karma

Flash FictionThis past week, I was talking to a friend about why I like this character. Part of my affinity for the unnamed assassin is that he has a moral code. It’s a fucked up moral code, but he has one and that makes him interesting to me.

My friend remarked that the significance of this can’t really be understated. Everyone has a motive. All of us, all the time. A character without motive is a flat, boring thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the hero or the villain, characters need reasons for doing the things they do. And being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is not sufficient.

The unnamed assassin has his own personal agenda. By it, he justifies killing for a living but finds a variety of other things offensive, from fashion faux pas to unfair accusation. Like a real person, there are inconsistencies. That’s what I like about him.

I wouldn’t want to be his friend. I’m not even sure I’d want to meet him, but I’m happy to read about him, and I find writing his stories to be a lot of fun.

This is the last piece of a series within a series–the three part story that falls under the larger umbrella of The Assassin Diaries. Read part one and part two before reading this one.

karma

After the breakup, I asked Leslie, my handler, to arrange to have Alex followed for six weeks. I know that sounds like stalker behavior, but it had nothing to do with the loss of personal connection. I wanted to ensure that he wasn’t already under investigation.

The lackey Leslie hired was good. He–or she, I really don’t know–provided me with detailed reports, pictures, video footage and even copies of Alex’s emails, voice mails and text messages.

Alex’s tail revealed what I had expected. In the weeks following the termination of our relationship he entertained a string of men. He hit the clubs, had a couple of dates, utilized (not one, but two) mobile apps to secure easy hookups, and even visited a massage parlor known for ensuring ‘full relaxation’. I couldn’t fault him, and certainly didn’t take it personally. His sexual appetite had been part of the appeal.

As a matter of fact, it was fortuitous. We were only together for a short time. Less than a month. The more notches on his bedpost, the less my name stood out on the list of his known associates.

By the fourth week, I was satisfied that no one else was watching him and that enough recreational carnality had ensued to protect me. I almost called Leslie to cancel the last two weeks of surveillance, but I’d already arranged for payment and, like my services, a refund was simply out of the question. Like a bet I expected to yield neither profit nor loss, I decided to let it ride.

Halfway through the sixth week, my feelings changed.

Tuesday of that week, Alex was on his way home. He’d taken the afternoon off to pay a social visit to a financially motivated sexual partner. He was undoubtedly high on the aftermath of the experience and most likely not paying as much attention to the road as he should have. He hit a dog.

The dog was a golden retriever, the companion of a 12 year-old boy who’d been taking him for a walk. He was also big. The dog, not the boy. Big enough to slip away from the child and dart out into the street. Alex didn’t see it and made solid contact before he could apply the brakes. The dog most likely died on impact.

I deal in death daily. One might think life means little to me as a result. Such is not the case. It saddened me to think of that boy standing on the sidewalk staring at a red puddle in the road that used to be his dog. But, tragic though that is, I could forgive Alex for hitting and killing the dog. It was, after all, an accident. I knew him to be an animal lover, himself. I can’t imagine that he would ever kill a child’s pet for sport.

What I cannot forgive is his reaction.

Seeing the damage to the grill of his SUV, he lost his temper. He yelled at the boy, even as the child choked back tears over the death of his canine companion. I have the entire episode on video. It shows a side of Alex I didn’t know existed. One driven by wild rage and almost no control. The poor boy fled the scene, undoubtedly terrified and heart-broken at the same time. He ran home, and Alex followed him, continuing his rant when he arrived.

Two days later, the family of that boy was served with papers. Alex intended to hold them responsible for the damages to his car. Here is a man with millions of dollars in the bank suing an upper middle class family for the damage caused when he hit their dog with his car.

Such a man is a sociopath.

I no longer cared about his theft or his carelessness in covering his tracks. And while I felt for the boy, I didn’t fault Alex, even for the death. However, I found his vindictive nature to be, in a word, appalling. That was when I decided he should die.

The funny thing about death is that it comes in many forms. There are living dead people all over the planet. I didn’t need a gun or poison or an elaborate set-up meant to look like an accident to end Alex’s life. I only needed my phone.

