“…so use the code SCHAULS to get 10% your Cubespace order. And if you liked this vdeo, don’t forget to mash up that Subscribe button ‘til you can’t even recognize it.”
“Am I getting better with the camera?” Linda asked. It was one of the few places she doubted herself, as Linda was never a woman of discerning tastes in film. She made fun of the A/V club at school when she was younger, but then again, Maria said so much worse as long as they were out of earshot. But they didn’t have dirty money to launder and bleach either. That was Linda’s excuse, and Addyson’s show about crappy SoundCrowd music made a lot of money. And that was just a side job next to her other interests that she put to video.
Linda hadn’t seen much of the show, but it was great for something shot in the basement of Arianne’s townhouse.
“Yeah, it looked good on the monitor,” said Addyson. “I’ll reshoot it if it’s not, no big deal. And are you sure you don’t want your real name in the credits?”
“Kid, I’m sure.”
She didn’t ask another question. What a sweetheart she was! Linda knew that girl from when she first met Arianne. Addyson was ten years old then, and so well-behaved in that she never asked anyone what “aunt Linda” did for a living, let alone snitch on her. Now, her brother was a lot nosier, but for not knowing much about children, Linda was an expert at lying to his face.
Being around Arianne’s family made Linda happier than she ever thought it would. Back when they first met, she had a husband, but Linda believed in the power of divorce, especially when she liked one side of the divorced. She did like sleeping with recent divorcees. Most of those ladies accepted that, yet again, they’d be left in the dust by Linda when her life and career had to move.
But alas, Linda knew that there was another job waiting for her. She got an invitation to a party, with the envelope sealed in glossy red wax and stamped with a dragon. Usually those were the toughest kills with the biggest bucks. They always involved long nights peering out from an Empire City hotel window. It was all of the things Linda was asking for. It might even involve the grenade launcher again if she was lucky.
It was why she wasn’t in a hurry to leave Addyson the moment she asked an awkward question. She was a bigger-boned young woman than her mother, which didn’t make her fat or unattractive in the slightest, but it made her Linda-sized. Linda wasn’t attuned to the world of fashion either. She preferred oversized jackets and matte Doc Marten boots. She lent flannels to Arianne when she used to be a working-class young mother and needed warm clothes. So now that they were both new money, built with shiny bullet shells and fresh blood that Arianne made disappear, the Yorke family could return the favor to Linda.
That shopping trip didn’t make Linda that hopeful for the future of clothing, though. It was all snug around her wide, 55 year-old hips until Addyson led her to better fits for their frames.
Linda usually didn’t go on intense shopping trips, yet it was almost dark by the time she and Addyson got home, dressed in their favorite purchases. Linda found a dress that perfectly fit her curves, with a long slit up her left leg. And Addyson found something for a date later on. Meanwhile, Arianne was on her laptop all afternoon and her son, Kendrick, was covered in fur from his three pets.
“Arianne, would you fuck me in this?” Linda asked, finally being better-dressed than her friend. Arianne was barefoot and had her hair tied back into an unobtrusive puff. “I hope you would because I’d fuck you in that.”
“I’m sure someone nice will this weekend,” Arianne said. “Did you two get along well today?”
“You know what kind of auntie that Linda is,” said Addyson. “She’s the chill lesbian aunt and the rich shopping aunt all at once.”
“Acting like you know what an aunt even is, you cheeky kid.”
Addyson grew up with a lot of Linda’s berating banter. And without any aunts, because Arianne was an only child. She laughed and pushed away Linda in joking disbelief after a minute back and forth.
“Okay Addy, but Linda has work to do,” said Arianne. And she left it at that, though not even Arianne knew what work Linda had…
…it was cleaning her guns, that was it.
Addyson was the go-to girl for makeup help as well, and with her magic touch, Linda looked amazing. She almost looked as good as a bridesmaid that she never got to be. But no matter how much Addyson could tie hair into a bun or match skintone to lipstick, she could not do the jobs her mother did. She could not clean up the scene of a murder, nor could she prepare Linda for the gritty details of the outside world.
