Chapter One: A Story to Tell
Chloe's POV - Chloe's Flat
I sit there on my couch in my boxers and a baggy shirt, idly flicking through TV channels. There is the usual crap, the same mind numbing crap I have been watching non-stop for the past six months or so. A half empty beer can rests on the arm of the couch. It's been there for a couple of days, maybe longer, but I'm too lazy to get new one.
Hell, I'm not even sure I have an unopened one left.
I contemplate for a moment, weighing the pros and cons of drinking it.
I grab the can and take a swig, my face contorting in disgust as the liquid pours down my throat. It causes me to cough a bit from the horrible aftertaste.
Not one of my finer moments.
I place the can on the floor, knowing full well that I will most likely go back to it at some point and continue watching TV. I glance over to the clock on the wall. I don't know why I bother, it stopped weeks ago and I haven't replaced the battery.
Guess I'll have to use my phone.
I pat down my gray pants, which are thrown over the back of the couch. There is a phone sized lump in the right hand pocket. I reach in, half expecting to be bitten by something, and take it out. I glance down at the screen.
Ok, it's time. You've been planning this for weeks. Everything will go fine, Chloe. How hard can it be?
I ease myself off my couch, a cascade of takeaway containers and crumbs falling onto the floor as I get up.
I'll sort that out later… maybe.
I search around for the black duffle bag that contains my gear, finally managing to locate it under one of the many piles of dirty clothing scattered around my floor. I throw on some clothes from the precarious pile. My heart speeds up with anticipation as I sling the bag over my shoulder and I almost trip over an abandoned suitcase as I make my way out of the flat. I stare at the battered case for a while.
It's full of her stuff, I couldn't stand seeing it every day when I woke up, so I hid it away where I would have to. I always put off dealing with it. Maybe one day…
I sigh as I exit my flat and walk down the stairs. The apprehension begins to flood my body.
This is no big deal, right? You've done this a thousand times before.
I clutch on tighter to the strap across my shoulder to calm myself down.
This is no different… except that you haven't done this in a long time.
I reach the bottom of the stairs and open the door to the outside world. My truck is parked on the curb. As I walk up to it, I see another ticket shoved behind the wiper. I grab it and rip it up, shoving the pieces into my pocket.
I didn't pay the last five you left, what makes you think this time is any different?
I pull open the driver's side door and get in. I kick away the discarded fast food containers and other trash I've been accumulating ever since I got this truck. I place my hands on the wheel, taking a deep breath to try and calm my shattered nerves. A musty smell fills my nose, one of grease, cigarettes and damp.
Ugh, guess I haven't used the truck in a while.
I crack open a window to try and combat the offensive odor. My fingers tap on the steering wheel anxiously.
Ok, Chloe. You've got this. Yes, it's been a while. The last time was… was when she disappeared. You've been here, waiting, hoping she would turn up, but she hasn't.
My heart sinks at this thought and my nerves begin to get the better of me.
Can I even do this without her? I haven't before. What if I can't…?
I sigh dejectedly.
I shake my head decisively, waving away any thoughts of trepidation from my mind.
You can't afford to think like that now. You've been out of action for six months. She's gone. You can't just sit around moping. The bills don't pay themselves. Just focus on the task at hand.
I look down and see that I am gripping onto the steering wheel tight, my knuckles have turned white from the pressure.I release the wheel, reaching into my pocket and taking out the key and shove it in the ignition and turn. It takes a few tries, but eventually the truck splutters to life.
I find myself smiling, "Still hanging on in there I see. Just like me."
I fiddle around with the radio to take my mind off of things. Of course, it doesn't work, it hasn't for a long time. Eventually, I give up and make my way down the bustling street. I speed down the road, cutting a few cars up, which earns me a few choice words from my fellow drivers. Buildings rush past me as I drive.
I've never been the most careful driver, but old habits die hard. I've got to be extra careful today. I don't want to get pulled over.
I ease up on the gas pedal a bit.
That should do it. Take it nice and steady.
I glance out of my window to give me something to focus on seeing as how music is off the table. Stores loom over the crowded streets, casting their long shadows on the pavement. People rush down the streets with purpose, not even taking a moment to acknowledge each other's existence.
No-one has time for anything anymore, not even the people around them. You should treasure the moments you have with your loved ones. I learnt that too late.
