Cardinal Sin

Since The Dark Calling finished up, I’ve been a bit lost when it comes to writing my weekly fiction post. Initially, I went back to flash fiction, opting for short, 100-word pieces, but I’ve also been itching to revisit one of my favorite characters. This week, I decided to do just that.

I’m going at this without a prompt or word-limit, just letting another random episode in the unnamed assassin’s life play out. Between you and me, I don’t really feel this story is all the way done. For one, there’s definitely another part. The end makes as much clear. But I also feel like it needs a little more refinement.

Geez. Now I’m talking like him. Occupational hazard.

While this story is part of a series, you can read it without reading any of the others. It stands on its own, though the others are pretty good, too. Really, you should read them. Here, I’ll even give you a link: click here.

Now you have no excuse.

cardinal sin

“I’m thinking of committing the cardinal sin,” I told Margaret.

We were sitting in the outdoor dining area of an uptown restaurant, whittling away a Saturday afternoon with a combination of idle gossip and people watching. She held a glass of wine–a blush, God help her. She called it a rosé, but it was a blush all the same.

“What?” she asked. “You’re going to try to pull off a blazer with jeans?”

I winced. “No.”

“Non-matching belt and shoes?”

“Margaret, this isn’t a guessing game. I’m being serious.”

She grinned like a captive animal spotting an open cage door. “You have your eye on a novelty tie.”

I rolled my eyes. “Why don’t we stop the psychological torture right there? I said I was contemplating something dramatic, not something insane.”

She shrugged.

“And you think I’m the barbarian,” I said. “That was nothing short of savage.”

“Oh, stop your whining and tell me what’s going on. I can’t imagine what could possibly constitute a moral dilemma for you.”

I huffed. “I have morals.”

“Sure, sure,” she said. “Another discussion for another time. Spill it.”

“I’m considering telling Alex,” I said.

She frowned. “Tell Alex wha-”

Her eyes went wide. She sat her glass on the table and I knew I had her attention. Few things part Margaret from her drug of choice.

“For Christ sake, why would you do that?” she asked.

I sighed. I’d been asking myself the same question for the better part of two days. My compulsion to share was nothing short of ridiculous, and yet I felt a deep desire to give him a rare peek behind the curtain. I’ve dated a handful of men over the years, a couple of them quite seriously, and I’d never told a single one. Never even considered it. But Alex was different.

We’d been on several dates at that point. More than five but fewer then ten. He was intelligent and interesting, matching my appetite for everything from cultural stimulation to more carnal pursuits. I’m not one to get swept up in passion, but I can honestly say I’d never felt the same about anyone else.

I tried explaining that to Margaret and she merely narrowed her eyes.

“Do you hear yourself?” she asked. There was a sharp edge to each word.

“I do,” I confessed. “And I know. I sound like a 13 year-old girl.”

She shook her head. “No, you don’t. At 13 I had the common sense to know a bad idea when I heard one. What you’re suggesting is idiotic, I don’t care how boy crazy you think you are.”

My fingers found the bridge of my nose, rubbing the spot between my eyes. It did little to stave off the headache I felt building, but it gave me something to do with my hands.

Margaret continued. “I assume you’re telling me because you want my opinion.”

I nodded.

“Well, you have it. If you’re going to be that stupid, you might as well start a blog and give detailed accounts of your last several jobs.”

Her anger seemed to be escalating.

“I appreciate your concern, and I expected you to object, but I’m honestly a little taken off guard by how strongly you feel.”

Her eyes fluttered. She looked out toward the street, then at the neighboring tables, most of which were unoccupied, and finally back at me. She leaned forward, her voice dropping to a nearly inaudible volume. “You think I’m worried about you, you arrogant prick?” she whisper-yelled. “I’m worried about me. I have no desire to be implicated by association.”

“Ah,” I said. The dominoes fell in my mind. “I see. Margaret, I’ve taken great pains, more than you could possibly known, to insure against any such thing happening. Neither you nor Leslie need worry. If the day comes that my hands are caught in any sort of cookie jar, there’s very little chance of it impacting you. Aside, of course, from leaving you friendless.”

She flinched at the last line, but I wasn’t done.

“However, you’ve made your point, and oddly the sudden gravity of this conversation has been more than enough to convince me. If the mere suggestion sets you off so much, whether out of a sense of friendship or self-preservation, then it cannot be a good idea. I haven’t even done a background check yet. I was getting ahead of myself in voicing the notion. Put your fears to rest.”

I motioned for the waiter and handed him a credit card. Margaret didn’t even reach for her purse. She was too shell shocked for such niceties.

“I didn’t mean it,” she said.

“Oh, I think we both know you did.”

“I didn’t mean only that,” she corrected. “Yes, I’d be scared for myself, but I do care about you. You are my friend. I’m sorry.”

The waiter returned with my card and the receipt. I scrawled a tip, signed, pocketed my card, and drank the last of my wine. A red, thank you very much.

“Alex and I have dinner plans. I should be going.”

Her eyes were wet. Only slightly, but enough to notice.

“I’ll call you later,” I said. I passed our waiter on the way out.

“Please bring the lady another rosé ,” I said, handing him more than enough cash. “Keep the change.”

“Yes, sir,” he said.

Two days later I ran a background check on Alex. What I found left me grateful for Margaret’s outburst, if still a little hurt.

Do not give me that look. Assassins have feelings, too.