"You know what I want to know," she says when Taffy falls silent. She lifts her eyes from the burger, now mostly squashed bun and beef remnants on her plate. "Can you tell me?"
"You want to know if Dante knew what he was talking about?"
Penelope nods, and picks up a piece of the bun, cleaning ketchup off her plate with it. She can't help it, it reminds her of Odysseus after his rage, when he'd slain the queue of suitors at the palace.
"Some answers have to be earned, pretty Penelo--" Taffy jumps as Penelope shoves the plate away from her with fury. She says nothing, so he continues. "Pretty Penelope. That's not my ruling, it's just a nicety I have to abide by."
Penelope shrugs. She's been doing this job for too long now to try to argue. Her employers, and her occasional targets, seem to have a rulebook they all respect, and all ignore, to varying degrees. What one considers to be set in stone another considers to be hewn from butter. She continues to ask for information, and every refusal tells her a little more about the game she's playing.
"Am I here to meet you, or are we waiting?" She changes the subject, and with it comes a change in herself. She straightens up in her seat, pulls the line of her jacket straight, and checks her reflection quickly in a silver napkin dispenser. She pulls a napkin free and quickly dabs away smears of grease and a single grain of salt.
"I thought we were waiting, but it seems like we've been stood up," says Taffy, and the scent of the sea suddenly grows strong. Without warning it's replaced with a charnel smell, the cold moldiness of ancient bones and the clamminess of lichens that crave heat and moisture from the living. The entire diner seems to fade ever so slightly, as though a mist has crept in unannounced and unperceived and is now curtaining off a small area of space, and the hubbub of conversation slows down to a muted drone. Taffy's head drops, a single nod of acknowledgement, and Penelope feels a hand on her shoulder, not gripping enough to hurt, but letting her know that it's not human. It has claws.
"The Queen has played strongly, and a check has been noted," says the newcomer. The words sound mushy, ill-formed as though the speaker is missing some vital anatomy for speech. "But though our opponents are hindered, they are not without recourse. There is much to do to strengthen our position now, to ready ourselves for the inevitable war. There is now a death that must happen, a child who must not be allowed to inspire a woman to be greater than she is."
"A child?" Penelope's voice is faint, surprised. "I don't--"
"You are an assassin for hire."
"But a child...."
"You have just imprisoned an immortal in the mortal realm. That is far worse than releasing child to me, where he shall be cared for and loved, just as I loved Persephone."
"Why is he here?" Penelope points at Taffy, trying to buy herself time to think why killing a child was worse than trying to kill Zeus.
"His aspect will assist you in your task. Though you may not always see him, he will walk beside you."
'Though I pull the trigger,' thinks Penelope, 'Taffy will be the ultimate killer. Can I now do this?'
"What's the child's name?"