Flicking a strand of auburn hair back over my shoulder, I turn on my heel and stalk back through the enormous custom kitchen where I had found Teresita Perez preparing dinner for her husband.
Though she’d made a valiant effort to fight me off, first threatening with the cleaver, and then going so far as to try and scratch me with her frighteningly long nails when I’d wrestled the knife out of her hands, no tiny Spanish woman was going to overpower me. When she felt my experienced steel grip on her weak useless wrist, she knew there was no fight to be had. I snapped the wrist between my fingers. She sucked in a gasp and began to bawl. I allowed her to pull away but she quickly tripped in her distress and fell to the marble floor.
Sobbing, Teresita shrugged against the carved cherry cabinetry, tears pouring down her heavily made up face; the streaks of mascara making her tears run black. I grinned widely, remembering what Jack had said about nothing saying “death” quite like a smile. Killing her was a special order. I’d been given a message and a method for the murder. I clucked at her disapprovingly and pulled the silk ribbons out of my black embroidered Gucci bag. With a tenderness I only showed to pathetic, spoilt women like Teresita, I bound her feet together, then her hands. She winced as I tied her broken wrist to her functioning one.
“¿Por qué? ¿Por qué estás haciendo este?” she choked out in her native language.
“Well,” I answered honestly, “I don’t really need to tie you up; it was a request for easy disposal.”
Her expression changed from fear and sorrow to outright horror. I said nothing in response but grabbed her feet and dragged her away from the cabinet. Then I sat myself behind her and had her lean back, head in my lap. Her eyes were full of shock.
“Sabe,” I whispered, “He knows.”
And those were the last words she heard before I snapped her neck in my agile hands. It was sort of sad. But the world was bursting at the seams with sad people. It wouldn’t be fair to cry for one and not for the rest. So I don’t cry at all.
Breezing back through the kitchen, I stop to check the time.
It takes me a few moments of deliberation to come to the conclusion that I do not want to do my other job tonight. I’ve got plenty of cash, so there’s no need to do all the available slaughtering in one day. Slipping through the window on the back porch, I trot down the steps quietly as a cat and down the slope of the manicured backyard. I weave my way through picket fences and sprinkler systems, patio chairs and elegant little ponds until finally reaching the corner where I parked by the conveniently burnt out street lamp. Little things like that make my day.
I head home on the highway, ready to relax after a satisfying day of work. My road rage flares up as some imbecile decides to take an exit at the last minute without a turn signal. I feel my mouth curl into a snarl. Oi. But at last I am home. I take the elevator six stories up to my well-furnished apartment and drop my bag on the kitchen counter so that I can pour a glass of wine.
Once the glass is full and in my hand, I feel my nerves begin to untangle. What a hardworking murderess really needs after a trying day is a bubble bath. Of course, bubble baths tend to be a cure-all for me. I kick off my spiked heels at the door and strut down the clean white hall to the master bath.
After soaking for near an hour, surrounded by candles and sweet classical music, it’s time to get ready for dinner. I pull myself out of the large tub, overflowing with bubbles and towel off. Slipping into my robe, and do my makeup, outlining my cold blue eyes in coal black. When that’s finished, I trot out of the bathroom and over to my abnormally large walk in closet. The back rack of the closet is devoted to little black dresses. My favorite.
Browsing through them, I choose one with subtle eyelet trim and a silk sash. Once that’s on, I add stockings exactly matched to my skin tone and a pair of braided gold hoops, not too big but eye-catching nonetheless. I come with a high price tag. By that point it looks as though I’m about ready to go. But as I leave the room I double back for a quick mist of perfume. Smelling like jasmine and vanilla, I notice the slight rumble of hunger in my stomach. Time to call Jack.
With a flip of my little gold cell and the click of a button I’ve got Jack on the line.
“Hey, Anna Banana,” he says merrily.
“Hey Jackie-Poo, what’re we doing for din-din?” I reply just as happily.
“Hmm, let’s go somewhere new. Any ideas?”
“Um…” Jack trails off. I wait. 5, 4, 3, 2…
“Oh!” he bursts, like clockwork, “That new little café on the corner of Walnut and 2nd. Sound good?”
“Sure. About 6:30?”
“Fine with me. And I got to go, a car just stopped in front of the mailbox,” Jack says, and I can hear the smile on his face, “Got a job for tomorrow.”
“Alright, see you soon.”
For a minute I sweep through the apartment and turn off the lights, then catch the elevator as Ms. Price is getting on.
“Hello, Annie,” she says.
“Good evening, Ms. Price,” I answer curtly. To be honest, I can’t stand the woman.
“That’s a lovely dress. A bit short though, don’t you think? For someone your age?” she snips.
“I’m 24, Ms. Price,” I answer, “I think I’m allowed to wear this dress.”
“It’s not really a question of can you, but should you.”
I’m really hoping to find someone who wants to add her to my hit list. But the elevator comes to the ground floor and I walk briskly away, dismissing the old hag with a “Have a nice evening, Ms. Price.”
What I really mean by that is, “I hope you have a stroke while you’re playing bridge with your hairless, toothless old friends.”
If only the world could read my mind sometimes. It would make things a lot easier for me. And harder, now that I think about it. A faint smile hints at the thought as I make my way to 2nd and Walnut Street. The café Jack has selected had it’s picture in the newspaper for its grand opening a few days ago. It looks pretty cute from the outside as I pull down a side street to park.
“Hey, hey, hey, hot stuff!” Jack calls from corner as I step out of my car. A smile splits my powdered face. He jogs over and puts his arm around my shoulders. We swagger to the restaurant and stop inside the door to glance around. There are only a few tables free. Jack selects one in the back and takes my coat, hanging it on the hook beside our booth along with his own.
“What are you in the mood for, Annie?” Jack asks, sitting down and handing me a menu. You would think I’m a very high maintenance person by the way he treats me.
“Hmmm. What’s Jupiter Café’s specialty?” I ask absentmindedly, pondering the soups and sandwiches.
“House salad is supposed to be good. Steve raves about the cream cheese and lox on sourdough. I think I’ll get the turkey pesto myself,” Jack responds helpfully. He flips through the menu and adds, “With a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder.”
“Oh, and they have New England clam as well. I’ll have to have that with the cream cheese and lox,” I decide. Jack jumps up and remembers to find out what kind of drink I’d like.
“Café au lait, please,” I say before Jack can get the question out. He smirks and goes up to the counter to place our order.
When Jack returns, he has an order number and words on the tip of his tongue. He sits down and begins in a low voice, “So, I’ve got a special project I want your help with.”
My eyes light up and I automatically lean in, “Tell me.”
“There’s a party. That’s what I got info on in the mailbox today. A man drove by and dropped off an invitation to a party on the 15th of February. There was a wad of hundred dollar bills on top of the invitation. On the inside it had the date and a note that said, ‘All of them.’”
I gasp excitedly.
“One-oh-two!” shouts the man at the counter. It startles both of us. Jack leaps up and goes to get the food. He balances the tray on the edge of the table and places my meal in front of me. When he’s done the same for himself and returned the tray, we share a moment of tense, anxious silence as we stare at the food and then at each other.
“How tantalizing,” I whisper.
“Heavenly, even,” Jack suggests, trying not to smile. We both laugh. But we aren’t talking about clam chowder.