You ate pasta for lunch yesterday. It had shaved flakes of truffles that you could barely taste and you had smiled as you artfully twirled it around your wood-handled fork. It was beautiful and expensive and pasta.
It is what you choose to focus on, right this second, while your thin blue plastic gloves cut into a corpse in your motel bathroom. The walls here are molding, honestly, mushrooms could be growing inside them. Decaying like the inside of your brain.
Your phone has been carefully placed near the sink, away from the spurting blood and Konstantin is on speaker.
So yes, things are not going very well at the moment, but at least you had pasta for lunch yesterday.
Konstantin is saying a lot of things on the phone. He speaks too loudly, almost like he’s yelling to be heard in the silence of your bathroom. Mostly he just talks about someone you have to kidnap tomorrow.
A journalist. Someone who’s close to uncovering the pulsing heart at the centre of at least half of the nation’s secrets. You don’t ask him any questions, even when he specifies that this journalist is not to be killed under any circumstances. And actually, it’s laughable that this job would fall upon you.
Your profession has always fundamentally been about the killed and the killer. If you aren’t the killer, will you be the killed? It’s laughable but you don’t laugh at all. Cut the call while he’s mid-chortle and turn back to the slowly dissolving flesh in your bathtub.
At 6:48 p.m. the next day, you spit a wad of gum into a business card you found in the glove compartment of your car and tuck a revolver into your back pocket. The journalist’s street is eerily quiet and their house is a warm yellow.
They write under the pseudonym T. Shark which is quite genuinely, the worst name you have ever heard. It sounds like a shitty rapper and you’ll definitely have to bring this up with them after the kidnapping.
The back door is unlocked and you’re actually quite amused at this apparently very dangerous journalist who’s named themselves like a 2000s rapper and can’t be bothered to lock their doors.
Shark has a chicken just standing in the living room and junk cluttering every surface in sight. Music thumps through the ceiling above you and your walk up the stairs is completely quiet. Honestly, this is turning out to be the easiest kidnapping of your entire career. T. Shark might struggle a bit when you finally get them but you doubt it’ll be enough to make this job an ordeal.
The door of their room creaks when you open it and the room is empty, save for some clothes strewn on the floor and Elvis Presley playing from a laptop on the bed. Someone’s singing off-key from inside the attached bathroom and you take a seat on the bed.
Hopefully, T. Shark is an ugly old man, so you can get this over soon with and maybe fuck someone from the bar a few blocks from here. Yes, maybe T. Shark will be sixty years old and have papery thin skin. Maybe they’ll beg or pray or fall deathly silent when you grin and point your gun at their head. Maybe they’ll be so light that you’ll only take five minutes to tie them up here and you can carry them to the trunk of your car.
All of these possibilities are incredibly realistic and you are completely taken aback when T. Shark actually leaves the bathroom.
A woman, maybe forty, incredibly, idiotically, insanely attractive walks out. She’s wearing a loose t-shirt and the smallest pair of bed shorts you may have ever seen. Or maybe it just feels that way because god, T. Shark is not at all what you were expecting.
She’s still mindlessly singing when she sees you casually sitting on the bed. Your point your revolver at her, politely, mutely. There’s a beat where she just stares. One where she looks down at her shorts, grumbles and jumps back into the bathroom with the nearest pair of sweatpants. And a third beat where she goes:
“Well, I wasn’t expecting you this early.”
And what the fuck does that mean. Is T. Shark crazy? Is she certifiably insane? You’re a world-renowned assassin and she was expecting you?
“I’m sorry. You know me?”
“Yeah,” she walks out, sweatpants on, hair gloriously spilling out onto her shoulders, “you’re the kidnapper, right?”
“Yes. What the fuck?”
She squints at you and smiles a bit. “Didn’t Bill send you?”
Now, you are a very good assassin usually. Absolutely top-tier. But this bizarre conversation and T. Shark’s beautiful hair have left you quite light-headed so you sort of lose it. No harm done. It happens to the best of us.
“I don’t fucking know who Bill is. Please, just get on the floor. Hands in the air, head on the floor, get on your knees.”
She laughs and gets on her knees. Laughs? Why is she laughing?
“You’re much more committed to this than I thought you’d be. Where does my head go again?”
“Head on the floor. Hands in the air.”
“How do I put my hands in the air with my head on the floor.”
“Holy shit. You are giving me the biggest headache ever. I don’t usually do kidnappings, I don’t know. Just get down on the floor.”
“What would your service offer if not kidnappings?”
“I am not offering you a kidnapping! I am kidnapping you normally!”
She laughs again. “Honestly, I thought this would be a bit sexier than a twenty-five year old screaming at me and waving a gun in my face.”
And this just won’t do. You’re a master of sexy. Sexy is practically your first name and middle name and surname. Villanelle Sexy Astankova.
“I can be very sexy, if you like. But why would you want that?”
She grins up at you, “Look, I’m no idiot. It’s my birthday today and clearly, Bill’s sent a very, well … hot woman to point guns at and kidnap me. I just thought you’d say something like ‘Eve Polastri, you’ve been very bad. Hands in the air. Here are your handcuffs.’ Do you know what I mean?”
