Jun. 20, 2012

DEAD END RE-DONE

 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

-          Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

The man who spoke those immortal words obviously never met me. I’m what they call a “freelance” assassin. My name isn’t important. I can be anyone you want me to be. The girl next door, your girlfriend, your best friend, I’ve done it all. That’s why people say I don't have a heart, but they’re wrong. The truth is I do. I just don't wear it on my sleeve, which in my business is a good thing. In this life, you have to play your cards close to your chest. Otherwise, you lose the game. And I have no intention of losing the game anytime soon.

 

Here’s how my work goes.  I'm an observer of human behavior. Any type of physical activity done, from the blink of an eye to the wave of a hand, let’s just say, I see it all. And one day, I was a little too proud, and I lost my “sight.”

 

The day itself started as my days usually do, with a cup of coffee and a splash of rum. When you're a killer, you need all the help you can get. Then I got the mail, which is when I usually open “the letter.” It’s never addressed. It’s just something with the target’s name and where I can find them.

 

It’s not usually the way I’m contacted – sometimes people email or even call – but lately I was having a bit of a dry spell. Why by the cow when you can get a gun for free (so to speak)? So, my clients, which were few and far between, just sent me letters.

 

Sometimes I’ll open them, and there will be a picture of a person inside with his or her name on it and some words on the back of it like “Get him!” or “Take her out.” But today, I opened the envelope and saw an actual hand written letter. This should be good; I thought, and I began to read it.

 

Dear Madam, it started. No one has ever called me “Madam” before.

 

You and I have never met. But I have to ask you for a favor. I have recently become a widow, which has made me very wealthy in the process. The estate my husband left me was surprisingly more than I expected. I have no children and therefore, only have myself to think of. But I must ask you; no implore you, to help me with my dilemma.

 

Here is the address where you will find me any time day or night. (Her address was below. I hadn’t been in that neighborhood before, so it should be interesting.)

 

Please hurry, I must stress that I fear for my life.

 

Your humble servant,

Jane Miller

 

Her writing was strange and formal, like she was from a different time and place. But that couldn’t be true. Could it?

 

I quickly brushed my teeth, got dressed and walked out of my apartment with purpose.

 

Almost an hour later, I was at her place. I noticed that it wasn’t a “place” at all. It was a palace. The white stone was covered in ivy and the air around it smelled of burning wood, – it was the middle of August, and by far the hottest day of the year – which confused me. A tall wrought-iron fence, the type usually seen in horror movies, surrounded the mansion, but this one had an angel standing near the gate, and I quickly pushed the buzzer before I got the creeps.

 

“Yes? Who is it?” A male voice came over the speaker.

 

“My name isn’t important,” I replied. “All you need to know is that I’m a friend of Mrs. Millers.” I waited for the voice to argue with me, but the next thing I knew, the iron gate opened and squeaked harshly against its hinges.

 

I walked up the elaborate drive to the front door. It was wooden and looked out of place. The wood was too dark for such a light-colored house, and the frame was too gothic. I placed my hand on the doorknocker, which was in the middle of the door instead of towards the top or right in front of me, – it was truly the weirdest thing I’d ever seen – and knocked.

 

The door creaked open, and I half expected someone to say, “You rang?” Instead, the man who answered was small and stout. He was no Lurch. “How may I help you?” he asked, squinting into the sun.

 

I smiled, a little annoyed with him. “As I told you over the speaker, I’m here to see Mrs. Miller.” He made a face and looked down at his shoes. “Is there a problem?” I asked. His face confused me.

 

“No,” he said listlessly. “It’s just that she’s not well today, and she told me to…” Before he could finish, there was a noise behind him. He turned, only to step aside for a woman, and I looked at her face carefully. I thought she looked too young to be a Mrs. Miller. She must be the maid or maybe a niece. Then she opened her mouth to speak, and I thought it was on behalf of the lady of the house. Boy was I wrong.

 

“You must be her,” her whispered excitedly. “I am Mrs. Miller.” So much for assuming. Her face was beautifully pale, and her features were small and dainty. Her eyes were of the brightest blue, with lashes thick and black. Her lips were pink and full. The only other thing I noticed was that her white skin looked even whiter against the black she wore from head to toe.

 

You’re my client?” I managed to choke out, “Nice to meet you.” I held my hand out for her to shake, but she just looked at me, and I quickly busied myself in my pockets, trying to find her letter. “So, what did you have in mind?” I lifted the letter between my index and middle fingers. “For your troubles, I mean.”

