Just as a rose is unable to change its color, it isn’t possible for us to alter the past. It’s only once you realize this that you’ll be set free. This sounds really lovely, like it should be a quote in a book, but what happens when you can’t break the chains clutching you to a devastating and life-altering event? No one likes to talk about that kind of ugliness.
Events in our lives shape us. There’s basically two categories–good or bad. I’m not going to touch on the praiseworthy since I’m not a motivational speaker. I want to address the ugly.
This isn’t a perfect world. Bad things happen to good people. True evil exists and it walks this earth in the form of a well-suited man wearing expensive shoes. He speaks with a charming Scottish accent and smells of liquor and sweet tobacco. My mother’s killer.
Most children are too naïve to recognize the moment they are being ruined for the rest of their lives. I wasn’t that lucky. I remember everything about that dreadful day and the memories often replay in my head–the bitter aroma of burning cookies, the smell of gunpowder floating in the air, even the vision of seeing Max’s brains splattered onto my carpet. I wish the amnesia I claimed to have would’ve stolen those gruesome memories. Maybe then this unquenchable demon with a thirst for hunting and executing wouldn’t have been spawned inside me.
That was the day Stella Bleu Lawrence died. And Bleu MacAllister was born.
I can barely recall a time in my life when I wasn’t obsessed with finding our attacker. I’ve spent years imagining the different ways he might beg for mercy as I hold a gun to his temple. These were the aspirations in my head when my mind would drift from memorizing presidents and state capitals. I never had innocent, childlike thoughts. My dreams weren’t of becoming the doctor to discover the cure for cancer or becoming the first female president; they were consumed by dark, vengeful thoughts.
For eighteen years, every aspect of my life has revolved around retaliation in one form or another, with the exception of the two pleasures I allowed myself: photography and playing violin.
Other kids took karate lessons for fun. I took Muay Thai for strength and defense skills. Girls my age enrolled in gymnastics because it’s what all their friends were doing. I became a gymnast to learn balance and agility. My fellow ballerinas liked wearing tutus. I became a dancer to master grace. I wasn’t naturally the brightest student so I excelled to the top of my class by becoming the most studious. Why? I’ve always known being the smartest person in the room would one day be my greatest tool. An intelligent person has a chance at outwitting another using a gun in place of his brain.
How does a person live this way without going mad? It wasn’t easy. But I had a confidant–my dad.
I was twelve years old when I sat Harry, my adoptive father, down and told him it was time for a talk. No, not about the birds and bees. I’m certain that would’ve been much more preferable. Instead, I described my memories of the dreadful day my mother was murdered and how I was suffocated with a pillow and left for dead.
I’d spent the previous five years claiming to have no memory of the horrid event. To say Harry was shocked to learn the truth would be an understatement. But that didn’t hold a candle to what came next. Telling him I intended to hunt and execute Thane Breckenridge was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Harry wasn’t delighted to learn that this little girl he saved was planning a murder. I’m certain no father wants to hear that his daughter’s aspiration in life is to grow up to be a killer, especially when he’s an FBI special agent sworn to uphold the law. That’s why I had to give him an ultimatum. Some might call it an ultimatum he couldn’t refuse–either teach me how to kill or watch me attempt it on my own without any training.
It was a hell of a bomb to drop. I can’t imagine the despair he must’ve felt while hearing such a declaration. For that I’ve always been sorry. But I must have been convincing since he agreed. I suspect he went along with it in the beginning to pacify me. He probably believed a twelve-year-old girl would eventually change her mind or lose interest. Neither happened.
Once Harry saw my determination, he took precise care in teaching me how to safely blend with monsters. That’s how I plan to do it–infiltrate Thane Breckenridge’s world of organized crime.
Although I was tutored in the art of facade from an early age, Harry couldn’t prepare me for everything. Together, we decided I should briefly work as a police officer before applying for the FBI academy. He was once an instructor at Quantico so he knew all the right moves to expedite my acceptance into the program as soon as I turned twenty-three and had the proper credentials. It was a good decision since it furthered my education. Although brief, the most beneficial was the hands-on training in undercover work. I regret I wasn’t able to obtain more experience.
