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Crucix looked over the lawyer, or the accountant, or the executive.

Whatever he was in his suit and no tie and perfectly trimmed not-a-beard, he radiated that special kind of unctuousness only the very self-involved were able to create for themselves.

He was so good looking, however, no one could really blame him for being self-involved. Crucix didn’t. ‘I’d try a line, but you’ve already heard them all.’

Crucix fished a cocktail onion from her Gibson and took it into her mouth. She decided to play. Her eyes slid across Suit-man’s pecs with feigned interest. It had been a boring ten days. Why not amuse oneself?

‘Try anyway.’

Suit-man flashed a triumphant smile, but he immediately pushed back it down, looking as if he swallowed a small toad in the process. He realized he still had work to do. ‘Where’d you get that accent?’

‘From my grandfather. He came from the old country.’

‘Ah. The old country.’

Suit-man had a cologne on that mixed sandalwood with cumin, or maybe paprika. Whatever it was, it was one she didn’t recognize and found satisfyingly alluring while also making her stomach rumble.

She’d research it later and discover it was a bespoke scent from a specialty shop in Montevideo. It cost $550 ordered from the manufacturer, with a six-month wait list, and three times the amount on the open market. ‘Mexico?’

‘The Spanish West Indies.’

He raised his glass. ‘To the Spanish West Indies.’ They clinked their glasses together. ‘Which one?’

‘It doesn’t matter, does it? They’re very much like one another.’

‘Let me guess. Turks and Caicos.’

‘Turks and Caicos is a Spanish West Indies island? I believe you’re mistaken.’

‘Yes, I probably am. I’m not up on the Spanish West Indies.’

‘Neither am I. I’m not from there. I’m from Portugal.’

He smiled. He had glittering teeth simply too straight and too white to take seriously. ‘What do you do?’

‘Are you really interested? Or are you just making small talk? You might be disturbed by the truth. Wouldn’t you rather safely lie?’

‘Hit me with your best shot.’

‘I’m a corporate undercover agent. I steal trade secrets from the rivals of my clients.’

‘You’re not.’

‘I am.’

‘So am I. What a coincidence.’

‘It is. Or not. Are you out here spying right now?’ Crucix made a face. ‘Are you possibly spying on me?’ 

‘That would be unfair to tell. We have to play our parts and see where it all ends up.’

‘Oooh. I like that.’

‘Besides, I suspect you’re spying on me as well.’

Crucix managed a theatrical shrug. ‘Could be. It could also be that I’m a double agent and I’m actually shadowing you to make sure you’re not planning to defect to the other side.’

‘That’s the trouble with double agents. You never know when they’re just agents, or are doing the double thing.’

‘Not only that, their expressions never change. You can’t even tell by their faces. Very sneaky people, these double agents.’

Suit-man’s expression softened. He was thawing a bit, the hard lines of a person laboring to seduce smoothing out as he relaxed into the swirls and eddies of their conversation. ‘Seriously, though. What do you do?’

‘What do you do?’

‘Corporate lawyer.’

Crucix’s face immediately dropped. ‘No. Not really. You couldn’t be.’

‘Why couldn’t I? I’m a square-jawed, broad-chested, dark-haired Hercules from the Tar Heel State. Good family, no scandals, deep pockets. I think I was created from the ground up to be a corporate lawyer.’

‘Because it’s offensive to a mind that desires an escape from mediocrity and cliche.’

‘I might be cliche, but I’m not mediocre.’

‘Sure you are. The world teems with your kind.’

‘I graduated first in my class.’

‘Did your father?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did your mother?’

‘No.’

‘No?

‘She didn’t go to school.

‘She was a championship ice skater. She won three Olympic gold medals by the time she was 16. Then she coached and her students won 12 more.’

‘Your mother sounds mediocre.’

He grinned. Crucix liked the way his eyes crinkled with the grin. ‘Ask me what my father did when he was alive.’

‘Consider it asked.’ He nodded at the bartender, who poured him out a blue liqueur from a gold and red bottle. 

Crucix gestured at his glass. ‘What’s that?’

‘This? Oh, it’s a little medicinal concoction.

I have a touch of the bronchitis and Lillet Fleur de Aqua Bleu helps get me through the night.’ He shot the liquid with a smack. ‘Now I can clear my throat without spitting up phlegm.’

‘You know exactly what to say to a woman, don’t you?’

‘I have no idea. I’m ad-libbing as fast as my brain will let me.’ He paused. ‘What did your father do?’

‘I have no idea. I’m an orphan.’ She side-eyed him. ‘Ask me what I really do.’

