“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to die, Rose?”


            The only sound in the comfortable office besides their breathing was the clinking of a metal spoon against a delicately floral-patterned porcelain tea cup. Another fine stream of white grains entered the water, visible for seconds before dissolving below the surface.


            “Whatever would be so depressing as to drive me to such thoughts, Mr. Daniels?” she replied carefully, as she stirred the sugar into the still steaming water.


            The spoon tapped against the rim of the cup before being carefully set down on the white linen napkin beside the saucer.


            “Think of it as the rambling desires of an old man, my dear.”


            The grizzled man smiled from his comfortable leather chair; for a moment, she thought he looked like someone’s gruff grandfather. The deep wrinkles in his face were even more accentuated by the candlelight, and his white hair was platinum blond. His face was sunken ridiculously; it was as though skin had been stretched like a canvas across a frame and then loosened. The thick, crimson drapes are drawn across all of the windows; the only light comes from the tiny flickering flames and a tiny sliver of moonlight that manages to get past the drapes. The filled bookcases gave the room the atmosphere of a library; quiet and comfortable.


            But she could read smiles the way one would read a novel; this one oozed false innocence and sickening desires, and it had only grown all the more twisted these the longer she has been here. It took all she had not to hurl the teacup into his face.


            She can’t afford to have something go wrong, though; so her plastic grin was forced a little wider as she straightened up, teacup handle in one white gloved hand and saucer in the other. Her simple black dress flutters a little with the movement, and her apron brushed across the front of it as she walked over to him, handing him both cup and saucer. He accepted it genially, lifting the cup to his lips to take a sip.


            “Ah, thank you, Rose. Tell me, how are things going up at the college?”


            “Pretty well, I think. Classes have been boring lately; all the material is review for me.” Her voice was coy and shy at once; her blond hair fell across her face like a deliberately parted curtain.


            “Really, now? You know I could easily give them a call and have you moved into some of the more advanced classes. There would be no debt for you to repay.”


            Except with your body, the voice in the back of her mind finishes darkly. His eyes glanced at her before flitting away swiftly; but not swiftly enough for his wandering gaze to go unnoticed by her. She pretended she didn’t notice as she crossed her legs, even as disgust coiled in her stomach.


            He sipped the tea again, just managing to prevent it from sloshing across himself. She didn’t miss the way his hands shook slightly; his tremors had increased over the past few months. “Very well; you may go finish your job. Let no one say that your employer is trying to prevent you from doing your job, now.” He laughed then, but it was a hollow, fake rattle. Just like everything else about him seemed to be. Suddenly he coughed, a dry hacking sound belying his apparent physical age.


            Another face-splitting smile was plastered across her face as she stood up. “Of course, Mr. Daniels.”


            Her high heels clicked across the expensive hardwood floors as she left the room.


            The halls were dark at this time of night; only moonlight lit her way to the kitchen. She was ever aware of the security cameras following her every move, as well as the dead eyes of portraits watching her walk down the hall. Even so, she was unfazed by all this, all timidity gone. As she approached the back door, she heard the faint shattering of porcelain against wood. Her outward reaction was schooled; it was as though she had not heard anything at all.


            Only ten hours later, Bentley Daniels, age 51, infamous monopolizing businessman and recently acquitted suspect of sexual harassment, was declared dead in his household.


            Narrowed hazel eyes watched through high-powered binoculars as his corpse was carted out, high up in a sturdy tree, hidden by its branches and leaves. A latex mask with empty sockets and a rip at the throat was tucked into her pack, torn away carelessly from her face. Along with it rested the uniform she wore, a neatly cut blonde wig, and a plastic bag with blue colored contacts.


Dark hair was tied back harshly into a ponytail, but shorter strands not yet long enough to be restrained fell to frame her pale face. She wore boots available at a nearby shoe retailer; the rest of her clothing consisted of clothes available from a nearby bargain department store. A simple black jacket, a brown t-shirt, jeans, a pair of gloves; she had nothing overly identifying or sophisticated. This mission did not warrant the luxuries of tear-resistant body suits.


            “C.T., do you copy?” An older male voice crackled over her earpiece. She raised her hand to the piece and pressed the button.


            “Mission complete,” she said dryly. “What, watching the news?”


            “Maybe. You played the part excellently,” her handler laughed. “You oughta see the headliners; ‘Maid kills suspect in sexual harassment case; details at eleven’.”


            “A little cliché, don’t you think?” She raised an eyebrow, but his sense of humor was no stranger to her.


            “Maybe, but a fifteen year-old pulling off the act of an eighteen year-old was pretty amusing to watch.” She bristled at the thought, turning her head from side to side as though she was aware of him hiding in the branches with her.


            “Peeping tom,” she hissed accusingly, emotion creeping into her voice for the first time. “You said you weren’t going to watch. And it’s not my fault that she was the same height as I was.”


            “Compared to that guy, I’m a saint,” he protested. “I know we’re not supposed to be biased, but I’m glad we took down that guy.”


            “You mean I took him down. And you would know all about crushing bugs, wouldn’t you, Ethion?” Annoyance was trickling into her voice as fast as a river tearing through a dam.


            “I’m touched. You remembered.” There was a mock gasp over the channel. Then a pause. “Don’t you want to know what happened to that girl?”


            “Eighteen and still considered a girl. Is pedophilia ever not an issue with you?” she baited him, other black-gloved hand clinging to the branch above her for support.


            He ignored the jab, continuing on. “She’s been arrested already; apparently they dragged her out of her apartment this morning after they examined the video tapes. She might get off pretty easily, though; they seem to have found the Fowler’s solution we sprinkled into the reservoir. Of course, now everyone’s panicking ‘cause they think they’ve been drinking poisoned – which, by the way, was a ridiculously cliché plan, arsenic – water. The concentration was hardly fatal, but it’ll take them a while to figure that out. Now, ‘Rose Taylor, suspected in murder of wealthy businessman’…”


            “Don’t give up your day job, ‘E.” She leaned against the tree trunk, swatting away some overhanging leaves from her face as the breeze grew more noticeable before finally giving up and crouching against the tree trunk, folding her tall frame.


            “I wouldn’t mind; my night job is so much more interesting, anyways.” She scoffed at this. “Get back to school, C.T., you’re going to be late for class. Again.”


            “Whose fault would that be?” she retorted, but he had already closed the channel. She sighed, irritated.


            “And here I thought I had the one profession where I wouldn’t have to deal with annoying people.” With that, she began to climb down from the tree, beginning her trip to the closest bus stop.


            She was definitely going to miss homeroom again.