“It is your birthday?”
“Yeah, I thought you knew that.”
“I didn’t. Happy birthday.”
The two of you nod at each other before realizing that you’re still pointing a gun at her and she’s on the ground.
You pull out a length of black cord from your pocket and gesture to it.
“I do not have handcuffs. But I can tie you up with this rope if you like.”
“Yeah alright, just my wrists though, and not too tight, I’m too old for this shit.”
So, here you are. No idea what’s going on. Tying up a very attractive woman in a non-sexy way, although she asked for it. Way too confused for your own good.
But she follows you to your car. For some indiscernible reason, you don’t shove her into the trunk but open the passenger door for her. She sits and rolls her eyes when you politely close the door for her. Ungrateful. This is the most polite kidnapping of all time.
But despite T. Shark’s, no, Eve Polastri’s strangeness, you are very much looking forward to getting in the car with her.
The handoff is to be completed within the next few hours. Eve asks you to turn on the radio but you don’t. Instead, you park in an empty lot and turn to her.
“Look, I don’t know who Bill is. I don’t understand half the shit you’re saying. But there’s a bar opposite this road. Very seedy place. Not the kind of place you want to go to usually. But I need a drink and I also need to pick up some stuff for work over there. I am only telling you because it is your birthday and I thought you might appreciate a drink.”
She narrows her eyes at you quizzically, “You’re sort of a dick but I would love a drink. Cut me out of this rope.”
As you follow her instructions, you say “Please don’t write about this in your articles. Showing someone like you a place like this might get me in, what is it you say, hot water.”
“You know about my work?” Traces of confusion and awe.
“Yes, it is why I’m here. Let’s go.”
The two of you enter the bar and you were right. It’s unbearably seedy. Freeze frame, hulking men playing billiards and beer bottles on the grimy counter. You order for the two of you and smile when she gulps down most of her drink in one go.
To the left is a metal door and you nod towards it.
“That’s where I’ve got to pick up some documents and stuff. Shall we head in?”
“Gosh, this is so much more lifelike than I thought it’d be.”
You hold her elbow and push the door open. Through it is a metal-walled room with buzzing fluorescent white lights and a file on a wardrobe. Eve whistles through her teeth and raises her eyebrows at the file.
“Is there some birthday stuff in there?”
“Why don’t you ever make sense? I’ve had it with you.”
“I’ve seriously had enough with you! What kind of birthday surprise is this? It can’t be some elaborate coincidence that I show Bill a fake party kidnapping agency as my ideal birthday surprise and lo and fucking behold, I get a hot woman to kidnap me on my birthday. I’m not this big of an idiot.”
And oh, things are really dawning for you. Finally, Crazy Eve is making some sense!
“No, no, I’m Villanelle, a real kidnapper. I’ve got to take you to some people who will finish you off for all your investigative journalism.”
You smile widely at her; she should be pleased too, finally, the two of you are making sense to each other.
But she doesn’t smile. Or grin. Or chuckle. Or laugh. Or any of the things she’s been doing through your time together.
No, Eve screams. She screams her goddamned head off and you pull out your gun to get her under control. But this just makes her scream more.
Grabbing her wrist and pressing your hand to her wet mouth makes her go a bit slack in your grip and for a second, you think it may have worked. Of course it doesn’t.
She twists your right hand and you curse yourself for falling for her weird talking and cutting her restraints in the car. The gun falls from your grip and into hers. For a second, it’s almost comical how she looks at the gun and realizes how real it is. How real it would be if she hurt you.
You use that second to pounce, and Eve –
It tears through your arm. The pain is searing. Like meat. Like something hot and white and angry. Blood falls thickly and Eve looks so genuinely terrified.
You expect her to say something stupid like ‘I’m sorry’ and get out of here. Instead, she says, “Stay fucking still” and presses a dirty rag she’s found against your wound
You hiss, maybe cry. Honestly, who’s to say.
And incredibly, idiotically, insanely, Eve lets you lean against her and walks you back to the car.
So, maybe you’ve fallen unconscious on the job. Maybe the woman you’ve kidnapped is driving your car, possibly taking you to a hospital. Maybe your vision’s a bit spotty but not bad enough to forget to say, “Not the hospital, pull over at a general store.” Maybe this kidnapping has gone so wrong and yet, all you can think about it is the way Eve’s skin glows in the moonlight, the way her warm hand feels against yours.
She parks near one of those 24-hour stores and hoists you up in your seat before leaving with a rushed ‘back soon.’
While she’s gone, you clean the wound up with the rag and desperately hope Eve remembers enough from television to bring some rubbing alcohol and gauze.
She gets back in fifteen minutes, plastic bag in hand, somewhat frantic but smiling when she sees you sitting up properly.
“Hello, you. Good to see you up. I didn’t fully mean to shoot you.”
“Bullshit. You don’t do these kinds of things without meaning to.”
“Okay, in my defense you told me you were kidnapping me to take me to someone who’d kill me.”
“So why are you still here?”
She looks down, rummages through the bag to avoid your eye contact.
“You were, I don’t know, nice to me. Even when you really didn’t have to be. And I’m not a great person or anything, but I don’t leave people to die after I shoot them.”
