Authors: Alyse Zaftig
a piece of bread from the bread basket. He dipped the bread into the little dish of olive oil on the table, which had several different herbs and spices inside of it.
"Thank you for meeting me for dinner." He'd told Phoebe that he had a business dinner to attend, which was true. She didn't need to know the details or that he would be killing his dinner companion shortly.
Andreas looked like the CEO of a business, which he was. Of course, the outside world believed that he was the CEO of a catering business, even though his true trade dealt in guns and death.
"Thank you for paying for my dinner. I hope that you feel comfortable paying for saltimbocca. It's the most expensive thing on their menu."
"Of course," Andreas said, inclining his head. It figured that George would take all that he could get from this random stranger. It fit with the profile that Andreas had been given by the Agency.
"Do you want wine to go with it?"
"What would you suggest?"
"How about a nice Chardonnay?"
Andreas signaled the sommelier to come over to their table.
"A bottle of Chardonnay, please."
The sommelier nodded and said, "Right away." In a few minutes, the sommelier brought the bottle to their table in an ice bucket. Andreas and George watched while the sommelier uncorked the bottle and began to pour a little into their wine glasses. Drinking wine with a target was vastly different from drinking wine with Phoebe.
Andreas shook off the thought of his beautiful, pregnant wife. She didn't belong anywhere near the filth that he got on his hands when he went to work every day.
“What can I get you?” The waiter finally made it to their table.
“I’ll take saltimbocca.”
“Ravioli al forno.”
"So, what brings you to this restaurant? It certainly isn't to spend hundreds of dollars on wine," George chortled, his face turning red as he laughed and then coughed. Andreas held back a sigh. If he didn't poison George, George would probably kill himself just from leading a life of excess.
"I'll get to business in a minute, but what if we just hang on for a moment? I have to visit the facilities."
"Of course. I'll just help myself to a little more of your wine."
"Please do. Just a moment."
Andreas went to the restaurant's bathrooms, which were handily close to the kitchen. He shed his jacket. In one of his pockets, he had a crumpled apron. He walked into the kitchen.
The key to being discreet was looking as if he actually belonged there, which he did. On one level, he was a chef. He'd practically grown up in the kitchen with a mother who had no time to look after him. He mostly tried to stay out of trouble while she worked. On a second level, this was his job. He definitely had to keep on going for as long as he could, so that he could afford to take care of his family.
He had a vial of Death Camas inside of his pocket. He spied the saltimbocca that George had ordered. He hoped that George really enjoyed it, because it would be the last meal that George ever ate. There were many people in that kitchen, but none of them were looking at him. Andreas knew how to disappear in a crowded kitchen. He quickly emptied the contents of the vial — odorless, colorless, basically undetectable because it looked like salt — onto the saltimbocca before concealing the empty vial in his pocket again and nonchalantly leaving the kitchen.
To maintain his cover, he walked into the bathroom, used the facilities, washed his dirty hands, and dried them before going back to the table just in time to see their waiter bring their food.
“Perfect timing,” George told Andreas.
“Do you need anything else?”
“No, we’re good,” George told him.
“I love saltimbocca, but my wife never lets me have it. Too much cholesterol.” Small talk, yeah, but it hit Andreas in the chest. He thought about Phoebe, thought about someone else saying the same thing to him. Was he in the right line of work if his conscience was going to pinch him like this?
“Excuse me…I have to take a call.” Andreas picked up his phone and made his way outside, his ravioli al forno still untouched on the table.
George was still enthusiastically eating the poison that would kill him quickly. It didn’t leave many traces, but whatever was left would be carefully processed and concealed by the Agency, which had long ago penetrated the law enforcement of most urban centers. A policeman would catalogue the food and the coroner would do an autopsy that showed the last traces of the poison inside of George’s corpse, but all of that would be doctored and washed away by the Agency’s employees. They always got what they wanted. Andreas may have been the one to put Death Camas in the food, but he was under their spell. If he hadn’t done it, one of the other people from the Agency would’ve brought death to George Hebus, no matter what Andreas chose.
He was outside when he turned around just in time to watch George fall head-first onto his plate of saltimbocca.
Andreas walked away quickly enough to disappear but slowly enough not to arouse any suspicion. When he was four blocks away, he pulled out his phone, typing in *555 to log the completed job.
He caught the eye of a homeless man who had a styrofoam cup for change. Andreas pulled a $20 bill out of his pocket, depositing it in the cup. The man touched his nose, and Andreas knew that the homeless man would forget him quickly, spending the money and watching it disappear.
“What’s my emergency? There’s a problem with my heart. I keep feeling…” Andreas kept up a fast patter while he walked away from the street corner and the homeless man whose suspicions had been aroused. He turned a corner and quickly disappeared from sight.
He was sloppy to be noticed by anyone at all. He thought that the homeless man was far enough away from the restaurant for police to miss him in their investigation of the area; the Agency could fix things if he was noticed, but it was better not to leave any traces at all.
a gas station and headed straight inside for the bathroom, which was in a narrow hallway in the back. He barely made it into a stall to lose his lunch in the toilet. He wiped his mouth with toilet paper, then he went to the sink to wash his dirty hands.
He looked into his own eyes. The time when he could do a kill and wake away unscathed was gone. Empathy was the mind-killer here. That comment that George had made about his wife messed with Andreas’ head. Yeah, she could be as evil, as cruel, as George, but what if she was a beautiful housewife like Phoebe who greeted her husband at night with a kiss and some freshly baked cookies? He imagined Phoebe baking cookies one night and getting a call that her husband, the father of her child, would never come home again. Andreas dry heaved into the sink with that thought. He definitely needed to make sure that, even if he died on one of his last jobs, Phoebe would be well taken care of.
