“Tonight, everything changes.”
“Damn. It’s starting to rain.” Janica Meurtrier already felt like maybe she was getting a cold; this wasn’t going to help. And the company car was still not in sight. Janica sneezed; dainty and sexy.
“May I offer you my coat?” The gentlemen standing near her in the upscale Plexiglas-enclosed passenger stop, who’d just arrived a minute earlier, spoke up as if her sneeze had also broken some ice. “It’s getting colder by the minute, it seems.”
“Oh, I couldn’t impose…” Janica paused; her nose beginning to itch, then wrinkle up. Another feminine, somewhat suppressed sneeze; somehow sounding like a crystal wind-chime mixed with a gentle ocean wave kissing the sand.
“No, please. I insist.” He smiled, charmed by her predicament. The man, all of six and half feet tall with graying hair but still possessing a full hairline, effortlessly slipped his dark grey London Fog from his shoulders, and like a matador in the ring, swept it up behind Janica and over her graceful shoulders.
“Oh, my!” Some men were so forceful and quick; it showed training and confidence. She nodded, reaching up to snag the coat’s edges and wrap it a bit tighter around herself.
Immediately, Janica felt his transferred warmth, along with the clinging scent of Clive Christian X that seemed to transcend mere aroma; the fragrance elicited a surprising range of memories. She hadn’t expected that.
“Thank you, um…” Janica peeked up for the first time and took a good look at his face, into his eyes; then deployed that ‘special’ smile. She’d caught his eye; she had him.
“Perry Zabójca, so pleased to be at your service, um…” he said it playfully, imitating the way she had said it a moment earlier.
“Janica. Please to meet you, I’m sure.” Her right hand emerged from under his borrowed coat, awkward enough to be endearing and offered up for a quick shake. He reached over and gently took her fingers with a practiced flare and light squeeze; his eyes were sparkling as some overhead service lights flared up. Dusk had arrived.
“Janica.” Perry repeated her name as he released her, saying it slowly as though perhaps he was tasting it as well; ‘Yah knee kah’.
“God, that is beautiful.” He returned her stare, quickly drinking in her dark, flawless complexion, slightly wide nose, soft and short black hair just covering her ears, eyes at the perfect inter-pupillary distance with a profound tone that would make Boudreaux chocolate jealous.
Rain was pattering now on the translucent roof, but the front of the passenger stop was open and staying dry for long was futile. Nearby streetlights began flickering to life.
“Well, it’s supposed to mean God’s Exception, Mister Zah…?” she hesitated, waited as she had been taught.
“Zaw bow SHkah. It’s Polish. But, please, Janica; call me Perry.”
“Of course; Perry. Thank you so much for your coat.” Janica glanced up for a moment and then toward where the big limo should be arriving at any minute and then back.
“I heard in the Lobby the company’s car is delayed from the traffic. Some trouble in the Tunnel.”
“When isn’t the Lincoln responsible for some sort of trouble?” Janica asked wistfully, not expecting an answer as she looked away again and up the busy and now steamy boulevard. Traffic consumed the city at this hour and the increasing rain meant indigestion for hours.
“Are you headed into Jersey, Janica?” Perry had just slipped his phone into a special custom pocket in his Brioni suit – a favorite of James Bond – and glanced at a fairly non-descript gentleman in a light gray suit standing nearby, outside of the car stop.
“Not if I can help it,” she said quickly, then laughed at her own brusqueness as she turned back to see him chuckling.
“Sorry, Perry. That’s my Dad’s line. Yes; tonight, I am,” Janica said and added a sexy little head-tilt. Perry just nodded; enchanted.
Janica’s simple but elegant business suit – dark blue with a subtle white pin striping, modest lapels on the waist-cut jacket over a silk Saint Laurent blouse in virgin white, knee-length matching skirt, purse and black Choo pumps – lent her lithe and muscular frame a regal simplicity. The custom-tailored nuances enhanced Janica’s breasts and shoulders, and with her small waist and athletic arms, the ensemble reinforced her natural formidable appearance.
And Janica’s ebony face was ground zero to a pure and captivating smile.
“Perhaps you would consider accompanying me tonight; my car should be here any minute. I’ll bet we could find a hot cup of coffee in there. Or maybe a Martini?” Perry glanced out of the shelter at the traffic. “Might be a long wait.”
“That really would be imposing, I fear.” Janica hefted his jacket up around her shoulders; she felt a solid object bump her elbow, absorbing her attention for an instant. She missed Perry exchanging glances with the man in the gray suit.
