Noir, it is the name of an ancient fate.
Tara Maclay, with a glass of water in one hand and dressed in her comfortable nightshirt, quietly walked over to where the pot plant resided on a small, walnut-colored, square wooden end table beside one window of her apartment. The blonde, statuesque woman bent down and carefully poured the liquid from the glass around the plant's stalk, giving it its morning watering as she did every day. The plant was an orchid and would soon be in full bloom. Several buds had formed that could be found nestled in between the plant's broad green leaves - a sign of things to come.
Tara put the now empty glass on the table by the potted orchid, and then stood up straight with a sigh, placing her hands on her hips and admiring the plant. She'd always loved flowers but orchids held a special meaning to her. She remembered with a bittersweet smile the times her mother would walk with her through the gardens, telling stories about each and every one of her flowers. Orchids had been her favorite. The blonde shook her head, dispelling the melancholic thoughts. It wouldn't do her any good.
Tara turned around to face the rest of the apartment and the billiard table she used as a desk. The woman wasn't sure why exactly she hadn't simply bought a real desk instead; it wasn't as if she used the table to actually play pool.
Tara's blue gaze came to rest on the black wall that separated the living room from the bedroom, trying to convince herself not to go back to bed. For some reason she found herself less than enthusiastic about starting the day.
Tara heaved a sigh and with a last glance in the direction of the bedroom, dismissed her reflections and walked over to the billiard table masquerading as a computer desk. She sat down in front of her laptop and switched on the machine. As soon as the computer's operating system had booted, Tara logged onto the Internet and checked her secure email account. In her hazardous and illegal line of work, security and anonymity were imperative for continual business success. Tara Maclay was not only a beautiful woman living a life of privilege in Los Angeles, but also one of the most reliable professional assassins in the criminal world.
As expected, several assignment propositions for her were waiting in her email inbox. She pursed her lips thoughtfully as her eyes scanned the subject headers of the emails, one in particular catching her attention. She directed the cursor to the untitled message and clicked it open.
Slate blue eyes widened when a picture came up. The girl in the picture looked no older than eighteen, but her half-closed green eyes were calm and expressionless, like the sea before a storm. And Tara could see a storm lurking behind those eyes. She recognized that haunted look easily. It wasn't a teenager's look, most definitely.
Flaxen eyebrows drew together at the words at the bottom of the picture. A single sentence.
"A pilgrimage to the past?" Tara muttered to herself. "Ridiculous."
She moved the cursor, intent on dismissing the strange message when a hauntingly music box melody started playing. Tara swallowed, her jaw tensing as she started at the girl's unblinking gaze. That song...
In the city of Napoli, Italy, a girl walked out of the High School building. She stared listlessly as the mob of teenagers around her before turning around and walking away. She didn't fit in with her dark clothes and serious look. Her back hung limply on her shoulder as she walked with her head down, coppery bangs falling over her eyes.
She knew she was being followed. She could feel eyes on her, observing her every move. Whoever was following her was good, she noted with some respect. Any other person wouldn't have noticed anything out of place. Of course, she wasn't just anyone.
The teenager walked at a sedate pace, leading her pursuer away from the crowded streets and into an abandoned construction site. She walked into the tall, half-constructed building and stopped, waiting.
Tara stepped into the light, her eyes never straying from the teenager's turned back. She was suitably impressed, the girl had quite obviously noticed her. The blonde assassin prided herself on her stealth skills, but this teenage girl apparently hadn't been fooled.
"Who are you?"
The girl kept silent, her back turned to the blonde. Tara frowned, trying to discern what the girl's next move would be. A pale hand moved back, obviously holding something. In pure reflex, Tara reached for the gun on the small of her back. She halted her actions, though, when instead of a weapon, the girl showed an old pocket watch. Slender fingers opened the watch and that familiar melody started coming from it.
Tara clenched her fists as the old song filled her ears, taunting her. The girl still hadn't said anything, staring ahead with vacant eyes. Then with a burst of speed the girl set off running further into the building. The movement was so sudden that it took Tara a few seconds to react before she took off after the teen.
The blonde couldn't see the girl anywhere, but her sharp ears picked the sound of her shoes hitting the ground along with the watch's melody. Tara run through staircases and dark hallways, chasing after the mysterious girl.
