And, as usual when she’s right there with me, the story just flowed. I started without any idea where it was going, and it unfolded as I wrote. A third of the way in I knew what was happening and it made me smile. He may be a killer, this unnamed assassin, but I like the guy. It’s always fun to see glimpses of his heart, no matter how much he might want me and everyone else to think he has none.
While this story is a part of a series, there’s no need to read the other installments to follow this one. Each stands on its own, more or less. However, if you like this piece I invite you to read the others. I’m biased, no question about it, but I think the make for a fun read.
bad ideas and wine
“This is going to cost extra,” I said.
I was having dinner with my handler. It’s rare that we meet face to face, and never in public. We were at her flat. I’d taken appropriate precautions to arrive incognito. I would leave the same way. Even if the FBI had been watching the place, they wouldn’t know I was there.
We were meant to be having a purely recreational evening. No business. Just two people who have few friends enjoying each others’ company. Granted, that’s odd given my profession, but no man is an island. Nor any woman. Besides, I like her, even if she is insufferably from time to time.
“I know,” she said. “Will you take it? I want the contract. It’ll pay well.”
“What is it with people?” I asked. “It’s not enough to have a man killed. It has to be a spectacle, too?”
She sighed. “It’s the family,” she said.
I was lifting my fork to my mouth, a beautifully bloody bite of rare steak glistening in the dim light. The family. The mob. No thank you, check please. I didn’t even have to say it. The very fact that I set my fork down spoke volumes.
“The mark is a member of the family,” she explained quickly. “They can’t kill one of their own.”
“Well, thank God they have standards,” I said.
“Don’t be an ass. They need it to look like one of their rivals did it. It eliminates an internal problem and justifies some…aggressive expansion they couldn’t get away with otherwise. Not without all of their competitors banding together against them. This way it looks like vindication.”
“Great,” I said. “Sounds like someone’s going to be making a nice little paycheck. Not me.”
She shook her head.
“I’ve told you before,” I said, “I don’t do business with those animals. There’s no fee that will change my mind.”
She frowned. “You’re so damn arrogant. You kill, too.”
“I don’t pretend it’s noble. I quote Heidegger: ‘Transcendence constitutes selfhood.'”
That won me a truly nasty look. “See? Arrogant ass.”
I shrugged. “I can sleep at night. What more matters? Tell me something, though. Is this the reason you wanted to have dinner? To pitch this insane mark?”
“No, no,” she said.
Most people would have missed it. Of course, the only reason I’m still alive and free is because I miss very little. She’s not a woman who wastes words. Two no’s means there’s something more.
“What, then? This isn’t a purely social visit.”
Her eyes dropped to her plate. Bingo.
“It is,” she said. “Of a manner.”
It took me less than 2 seconds to work that one out.
“Leslie, I’m gay,” I said. “And even if I weren’t, sleeping with one’s handler is a patently bad idea.”
“We’ve done it before,” she said to her roasted asparagus.
Indeed, we had. It was only the fourth time in my life I’d been with a woman, and I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to give in. I’m inclined to say it was professional courtesy, but I’ll be damned before I’ll let anyone think of me as whore. Perhaps it was because I consider her a friend and I knew she was lonely.
Not desperate, mind you. She’s an attractive woman, but sex is messy. She’s in a constant state of awe that I even attempt to date. She can’t bring herself to do it. I suppose I’m just better at compartmentalizing. Nevertheless, she intended to call on precedent to make her case.
“I see now,” I said. “You knew I’d turn down the job. You meant to follow with this. You can’t have one thing, so ask for the other. The thing you really want.”
She sighed by way of concession. “It didn’t interfere with our working relationship last time. And besides, you had fun.”
It was true. What can I say? Apart from the lack of a penis, she makes love like a man.
“It’s a bad idea and I haven’t had nearly enough to drink.”
“I have more wine.” She was smiling.
“And I’m gay,” I said.
“Pfff. You’re also a man. You can’t tell me getting off doesn’t sound like fun.”
It was my turn to concede. I did so with a smile. “Fair point,” I said.
“Eat,” she said. “Your meat is getting cold, and I know you like it hot and juicy.”
I gave her a deadpan look. “Those kinds of innuendos are going to win you an evening with something battery operated.”
She grinned wide. “That sounds like a yes.”
I picked up my fork. “It’s not a no,” I said.
We ate the rest of our meal without talking about it. She made sure my wine glass was never empty. After dinner, dessert and several drinks, we retired to her bedroom where, for the second time, we enjoyed a night of carnal frivolity. I’m not going to say it was the best lay of my life. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t bad, either.
You know, as sex with a woman goes.