Being an agent taught me to think of no one as more than a profile, even myself. I’m Stella Bleu Lawrence MacAllister, former special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Memphis division. I’m a twenty-five-year-old Caucasian female with chestnut brown hair and light blue eyes. I’m five-six, weigh one hundred fifteen pounds. I’m considered attractive by most men’s standards. I lack an interest in relationships, both romantic and social. I’m emotionally cold, detached, and often display narcissistic characteristics. I’m very well aware of my thick skin and completely unapologetic for it. I’m simply inclined to not make connections or friendships with people, with three exceptions: Harry, Julia, and Ellison.
Harry trained me to be a chameleon. I can easily adapt to any situation—except the one happening right now. Julia, my adoptive mother, is gone. Cancer claimed her two years ago. Now Harry has it as well and the treatments aren’t working anymore.
I haven’t recovered from losing Julia and now I face the same prognosis with the only father I’ve ever known. Losing two parents to cancer only a few years apart isn’t fair. I’m bitter and angry but this is different from my mother’s death. I can’t avenge losing them because an intangible illness is the villain to take them from me.
Harry and I sit in my living room with the soft sound of Violin Concerto in D Major playing in the background as we comb through years of records. The final arrangements we’re making aren’t for Harry’s death. They’re for Thane Breckenridge’s. The files scattered before us concern him and his criminal organization known as The Fellowship.
We thought I’d get a few years of FBI undercover experience before I walked directly into the lion’s den but Harry’s illness is forcing my hand prematurely. We planned for four years of experience. Instead, I got seventeen months. We’re forced to finalize the plan because he insists I do this while he’s still alive—and lucid. He says he can’t die in peace unless he knows I’ve put all this behind me.
We’ve had eyes on them for years. I’ve memorized everything in these files about the Breckenridge gang and the people within his circle. It’s all in my mental vault, etched on my heart for good measure.
Lounging on my sofa with feet propped on the coffee table, I chew my pencil as I look through the worn file and mull over my options. I already know how I want to do this but my plan has Harry and me butting heads.
Thane’s son, Sinclair Breckenridge. He’s presently finishing his traineeship with the law firm, Hendry-Irvine, so he may be groomed to replace Rodrick Lester, the present attorney for the brotherhood. The older Breckenridge son is a twenty-six-year-old Caucasian male with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Height is six-two, weight approximately one hundred eighty-five pounds. He’s very attractive, highly intelligent, and studious—hence, Thane’s decision to make him the organization’s next criminal defender.
Harry doesn’t like the idea of me infiltrating the brotherhood through the son. He’s afraid Sinclair will have a strong attraction for me. In other words, he fears I’ll allow the lines to blur because he’s handsome and charming.
A snowball in hell has a better chance than me allowing myself to develop anything less than hatred for a Breckenridge.
The younger son, Mitch, is a no-go. At twenty-two, he’s too immature and not in an optimal position within The Fellowship. “I’ve looked at this from a lot of different angles and I still believe the older son is my best way in.”
Harry shakes his head while scouring a section of the file in his hand. “And the most dangerous,” he counters, never looking in my direction. “These aren’t the kind of people to welcome a stranger into their fold. You have to penetrate lower on the totem pole and gradually move your way up to not rouse suspicion. It’s far too dangerous to start at the top.”
Beginning at the bottom takes time, a luxury we don’t have. Harry’s cancer has already proven to be a hungry little bastard. “Going straight to Sinclair Breckenridge will save weeks, possibly months.”
“I shouldn’t have to remind you that the long road is safest with these people. The more they know you, the better they trust you. Shortcuts get you killed.”
Harry’s oncologist says he has six, maybe up to eight months left. After my experience with Julia, we can probably only expect three of those to be good.
