Carol shifted the glass in her hand, allowing the ice to settle into the whiskey. The jeweled watch, elegant and thin against her wrist shifted slightly, and she stole a glance at the face. Eight twenty-five in the evening. Carol sighed.
If her contact didn’t show up pretty soon her whiskey and ice was going to turn into a disappointing whiskey and water.
Still, she had to give Mr. Gibson props. The club was nice, especially for a meeting such as this. It was crowded with music playing in the background and people talking over the general din of plates and silverware crashing together. It wasn’t loud enough that you needed to shout to make yourself heard, but she doubted anyone could filter out what was being said by a single person.
The room was also pleasantly lit for the meeting, with dim mood lighting hovering high over each table, casting a soft spotlight on those eager lovers, thinking that perhaps, just perhaps the world was theirs alone.
Carol smiled, despite the situation that she faced now. It would be so easy to slip back into the shadows and just wait for the right moment. No one would know, let alone blame her if this meeting with Mr. Gibson turned into a one-man show.
Still, standing up a client such as this wasn’t very good for business. If there was one thing Carol was a stickler about, it was the business. Never be late, pay your dues, don’t double cross, and above all, make sure you have all the important cards.
With a shrug of her slender shoulders, Carol brought her drink to her lips and took a cursory sip, her eyes scanning the darkened room. She watched as one of the nearby waiters clucked and shook his head, nodding in her general direction. She could almost hear the words as they formed on his lips.
“Poor dear, she’s been nursing that whiskey for an hour. Hope her beau didn’t stand her up.”
Carol mentally shook her head and laughed, just a little bit as she read the words across the man’s lips.
Beau? Hardly. Stood up? Well, that was certainly a possibility.
And then she saw him.
He moved with a practiced ease among the tables, his steps light and assured. Carol placed her whiskey and water down to the table with a grimace and watched how the light hit his dark brown hair as he moved out of one light and into the next. His impeccable silvered gray suit and the single pink carnation on the lapel was a dead giveaway.
Mr. Gibson had arrived.
For a moment, Mr. Gibson searched the room for her, and Carol resisted the urge to flee back into the darkness. She welcomed him with a nod and smile and watched as the man walked, no strolled forward, his hand extended in a relaxed fashion.
“Ms. Lightly, I presume?” he said as he reached the table. His handshake was firm, but not overly so. Carol matched his strength out of habit. After all, there wasn’t any sense in allowing them to think you were weak.
“That’s right,” Carol said with a professional smile. “And you must be Mr. Gibson. Please, won’t you have a seat?”
Mr. Gibson accepted with a nod, and he sat down in the wood chair, and it strained quietly against his size. From the distance, he looked pretty average in size and weight, but up close Carol could see a few of the contradictions that seemed to make up Mr. Gibson. He was actually a tiny bit shorter than she originally thought, perhaps a shade under six feet. However, the cut of his suit did little to hide the cut of his body and muscles. In fact, they almost accented them.
“Nice carnation,” she said with a grin as he leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table.
“Leading lady, huh? I’m flattered. Would you like to order anything? A drink perhaps? Or perhaps you’re a bit hungry. I imagine the journey from Pueblo is a bit rough.”
“Oh not as bad as you’d think,” he said as he reached his arm out behind him to grab the attention of the nearby waiter. “It’s only about an hour’s drive, and it’s pretty much a straight shot up 87.”
The waiter came over. It was the same one that was clucking in her direction before. Now he glanced at her with an approving smile.
“You go girl!” his eyes seemed to say. Then he returned to the task at hand and took Mr. Gibson’s order.
“One whiskey on the rocks refill for the lady, and a Kansas City Ice water for you, and a sampler plate of appetizers.”
Carol opened her mouth in protest, raising her half full glass.
“I don’t need—”
“Now hush my dear. A refill of your drink is the least I can do to apologize for keeping a lady waiting.” Carol bit her lip and gave the glass to the waiter.
It was too watered down now anyways.
“Thank you,” she said with a small nod and smile. After all, who was she to turn down a free drink?
The waiter took her glass with a deft hand and scurried away, headed back to the bar and kitchen area. She watched him go, feeling the cool stare of her companion sizing her up all the while.