I called Leslie and made arrangements for a different lackey to submit an anonymous tip to the accounting department of Alex’s firm. I gave her very specific instructions to make sure the recipient of the tip would be the type to investigate rather than ignore. Within a month, federal agents raided Alex’s home, seizing his personal computer along with all his financial records. It probably didn’t even take three days to hack his offshore accounts.

He’s awaiting trial now, and not one fed has bothered to question me. I am but a blimp on the road map that is Alex’s sexual conquests.

Alex will, most likely, be convicted. That seems to be the prevailing opinion in the media. Without his foreign accounts, he doesn’t have the money to bankroll a team of attorneys. The general consensus is that he’s to be made an example. There will be no plea bargaining. No reduced or deferred sentence. No light security prison country club. He’ll be doing real time behind very real bars.

That makes me smile.

Were I more spiritual, I might call it Karma. It seems fitting. Steal, lie, even kill all you want, but don’t piss on the graves of your victims. That’s going too far.

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background

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.

background

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.

cardinal sin

Flash FictionSince The Dark Calling finished up, I’ve been a bit lost when it comes to writing my weekly fiction post. Initially, I went back to flash fiction, opting for short, 100-word pieces, but I’ve also been itching to revisit one of my favorite characters. This week, I decided to do just that.

I’m going at this without a prompt or word-limit, just letting another random episode in the unnamed assassin’s life play out. Between you and me, I don’t really feel this story is all the way done. For one, there’s definitely another part. The end makes as much clear. But I also feel like it needs a little more refinement.

Geez. Now I’m talking like him. Occupational hazard.

While this story is part of a series, you can read it without reading any of the others. It stands on its own, though the others are pretty good, too. Really, you should read them. Here, I’ll even give you a link: click here.

Now you have no excuse.

cardinal sin

“I’m thinking of committing the cardinal sin,” I told Margaret.

We were sitting in the outdoor dining area of an uptown restaurant, whittling away a Saturday afternoon with a combination of idle gossip and people watching. She held a glass of wine–a blush, God help her. She called it a rosé, but it was a blush all the same.

“What?” she asked. “You’re going to try to pull off a blazer with jeans?”

I winced. “No.”

“Non-matching belt and shoes?”

“Margaret, this isn’t a guessing game. I’m being serious.”

She grinned like a captive animal spotting an open cage door. “You have your eye on a novelty tie.”

I rolled my eyes. “Why don’t we stop the psychological torture right there? I said I was contemplating something dramatic, not something insane.”

She shrugged.

“And you think I’m the barbarian,” I said. “That was nothing short of savage.”

“Oh, stop your whining and tell me what’s going on. I can’t imagine what could possibly constitute a moral dilemma for you.”

I huffed. “I have morals.”

“Sure, sure,” she said. “Another discussion for another time. Spill it.”

“I’m considering telling Alex,” I said.

She frowned. “Tell Alex wha-”

Her eyes went wide. She sat her glass on the table and I knew I had her attention. Few things part Margaret from her drug of choice.

“For Christ sake, why would you do that?” she asked.

I sighed. I’d been asking myself the same question for the better part of two days. My compulsion to share was nothing short of ridiculous, and yet I felt a deep desire to give him a rare peek behind the curtain. I’ve dated a handful of men over the years, a couple of them quite seriously, and I’d never told a single one. Never even considered it. But Alex was different.

We’d been on several dates at that point. More than five but fewer then ten. He was intelligent and interesting, matching my appetite for everything from cultural stimulation to more carnal pursuits. I’m not one to get swept up in passion, but I can honestly say I’d never felt the same about anyone else.

I tried explaining that to Margaret and she merely narrowed her eyes.

“Do you hear yourself?” she asked. There was a sharp edge to each word.

“I do,” I confessed. “And I know. I sound like a 13 year-old girl.”

She shook her head. “No, you don’t. At 13 I had the common sense to know a bad idea when I heard one. What you’re suggesting is idiotic, I don’t care how boy crazy you think you are.”

My fingers found the bridge of my nose, rubbing the spot between my eyes. It did little to stave off the headache I felt building, but it gave me something to do with my hands.

