PROLOGUE - CHRISTINE
Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted a nice office job. Personal assistant, maybe. I’d have been happy with a cubicle, but a small office would’ve been my dream. People would depend on me to answer the phone, and placate clients, and bring coffee.
Something boring like that.
And the man in my life would’ve been my boss. He’d wear a suit and a tie. He’d look at me like I was saving him when I made excuses for him on those days when he just wasn’t feeling the job. He’d have flowers waiting on my desk for Personal Assistant Day, and take me to lunch somewhere I could never afford for my birthday, and have me buy gifts for his girlfriends because he was too busy.
We’d have been partners.
We would’ve trusted each other. Respected each other’s talents. Known our places in this world.
And we’d have been happy with it.
I don’t know if any of that is true, but I think it is.
Because no one would wish for the life I have now.
Not even me.
I woke up yesterday in a strange place. This tiny basement apartment, to be specific. There was blood on the pillow and a long stitched-up gash on the back of my head. My fingertips explored that gash. Counting. One. Two. Three… seventeen stitches. About four inches long. Blood clotted in my hair.
Someone had fixed me up. Obviously.
And they took care, I think. Not to shave too much hair. Because when I hold a small compact up as I look in the bathroom mirror, I can’t see the gash through my thick, auburn mane.
Today I have a headache. A bad one, actually. But there are painkillers on the cheap coffee table in front of the couch. One of those orange pill bottles with the caps that are impossible to remove and a white label that says CHRISTINE KEENE on it in someone’s sloppy handwriting.
So I take those and feel dizzy, and stop wondering what’s happening and just… float.
I think I’m Christine but I’m not really sure.
It feels like it’s my name so I’m gonna go with it.
I don’t really have an alternative option because I don’t remember anything.
I don’t know who I am, how I got here, or why I stay.
I don’t know why there’s a shotgun in the closet, a sniper rifle under the floorboards, or a pistol under the bloodstained pillow.
When my fingers explore the scar under my chin and I wince at the pain in my shoulder every time I try to reach higher than my chest, I know I’m not that boring office girl. I am the opposite of boring.
I don’t even know how I knew about the sniper rifle. I was staring down at my dirty bare feet and just knew. There’s a rifle under the floor.
But I think I’m intuitive. Because there’s this thing inside me saying…
There is no cubicle, or flowers, or desk to put them on.
There is no boss.
There is only me and these weapons.
That same thing inside me says, Be still, Keene. Lie low. Say nothing. Call no one. Just disappear.
And it’s not even that hard to listen because I don’t have a single contact in my phone. If that’s my phone. The only thing on that phone is a text from a virtual currency site telling me a two-million-credit transfer was completed two days ago.
Even if I did have a contact I don’t have anything to say. No questions to ask. And there’s food in the fridge and painkillers on the coffee table.
So it’s easy.
There’s no panic inside me.
I give that little thing in my head total control.
Until that knock on the door.