Victory's Secret: Chapter Five

Rachel Tamayo
Cynthia Austin

If the public knew about the computers, it could start a revolution that might overthrow The Brotherhood. Knowing this technology still exists, a device that could potentially unite us all, could give the citizens the upper hand needed to organize.
The Brotherhood knows better than anyone how technology can be used as an offensive tool; that’s why they’d never allow it to happen. Knowledge and unity are the enemies of the powers that be. I power it up and press my thumb to the screen when prompted. It lights up, welcomes me, and I maneuver to my inbox to check my email.
There is a lot of administrative crap I delete. Some I forward to my counterpart, an assistant I’ve never met, will never meet. Rules are rules, after all. Can’t have anyone knowing too much of anything.
Only one email remains after I clean everything up. I open it and breathe a deep sigh.
Assignment: MaryAnne Haverford.
Age: twenty-one… diagnosed with uterine cancer. Forced removal of organs to save her life rendering her infertile.
Private information follows. I open attachments that contain pictures, information on her family. Her work, her charities, her doctor’s name. The hospital that is treating her, everything I need to know to… delete her.
A soft buzz vibrates through my veins. I need to make my arrangements; book my flight, my hotel room, all with a private account only I have access to, the one provided specifically to aid me with my work. My work as a paid assassin for The Brotherhood.
I accept the assignment, and as soon as I do, the money is transferred into my account. The seventy-five thousand I get for each deletion, on top of my regular salary. With that taken care of, I replace the tablet and lock it back up. With a deep breath, I let my new assignment fall to the back of my mind as I pick up my tools and start carving on the bookshelf I’ve been working on for my new wife.
I place my things in the drawers and hang my clothes in the closet. My perfume, brushes, and the little makeup I have, I place on the vanity. I touch the wood, carved similarly to the coffee table I admired at Liam’s house. It’s stained a deep walnut, bringing out the grain of the wood. He made this for me, I know it.
Maybe not for me, but his wife, whomever that person might have been in his imagination when he carved this.
He couldn’t have known I would be his wife before he got his letter. I smile though, despite this. Glancing up at my reflection in the polished mirror, I sit down and shake my hair out. I brush my waves, loose tendrils tumbling around my face.
How long did Liam spend creating things for his bride? It must’ve taken ages. Could it be there is a man that still believes in romance? I’m not sure I believe in romance to be honest. There isn’t much point in it.
Of course, I don’t know how long it actually takes him to make a piece of furniture, but why doesn’t he open a shop and sell his work? He’s certainly gifted.
Maybe he does. Maybe he sells his pieces on the side to his customers, the ones that hire him for contracting work.
I sigh, setting down my brush. I glance over at my book. The tattered old paperback was my mother’s. She gave me a box of her old books as a birthday gift last year. I selected one I knew was her favorite the day before my wedding. A mystery by Isabella Adams sits on my chair, waiting for me. I groan a protest, knowing I have to go prepare lunch for the household. No time to read. Leaving the book behind, I exit my sanctuary closing the door behind me. I’m grateful The Brotherhood still allows reading. Though they did away with history books, they still allow fiction. For now, anyway.
Back down the stairs, I find William sitting on the couch watching TV. He winks at me and I smile back as I pass through to the kitchen.
When I enter the room, I pause. The kitchen is lovely; the wood cabinets are a light-colored natural pine with a clear coat on them. They are tall, to the ceiling. The counter looks like concrete, stained a marbled gray. The space is large, and off to the left is the dining table in front of a bay window. It’s large enough for a family of twelve. My chest compresses under the weight of the thought. No children will ever be present at that table.
Upon opening the fridge, I find bacon and fresh beef. I discover potatoes and onions and proceed to chop them up for home fries. I make patties, fry the bacon, and toast bread buns. I set the table family style with the food on pretty serving dishes I find in the cabinet.
“William, lunch is ready,” I call through the door.
“About time. It’s almost two,” he mutters, passing me.
I turn away before he looks at me with his hungry eyes. “I’ll go fetch Liam.”
The back yard is fenced, and at the end of the property sits a rough building with peeling paint and sliding barn doors that sit partly open.
“Liam?” I call from a few feet away, unsure of going further. I don’t want to overstep into his personal space, or make him angry. “Liam, are you in there?”
The sun is hot as I stand in the yard, summer having arrived already. The doors slide open and Liam walks out wiping his hands on his jeans, clearly sweating. His hair sticks up and is damp on the ends.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but lunch is ready if you’re hungry.”
