Business as Usual
Dazzling lights shimmered from the crystal windows of the hotel as a young woman stepped out of the slick black limousine. She wore an icy sequin dress that stopped at her knees and glittering silver pumps. On her arm was a gilded black handbag.
“Eighth,” the driver of the limousine called to her as he rolled down the window, “remember your objective. Your targets are Isabella McAllister, Lucas Serre and Lucille Crantonne. You are to leave Lucas Serre for last. The contract didn’t specify how to dispatch the targets or whether to eliminate witnesses or not, so that will be left to your discretion. The party will end in five hours. Happy hunting, Eighth.”
The limousine pulled away from the hotel’s roundabout and sped off into the bustling city. Eighth sighed and turned to face the Dual Sol hotel, the honey-colored walls dull in the night, only lit up around the windows and doors. She walked through the sliding crystal doors and walked up to the reception desk.
“Good evening. I’m here to attend the Trilight Pharmaceutical Company’s annual gala.” Eighth said to the receptionist.
“Ah, of course. And your name is?” The receptionist asked.
“Talia Rieper,” Eighth said. All the agents in her organization used the surname Rieper as a cover, regardless of rank. It had become something of a dark joke among operatives.
“Ah, Ms. Rieper. Simply follow the hall to your right all the way down. You’ll come to the party area at the end of the hall,” The clerk said, handing a white card to the young lady. In the center of it was a pattern of three overlapping stars. Eighth nodded in thanks and followed the directions given to her. She stopped midway to check her reflection in the giant mirror to her right and make sure her sapphire hairstick was keeping her bun clean and tight, just the way she liked it. At the end of the carpeted tangerine hall, two burly guards in uniform stood at attention.
“Evening, Miss. Card?” The taller guard asked. Eighth handed her the card she received moments earlier. The guard pulled a scanner from his belt and waved it over the card. The scanner dinged, signaling the card was authentic.
“Alright, Miss. Just hand your bag over to my partner over there and stick out your arms to frisked, and you’ll be on your way,” the guard said, sounding bored.
“Is this necessary? I’m fine with having my bag searched, but I don’t see why I need to be frisked if I’m wearing a tight dress like this,” Eighth complained. She actually didn’t care, but she did enjoy the sound of her own voice quite a bit.
“Sorry Miss, but rules are rules. On multiple occasions, women have tried to sneak in with weapons strapped to their thighs. It’s just a safety precaution,” the guard seemed truly apologetic. Eighth sighed and gave the other guard her bag. She had gone through many a safety check so she already knew how to keep her legs apart and stay perfectly still. The guard patted along her sides and down her legs with the back of his hands, as to not make things awkward but using his palms.
“Her bag’s clean,” the second guard said, handing it back to Eighth.
“Alright Miss. Enjoy the party,” the first guard said as he opened the wooden double doors and let the hired gun into the ballroom. Eighth mentally thanked her past self for sacrificing her comfort and strapping her knives and poison syringes to her inner thigh rather than her outer thigh.
Quickly, Eighth got to work. She took in her surroundings and made a mental map of the place. It was a room shaped like a rectangular prism, about thirty-seven meters squared for the floor and sixty-two meters tall. All around her were tables covered in white cloth with dozens upon dozens of people mingling between them. To her right were nothing but the doors that no doubt led to the bathrooms. Along the left wall was a large buffet, full of assorted foods that ranged from fresh sushi and steamed dumplings to desserts such as tarts and cannolis. Eighth promised herself that when the job was done she’d try one of everything there.
Turning back to face straight ahead, Eighth saw a set of double doors leading outside. She drifted through the clusters of people until she reached the doors. She looked out to see a large stone balcony stretch out for about twenty feet. There were more tables out here, but barely anyone was there. Just a few attendants and a drunk couple happily enjoying each other’s embrace. Eighth snorted and felt a twinge of spite, but said nothing more as she turned back towards the interior.
After going to the little girls room and transferring her equipment from her leg to her bag, Eighth spent the next ten minutes observing the partygoers around her to pick out the faces she had drilled into her head to prepare for the job. It was when Eighth had finally gotten hungry enough to go to the buffet that she saw her first target.
Isabella McAllister, daughter of Trilight Pharmaceutical Company’s Jennifer McAllister, was the number one target for tonight’s mission. After having graduated medschool, Isabella joined her mother’s company not as a pharmacist, but as a scientist who used unethical drugs to experiment on humans. She wanted to find what combination of poisons would kill people in ways specific to the clients design. The reason she could get away with so much was only because her mother was one of the three heads of Trilight.
Isabella wore a sepia dress with a gently sloping neckline that stopped right below her knees. She had a heart-shaped face and wore rimless glasses. Her hair and her eyes were both a dark brown. Eighth changed her trajectory to beeline towards her target. As she did, she realized she was clenching her fists. The young woman slowed down and made sure that there weren’t any eyes on her as she approached. When she refocused, another woman was sitting across from Isabella. Her hair was bleached blonde, black roots showing through the halo of artificially colored hair. Her eyes were pear green, just like her eyeliner. The red dress she’s wearing only covers a small portion of her shoulders and flows into a plunging neckline so deep even Eighth wouldn’t wear if her mission required her to. The dress hugged the woman’s abundant curves and stopped half a foot from her knees.
