Megan’s breath echoed in her ears as she breathed through the respirator. With delicate movements she attached the wide device to the boards above her head, careful not to disturb the container’s volatile contents. Once it was secured, she inched back through the narrow space between her ceiling and the floor above, climbed down a ladder to her floor as quietly as possible, and sat on the floor, leaning against a wall. She sighed, relieved.
She took off her safety goggles, a balaclava, the respirator and some gloves, shaking her blond hair free. She placed them in a tub with the rest of her clothes, then took a shower to rinse off the dust, using a pen to prod a washcloth under her ankle monitor. She grimaced when she washed her cheek, the bruise that lay there still fresh. Before they roughed her up, Megan’s cute round face helped convey the image of a wholesome Midwestern girl, the sort of girl who would fix your car and bake you a prize-winning dessert for the road.
Not the sort of girl who used her chemistry degree to assassinate people with homemade bombs.
Megan dried off and dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and running shoes. She picked up a detonator and sat in a chair in the other room, watching the hole she cut into the ceiling through the doorway.
Three had jumped her and made the offer: kill a defector for them, and they’d forgive her murder of twenty-two leaders of the Acacia crime family. Plus, she’d be hired for the defector’s old job.
She’d smirked, nonchalant, and asked, “What job is that?”
“The Acacia family’s assassin on retainer,” Lucas replied.
Megan’s poker face shattered. She’d begged, saying she’d do anything else, kill anyone but him. But when her alternative was taking a trip to the wharf with some padlocks and boat chain, she chose the hit.
Trying to assassinate Arkin Stone was safer than certain death, but not by much.
After she’d accepted, they gave her a phone, the ankle monitor, ten thousand dollars for expenses, information on Arkin, and two weeks. After wasting a day and a half trying to get the monitor off, she collapsed on her apartment floor sobbing. No trick she had would remove the monitor without crippling her or alerting them. She could run, but not far.
After falling asleep under a table, she woke up the next morning and almost returned to hysterics. Instead, she took a deep breath and stood. She opened Arkin’s file and had a plan by sunset.
Arkin was too cautious for car bombs. He’d be especially vigilant of tails so soon after killing more Acacias than Megan had, he prepared all his own food, and seduction, in addition to its other unpleasant aspects, was so transparent it was drawn out suicide. But after looking at Arkin’s address, she found her one remotely plausible option.
After the Acacias persuaded the apartment’s owner to lend Megan the key, she spent a week logging Arkin’s comings and goings until she knew safe times to work. Even then, she sawed slowly, making as little noise as possible in case he had security with audio recording. Procuring bomb ingredients was much easier, smuggling them in grocery bags, hidden in boxes of cereal. Assembly and design were child’s play. All that remained was the wait.
A door creaked open upstairs and Megan shot up, alert. She stalked through her own apartment as she followed the footsteps above her, caressing the detonator’s button with her thumb. After some time, she paused in the bedroom’s doorway, waiting for him to get on his bed. For what seemed like ages, he moved to one part of the room for a bit, then moved on, never once touching the bed. “Come on,” Megan murmured, clenching the doorframe with her free hand.
“Come on and?” a voice asked, as something metal pressed into the back of Megan’s head.
Her heart stopped. Arkin pushed her into the room with his free hand, took the detonator away, then duct taped her to a chair. She looked at him and asked, “How?”
“You really think I wouldn’t keep tabs on all my neighbors? You did admirably well, but I have this wonderful toy that scans cell calls. I could have killed you anytime, but it wouldn’t have sent the…proper message to my old employers.” He looked up at the hole in the ceiling, then smiled at her before climbing the ladder. Megan said nothing and hung her head.
“I thought you were a pro, dear,” Arkin’s voice called down, as he unscrewed the brackets holding the bomb in place, his calves and feet hanging out the hole. “No pressure plates, no hidden wires, nothing to defuse. I guess when I let my friend upstairs in, we’ll be gentler than usual. It’s the least we can do.” He palmed the bomb’s bottom to keep it from falling before he unscrewed the last bracket.
“Now, would you prefer a beating first or—“
There was a hiss as the oils from his skin reacted with the bomb’s coating and dissolved a hole in the metal. Several liters of liquid came through the palm-sized hole and drenched Arkin. He tried to scream as the acid melted his face, but some had fallen into his open mouth and melted a hole in his throat. As air rushed through the hole the only sound he made was a thin sucking noise, growing fainter as the hole widened. His legs thrashed, twitched, then stopped.
Some time later, Lucas Acacia and his cohorts knocked out Arkin’s friend as he tried to break down Megan’s door. They stormed into the apartment to find the bizarre scene in her bedroom. Lucas was the one who finally broke the dumbfounded silence.
Megan shrugged. “He was too crafty to kill with a bomb. I had to get creative.”
“You planned this,” he deadpanned.
“Not exactly, but Arkin is—was—the kind of guy that required an unpredictable Plan B, and if the bomb didn’t kill him, I needed a hell of a Hail Mary.” Megan narrowed her eyes at them nervously, suddenly remembering she was taped to a chair.
“You are going to honor your part of the deal, right?”
“Of course Ms. Vanzetti,” Lucas said, waving his hand. He stared at the hole. “We’ll discuss the details in the car.”