The minute I saw her, something stirred inside. My weakness for women asserted itself as never before. She sat in the library, only visible above the top of her desk. Attractive, but her looks did not set her apart. It was something else causing my neck to turn hot and sweaty. What is it about this woman?
“You must be Marian. Marian the librarian,” I said stupidly while looking into her doe-like eyes, now completely taken with everything about her; her high cheekbones, her long dark hair, her smiling full lips.
“The seventy-six trombones will be here soon,” she said.
I loved her voice, too.
“Recommend a good novel?” My approach lines were not improving.
“The facility is full of them. What do you like?”
I knew the question referred to my taste in novels, but, still completely off my game, I blurted out. “You. How about lunch?”
After a brief hesitation, she said, “I have one hour beginning at 11:45. I’ll meet you at the front entrance.”
I stuttered, “I’ll see you then,” while exiting.
I retreated to my car, watching the front door. My watch said 11:30. The fifteen minute wait seemed like hours, but she appeared at exactly 11:45.
“We can go wherever you want,” I said as she entered the car. “An hour is not much time, so where do you suggest?”
“Let’s go somewhere nice. It’s okay if I’m late getting back just this once.”
We dined at an Italian food restaurant on Southern Avenue; a white linen establishment with good service and good food. We looked into each other’s eyes as we sat there, both picking at our food, disinterested in eating. The sparse conversation must have been forgettable, until she said, “I’m not going back to work this afternoon. Where can we go?”
“I’m staying at a low class motel,” I said.
“Always wanted to spend an afternoon in bed in a low class motel,” she said, as she dialed the library on her cell phone to report being too ill to return to work.
The afternoon with Marian more than met expectations. I found myself completely enamored with her. Thoughts of a long-term relationship began almost immediately. The next few nights together deepened my feelings for her even as I felt myself slipping into a dangerous situation. I had lost sight of my original reason for meeting her and kept putting off questioning her about the contract on her life. I also almost forgot to send money to Sidney, but did send it when I finally remembered.
Several years ago, I started to wonder if I might be an alcoholic and attended several A.A. meetings. When I listened to people telling their stories, I came to some conclusions. First, it would not be possible for me to tell my story either in the meeting or to a sponsor. I liked my chosen profession and certainly didn’t want to tell anyone about it and go to jail. Also, I had no guilt or remorse about my job. Second, I concluded that my life was not yet out of control and found just listening to them made me able to moderate my drinking. I learned to recognize the signs of alcoholism and found it easy to avoid drinking to excess. I also stopped occasionally experimenting with drugs.
I learned something else useful. One of the speakers concentrated his talk on the importance of confessing to another human being; part of one of the twelve steps. He was trying to drive this concept home by exaggeration. He said, “It doesn’t matter who you tell. After you are finished, shoot the person dead if you must.”
I knew this silly statement was not serious. In fact, it brought laughs from everyone. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It wasn’t a question of remorse … I had none. It was an ego trip. I wanted to tell someone about my successful career. Bragging, maybe. Getting recognition, perhaps.
I began using this technique before disposing of girlfriends who might have found out about my job. Also, it was useful when I got so involved with a woman it affected my work and she had to be disposed of. I had already reached that point with Marian.
I had not questioned her as originally intended. In effect, I was neglecting my job. On our fifth night together, I rolled over in the bed after sex, slipped the Kimber from under the mattress and sat up holding it in my lap.
“Marian, my love, I have some things to tell you.”
I outlined as much of my career as I could remember, looking into those doe eyes as I spoke. Near the end, I told her about being hired to shoot the Senator, about killing both the Senator and the young hit man, and about him having been hired to kill Marian. Astonished at her calm demeanor and knowing smile, I finished up with the question I should have asked that first afternoon.
“So, why was the young man given a contract on you?”
“Because I turned them down,” she said without hesitation.
“You turned who down?”
“The same people who eventually hired you, I suppose. The kid must have been working for them.”
“They asked you to kill the Senator? Why you?”
“Because I am a professional, just like you. I suspected you had been sent to dispose of me because I turned them down. They told me I had no choice but to accept the job; just like they told you.”
My gun rested in my lap, but hers was now leveled at me. All she had to do was squeeze the trigger. I would have to raise my gun. Her damn doe eyes had attracted all my attention. I had not seen the gun until she had it pointed at me. Now what?
“You have no chance,” she said.
“You either. Before I die, I will put one between those eyes.”
At an impasse, we both decided to stand down. She slowly put her gun in her lap and then we both released our weapons and raised our hands. We were smiling.
Within seconds, we began making love again. Being on top, I could see our weapons bouncing on each side of us on the bed, in rhythm with our movements. The whole scene should have been put to music.
After the climax and before I collapsed in happy exhaustion, I noticed that the two guns had ended up pointing away from each other toward their respective sides of the bed, and, of course, away from us. The “us against the world” symbolism was unmistakable. Marian must have wondered why I was laughing.
