The Reluctant Assassin
Emily pressed the button firmly and walked away in her black thigh-high stiletto boots, drumming a steady but delicate staccato back to the Jeep. Her leather mini-skirt hugged her hips like vinyl seats clung to sweaty thighs in the height of summer. Fortunately for her and the time she had just spent navigating the ventilation system in the 6-story building behind her, it was finally autumn and a distinct crispness floated on the air.
“Three, two, one…,” she thought to herself. She pulled out of the campus parking lot just as the building behind her burst into flames, shooting explosive ash and fire thousands of feet into the air in every direction. Nobody witnessed her departure.
She could check another item off her list and inform Accounts Receivable. Chemistry students scheduled for lab the next day wouldn’t know that their reprieve was thanks to Emily Procter and her C-4; they’d be thanking God. Ten years of murder had convinced Emily that there was no God, but she pushed those dark thoughts out of her mind.
She found herself musing once again at how she had reached this point in life. How does a French Lit Major become a Corporate Assassin? Perhaps she should write a book and get Oprah to endorse it. Then she could finally hang up her det cord and settle down.
Emily was pragmatic. Every single girl needs a way to pay the rent. As it turned out, a BA in French Lit hadn't garnered much respect on the open market in terms of cash. She had tried stripping, but that had only lasted one night because she’d had a fit of the giggles and her performance had been panned. The Giggling Stripper. Good name for a band, she thought to herself.
She had refused to become a hooker and had no patience for customer service or phone solicitation. And then she had met Gravy. Gravy had been a local thug, rumored to be connected to the local familia. All she knew was that he had made her an offer she couldn’t refuse one night.
She hadn’t even had the money for supper and had gone to Smokey’s to eat the free popcorn and pretzels. Gravy had sat his large Latin rear on the barstool next to hers, forcing the air out of the cushion in an audible and embarrassing whimper.
“Whatchu doin’ tonite?’ he asked in that way that he had of making everything sound dirty.
“Trying to think of a new lie to tell the landlord about why the rent is late. You?”
“Hiring for party. You wants to make some rent?”
“What? Serving drinks or something?”
“Serving something, si.”
“What does it pay?”
“Ees muy bueno. Why don’ we go to my booth?”
Her stomach had roiled at the notion of being alone with Gravy and his sweat and flying spittle, but a hungry girl has to do what a hungry girl has to do. She had followed him to the smoky bowel of the bar, den of the less savory of Smokey’s clientele, and Gravy had offered her $10,000 for one hour of work.
He had assured her that it would be easy, that the guy was a baddie who had killed many people and would be no loss. And, as it turned out, blonde and sexy was just this guy’s type.
“You breeng drink, sit on lap, go home.”
The baddie, she had learned the next day, had been a Columbian drug runner, and she had been the one to slip him his poison. The cops hadn’t been too bothered to solve the murder, and certainly hadn’t come looking for an out-of-work size-four ex-gymnast with a passion for French poetry. That had been her first hit. From there, she had done a few more jobs with Gravy until finally getting hired by Acme.
Now she was a hitman with benefits: 401K, medical, dental, expense account, and 7-figure salary. She certainly had no trouble making the rent. She had literally moved up in the world, taking her lonely house plant from a run-down tenement to a fully furnished penthouse suite with doorman. And now, she could afford all of the shoes she could possibly want.
Even so, not everything was rosy for Emily. She had no family and few friends. Loneliness and guilt were her companions. She had embraced detachment as a coping mechanism for killing, but the guilt had begun to creep over the wall. It was no wonder she was still single, her detachment pushed everyone away. All she had was the disembodied voice that gave her the assignments and the doorman. Lately she had been pining for the things that many 30-something women want: love, kids, house. She suspected that the easy-out she took in her twenties had sold the soul of her thirties. You can’t be a soccer mom and an assassin, juggling toxins with tutus.
The discontent had settled into a deadened sadness that not even the potholes jarring the Jeep could penetrate. She shrugged off the malaise and pointed the Jeep toward the airport and the car rental place. She wanted to get back home and crawl into bed.
Her cell phone was vibrating in the inside pocket of her vest, so she reached inside, slipped it out, and flipped it open to answer.
“Emily, you have a problem.” It was Jennifer, the disembodied voice at the corporate office that gave her assignments.
“Problem? What problem? I just completed the job here in Texas.”
“You hit the wrong target.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“There was a typo.”
“Are you kidding?” Emily’s gut was clenching and she could taste acid in her mouth. “You aren’t serious? Please tell me I didn’t demo a University building and kill the wrong person.”
“I’m sorry, but you did. You only have 12 hours to hit the real target or you are in breach of contract. You know what that means.”
She sighed deeply. “I do.”