There’s not a single minute to be wasted but I won’t argue or remind him why our timetable is short. I’ll concede for now and then do what I must when the time comes. “You’re right.” I thumb through the papers and find the profile for Sinclair’s friend, Leith Duncan. “What do you think of worming in through his friend, the bar owner?”
“Remind me again who he is.”
“One of Sinclair’s best friends, owner of the bar where they all drink. He’s the son of a somewhat insignificant—a grunt responsible for carrying out tribute.”
“You’re determined to get to Thane through his boy.” He’s reading me like a book. He knows I may start at Leith Duncan but it’ll be short-lived when I move on to the son. “That doesn’t have anything to do with his pretty face, does it?”
He knows I’ve never been a sucker for a pretty boy. “Don’t make me hit a sick, old man.”
He laughs while stretching to reach for the profile. “I know you won’t toy with this Leith for long but let me take another look at him.”
I give him a minute to review the file before making my suggestion. “With the exception of Thane and Abram, the brotherhood members frequent this bar on a regular basis. I’d be in contact with all of them at one point or another so that broadens my options. They all like pretty girls in short kilts to serve their drinks.” I hold up the surveillance photo of the bar. “I’d look pretty good in the Duncan Whisky Bar uniform.”
“I’m not crazy about ruthless men ogling you in that tiny skirt.”
“It’s a kilt.”
“It’s a nearly nonexistent scrap of plaid. I’d rather you didn’t walk around wearing it for all of The Fellowship members to see.” He sighs. “But I guess it’s a solid idea.” He peers at me over his reading glasses. “Although we both know I’m aware of what you’re going to do.” He means me skipping through the chain of command and going straight for Sinclair.
“You know I’m careful.” Being an undercover agent was the perfect job for me. I was very good at it. But I should’ve been. I’d been trained for it since I was twelve.
“I can’t help it. You’re my daughter. It’s my job to protect you.”
Elli is the one he can coddle, not me. She’s the princess so she eats that shit up.
We’re parent and child by choice, not blood. Harry is the one who saved me that day. He was off duty and visiting family in my apartment building when he heard the gunshot. I was unresponsive without a heartbeat—or any sign of life—when he got to me. The doctor said the only reason I lived was because Harry performed CPR and kept oxygen circulating to my vital organs until the EMTs arrived and shocked my heart into beating again.
We also share a secret, forging a bond between us that my sister will never understand—and can never know about. She thinks Harry loves me more because we spend so much time together. She often feels excluded, but of course, he loves her equally. She isn’t able to see it and for that, I’m truly sorry. I regret making my sister feel less loved.
Harry views us in different light, as he should. Ellison and I are very different. I’m strong and resilient while my sister is soft and delicate. She’s the epitome of Daddy’s little princess.
They have a normal relationship. My sister is his and Julia’s biological child, and Julia was the only love he’s ever known, so of course he loves Elli with all his heart. I sometimes envy the ease of their relationship but that’s my own fault. I ruined any chance of father-daughter normalcy when I asked him to teach me how to kill.
“You’re getting your way. You’ll go in through Duncan’s Whisky Bar.” Yes! “But when this is said and done, I’m afraid you’ll not find the peace you think it’ll bring. Serenity is the last thing you’re going to experience. I fear you’ll find yourself in a new kind of hell.”
He’s still trying to convince me I shouldn’t go through with this. “I’ve killed before and slept soundly afterward.”
“You killed because it was your job and you were given no choice. You went for the arrest but it turned into kill or be killed. This is different. You’re going to exterminate an unsuspecting man.”
Thane Breckenridge is not a man. “He’s a monster. He deserves to die.”
“When the time comes, you’re going to feel differently about killing an unarmed person. You shouldn’t be surprised if you’re not able to go through with it.”
“I’ll be able to do it.” I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.
“Are you still hell-bent on not using an alias?”
I don’t have the help of the FBI on this one so I think it’s best to go in simple. They’ll have no reason to suspect I’m there for any reason other than the one I give—unless Thane believes I’m a ghost who’s risen from the grave.