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Flash FictionWhereas most of the stories in The Assassin Diaries are more or less stand alones, this one picks up where the last one left off. (If you haven’t read ‘Cardinal Sin‘, I recommend getting on that before continuing.)

I’m not sure how long this linked story will last–that is, how many back-to-back vignettes will follow this specific story line. I could end it in the next episode, but right now I don’t feel like that’s what I’ll do. I see this becoming a more complex affair, which is important. I can’t say all of why without ruining an element of the story below, but suffice it to say this series presents me with both the opportunity to conceive of wildly different situations from installation to installation, and at the same time an overwhelming temptation to fall into a pattern and simply replicate previous events.

I don’t want to do the latter. Not to put to fine a point on it, but that would be bad. And boring. And not at all worth my time.

So, even if the unnamed assassin encounters similar situations, it’s imperative that he handle each differently. There will be no rinsing and repeating here.

Like the last few in this series, this one was written without a prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

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To my mind, background check fall into roughly three categories.

First, there are the type anyone with an internet connection and a credit card can order. They return only basic information–previous addresses, employment history and some criminal records. It’s standard stuff, and truly not worth the money. Then there are the sort on which government agencies rely. These certainly delve deeper, in some cases even violating the subjects’ privacy as acronym toting agencies use Freedom of Whatever acts to access all kinds of restricted, private and even encrypted information. Better than the first, but still not up to my standards.

The background checks I order are of another stripe. They come at a considerable expense, for one. Sometimes the expense is monetary–at the extreme end, the sort you transfer funds to cover. Sometimes it’s a favor, like a job I wouldn’t otherwise take. It varies. My investigators are professionals, capable of delivering volumes of information within 4-6 hours, if needed.

I had a report on Alex in less than half that time.

It wasn’t the worst news I could have gotten. He wasn’t a fed or anything of that nature. I pride myself on flying both well below and miles above the authorities’ radar, sometimes simultaneously. Instead, Alex was simply a thief, and not a very good one.

He was embezzling money from his employer. Granted, he could have been much sloppier than he was, but it was far from the slicked scam every hatched. In part because there didn’t seem to be much of a plan at all.

The dossier told the story. He’d risen high enough within his company to allow for access to certain accounts. Accounts which weren’t frequently audited. Most likely, he hadn’t set out to steal. It was a crime of opportunity. He saw how easy it would be to take a little here, a little there, and he saw how quickly those small amounts could add up. To date, he’d stashed a few million away in (please his amateur heart) a single overseas account.

But there was a downside, and a rather large one at that. He would get caught. I was certain of it. He wasn’t the biggest crook in corporate America, but he was making enough ripples to warrant eventual attention. One day someone would notice the missing funds and begin backtracking. It wouldn’t take long to identify the source, and then Alex would be headed for prison.

It simply would not due for me to be one of his known associates. That was attention I didn’t need.

Unlike Simon, I didn’t particularly want to kill Alex, nor did I think it necessary. All I had to do was dump him and move on. He’d date others. If the authorities ever caught him, I’d be nothing more than one of the many men with whom he’s consorted, and that wouldn’t raise even one red flag.

I did it that night at dinner. It was a painfully cliché ordeal. A crowded restaurant and a conversation that didn’t even see the appetizer arrive at the table. He left, citing loss of appetite. I stayed, had two glasses of wine, and ate the entirety of the tomato bruschetta we’d already ordered.

And that, it would seem, was that. I made it almost six weeks before I changed my mind and decided I wanted him dead.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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