“So, do you like what you see?” she asked with a playfulness that she really didn’t feel. Most men did, after all. Her relatively small frame, athletic build, and honey blond hair usually did the trick.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said without missing a beat. “You’re probably a four or a five on my scale. Nothing to write home about.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” she said, letting out a sigh. “I hate to have to keep up appearances.”
He smiled, a genuine one this time, and leaned back into the chair, the shadows almost reaching out and pulling him back away from her. Carol almost reached out to pull him back, her instincts to do so sending a strange sensation through her mind.
This was the business after all.
A few moments later the food and drinks arrived, and Carol marveled at the spread. The platter came complete with six boneless chicken wings, four mozzarella sticks, four potato skins, and two soft pretzel twists.
“Wow,” she said, her eyes widening. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“What are you talking about?” he said. “I got that for the both of us. Please don’t be on a diet.”
“Me? Diet?” she asked as she dipped one of the chicken wings into the blue cheese sauce. “Trust me, the last thing I do is diet.”
Mr. Gibson laughed, his voice echoing softly against the beat of the music.
“That’s good to hear,” he replied reaching for a potato skin. “So what do you do, exactly. Besides eating a chicken wing with abandonment, that is.”
Carol smiled sweetly as she wiped a bit of sauce away from the corner of her mouth. Ah, so it was time to get down to business.
“Oh, all sorts of things,” she said, reaching for her whiskey and ice. “I tend to be a bit of a problem solver. You know, adapt to the situation at hand and make sure interests are considered by all parties involved.”
“Really. You make it sound like you’re a puppet master of sorts. I got the impression from our talk that you were more of a front-liner.”
“Puppet master?” asked Carol, slightly amused. “I guess I can see that based on what I just said, but it really isn’t like that. But it’s not like I’m down in the trenches either.”
“Ah, so your the fixer, then. You go in when things go wrong and make them go right.”
Carol smiled indulgently. The man caught on quick. Only took him three minutes of conversation and eating sub-par appetizers to realize what she could do for him.
“That’s it exactly.”
Carol took a quick gulp of her drink. It was good and strong, just like she liked it.
“Now,” she said placing the drink down on the table, but still holding it protectively in her hand, “why don’t we get down to business?”
“Oh, we’ll discuss that all in good time, my lady,” said Mr. Gibson, a soft smile of amusement passing over his face. “But perhaps we should introduce ourselves a bit more. If am going to be working with you, I want to know all about you.”
“Well, my third grade elementary school teacher was Mrs. Robinson, if you must know,” she drawled sarcastically. He raised his eyebrows slightly, and Carol swore that he was trying to hold in a snort of laughter.
She wondered why he bothered. She doubted anyone would pay attention to something like that here. The place had gotten a bit more crowded since he came, a bit louder as well.
“Well, that’s quite amusing,” he said. “Mrs. Robinson was my sixth grade teacher. Imagine if the two women were one and the same.”
“Imagine that,” answered Carol, lifting up her drink in a toasting salute.
“So I take it that I’m not going to learn about the inner workings of the mind of Ms. Lightly, am I?”
His words slid out of his mouth, and his face looked positively crestfallen.
The idiot was actually disappointed.
Carol shook her head. What exactly did this man take her for? How unprofessional did he think she was?
This was business, and when business was on the table, personal stuff simply didn’t matter. What mattered was the job, the mark, and the clean up. Nothing more, nothing less.
Still, something about this idiot of a man made her wonder.
So many things he had said and done, or was doing was so… so cinematic, it was down right comical.
He had placed the job in the newspaper’s personal advertisements. It was coded, of course, and used all the proper words, but still- the newspaper of all places? Most people today used chat rooms or hacker forums these days- or even word of mouth.
Newspapers were certainly old school, and very movie-like. Carol chuckled slightly remembering how she had reacted to the advertisement. She was both intrigued and amused.
What the hell, she had thought. Sounds like an easy enough job. One mark, old and frail. The end result was expected by all concerned. All Carol had to do was advance the time line a bit.
It would be easy enough to do.
“You can actually make it look accidental?” asked Mr. Gibson, yanking Carol out of her memory. She looked at him, her eyes echoing her mind’s thought.
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” she reassured him. “Sometimes accidents are the easiest ways to solve a problem.”
“Good,” he said reaching into his suit pocket. “I imagine you’ll need to see–”
Carol reached out and playfully placed her hand against his chest and laughed as if he had just told a joke.