“It should be everything you need for night,” said Arianne. She took a look around the room to make sure that Addyson was in her room or editing videos in the basement instead. “Obviously, your pistol. The Yamaha will get you the best mileage, you have the license you asked for, and I provided a few options for cash and credit if you need it.” And that was all put together after she made dinner for Linda. She made arganak like Linda’s mother did when her throat was scratchy from too much premature smoking. But Mother Barsamyan would be disappointed in Linda where Arianne must have still liked something about her.
“Looking as good as ever…is there even a lesbian out there who can pack a purse?” Linda asked.
“Even if there was…I did better than any of them. I’ve had to pack a lot of bags.”
Next time, Linda could ask for a bento box or a lunchbag to go along with her necessities, to test Arianne’s skills. She was the woman who coordinated the school and work lives of her twins and her ex-husband down to the minutia, in ways that Linda would never need. But she was glad to have given Arianne a new lease on life.
She did ask Arianne for a certain fake driver’s license again, even if there were many more options for far more convincing ones. For one, she could have had one that wasn’t out of state, but it felt cruel to put that woman’s face on a card from anywhere else but El Dorado.
It wouldn’t help them identify her body if she ended up as a brain smoothie on the road, but wearing a helmet would mess up Addyson’s styling. Linda had enough time on motorcycles anyways, sometimes on winding desert roads without a helmet.
Granted, she was more of a passenger than a driver back then.
Her destination was Overlook Club, in nearby St. Claire. It was in a Tudor-style building shrouded in overgrown brambles. Inside, it operated like every conspiracy about Bohemian Grove, or at least the ones that said it was home to a lot of weird parties and sex.
But it was Christmas time, the most holy time of the year for a majority of the nation, so it was going to be bubbly and chaste instead. Even Linda once revered that time of the year, but she was born a sinner and would die one, as a murderer or simply cruising for pussy.
Champagne was flowing at the holiday party, up a little north in the city of St. Claire. The lighting was perfect, the music not too loud, and the smoke of a distant cigar wrapped itself around Linda’s nose. Kurt Barry hosted it and thanked Linda for her work over the past year, amounting to four kills he needed for the price of a quarter of a million dollars.
She left the four bodies in a trail in his basement, because supposedly Kurt had paid off his maids to stay quiet about anything suspicious. Arianne thought she was making up the number at first (at least for the timeframe), since she didn’t get to see it herself.
He poured Linda a glass. While she had learned to not accept drinks from strange men when she was a teen illegally drinking in Angel City, Kurt wasn’t strange. He just loved a good drink and sharing them, including with Linda on a few other occasions. Even without that, Linda was not to be fucked with in the northeast, as long as you knew the terror of looking down the barrel of her gun.
Unfortunately, most other guests didn’t know why Linda was invited at all. She didn’t wear foundation and smelled like cheap cigarettes and parsley from dinner. They may not have ever needed her services, or worse, hired someone else for the same job done poorly.
“Hey, you know what I love?” said a man holding a similar bottle of champagne but shaking it vigorously.
“It better not be me,” said Linda. He shook and then reached to un-cork the bottle by hand, and the bubbles inside were already desperate for release. The whole bottle looked to be at its breaking point, and Linda would prefer flying glass.
He held it over his crotch.
“Yeah, sweet cum on your face!”
“Fuck off, I just bought this.” Linda’s hands were no use against the sticky onslaught of grapes and alcohol. “And I’m gay, you don’t have a chance.”
“You won’t be saying that later tonight.”
“Up yours, kid.”
Linda usually was able to prepare, and didn’t have to resort to goddamn cell phone bombs. But if she was successful, she could set off a chain reaction with such a tiny package. And at that party, no one questioned what she was playing with in front of her drinks. Kurt must have soothed any of their fears and told them that if they crossed Linda, she would make them disappear like a blood-stained magician. And he found her a screwdriver.
That creep still was there, thinking he would survive to the end of the night. From what Linda overheard, he was talking about his upcoming trip to Aruba and not how to handle his final will and testament.
