But, it’s back to the grindstone.
Nobody spoke until nightfall. The old man wearing overalls and the woman with knotted red hair sat watching the television with tears in their eyes, holding each other’s hands like two elderly people watching Death himself walk up to them to take their lives one by one. The fat man and young man with the broken face had moved to the tiny kitchenette to gorge themselves on different canned meats in a victory celebration feast. Collins locked herself in her bathroom perfecting her concealer mask she neglected the last twenty four hours while they waited for news reports of their despicable act.
Coming out of her bathroom, she directed everyone to put on their makeup and present themselves for approval. The fat man never moved so quickly, before or since his current condition. The young man with the broken face followed a short distance behind. They elbowed each other for a spot in the cramped bathroom to view their progress in the studio apartment’s only mirror.
“I don’t like this any more than you do,” Collins added at the old man wearing overalls as she sensed animosity. “Desperate times.”
“I will not kill again.”
“Nobody is asking you to kill anymore. Now we just need to let others know they have support. We need to provide them with understanding of how they can help the cause, how they can help their own cause.”
By this time, the woman with knotted red hair had meandered about ending up behind the old man. He crossed his legs and laid his hands on top of each other crossing at their wrists. The woman with knotted red hair placed a shaking hand on the old man’s shoulder, then added, “I can not do this.”
“You have to,” Collins snapped back.
“No, she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
The woman nodded in agreement.
“You could always take your chances out there. Normals will happily make sure you don’t suffer in this world much longer.”
The woman drew back.
“That’s not fair and you know it,” said the old man as he uncrossed his arms.
“There’s no room for people not willing to fight.”
“There’s always room. If they want to kill me for who I am, I can live with that. I answer only to God.”
Collins and the old man stared each other down until the fat man and young man with the broken face barged in for inspection. The fat man was beaming with pride. The young man with the broken face stood in his most dangerous gangster stance.
“You know what,” Collins finally said, slamming her chair into the table with enough force to rattle the woman with knotted red hair. “You are right. Not everyone has to do the same thing. But,” she searched the apartment for a ‘but’ to add, “But, if you want to stay here where it’s safe, you will have to earn your keep.”
“Fair,” the old man nodded.
“Okay,” she said, still looking around for something the old man and woman with knotted red hair could accomplish while the rest of their team was out risking their lives.
“We are running out of food and concealer. Here is some money. Get as much as you can fit in my cart.” She threw her debit card at them. “The PIN is 1105.”
“We will do that. Right after we register ourselves.”
“Are you insane,” Collins jumped.
“We have to. It’s the law. And it will protect us while we are out in public.”
“You will compromise this whole safe house I have created for you just so you can feel a little safer among them? They do not have your best interests in mind. I do.”
“That may be at least half true. But we do not have to give this address.”
“And which address do you propose,” she asked, truly interested.
“Our real addresses. I lived alone before coming here. I can give my real address.”
“They will use your new ID to track you.”
“Maybe. But it is our duty. It’s the law.”
Collins stepped away and walked around in a circle several minutes scratching her head. Then, as if an epiphany fell from somewhere above, she darted back to the group, which did not take much in such a small room.
“That’s not a bad idea. We will all go register. But in shifts. That way nobody knows that we live together. We can’t be seen together.” The old man smiled. The woman with knotted red hair squeezed his shoulder in relief. The fat man and young man with the broken face looked sorely disappointed.
Collins looked at her phone for a time check. Half past five in the morning. Suddenly she was aware of the dull red hue peeking in through the kitchen window curtains.
“It’s too late now,” speaking to the two deflated men once eager for action. “But you two,” pointing to the old man and woman with knotted red hair, “Get makeup on and grab a face mask. You have provisions to purchase. After you register, of course.”
“It’s illegal to hide our identity now,” the old man interjected.
“Fine. Just. Go make sure you do not have any concealer on. Then go register. You still have my card.”
The old man stood slowly, creaking as any old man would after sitting too long in one position without shifting enough to keep his joints well oiled. He walked off toward the bathroom with the woman with knotted red hair in tow. After they disappeared behind a closed bathroom door, the fat man sank his fat head into his fatter chest. Collins moved in close to him and his partner in crime.
“I have something else for you two.”
Their eyes began to light up again behind their caked on war paint.
“This is a list of all the Council Members. Their names and addresses.” She handed the young man with the broken face a printed copy of addresses from a website. It contained eight names, phone numbers and addresses.
Scanning the list, “One has a line on it. Did we kill him?”
“No,” her hands shook, “That person is off limits. You are not to go there.”
Both men looked at Collins like she started speaking a language they did not understand.
“He is on my side. Our side.”
“He is one of us,” wondered the young man.
“Not that I am aware of. He is a friend of mine. You are not to go to his house or harm him in any way. Is that clear?”
They both nodded.
“Good. It’s too late now. But tonight, you have your orders. Do not tell them,” Collins pointed at the closed bathroom door, “about any of this. Understand?”
Both nodded again.
“Good. Put that away. Tonight, when night falls again, you two will move out.”
They were so pleased with their mission and what it entailed it cracked their concealer creating smiles that split from ear to ear. They shuffled off to watch more television in relative silence. The bathroom door opened pulling Collins’ attention away from her two obedient minions.
“You look,” she struggled for an appropriate word, “normal.” All three would have smiled if her comment was not so accurate.
Blue veins mapped out around the faces of both the woman with knotted red hair and old man. Neither looked happy but Collins did not know if their sadness drained from what they looked like now without concealer or that they were no longer satisfied with the position they felt forced into as of late.
The woman with knotted red hair tried to smile but it sputtered away. Unsure where to stand or what to do, she stood fiddling slowly with her hands. Her older partner sat back in his chair at the small kitchen table. He gasped slowly for air like a fish out of water taking its last two struggling breaths. Age and lack of oxygen was clearly taking its toll on his wiry frame.
“We will go first,” the old man Signed at last. “We do not know how long it will take or what will happen down at the, um,” he was unsure of the correct Sign.
“Police station,” Collins assisted.
“Yes, thank you. When we are done there, we will go shopping for food and concealer if we can get it. It’s illegal to conceal ourselves now. But I think I can convince anyone asking that she is my daughter and just wants to look Normal at home.”
“Great idea,” Collins added. Irritated she did not think of such a well thought out plan. Everyone’s eyes struggled to find something acceptable to look at without causing discomfort to anyone else. Instead all eyes bounced around avoiding each other until the old man managed enough energy to wave the woman with knotted red hair to follow him out.
As they left, Collins tapped the old man’s shoulder.
“You need this,” handing him her only key to the apartment. “If you find a place, buy another one. This is my only copy. You can probably justify one extra. We will make it work somehow.”
He took her key, nodded, and left with his female counterpart trailing close.