Eighth almost didn’t recognize Lucille Crantonne, what with all the makeup curled hair. She was Trilight’s head lawyer. Whenever even Jennifer McAllister couldn’t save her daughter, Lucile would step in and falsify evidence and make alibis out of thin air to bail out the drug maker.
At least, that’s what the boss’s informant had said. To Eighth, she looked quite ditzy. The natural blonde in blue sat at a table with her back turned towards her two targets, brushing some silverware away so he could rest her elbow on the table. She turned an ear towards them and tried to drown out the constant murmur of the room to focus on their conversation.
“We made a deal, Lucille. You promised you wouldn’t make me talk about this outside of work,” Isabella sighed.
“Izzy, you need to get this into that pretty little head of yours: Lucas remaining alive is a danger to everything we have going right now. He’s already proposed shutting down your branch of the company. The only reason it didn’t happen is because his father is as greedy as your mother is a bitch,” Lucille replied, her voice dripping with malice at the mention of the older McAllister. Eighth took out two syringes full of emetic poison and kept them between her bag and her arm to conceal them.
“It’s too dangerous, Lucy. His father is the head of the company. If his son dies then I doubt our path to succession becomes much easier,” Isabella said in a lower voice.
“It will if we get rid of his old man. We already have your mother on our side, despite how much I hope she jumps off a cliff. It’ll be easier to wrestle power from old man Santiago if Serre is gone,” Lucille snickered, a sneer creeping through her voice.
Eighth had grown tired of listening. Just as a waiter passed by with a tray of champagne glasses, she quickly took a spoon and flung it right at the servant’s neck with enough force to bring blood from the skin. The waiter instinctively tried to clutch his throat, dropping the tray and letting the glass explode over the floor with a splintering noise that hushed the entire room. The distraction was just enough. As the two targets turned to look at what the commotion was, Eighth flowed from her chair right next to the women silently. She put the tiny syringes into each target’s shoulder simultaneously and injected the emetic poison noiselessly. Just as quickly as she got up, Eighth left the area. There wasn’t a movement wasted in her actions. Not even a full two seconds had passed since she had thrown the spoon at the waiter. She has sealed the fate of both women as silent as a shadow.
Eighth put the next steps of her plan into action by lying in wait in the ladies room. She stood at the sink, quiet and patient, until she heard the door open. It had taken five minutes for the poison to start working in Isabella. The woman came into the bathroom as green as a frog, covering her mouth to attempt to keep the contents of her stomach from spilling out onto the bathroom floor.
It was only a second. Isabella passed Eighth to get to one of the three stalls, stumbling as she did. The moment the drug-maker put her hand on a tall door, Eighth came upon her in the same manner as when she had administered the poison. In one swift motion, Eighth put her right hand on top of Isabella’s head and put her left hand under the woman’s chin and yanked hard. It only takes fifteen pounds of force to break a human neck, but Eighth had made it a habit to be absolutely thorough in what she did.
It wouldn’t be long until Lucille would come as well to empty herself. Eighth worked fast. She dragged the body into the nearest stall and propped it up on the toilet to make it seem as if Isabella simply had an upset stomach rather than separated spinal discs. The icy reaper took out her cellphone and snapped a picture of the carcass, to confirm the kill. Eighth crawled out from under the stall to keep it locked. After she dusted herself off, Eighth took her position once again. It was only a few minutes after Eighth had crossed off her first target from her list that Lucille walked in.
The woman didn’t even make it past the sink before she expunged the sushi she had earlier onto the polished sandstone floor. Some of it splashed onto the floor and landed Eighth’s shoes. Eighth’s left eye twitched. As Lucille came over to the sink without even apologizing, Eighth slowly and calmly reached into her bag and pulled out her trusty carbon fiber garotte. Just as the sick woman looked up to the mirror from splashing her face, the black wire came over her face and wrapped around her neck. Lucille tried to scream, but what came out instead was a pitiful squawk that sounded like a dying goose. Eighth pulled tighter and tighter, ignoring the thrashings of the corrupt lawyer caught in her web. Lucille tried to grab at Eighth’s face, but it was to no avail. The young wetworker kept pulling tighter and tighter, to the point blood started to drip from where her wire met the target’s skin.
Lucille’s movements kept getting weaker and her voice kept getting quieter until she stopped struggling all together. Eighth finally loosened her grip and put her fingers to Lucille’s neck. There was no pulse. Quickly, Eighth dragged the body into the next empty stall and repeated the process she did with the first target, locking the bodies in stalls until someone broke the doors down. She washed off her garotte and wiped off her shoes with a wet paper towel. Eighth walked out of the woman’s bathroom, scanning the crowd for her last target. She spent an hour looking for him in the crowd indoors, until she was certain she had checked every face twice. She was starting to become agitated until she remembered the balcony outdoors.