The exhilaration I felt to have a real soul mate drove away all my reservations. I could actually talk to Marian about my business and share ideas with her about how to do our work better. We decided to be work partners. If she got hired for a job, I would help her and we would share the proceeds, and vice versa. We were going to be the best in our chosen profession; far better than either of us working alone.
But, the first thing we had to do is find out who hired me (and tried to hire Marian) to kill the Senator, with very little to go on. We began by driving to the house in which I had been hired. It turned out to be the same house in which she had turned them down previously.
The “For Lease” sign told us it had been abandoned by my employer. It proved easy to break in and look around. The house was clean and ready to show. No blood in the kitchen. No kitchen table. The house was ready to occupy except for a thin covering of dust on the kitchen counters. It had been empty for a while. We searched it carefully anyway, and found nothing. Now what?
“Marian, have you ever been suspected by the police?”
“Yes. Once. Years ago. But they lacked evidence and had to let me go.”
“Somehow, my client has access to police records, whoever he is.”
“Okay, fading to black,” said Marian, after she had answered her throw-away cell phone. She removed the battery, smashed the phone under a high heel, and smiled at me as she stuffed the pieces into a paper bag.
“Was that the go-ahead call?” I asked.
“Of course. This is the job I have been expecting. It has to be today. I’m glad I called in sick this morning.”
The “now what” had been established. Today, we would collaborate on our first job.
I closed the door of the lease house and we climbed into my old car. She gave me directions to the apartment complex located in Albuquerque near Rio Rancho. We parked in the parking lot where she explained the set-up. “The apartment is on the second floor. There are stairs and an elevator. The target works nights and will be sleeping. No security cameras and we’ll pass no windows walking to the outside door.”
“Is this the best place or should we wait for him to leave for work tonight?”
“The parking lot is brightly lit up at night and there are a lot of people coming and going. The lot is the only one for the whole complex. The second floor hallway only accesses six apartments. Each individual building only has a few apartments on each of the three floors. There will be potentially fewer people in this hallway than anywhere else he’ll be today. There are only adults living on this floor, and everyone is at work this time of day. It’s now or never.”
“How do we get in?”
“My client, the target’s wife, provided me with a key card,” she said as she donned a frumpy jacket and a wig. I wore a different color T-shirt and baseball cap than usual.
“Okay, let’s go.”
We used the key card to gain access to the apartment block, and rode the elevator to the second floor, after making sure there would be no other riders. The hallway was also empty. There were no cameras, as Marian had said earlier.
“I’ll hold the elevator door open and keep an eye on the top of the stairway. I can see it clearly from here. If anyone appears there, I’ll shoot. Be quick,” I said.
Marian walked quickly to the room door, opened it with her key card, entered and exited within seconds.
“Let’s go,” she said. “He’s dead.”
“Great work,” I said as we rode the elevator down.
In the car, she removed her wig and ugly jacket and asked me to stop at a dumpster, where she disposed of them. We drove straight back to the motel, and, caught up in mutual passion, fell onto the bed. The sex was unbelievable. I was so proud of her and so happy to be with her.
Afterwards we lay in bed talking. “I wish I had a job lined up right now. It’s my turn to bring us work,” I said.
“Don’t think like that. It’s not a matter of taking turns getting hired. Together, we’ll have plenty of work. You could get three in a row any time. Especially if you keep working for your present employer. He said he would keep you busy, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, but he sent an amateur to kill me, instead. You know, the one who told me that you were next on his list. Of course, I disposed of him. But I’ll always be grateful he led me to you.”
“You’re really sweet for a killer,” she said, smiling. “We both owe him a debt of gratitude. But, we must be getting back to work.”
Using another throwaway, she punched in a number and said one word, “money,” listened and replied “going black.” Another cell phone bit the dust.
“Will she be there?”
“Do you trust her?”
“No. Will you shoot her? I want to watch.”
So, we proceeded to the meet that night. I stepped out of the shadows after Marian got the money and gave me the thumbs up, and I shot the client in her torso a little off center so Marian could watch the light slowly fade from her eyes as she took a while to die. I took the rest of the money from her handbag. We disposed of the body and went back to the motel for another round of passionate sex. Life was wonderful.
The next morning, I took Marian to work and then went to the young man’s dorm room to see if leads could be found there. I learned nothing from his roommate. Another dead end. I then took Marian to lunch, and afterwards, I spent the afternoon searching the internet at the library, trying to learn more about Senator Rose Gomez and her political interests and connections. Much of it was over my head; I’m not a political animal, but I did learn that she had been a conservative republican who stood against most liberal policies.
When Marian was off work and ready to go back to the motel, I told her to go ahead to the car while I stopped at the men’s room. That stop saved my life.
When I exited the library, Marian lay on the pavement. I rushed to her and determined immediately that there was no life in those beautiful eyes. For the first time in my life I felt what loved ones surviving my victims must have felt. Marian had been shot only seconds before I saw her lying there. Since I remained a target, we both would have been shot if I had stepped out that library door a little sooner. The shooter had disappeared.
I have never exhibited a strong character. Always ran away from any kind of trouble. Didn’t really believe in anything. But a cold determination now fell over me. Vengeance would be mine, come hell or high water.