Half Rate

For no reason other than the fact that I miss him, I’m taking a break from The Dark Calling this week to revisit an character I haven’t written about in a while. Below is my first addition to The Assassin Diaries in almost 3 years. It’s been too long.

This story stands on it’s own just fine, but if you’d like to read the others, you can find them here. As always, feel free to share your thoughts, feedback and, yes, even your criticism in the comments.

Not to fear, though. I haven’t forgotten about Kenna, Skadi, Ormar, Sidney, Arawn and the rest. I plan to pick up where I left off with The Dark Calling next week. Today just seemed like a good day to mix things up a bit.

half rate

I have no qualms about killing children. A mark is a mark. My only concern is that my services are compensated for by an appropriate fee.

“Double the normal rate,” I told her.

My handler knew the drill. On the rare occasion I was asked to exterminate a child, I always insisted on a premium price. Many in my line of work will turn down such a job. By my way of thinking, that creates scarcity in the market. What kind of business man would I be if I didn’t take advantage of that?

“They can’t afford it,” she said.

“Then they can’t afford me,” I replied.

She huffed into the receiver. She knows I hate that.

“Will you at least look at the dossier?” she asked.

I was sitting in my living room, trying to enjoy a glass of wine. I’d only gotten back into town earlier that day. I don’t mind traveling, but the plane ride had been something of a chore, made worse by the fact that a small child behind me spent the majority of it assuring the rest of the first class cabin that he did, in fact, have lungs.

For a moment, the idea of killing a kid didn’t sound too bad, but then I remembered who I am, and who I am not. I am not a charitable organization. I’m an assassin.

“No,” I said. “I will not. And, really, I don’t understand what’s going on with you. You’ve never pushed me to reduce my fee in the past. Is this a personal matter for you?”

A pause.

“Not exactly,” she said.

It was my turn to huff.

“Then, can we just let it go? I’d very much like to enjoy my evening.”

“Fine, I’ll just say it. The kid has Cystic Fibrosis.”

Immediately, the muscles in my neck tensed.

“Damn you,” I said. “I mean it. Damn you to hell for using that.”

“I thought you’d want to know!” she said in defense.

Really?” I asked. I sat my wine to the side to in an effort to quell the temptation to throw the glass. “You can’t imagine a scenario in which I simply turn the job down, none the wiser, and go on about my evening?”

“I just…” I could imagine her body language as she searched for the right words. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Do you know these people?” I asked.

“In a personal way? No. They were a referral. I haven’t spoken directly to them.”

“I assume it was the parents, am I correct?”

“Yes,” she said. “The kid is suffering. The prognosis is horrible. There have been a lot of close calls lately. Complications out the ass. He’s only 5, and he’s been in the hospital more than he’s been at home. Right now, he’s in a coma. His liver and kidneys are in bad shape.”

I wanted to hurl my cell phone at the fireplace. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the glass of wine down. Damn her!, I thought again. I should never have told her anything about my family.

“Should I let you go?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Contact them. Tell them I’ll do it, but my earliest availability is next week. Accept the standard deposit, the rest payable on completion. The non-child rate. As far as they’re concerned, I’m not even in the country. Have I made myself clear?”

“Crystal,” she said.

“Send me the file and I’ll see what I can do.”

Two days later, I was mopping floors in a children’s hospital in Tennessee. Posing as a janitor is always effective. No one looks them in the face.

Halfway through my shift, I walked casually into the child’s room and added a few drops of a particularly discreet neurotoxin to his IV line. There would be no autopsy.

My handler called before I’d even made it back to the airport.

“The kid died,” she said.

“Ah,” I replied. “Return the deposit, then.”

“Where are you?” she asked.

“Does it matter?”

A pause.

“Probably for the best,” I said. “His parents would have questioned that decision for the rest of their lives.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?” I asked, just before disconnecting the call.