The moment she walked out, she saw him. Right in front of the entrance to the balcony, sitting at a table on the opposite side of the now unconscious couple from earlier, sat Lucas Serre. His father, Joseph Serre, had formed the Trilight Pharmaceutical Company with Jennifer McAllister and Dominic Santiago as a way of profiting off of mafia torturing. While Lucas himself had done nothing wrong and had even tried to change the company into a better one, his name was still on the target list.
“So, you’re the one they sent, huh?” Lucas said. He was aware of Eighth’s presence and who she was. Just as she brought out her karambit blade from her bag to slash Lucas’s throat, he raised his hands in surrender and smiled.
“I know you’re here to kill me, and I won’t stop you, I just want to talk for a bit before you do,” Lucas chuckled. He was handsome, with auburn hair chiseled features and haunting green eyes that reflected the party light behind Eighth.
“I’ve no reason to grant your request. It’s against my organization’s policy to fraternize with targets unless it helps them open up and lower their guards. Seeing as how you already know who I am, the longer you’re alive the more dangerous it is for me,” Eighth replied flatly. Lucas chuckled.
“Even if I’m the one that requested the services of your organization to begin with?” Lucas asked. It was clear to Eighth that she had let a look of bewilderment pass on her face for a second when Lucas’s grin grew wider. The young man nodded to the table he was at. On it were several papers. Eighth inched forward and snatched them up, cautious as to make sure Lucas couldn’t catch her by surprise. Just by a quick glance, she knew what the papers were. They were the paper receipts indicating someone had purchased the services of her organization. The young woman flipped through the pages until she hit what she was looking for: the names of the targets. Sure enough, Lucas’s name was there, along with the two girls who were starting to stiffen in the bathroom.
“See? I was the one who ordered this all to take place,” Lucas huffed as if he was a student that had just proved a teacher wrong.
“I hope you understand that just because you ordered this on yourself doesn’t mean you can change your mind and cancel, right?” Eighth asked.
“Of course not. I intend to die here. My father and the other two heads of my company have been bedridden for weeks. As we speak, they’re probably dying. With Izzy, Lucy, and myself gone, the company will be on its last legs. So now, will you pull up a chair and sit with me? I’d rather die having met a new person than think about all my regrets,” Lucas explained. He finally put his hands down as Eighth warily sat across from him. For a long moment the two of them were silent. Lucas had laced his fingers and was resting his chin on them, staring at Eighth. Eighth simply stared back. While she had good conversational skills, this was a situation she had never been in before.
“Well? What did you want to talk about?” Eighth asked, finally breaking the silence.
“I dunno. I didn’t think I’d get this far,” Lucas shrugged. Eighth’s eyes narrowed.
“Fine. Then let me ask you a question: Why did you go through allthis to destroy your own company? You led a pretty cushy life. I also don’t understand why you would add yourself to the target list. Why would you pay to have yourself killed?” Eighth asked.
“Put simply, the world is a better place without Trilight. While the company has created some beneficial medicines, the amount of people hurt in turn is too much. It seemed like I was the only one with a conscious, as my father, the other two heads, Lucy and Izzy simply didn’t care for anything other than money and testing poisons on kidnapped homeless people,” Lucas closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. “I’m also guilty for ignoring the crimes committed by those around me, so I deserve the same fate as everyone else. Now, let me ask you a few questions in return. What’s your real name? You must have used an alias to get in here.”
“I have no real name. Agents are referred to by their rank in effectiveness. I am eighth out of two-hundred,” Eighth replied.
“I see, I see,” Lucas scratched his chin. “Well, ‘Eighth,’ you’re quite pretty. Have you a special someone? Someone you hold close to you? A boyfriend, perhaps?”
“No. Organization code prohibits agents from starting relationships as it gives them a weakness, something that can be held over them to force them to disobey orders,” Eighth explained. The two of them continued talking like this for an hour, Eighth asking about Lucas’s circumstances that led to him requesting the organization’s services, Lucas asking about Eighth herself. Finally, at the stroke of twelve, the silver watch on Lucas’s hand beep twice. An alarm.
“How unfortunate. It seems my time is up,” Lucas sighed, closing his eyes and breathing out slowly. “If I may ask, how are you going to kill me?”
“At first I was going to slash your throat and dump you over the railing, but after talking with it that would leave a bad taste in my mouth,” Eighth said, pulling out a syringe and taking off the cap on the needle. “This is a simple poison. It’ll knock you unconscious before stopping your heart. You won’t feel a thing.”
“A peaceful death after talking to a pretty lady. That’s a pretty nice conclusion to my story,” Lucas smiled. He rolled up his shirt sleeve and presented his arm to Eighth. She quickly punctured his skin and injected the entire syringe into the man. It took two minutes for him stop fall asleep, and another two for him to stop breathing. Eighth checked his pulse and confirmed what she had already known. She took a picture of the body and walked back into the building and out to the front to wait for her limo. Eighth shook off the events that had just occurred. Even if tonight was a bit different than her normal jobs, it was just business as usual.
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