Her Stolen Voice, Chapter One

Five years later

Hektor DuStarke has promised that tonight’s job is big, and we all know what that means. A bunch of his men and women waving their hands desperately, hoping, praying to be called.

It’s not just because we get paid well afterwards.

It’s because of his lavish feasts after big jobs.

I can still remember after the last major job, six months ago, all of our muscles aching, our bodies trembling from being scared of being found out. And then there was a delicious roast, plump and juicy apples and grapes, carefully roasted asparagus, and for dessert, a rich chocolate and vanilla cake heavy with raspberry jam in the middle and whipped cream. Just remembering it is enough for my stomach to growl silently, although I have only just finished a light dinner.

After all, Hektor already told me about the job. I know that I’m going on it. “Eníse told us that old Bruno bribed his way into a new shipment of cloth from Izanami,” he’d told me some hours earlier. The mention of the country I’d run away from sent a slight chill down my spine, but my face remained emotionless, an blank page. “He thinks he can exchange it with Asintmah for some of their drugs. Fool,” he continued. Hektor loathes drugs with a passion, and he wishes to exceed the drug lords’ profits with expensive cloth, rare jewels, and ancient artifacts. He’s certainly making some other prominent gang lords sweat.

“Izanamese cloth is some of the most expensive there is,” he started, then paused. “I was overexplaining again, wasn’t I?” He waited for me to nod. “Apologies. I was training some of the new recruits and I suppose I forgot you’re not one of them. Sorry.”

I waved my hand to the side, explaining that an apology wasn’t needed and motioning him to continue in one gesture.

“Anyway. We need that cloth. It’s worth twice than most drug deals are going to get. And that is why you are going on this mission. We need a little bit of Silence every now and then.” He smiled at his use of my unofficial title.

“Oh yeah, before I forget…Eníse said that Bruno keeps his plans in a false bottom in his desk. His letter opener knife is the key. Don’t forget that.”

I shook my head, at the same time wondering how on earth Eníse had managed to earn Bruno’s trust so quickly. I decided it didn’t matter.

I take a sip of water as Hektor finishes telling his “favored circle” about the job. His confidantes, he calls us. He coughs before saying, “Anyway, those who are going on this mission are Aseye, Yuta, Alfhild, and Sinéad.”

I see Aksel roll his eyes. He’s never liked me that much, sees me as an invalid just because I can’t speak. “Why the hell does the Ice Queen have to go on every single ‘special’, mission? It stinks of favoritism,” he snarls.

Aseye smirks at him. “Maybe it’s because Sinéad doesn’t make obnoxious remarks all the time.”

“She never speaks, Aseye. Gotta do better than that.”

Aseye groans. “For crying out loud, Aksel. You’d get busted because you couldn’t help but piss off the targets. Sinéad doesn’t have that problem.”

“Because she can’t talk. My point is still valid.” He glares at Hektor.

Hektor doesn’t return his angry gaze. “Aksel, you are very strong. That is why I always have you by my side when I need to make a deal or pick up a shipment. People see you, and they have second thoughts about crossing me. You’re capable of spywork, but this is s very delicate operation. Likewise, Sinéad could easily be my bodyguard. However, due to her lack of muscle, she could also be overpowered by someone bigger than her. But also because of her body type and her silence, spywork and thievery are what she excels at. You are both excellent workers of mine. So do stop conveniently forgetting all the numerous missions I’ve brought you on.”

Aseye chuckles, and even Yuta suppresses a smirk. Aksel mercifully shuts up. “Now,” Hektor continues, “Get changed and ready.”

Aseye and I walk back to our rooms. “Damn Aksel,” she mutters, dark eyes staring at the ceiling. “Jealous bastard. Makes me want to punch him in the face.” She smiles at me, her teeth startlingly bright against her dark skin. “Don’t you?”

I allow a small smile to flicker across my lips, and she laughs. “Knew it.” Her room is closer to the end of the hall, and she waves at me before leaving.

Mine is closer to the end, and so a few seconds go by before I reach it.

My room is nothing special. A small bed with pillows that are too stiff, a desk, a closet, and a tiny bathroom in an adjoining room.

I strip out of my day clothes quickly, before changing into my black pants and black shirt. I tie my dark hair up into a braided knot. But as I reach towards my scarf (not a necessary thing, but it makes me more comfortable) I feel a flutter of nerves. They’re nothing unusual; even though I joined the DuStarkes almost five years ago, I still worry about getting caught. Almost unconsciously, my fingers brush the thick, short scars on my throat; another reminder of that day. Even on my pale skin, the white marks manage to be noticeable.

The door swings open.

Without thinking, I toss the scarf over my neck and grab my knife. I point it directly at the intruder.

Poor Yuta jumps away. “Ah!” he yelps. “I’m sorry, I thought you were ready. Everyone else is ready to go.”

I put the knife back on my desk and lift up a card. Enough people have barged into my room unexpectedly that I’ve even prepared a pre-written response: Do not open my door without knocking. I can’t guarantee I won’t throw a knife before I see you.

He pales, and for a moment I feel bad. “Sorry, Sinéad. I’ll knock next time,” he says before slowly closing my door.

I exhale, tie my scarf firmly around my neck, turn off the lights, and leave to get the job done.

authors note: so sorry for being absent so much, and for this taking a while. It’s turning out to be more of a problem child than I thought I hope I can get the next chapter out faster.

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