“Don’t ever trust a soul, Vivian. This world is a very cold and wicked place.”
Those are the warnings of my mother. To her, I am a normal girl, innocent, naive, and young. She’s worried for my safety as any mother should be, yet little does she know how wrong she is.
The world should be scared of me.
Because here I am, at home on a beautiful Saturday morning, having tea with a woman. A woman that I plan to kill.
Let me explain. To put it quite candidly, I am a hitman. I kill people for living. Which is quite ironic considering most hitman are, well, men. You don’t typically see many women in this line of work. Yet even against the odds, I am notorious among the criminal world for my work. They call me the phantom of the shadows, a moniker given to me for my many successes. When I strike, it’s stealthy and the death almost always goes unnoticed by the police, typically being presumed as accidental. And even when suspicions of foul play are sensed, it commonly turns into a cold case due to the lack of evidence. I’m sorry, I tend to be very proud, but it’s only because I’m confident in what I do. No one ever suspects the five-foot girl with archetypal brown hair and harmless brown eyes. And to be young, twenty-five to be exact, on top of all of that is like icing on the cake.
A couple of days ago, I received an encrypted email that was linked from my hitman profile on the deep web. The email was from a man in his 50’s, who offered me the new operation of killing his wife. This is not something unexpected for me, as I’ve received and completed many orders from jealous wives and evil husbands. Marriage is a very detrimental thing. As I read his words to gain a better understanding of my new victim, I noticed that he described her as a selfish, wicked woman. However, I didn’t care about any of her virtues. All I needed to know was that she was a woman. Women are typically easier to kill then men, but only because they tend to be more understanding, more kindhearted and empathetic. They almost make it too easy. It’s sad. How their own compassion ultimately leads to their demise.
He gave me the complete run down of his wife, her name, her age, her peculiar allergy to soy lecithin, where she likes to go for coffee before work, everything. Yet out of all of the information that he provided, only one thing caught my eye. The Price. The price that he was willing to pay to relieve himself of her. 20,000 US dollars. As a hitman, it’s important to never settle, to never get too comfortable in one place. Because of this, I tend to move often, every couple years, so the murders don’t lead the police to me. It’s been etching close to that time, and $20,000 is exactly what I need to help me move to my next targeted state: North Carolina. So I accepted the offer, and asked him to pay me when the job was done. Then it was time to conceive a plan. Unlike many hitmen, I take my time with all of my victims. Studying them, watching them, befriending them. It’s not something I like to rush. Because her husband had mentioned to me her usual routine of stopping at Honey Bay’s Café before work, I waited there for her, blending in with the loitering customers. And that’s how we met. Because I knew some of her interest, I constructed a character to fit her personality. It wasn’t long before we hit it off, trading number’s and agreeing to be friends. That was several weeks ago, and now today is the day to kill her.
Producing the strategy to kill was the hardest part. How would I make it look as natural as possible? All while successfully completing my mission without raising suspicions to the police? I kept in mind her allergy to soy lecithin. Some teas include this ingredient, so I figured I could invite her over for some tea and poison her. But an allergic reaction isn’t enough. She might have an EpiPen on hand or the allergy itself might not be strong enough to kill her. So, for weeks I meticulously researched for ideas when I remembered a chemical compound called Dioxin. When ingested, it initiates a heart attack like response, ensuing complete cardiac arrest shortly after. And because of the victims age, forty-three, no one will suspect a thing but death of natural cause or severe allergic reaction. And let’s say they do conduct an autopsy just to confirm. The dioxin levels in her body will go unnoticed by the soy lecithin in her blood, a result from drinking the tea. It’s the perfect murder. Simple and clean. And just like that, I had a plan.
“How are the boys?” I ask Marissa, the woman I’m supposed to kill. She’s sitting behind me at my kitchen table, my back to her as I make our cups of tea. I usually don’t conduct murders at my own house; however, I couldn’t think of any other circumstance that would allow me the opportunity to poison her at a public restaurant. This is the only way.
“They’re good!” She cheers, her melodic voice like honey to the ears, “Thank you so much for asking.” Marissa has two young boys, one ten years, the other only five. if I didn’t know this information, it would still be clear to discern that she’s a mother. She has a kind face and a voice that sooths the soul, a quality a lot of mothers tend to have.
“Of course.” I answer, as innocently as I can despite my sinister intentions.
I carefully pour 2.5 milligrams of the lethal Dioxin into the empty teacup to my left, leaving the right one, mine, bare. This way, I won’t have to worry about mixing the poison in myself. It’ll naturally happen as I pour the hot tea in. She doesn’t suspect a thing, which can be determined by the continuation of her voice.
“I’m so glad you invited me over this morning. I desperately needed to escape the house. My husband…he hasn’t been too fond of my presence these days.”
Careful not to injure myself, I pour hot tea into each cup when it’s ready from the bustling kettle. First into the right cup and then into the left. I watch vigilantly as the white powder vanishes within the dark amber liquid.