And it was funny, because usually she would knee a man like that in the balls and leave. But Linda was feeling that the odds were against her that night for the thing she was really after. The party was devoid of waiting women to suck on the nipples of or rub her clit until it was raw. It had been ages for Linda, and all she needed was–
“Seat taken?” asked a sweet, gentle voice. Linda liked what it was attached to. She was slim, even bony, and in a purple cocktail dress that Linda could see up and straight through to the neckline on the other side.
“Mmmm, not tonight,” said Linda, putting her project into her purse on the floor. She noticed the glistening wedding band on her finger far too late. It wasn’t that married women were out of the question, but unfortunately for Linda, they often wanted to bring their husbands into the bedroom too. She had the materials for only one bomb, after all. Lady’s husband, or a sleazy man who ruined her dress? It was sticky inside and out, and she had to deal with it, because she saw no reason to bring a change of clothes when she left.
“So, is that wedding band just for show?” Linda asked.
“He’s not watching,” the woman said.
“If we do anything tonight, that better be the case…do you even have a name?”
“Christine. I’ve heard stuff about you.”
“What? I’m just Guadalupe from Angel City. All my potential was cut short.” She backed away shyly, even though she had a feeling that the ruse wouldn’t hold up for more than a second.
“But you’re actually Linda Barsamyan, known for some amazing things,” said Christine.
“Depends what it is,” said Linda. She wasn’t going to let this woman call her a killer in a public room, though. “There’s a lot of stuff you’d be better off not saying out loud, or else I can do some bad things with some piano wire and your throat.”
“Oh gods no, I was talking about the way you position yourself in bed,” Christine said. “I mean, only for tonight. People…well…in St. Claire they talk about it a lot.”
“And what, Empire City forgot about me already?” Granted, those fucks were regrettable and trashy.
“I work there…there are whispers even among the eight million. I think that says a lot about you. And, uh, you look amazing for your fifties.”
“Well, you’re the freshest-looking in this forty-plus crowd too,” said Linda. “Not like I really care most of the time. I mean, let’s get some rosé and go somewhere private.”
The most private place: The Overlook Club’s dining room, which was dim and empty that night, even if the door was unlocked. It wasn’t a room full of valuables, except to a thief who loved chairs and carrying chairs.
Christine deserved to be treated like a lady for a night, so Linda poured her glass for her. If she was seeking out Linda’s second-best services, then she clearly was not getting treated right at home. Unless there was a hidden camera in her ring or hairclip, of course. But as much as Linda would have liked to investigate each, there was no pinhole opening on inspection, and Christine was getting her excited.
It was just the sultry way she drank wine, of course.
Linda had a high tolerance to it, but the alcohol made her want to move faster. It smoothed out the ruffles of Christine’s dress (she hated ruffles) and the 40 year-old crow’s feet.
“We can move fast,” whispered Christine. She wasn’t even done with her current drink. “So we don’t get caught.”
Unlike with some cocktail dresses, Christine’s came off easily. Linda pressed herself against the firm muscles of her shoulder and back. That woman took care of herself, and there was so much respect that it deserved. She could taste that care in her skin too.
She could taste it everywhere.
“I should yell at you for smoking.” Christine was still giggling in post-coital bliss as they lay on the floor. Linda revelled in the smoke filling her mouth, and the back of her neck against Christine’s warm cunt stubble.
“No one gets away with that,” Linda mumbled, before taking another big inhale.
“Well, I should let you get dressed.” That one sentence, clearly said by a man, took the air out of Linda’s lungs. There were windows into the dining room, and he must have been hiding behind one of them.
“Linda, I swear, he wasn’t watching.” Christine trembled and tried to cover her naked bottom half.
“That’s what they all say.” Linda cursed her weakness for beautiful, skinny married women in cocktail dresses and stiletto heels. While she was careful, it wouldn’t be the first time it happened. She usually found out the scheme as she was on the cusp of climaxing, or if she was lucky, before her clothes even came off, though.