“Executive decision time, Janica. My car is here.”
She looked up in time to see a black Porsche Cayenne S54 Pullman Pre emerge from a driveway that was nearly invisible from this angle in the passenger stop. A shift in the rising breeze delivered a fine rain spray into her face that felt at once refreshing and simultaneously annoying.
“Maybe you’re on to something there, Mister Zaw bow SHkah.” A perfect impression of the way he’d said a moment ago. The Cayenne arrived at the passenger stop; silent and unruffled, looking for all the world like a Puma with alien chrome wheels; even the headlights mimicked the stealthy eyes of a cat.
“Call me Perry, please.” Two steps and in another graceful sweep of his arm, the rear door was open and the invitation was official. Sinatra was singing about his city, a gentle whiff of leather and lavender arose to smile at her, as well. Janica’s favorite scents; how odd.
“Very impressive, Perry. I suppose we know each other well enough by now.” More rain and a former breeze, now an official wind, teamed in a sudden gust to seal the deal. She was going to accept, anyway.
“Thank you!” Janica stepped forward as the rain and wind whipped up again. She heard the unmistakable sound of a thumping helicopter, and glanced up in time to see one pass; it’s SunGun searchlight flaring in the falling droplets.
“That is some serious hardware up there,” Perry remarked as he slid into the forward-facing luxury bench seat. Janica had taken the opposite side; her back to the driver. She noticed there was a second door thud a moment behind the one she heard as Perry closed his door.
“Something serious? Maybe tonight isn’t a good…”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Perry looked up from his phone and smiled. “This city never sleeps.” Frank had mentioned that a moment ago.
The Porsche pulled away from the stop and ingested itself into one of the veins of vehicular traffic. Tinted windows and raindrops played a shadow game with the city outside as they travelled.
“Are you always so well coordinated?” Janica’s turn to be enchanted by this intriguing Prince and his magical carriage. She noticed for the first time that his suit was richly custom and quite exquisite.
“Always. You know; they say just being in this chariot counts as a first date.” Perry looked to his left and tapped a button on an inlaid panel. He was grinning, knowing he was blowing the gag; it was meant to be deadpan.
“Oh, I’m sure. They say the same about my smile.” Janica; perfect deadpan. Perfect smile. A radiant sun.
Perry laughed. She was good. “You win!” He bowed his head toward her, and she returned his nod; laughing lightly, too, now. Perry believed it might be true, however, and he stole a few more moments watching her ideal lips and sensuous teeth.
A bright wash of light from above swept the Porsche’s hood and windshield as the driver turned right, heading into the Lincoln Tunnel. “Looks like you’re right, Janica. The Lincoln is suffering some heartburn tonight.” There was more than one chopper in the clouds now. Red and blue lights on the ground seemed to be multiplying; the smoky windows of the limo filtered out the more plebeian details.
“Well, tonight is kinda special,” Janica said it as she looked out the window; a black city police van rolled past; large letters on the side: SWAT.
“You almost sound sad,” Perry remarked. He had retrieved a hand-held remote from a slot that had been revealed after he’d tapped the button.
“Tonight, everything changes. A new ballgame, I assure you.” And as they passed into the Tunnel, something in her tone shifted suddenly; her voice had an edge like a freshly stropped razor.
And for the umpteenth time in his life, Perry Zabójca – elite assassin, master ‘mechanic’ with an equally unique clientele; a boutique killer for hire with a flair for ‘making it look natural’ – felt a very peculiar stab of fear in the form of an itch in his belly-button. A type of elemental dread; it was a professional instinct that had kept him alive and in business for decades. It also allowed him to mask his reaction with mannequin precision.
“With new rules, as well?” Perry touched a small button on the remote, then smoothly slipped it into his jacket pocket. The sly killer sitting opposite him was still wearing his coat. She was staring at him; her smile now extinguished; a nuclear winter’s cloudy day.
“No rules, for a while.” Her hand appeared from beneath the London Fog holding a Glock G43 custom 9mm; likely a ‘throwaway’ he kept in that secret pocket. She didn’t need it, but it gave him another vector to juggle if he tried something.
“After that,” she shrugged and his coat fell away revealing her other hand. She held a rectangular case like a make-up compact. “…probably more like Law of the Jungle.” Even through the bullet-proof layers of the Cayenne, the sounds of urgent voices bled though.