‘I’ll play. Wh-‘

‘I’m a paid assassin.’

‘Crap.’ Suit-man rubbed his face in his hands. ‘Not another one.’

‘I know. We’re a very common and mundane type. Two of my cousins and my next-door neighbor’s niece are hired killers as well. We’ve formed a union.’ She stirred the liquid in her glass around and downed the final gulp. ‘Management’s being a little bitch about it. We may have to strike.’

‘That doesn’t sound like it would end well, assassins on the picket line.’

‘You’re probably right. There’d be weapons all around. But you have to stand up for your convictions.’

‘The path of victory for the proletariat is littered with the tears of the upper class.’

‘Marx?

‘Maybe. Despite my profession, I have deep respect and concern for the downtrodden.’

‘Respect and concern. That’s just mouth noise.’

Suit-man straightened his shoulders. ‘I’ve organized a charity at my firm that currently supports the arts program at a number of elementary and high schools in depressed areas around the state. Last year, we contributed $1.5 million.’

Crucix nodded, impressed. ‘You know, I could almost envision a future where you get into my unmentionables. Too bad it’s a future swallowed up by the Continuum.’

‘Ah. That’s disappointing. And here I’ve spent all this time mentally undressing you. Have you tried a topical medication for that mole an inch and a half up from your bellybutton at two o’clock?’

‘It’s a beauty mark.’

‘Yes, that’s what they all say.’

‘They are idiots. I do dermatology as a hobby. I know.’ She stared at his jawline. ‘You’ve got a little squamous cell carcinoma going on there. Right there.’ 

He chuckled. He was hugely entertained. ‘When did you last kill someone?’

‘When did you last- lawyer corporately?’

‘I do that every day.’

‘Last week.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘What do you want for proof, a scalp?’

‘You got one?’

‘No.’

This time Crucix motioned for the bartender. She pointed at her glass. He spirited it away and had another on a napkin coaster within seconds.

‘I don’t keep souvenirs. It’s a nasty habit, and you keep a gold tooth or a desiccated toenail or a wallet full of Korean bills, it gets misplaced and turns up in exactly the wrong police locker at the most inopportune moment. Then what? Best to keep it clean and simple and without sentimentality.’ She sipped from her glass. ‘You know. For the kids.’

They ended up going to his suite. She showed him her McKinley-Oliver single shot; he gave her his business card, embossed in gold print. She stole out of the room at 4:45 am, caught a cab back to the little walk-up near the family-owned drugstore, and retrieved the other tool of her trade:

The Parallax long-form rifle, spiral-shave titanium barrel, custom Blocken infinite sight.

By six she was on the rooftop 600 yards from the target, in full tactical, throwing a half a handful of flour into the air and watching it drift toward dawn. At 6:37, she took the kill shot. Suit-man spun slowly around, then crumpled to the floor, his hotel-supplied white linen bathrobe stained in crimson.

Crucix, small duffle in hand, caught another taxi three long blocks away. She felt in her coat pockets, found the item, and held it up in the morning light: Suit-man’s business card. She turned it over in her fingers. He’d written his personal cell number on the back in curiously ladylike handwriting. She blinked slowly as the city streets blew past.

After a moment, she tore it up and at the next stoplight, rolled the window down and tossed the pieces out into the street. 


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Virgindog
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Virgindog
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June 6, 2024 10:14 am

Is this the first fiction piece on tnocs.com? Let’s have more! Good work, stobgopper.

mt58
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mt58
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June 6, 2024 1:36 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

First fiction entry indeed!

Last edited 17 days ago by mt58
rollerboogie
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rollerboogie
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June 6, 2024 10:15 am

This is seriously really good stob. Can we get more of this story? I was also wondering if Crucix is an alien from another planet or possibly AI, but I’ll wait to find out in what I hope will be future installments.

Last edited 17 days ago by rollerboogie
JJ Live At Leeds
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June 6, 2024 11:28 am

Had me guessing til the end how this was gonna work out. Great stuff. I’m assuming that she was on a paid assignment and didn’t just decide to off him as his bedroom skills weren’t upto standard. Definitely leaves plenty room for future instalments.

lovethisconcept
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June 6, 2024 12:01 pm

Stand-alone? Or part 1? Either way, I’m eager for what comes next.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 6, 2024 7:58 pm

This puts both the “sass” and the “ass” in assassin. Lovely stuff, gob.

cstolliver
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cstolliver
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June 7, 2024 5:04 am

More, soon, I hope!

paperaloft
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paperaloft
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June 11, 2024 8:33 am

Great seeing some fiction here! And not to be unctuous about it, but this one grabbed me right away with that opening description.

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