Monday, December 12, 2016

Never Think Twice: Phelix Story Revised

I've revised the Phelix story I posted on here a few weeks ago. I have gotten mixed responses from my readers so far about the ending. I'd really love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Never Think Twice
Phelix didn’t know how he’d ended up in a situation like this, again. He’d broken into the mansion to kill Captain Agmundr, and now he was playing patty-cake with Agmundr’s five-year-old daughter. He rolled his eyes as he clapped hands with the child, whose name he’d learned was Frida. The child giggled as they crossed the cake with an F and put it in the oven for Frida and Phelix. A huge smile lit her face. Phelix, when will you learn to just do your job and get out?
She hadn’t been smiling when Phelix first came across her. He’d been moving silently through the mansion, sticking to the shadows, and looking for his target. He opened one room and found Frida crying inside. He hadn’t made a noise, and the child’s back was to him. All he’d needed to do was what any sensible assassin would have done, close the door and move on.
But Phelix could never do the sensible thing when faced with a crying child. He entered the room, closed the door softly, and approached her. “What wrong, sweetheart?” he asked in his gentlest voice. Talking to the child was either insane or abysmally stupid or perhaps both. His Massossinan wasn’t good, and his accent clearly Saloynan. Besides, the scar across his cheek didn’t exactly make him look harmless to say nothing of the weapons he carried.
Frida sobbed harder, but when she turned to look at him, she didn’t seem afraid. “Elfa’s arm fell off.” She held a one-armed cloth doll in one hand and the severed arm in the other.
Phelix crouched down next to her. “No need cry. If you fetch Phelix a needle and thread, Phelix fix.”
Frida sniffled. “Could you?” And before he could say another word, the child shoved the doll and its detached limb into his hands and ran out of the room.
Any sensible assassin would have disappeared as soon as the child left the room, but Phelix knew she’d weep even harder if she found him gone before he fixed the doll. Phelix, you are a halfwit! He sat on the floor and waited. He put the doll down so that he’d be able to access his weapons quickly should someone other than Frida enter.
He’d called himself a fool in every language he knew by the time Frida ran back in with a sewing basket. “Please fix Elfa. Her arm really hurts.”
Phelix took the basket. He breifly touched his abdomen, where a newly healed wound that had nearly disemboweled him had given him a new definition of pain. “Phelix sure does.” Searching the basket, he found the things he needed. Phelix, just what are you going to do if someone else comes through that door? Murder them in front of the child?
Having been in the military since he was a child, Phelix had had plenty of experience mending his own clothing, so it didn’t take him long to sew the arm back on. He handed it to Frida. “See, good as new.”
“Oh, thank you!” she cried. She hugged the doll to her chest, then threw her arms around his neck. “No one else would listen!”
Phelix returned the hug awkwardly. “Since Elfa all better, Phelix back to his job.”
Frida broke away, and her face fell. “Can’t you play with me? No one ever plays with me.”
Those sad eyes stabbed into his heart, but he tried to harden himself. “Phelix work to do, and your father most upset if he finds me playing with you instead of working.”
“Just one game of patty-cake. I’ll tell Daddy not to get angry.” Phelix briefly imagined how that conversation would go. But Frida’s lower lip trembled, and Phelix lost the battle.
 “Okay, but just one game.” He held one finger up to emphasize the point.
The one game had become five when he heard footsteps in the hallway: two men approaching. “Shit!” he swore in Saloynan. Frida’s head shot up. He changed back to Massossinan and whispered. “Quick, I need hide. You don’t want Phelix in trouble for playing?”
Frida shook her head, ran to the wardrobe, and opened the door. “In here.” Phelix scrambled inside. Frida had just closed the wardrobe when the hallway door opened.
“Daddy!” Frida cried. Phelix put his hands on his knives and watched through a small crack in the door.
Agmundr put his hand on his daughter’s head. The man with him wore scholar’s robes and appeared unarmed. Phelix could’ve opened the door and had both men dead on the ground before they knew what hit them. It was what a sensible assassin would have done, but imagining Frida’s face when he slit her father’s throat kept him crouched in the wardrobe.
Agmundr mussed Frida’s hair. “I’m going to Uppsala. Halvdan will be looking after you while I’m gone.”
“No!” Frida cried, and wrapped her arms around him. “Can’t I come with you?”
Agmundr pushed Frida away and crouched down to meet his daughter’s eyes. “You know that’s impossible. I’ll only be gone a couple of weeks.”
“But what if something happens to you? What if the Saloynans get you?”
Agmundr laughed. “I’m perfectly safe. No Saloynan could infiltrate this far into the country. I promise I’ll return as soon as I can.” He kissed the top of her head and straightened. “Follow me out, Halvdan. I have a few things to discuss with you before I leave.”
The two men swept out of the room. Phelix quickly exited the wardrobe. He needed to get to Agmundr before he left. Killing him would be much more difficult as he moved deeper into Massossinan territory. “Thanks for hiding,” he said to Frida. “But Phelix back to work.”
He started for the door, but when he glanced at Frida, tears were flowing down her cheeks again. Damn me to Hades! Phelix doesn’t have any more time to comfort children. He turned back to Frida. “What is it, love?”
Frida sobbed. “I’m so afraid he won’t come back. I heard someone tell him that the Saloynan monsters might send an assassin after him. They’ll tear him apart with their claws and drink his blood with their fangs.”
Phelix gulped. If the child thought Saloynans were monsters with claws and fangs, it explained why she hadn’t recognized him as one. Still, her fear put him in an awkward position. “Well, er, that is . . .”
Tears streamed down the child’s cheeks, and Phelix dropped to his knees and held out his arms to her. She fell against his chest. “Please, go with him. Promise me you’ll make sure he gets back safely.”
Phelix hugged the child. What in Zeus’s name is Phelix going to do now?