It was only supposed to be one murder.
Marie stepped backward, back into the shadow of the brick building. Her heart beat fast beneath her rib cage and she gripped the knife tightly. The knife was a young kitchen knife, thin enough to fit between someone’s vertebrae, and had never been used before. She hoped the knife would be brave. She hoped she would be brave.
Marie was sure Devon had seen her—sure the target had seen her—and she knew she had to get this over with soon. The Boss liked to have the targets done over as quickly and quietly as possible.
This had gotten out of control.
How many targets had been done over? Marie tried to count and found that she couldn’t count them on her hands. It was too many. And she couldn’t count the number of the Boss’s people who had gotten caught, on one hand. It was too many. Just get it over with. Don’t be sly. Don’t preach to the target. Don’t kill more than the target. And most importantly, don’t get caught.
She moved out of the alley. The knife was cold, touching her skin under her coat.
Her skin glowed golden in the lamplight of the nearby lamppost.
She could see Devon standing alone in the alley across the street. His face was in shadow, distorting his features.
A cop was standing under the lamppost opposite Devon’s alley.
“Evening,” Marie nodded to him.
The cop glared at her. He was one of those individuals whose eyebrows and forehead skin greatly overshadowed their eyes, and so made a glare much more effective. The cop walked back and forth under the street light, swinging his cudgel threateningly, nodding his head at Marie.
Marie shivered and wondered if cops could read minds. Her coat was too thin.
She moved away from the cop, stepping into the street and motioning to the target.
His eyebrows puckered, but he followed her. He trusted her. That was, thought Marie painfully, because he thought she was harmless, thought she loved him, thought she might have some good news for him, for once.
As out of the corner of her eye Marie watched Devon follow her, a tear trickled down her cheek. She fingered the grooved handle of the knife.
Once out of sight of the policeman, Marie stepped into a side alley and waited.
Holding her knife, head against the wall, tears falling, Marie railed against herself and against the Boss. Why must he be so zealous? Devon hadn’t done anything at all but look sideways in the window when the initial murder was taking place. He hadn’t looked back, hadn’t looked a second time, hadn’t asked Marie if she’d seen anything strange in the basement of their apartment that afternoon.
The Boss was overreacting. There was no way Devon could threaten the mission. The Boss was a fool.
Marie caught her breath and wiped away a tear. That was no way to talk about the Boss.
Everyone at the corps knew that the Boss was god. Everything he said goes. Everything he wanted, went. And perfectly. And on time. And if you were caught fulfilling his orders and went to jail or sentenced to death, too bad for you. The Boss was the head. What the Boss said went. And Marie knew better than to question anything he told her to do. So “do over” Devon she must. And only because she was the best one at the job-- the expert, in fact.
Marie choked on her tears.
So long, emotional wellbeing and the ability to say I’m not a psychopath. What the Boss says goes!
Marie dried her tears and told herself firmly to buck up and quit acting like a child. She was not a child. She was a human being with thoughts of her own about how far things had gone.
This had gone too far! Now the Boss was having his minions murder their own spouses. Covering up one mistake, one murder, one slip-up, shouldn’t have gone this far. How could she live with herself after this? This was her first mission. Everyone has doubts when they ‘do over’ for the first time said the Boss but they always go through with it. Don’t worry. You will, too. It’s normal; natural. Don’t freak when it happens. Cycle of nature, y’know? But is a cycle of nature to murder one's own husband? To be the reluctant expert on a job she absolutely hated doing?
Marie lifted the knife, listening for Devon’s footsteps.
After the first one, the initial murder, was successful, the Boss had ordered the killing of Shaquel, the woman who’d seen the first one’s death.
Then it had been Catherine—poor, poor blind Catherine. Marie sucked in her breath, remembering her daughter. Marie had sacrificed so much for the Boss—so much! Her daughter, her husband, her thoughts and her sanity. But she knew she’d be rewarded.
But then Hex had seen Agent 57 doing Cat.
Then it was Wigsie, the drunk.
Then Rick, brother of Shaquel, who had become too suspicious.
Then the unnamed plumber.
Then Devon had walked past the window, and now it was his turn.
How soon till the Boss was picking off his own people?
The plan must go on.
Marie gasped painfully. She couldn’t do it. The Boss was cruel enough to ask a woman to kill her own husband, even if the woman was best at the job; how could she trust that his plan was worthy or worthwhile?
Secrets were hard to keep. Secrets were dangerous to keep. It should have only been the first one, Gus, but things were out of control now, in the attempt to keep things secret.
But she shouldn’t question the Boss.
If she did, she would die. Unnamed, just a hiccup, just a gnarl in the plan. No one would care. Just do your part in the fragmentary plot, then go home and sleep it off. Ignore the heartache.
Marie lowered her eyebrows and slid her fingernail along the blade. Too bad for true love. The plan must go on.
But her anger would remain. The Boss knew all along that she would do it. He knew she’d fight internally. But he knew she’d eventually do it. How she hated him.
But he was too powerful to kill. People around him would surely kill her, and Marie did not wish to die.
Marie closed her eyes as she heard Devon enter the alley.
Marie opened her eyes. “Devon. It’s been too long.”
Devon opened his arms and she flew into them. Her arms around him, Marie raised the wicked gleaming knife from her sleeve and felt as the tip of the blade fit perfectly into a groove of his spine.