The sun shone brightly and the temperature had moderated over the past couple days, allowing me to enjoy riding my bike. A short time ago I’d passed by City Hall and the investigators were still working the area, trying to find every piece of evidence that they could.
For the past forty-eight hours, the assassination lead the news stories and I found it most informative. It appeared that sources inside the security forces were leaking bits and pieces of information, generally things that were minor but meant to try and get me to either make a mistake or brag about what I did.
Too bad for them I’m too smart for that shit.
Today was a day off from school, which allowed me to do this and not draw any attention to myself. And frankly, I needed this peaceful ride because the combination of the media’s obsession with what happened and Janice’s wanting to take on another job was turning into a major pain in the ass.
I really don’t understand what part of “I don’t want to take on a job for a while” that she couldn’t comprehend? Anyone with half a brain would know that this is the time to lay low and let the heat die down. The police and security forces were scouring the subways, spaceports train stations hoping to catch Mareth, so killing someone else right now should’ve been out of the question.
Traffic wasn’t as bad today as it’d been the past few days. I’m not sure if it’s because of the investigation and the number of buildings shut down, or if it’s workers deciding they didn’t want to come to work today. Either way it made riding through downtown rather pleasant.
One thing that the media hadn’t let go was the restaurant workers’ deaths. The bimbo anchorwomen constantly carried on about it and treated my action like it was the end of the world. Sometimes shit happens and that’s all it is. They were a part of the plan I’d made and as such needed to be eliminated to tie up a loose end; nothing more and nothing less.
I pull into the parking lot outside Alex’s shop and then shut down the motor before taking off my helmet. The shop is busy today, and there were ten customers being waited on, which while it made money from him, didn’t help me. It meant I’d have to stay on the sales floor for a while before being able to go downstairs to the firing range.
A man in his thirties approached the counter and I put on my best smile. Being charming, believe it or not, is something I’m good at despite my cold nature. Maybe it comes from the need to act and keep my cover or perhaps I’m just good at bullshitting. Either way, I have the guy eating out of the palms of my hand before I even get into my pitch.
“How are you doing today?” I ask.
“I’m looking for a good self-defense weapon. Something that’s not expensive, but of good quality and will do the job.”
“I think you’d like this 9mm. It’s made by an Austrian company on Earth. These have been the most reliable firearms for the past several hundred years…”
Two hours later the shop is empty again and I can make my way down to the underground shop. Devoid of distractions, I go to work in taking the rifle apart and cleaning it. One that can cause a weapon to malfunction was not keeping it cleaned and oiled, so I take my time.
Working with firearms has always been relaxing to me and the stress melts away as I work. If there was one thing Tom did right, it was introducing me to firearms and how maintaining them could be considered an almost zen-like activity.
Despite my best efforts, I can’t stop thinking about the job and a sense of pride starts to well up. Yeah, Janice is right; this was the biggest hit in the history of Achernar and I’d done it! And the best thing was getting out clean! No one could link me to the killing, so the conjecture will never reach the truth.
“You don’t like doing nothing, do you?” Alex asked.
“I’ve got plenty to do.”
“Sure you do. A killer like you hates not being able to carry out jobs.”
“Clairvoyant and a pain in the ass. You’re batting a thousand today.”
“And you’re as cranky as ever.”
“Stupid questions will bring that out of me.”
I grab my pistol, push a magazine into the clip and then pull the slide back to chamber the first round. Alex covers his ears as I empty the entire magazine into the target and then approach the paper outline. As usual, all nineteen bullets were tightly grouped; all within the kill zone.
“Alex, has anyone told you that you talk too much?”
“Don’t worry, Athol, the heat will die down soon and you can go back to work.”
I empty a second magazine into a second target. “It’d be nice if I could do it today.”
“Don’t worry about that. We’ve got people all over the Alliance trying to secure our services.”
“And here I’m stuck in this basement with nothing to do.”
“Patience young grasshopper.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“I was an assassin too, remember? Difference is I wasn’t a natural like you.”
“That’s such a relief to know.”
“Be patient, ok? Something may come up that you’ll need to do.”
“If you say so.”
This conversation was getting nowhere fast; in fact it was pissing me off and that was never a good thing. I gather up my things and head out to the motorcycle. Maybe getting back on the road will allow me to clear my head again.
Traffic was still light and I made it home in near record time. After ordering some pizza, I crashed on the couch and watched the news until I fell asleep.
The sound of the alarm awoke me from a sound sleep and it takes several minutes to get up and moving. For the first time since killing the politician, I’d slept soundly and not woke up multiple times, clutching my pistol, expecting the police to be kicking in my door.
A hot shower helps to get me into the mood for school and I start planning my day out while getting dressed. Janice would no doubt be her usual bundle of energy and talking about potential jobs all day, which had the potential to turn me into a cranky bitch. However, I’m hoping after having the talk with Alex, that won’t happen but I can’t guarantee it.
Temperatures cooled off again overnight and the wind picked up again, making the walk to school a pain again. I pull up the collar of my coat and head off for class.
Traffic appeared to be returning to normal, which left me wondering if the issue was because of the hit. Maybe people were afraid to work or the security forces weren’t letting them into work. Either way, it told me the heat was starting to fade, which was a good thing.
I ignore the pair of security guards and make my way into the crowded concourse. Janice stood at her usual spot just outside the food court and beamed when I came into view. While some of things I do are nothing but an act for the students around me, Janice’s smile and warmth towards me was legit.
A far cry better than that bastard Tom, I thought.
“Good morning,” she said.
“It’d be better if it was warmer.”
“Phoey! You’d rain on a parade.”
“Depends on how much money I’m being paid to do it.”
“I have a job for you.”
“Good. I’m tired of standing around.”