“It’s really my pleasure Marissa. Please, feel free to stop by anytime you feel as though the pressure’s becoming too much.” She smiles, a grateful one that punctures the walls of my indifferent heart.
One of the most important values of being a hitman is never involving your own feelings into the victim’s situation, or into the victim themselves. It always complicates matters and forces the plan into its own ruin. When I’m done, I carefully place the hot kettle back onto the stove, quickly placing the bottle of Dioxin into my cabinet.
“I appreciate that. You truly have been a good friend to me.”
Plastering a smile onto my face, I tighten my grasp on the cups before slowly walking them to her seat by the table. The left one is hers, the right one is yours, the left one is hers the right one is yours. I repeat the words in my mind like a broken record, I can’t risk mistaking the cups. I place the cup that’s in my left hand in front of her before taking a seat on the opposite side.
“Thank you,” she says, tucking a long strand of auburn colored hair behind her ear. I take a sip of my tea, hoping to encourage her to do the same.
“It’s no problem at all.” I watch her like a hawk as she takes a hold of her cup. She doesn’t take a sip, yet her eyes are glued to the liquid as she moves the cup in small circles. For a split second, I’m sure she knows. About everything, about the plan, about the fact that she’s been a dead man walking for weeks now. But then my worry diminishes as she looks up to me, a shadow falling over her eyes.
“You know,” She starts, “Things have been hard these past few weeks. Allen and I,” her husband, “have been fighting so much, and he’s been going out of his way to ignore me,” I’m willing to bet he’s ignoring her because he feels guilty over what he’s done, over what he’s going to do, over what I’m going to do. She continues,” He’s a good man…was a good man, until our verbal altercations became physical. As much as I love him, as much as I wish he didn’t hurt me, he does, and I think it’ll be best if we split up soon. I haven’t told him about my wanting to divorce, however, I hope he understands.”
Despite my personal rule of keeping disconnected, my heart can’t help but twinge in sympathy for her. My mother went through horrible abuse at the hands of my father. I saw, first hand, how the pain broke her into pieces. And here, I thought I knew it all about her. I was wrong, though I’m not surprised Allen didn’t tell me about his abusive ways.
“Marissa, I am so sorry. I never knew…I might not know how it feels to be in your shoes and witness the abuse of a man from a wife’s standpoint, but I know how it feels to see it from a daughter’s perspective.” Her eyebrows twitch together in understanding as she places a caring hand on top of mine.
“It’s okay sweetheart...I’m sorry you had to grow up in an environment like that.” I flash her a sad smile in response. A few seconds pass by before she straightens, leaving my hand abandoned from her warmth. She clears her throat.
“By the way Love, do you happen to have some honey? It's okay if you don't. I just prefer to have it with my tea.” I nod, standing up.
“Of course, let me grab it for you.” A pang of guilt ripples through me as I make my way to the cabinet, grabbing the jar of honey, as well as a spoon.
I feel incredibly guilty for what I’ve done, an emotion I usually don’t have while completing my missions. I’ve never felt a bond with a victim of mine, but there’s something about her that draws me in, connecting us on a deeper level than just a couple of strangers who randomly became friends.
War breaks out in the depths of my mind between the $20,000 and Marissa’s soul. Between life and death. I need this money, but what about the mother who’s been through hell sitting before me? What about her children who love her, who need her?
I let out a sigh, and against my better judgement, decide to spare Marissa’s life. I walk the jar over to the table, setting it in front of her. She thanks me, her green eyes sparkling in the morning sun filtering from the window.
I can’t allow her to drink her tea, but what can I do? The poison is already prepared, waiting to be consumed right in front of her. Yet, if I tell her the truth, she’ll probably be understandably upset and call the police. I can’t allow that possibility to happen either. Suddenly feeling distressed, I take a sip of my tea, wetting the dryness in my throat. My heart thunders against my ribs with apprehension at my fleeting time. And then it hits me, all at once.
Her allergy, I can use her allergy.
She’s about to take a sip, bringing the cup to her lips when my breath catches in my throat.
“Wait!” I yell, a little too expressively. Her eyes widen, caught off guard by the sudden burst of emotion. She lowers the cup to the table again.
“What? What happened?” When I don’t answer right away, she cocks her head to the side, a clump of hair gracefully falling over her shoulder blade. Her eyes are piercing, reading me like a book.
“Your allergy to soy lecithin, I didn’t check the tea to make sure it didn’t contain any.” Her reaction to my words isn’t what I expected, as she just stares at me, confusion deeply etched within her eyes.
“I never mentioned my allergy to you.” And that’s when the world shifts, my heart dropping to my stomach. She’s right. She never told me about her allergy, her husband did. Desperate to save myself, I rack my mind of something, anything to say. I’ll gaslight her.
“But you did tell me, that day we met at the café. Remember? When we were talking about our favorite coffees and teas? You told me then.” Her eyebrows draw together, uneasiness written all over her pretty face. Her eyes flicker to the ceiling in thought, her mind replaying every detail from the day we met.
