Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Everyone acted as if she were getting married. Scott came in and stood awkwardly and said he knew she would do really well. Then there was an awkward pause and then he ducked his head nervously and left. Maggie asked her a lot of questions in the guise of making sure she was ready, but she was really forcing The Freak to reassure her. Smith offered the same reverse reassurance, but at least he asked questions about the job. 
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Katya,” she replied, with a lilting whisp of Scandinavia on her tongue. 
“How old are you?”
“How old would you like me to be?” she responded salaciously. Smith glared at her for a moment and then continued to grill her.
Doyle and Tom did not come to see her off. She remembered that both had been more than usually solicitous at their last lessons. Freddy was standing in the hall as she left her room, dressed in the clothes Maggie had laid out for her, hair pulled back as instructed, makeup applied according to orders.
She saw him leaning against the wall. “Did you bring me something?” she asked.
“No,” he said, his voice in his nose as it was when he thought he was saying important words. “I come by to tell you how special you are and how I believe in you.” His mouth broke into a crooked, spiteful grin. He held out a small rectangular box. Another girl would have hoped for jewelry.
It was a slim, carbon fiber knife, light as a couple of quarters, with a special sheathe. She didn’t need to ask where it was supposed to go, and she hitched up her dress and fastened it to her thigh without any notion of decorum. 
“What do you know?” he asked when she was done. 
She sneered. “Just about everything.”
He stepped close to her, and she could smell his lunch. “It’s that just about you have to worry about,” he growled. “I promise you one thing, you know more than the guy you’re seeing tonight. But one day that ‘just about’ will be what you have to worry about. And on that day,” he grinned, and it was honest now, happy and wide, “that day will be more fun than you thought you could have.” He bobbed forward and pecked at her cheek; a baffling gesture. “I guess I came to say somethin’ sentimental after all.” He stepped back and winked. “Knock ‘em dead.”
A limo came and delivered her to a high-rise hotel downtown. She didn’t know the woman’s name, she only knew that tonight she would call her “client” Olivia. 
Olivia, it turned out, was a light, small woman with vaguely Asian features who spoked clipped English by way of Shanghai. The Freak was not surprised to be wanded with a metal detector outside the door. She knew what Olivia was like, what she liked, what she wanted, and how to deal with her. She knew Olivia was important. Beyond that she knew nothing about what Olivia was like, what mattered to her, or why she had to die. That information was extraneous.
Smith had told her to move at the earliest moment she could, there was no gain in stalling. The Freak did not obey, and she knew that her rookie status and the favor she had gained as a perfect pupil would protect her. She had not always obeyed because she was afraid of getting bored or having her lessons denied her. She obeyed because, so far, there was no advantage in her causing trouble.
After The Freak was deemed to not be a threat, Olivia invited her into the hotel suite. The lights were low and after the door closed, Olivia bowed and kissed The Freak’s hand. 
“I am pleased to meet you,” she said in her fake voice.
“The pleasure is mine,” Olivia said, linked her arm, and led her to the table. 
Someone more old-fashioned than The Freak might have said Olivia was acting like a complete gentleman, but that was only as long as it suited her purposes. She took The Freak’s shawl, pulled out her chair, and served her all three courses from room service chafing dishes at the side of the table. 
Even though any adult could not have comprehended that “Katya” was of drinking age, Olivia poured her several glasses of champagne during the meal, and The Freak acted appropriately giddy. She had taken a pill that day at lunch that would neutralize the affects of alcohol, but the customer was always right. And the customer wanted Katya tipsy.
After dinner they went out on the deck and Olivia lit a long thin cigar. They were a long way up. When The Freak shivered in the wind, Olivia did not offer to return her shawl, but pulled her close, wrapping an arm around her.
When the cigar was finished, they went inside so Olivia could have a glass of brandy. As she slowly swirled it in the balloon glass, she dropped a phrase into the conversation. The phrase indicated that The Freak should get to work. 
The Freak gave her a bright, shiny smile, and slithered out of her dress. She pulled the knife off her thigh as she pushed the dress off. She let Olivia appreciate her figure, and then began to approach her. She crawled into the older woman’s lap, drawing a gasp, and the The Freak reached into her heavily padded bra. 
All through the evening, throughout the time that The Freak knew Smith was pacing the floor, that her teachers were waiting in anticipation, she had been watching. She had crawled out of her head, let Katya do the work, and had watched from a mental corner like a spider in a web. If she had killed Olivia right away, she wouldn’t have learned anything. And she knew, even before Freddy’s words, that there was still much to learn. She had watched Olivia’s every reaction while they ate, while Olivia bragged about her high position, while she had described how beautiful Katya’s lips were, how her eyes were drawn when Katya’s legs crossed... It had been an education. 
The Freak was holding a tiny baggie that she had secured in her bra. She didn’t have to hide it there, she didn’t have to use the pill inside, she could have opted to do anything she wanted. 
She opened the small bag, pulled out a pill with a miniature dove on it. She placed it on her tongue, and then offered the tongue to Olivia. She never even said a word.  
It was a gamble, The Freak observed, but the risk was what made it fun. The knife had been a precaution, Olivia was supposed to die in an accident. Murder would have been a lot harder to clean up, but it was considered a backup option. 
The pill would begin to metabolize, quickly, and if it stayed on The Freak’s tongue too long, she wouldn’t be able to complete the mission. If Olivia didn’t take the pill in the next five seconds then the pill would need to be spat out and a new plan enacted.
Olivia waited all of two seconds before taking the pill from Katya’s tongue and letting it dissolve in her own. She then took the other pill out of the baggie and returned the favor. 
Olivia pushed Katya up gently and began to led the way to the bed, shedding clothes. When she was halfway to the bed, she collapsed. In mid-step, the woman simply folded over and fell to the floor. She lay there silently a moment, then there was a burst of movement, a sharp, fast seizure. The body unfolded, curled up again, let out a  sigh, and died. Her skirt was unzipped, her shoes were off, and her shirt was half unbuttoned. Perfect. 
The Freak stood over the body and looked, memorizing every detail, taking it in. Her face was still flushed, she still looked happy. Potentially the most painless way she could have died. Instant heart attack with no chemical traces from the pseudo E-tab she had ingested. 
She returned to the dress, grabbed the knife. She used it to cut a tiny sliver of cloth from the lining of Olivia’s skirt. She put it in the tiny baggie and returned it to her bra. She strapped the knife to her leg again, pulled the dress halfway up, letting it rest on her narrow hips. She moved to stand near Olivia, put her hands to her mouth, and let out a bloodcurdling scream. One she’d practiced. 
An instant later, the guards were in the room, her dress was roughly pulled on, and she was out in the hall. 
The next day, when calmer heads prevailed, someone more important than the guards would call the specialized service that allegedly employed Katya. They would be informed that due to the emotional trauma Katya had quit and walked away. No, of course there were no records. No, of course they didn’t have a history of traffic with Katya. A heart attack? With no traces of everything? How could they possibly blame Katya for that? Did the client have a record of heart trouble? She did? And you bring these ridiculous accusations to our door? We will remove you from our list of clientele. Good day sir. 
And the skeletal remains of a specialized escort service that played to certain...proclivities, one that had been whispered into Olivia’s ear months before, for the next time she was in town, whatever might have existed of that company simply evaporated. 
The limo had waited for The Freak and it took her home. She was debriefed, given a mug of hot chocolate, and sent to bed. She slept like a rock.

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