The refreshing melody of string instruments drifts through the guarded double doors at the front of the hall. A man dressed for the occasion in a designer suit is flanked by his security squadron as he saunters up the front steps. One of the guards steps forward to ask for identification, new to the job if they don’t recognise the guest of honour. The man does his best to not roll his eyes, treating the guard with a surprising suaveness. His smile is rather handsome I think. It has a naturalness about it that seems impossible to fake. It’d be interesting to get a closer look.
“Your dress is quite beautiful Laura.”
I look at the speaker and smile. “Thank you. Your suit is flattering.”
She blushes. “You looked focused on the honoured guest.”
“Just observing. It’s hard not to get distracted with everyone here looking absolutely dazzling.”
One of the others speaks. “It’s the effect of these events. You said it was your first?”
“Yes. I’m sure it won’t be my last.”
They continue talking, but I mostly stay out of the conversation. I’m only here to pass the time. Perhaps I should head towards the stage now. The honoured guest is near there and he looks like an interesting conversation. This lot have been cycling through the same three subjects for an hour now. They barely notice as I move away, drifting through the crowd and skirting the dances.
I could join them later, but I’ve got to keep an eye on the time. It won’t be long. I’m not sure there’s a clock anywhere in this hall though. Only guards and bored partners line the walls. There’re more groups like the one I left closer to the centre, but the main area is taken up by the dancers. They move as one in time with the music. It’s a hypnotic sort of effect that lulls the viewer into a calm trance.
“Enjoying the night?”
I turn and smile at the guest of honour. “I am. You?”
“Now that my babysitters are gone.” He gestures to the group several metres away.
“Escaping a rare occasion?”
“It is. I expect you know my name. What’s yours?”
Arrogant. Not surprising at all.
“Laura. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise. Can I have this dance?”
He doesn’t ask questions like they’re questions. On another night I’d slap him. Tonight though, I suppose I have time to kill.
“I’d love to.”
He’s quite the dancer, even if his personality is less than appealing. We move across the dance floor, one with the mass. He stands out while I blend in. It’s an odd combination that puts us in a state of flux as we pass closely to other dancers. All they see is him dancing with a nameless beautiful woman. Another dancer gets close enough that I smell her perfume. My ring brushes against her hand in passing, our eyes locking for an instant as I mumble an apology. Our partners remain oblivious, mine leading me closer to the stage.
The song ends and he lets go of me. “You’re a good dancer Carla.”
I knew my name would be forgotten as soon as it was spoken.
“Thank you. Perhaps we could dance together another time.”
“You have somewhere to go?”
“I’m needed behind stage soon.”
He nods and immediately sets his sights on another, drifting aimlessly into the crowds. As expected. His security follows me with their eyes as I head towards the stage wings. The moment they turn away, I make for the edges and behind the crowds. The side exit is well hidden from sight, an emergency exit that hardly fits the lavish decorations of the hall. I start breathing heavily as I burst through the door, mentally grinning as the guard rushes to my side.
“What’s wrong ma’am?”
“There’re just-. There’re just too many people in there. I thought I could handle it but... But I was wrong. I just wanted to enjoy the night.”
“It’s alright. I’ll take you to the front and you can get some more air. You’ll be fine.”
He takes my hand and abandons his post to escort me to the rest of the guards. They all take one look at my heavy breathing and let me sit on the front steps. I can still hear the music from inside. It’s beautiful. Such a shame that the screaming ruins it. The guards run inside to investigate and I take the opportunity to feign fear and move out of their way. That poison must be setting in. She was such a beautiful dancer too. Almost a shame to kill her.
I suppose I must run now. It’d look a little odd if I didn’t. Only one of the guards stayed behind. I don’t like the suspicious look they’re giving me. I’m pretty sure they’re asking me to stay, but I just can’t tell over the screaming. I guess I have to keep running then. They’re chasing me. Damn. Time to improvise.
“Ma’am, no one can leave.”
“Y-you’re kidding, right? People are screaming in there and you want me to stay?”
“Until we know what’s going on, nobody’s allowed to leave. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Inconvenience? You’re crazy acting like it’s some slip up! Can’t you hear how scared everyone is?”
“I’m sorry, but you have to stay.”
“Well I’m sorry, but I have to go.”
I leap forward and go for a simple elbow strike to the gut. They stumble backwards, shock quickly fading. I easily block their strike with my arm, before spinning around and landing a kick to their chest. Our fight is silent compared to the sounds inside, the guards too occupied with containing the panic to realise that one of their own is fighting the culprit. I smile as they grab me in a lock. Idiot. I twist my body around to face them and brush my ring against their neck.
A swift knee to their thigh and they drop to the ground. In five minutes they’ll be dead and unavailable for questioning. Until then a simple hit to the head will suffice. Nobody will remember that I was here. The chaos will keep this guard hidden for a while, but I can’t risk them gaining consciousness before the poison takes full effect. I’m not going to throw weeks of planning out the window for one small slip up.
The screams are getting closer to the doors now. Guess the guards can’t contain the chaos. I should probably run then. Police will arrive in the next few minutes. By then I’ll be long gone. The doors break open and I set into a sprint. They all pour out screaming, trampling one another and desperate to get away. I smile to myself.