The woman sat alone on the park bench. The mid-morning sun was behind her, its rays warming her back. It was a welcome feeling to the autumn chill that still hung in the air. She stared straight ahead at the lake in the middle distance, particularly at the swans gliding slowly across its tranquil surface. A concrete jogging path meandered through the trees and around to the far side of the lake in the distance.
She heard footsteps and glanced to her left.
A man—not the one she was waiting for—dressed in warm jogging attire moved past her, puffing out white clouds of exertion. He said nothing but threw a hand up in a friendly wave.
The woman nodded in return and watched him as he moved further down the lane, then he was gone.
She was alone again.
The woman picked up the book she held on her lap and opened it to read or rather attempted to look as though she were reading. But, instead, what she was doing was double- and triple-checking her surroundings.
It was almost time.
And there he was. Just like clockwork, another man approached in her periphery. She turned to check him out. Yes, it was her guy. He wore regular civilian clothing, complete with gloves, a jacket, and a toboggan.
He eyed her suspiciously as he passed, then he took a quick seat at the far end of the bench. He sat for a moment, looking out at the waters, unsure of what to do next. Then he took a deep breath and asked, “How’s the book?”
The woman closed the book carefully, replaced it on her lap, and said, “It’s a killer read.”
The man let out a sigh of relief; he was in the right place. The code phrases worked. The man shoved his hand into his coat pocket.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the woman asked.
“Relax,” he said. “I’m just getting your money.”
“I get very uneasy with people who make sudden moves.”
“A little jumpy this morning, are we?” he said with a slight laugh.
“If you were in my line of work, you’d be jumpy too. So calm down and move slower.”
He becoming serious once more. “I want this over as much as you do, believe me. My apologies.” He continued extremely slow and extracted a thick, white envelope folded over a fourth. He placed the packet on the bench beside him and slid it across to her. It came to rest with a slight bump against her right hip. The man asked, “Can you make it look like an accident?”
“Sure. I can do that,” the woman said, picking up the envelope and rifled through the bills inside.
“Because I don’t want this coming back on me. I want to be free and clear of anything dealing with her death.”
“Don’t worry. Death by accident is a specialty of mine. No one will suspect you of anything.”
The woman placed the envelope on top of her book, then pulled her phone from her jacket pocket. She typed a quick message, then returned it.
“Good,” he said. “That’s excellent. So, what, is this it? This concludes our business, right?”
“That is—” Her cell phone chirped in her pocket. “Hold on a second.” The woman withdrew her phone once more and began reading the message.
Agitated at not being the sole focus of this meeting, the man blew out a frustrated breath and mumbled something to himself. He glanced to his right to make sure no one was watching them or coming down the running path. He turned quickly to look behind them, obviously doing plenty of things to bring attention to themselves.
Pocketing her phone once more, the woman said, “Actually, our business is not concluded; there’s been a development. Change of plans, Mr. Lewis. I need more money for what you’re asking me to do.”
“What?” The man’s demeanor had changed. She could tell he was instantly pissed. “Why? You blackmailing me now, bitch?”
She turned to him and gave him an icy stare. “Keep your voice down, Mr. Lewis.” Her voice was clipped, snippy. She could also play his game; it wouldn’t be the first time.
Her tone caused him to drop his voice, but it was an angry whisper. “Answer the question.”
“No, of course not. I don’t do things like that.”
Through clenched teeth, he said, “Then why the fuck do you need more money? You asked for a certain amount. I brought you that amount. That should be the end of it. And the end of her. I did my part; now why don’t you do yours.”
“Oh, I’ll do my part, Mr. Lewis, when the money amount is right. See, the text I just received was actually from your wife.”
“Your wife has a hit out on your head also, and so the highest bidder gets the job done. She’s just agreed to pay ten thousand more than the original price. Can you pay me…” she calculated the new amount and quoted him the price.
He shook his head almost immediately and before he heard her new offer. “No, I can’t; I’m strapped to the gills as it is. I’m going to be in major debt after this. I have no more money. She’s taken everything.”
The hitwoman grabbed the packet of money, placed it on the bench, and slid it back across the bench to him.
As the envelope bumped back into his left thigh, he heard her say, “And now, it looks as though she’s taking your life.” With a start, the man turned to see her hand snake inside the hardback book she’d been reading and withdraw the Glock hidden within the hollowed-out pages. She brought the barrel up into the man’s face. “Your wife sends her condolences.” Then, she pulled the trigger.
Stunned by the news and her movements, Mr. Lewis had no time to react. The bullet entered the center of his forehead between his eyes. His head snapped back, and he folded over on the park bench.
Replacing the gun inside the hidden compartment of her book, she withdrew her phone and quickly typed a return message.