“So dramatic, I would not have died.”
The two of you smile and she pulls out all the items she’s bought.
“Why have you brought red wine?”
Eve grimaces a bit, “I couldn’t find rubbing alcohol. So, I bought a bottle of this fantastic wine. Thought it’d do the trick.”
“What the fuck. It obviously won’t.”
“Okay, it’s the best we’ve got right now. Stop being a dick.”
You spot a can of Coca Cola in the bag.
“Eve, what is the Coca Cola for?”
“Me. It’s my birthday and I deserve a Coke.”
“Happy birthday again.”
There is gauze and cotton and bandages. But also, inexplicably, a pack of cookies, a bottle of red nail polish and a dozen eggs. You suspect the eggs are because she hasn’t got any at home.
When Eve carefully starts dressing your wound, you think about how you’ve always considered yourself as unique because of something else. Your job. Your upbringing. Your clothes. Your face. But Eve just is.
The journalist angle is cool but mostly, she’s just so lovely to be around that you let her pour red wine onto your arm in the hopes it will disinfect something.
Maybe it will disinfect something deeper inside you. Eh, metaphors.
You expect the car ride after that to be somewhat awkward. Eve’s eyes trained on the road ahead, thinking and thinking and thinking about how dangerous you are or whether you’re a psychopath.
But it isn’t silent. Not at all. She switches on the radio and asks you questions about work. Ugh, not your preferred topic of choice but you’d happily indulge anything she wants.
Actually, maybe you should have expected this. That big, beautiful journalist brain attempting to dig into your psyche, figuring out if you’re an exaggerated monster or a lost young woman.
The answer lies somewhat in between and she seems quite satisfied with it.
You’re also painfully aware that a couple of hours from now, you’ve got to give Eve over to a Chechnyan mob who will probably torture her or something equally vicious. It’s sobering to discover that the only objection you have to that is that Eve is yours, not some ugly Chechnyan mobsters. Or maybe you are hers.
See, because the issue is that, through the course of this night, she seems to have torn you in the softest part of your body, just above your navel, and crawled right under your skin.
Eve’s ringtone cuts through your pitiful realizations and she declines the call with a grimace. “Bill,” is the only explanation you get.
Bill calls three times more and finally, you lean over and just accept the call. She gives you a half-apologetic, half-annoyed look (honestly, is that even an expression that anyone can pull off?) and puts the phone on speaker.
“Eve! I’ve been trying to reach you; I just got a call from this party kidnapping agency I’d hired as a bit of a birthday surprise and the fake kidnapper says you aren’t home.”
“Right, yes, I actually stepped out a couple hours ago.”
“Ooh, mysterious. What could you possibly be up to?”
Eve looks at you, panicking like it’s a goddamned sport and you sigh.
“Tell him you are going on a spontaneous holiday for your birthday,” you mouth and she nods, unconvincedly, before repeating your excuse to Bill.
“That doesn’t sound like you at all, Eve. But I’m glad you’re finally relaxing a bit. Shame you missed the fake kidnapping though. I chose a particularly hot actor, you’d have loved her.”
Eve turns to smile at you before saying goodbye to her friend and cutting the call.
You grin back and say, “So, do you want to head back to the house and see how hot the fake kidnapper is? I am very confident I could take them in a fight.”
She laughs and it’s the sign you need to decide not to turn her in. It was never even an option, really.
The plan is to head to your safehouse a couple of hours from here. You expected some resistance from her but turns out she is a connoisseur of cutting ties with no second thoughts.
You don’t really think twice about it either. One way in which the two of you are similar. Weigh it out in your head: endless beautiful women/endless fashionable outfits/ endless wealth, against five more minutes of Eve. The former doesn’t stand a chance.
There’s something simple about the space between both of you after that. The acknowledgement that this isn’t as light a decision as the two of you are attempting to make it out to be. You have, essentially, chosen each other. Over perhaps anything else.
The safehouse is a luxurious cabin near a lake. Three bedrooms, you remember choosing it for the way light streamed into the kitchen in the mornings. There are a few bags of essentials hidden under the floorboards and you promise Eve that you will drive her back to London next week after you plot your next move to pick up some of her things from home.
The two of you sleep in different rooms that night. You aren’t disappointed about it, not really. Sure, you dream about her hair and smile and hands that night, but that was always inevitable.
It is six days later. After the dust of planning and plotting has settled, you ask her whether she’d like to be on the run with you for the foreseeable future (forever).
Six days. The cabin has treated the two of you well. You go fishing with her and watch James Bond films with her and sleep in a bed without her.
But on the sixth day, she says yes to throwing her entire life away for this. You grin and it must be painfully obvious how pleased you are because she rolls her eyes especially emphatically.
“I do sort of want to do one thing before we make this very intense proposal official, though.”
“Yes, anything. Name it and it’s done, oh, mighty Eve Polastri.”
“Okay, dumbass,” she says and she pulls you by the wrist to press her mouth to yours for the first time.
It’s awkward, clacking teeth, dry lips. The two of you laugh before trying again.
And this time around.
God, this time around, it is absolutely glorious.