Margaret continued. “I assume you’re telling me because you want my opinion.”

I nodded.

“Well, you have it. If you’re going to be that stupid, you might as well start a blog and give detailed accounts of your last several jobs.”

Her anger seemed to be escalating.

“I appreciate your concern, and I expected you to object, but I’m honestly a little taken off guard by how strongly you feel.”

Her eyes fluttered. She looked out toward the street, then at the neighboring tables, most of which were unoccupied, and finally back at me. She leaned forward, her voice dropping to a nearly inaudible volume. “You think I’m worried about you, you arrogant prick?” she whisper-yelled. “I’m worried about me. I have no desire to be implicated by association.”

“Ah,” I said. The dominoes fell in my mind. “I see. Margaret, I’ve taken great pains, more than you could possibly known, to insure against any such thing happening. Neither you nor Leslie need worry. If the day comes that my hands are caught in any sort of cookie jar, there’s very little chance of it impacting you. Aside, of course, from leaving you friendless.”

She flinched at the last line, but I wasn’t done.

“However, you’ve made your point, and oddly the sudden gravity of this conversation has been more than enough to convince me. If the mere suggestion sets you off so much, whether out of a sense of friendship or self-preservation, then it cannot be a good idea. I haven’t even done a background check yet. I was getting ahead of myself in voicing the notion. Put your fears to rest.”

I motioned for the waiter and handed him a credit card. Margaret didn’t even reach for her purse. She was too shell shocked for such niceties.

“I didn’t mean it,” she said.

“Oh, I think we both know you did.”

“I didn’t mean only that,” she corrected. “Yes, I’d be scared for myself, but I do care about you. You are my friend. I’m sorry.”

The waiter returned with my card and the receipt. I scrawled a tip, signed, pocketed my card, and drank the last of my wine. A red, thank you very much.

“Alex and I have dinner plans. I should be going.”

Her eyes were wet. Only slightly, but enough to notice.

“I’ll call you later,” I said. I passed our waiter on the way out.

“Please bring the lady another rosé ,” I said, handing him more than enough cash. “Keep the change.”

“Yes, sir,” he said.

Two days later I ran a background check on Alex. What I found left me grateful for Margaret’s outburst, if still a little hurt.

Do not give me that look. Assassins have feelings, too.

bad ideas and wine

Flash FictionI had intended to pick up on The Dark Calling this week, but Vye had other ideas. If you’re a writer and you fight your muse, you’re a fool. She wanted me to revisit The Assassin Dairies, so I did.

And, as usual when she’s right there with me, the story just flowed. I started without any idea where it was going, and it unfolded as I wrote. A third of the way in I knew what was happening and it made me smile. He may be a killer, this unnamed assassin, but I like the guy. It’s always fun to see glimpses of his heart, no matter how much he might want me and everyone else to think he has none.

While this story is a part of a series, there’s no need to read the other installments to follow this one. Each stands on its own, more or less. However, if you like this piece I invite you to read the others. I’m biased, no question about it, but I think the make for a fun read.

bad ideas and wine

“This is going to cost extra,” I said.

I was having dinner with my handler. It’s rare that we meet face to face, and never in public. We were at her flat. I’d taken appropriate precautions to arrive incognito. I would leave the same way. Even if the FBI had been watching the place, they wouldn’t know I was there.

We were meant to be having a purely recreational evening. No business. Just two people who have few friends enjoying each others’ company. Granted, that’s odd given my profession, but no man is an island. Nor any woman. Besides, I like her, even if she is insufferably from time to time.

“I know,” she said. “Will you take it? I want the contract. It’ll pay well.”

“What is it with people?” I asked. “It’s not enough to have a man killed. It has to be a spectacle, too?”

She sighed. “It’s the family,” she said.

I was lifting my fork to my mouth, a beautifully bloody bite of rare steak glistening in the dim light. The family. The mob. No thank you, check please. I didn’t even have to say it. The very fact that I set my fork down spoke volumes.

“The mark is a member of the family,” she explained quickly. “They can’t kill one of their own.”

“Well, thank God they have standards,” I said.