“My specialty.” Cool as peppermint in a blizzard. Perry knew now who this was holding his ‘tosser’ and working to convince him tonight was something of a final curtain. Frank sang the refrain. Taking him down in his own ride was gutsy; suicidal, in fact…
“God’s exception, indeed, Ms. Meurtrier. I’d heard you were, retired.” That euphemism for a dirt nap never got old. If Perry was number One, she was number Two; but they’d never met. And it was a very short list. “Years ago.”
Traffic had halted altogether. Outside the limo, inside the tunnel seemed to have more foot-traffic now than vehicles as uniformed men walked quickly past the darkened windows. Perry’s belly button twitched a second time; and that was a first and now he began to feel…
“That’s why tonight is special, Perry. I am retiring…”
One shape in a puffy-looking white suit brushed past close enough that Perry saw the letters NES on his sleeve; couldn’t quite make out the final letter.
“…and so are you. Open.” The case in her left hand clicked and yawned like a clam, the ridged outer surface formed suctionettes on her fingertips, reading her prints and holding fast.
“All this panic out there; that’s you’re doing?” Perry’s gut told him this was no ordinary response, even for the city that never sleeps. Janica’s lips had been locked in an inscrutable line since entering the Tunnel.
“They discovered my little surprise. Honestly, Perry, you should be honored. This is what it takes to take down the best.” Her lips parted more and there was a hint of that special radiance, an echo of a half-life of beauty.
“I am honored, Janica…:
“Please; Shannon. It’s on my birth certificate. No kidding.”
“I’m not ready to retire,” Perry knew it was useless. Her eyes were glassy and nearly black now. “What will it take?”
“A miracle.” That smile flared a bit more and she held the object in her left hand up and turned to show her captive. “Look, brother, your final chance. You were the best Mechanic blood money could buy.”
Perry looked into the mirror, saying nothing, thinking quickly. His eyes looked steady, but he was beginning to sweat. She continued speaking, hoping it might distract him further.
“I’ve tried and failed seven times to take you off the list, Perry. Did you know that?” He just shook his head, stalling, waiting for Jake, his gray-suited wingman to take some action. He’d toed the switch already when his Glock appeared. Jake must be waiting for his opportunity.
“No, I didn’t.” Perry saw her lips widen more as she spun the makeup mirror around. He noticed a small, dark hole-in-a-hole in the reflective surface. A facial recognition camera! “How’d I rate?”
“You’re my final contract. And you’re so good, I decided it has to be a one-way ride.” Her eyes flicked to the mirrored surface. “Scan. Commit sequence. Stand by for the final trigger.” Perry heard a high-pitched feedback chirp in response from the compact case.
“My heirs are set for the next 20 generations,” said the killer with the smile to match. “Oh, and Jake can’t make it to the party. Send Jake.”
Perry watched through the limo’s glass partition as his long-time body guard brought his service weapon up, fired twice at the startled driver, then turned the weapon around and pulled the trigger again, aimed at his own face. Meurtrier the assassin never flinched.
“Jake should not have gone on vacation last week, Perry. He’s what made this whole skit work.” Perry was in shock, and it was just as well.
“My contract is done. It’s just business; my way.”
“But, why? Why…this?” Perry had seen another of the white-suited men outside near the stalled limo, only this time moving quickly in the other direction. And he’d seen all the letters on the suit: NEST – Nuclear Emergency Support Team.
“It’s not professional.” Still in shock, but always polite. Perry Zabójca, whose name in Polish means ‘killer’, wilted into his sumptuous leather seat.
“It’s necessary, Perry. I’ve tried everything else.” Janica Meurtrier, God’s Exceptional Murderer, sat back, exhaled. She suddenly realized she’d been half-holding her breath, barely breathing; shallow fish puffs.
“Who? Who could want me; us, gone. Like this?”
“Who else? Number Three.”
Perry just nodded and closed his eyes. “Goodnight, world.”
“We are so darkly transparent, aren’t we?” Janica took one last look at her greatest accomplishment – slumped, defeated, resigned – and then gazed into her own chocolate eyes in the mirror.
“Scan. Trigger. Adieu.”
She smiled again and the world went white.
  
“Good morning, Los Angeles. Here’s the latest news: From New York, a suspected suitcase-sized nuclear device was detonated in the Lincoln Tunnel last night, killing several thousand and injuring three times that many as first responders fought their way through the ruptured Hudson River unto the island…”
Short Story Written by
2,500 words / June 2017
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