My mind takes me back to a time when I was very much the same, too wrapped up in everything that could happen to really enjoy what was happening. A face comes into view. A girl with long blonde hair and alive hazel eyes.
There is no point in sitting around and feeling sorry for myself. There is plenty of time to do that later. I have more important things to think about right now, like not getting killed. That's always a good thing to prioritize.
I sigh as I pull onto the curb haphazardly. I put my truck into park and stare up at the large brick building looming over me, taking a deep shuddery breath.
Here we go.
I grab the bag and my gun. I check it's loaded.
I hope I won't have to use it, but you can never be too sure. Things can go south quickly when you aren't prepared.
I glance at the girl in the car mirror. Her once bright blue eyes look sunken, with dark circles underneath them. Her skin is paler than before due to the lack of sunlight she has been getting sat in her flat. Her face is chubbier than before, which makes sense given all the junk food she has been consuming and the comparatively little amount of exercise she has been getting. Her hair is kind of gross, having not been washed for a couple days… or was it weeks? Her once blue hair has now been almost completely replaced with strawberry blonde strands. It's not been dyed in a long time.
I really need to get my life sorted.
I reach around into the back, grabbing a beanie and scarf and put them on, leaving only my eyes uncovered.
I can't be dealing with that balaclava shit. What's the point of doing this if you don't look badass? Appearance is everything.
Satisfied, I get out of the car and make my way to the door of the bank.
Just play it cool. No-one needs to get hurt if you play it right.
I enter the bank and start my first heist in over six months, "Nobody move! Get down on the floor!"
Everyone turns towards my voice, their eyes growing fearful when they realise what is happening. A guard walks over to me, his gun drawn. He tries to sound calm, confident and in control, but it is obvious that he is scared shitless, "Fr-freeze. P-put the gun down!" I can see him shaking slightly, his voice wavers.
This is probably his first heist. Sweet. He's trying so hard.
I walk closer to him. His grip on his gun tightens, the panic in his voice increasing, "I…I said…"
Before he has a chance to continue, I knee him in the balls. He recoils and falls to the floor, groaning in pain. I grab his gun and pocket it, removing any chance of it becoming an issue later down the line. I unzip my bag to find some handcuffs, then drag him over to a table and cuff him to a leg.
I almost feel sorry for him. I can tell he's not had much experience in this kind of situation. I didn't want him firing randomly and hitting someone. I bet he's never even shot a gun under pressure. It would be a disaster. I've had my fair share of stray bullet scars.
My fingers brush over my top which hides numerous scars, too many to count. It comes with the job. I lean in close to him, putting on the most threatening tone I can muster, "Amateur. I eat guys like you for breakfast."
He looks up fearfully at me.
Damn, I never get tired of that look when someone is completely at your mercy. It makes this all worthwhile.
I get up and hold my gun out, sweeping the room to ensure no-one makes a run for it. That's when things get sloppy, "Again, everyone get down on the floor, hands on your head. Don't make this harder than it has to be."
Everyone slowly sinks to the floor, obeying my command. Once they have done this, I cockily strut towards the desk.
Oh how I missed this. The adrenaline, the anticipation…
"Now, nobody move. This is no time for heroics. It'll only get you killed, it's not worth it. You're lucky that's not my thing. I would love for you all to get out of here injury free," I place my bag on the counter, motioning to the woman behind the counter, "Fill her up."
She nervously places money in the bag, her hands shaking slightly as she does so. Every so often she glances up at me. When she catches my gaze, she looks back down, scared of what I will do to her.
I should reassure her.
My eyes wander down to the name tag pinned to her chest… and maybe can't help but have a look at her tits while I'm at it.
Hey, it's been a while. Don't judge me.
I pull the scarf to my neck and adopt my most suave voice, "There's no need to be worried, Juliet. I wouldn't hurt anyone as pretty as you."
She blushes slightly.
Hey, I'm not a total monster. These people don't want any trouble. She's being compliant enough. There's no need to cause more chaos than necessary. Believe me, I am more than ready to cause havoc if needed.
She hands over the bag. As she passes it to me, I lean over kiss her on the cheek, "Thanks babe."
Her eyes widen in shock, her mouth slightly open and her brow furrowed in confusion at my action. I wink and offer her one of my most charming smiles. She reaches up and touches her cheek where I kissed her. I pull the scarf back up and turn around, taking this moment to quickly scan the money.