“Don’t be an ass. They need it to look like one of their rivals did it. It eliminates an internal problem and justifies some…aggressive expansion they couldn’t get away with otherwise. Not without all of their competitors banding together against them. This way it looks like vindication.”

“Great,” I said. “Sounds like someone’s going to be making a nice little paycheck. Not me.”

She shook her head.

“I’ve told you before,” I said, “I don’t do business with those animals. There’s no fee that will change my mind.”

She frowned. “You’re so damn arrogant. You kill, too.”

“I don’t pretend it’s noble. I quote Heidegger: ‘Transcendence constitutes selfhood.'”

That won me a truly nasty look. “See? Arrogant ass.”

I shrugged. “I can sleep at night. What more matters? Tell me something, though. Is this the reason you wanted to have dinner? To pitch this insane mark?”

“No, no,” she said.

Most people would have missed it. Of course, the only reason I’m still alive and free is because I miss very little. She’s not a woman who wastes words. Two no’s means there’s something more.

“What, then? This isn’t a purely social visit.”

Her eyes dropped to her plate. Bingo.

“It is,” she said. “Of a manner.”

It took me less than 2 seconds to work that one out.

“Leslie, I’m gay,” I said. “And even if I weren’t, sleeping with one’s handler is a patently bad idea.”

“We’ve done it before,” she said to her roasted asparagus.

Indeed, we had. It was only the fourth time in my life I’d been with a woman, and I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to give in. I’m inclined to say it was professional courtesy, but I’ll be damned before I’ll let anyone think of me as whore. Perhaps it was because I consider her a friend and I knew she was lonely.

Not desperate, mind you. She’s an attractive woman, but sex is messy. She’s in a constant state of awe that I even attempt to date. She can’t bring herself to do it. I suppose I’m just better at compartmentalizing. Nevertheless, she intended to call on precedent to make her case.

“I see now,” I said. “You knew I’d turn down the job. You meant to follow with this. You can’t have one thing, so ask for the other. The thing you really want.”

She sighed by way of concession. “It didn’t interfere with our working relationship last time. And besides, you had fun.”

It was true. What can I say? Apart from the lack of a penis, she makes love like a man.

“It’s a bad idea and I haven’t had nearly enough to drink.”

“I have more wine.” She was smiling.

“And I’m gay,” I said.

Pfff. You’re also a man. You can’t tell me getting off doesn’t sound like fun.”

It was my turn to concede. I did so with a smile. “Fair point,” I said.

“Eat,” she said. “Your meat is getting cold, and I know you like it hot and juicy.”

I gave her a deadpan look. “Those kinds of innuendos are going to win you an evening with something battery operated.”

She grinned wide. “That sounds like a yes.”

I picked up my fork. “It’s not a no,” I said.

We ate the rest of our meal without talking about it. She made sure my wine glass was never empty. After dinner, dessert and several drinks, we retired to her bedroom where, for the second time, we enjoyed a night of carnal frivolity. I’m not going to say it was the best lay of my life. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t bad, either.

You know, as sex with a woman goes.

half rate

Flash FictionFor no reason other than the fact that I miss him, I’m taking a break from The Dark Calling this week to revisit an character I haven’t written about in a while. Below is my first addition to The Assassin Diaries in almost 3 years. It’s been too long.

This story stands on it’s own just fine, but if you’d like to read the others, you can find them here. As always, feel free to share your thoughts, feedback and, yes, even your criticism in the comments.

Not to fear, though. I haven’t forgotten about Kenna, Skadi, Ormar, Sidney, Arawn and the rest. I plan to pick up where I left off with The Dark Calling next week. Today just seemed like a good day to mix things up a bit.

half rate

I have no qualms about killing children. A mark is a mark. My only concern is that my services are compensated for by an appropriate fee.

“Double the normal rate,” I told her.

My handler knew the drill. On the rare occasion I was asked to exterminate a child, I always insisted on a premium price. Many in my line of work will turn down such a job. By my way of thinking, that creates scarcity in the market. What kind of business man would I be if I didn’t take advantage of that?

“They can’t afford it,” she said.

“Then they can’t afford me,” I replied.

She huffed into the receiver. She knows I hate that.

