career as part of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, after her first kill, that Vernita Green took her out for a night of drinking.
"To steady the nerves," she said.
"My nerves don't need steadying," was Beatrix's reply and she was correct. She was as steady as a rock, a natural born killer to whom it was all second nature. But she accepted Vernita's invitation, mostly because Vernita offered to buy the first round.
It turned out to be an enjoyable night, one where they could almost pretend they were a pair of normal women rather than cold-blooded killers who each had countless layers of blood upon their hands. They talked a lot, mostly about things like favourite movies and a couple of details about what it was like for them growing up. What they both avoided was the mention of anything which could end up being used against them, such as things about their family or what their dreams in life were. While they both worked for Bill and both had respect for each other, it was one of the many unwritten rules that you just didn't reveal yourself like that to anybody at all.
Both Beatrix and Vernita knew many places to go and they dragged each other through the streets, from one bar to the next. They suggested drinks to each other and found they both had similar, therefore good, tastes.
There was one point early in the evening where Vernita experimented with slipping something into Beatrix's drink. Nothing which would do any harm to her body, just knock her out for a little while. Just as a bit of a test.
Beatrix spotted that something was wrong with her drink straight away, without a single drop touching her lips.
"You bitch!" Beatrix almost threw the drink over Vernita.
Then she found herself smiling and taking it in good humour and Vernita's respect for the newest recruit grew.
But she still should have been the goddamn Black Mamba.
Bill was the type of man who was careful to never owe anybody any favours. But Esteban Vihaio was an exception, seeing as he had been a father figure to both Buck and Bill and taught them most of the things they knew about manhood and how to survive in the harshness that was the outside world.
So when Bill happened to get wind that Esteban Vihaio's girls were disappearing, he felt compelled to step in. Within hours, the reason for the missing whores had been tracked down to a small group of human rights activists. Usually they were the sort Bill had no concern with. The interests and health of humans needed to be taken care of, he said. Humans were such varied and interesting creatures.
But, just as Bill took an exception with owing Esteban Vihaio favours, he also took an exception with this little group. They were making Vihaio unhappy, therefore they had to be dealt with.
It was both Black Mamba and California Mountain Snake who were sent on this assignment. Vihaio could have easily sent the Acuña Boys, but Bill insisted. It was a chance for the girls to learn a bit of teamwork, Bill said. This was a matter of family and weren't the Deadly Vipers also as good as a family unit? It was time to strengthen that.
Budd chuckled out comments about blonds and sisters. Both Black Mamba and California both found a connection point in the way they sneered at him and made violent threats against his dick.
Being together in the same room was something Black Mamba and California didn't enjoy, so working together was completely loathsome. However, there was some enjoyment in roughing each other up, pulling hair and splitting lips. To get into a group who was rescuing abused women, they had to look the part, after all.
The assignment was so easy, it was laughable. They infiltrated the human rights group easily as two roughed up blonds claiming they had been forced into the sex industry and were running from one of the many pimps in Mexico's underworld. In the safe house, they found many of Vihaio's missing whores.
Every member of the human rights group had come out with little protective measures, something else Black Mamba and California found laughable. The small group was slaughtered and left with their bodies slumped over makeshift desks, their blood smeared up the walls. As warning for whoever should come across them that you do not fuck with those associated with Bill and hold his favour. Especially those he will always owe a debt to.
The whores were sent back and Black Mamba and California parted ways as quickly as possible. Neither even had any bragging rights. There had been eight members of the human rights group and they had killed four each.
Money was everything. It kept roofs over heads, food in stomachs and shirts on backs. It won friends and attracted lovers. It gave credibility and, most importantly in the world of the Deadly Vipers, was marvellously convincing in sealing a deal.
Miranda Ryestord was one of those women who had all the money she should need to buy whatever she wanted for the rest of her life. Except, it seemed, keeping her husband to herself. She was rich off the back of his success in inventing little components for computers. And such a huge company needed many receptionists and assistants.
To Bill, it was amusing that Daniel Ryestord had done something so stereotypical in having numerous affairs with many of those receptionists and assistants. He shook his head as he talked about how, frankly, it was so boring and about how Miranda really should have seen it coming. Rich men thought they could get away with anything, including fucking any women they wanted. Everybody knew that.
But Miranda did not see the funny side of it at all. She was the one who put out the hit on Daniel. As predictable and boring as Bill found the situation, he accepted the request. Money was marvellously convincing, after all.
Copperhead did not find the situation funny either, but she took the job.
Like most rich men, Daniel Ryestord was cautious when it came to his home and its security. And, like most rich men, Daniel sought the advice and services of professionals. That meant there was nothing new or particularly challenging for Copperhead to get around when it came to infiltration. She was so well versed on what to look out for and how to duck around it, by the (swift) time she was inside the house she felt she may as well have strolled in through the front door.
Jobs had to be done as quickly as possible, that much was common knowledge amongst those of Copperhead's kind. The quicker you were, the less likely it was you might leave something in evidence. Knowing this, Copperhead quickly located Daniel, sitting in a chair with a glass of alcohol in his hand, laughing at a show playing on a wide television.
Copperhead's usual tactic was to go straight for the jugular. That way they would die quickly and she could leave the body for the first unfortunate who came along to find. But this time she sliced at his wrist first, avoiding the main artery, to have him drop his glass. She stabbed her blade deep into his cock and turned it slowly, watching his face twist into all sorts of expressions of agony and horror. Then she slit his throat and the programme on the television became tinted with red.
Personal feelings were never meant to come into things. But Copperhead had a past of being let down, betrayed and left alone. It haunted her memories and then her dreams. Going after a target because he had cheated on his wife was something that hit home particularly hard for Copperhead. So she just couldn't help herself.