Nice. This should cover the bills for this month…
I glance back at Juliet, who continues to stare at me in disbelief.
Maybe I should ask her what she's doing later...
As I go to walk back and make my move, someone drops from the ceiling and almost lands on top of me. I manage to swerve out of the way at the last minute. I look around in confusion, trying to figure out where they are.
Before me stands a girl. She's probably around my age. She wears an eye mask and a hat in order to obscure her identity, her small and lithe frame covered in dark clothing. She looks hella pissed, "Yo dude. What the fuck? I was here first."
Oh great. A robber wannabe. I've dealt with enough of these in my time.
I crack my knuckles, preparing myself for a fight if need be, "Sorry buddy, I've had this planned for weeks. Now, move along."
I motion for her to step aside, but she folds her arms and refuses to move, "No way."
I don't have time for this.
I take a step towards the girl, determined not to back down from the challenge. I draw myself to my fullest height. She's a couple inches or so shorter than me.
The girl stares at me for a second, the intensity of her gaze pins me to the spot and causes my words to catch in my throat. After a moment, her eyes widen in realization and a wide grin forms on her face, "Wait… are you…?" she slouches her bag off her shoulder, rummaging around in it and mumbling under her breath as she searches.
What is she doing?
She pulls out a magazine and flips through the pages. I look around me. Everyone is still on the floor, but they look at me with a confused expression. I shrug at them in response.
You know about as much as I do.
I look over to Juliet, who waves when she sees me looking.
Looks like I have another fan.
I blow a kiss her way and she smiles coyly.
Chloe Price, Lady Killer.
I turn back to the girl, who has seemingly found the page she is looking for. She holds it up for me to see. I can see me, posed with an array of weapons, looking pretty badass if I do say so myself.
They did a good job on the promo.
"You're the Punk Pirate," her body tenses with excitement, almost shaking with joy.
Fangirl alert. It seems I have amassed quite a large fan base. I'm surprised anyone gives a shit anymore. It's been a while since I did anything.
I nod, offering my infamous lop-sided grin, "Yep that's me."
The girl squeals, a torrent of words tumbling from her lips, "Oh my god. I am such a big fan," she jumps up and down, clapping her hands excitedly and begins to speak at a million miles an hour, "I've watched all the police reports that mentioned you and collected all the newspaper articles too. I got all the underground super villain magazines that mentioned you in and I even managed to get one of those calendars with you as the September model. I can't believe this is happening. It's like a dream come true. I thought you had retired. I am so glad you haven't."
I had forgotten about that calendar. There is a huge market for super villain merchandise, surprisingly. It's a good way to get some slightly more legal forms of income.
She looks at me excitedly like a puppy waiting to go on its walk and holds out the magazine in my direction, "Can you sign the picture?"
I smirk, "Sure kiddo."
She rootles around in her bag and locates a pen. She passes it to me. I place the pen on the page and sign it.
It's been a while since I've signed anything. This brings back memories.
I hand it back over to the girl, her face lights up. She is mesmerized by the untidy scrawl I have added to her magazine. She hugs it close to her chest for a moment before placing it back carefully in her bag.
She's so damn cute.
She beams at me, "Thanks so much."
I wink at her, "No problem."
Her body shakes with delight. She has the dorkiest smile on her face, "This is the best day of my life," she grins at me, "We could totally team up. That would be so awesome."
She is kind of adorable… wait, that shouldn't even factor in your decision. Get your head in the game. You know how this went last time.
I shake my head to come to my senses, "I… don't think so."
Her face falls, her gaze is pinned to the floor and she rubs her neck awkwardly, "Sorry, I get a bit carried away when I get excited. I've probably really freaked you out now. Some random crazy girl fangirling when you're in the middle of something… just ignore me," she laughs half-heartedly, a laugh that is forced.
That expression is breaking my heart. Oh… damn it. I can't resist. Fuck it.
"At least, not until you've proven yourself, that is. If you make it into the news, I'll consider it."
Her head snaps upwards, the downcast look now replaced with joy. She grabs hold of my hands and stares into my eyes solemnly, "I will. I'll do it. Just you watch."
The determination in her eyes makes me smile.
I feel like I've made a pact with the devil… but it is one I shall happily enter into.
"I'll be waiting. Give me your number, so I can contact you when I see you making the headlines."
She seems shocked at my suggestion, "Wait, you… you want my number?"