She finally spotted the girl calmly sitting on a wooden beam, looking at the ground down bellow. Tara stopped and stared, wondering if the girl was going to jump. The silver pocket watch on the girl's hand still played the melody, the setting sun's light reflecting over it's gleaming surface.
Tara watched her for a few seconds, then drew her gun, cocking it with a well-practiced gesture.
"All this for a pilgrimage..."
The girl's pale hands closed around the watch, shutting off the music box melody. Green eyes closed and Tara wondered if she even heard her.
"Once more, who are you?" Tara asked, her voice hard.
"Noir..." the redhead finally said softly.
"I was waiting... for you."
Green eyes locked onto blue ones as the girl rose from the beam. They stared at each other for a long moment, neither saying a word. Suddenly shots rang through the air and Tara had to dive for cover. She squeezed the trigger of her Walther P99 twice, watching with satisfaction as the two dark-suited men fell. Then she remembered the girl and spun around, only to watch as the teen jumped from her perch, landing gracefully on the ground.
Tara cursed herself as she started once again running after the girl. More men ran after them, their shots ricocheting from the walls as she put some distance between them. Tara hid herself in the shadows, her muscles tense as she waited for her assailants. There were a lot of them, she knew, but they were spread around the building in small groups, so she had an advantage.
Hearing steps behind her, Tara stepped out of her hiding place and took quick aim. Two shots, followed by two cries of pain rang through the building and Tara once again found cover. She hid behind a pile of bricks, hearing more and more shots being fired.
Who are they? She wondered. Are they after me?
Suddenly it was quiet and the only sound Tara could hear was that of her own breathing. Cautiously, she walked away from her protective barrier, her gun ready for any surprises. Her eyes surveyed the scene, catching several bodies with blood oozing from bullet wounds. There were easily a dozen of them, men clad in dark suits and sunglasses. All dead.
"Did she do this?" Tara asked herself in a whisper, blue eyes incredulous.
Tightening the grip on her gun, Tara walked past the bodies, searching for the girl. Her ears strained, trying to hear anything suspicious. Suddenly a man appeared in front of her, hands raised in surrender. She pointed her gun at him and narrowed her eyes. He looked older than the others, probably the one in charge, she guessed.
Before she could do anything, an arm shot out from the shadows, hitting her gun arm. A punch to her face followed and soon she was being held down by several men, her gun lying useless a couple of feet away. One of the men grabbed her by the hair, forcing her head up as he pointed a gun to her temple.
A shot rang out and Tara closed her eyes, expecting Death. It didn't come, however, and the man holding her fell with a grunt of pain. Three more shots were fired and the rest of the men dropped, clutching their bleeding chests.
Tara and the older assassin looked for the source of the shots and found the redhead girl holding a pistol. She pointed it at the man and he raised his hands again. She fired. From her spot on her ground Tara glanced at the dead man, then looked back at the girl, who had her eyes closed.
Two more men suddenly leaped at the redhead and Tara watched as the girl effortlessly dodged their charges, somersaulting into the air while shooting one on the head. She braced one hand on the ground, using her momentum to kick the other man's chest. He stumbled back and she jumped on him, hitting his shoulders with her knees. She grabbed his tie and vaulted him over a hanging beam. He let out a gurgling sound as he was strangled by his own tie.
Tara got up as the girl let go off the man and looked down at her own hand.
"I... am able to kill people... so easily..." the girl whispered, almost to herself. Tears filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. "Why don't I feel guilty?" She looked up at Tara with haunted eyes.
Skilled hands wrapped the bandage around Tara's arm. Firmly but gently.
"That should do." the girl murmured, putting the supplies back into the first aid kit.
"Thanks." Tara gave a half smile. "You're good at this. Do you have first aid training?"
"I don't know." the girl answered quietly, looking down.
Tara frowned mentally at that, but didn't dwell on it. "So this is your place?"
A nod. "Yes."
"But this house isn't really yours." Tara commented shrewdly.
"Yes, it is." the girl took a card from her breast pocket. "Willow Rosenberg..." she read. "That's my name."
"It's not your real name." Tara stared at her intently.
"I made some investigations."
Willow looked at her with surprise.