 

“Not here,” she whispered even lower, “in the garden.” She pointed to the side of the great house, and I followed her around to a beautiful piece of land just a few yards east from where we were standing.

 

She opened the gate to reveal a beautiful display of nature. The garden was filled with all different kinds of flowers, encircling a large oak tree with a swing attached. It had perfectly cut blades of grass, and even the most exquisite little tea table. From far away, this all looked seemingly beautiful, but once inside it was more magnificent than anything I’d ever seen.

 

She showed me through her little slice of heaven to that little tea table, and we both sat in a moment of peaceful silence. In the midst of all this tranquility, crept a very disturbing thought. Someone could be buried in here and maybe that’s why she called me. And whoever had seen her kill was going to tell. Is this why she needs me? I asked myself. To cover her tracks? And on the same mental breath, I added, DON’T ASSUME! Then I realized she had said something, and I’d missed it. “Sorry, what was that?”I asked, waiting while she took another breath. She obviously didn’t want to repeat it.

 

“I said,” she began and I noticed that her voice had an old world twang to it, “I need your help. As I wrote, my husband died and ever since then there has been a couple of attempts on my life. Once, I was out here, and a man came up behind me. He said if I didn’t leave town he would come back and kill me. He held a knife to my throat,” she paused, looking at the tree. I could tell she was remembering the ordeal, so I kept quiet. “The next time,” she continued, looking at me again, “I was at my husband’s grave, and the same man came and put a gun to my back. He told me that my days were numbered. And then yesterday, I saw him outside of the house…” House? You call this a house? I glanced at the white stone building. “He was just standing there, leaning against the side of his car, waiting for me to come out,” she paused, turning her gaze away from me, focusing on to the tabletop.

 

“And did you go out to him?” I asked, trying not to be pushy. She nodded. “You didn’t?” Shock ran through me like an electric current. “Now in my line of work there’re a lot of dangers, but everyone knows you don’t purposely put yourself in them. What were you thinking?” I huffed. Her eyes still fixed on the table.

 

I banged it, which made her jump and answer. “When I finally saw his face,” she looked at me with sparkling eyes, “I knew who he was.” I had a feeling that she wasn’t telling me something. I narrowed my eyes at her, and could feel her own pleading for some compassion. Why didn’t she want to tell me, was it that bad?

 

“Who was it?” I asked nicely, but she just shook her head. “You can tell me. As long as you pay, I couldn’t care less.” I thought this would comfort her, but she only looked more anxious. “Who was it?” I tried again, this time with a little more force, but she still shook her head. “Fine,” I got up and started to leave, but she grabbed my arm. I knew not to look at her. This is an old trick of mine. It lets the unwilling person believe that you really don’t care.  

 

“All right,” I knew I had her, “he was my ‘friend.”’ I could tell by the air quotes around “friend” that he was a lot more than that. “I met him one weekend my husband was away on business…” her voice faded when I put my hand up.

 

I smiled down at her, and she looked scared. “I don’t need to know the details. Just give me a picture of him, and I’ll be on my way.” She reached into her shirt and pulled out – what looked like – a crumpled old piece of paper, but in fact, it was a picture. I mentally rolled my eyes. How… romantic. She handed it to me, and I noticed the man was very peculiar looking. His hair was all over the place, and he had a crooked smile, but I could see what she saw him. He was very endearing.

 

Him a killer? I laughed to myself. I don’t think so. And yet… the quiet, goofy ones always get you.  I looked up at her, nodded and left without another word.

 

It was around nine-thirty (a.m.), when I left the mistress of that beautiful white castle and I still could not believe that I was actually working for someone like Jane. It was mind blowing. She was far nicer than any of my other clients, and I’d never met most of them. I thought all of this was disturbing, in a Fatal Attraction sort of way. So, when I left her, I was in a hurry to help. I knew that this could go very wrong very quickly if I waited. You never know with lovers, they can either be sweet about the break up, or in this case, want to kill you.

 

I got back to my apartment in record time, and I started packing my “equipment.” Just a couple of guns, some rope, a PB&J sandwich and I was good to go. The only problem was; I didn’t know where to start. Then it hit me.

 

I called Mrs. Miller and told her to take a “trip” to the park. Certainly, if she went out he would dutifully follow her, which would make my job a hell of a lot easier. So it was with a heavy arsenal that I found myself in my car watching for the “would be” killer in the middle of the day.