She shakes her head. “No, I don’t recall. I tend to remember who I reveal my allergy to, since it’s so rare, but I suppose I forgot mentioning it during our conversation. I was in a rush that day…” She grabs the spoon, scooping a huge mass of honey and mixing it into her tea. She’s about to bring it to her lips again when I stop her.
“Your allergy,” I repeat. She waves a hand dismissively, shewing away my reminder like a pesky fly.
“No need to worry, most teas don’t contain soy lecithin. We should be fine.” I’m about to object when she brings the cup to her lips, taking a sip. My heart sinks as I fall against my chair in defeat. It’s over. There’s nothing more I can do.
A long, agonizing silence befalls us as I take another sip from my tea, trying to settle my tempestuous nerves. Calm down, Vivian. Don’t give yourself away.
But just as I’m about to settle my teacup back down to the table, my nose catches on an anomalous smell. A smell that’s steaming from my tea. The smell of betrayal. I try to sniff again, but that’s when an excruciating pain rips through my heart, catching me by surprise. I draw in a breath through clenched teeth, a hand to my chest.
“Are you alright? What’s wrong?” When I regain eye contact with Marissa, I immediately notice something wrong. Something malicious and deceitful behind her thoughtful eyes. Something sinister behind her caring voice. I look over to the warm tea sitting in front of me. And then like a lock, it clicks. My tea, she poisoned my tea. Heat instantly rushes to my face all at once as I feel my body temperature rising, trying to remain calm. Steady.
What a turn of events. I would’ve never suspected a victim of mine killing me, much less Marissa. Sweet, kind Marissa. The itch to ask her if she poisoned me scratches at my throat, yet I refuse. There’s no point in doing so. I know she did it, but even so, I would like to hear her own voice confess it to me.
“What did you put into my tea to poison me?” I ask, still trying to remain calm. The woman’s kind face falters away, as if it was all some masquerade.
“Cyanide,” She answers, quite matter-of-factly, “You have three to five minutes before your heart sputters to a stop. I suggest you use that time wisely…I’m sorry for this Vivian, I truly am, but I had to protect myself after finding out your true intentions with me.” My eyes widen at her words. She knew, she knew all along.
“But didn’t you take a sip of your tea?”
“It was only pretend.” I sit there, dumbfounded.
“B-but how? When?”
“I’ve been suspecting my husband of wanting to hurt me for some time now, so I took the needed precautions and tapped his phone. There, I listened to his conversation with you a week ago, where you told him the finalized plan. As for when? When I asked you for the honey. You should know better than to leave your drink unattended, not only as a woman, but as a hitman. You never trust anyone. Not even your victims.” Her words are like knives in my back, painful and stinging.
Remember when I said killing women was too easy, because they allowed their own empathy to lead to their demise? Ironic, isn’t it? And even so, I knew this would happen. Maybe not as soon as it did, but I knew a painful death for me was inevitable. I knew my karma would eventually catch up to me, in vengeance for all of the innocent lives I’ve taken. Now, there’s nothing left to do but wait for death to release me, as I’ve ran out of other options. If I were to call for an ambulance, I would die before they would arrive, and even if I didn’t, I would be handcuffed almost immediately for my crimes. I feel my body failing me, my heart slowing as I slump into my chair, weak. My eye sight becomes hazy under the bright glares of the sun, my world turning black and white from the impending doom. Even so, in the midst of death, I want to have my last words.
“You’ve impressed me. You’ve beat me at my own game. I hope you’ve figured out what you’ll say to the police to cover this up. How to get away with the murder. As a professional, I must say that’s the hardest part. To that I say good luck to you.”
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Hi Nana, I really enjoyed the cadence of your story! The main character reads so quirky and I love it. I'm wondering if I could read it on my podcast, "Unpublished, not Unknown"? It's all about giving voice to indie authors' short stories and spreading their reach a bit further. You retain the credit and I find fun ways to promote you and your story. I'll credit you and link your profile in the show notes. People can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Youtube, and 5 other locations. If you're in, just go to my website unpublishednotunkno...
Oh how cool! I would love to be a part of that, I will check out the website, thanks!
Thank you very much!!
Great story. Thanks!
Thank you so much!! I appreciate your kind words
I enjoyed reading this & liked how you were able to hook your audience from the start!!
Thank you so much, ur words are very appreciated!!
Nana, thank you. I really enjoyed your story. So did my wife. It is descriptive, detailed, and suspenseful. My greatest appreciation for it comes from my obsessive focus on the details though. Your sentence structure and composition is immaculate; phraseology, impeccable; plot and twists simply divine. If I had any constructive criticism at all, it would be the extended paragraphs. It slows the pace, in my humble opinion. Still, I hope you win!
Wow this made my day!! Thank you so much for your kind words and your constructive criticism! I really appreciate that!
Love the plot twist!