Long Live the King: Episode 4 – Fallen Masks

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Written by Nada Hemida

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Previously on Long Live the King 

I had done a background check on him after he first approached me that night. I now know that he comes from a rich family, but he refuses to live off their blood money.

I hear his keys clatter on the glass table and the switch of the lights. Seif lets out a yelp, as though he had seen a ghost, and a string of curses escape his mouth. I give him a smile that is all but friendly, as I notice him trying to hide the fact that he was shaking. He’s frozen, unaware of how to act or speak in a situation like this.

“I need to know,” I say, playing with a strand of my hair then making eye contact, “what you know.”

“You – you’re Nour Enawi,” he says breathlessly, lips shaking and eyes rapidly blinking. “I’d heard about you, before that night, but I hadn’t known that – that it was you.”

“Apology accepted,” I cut him off short.

“I didn’t know you were so young,” he says and immediately regrets it.

My eyes widen in surprise, with a lift of my eyebrow. My whole life, I have been called many things. I’ve been described as the worst of the worst. Young is a word I hadn’t heard referring to me before.

I grit my teeth as I demand, “Tell me what you know.”

He blinks, once, adjusts his glasses, and then nods.

***

“I’m a researcher at ‘Science and Tech’,” he begins as he paces in front of me. I’m sitting at the edge of my seat, always ready to take flight. Seif is still jittery though, and I have to force myself to excuse him. Not everyone is used to being in the presence of a known mercenary.

“I’ve been working there my whole adult life, and I know everything that goes on in that company,” he explains.

“Even the secret projects?” I ask, my tone cold.

“Yes, especially those,” he answers, “I work for one of those.” I raise my eyebrows, amazed at my luck for having none, but this man to overhear me that night – except it couldn’t have been luck, I suddenly realize. Still, I don’t voice my assumption yet. He pauses, gathers his thoughts, then goes on, “Karim Saleh is working for the company; that part was true. So was Shehab Saqr.

“A couple of months ago, things in the company started growing intense. Some people got increased security, even though the building was highly protected already – and those who worked in the underground labs went down and didn’t come up until it was time for them to leave, like they were working on something nonstop.”

“That’s when they discovered… immortality?” I say, the word still sounding too odd and incredulous to me.

“I believe so, all of what Karim has said is true,” he answers, “but Shehab… he’s done nothing wrong.”

“How come?” I ask nonchalantly, half-pretending to believe him and half-focusing on every detail of every word he utters.

“Well, for one, he kept arguing with Karim over and over again,” he says, “He insisted that if the vial got into the wrong hands, it would bring the end of us all. You see, Karim acted like they had switched roles. Shehab isn’t the one who’s selling Immortality; it’s Karim.”

My head jerks up, and I can’t help, but stare at Seif as my mind takes in this new information. A prideful scream shatters the silence in my mind for not seeing through the deception. Seif explains further. He is finally deep enough in his thoughts that he is no longer in panic. “Everything else is true. Shehab did steal the vial and no one can find him anywhere, even his friends and family seemed to have just disappeared.”

“He is keeping them safe,” I say, but my mind is whirling around the possibility that Karim is the seller.

“I guess so,” Seif replies, “the truth is.. Karim is the one selling the vial, and Shehab only stole that vial to make sure no one else had it.”

“So,” I say, calculating, “the buyer is my faceless client?!”

Seif shrugs. I shake my head, unable to comprehend how I couldn’t find out the truth sooner, on my own. Suddenly, a thought crosses my mind. My head snaps to Seif, whose eyes had been watching my every move relentlessly, as if afraid I might attack him in a flash. He’s a good observer; that explains a lot. “If you know all of this,” I tell him, “How are they even letting you walk?”

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