 

 Now most, if not all, of my work happens either in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. Just for protective purposes. So as I sat there watching for my target, like a good little assassin, I made sure I was out of sight. I had parked my car at the far end of the park and found myself some bushes to hide behind. It was a bit cliché, but it worked. No one could see me, and I had a great view of the whole park.

 

Finally, I got a visual of Mrs. Miller, and right away, I could see that something was wrong. Her face was white, and her body ridged. I looked around for the man but couldn’t see anything. Then I moved a little closer, hiding behind a tree, and that is when I saw it. A three hundred fifty-seven-magnum revolver was clutched in her right hand, and I didn’t know what to think. Maybe she’d brought it for protection, or maybe, just maybe it was something else entirely.

 

Other freelance people say, “Don’t get emotionally involve with a client. You never know what might happen.” Well, that may be true, but at that point, I couldn’t help it. I walked out from behind the tree, gun securely in the holster hidden by my hoodie, and I ran up to her.

 

She looked at me, as though she had been shot, and I noticed that there was blood all over her hands and clothes. “What happened?” I asked, mortified.

 

“After you left,” she began, and I could see the tears forming in the corners of her eyes, “he came. It was as though he knew what I was up to, and he said he was going to kill me. ‘Once and for all,’ were his words exactly, so he… um… took out this gun,” she held up the gun, “and he started towards me. I didn’t know what to do… I panicked, so I picked up the shovel that was lying next to the tulips, and I smashed him over the head…” She made a swift and hard movement, as if she was hitting him, and then she went on, “And before I knew it, I was hitting him over and over and over and over…” She became hysterical. These deep heavy sobs coming out of her, and I sat her down on a bench and shook her shoulders, until she continued. “I took the gun from his hand, and I shot him, just to make sure he was dead. That’s when you called me, and I came running.”

 

I shook my head. I couldn’t believe someone as smart and innocent as she was could be a murderer. Well, maybe I could. “You did it in self-defense, honey.” I tried to be reassuring. “No jury in the world will convict you. I mean, look at the guy?” I held up the picture and laughed.

 

She stared at me as if I’d slapped her. Then she opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Finally, she said, “Take me home,” and it wasn’t a question. I did as I was told and escorted the lovely Mrs. Jane Miller to my car.

 

It was around one-thirty when we pulled up to the big white mansion. I couldn’t believe that only a couple of hours ago I met this incredibly gutsy woman. “Well…” I began, but she cut me off.

 

“I want you to kill me,” I could tell by her face that she was serious. “Here’s your money,” she thrust it into my hands. “Just take the gun and shoot me right here.” She pointed her index finger right between her two beautiful blue eyes.

 

“I can’t,” I said, mortified. “You’re a very nice lady, but I can’t kill you.” I had never in my career turned down a job, but I was oh-so willing to now. I just couldn’t kill her like that, it would be wrong. Besides, she never did anything to anyone, except to the jerk lying in the garden, and that was in self-defense.

 

“You have to,” she yelled, her voice shaking with emotion. “I did something terrible and I have to die.”

 

I shook my head. “But…”

 

“No buts,” she interrupted me. “Just do it. Kill me!” Her blue eyes turned to fire, and then the tears began.

 

“Are you sure?” I asked sadly.

 

“Positive,” she guaranteed me. She shifted in her seat, and as a result, the gun fit perfectly right between her eyes. At close range, I knew what would happen if I pulled the trigger. Her brains would be all over the car, which meant I would have to leave it here and get myself a new one. That was no big deal, but I’d still have the memory of her blood on my windshield.

 

I held the gun steady, looked her in the eye, and waited for her to say something, anything that would get me out of this situation. “I have to tell you something,” she said. Finally, she’s come to her senses. “The man I killed today was not the man you thought he was,” she paused and my hand started to shake.

 

“Who was he then?” I asked, as the tears stung my eyes.

 

“The man in that picture doesn’t exist. The man I killed… was my husband.”

 

“What?” I couldn’t believe my ears. How could this beautiful woman be a cold-blooded killer? I looked behind her at my reflection in the passenger-side window. That was a silly question.

 

“I wanted his money,” she told me quietly, looking at me with cold eyes. “You know how it is,” her voice was matter of fact, and it sent a shiver down my spine.

 

I stared into her dead eyes, and I knew in that moment that I had to do it.  

 

I’d loosened my grip on the gun while she spoke. Now I made sure it was tight. Firm.

Then I put my finger back on the trigger, cocked the hammer and pulled.

 

 

THE END

 

 

Short Story by: Laura Del (a.k.a. The Fiction Writer)