...this was a fortress of safety in the darkness.
"My lovely abode," Gerard interrupted, with an equally surprising wonderful French accent. he shut the Cadillac off and climbed out. I didn't wait for him to open the door for me.
He did, though, open the door to the house for me, and as I walked through the door, I shook my head.
"Don't tell me this is the only room in the house," I said in disbelief, walking to a wall sized, cracked mirror and running my finger down the rust.
"Yes," he chuckled, shoving his hands in his pockets, "there are more rooms than this."
"Gee whiz, how did you afford all this?" I asked sarcastically.
Gerard chuckled and leaned against a bookshelf made of foundation bricks and plywood. "It was in exchange for a hit," he replied, taking off his sienna colored jacket and lazily sprawling it against a suede couch. I watched him closely through the process. "Sand coated brick is actually much more expensive than it sounds."
"Not much of a cleaner, I see," I said, repeating myself from the train.
"When you have a maid you get a little lazy, I apologize." He proceeded to pick up his coat and gingerly put it on the coat rack.
"Live-in maid?" I asked, suddenly sparking more questions about his life. Suddenly, I wanted to know everything about him. I blinked rapidly as this occurred to me. His life couldn't be any more or any less dramatic than mine.
"That's the only way I could do it, as you can imagine," he laughed, "I pay her nothing but she lives in elegance, compared to her home country."
"I'm wondering if a twenty dollar house like this is worth all the work you must put her through," I joked, watching Gerard extend his hand out to me.
"C'mon, let me show you the rest."
I took his hand as he lead me to the door to the right of the garage's next to the shabby couch. As he opened the door and ushered me in, my jaw dropped.
Decked out in every stainless steel, high tech appliance you can ever imagine, the kitchen was like something out of a movie. I walked across the linoleum floor and stroked a finger across the back of the dining set. My feet were surprised when my combat boots clunked against wood floor as I walked to the actual kitchen area.
"What the hell happened here?" I asked, noticing the way he placed his hands on my hips as he moved to the side of me.
"As you may have noticed, the other room is quite sparse. The kitchen alone was purchased over five years of hitting, plus other small side jobs," he explained, sighing in achievement. "Sometimes I think that killing people is worth it."
I furrowed my eyebrows at this statement, although he took no pause from speaking to grab my hand again and lead me to the main room again, taking a right into the only door on the north wall.
It was a hallway, no more elegant and unique than my loft in Newark. There were a few tall orchid flowers in the corners and a coffee table here and there but other than that, the L-shaped space was also relatively empty.
"What does this room lead to?" I asked, reaching for the doorknob of the first door shown around the corner.
"The bedroom," he replied, grasping my hand around the doorknob and opening it.
Once the door swung all the way open, it had become clear to me that this room must have been his prized possession.
The room's mood was much different than the rest of the house, including the techie kitchen. On either side of the Victorian bed sat two romantic candle holders on cherry wood nightstands, making the maroon walls take on almost a vampire-ish atmosphere. Compared to the artificially lighted rooms in the rest of this house, on account of there being no windows, this was a fortress of safety among darkness. Murals hung on the wall of family, the only family pictures I'd seen so far, of a couple in their fifty's and a young, blond boy in a hospital bed, waving weakly at the camera. Even a tranquilizing rock waterfall was stationed next to the door.
I didn't have words for how this room made me feel, so in reaction, I climbed up on the foam mattress and curled my knees to my chest, not the smartest idea in skinny jeans.
"It's a lot to take in, I know," he said faintly, kicking off his shoes and taking off mine before getting on the bed and curling beside me, intimately facing me. "You act like you've never been in a ghetto house before."
I chuckled slightly at the sound of the word 'ghetto' with his accent, and furrowed my brows. "Don't you do enough hits to buy a mansion?"
"I'm platinum, just like you."
"Then where does all the money go?" I asked curiously.
"My little brother," he admitted, sorrow coarse in his voice, making it sound rough. "Mikey. He has cancer. It's why I started hitting in the first place."
"Oh," I replied softly, afraid that I would make him upset if I questioned him further. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he shook his head, sniffling his nose and ridding his eyes of the tears.
I looked back up at the murals, to the older couple. "Are those your folks?" I asked, nodding to the black and white framed pictures on the wall, watching his expression turn delighted from melancholy.
"Yes, that is my mama and papa," he chuckled, "they are both one hundred percent Italian."
"I can tell. You look a lot like them."
"Yes," he replied bluntly, looking down at his hands.
I bit my lip from saying what I thought next, but it came out faster than my brain had time to process. "It doesn't look like much money is going to them."
Gerard sighed and looked into my eyes. "My father is dead. I'm not giving my mother money, I'm giving her revenge. My first kill was on that train, and the mark was one of the murderers. The other is an FBI agent, Wendy McClair. She's good; better than you and me, both."
"But why am I here? What does that have to do with me?" I asked, sensing that my sole purpose of being there was to take down his own hit.
Gerard shook his head. "I can't tell you, yet."
Something inside of me encouraged me to help him, even though the secrets were piling up. Practically beyond my will, I reached out and held his hand reassuringly.
"Whatever this is," I whispered, swallowing hard. "I'm with you."
He lifted my hand and kissed my knuckles one by one. "I hate to be more cryptic, signore, but you don't have a choice."
I blushed as he grabbed me by the waist and scooted me closer to him, and as I snuggled into his warm chest, I couldn't help but feel belonging in this stranger's grasp.