“This is a different assignment.”
“I’ll explain it to you after school.”
“Gee, I can hardly wait.”
Time once again dragged by as I waited for classes to end so I could get the job from Janice. During the day she’d sent me a message to meet her at Alex’s, which is unusual because the three of us rarely are together in one spot. That makes it harder for the authorities to try to tie us all together, so this mission must really be important.
Riding a motorcycle in rush hour is a pain in the ass and something I try to avoid as much as possible. However, when it’s time to go to Alex’s after class I inevitably get hung up in it, leaving me in a halfway bad mood when I get there. Throw in this strange meeting and my gut was screaming bloody murder.
The store is dead and Alex is nowhere in sight as I wave at the guys manning the counter. I make my way down the stairs and I set my pistol on the table before looking up at them.
“Ok, so what gives?”
“Tell me, Mareth,” the fact that Janice used my business name instead of my real one leads me to pick up the pistol and hold it casually at my side. “You won’t need that. Now, what do you know of the Marano syndicate?”
“I know they’re based on Earth and their based out of Darbytown. We’ve taken a few jobs for them.”
“The Don died three days ago,” Alex said. “And now there’s a power struggle over who will take over.”
“And that affects me how?”
“The Don has a daughter who was off-world at the time,” Janice said. “She’s the rightful leader of the syndicate. And the forces backing her have hired us to escort her back to earth and keep her safe.”
“Wait a fucking second,” I said. “You want me to play bodyguard to some dead gangster’s daughter?”
“Yes, we do,” Janice said.
“I’m an assassin, Janice. Don’t you realize this is outside my skill set?”
“Given the amount of money they’re paying us upon her safe return, I think you can make an exception.”
“How much is being thrown around?”
“Double what you made for the assassination.”
“Seven million dollars?”
“How much is your cut?”
“How long is this job?”
“Ok…sounds good so far. Who am I protecting?”
Goosebumps form all over my body at the sound of the speaker’s voice. It was all too familiar from my time on Earth.
“Lacey? What the fuck are you doing here?”
Lacey stepped out of the shadows. “It’s nice to see you again, Mareth.”
“Wait! Wait one fucking second! You mean to tell me you’re the daughter of a Mafia boss?”
“And you’re an assassin for hire,” Lacey said mildly. “We all have our secrets.”
“How the hell do you know that? No one in Darbytown did!”
“Come now, Athol! Did you think that the underworld didn’t know who you were? Only reason we didn’t kill you is you were taking down people we wanted dead too.”
“Ok, so you assholes knew who I was. Fine. Is this going to cause me problems protecting you?”
“Only if the ones who want me dead find me.”
“That goes without saying. Janice, is this what the hell you had me waiting to do?”
“When do we leave?”
“Given we started Spring Break today, I figured tonight was as good a time as any.”
“Let’s get this over with. Lacey, you’re coming with me.”
“Taking charge early, don’t you think?” Lacey asked.
“You’re paying me to protect you. My job, my rules, got that?”
I grab another helmet off a shelf and give it to Lacey before leading her to the Ducati. While it’d been designed to hold two if necessary, I’d never done that before, so it took couple trips around the parking lot to get used to the extra weight.
Neither of us spoke during the ride back to one of our safehouses, which suited me just fine. The fact that Lacey showed up and that she knew Mareth and I were one in the same really bothered me. How in the hell, after everything I did to keep my identity a secret, did the organized crime families know who I was?
Maybe they sent someone to follow me, I thought.
No, that didn’t make sense either because I’d’ve picked up on that quickly. If there was one thing I’ve learned in dealing with the mafia is that nothing is unknown to them if they want the information. So, it appeared that one of Tom’s cadre, maybe Tom himself, talked to the family and told them my identity.
Thinking about it, that’s probably where the assassin he hired to kill me came from. He was always a bastard, but to sell me out to organized crime was one that I’d never thought would’ve happened. Oh well, goes to show that no matter how well you know someone they’ll still fuck you over in the end.
We have eight safe houses so if Lacey’s pursuers find this one; it still doesn’t hurt us that much. However, I’m hoping that no one does between now and when we leave, because it’ll give me time to pack and get my gear together. Because I have a feeling this job is going to be harder than Janice makes it out to be.
Where I’m going to stash Lacey is in the middle of quiet middle class neighborhood. Trees line the streets and each house is shaded by trees in their yards. The house I’m headed for is halfway down a street and had another residence on either side. This was done by design; it prevents someone from having a massive shoot-out because the collateral damage would be too high.
“Stay here until I come back,” I said. “Don’t look out the windows or open the door.”
“Not much to this place.”
“It’s a safe house not a resort. Deal with it.”
“How long do you think you’ll be?”
“Couple hours while I pack and get my gear ready. Where have you been staying?”
“The Westin downtown.”
“Christ, Lacey, can you be anymore fucking obvious?”
“Where’d you want me to stay, Athol?”
“Somewhere low-key for starters. And my name is Mareth, remember that.”
“Just tell me what goddamned room, Lacey. This isn’t one of our fucking high school games.”
“You really are different than I thought.”
“Sue me. Now what fucking room?”
“Seven oh four,” Lacey said.
“Good, give me the key. How much shit do you have there?”
“A couple of carry-on bags.”
“Wait. You mean to tell me you’re running for you fucking life and you don’t have any guns?”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake! I don’t know whether I should laugh or just kill you myself.”
“I die, you’re out seven million.”
“Great, just great. Try not to draw attention to yourself.”
I have to stop myself from slamming the door in frustration. For the daughter or a mafia Don, Lacey sure was stupid as hell! Anyone knows when people are hunting them to lay low! Yet, what does she do? The absolute fucking opposite!