Home > Last Hit (Hitman #1)

Last Hit (Hitman #1)
Author: Jessica Clare

Chapter One

DAISY

I have planned for this day in secret for six long years, I think as I wake up and stretch, a giddy burn in my stomach that might be nerves.

Today, I will escape.

The day starts as any other. It's like the world can't see how excited I am inside, but I'm practically vibrating with anticipation. Freedom is so close I can taste it. I get out of bed and dress in a dark, floor-length skirt and matching blouse. I throw a sweater on over it, so every inch of my body is covered. Then I go to my mattress and pull out the disposable cellphone and the small wad of cash I have saved up.

Seven hundred dollars from six years of saving. It has to be enough. I tuck them both into my bra to hide them.

I go to the bathroom and pull my dark hair into a ponytail and then splash water on my face to cleanse it. I stare at my reflection. My face is bleach pale, but there's a flush on my cheeks that betrays me. I don't like it, and I wet a cloth and press it to my cheeks, hoping the color will fade. When I can't delay any longer, I leave the safety of my bathroom.

My father is seated in the living room. The room is a dark cave. No light comes in. There's a chair and a sofa, and a TV. The TV is off, and I know it's only programmed to broadcast happy, chaste channels like religious TV or children's shows. If I'm lucky, I get to watch PBS. I long for something edgier, but my father has removed everything else from the channel list, and I'm not allowed the remote.

As usual, the only light in the room is a small lamp beside his chair. It halos his recliner, and my father is seated in an island of light in the oppressive darkness. He reads a thick hardback—Dickens—and closes it when I enter the room. He's dressed in a button-up shirt and slacks, his hair neatly combed. It is ironic that my father dresses so well, considering he doesn't leave the house and no one will see him but me. If I ask, he will simply say that appearances are important.

Our entire house is like the living room: dark, oppressive, thick with shadow. It's sucking the life out of me, day by day, which is why I must do what I can to escape.

"Sir." I greet my father, and wait. My hands are clasped behind my back, and I'm the picture of a dutiful daughter.

He eyes my clothing, my sweater. "Are you going out today?"

"If the weather is nice today." I don't look at the windows in the living room. Not a shred of light comes through them. It's not possible. Despite my father's pristine appearance, the house looks like a construction zone. The arching windows that once filled the living room with light are boarded up with plywood, the edges smoothed down with yards of duct-tape. Father has made the living room into a fortress to protect himself, but I have grown to hate the oppressive feel of it. I feel like a bat trapped in a cave, never to see sunlight.

I can't wait to escape.

He grunts at my words and hands over a small key. I take it from him with a whispered 'thank you' and go to the computer desk. It has a roll-down top that my father locks every night. He doesn't trust the Internet, of course. It's full of bad things that can corrupt young minds. He has a filter set up on the websites so I can't browse explicit websites, not that I would. Not when the only computer in the house is ten feet from his chair.

I calmly go to the computer and type in the address for the weather website. Today's forecast? Perfect. Of course it is. "The weather looks good."

"Then you will run errands today." He pulls on a pair of glasses and picks up a notepad, flipping through it. After a moment, he rips off a piece of paper and hands it to me. "This is the grocery list. Go to the post office and get stamps as well."

I take the list with trembling fingers. Two places today. "Can I go to the library, too?"

He frowns at my request.

I hold my breath. I need to go to the library. But I can't look too anxious.

"I'm already sending you to two places, Daisy."

"I know," I tell him. "But I'd like a new book to read."

"What topic?"

"Astronomy," I blurt. I'm only allowed to read non-fiction around my father. It's a harmless topic, outer space. And if he presses, I can say I'm continuing my education despite finishing my homeschooling years ago. Father won't relax his grip enough for me to go to college, so I have to continue my learning as best I can.

He stares at me for a long moment, and I worry he can see right through me, into my plans. "Fine," he says after an eternity. He checks his watch. "It's eight thirty now. You'll be back by ten thirty?"

It's not much time to go to the grocery store, the post office, and the library. I frown. "Can I have until eleven?"

His eyes narrow. "You can have until ten thirty, Daisy. You are to go to those places and nowhere else. It's not safe. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir." I close the computer, lock the desk, and hand the key back to him.

As I do, he grabs my arm and frowns. "Daisy, look at me."

Oh, no. I force my guilty eyes to his gaze. He knows what I'm doing, doesn't he? Even though I've been so careful, he's figured it out.

"Are you wearing make-up?"

Is that all? "No, Father—"

His hand slaps my cheek in reproach.

We both stare at each other in shock. He's never hit me before. Never.

My father recovers first. "No, sir," he says, to correct me. I stare at him for so long that my eyes feel dry with the need to blink. Resentment burns inside of me, and for a long moment, I wonder what my father would do if I slapped back. Or if I marched down to the basement and shot off a few rounds into the wall of phonebooks that acted as the backstop for father's makeshift (and probably illegal) indoor shooting range.

But I can't think like that. Not right now. I'm not yet strong enough. So I swallow my anger.

"No, sir," I echo. Calling him "sir” is a new rule. Now that I'm twenty-one, I'm not allowed to call him "Father" anymore. Just "sir." My heart aches at how much he's changed—as if every year the terror in him grows stronger and if I stay here, it will overtake me too.

He grabs my face with his other hand and examines it closely, though I know it's dark enough that he can't see me all that well. The festering resentment continues to bubble in my stomach, but I permit this. It won't be much longer. After today, I won't have to deal with this ever again.

After a moment, he licks his thumb and rubs it on my flushed cheek, inspecting it under the light. No makeup. He makes a "hmmph” sound. "Fine. You can go."

"Thank you, sir," I tell him. I take the list he hands me, and the cash, and rush to the front door.

There are six locks and four deadbolts on the door, and it takes a moment for my trembling fingers to undo all of them. I get to go out.

I get to leave.

I'm never entering this house again.

Once the door is unbolted, I carefully shut it again and then wait a moment. The sound of my father locking and turning all the bolts again reaches my ears. Good. I stand on the covered porch for a moment and stare out at our yard. Our small house has a rickety fence in the front that is falling down, but we don't repair it. The grass is knee high because Father won't let me mow it but once a month. Surrounding our house are acres and acres of farmland that we let out to neighboring farmers. We don't grow anything ourselves, since that would entail being outside.

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