“Are you getting in the water?” Sari peered at her sister over her sunglasses. It had been months since she had last seen her twin, but of course Iras had the same face and hands as she so it was almost as if she saw her everyday. That was all she could actually compare herself to because Iras wore a white, loose-fitting linen pants suit, even though they were sitting poolside at a large Las Vegas hotel. She didn’t want to burn, her sister had told her.
“Nah,” replied Iras. “I told you, I can’t stay long, only for a bit.” She reached across the small table between their lounge chairs and took her sister’s hand. “I’ll try to come for Christmas, okay?”
Sari took her hand back, swallowing a lump in her throat. Pushing herself up, she slipped off her terrycloth robe and adjusted her 1940’s style swimsuit. “You know, it’s been forever since we had some Twinster Time. You asked me to meet you in Vegas, and I’m thinking we are going to swim all day and drink wine, and eat too much buffet. Then, you get here and say you can only stay a few hours! Ever since you took that job, I never see you, you barely talk to me, and I’m fucking sick of it! ” Sari attempted to untangle her ash blonde, shoulder-length locks from her swimsuit’s halter knot, but gave up frustrated and glared at her sister instead. Iras smiled and rose to help her more sensitive sibling. Giving her a quick hug, Iras twirled Sari around so she could untie the knot being strangled by Sari’s slightly more curly and thick locks.
Iras didn’t say anything because what could she say? Sari was right. Iras hadn’t been around much in the past few years since taking her new position, and as much as she would love to share with her sister exactly what she does and why it was important, she knew Sari would never understand the life of an assassin. Sari had no idea the tedious planning and research Iras had done to even be able to meet her in Las Vegas just for a day: since it was late summer the hotels along the strip were crawling with families and tourists, perfect for two anonymous sisters--albeit striking twins, to be mistaken for former exotic dancers, which is usually what drunk men asked if they were, and thankfully her sister didn’t mind playing along and affirming they were in fact retired. A silly but effective front which enabled Iras to be among civilians.
“I know you’re mad,” Iras replied, retying Sari’s bathing suit, then turning her around to face her, she took her sister’s hands. “I’m just, you know, doing what I can to help make the world be a better place.”
“You’re an environmental activist,” snorted Sari. “How much do you have to give to that non-profit that sucked you in? It’s like they’re a corporation or something the way they work you so hard!”
In fact, Sari wasn’t too far from the truth. Indeed, the non-profit that employed Iras, known as AquaVida, was in fact a front for a well-funded, revolutionary faction which had recruited her after several tours of duty in a U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group--which her sister didn’t know she had been a part of. Iras had been one of three women who were members of that elite unit which had been responsible for acquiring sensitive information from key persons all over the world, swiftly and by any means necessary. After a well-deserved honorable discharge, AquaVida invited Iras to step away from the corporations and selfish governments of the world, to make real and lasting impact by assassinating key persons within those very governments and corporations she had helped to protect, but where in fact in collusion with one another, as well as with major gang and drug cartels. There would be no more obtaining and selling secrets for corporate gain. AquaVida observed the tide of the world’s governments and worst criminals, and when a person needed to be expired because they were no longer making decisions for the betterment of the planet, nor its indigenous people--then someone, somewhere would end up with a sudden heart attack or a fall down some stairs. Quiet but deadly was their motto and there were no negotiations. Ever.
Iras smiled, “Twinster, I love you. But this is important to me, the work I do. It does make a difference and I promise: it’s the ultimate sacrifice to serve the entire planet and it makes me extremely happy.”
Sari melted and embraced her sister, “Ah! Okay, okay,” wiping away tears she laughed. “At least they pay you well!” she said, referring to the villa at Caesar’s Palace which her sister had arranged for them.
“They sure do,” Iras smiled knowingly back. AquaVida had an engineer who had masterminded a way to secretly tap into many of the shady income streams the U.S. government had set up with oil companies like PetroChina and Exxon, then quietly pilfer millions and millions of dollars. Yes, they were extremely well funded. “But you won’t have to enjoy the Villa alone, I’m flying in Artie to spend the week with you. He should be here for that seafood dinner buffet I know you want to attack.”
Squealing, Sari kissed her sister square on the mouth, “You brat! Thank you!”
“Okay, okay,” Iras laughed. “I know he’s not me but at least you can enjoy the pool with your Boo.”
“No, he’s not you--and I’m still mad you’re leaving! But thank you...I love that you’ve learned to share. Alright, get outta here, I see you checking your watch. You probably have a plane waiting for you in the middle of the Strip or something.”
Hugging, the sisters said their good-byes and Iras longingly watched Sari dive into the clear, cool pool waters before she turned to meet the plane that had been waiting for her for the past few hours.
“Ready Miss Bayon?” the pilot asked over the intercom speaker directly above her seat.
“Yes, thank you Phil.” Iras released the intercom button and settled in for the 10 hour flight to South Korea. Once she landed, Iras would be on her own to make her way into North Korea to complete her next assignment.
As the plane rose into the Las Vegas sky, Iras pushed back the sleeve on her too-warm linen shirt and traced the welted letters on her forearm skin. Although, she loved to swim and would have liked to join her sister in the pool for a couple of relaxing laps before the long flight, Iras could not. Something strange had started to happen a few years prior after her first assignment with AquaVida. After killing an oil magnate in Dubai, she had woken up the next morning in a cold sweat with a burning sensation on her thigh. Flipping on the lamp next to her bed, Iras saw the name of the dead tycoon appear in welted letters on her skin. Eventually, the welt receded but the name remained, almost invisible except when viewed under a blacklight and occasionally, sunlight. Unsure why this happened Iras thought perhaps she had been drugged and tattooed with UV ink, but before she could make it back to AquaVida to question her team, it happened once more while she was watching. Having just shoved a woman (notorious for recruiting young girls into sex trafficking) over a balcony, then spilling a bottle of wine so it would appear as if she slipped by drunken accident, Iras felt the same burning sensation but this time on her left shoulder. Rushing to a bathroom mirror, she saw it happen again: the woman’s name appeared in welted, raised letters, then a few hours later they seemed to disappear except under black light.
That was some 367 executions ago.
No one knew about the names secretly emblazoned all over her body; she never told AquaVida nor anyone else. Sometimes, Iras would put a black light in the lamp in her bedroom and stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and read their names. Was she proud? Was she ashamed? Iras still wasn’t sure.
She pulled her sleeve down and gazed out into the clouds. By this time tomorrow, she would have the supreme leader of North Korea’s name somewhere on her body.
Iras wondered where….