The loft space was sparsely furnished but vacant. It had been available for occupancy for years but remained unrented due to the dangerous reputation of the neighborhood and the owner’s reluctance to lower his asking price despite the downturn in the housing market. How I came to be in possession of a set of keys was none of your goddamn business.
Across a poorly constructed Ikea table sat a nervous woman who went by the pseudonym Audi B. She was done up in a pink and white double breasted pinafore dress that made her look like a charter member of Sandra Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“And the moment we shake hands, you’ll kill him, no matter what?” Audi B asked, her features shifting at a rate of three faces per second.
She was wearing one of those holographic visors that projected stock photo features over her own face that cycled through random eyes, noses and mouths in order to conceal her true identity. She even paid extra for the voice modulator add on. What an absolute waste of money because I performed a thorough identitrace on her, same as I did with the rest of my potential clientele before agreeing to meet with them. Her real name was Fiona Jordan and the man she was hiring me to delete was her lover who was blackmailing her with the threat of exposing their affair to her wealthy husband.
“If you pay for the Standard Package, your target’s death is guaranteed within 96 hours. Express is 48 hours, and Expedited gets it done in less than 12,” I said in a voice that wasn’t my own. She wasn’t the only one who needed to protect their identity, only I went the professional route with subdermal implants. My face was a constantly changing canvas and has been for so long, the only way I remembered what I looked like was by looking at pre-surgery photographs.
“I’m interested in the Expedited Package.”
“I don’t run an electronic business, for obvious reasons.”
“I brought cash,” Audi B said, then followed with, “What if he doubles your fee to kill me?” A common question.
“If he’s stupid enough to slap cash in my hand, it’s mine to keep. Consider it a bonus for honoring our original contract. Once we shake, you’re safe from counter-contracting.”
“And if I change my mind? I mean, not that I would, I absolutely want him dead.”
“I go radio silent 30 minutes before a scheduled appointment, so you’ll need to contact me before then. If this occurs, you’ll forfeit half the payment plus any expenses I’ve incurred.”
“Do you even care if he deserves it?”
“Not at all.”
“With all due respect, how do you live with yourself?”
“The better question is, once it’s done, can you live with yourself?”
“I’ll be just fine,” Audi B said, sliding a black backpack across the floor with her foot from her side of the table to mine.
I opened the bag and inspected it as well as the contents within.
“It’s all there, I assure you.”
“I don’t doubt that,” I said, taking a handheld ultraviolet flashlight from my pocket and running it over assorted bills from random banded bundles. “I’m simply checking for trackers, sequential numbers and marked bills.”
“I wouldn’t know how to do any of those things.”
I let the non-verifiable comment go, concluded my inspection and closed the bag before saying, “If you have any traceable connection to the target, you will become a person of interest. You’d be surprised how many people can’t stand up to that type of scrutiny.”
“You just keep your end of the contract and let me worry about me,” Audi B took firm hold of my outstretched hand and gave it a solid shake, cementing our deal.
“When you leave here you should invest in an ironclad alibi. Never be alone until the job is done. The more people you surround yourself with, the better, and make sure people remember you were with them.”
Audi B sighed as she stood up to leave. Over her shoulder she said, “I hope we never have the occasion to meet again.”
“We won’t,” I answered, unholstering my pistol.
The dart pierced the back of her neck and introduced a lethal cocktail of pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, midazolam, and necrotizing fasciitis, that not only paralyzed her and shut down her respiratory system and heart, but also began eating her body away from the inside. Audi B was dead before her hand touched the doorknob.
Had the effects of the cocktail not been so immediate, I would have gladly explained that her deletion wasn’t personal, just a bit of bad luck on her part. She managed to win the unlucky lottery by selecting the same hitman her husband contracted to delete her. If only all of my assignments could have been this simple.
I slid the backpack over my shoulder, inspected her corpse for personal effects and found none, a smart move on her part, except for a set of car keys, which I confiscated. Before leaving the loft, I activated a DNA fogger that would coat the space with a chemical concoction that would destroy any and all biological evidence.
Her car wasn’t all that difficult to find. It was parked a block away and I chuckled when I saw it was a classic 1982 Audi Quattro Group B, which made Fiona’s pseudonym much less random. It had more than enough gas to make it to her ex-lover’s house. She had paid me after all and I was a man of my word who always honored his contracts.