Liz, Five Months Before Impact Day
I arrived at the meeting place ahead of time, scoping it out for a possible ambush. I made sure I knew where all of the exits were, and anywhere someone might hide or eavesdrop. I checked obvious places for someone to plant surveillance devices, and mentally prepared three different escape routes.
It was a private city car park, the kind that requires keycard access to get in. I wasn’t provided one, but it didn’t stop me finding a small gap I could squeeze through. Presumably, it was a casual sort of initial test. If I couldn’t get to the meeting location, I probably wasn’t very good at my job.
Once I was satisfied I knew the area and could handle any situation that was thrown at me, I found a dark corner to hide in, and waited. It was uncomfortable and very, very boring, but carelessness is an express ticket to an early grave.
Eventually, the contact arrived. It was a middle-aged woman in a grey suit, with a grim expression and impractically long nails. I took in her gait, her frame, the lines of her clothing. She didn’t seem dangerous, or even armed. Still, I watched for a while longer.
She stopped beside a concrete pillar, and looked around. When she didn’t see me, she sighed, and checked her watch. Then she sighed again.
“I’m not late,” I said, stepping out of the shadows. She jumped, then tried to play it cool, smoothing down her suit.
Is this really the person Aidan was talking to?
“You’re the, uh, freelancer?” she asked, a slight quaver in her voice. “You look awfully young.”
“Yep,” I said, smiling at her.
“Right. Um, well. You know the terms?”
“I know what I need to know,” I said. “Except the details I’m here to get from you.”
“Yes. I’m sorry for insisting on meeting in person. It felt wrong to not talk to you face to face.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” I replied.
“Okay. The target is Jason Bradson. I wrote down his address for you.”
“Any special conditions?” I asked.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“Right now all you’re telling me is that you want him dead,” I said. “That’s easy. Sometimes people want it to look like an accident, or they want to send a particular kind of message.”
“Oh. No, nothing like that,” she said. “I just want him dead.”
“Do you… Do you want to know why?” she asked.
“Not particularly,” I replied.
“Our mutual friend will contact you when it’s done,” I said. “You won’t see me again. Well, so long as you hold up your end of the deal, that is.”
She visibly flinched.
I rolled my eyes.
“You can go now,” I said.
She just nodded, and left the way she came. I waited for her to leave completely before exiting the car park the same way I came in.
That was either the least professional contract ever or a very convincing ruse…
But why would she act so skittish and uncertain? I didn’t like any of it. As soon as I was a safe distance away, I called Aidan.
“Yo,” he said.
“I met your contact.”
“Who was she?” I asked. “She hardly seemed reliable… Are you sure she’s gonna deliver?”
“Dude, that was the CEO of the biggest defence contractor in the country,” he said.
“Unless she sent a decoy, but the end result is the same. She’s got the goods.”
“Alright. I’ll get it done, then.”
“You’re sure?” he asked, a note of caution in his voice.
“Do we need to have this conversation again?”
“No, no, it’s not that,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure everything seemed fine to you.”
“It seemed super weird to me,” I told him. “I’m gonna do some research first.”
“Is that not normal?”
“It’s generally harder to kill someone when you know more about them.”
“What if they’re a huge arsehole?”
“Statistically unlikely,” I told him.
“What? Most people are arseholes,” he said.
“Most people are people,” I said. “Very few deserve to die.”
“Fine, fine. Do your thing. Let me know if you need any help, but don’t make her wait too long.”
“You got it, boss.”
I hung up on him.
Time to figure out what’s going on here.
I did a quick map search for the nearest internet café, not wanting any compromising information in my own search history. Luckily, it wasn’t far. I made my way there on foot, signed in with a fake ID, and started researching my target, as well as the client.
Hours passed, and nothing came up. Finding them both was easy. The client was exactly who Aidan said she was, though by all accounts, the target was nobody at all. He was just a schmuck, a low-level manager of a supermarket. It didn’t seem like there was a professional reason to target him, so maybe personal?
Neither of them had kids, neither of them lived anywhere near each other. If they’d ever had a romantic connection, there was no record of it. Their work had never intersected, their families had no ties. There was nothing at all I could find.
I tried looking for any sign that either had changed their name, but their records dated as far back as their childhoods.
“Where’s the connection?” I muttered.
Rachel would be able to figure it out.
“Rachel can fuck right off.”
I kept digging. If there was a connection, a reason, it didn’t seem like I was going to find it publicly available. I left my computer long enough to buy a cup of low-quality coffee, pushed up my glasses, and prepared myself for round two.
Instead, I found a message on the computer. Someone had pulled up a text editor, and written a short message. I looked around, but nobody seemed to have moved. Nobody seemed to be paying attention, either.
“You were taking too long. I got bored. The answer is:
She deliberately picked a target with no connection. She’s testing Aidan because she expects a long term trade relationship.
You just wasted three hours.
“How did she—”
As I watch, the cursor blinks, and another sentence is typed out.
“Just keeping an eye on you~”
I turned off the computer, swallowed the last of my coffee in an angry huff, and stormed out of the internet café.
I needed to talk to Aidan.
Next Week:This Is Brilliant, Even For Me