"Six months ago," Tara continued. "The three members of the Rosenberg family bought this house and moved in." the blonde closed her eyes in reflection. "After that, your parents went to England, leaving you here to study and live in this house."
"Yes." Willow nodded, reaching for the gun on the table. A Beretta M1934 Commercial.
Tara's eyes narrowed. "But... all that is a lie."
Willow calmly released the clip, not even looking at Tara as she started taking her gun apart.
"The documents you use for government services and for school are both false." Tara stated conversely. "The same for your family's registers and their occupation. Nothing about them really exists."
Tara glanced at Willow, who was busy cleaning her gun and appeared entirely too calm for a person who was listening to someone saying her whole life is a lie.
"The Rosenbergs went away with the excuse of an overseas job and never came back." Tara glared at the redhead. "So... Who are you? Where did you come from and what is your purpose here?"
Willow looked down at the parts of her gun on the table between them. "I don't know how I can do the things I do... That‘s not all. I... can't remember anything."
A stark white bedroom. A rumpled bed. A girl, redhead. Sleeping.
"When I woke up, I was already here... Who am I?"
Waking up, disoriented. Looking around, so confused. Where am I? Who am I?
"I am... Noir. That‘s all I know."
Clothes hanging from the back of a chair. A card in the breast pocket. A picture. Looking at the mirror. My picture.
Another room, another rumpled bed. Documents, objects strewn around.
The top drawer. The gun, the ammunition.
"And then... I found this." Willow held up the now clean gun, pulling the hammer back with practiced hands. She put it back on the table, pushing it towards Tara.
"That's not all." Willow went on. "I did something terrible. How could I?"
Tara gave Willow a long glance and picked up the gun. "You have no memory of yourself."
Willow shook her head. "No."
"What do you know about me?" Tara inquired.
Willow closed her eyes and her lips twitched slightly. "Tara Maclay...22 years old, no living relatives..." green eyes opened and stared at Tara intensely. "The most reliable freelance assassin in America."
"Oh, well." Tara shrugged, but inwardly wondered how the girl had found so much about her. "Let's talk about something that really matters." she held up the gun. "This was not the only thing you found. You're hiding something else from me. Show me."
Willow sighed and reached inside her jeans' pocket.
The pocket watch.
She put the silver pocket watch on the table and opened it. The haunting music box melody started playing once more, evoking far away memories from the blonde. Tara squeezed her eyes shut as she remembered.
A young girl, alone in a dimly lit hallway. Her face, sunlight and shadows. Tears sliding down her face, hitting the ground soundlessly. Music playing... That song...
"Stop it!" Tara snapped and Willow quickly closed the watch, interrupting the melody. Tara looked away as Willow put the watch back in her pocket.
"You know, don't you?" Tara demanded.
Willow looked down.
The top drawer. The gun, the ammunition... The pocket watch. Picking up the gun. So light, so familiar in her hands. Why?
Running now. Running away. Running from them. Being chased, bullets flying, so many of them... The gun, so familiar in her hand. Squeezing the trigger. Once, twice, three times. They fell, all dead. So easy...
"So... You called me." Tara prompted.
"Noir..." Willow said quietly. "Our pilgrimage to the past."
Willow's eyes widened as Tara pointed her own gun at her. "Firstly, my job is to take lives, not to save them." the blonde spun the gun in her hand, holding it to Willow by the barrel. "Secondly, I've worked alone until now and I intend to keep it that way." Tara rose from the table.
"Just this time, Tara." Willow pleaded. "Who am I? Please, at least help me... until I find the answer."
Tara stared at Willow for a long time, thinking. Then she nodded, slowly. "I'm leaving the country tonight."
"Thank you." Willow smiled.
Back in her apartment in Los Angeles, Tara looked pensively at the redhead sleeping on her bed. She looked so innocent, no one would ever guess what she was. Tara turned her attention to the world outside her window, her mind on their early conversation.
"You know what I do, I can't leave you alive. You understand it, don‘t you?"
"Well, then, I'll work with you. They will be back, for sure. There's something I would like to ask them... and when I find what I want to know... then I will kill you."
"I will be waiting for that moment."
Tara smiled ruefully to herself, knowing that things were never that simple.