“Will you at least look at the dossier?” she asked.

I was sitting in my living room, trying to enjoy a glass of wine. I’d only gotten back into town earlier that day. I don’t mind traveling, but the plane ride had been something of a chore, made worse by the fact that a small child behind me spent the majority of it assuring the rest of the first class cabin that he did, in fact, have lungs.

For a moment, the idea of killing a kid didn’t sound too bad, but then I remembered who I am, and who I am not. I am not a charitable organization. I’m an assassin.

“No,” I said. “I will not. And, really, I don’t understand what’s going on with you. You’ve never pushed me to reduce my fee in the past. Is this a personal matter for you?”

A pause.

“Not exactly,” she said.

It was my turn to huff.

“Then, can we just let it go? I’d very much like to enjoy my evening.”

“Fine, I’ll just say it. The kid has Cystic Fibrosis.”

Immediately, the muscles in my neck tensed.

“Damn you,” I said. “I mean it. Damn you to hell for using that.”

“I thought you’d want to know!” she said in defense.

Really?” I asked. I sat my wine to the side to in an effort to quell the temptation to throw the glass. “You can’t imagine a scenario in which I simply turn the job down, none the wiser, and go on about my evening?”

“I just…” I could imagine her body language as she searched for the right words. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Do you know these people?” I asked.

“In a personal way? No. They were a referral. I haven’t spoken directly to them.”

“I assume it was the parents, am I correct?”

“Yes,” she said. “The kid is suffering. The prognosis is horrible. There have been a lot of close calls lately. Complications out the ass. He’s only 5, and he’s been in the hospital more than he’s been at home. Right now, he’s in a coma. His liver and kidneys are in bad shape.”

I wanted to hurl my cell phone at the fireplace. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the glass of wine down. Damn her!, I thought again. I should never have told her anything about my family.

“Should I let you go?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Contact them. Tell them I’ll do it, but my earliest availability is next week. Accept the standard deposit, the rest payable on completion. The non-child rate. As far as they’re concerned, I’m not even in the country. Have I made myself clear?”

“Crystal,” she said.

“Send me the file and I’ll see what I can do.”

 

Two days later, I was mopping floors in a children’s hospital in Tennessee. Posing as a janitor is always effective. No one looks them in the face.

Halfway through my shift, I walked casually into the child’s room and added a few drops of a particularly discreet neurotoxin to his IV line. There would be no autopsy.

My handler called before I’d even made it back to the airport.

“The kid died,” she said.

“Ah,” I replied. “Return the deposit, then.”

“Where are you?” she asked.

“Does it matter?”

A pause.

“Probably for the best,” I said. “His parents would have questioned that decision for the rest of their lives.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?” I asked, just before disconnecting the call.

held back

He’s back. I really should consider writing more about the unnamed assassin. Something more than 500 words. I find him disturbingly comforting.

This is, however, is another flash fiction piece for the 500 Club. The prompt is: “Often times we write stories where our main character rushes in to save the day. Write 500 words where your main character can’t stop the inevitable.” I enjoy turning the prompts on themselves, interpreting them with liberty, and this is no exception. After all, what’s inevitable for you and what’s inevitable for a gay killer are likely two different things.

held back

“I held back. That is the simple truth of the matter.”

My handler said nothing, short breaths whispering across the phone line.

“Held back?” she asked. “You were supposed to use a gun. It was supposed to be a shooting. What you did, that was you holding back?”

“Indeed.”

An few hours earlier I had been crouched outside the mark’s hotel room, hiding behind a large planter. Assassination can’t always be sexy. I had contorted myself into a foot and a half of space, wedged into a darkened corner, the leaves of a ficus masking my presence. I prefer elegance in my craft, the kind that makes it looks as if I was never there. I like to leave no evident, save the corpse, of course.

However, the client made it quite clear that he wanted a message sent. Not typically my bag, a mob-style hit. It’s considerably more likely to get you caught, for one, but it also deviates significantly from what has become my calling card within the professional community.

Three times my usual fee persuaded me to make an exception. That, and the idea of seeing the mayor dead.