Spirits were high in The House of Blue Leaves as Beatrix Kiddo, Vernita Green, Elle Driver and O-Ren Ishii raised a cup of sake to welcome in the New Year. Even Beatrix and Elle were able to put aside the bitter feelings they both had for each other, which often made it impossible for them to even be in the same room together.
But this situation was an exception. O-Ren had personally invited the three of them to Japan to see in the New Year with her.
"So that you can observe a bit of culture, for once," she told them, with that twinkle in her eyes and dimples in her cheeks which always showed up when she was speaking as though the superior. "Instead of just dragging yourselves from bar to bar and ending the evening by falling asleep into your own vomit."
O-Ren booked them a private room at The House of Blue Leaves. It looked out into a garden which usually gave the view of carefully cut grass, neat trees and a pond with traditional water features which were well cared for. On New Years Eve, it was covered with snow.
True to her promise of showing them a bit of culture, O-Ren turned up in her best and most beautiful kimono. One which was mostly white and had cherry blossom petals swirling down, looking almost like streaks of blood against snow. Beatrix and Vernita came in their best and most sequined dresses. Elle appeared in a trouser suit.
"Each year is separate from the last," O-Ren said to them as the midnight hour was struck. "At the beginning of a new one, all the old year's troubles and worries are left behind."
"Sounds good to me," Beatrix smiled.
Elle snorted. "Not that I let anything which may be a trouble or a worry linger too long."
"Here's to that," Vernita agreed and downed her cup of sake.
Beatrix raised her cup up to O-Ren before she downed her own drink. Smiling, O-Ren mirrored the action, with her eyes flickering from Beatrix to Elle with interest.
In the dark of night, the sound of waves lapping against the sandy shore covered the soft whistles and clinks of blades slicing through the air and clashing together. Two figures dressed completely in black duelled on the beach, both silent and focused. With only the moonlight and their own senses to help them identify where their opponent was and what they were doing, even the slightest slip of concentration could be their death.
Their movements were fast and accurate, in both attack and defence. Their feet moved upon the sand to find the correct stance, their bodies twisted and their arms lunged but what didn't move were their eyes. They both had view of their opponent and neither wanted to lose it.
Then the sound of beeping pierced through the air and both fighters come to a stop, withdrawing their swords from where the blades were pressed together in a battle for that little slither of dominance which would give them victory.
Beatrix Kiddo pulled back one of her black gloves to turn off her beeping watch before tugging the balaclava from her head, letting her blond hair fall down her back. O-Ren unmasked herself as well.
"Not bad," O-Ren said with a raised eyebrow. She twirled her sword around in her hand for a moment before sheathing it. "I can see what Bill is always going on about when he talks about your blade work. I believe you're making Vernita rather jealous."
"Is that a hint of jealousy from you as well?" Beatrix teased while she smiled and placed her own sword back into its sheath.
"I should like to see a match between the pair of you," said O-Ren. "It would be interesting. Vernita prefers the closer range of knives. She says you feel the blood warmer on your face."
"That's fucked up." Beatrix finds herself snorting with laughter all the same and O-Ren grins back at her.
The thing was, Elle used to be Bill's number one girl. O-Ren spent most of her time in Japan, carrying out many of her assassinations there and, as rumour had it, gathering herself an army so she may take control of Tokyo's underworld. So Elle respected her, especially knowing all the hard work she had done in her life. Vernita, very talented and extremely deadly, kept her relationship with Bill strictly professional. So Elle didn't tend to bother with her, although she had respect for her as a good warrior who was always accurate with her blades.
And then there came Beatrix Kiddo. With her blond hair and fair complexion, her extended knowledge on how the human body and mind worked and which weaknesses it had, how to wield a sword and shoot a gun to go right through a person's head.
Then suddenly Bill was assigning her to fly all around the world to kill people. Bill was telling her how proud he was while stroking her hair and pouring her wine. Bill was taking her for training with Pai fucking Mei.
Just because she was younger and still had both of her pretty blue eyes.
Beatrix, a.k.a Black Mamba, was a great warrior. In fact, probably one of the best Elle had ever met, she didn't mind admitting that much. She could respect talent when she saw it.
What she would not respect was how this not-much younger and certainly not fucking prettier woman had suddenly become the apple of Bill's eye.
Wouldn't that pretty blond hair look so pretty tinted with red? And Elle would be the person to find out, if it was the last thing she ever fucking did.
Black Mamba was missing, presumed dead. No body was found.
Vernita spent an evening hurling knives at her wall, leaving deep imprints. But all that did was make her even angrier about losing the only friend she'd allowed herself to have for a long time.
O-Ren silently rose a cup of sake to her memory. Then, because she had never been the type to brood on things, she went to load up her gun ready for the assassination of a government official who would be passing through the next morning.
Elle went out to complete the job Black Mamba never finished. When she came back, Bill gave her a smile and praise. But his mind was clearly still fogged by grief.
Budd sighed and shifted uncomfortably, not sure what to do with this brother in these situations.
By the time O-Ren sheathed her sword, Boss Norio had fallen to the floor. Her victory and the knowledge that she had now started the battle for Tokyo's underworld, (which she would win), was interrupted by the ringing of Sofie's phone.
There was a pause and O-Ren watched the way Boss Norio's blood spread across the floor.
"O-Ren, it's for you," Sofie said handing her the phone. "It's Bill."
Not long after O-Ren received her phone call, and Vernita before, Elle got the exact same one. It was from Bill. He had found Beatrix Kiddo, out in Texas under the name Arlene Macchiavelli. She was getting married, at a little wedding chapel in El Paso.
And the Deadly Vipers were going along too. Because nobody suddenly disappeared on Bill like that and let him mourn their death while expecting to get away with it.
When Elle hung up, she was absolutely elated.