“Darling,” she said, her voice clear as glass, “You are so funny!”
She leaned forward with the laugh and under her breath said,
“Not here, you imbecile. There are eyes all around. You’re supposed to leave that stuff at the bus depot.”
“Ah, right, sorry,” he said with a laugh. He slowly removed his hand from his jacket and took hers instead.
His hand felt warm and rough against her skin. Carol gently tried to pull her hand away, but he tightened his grip ever so slightly.
She looked up into his eyes, and saw a growing hunger tumbling through them.
“Let’s dance,” he ordered softly. “To keep up appearances, after all.”
Carol nodded, and reached for her drink, taking down the last of it in one final gulp. She shivered slightly at its delicious strength.
No sense in leaving the glass half full, after all.
Carol looked around the room as Mr. Gibson expertly weaved his way through the pulsating crowd. She watched as their waiter scurried around to his various tables, glancing back in their direction with a smile that seemed to say it all.
Yes! You go, girl!
Carol almost laughed despite herself. How could that waiter be so good at getting the order right, and so completely wrong about everything else?
Mr. Gibson certainly wasn’t her beau, boyfriend, lover, or anything personal for that matter.
He was a client, nothing more, nothing less.
She felt his arm snake around her hip, his hand resting light on her back, as they began to sway in time to the bass line.
“You’ve had practice,” she remarked admiringly. “I don’t think my toes have felt this safe in a long time.”
He smiled down at her, a small chuckle rumbling through his body.
“And how about the rest of you?” he asked, leaning, his breath caressing her cheek.
Carol instinctively inhaled his scent. It was surprisingly woodsy, and spicy, too. It didn’t fit the suit, but it certainly fit him. Now that she was closer, she could see the small pot marks on his face, the weathered wrinkles around his dark eyes.
Carol found herself studying him almost drinking him in. She watched the light hit his impossibly brown hair, and fall dazed onto his shoulders and then the floor.
Perhaps, just perhaps, she could mix a bit of pleasure with business.
Carol shook her head slightly and pulled away. She felt Mr. Gibson tense his muscles and pull her closer.
“Please,” he said softly. “Just let me enjoy this.”
Carol softened her stance, just a little bit.
After all, it wouldn’t look very good if people saw this lithe man dancing with a woman imitating a mannequin.
“All right, but don’t get any ideas,” she whispered as her body moved closer to him.
Carol felt his hand press a little more firmly against the small of her back, bring her to him with a quiet authority. A sharp pain instantly radiated from her lower abdomen. She looked down and saw a thin blade glinting in the spot light that danced over them, Mr. Gibson’s strong hand wrapped firmly around the hilt.
Her eyes shot up and searched his face. All she saw there was a the clicking together of mind of a killer.
“Why?” she whispered at him, the words being strangled by her pain. Mr. Gibson pulled her closer, tighter against him, driving the blade deeper into her.
“It’s a shame I didn’t have time to really take you,” he whispered in her ear, his voice almost seductive in its quiet intensity. “But you see, Carol Lightly, your problem solving abilities…”
He paused for a moment and watched indulgently as Carol clawed against his arm, trying desperately to pull away. She opened her mouth, tried to scream, but her efforts were met with his mouth against her own.
Carol felt her mouth being forced open into a french kiss, his tongue, cold and snake-like forcing his way in.
She clamped down on his tongue, hard, watched his eyes flash with pain. She felt the blade shift beneath her, felt the warmth as her blood began to slowly seep into her clothing.
Dammit, this was her favorite dress!
Carol bit down harder, and tasted the man’s blood in her mouth. She heard him laugh into her, forcing both his tongue and the knife into her, causing her to choke, and flashes of light shoot against the corners of her eyes. She released his tongue and gulped for air, trying desperately to remain conscious.
What the hell?
“Like I said, your problem solving abilities have actually made quite a few problems,” he said, answering the confusion in her eyes. “My employers really don’t like having their shipments so rudely interrupted.”
Carol’s mind flashed back. A few months ago she had intercepted a shipment in route to Hong Kong. It was a simple bait and switch. One suitcase for another. She was in and out in under seven minutes.
The security camera feeds had been re-directed. The security guards had been drowsy with boredom and laced coffee.
The job had gone off without a hitch.
“Hong Kong?” she asked, her mind reeling from the pain and confusion.