God damn it Chloe, what are you doing? I thought we agreed that we were going to go solo from now on. That way, it doesn't matter if things go wrong. They can't take people away from you if you're on your own.
Despite knowing all this, I find myself reaching into my pocket for the ripped up parking ticket, "Uh… yeah, unless you still use carrier pigeon."
She laughs at my pathetic joke as I pass her the paper and she scribbles down her number. She thrusts it eagerly in my direction when she has finished, "Here."
I take the scrap of paper from her, glancing down at her writing. It's much neater than mine, not that it is hard to achieve that.
I guess it can't hurt to have her on board. She might not even make it anyway. If she does, I can always use allies. God knows I'll need them.
I stash the piece of paper in my pocket.
We should get out of here.
I motion my head towards the door, "Right, now let's split before the cops get here."
The girl nods and before I have time to say anything else, she darts out the back into the darkness.
She's pretty quick. Maybe she will manage it.
Before I leave, I turn back to Juliet. I go over to her, pulling down my scarf and kissing her hand, "Goodbye my sweet Juliet. May our paths cross again."
I dramatically exit. The way you exit is always the most important for your image. When they interview her, she will certainly have a story to tell.
One week later
A faint noise reaches my ears, one that causes me to stir. My eyes flicker open to reveal the image of the TV. There is some cheesy rom-com on I think. I shift, the empty food containers falling onto the floor.
I really need to stop doing this.
I stretch on the couch, my entire body clicking as I do so. I feel around on the floor for my phone and check the time.
I sit up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
I really should get a shower or something and change these clothes.
My stomach growls loudly and angrily.
Some food might be in order too.
I stand up, scratching my stomach as I cautiously step over the precariously balanced maze which is my floor. I hear something crunch under my foot, but don't have the courage to see what it is. I finally reach the small bathroom and fumble around for the light switch. My hand hits the switch, illuminating the room in a bright artificial light which hurts my eyes. I blink a few times, trying to adjust to the sudden intrusion of light. When I've finally gotten used to it, I look around. There isn't much here, a toilet sits to my immediate right and a sink opposite it. A dog-eared bathroom mat is placed in front of the shower bath, which has seen better days. I get undressed and approach the shower bath. I step inside and jab the button to get it going. Sometimes it gets stuck, like now. I try a few times before it comes loose. A cascade of cold water hits my skin, causing me to gasp from the shock.
Well done, Chloe. You forgot it takes a while to heat up.
I stand back to avoid the cold water. After a couple of minutes, the water heats up and I tentatively step underneath it again, the water running down my body. I grab one of the bottles from a shelf in the shower. I squeeze the bottle hard, trying to get the remainder of the shampoo out.
I need to get some more.
I lather up my hair, washing it thoroughly. My head has been feeling really itchy and gross recently. I grab another bottle from the shelf and rub it on myself. Once I have cleaned myself thoroughly, I shut off the water, step out of the shower and towel myself off. There are some semi clean clothes in here, at least the cleanest I will find in this dump. I hastily get changed and exit the bathroom.
I guess I could have a quick check on the news. It's not like I'm seeing if that girls made it. I haven't been checking every day for the past week or anything. I'm just curious about what's happened today…
I go to the fridge and grab last night's leftovers and a beer, then slump back down on the couch and change the channel. A monotonous voice blares from the TV.
"News just in. There has been a major robbery last night that has left police baffled."
I focus on the report, turning up the volume and taking a sip from my beer.
"We received a call early this morning from a civilian saying that a few items of jewelry had been stolen from their house. The estimated value of this was $10,000."
I spit out my beer.
Did he say $10,000? Mad respect.
"We are looking into the matter and urge everyone to be vigilant."
I grab my phone and stick my hand in my pocket.
Come on. Where is it? Aha!
I locate the paper, it's a bit scrunched up but still readable, surprisingly and send a text to the number.
Chloe: Dude, was that you this morning?
Unknown: Yep. You want proof?
A few seconds later I get a picture. The girl is wearing all the jewelry around her neck. She sticks her tongue out and is cross-eyed. She is making peace signs with her fingers, rings cover them.
Could she be any more adorkable if she tried?
I text her back.
Chloe: Ok. You're in. Meet me at the beach in 20 minutes. Don't be late.
Unknown: See you there :)
Chloe: NO EMOJI!