SHORT STORY: When the hunter turns ally

Thursday May 21 2020

Steeling herself against the fear that had frozen her in place, Marta turned as the quiet warehouse exploded with the sound of gun shots.

Steeling herself against the fear that had frozen her in place, Marta turned as the quiet warehouse exploded with the sound of gun shots. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA 

NADYA SOMOEI
By NADYA SOMOEI
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She was hardly noticeable as she sat on her own in the café. She sipped her drink, while delicately fiddling with her phone, her hair and the multitude of rings weighing her fingers down. She was a woman on a mission, just waiting for her cue.

In contrast, the busy café bustled with early morning customers rushing to get their caffeine fix and hurry on to work. The busy servers waded through hungry customers who kept waving them down.

The chaos further camouflaged Marta. She wasn’t unnoticeable, no, quite the opposite. She tended to stand out everywhere she went, but she’d developed an uncanny ability to hide in plain sight. So she waited, watching with those beautiful owl-like eyes until she spotted him.

Jax walked into the café with casual ease. The second she saw him, Marta turned her face slightly, even though she knew he wasn’t likely to see her. He sat down and waved over the nearest server, smiling sweetly as he placed his order. Marta swallowed her distaste, classic Jax, she thought. His coffee arrived and he proceeded to open a newspaper and peruse through it. It was almost an hour before he paid his bill, got up and strolled out of the busy café. Marta got up and followed closely behind him. Tailing him was easy because people were busy rushing to work and besides, Jax didn’t know he was being followed so he kept an easy and relaxed pace.

The day was slightly overcast, the sun rays shining through ominous clouds. A strong wind, heavy with the scent of rain, blew up leaves, dust and unsuspecting skirts. Marta shadowed the man she’d been looking for since the day she’d woken up to find him gone, along with her life savings. It had taken months to trace down this man she’d fallen in love with who had disappeared like a ghost. He was a great conman who operated under the cover of complete anonymity. She’d realised pretty soon she didn’t know where he lived, worked, heck, she hadn’t even asked him his full name!

Marta cringed, she’d been a fool once, but never again. Shaking off the memories that cast even darker shadows on her day, she realised he’d stopped on the busy sidewalk to answer his phone, and she moved as close as she dared, straining to hear him.  

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“Hey man! How’s it going?” Jax said, seemingly pleased with the call, “Yeah, yeah I’m totally free… right now? Err, sure. I’ll be right there.”

As he hung up, he suddenly turned around and Marta quickly ducked behind a street light. Then he began to move again, his whole demeanour changed. His easy walk became more purposeful, he took longer strides, his relaxed shoulders were now hunched and he was looking around after every few steps. Marta let up her pace, allowing him to move further ahead, using her sharp eyes to keep track of him.

They moved deeper into the city, away from the shiny façade of the business district and the scenery became more unsavoury, as did the characters. Marta drew her scarf over her head, hiding her face from the touts and shopkeepers who leered and tried to pull her into their premises. Suddenly, Jax ducked into an alley and Marta picked up her pace to follow, practically breaking into a jog. She couldn’t lose him now.

The alley stunk and was empty apart from a rickety, nondescript looking door on the left that led into a warehouse. Marta hesitated, this was it… she wrinkled her nose, squared her shoulders and burst in.

There was a thud and then Jax fell on the ground.

“Hello Jax… I’m sure you didn’t expect to see me again, huh?” Marta said surprised at how confident and in control she sounded, even though she didn’t have a plan past simply finding him.  

“What are you doing here Marta? How…?” Jax said frantically, “You need to leave, it’s not-”

“Leave?” Marta spat out before he could finish, “You destroyed my life! No! I won’t leave,” her voice cold and sarcastic, “Not until I get…”

“Marta! Listen to me,” he said, cutting her off, “It’s not safe! I’m sorry I hurt you,” his voice actually sounded contrite, “I didn’t mean to, I just… I’m mixed up in some bad stuff… these people are nasty… I’m sorry okay? But you’ve got to go…now!”

Marta was livid. Did he really expect her to just walk away, simply because he’d managed to spin another tall tale? Obviously he was good at lying, not many people could convincingly pull off that look of fear on his face, but she wasn’t going to be fooled twice. Taking a step towards him, she breathed in and prepared to let him have it when a door behind him opened, flooding the dim warehouse with light.

“Well, well, who’ve you got with you Jax?” a low, menacing voice said as three men walked slowly towards them.

Jax spun round immediately, attempting to block Marta from view.

“Nobody… she was just leaving,” Jax said loudly, then in a desperate whisper told her to run.

“Hmm, well you’re nobody isn’t going anywhere,” the voice replied as the men came closer, “She now knows where our spot is, and we can’t have that now, can we? Move away Jax.”

A deep silence followed, broken only by a crisp ‘click’ as a gun was cocked.

“Marta,” Jax’s voice was so low, she almost didn’t hear him, “Marta, I said run,” Jax repeated as he began to step towards the men.

Steeling herself against the fear that had frozen her in place, Marta turned as the quiet warehouse exploded with the sound of gun shots. She saw Jax crumple to the ground even as she ducked and ran through the rickety front door and out into the alley. She ran for her life without turning back to see who would follow.