Updated: Apr 27, 2018
"Here they are, the ones who killed your parents."
Her gruff voice struggled as she dragged them into the room. They were bound at the wrists, and the ankles, and to each other by the blue nylon rope. That was Bette’s trademark. She tossed them to the ground before her employer’s feet.
Serena had been pacing her study before Bette’s entrance. She never heard the sounds of struggle as she approached the doors. She didn’t hear their bodies being dragged up the stairs. No clunks or thuds on the dark wood floors. But Bette was known for her stealth. Sometimes. She began to leave the room.
“Thank you.” Serena stammered quickly, her wall fading just long enough for Bette to catch a glimpse of something.
Bette nodded silently, turning to close the doors. Her rose colored hair lit up as the early sunlight from the windows poured down her face. And then she was gone, leaving Serena to watch over her most recent investment.
The study was dark, despite the sunlight peeking through the heavy crimson curtains. The fire cracked and spat behind her as she looked down at them. Kidnapping a high ranking official isn’t simple or cheap. Capturing a high ranking official who doubles as a part time assassin requires an equally skilled and preferably more advanced assassin and an individual who understands the inner-workings of government security. Capturing a Queen? Well, Serena realized that Bette had earned her permanent residency with this service, no one could argue that it was a conflict of interest after this. If this goes according to plan.
"I must say, this is quite unexpected. Do you plan on killing us?"
Mills was the first to speak. The effects of whatever drug Bette had used to sedate them, had worn off. The woman wasn’t looking at Serena when she said this, Bette had dropped them face down. Her dark sunken eyes looked into the fireplace, there was a calm there. Serena did not respond.
The husband remained silent. His grey doe eyes looked at the back of his wife’s head. Her silver hair was pulled back into its tight signature braid, she was in a black night dress, and looked almost frail this way. She was the one Serena needed to speak to.
"I thought that killing you was what I wanted." She finally responded. Pacing the room, she continued, “I thought about it. Killing you. Even if it is you…It would be satisfying.”
“Then what do you plan on doing with us my Queen of Saints?” The woman on the floor let out a smug laugh. “I understand that you are distraught but it is not like you to act out like this.”
Serena inhaled indignantly. Queen of Saints. This woman didn’t deserve the satisfaction of getting under her skin. The title was a taunt. Serena knew that she was known as the weak daughter of war heroes who cries after every execution, after every kill.
“Will you plead guilty in a court of law?” Serena’s voice was cold and calm, like a placid lake on a winter morning.
“Guilty to what crime?” She looked into the flames, smiling.
“The murder of Queens Amelie and Deanna.” Her tone was threatening.
“There is no blood on my hands. What good would come of murdering the women who were like sisters to me?”
To hear her call them sisters. To hear the transparent lie. The rage began to boil in Serena. Her arms were crossed so that her fists were hidden. They had become so tightly balled, she could feel the pain from her nails as they dug deep into her flesh. Serena inhaled deeply. The fabric of her dark blouse shifted with the rise and fall of her chest. With her dark hair pulled back tightly and her clothing just as sharp, Serena looked like every bit of the woman her mothers wanted her to be.
She knew that Mills would never confess. She knew that she would clean up every sliver of evidence. But Serena was fast. She saw it coming. When the housemen came to her room that morning to deliver the news, Serena was ready. She had dreamed about their deaths so much it felt like a memory. And then it was real. They took her to their room. An impressive space with white walls and a grand wooden four poster bed adorned with snow white linens. Those linens were stained that morning. The contrast of crimson against those pristine sheets are all she sees when she closes her eyes now. Serena grieved for a breath. Her mothers, the just and benevolent, the bold and frightening, were willing to believe that this woman would be bound by paper. A treaty. But Serena understood Mills in a way that they did not.
This woman vehemently favored her legacy, above all else. Mills would be proud. Too proud to do away with every bit of evidence. She would want a trophy. Serena turned away from her mothers in their bed. She would mourn later that night. However, in that moment, she had to be quick. She returned to her room where Bette was already waiting outside her bedroom door. Bette was of average height and not immediately intimidating. Not until she moved, not until you met her eyes. She was strong like a redwood and had dangerous green eyes that paralyzed.
“I will pay the fee we agreed on.” Serena’s tangled mess of hair made her appear to be in a frenzy, but her words were steady, rehearsed.
“Where do you want me to start?” Bette had been her main confidante. Serena’s plan was to stay one step ahead of the Grayson family. But Mills had moved faster than she anticipated. Too fast, which meant mistakes might have been made, details overlooked. Bette needed to find them.
“Start with her bunker. Once you’ve found a solid piece of evidence, bring it here.”
Bette responded with a silent nod and began to proceed down the stairs. As she walked past, Serena reached out to her forearm. She grasped it and touched her shoulder with her forehead.
“I trust you.”
“I know.” Bette’s gentle voice came as a whisper. And then she was gone.