“Starving, thanks.” He turns and shuts the doors, securing the lock. “I need to get a fan in there. I didn’t realize how hot it would get. I kind of forget myself when I’m woodworking.”
 “I made bacon burgers. I hope that’s okay.”
“Sounds perfect.”
Liam opens the back door for me, and we enter the kitchen finding William has gone and his plate is empty, but still on the table. A crushed napkin sits on the plate.
I strain from rolling my eyes at a grown man that can’t put his plate in the sink, but I manage. Liam pulls a chair out for me before washing his hands.
He sits as I make my own sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and mayo.
I watch him select his food, making his burger with a large amount of mustard, and then take a big bite.
“Very good, thank you,” he says after swallowing. He drizzles ketchup on his potatoes and forks them. “I have to go out of town tomorrow.” 
I stop eating. “Pardon?”
Go out of town? My throat tightens. Leaving me alone with William? Dread fills the pit of my stomach.
“Yeah, tomorrow. I have to go out of town for a contracting job. A customer told their father about me and he wants me to come put a new roof on his house. It’ll take a few days.”
I push the food in my mouth down my throat, picking up my ice water to wash it down. “I didn’t know you did out of town work.”
He nods. “I do. I’ll be back when the work is finished. You can call me on my phone if you need anything at all while I’m gone.”
“I don’t have a phone.”
He nods. “I assumed. I have one in my room for you. I will give it to you later.” He lowers his voice. “Keep it between us, okay?”
I meet his eyes across the table. They hold a strange emotion, but it’s clouded. So many questions cross my mind, ones I can’t ask.
Is he worried about my safety? Is that why he wants the cell phone to remain a secret? Am I in danger being alone with William? It can’t be because he will miss me. He barely knows me.
I eat, looking down, away from his strange gaze. Suddenly, I don’t want food, but I force it down anyway, down into my dread-filled gut. I really want to talk to my mom.
I stash my truck in the garage at my old house the next morning. It has to look like I’m leaving for a contracting job and nothing else. I pull my bags out and walk to the corner, where a black vehicle with tinted windows sits waiting for me.
I toss my luggage in the trunk before getting into the back seat. The partition is up so I can’t see who is driving. Neither of us speaks.
I lean my head back and remember watching Victory walk out of William’s bedroom this morning. I ran into her in the hallway. She looked up at me with tired eyes and I had to refrain from asking questions I know will make me want to kill him.
 I blink, looking out the car window as I pray he doesn’t hurt her. I have no evidence that he would, only bad feelings, and the images that my runaway imagination have created. Last night, I imagined he took her roughly, uncaring that she is untouched. Bruising and hurting her as he snatches from her body what The Brotherhood has deemed belongs to him. Women are property, after all. They belong to the Director of Population Affairs, and the men they are assigned to. My stomach rolls.
She might be my wife, but I don’t want her because it was decided for me. I want her because I love her. And I want her to want me as much as I want her. Because she chooses to give herself to me, not because I just took it. Not because she feels it’s her duty or because it’s the law. I want her to love me, too.
After a while, the car pulls into a small airport secluded in the middle of a forest, accessible by only one road. The narrow drive is blocked by a barricaded gate covered in warning signs, which the driver has a remote to open.
I’m dropped off not far from a waiting jet. Inside, I flop down into a soft leather seat. A smiling woman offers me refreshments, which I decline. During the flight, I go over the files again, committing everything to memory. I go through checklists in my mind again and again, forcing Victory out of my head and throwing myself full throttle into my work.
It’s warmer in California when I get off the plane, so I shed my jacket, tossing it over my luggage. Another car picks me up and takes me to a hotel. I walk up to the desk and a smiling man looks me in the face.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“I have a reservation for Abe Westinghouse.”
He pecks away at a keyboard, searching the internal database. Businesses are allowed to have them, not regular citizens.
“Here you are. Room 704.”
Key in hand, I thank him and head toward the elevator. The room is plain but nice. I never book anything fancy when I make my reservations. It just doesn’t seem right. I get out my phone and send Victory a text.
Liam: Arrived safely. Don’t hesitate to contact me day or night. Just keep the phone in my room and don’t let him see it. If he finds it, tell him it’s mine.
I put the device away, not expecting to hear back from her for a while, if at all. I change my clothes into something inconspicuous and get to work.
Step one: Rent a vehicle.
Step two: Find MaryAnne Haverford.
Step three: Follow her, learn her. Meet her.
Step four: Erase her.