He got out of the bathroom and walked to the door. He saw that it was raining outside. There was a neon orange sign that proclaimed that a cheap umbrella cost two dollars. He paid in cash, picking change out of his back pocket for the tax.
“Thank you. Have a great day,” the bored teenager with out of control acne behind the counter told him. Andreas could tell that the teenager wished that his shift was over.
Andreas opened the umbrella outside, walking slowly to his car, which was parked two blocks south. It was windy, and Andreas fought to keep his umbrella up when faced with the force of the wind. When he got to his car, he closed the umbrella and shook it out before coming inside. He tossed it on the passenger side’s floor and opened the glove compartment. He kept his wedding ring inside of the owner’s manual. He slipped it back on his finger, the ring sliding easily on the moisture from the rain that had hit him when the wind picked up.
He started the car and drove back to Chung’s, where he could take a shower and wash himself of the sin that he had committed tonight. He snuck in the back and turned on the small shower in the back room. He grabbed a towel off of the rack. Chung made sure that there were always clean towels stocked for anybody who came through. Chung got a regularly monthly payment to avoid any questions and sometimes handle a little clean up or paperwork. He was still toweling off his hair when he came out of the bathroom.
He tossed the towel over his shoulder and took the beer, which had a twist-off cap.
“Take a load off. Chill for a minute.”
“I’m going to whip up something for Phoebe. She just thought that I was working the late dinner shift.”
“Already done.” Chung showed him a white box.
Andreas felt a shiver go down his spine. It was chilling just how well the Agency knew about his life. Andreas opened the box to find a square of tiramisu that terrified Andreas completely, making his hands shake when the murder hadn’t made them shake for a second. He knew that Chung’s restaurant didn’t sell tiramisu; the only reason why it had been made was solely for Phoebe. Andreas would throw it away; it could be laced with poison. He might be overly paranoid because he’d just poisoned George’s food, but he couldn’t tell Chung that he was suspicious.
“Thank you very much.”
Andreas nodded at Chung. "I should go home."
"Say hello to your wife."
Andreas didn't want to think about Chung knowing too much about his family, so he just left. He quickly threw the bag into the dumpster on the way out.
As he started his car, his mind was racing. He used to be able to handle the work and force the kills to the back of his mind, but ever since he married Phoebe, it wasn't easy to chase them away. He wanted to be a better man for her sake. He had pretended to be a normal chef because that's what she expected from him. Though she didn't know it, he had failed her repeatedly.
Even if he wanted to go, he had a contract to fulfill for a few more hits. The contract was to ensure that the Agency was fully reimbursed for his living expenses and training in a number of arts, including culinary school. He had two more jobs left before he fulfilled the terms of the contract.
, we’re almost late for dinner.”
“Coming,” Phoebe called, slipping a bracelet on her wrist. “Just a minute!”
She carefully smoothed down her hair and checked the back view. She had gone shopping with her mother to get this dress a few months ago, and she wanted to make sure that her mother knew that she was using it. Phoebe’s mother was very generous when it came to clothing, as long as Phoebe actually used the clothing.
Phoebe ran down the stairs, probably undoing the work that she’d just done. Andreas was standing next to the doorway.
“You look beautiful, babe.” He leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him lightly, not wanting to mess up her lip gloss before her parents saw it, although she supposed that eating would mess it up anyway.
“We should go,” Phoebe said, wiping her hands on the skirt of the dress. She might have been sweating a little bit, but that was because of her dad and his strange antagonistic attitude towards Andreas.
The car ride was quiet, the radio filling the silence. When they got to her parents’ home, the one where she’d grown up, she was out the door and walking up the steps while Andreas turned off the car and trailed behind her. The air was filled with the scent of cinnamon, and she knew that her mom had baked pumpkin pie, which was Andreas’ favorite.
“Daddy!” Phoebe went and hugged her father. “I’m so happy to see you. Where’s Mommy?”
“Here, kiddo.” Her mother smelled like vanilla and cinnamon; she definitely had been baking. “And where’s Andreas?”
“Here, ma’am.” Phoebe had tried to break him of the habit of calling her parents ma’am and sir, but Andreas still didn’t stop. Her mom had tried to convince him to call them Sally and Harold, but it just didn’t stick.
“Everything’s already on the dinner table.”
The four of them went inside of the house, and Phoebe sighed with contentment when she saw the table practically groaning from the weight of the food. Her mother equated food with love, and it was a constant battle to keep her dancer’s figure when her mother’s cooking was around.
They sat down at the table. They had barely put napkins on their laps when her father said, “You’re still a chef, right?”
“So when are you going to get a real job?"
Phoebe watched Andreas wince just a little bit. She put her hand in his. her father had just hurled one of the standard insults at Andreas, and she could see the tension in Andreas' shoulders. Phoebe hated the way that her father loved to verbally spar with Andreas. He was wonderful, just wonderful, a dream husband and a good man. Why couldn't her father see that?
Yes, the wedding had been a surprise to her close-knit family, but her mother had no problem baking pumpkin pies (Andreas' favorite) and bringing them over for Phoebe and Andreas to share. She knew that her father had been upset that there'd been basically nobody from Andreas' side at the wedding, but it wasn't as if he could control the fact that he was an orphan. Being an orphan didn't make him a bad man.
In fact, her father should be trying even harder to embrace him and show him how warm their family could be.
"I have a real job, sir," Andreas said, wiping his mouth.
"And no family, is that right?"
Phoebe's mouth tightened, her eyes filling with tears. Her pregnancy was making her really emotional.
She ran out the door and towards the bathroom.