Johnny Whitman laughed from around a near-by corner, his voice loud, obnoxious and overly confident. He was in a hotel without his normal security, here in secret to meet and mingle (in a particularly intimate fashion) with one of our fine city’s voters. Despite the clandestine nature of his errand, he was chattering excitedly with his lover loud enough for me to make out his voice a good 40 feet away.

It’s bad enough that he insisted on always meeting in the same room, a ridiculously sentimental gesture. He didn’t need to advertise his whereabouts further by subjecting everyone on the floor to his guffaw, as well.

But then again, he wasn’t a subtle man.

He came into view, his companion hidden from my sight by the greenery, and I tensed. A keycard was inserted and extracted. The lock whirled and clicked open. The door swung and I made my move, pushing against his back and then closing the door behind me in a single maneuver.

That’s when I saw him. Mayor Whitman’s lover.

My eyes narrowed. He choked on his words, his hands up before him in a gestured plea for me to stop. He looked from my masked face, to my gloves, to the gun in my hand, and then back to my eyes.

“Whatever you want,” he Mayor Whitman said. “Whatever! I can get it for you.”

“You seem quite outspoken on the gay marriage issue,” I said. “Very against it, as I recall.”

He looked to his lover and swallowed. I pocketed my gun and reached for the pewter vase on the entry table to my right. I took two steps forward and calmly beat them both to death with it, crushing their skulls until the bone crunched like gravel. The vase held up nicely.

“Held back?” my handler asked again.

“Yes,” I said. “You have no idea how much more I wanted to do.”

missed mark

I’ve decided to resurrect an old character for this week’s 500 Club. The prompt I’ve chosen is: “Write a scene that seems to send us in one direction, but switches up in a surprising way. Don’t go for the cheap joke, though. Again, subtlety is key.” If you have not read my previous short fiction stories about the unnamed gay assassin (killing simonblind date, red sweater and the message), you might want to read them first. Hope you enjoy.

mark missed

One cannot afford to make mistakes in my line of work. There is a good chance you won’t be afforded the opportunity to correct them. That fact, combined with the reality that I am a proud perfectionist, means I should have known better.

The mark was simple. Disturbingly so.

A woman. Many in my line of work won’t take an assignment if the mark is a woman. My handler knows I have no sensibilities about the issue. The assumption, I believe, is that because I am gay I lack a tenderness toward femininity. This is not the case. Rather, I will take any mark. Man, woman, child–killing is killing.

If this sounds cold, you do well to check yourself. I’m an assassin. I’m not meant to be gentle.

She lived in a nicer part of town. I’d been tailing her for days, learning her routines. She was painfully predictable, and I felt the time had come for me to make a move. Each evening, after a quiet dinner alone, she read for a while in the bath and then went to bed. Her bath time presented me with a prime opportunity to manufacture the illusion of suicide.

I broke in quietly and crept upstairs. Though I had been watching her, I had never employed video surveillance in the bathroom itself. It hardly seemed necessary.

Assassination is often a simple act, the tried and true producing the most consistent successful results. I was planning to walk in, use her surprise to my advantage and simply hold her head beneath the water until she expired.

Easy.

I open the door and heard her yelp in surprise. I approached, walking quickly across tile and bath rug, and placed my hand on her head, driving it beneath the water. She kicked and pushed, but was easy enough to hold her down.

I watched her hair, a tangled wet mop of brown thrashing in the water, and allowed my eyes to move down her body toward her feet. But I never made it that far. At her pelvis, I saw something that shocked me. Shocked me so much, in fact, that I recoiled and stepped back.

A penis. She was, in fact, a biological he.

The alarmingly passable transexual before me rolled forward coughing up water and suds. I stared at her chest, surgically augmented. At her face, pretty if simple. And at her crotch, starkly utilitarian by contrast.

“What the fucked?” she exclaimed.

I was still in shock, having been taken quite off guard. I shook my own head and said, “Sorry. Didn’t expect that.”

Then I casually withdrew my pistol and, with her watching, took aim and fired. There was a lot of blood, but she was in the bath so it was almost entirely contained.

I left in a hurry, fairy displeased at the messiness.

But, my God. Who would have expected that?

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