“I hold my innocence,” he said.
Christine scrambled to get her clothes back on, before anyone saw her, especially not that creep with the champagne. If Linda had to count any blessings, it was that it wasn’t his wife. His widow, if Linda was to get her way by the end of the night.
“You can be angry all you want, but Christine and I are in an open relationship,” said Christine’s husband. “We never look at what the other is doing.”
If nothing else, his voice was as calm as the fog over the Lincang Mountains. It would put a woman less experienced than Linda at ease. Christine sounded sultry, but a lot more tense and American. He gave Linda his full name: Frederick Hsu, in case she needed airtight cybersec options from HsuSoft.
“We have had our sights on ousting that creep you encountered,” he said. “Michael Cruz…a business rival if you want specifics. But not only is he trying to undermine my hard work, but he doesn’t respect boundaries. I do. And I would kill him for it.”
“Yeah, job’s already underway.”
“But what if I paid you for what you’re already doing?” Frederick asked.
“Yeah? I like money,” said Linda, raising one of her bushy eyebrows at him. “I also like not being walked in on while I’m eating your sad wife’s pussy for dessert.”
“So what’s the payout?”
“Ten grand for him, to start with.”
It was a huge amount of money for a starter job, not that Linda tended to work with anyone in particular for the long term. It was too much money for her to reasonably negotiate, but then again, Frederick did walk in on her and her sacred post-sex smoke.
“Ten grand, and I get to examine the room and your wife’s belongings for any cameras,” said Linda. “It’ll be fast. I have people for that.”
“We’re not attached to anything in our possession tonight, just about the good times,” he said. “So will you shake my hand? For any future jobs. I will need your services.”
Linda grasped it firmly. “Happy holidays, Mr. Hsu, whatever they may be.”
“And Merry Christmas to you as well.”
“See, I told you this open relationship was a great idea,” said Christine. She was still flustered and ready to push her husband out the door.
The bomb came together fast. It was small, but it could be attached to the gas tank and detonated remotely. An instant fatality was all but guaranteed, and even if Linda’s calculations were off, that was why she always carried a gun.
It was a bomb that she could detonate remotely. As much as she didn’t want to wait, it would be best if Michael was the last one out of the building, left behind by all the witnesses.
As it turned out, as she peeked through the windows, he did prefer to stay and drink before driving back to Empire City. The Hsus told her that was where they all lived and waged their financial wars, which must have been a hint that they had more than simple unfinished business.
Even at his car, he stalled, playing on his phone. Perhaps he was waiting to sober up, though it wasn’t like it would matter after Linda pressed her button. When the last pianist left and the bartender was enjoying a nightcap before catching the last subway home, the countdown started.
But anything with a delay always made for the longest minute. And it was always timed explosions. They still made Linda’s heart skip beats. and probably were responsible for her once-sharp hearing being dulled down and filled with hazy tinnitus. She had so much trouble waiting for the excitement. An explosion made everyone tremble and lose footing, and more people than just the target die. It was morally wrong, but it boosted her clout as a cold-hearted killer.
One minute exactly was the time she programmed in. Linda could count down the seconds, one by one, or even by halves.
One and a half.
He wasn’t a small guy, but the blast sent Michael back five feet and he hit his head on the pavement. Linda had seen that injury kill before, if too slow for her to rely on. Even when it made a cracking noise, or even when it bled out onto the cold driveway.
She was right. Michael started to hoist himself upon his knees when Linda walked over. He was weak. He coughed, with phlegm and more blood coming out of his mouth. He groaned in pain and could barely lift his head up. What was broken? What could never be fixed? And worst of all, he must have seen Linda watching with glee from behind the bushes. It was a well-lit lot.
Out of all the shots she fired while running, a bullet soared through Michael’s head like it was just a balloon. He fell again, but Linda didn’t, not even while running in heels.
“Like I told Maria, I’m no toy.”
A/N: Word count: 3,424 words
Images: 58 (I am counting the license pic btw, it used a unique screenshot)