dirty money (part 2)
“Besides, his screaming when I had to cut off a finger for being late were just so loud that I think I have a headache.”
“What a pity,” Tatiana snorted.
If there was one thing that even years of being a loan shark (or high risk money lender, as the term Seren preferred) hadn’t taught her, it was how to get blood off of shoes.
“Damn it,” she hissed, returning to her base and irritably kicking her shoes off in the hallway. Behind her, one of her hit crew, a boy with blonde curls and wide eyes, quickly bent down and picked them up, seeming to not even noticed the sticky red tint on them. The woman strode purposefully back into her chambers, regal even when barefoot, and shut the door loudly behind her.
“The worst,” Seren huffed, tugging a pin from her hair so that a cascade of blonde locks rained down around her shoulders. “I ruined another pair of shoes, and on top of that, the bastard can’t pay me back until next month.”
“Well, it’s your fault for tacking on so much interest,” Tatiana rolled her eyes and continued counting coins from the corner of the room, the jingling of the gold a steady metronome as she worked methodically.
“How else can I negotiate with drug dealers?” Seren questioned, flopping down on a sofa in the center of the room and covering her head with a pillow. “Besides, his screaming when I had to cut off a finger for being late were just so loud that I think I have a headache.”
“What a pity,” Tatiana snorted.
“Shh. Headache. I need cuddles, not sarcasm.”
“Why don’t you go ask the Flower Child? He’d give you cuddles if you asked,” The brunette replied, lifting an eyebrow cheekily even if her friend couldn’t see her.
“Are you talking about Baudelaire again? He does not have a thing for me,” Seren rolled her eyes under her pillow.
“Say that to the pile of flower crowns he left you.”
“What?” The blonde sat up, the pillow falling off of the sofa as she turned toward her friend, who only pointed smugly to the stack next to her. What appeared to be half of the greenhouse at the base was present in the form of wreaths of flowers, stacked in a haphazard pile.
Rather than appearing pleased, or blushing, rather, as Tatiana had hoped, her friend instead looked mildly outraged. “Did he get into my garden?” Seren gaped at the pile.
“I hardly think that little greenhouse you keep can be counted as a garden,” Tatiana replied, rolling her eyes, “Half the stuff in it is poisonous.”
“I don’t remember planting…” the blonde gingerly lifted a wreath, “Forget me nots?”
“He’s been doing it every time you came home from a kill,” the other girl clarified from beside the pile of flower crowns, studying them mildly apprehensively. “A plant for each man or woman you murdered. A life given for a life taken, you know?”
“That’s sweet.” Seren glanced at the flower crowns once more, her face softening slightly as she traced a finger over a silky blue petal before glancing up suddenly, the creaking open of the door shattering her brief moment of softness – a word that Tatiana wouldn’t have used to describe her friend for years.
“Er, Madame,” the curly haired boy, Benjamin, started, “It’s the police. They’re onto us.”
“Again?” The two women exchanged a bewildered glance before Seren strode away from the flower crowns suddenly, keeping only the one that she was already holding. She peered out of a window from her room toward the front of the building where, sure enough, a small congregation of policemen had gathered. “What do they want?”
“They said they heard it was a drug den,” Benj replied with a helpless shrug.
Tatiana made a strangled noise of protest, “We haven’t done that for years! How can they accuse us of that?”
Benj gawked at her and then at Seren before asking breathlessly, “Is that how you got so rich?”
Seren, too occupied by the problem of being tracked by law enforcement, didn’t have the time to answer his question. “Pack the money and the jewels,” she instructed the other two, her slim frame still beside the window. “Gray, get a car ready. We’ll need a quick way to get out if they manage to make their way in.”
“They don’t look like they plan on storming in,” the brunette observed nervously, peering out of the window behind Seren.
“Because they’re standing at our front door?” Seren closed the little opening in the blinds and glanced back at her friend. “There are two cars in the front and another two parked down the street. I bet that half of them are watching the back door or the perimeter to make sure we don’t escape.”
As if on cue, the tall, curly-haired operative chose that moment to enter the room. “There are policemen in the back of the building,” Frankie informed them breathlessly, evidently having run all the way up to her room. He caught sight of what Seren was holding. “Hey, you liked my crowns! I wasn’t sure whether to use daffodils or tulips or –“
“Baudelaire,” Tatiana chided him, and he fell silent sullenly.
“We’ll have to send in the sweet talker,” Seren decided with a firm nod, chancing another glance over her shoulder back at the window.
“The… what?” The other three were baffled.
The blonde woman strode past them, peeking her head out of the door. “Seth Allen! We need you!”
A moment later, the man came to the door curiously, and after some brief instructions from the loan shark herself, the man nodded and head back down to the front of the building.
“What’s he doing?” Tatiana questioned, peering out of the window.
“Seth can talk his way out of anything,” Seren explained somewhat proudly as she leaned against the wall beside the window. Sure enough, the officers looked vaguely placated, less bristly the more that the man spoke with them. With a final nod, Seth returned back up the building to the main room, smiling smugly at himself.
“Mate, when did you learn to do that?” Benj asked, shaking his head in wonder. “That would have worked wonders when we were living together and you wanted me to surrender butter.”
“Benjamin, no one wanted your butter,” Seth sighed in answer before merely shrugging at the fair haired man and turning to his boss. “Seren, they’re alright now. They said they got an anonymous tip that this was a vertigo lab and wanted to investigate, but it’s all fine now since I told them that we were just a tax agency and there obviously had to be a mistake.”
Seth was smiling as if he expected Seren to be pleased, but the blonde had gone all stiff, her lips curving downward into a look of almost horror. “A vertigo lab?” she replied delicately.
The young man looked perplexed but nodded slowly, brow furrowing.
Seren let out a short breath. “There’s only one person in the world who knows exactly how I made my empire in the first place, or what drug it was.”
“What are you trying to say?” Frankie asked, confused.
“We have a mole,” Seren returned shortly and then, in a motion as fluid as if she’d done it hundreds of times, she pulled a dagger from her belt and stepped toward her friend, holding the tip merely an inch from Tatiana’s throat. “Start talking,” she hissed.