Phoenix was still grinning when I watched the two girls disappear through the door and turned back to him, irritated and wanting to follow them and feeling inadequately left out of the loop, because everyone else always seemed to know everything and forget that I didn’t.

“Well, then,” he said amiably, offering the crook of his elbow in a parody of an old gentleman, which I didn’t take. “The tour.”

I stayed put for a few seconds, before grudgingly following him as he disappeared round the corner of a unit stacked with AK-47s.

“Weapons,” he said grandly, stating the obvious. “Here we have everything one could ever need to perform an act of revenge against another. Within certain boundaries, of course; we don’t operate for the rather too open-minded people with outrageous requests. Some people prefer classic bullet through the head, others want something slow and painful, and it seems you always get some who want something ridiculous, like a three-tonne safe dropped on their head.”

“You work in assisted suicide?” His way of explaining wasn’t too great so far. My swirling mind was trying to decipher what he’s said up to now. It halted indignantly as Phoenix let out a laugh that reverberated from the ceiling and walls.

“Good one. No, I would have thought you’d have picked up by now that people who want to hire weapons for revenge would have one thing in mind. And they don’t always hire weapons, they hire people - or, who they believe to be people - “ he flashed his pearly teeth and I knew he was talking about himself, “ - to sort out their revenge for them.”

The carefully enunciated words allowed me to finally understand. And when it clicked, I felt like maybe I should take a few steps back - or possibly run away - because I saw the hint of ‘dangerous’ in his smile now.

“Assassin #1, that’s me,” he grinned, pointing his thumb to his chest. “Better now?”

I didn’t want to give in and try to get away from him, so I reasoned that if he was going to kill me he would have done it long before now - he’d had plenty of opportunity. It was just that he had admitted to being in the employ of the Eternals with a job of assassination on the side, and I knew the Eternals wanted me dead.

As if knowing that I wasn’t sure if I should trust him now, Phoenix took a step forward so he was just a foot away. The only thing in my line of sight was his shirt. I made myself look up, without tilting my head - then to my surprise his strong hand was gripping the back of my neck, forcing it to look up.

“If I wanted to, Ruby, I could snap your neck right now for nothing,” he informed me, his eyes flat, expressionless. Frightening. “I would have no need of any of these weapons in here. So please, don’t get all anxious about me wanting to kill you. Don’t flatter yourself, either - I kill for five hundred a head. You’re not worth that much.”

He let go and I gasped and stepped back, rolling my neck a little to get the pain out. I heard his footsteps moving away through the shelves. To my surprise, it wasn’t what he’d talked about doing that frightened me - it was his last words, which felt like a punch to my stomach. And I didn’t know why I cared.

The End

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