“Smart girl,” said Mr. Gibson. “But not smart enough. You forgot about the security cameras on the building across the street. And you really should make sure your out of camera range before you remove your hood.”
Dammit. What a goddamn rookie mistake. Carol swallowed hard, her body slumping against his impossibly strong chest. Mr. Gibson shifted his weight just a tiny bit, and released the hilt of the blade. Bringing his arms around her hips, he thrusted her against his stomach, the hilt now forcing its way into her wound.
Carol gurgled, as the blackness began to close in, taste of iron bubbling into her throat and clouding her eyes.
Mr. Gibson felt her body slump against him. He kissed the top of her head, his eyes scanning the room for a discrete exit. Near the kitchen he saw the waiter trying to lock gazes with him.
Mr. Gibson turned Carol slightly so that her arm was slung over his shoulders, and her feet dragged in time with his own. He moved, a little less deftly through the crowd, apologizing as he went.
“Sorry. Looks like the whiskey was a bit much.”
“No, I got her. There’s a taxi waiting.”
“Thanks, appreciate the offer.”
“Yeah, she’s going to have one hell of a hangover,” he laughed as he reached the waiter.
“Everything all right Mr. Gibson?” asked the waiter, opening the door to the kitchen for him.
“Yes, I think so, Mr. Stewart,” he said. I’m assuming proper arrangements have been made?
“Yes of course. The proper transportation is waiting outside in the alley.”
“Good. Now will you be so kind as to lead the way?”
“Do you need help?”
Mr. Gibson shook his head.
“No, she’s a little thing. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get stains on your impeccable outfit.”
“Very good. Will you follow me then, sir?”
Mr. Gibson half-carried, half-dragged Carol’s body through the kitchen behind the various kitchen help. His passage went unnoticed among the chaos and din of a busy restaurant.
The cool evening air greeted his face as Mr. Stewart opened the door to the alley. A dark gray, nondescript car waited for him there, the engine already purring.
“A moment, if you please,” requested Mr. Stewart as he reached up and unplugged the security camera. “You have two minutes.”
With rapid steps, Mr. Gibson walked over to the car and open the door. He shoved Carol across the bench seat and buckled her into the passenger seat, her head rapping lightly against the window.
It certainly did nothing for her looks, but anyone seeing her from the street would think she was sleeping off a great night. Mr. Gibson put the car in gear and drove off into the night. Mr. Stewart waved after him indulgently,
Mr. Gibson drove well out of the city into the high dessert mountains. Once he found a place that met his needs, he brought the car to a stop. Mr. Gibson looked over at her lifeless body, admiring it one last time before he had to damage it further. With a sigh, Mr. Gibson, unbuckled his mark, and pulled her into the driver’s seat. He rested for a moment, after the exertion and looked up at the stars. They had an unfamiliar brightness to them.
He adjusted the seat so that her feet reached the pedals, and her arms would reach the steering wheel. He went around to the trunk, opened it and removed a small backpack. He opened the main zipper and looked inside with approval. Just as he had requested, $5,000 in various denominations, a few bottles of water, two sticks approximately five feet long, and a change of clothes.
Removing his clothes he quickly changed, being careful to keep the blood stains away from the new clothes. The jeans and flannel shirt felt much better than that damn monkey suit and the night air. Returning to the car, Mr. Gibson opened the door, threw the monkey suit inside. Next, he took one of the sticks and pressed the brake pedal down allowing him to shift the idling car into drive.
Making sure that the brake pedal was still pressed, Mr. Gibson took the second stick and pressed the gasoline pedal down, causing the engine’s purr to turn into a throaty roar. Once the tires began to squeal against the desert sand, Mr. Gibson pulled the sticks away and stumbled backwards as the car lurched forward and stumbled over the cliff, the nose of the car pulling it down into the dry ravine, nearly eighty feet below. Mr. Gibson walked over to the cliff, and saw smoke starting to slowly rise from the twisted wreckage. With a satisfied smile, he scooped up the back pack and began walking the three miles back to the truck stop that he had seen earlier. With a little luck, and perhaps a little money, a trucker would be convinced to allow him to hitch a ride to the next city on his route. The rest of the payment would be in his off shore account in a few days, once confirmation of the wreckage was provided by the local papers.
© 2015 – 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.