It was unbearably hot that afternoon, and the sun reflecting off of the many metallic tables wasn’t helping. The heat was just radiating off of them, causing small ripples in the fabric of reality above them. Amber Laven needed to squint to see anything even with her ridiculously expensive sunglasses on. She scanned the area trying to find her man, she knew what to look for – a light silk shirt and a red bracelet on the left arm. Once she saw him, it was obvious he was the right guy.
Even sitting down reading his paper, you could tell what a physically imposing specimen he was. He looked to be easily above six feet tall and his body seemed to be composed of nothing more than muscle and intimidation. His head was completely shaven, but he maintained a perfectly styled goatee and mustache, a dirty brown color you would imagine his hair would have matched. He had a few tattoos across his arms, but nothing colorful or elaborate, the simple greenish mono-color numbers someone gets in places they’d rather not talk about. Sweat was glistening off his body, no doubt from the heat reflecting off the table in front of him. If she weren’t lying to herself, Amber would have to admit she found him strangely enticing.
“Mr. Taxle?” she asked the stranger.
The man raised his head from his paper. He had been watching her from the moment she got out of her car, a bright red Jaguar. He had seen her type before, plenty of times. She was dressed in all the right clothes, her outfit alone probably costing close to a thousand dollars, wearing so many useless things despite the heat. She was trying so hard to “look” rich, it never occurred to her that she looked cheap. She didn’t have money when she was younger and now that she has some she doesn’t know how to act with it, so she flaunts it, in the vain hope that it gives meaning to her dull and dreary life. She had always believed money would fill that void, and they were never sure how to handle the realization that it didn’t. Yes, he had seen her type too many times before.
“Sit down, Mrs. Laven,” he said.
Even his voice was intimidating and commanding, and she couldn’t help herself but to oblige. The man took his sunglasses off and she could see his eyes, bright blue without a hint of playfulness in them. This guy was all business and it was obvious. She reached in to her purse and fumbled for a moment before pulling out a stuffed manila envelope. She opened one end and pulled out a photograph and small sheet of paper. She placed the envelope on the table in front of the stranger and before she even realized what was going on he had shoved the envelope back into her lap.
“Mrs. Laven,” he said so quietly she could barely hear him, but so forceful it sounded as if he was yelling at her, “if you cannot behave with a modicum of discretion then can simply walk away right now and forget you ever saw me.”
She could feel the heat in her face as her cheeks flushed red. How naïve could she have been? She placed the envelope on the ground between her feet and the table leg.
“I.. I’m sorry,” she got out.
A woman stopped at the table.
“Two lemonades,” she said while placing them on the table. “Can I get you two anything else today?”
“No thank you,” Mr. Taxle told the waitress, “That will be all.”
The waitress smiled at him. Amber Laven was convinced that the waitress sneered at her before walking away. She was used to all of the women being jealous of her though. She’d been dealing with it her whole life. It started in middle school when she started filling out a bit before the rest of the girls. All of the boys started paying more attention to her, and they were all jealous of the attention she was getting. It didn’t take her long to realize how much she could use it to her advantage. That just made the girls even more jealous, but she showed them all. She got away from that hick town and had a life they could only dream about.
“Now please, Mrs. Laven,” the stranger said, “tell me what it is you need.”
For once in her life, Amber Laven wasn’t sure where to begin. She reached over and took a drink of her lemonade, so refreshing on such a sweltering day.
“Well, you see,” she said, “I think my husband has been cheating on me.”
She wasn’t sure why she was lying to this man she’d never met before, perhaps a little too ashamed to admit greed was the overwhelming reason she was here, not any infidelity (even if there were some). The truth was her husband had grown tired of her reckless spending and put her on a budget. She wasn’t about to let anyone take away the lifestyle she’d grown accustomed to, not now, not after everything she sacrificed to get it.
“He isn’t interested in me any longer, and he’s starting to become abusive,” she continued. She dabbed the corner of her eye with her blouse, a move that always worked to bring out the sympathy in men. “I’m just afraid of what will happen if this continues. I’m afraid for myself, for our daughter, I can’t just leave… I need a way out.”
“And the best way out you could think of is to hire me to kill him?” the stranger asked. “Why not just leave him and get a divorce?”
It was a fair question, one that would have been easier to answer if she hadn’t started off by lying.
“He’s a vindictive bastard,” she replied. “I don’t have any skills outside of the house, he’d cut me off and try to steal my daughter away from me, and how could I stop him? I ca.. can’t lose my da.. daughter Mr. Taxle.” She hoped the quivering she included made her performance even more believable.
“I believe I can help you, Mrs. Laven,” Mr. Taxle said.
She reached across the table and grabbed the hit man’s hand, the felt strong even while just sitting there.
“Oh thank you, thank you,” she said. “You don’t know much safer I’ll feel once this is all done. It needs to look like an accident though, I don’t want to put my daughter through more than she has to, and she’s already losing her father.”
Making the insurance claims go faster wouldn’t be a bad benefit either.
Amber Laven felt a little light headed. Her vision was becoming blurry, she could feel her heart racing in her chest. It was beating so fast it felt like it might explode at any minute.
“There’s only one minor problem,” Mr. Taxle said.
She could hear the hit man talking somewhere off in the distance. His voice was disembodied and muffled and she couldn’t make out what he was saying. She tried to stand up but her body wasn’t doing what she wanted to. She began shivering even in the midst of all the heat. She felt her glass of lemonade fall out of her hand, somewhere in the distance she imagined she heard it crash to the ground and shatter. She didn’t really hear that though, everything had gone still. She was swallowed by blackness.
“Your husband contacted me first.”