Now, Serena stood above her prepared to administer her own justice. Bette didn’t have to look long. Mills wouldn’t trust anyone but herself to carry out the killing. Mills knew their home better than most. The home was her wedding gift to Serena’s mothers; a vintage building redesigned by her husband, reconstructed by her State’s finest contractors. Also, It was not unusual for Mills to be away from home at late hours. So when Bette returned with Mill’s dagger still covered in their dry blood, Serena was not surprised. This was enough.
If the dagger was taken to the Union’s court it would be a quick trial. Mills’ sentence would be death. Serena would be given the honor of carrying it out. If she killed Mills now, and presented the evidence later, the proceedings would be less straightforward but the conviction would be inevitable and the murder of Mills would have been dismissed as just. But, Serena was not the daughter her parents wanted her to be, she resisted the bloody practices that had become the necessary manner for keeping the peace.
“Our staff will soon notice that we’re missing from our beds Serena.” She sounded like a mother warning their child. The tone pulled Serena from her thoughts, tugging faintly at her heart. Mills had always tried to play mother with her. She would have raised her to be just as vicious. Thankfully, after years of disappointment, she was finally able to bring forth her own successor this past spring.
No longer needing a stand in, Mills had ceased her constant doting on Serena. She had everything she wanted. She no longer needed to live in the shadow of Serena’s family.
Serena crouched down over her face. Mills was watching her in her peripherals, the fire reflected in her dark eyes made her almost frightening. “You left early to spend breakfast with the daughter of your friends whom you love as your own.” Every word was a steady well aimed dagger. Mills chuckled.
“You’re so cute.”
“And you are a vicious snake.”
“Come now, you have to know it wasn’t me. I’m not even sure how you came to that conclusion.”
“Because you have so much to gain.”
“Excuse me? What could I possibly gain from –“
“Everything.” Serena roared. The rage spilled from her now. She stood up, looking down at her kill.
“Mills. You have everything to gain. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that. With my parents out of the way you are the first and only real contender for the seat of Sovereign. The leaders of the East and West coasts barely have the support of their own people. It was between you or them.”
Serena had stood up and begun to angrily pace the study.
“I’d still stand a decent chance.”
“Not against the two of them.” Serena’s words shot out following the path of her outstretched arm from the finger pointed at Mills’ head. A direct hit. Society was not ready to accept a male leader. Mr. Grayson was her necessary crutch, but despite his renowned benevolence there was still a fear among the people that another man meant more war. Serena knew this, Mills knew this. Though only one of her mothers could campaign, there was no question they would be viewed as a team. What one lacked the other made up for. A silent conversation always seemed to exist between the two. They were regal and deliberate, and all those who were in their presence felt safe. A feeling the people did not take for granted.
Much of Mills’ support was the product of wealth. In the southern region, the money of her family held a strong influence. What her mothers would handle with diplomacy, she handled with money. The large businesses outside the south (and many within) were not interested in what her influence as Sovereign could mean for them. It didn’t matter how much Mills played and looked the part of a brave leader, she stood no chance against her parents.
“Serena honey, I would never.”
Serena made for her desk, the room filled with the sound of the hard clacks of her heels. She ripped open a drawer in her desk and pulled the blood coated dagger out. She threw it hard. It landed with solid thunk as it split the wood of the floor inches away from her eyes.
“This is yours. Custom made. Engraved. And probably still coated in your finger prints. You. Fucked. Up.”
Serena was brimming with rage that manifested itself in a type of manic excitement.
“It was in the first place Bette looked.” Serena was laughing.
“Will you use it to kill me?” Mills’ voice was grave.
“Yes, let me compromise the one beautiful piece of evidence that would allow me to do my mothers justice.” She was laughing.
From the same drawer Serena pulled out an old handgun. Her first gun. She marched back over to Mills, both hands on the gun, aimed for her head ready to pull the trigger. And then he spoke.
“Don’t do this to our daughter.” He was watching the gun above his wife’s head.
Your daughter? Serena met his eyes, gun still at the ready. He spoke so softly but his eyes said more than those six words could. Something inside her broke. The tears she had held at bay could no longer stand to be suppressed. She wanted to scream. Your daughter? What about their daughter? What about me?
That’s when it came to her. Wiping the tears away, lowers the gun.
“Mr. Grayson, have you two finally decided on a name for her?” Her voice was gentle now.
“No. You know it is tradition to wait - ”
“Until her first birthday. I know.”
“Then why ask?” Mills spat.
“I want your daughter.”
“You have taken the only family I have away from me. So, I will raise your daughter as my own.”
“Serena honey, this is absurd.”
“I can’t kill you Mills, you know that. So, instead I’ll do the next best thing. I will take away your legacy. And after tonight, you will never step foot in the North unless I say so.”
“And what makes you think I will agree to this?”
“You will agree to this because the alternative is that you die, humiliated, in front of the entire country.”
“How will you explain why I’ve given up my only child to you?”
Serena paced back and forth, considering this. Then, with a coy smile, she gives her answer.
“Due your poor health, you have decided that you are unfit for motherhood and so, you’ve entrusted her upbringing to a woman you love and trust like family. She will be my daughter, and my heir. She will forfeit all claims to the Southern throne.”
Mills was only thirty-five but her struggle with fertility was well known. Her first child, would be her only child. Mills’ lineage would die with her.