“I see a disco ball in your future.” Armani Vasquez, the closest thing I had to a friend at Insuring the Future, delivered this pronouncement right after she sprinkled a handful of candy corn into her Caesar salad.
Disgusted by her food combination, I pushed my own peanut butter and jelly sandwich away. “Really? A disco ball?”
If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be leaning over a table in the lunchroom, paying close attention to the bizarre premonitions of my half-crippled, wannabe-psychic coworker, I would have said you were crazy.
But I’d had one hell of a month.
First there had been the car accident. My sister Theresa and her husband, Dirk, were killed; my three-year-old niece, Katie, wound up in a coma; and I ended up with the ability to talk to animals. Trust me, I know exactly how crazy that sounds, but it’s true … I think.
On top of everything else, I inadvertently found myself hurtling down a career path I never could have imagined.
I’m now a hitwoman for hire. Yes, I kill people for money … but just so you know, I don’t go around killing just anyone. I’ve got standards. The two men I killed were bad men, very bad men.
Before I could press Armani for more details about the mysterious disco ball, another man I wanted to kill sauntered into my line of vision. I hate my job at Insuring the Future. I hate taking automobile claims from idiot drivers who have no business getting behind the wheel. But most of all I hate my boss, Harry. It’s not the fact that he’s a stickler for enforcing company policy or even that he always smells like week-old pepperoni. No, I hate him because Harry “likes” me. A lot. He’s always looking over my shoulder (and peering down my shirt) and calling me into his office for one-on-one “motivational chats” to improve my performance.
I know what you’re thinking. I should report his sexual harassment to human resources, or, if I deplore the idea of workplace conflict (and what self-respecting hitwoman wouldn’t?), I should quit and find another job.
I was getting ready to do just that, report his lecherous ass and then quit (because I really do despise “helping” the general public), but then the accident happened. And then the paid assassin gig.
So now I need this crappy, unfulfilling, frustrating-as-hell clerical employment because it provides a cover for my second job. It’s not like I can put HITWOMAN on my next tax return. Besides, if I didn’t keep this job, my meddling aunts would wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.
Harry, thumbs stuck into his suspenders (cuz everyone knows that suspenders are the height of fashion in a place where the typical dress code is T-shirts), strolled over to the table Armani and I occupied in the back corner of the break room. “Ladies.”
Neither of us answered him. I took a giant bite of PB&J while Armani speared a piece of candy corn covered with anchovy-laced salad dressing.
“Don’t forget we’ve got a team meeting tomorrow morning.”
“How could we forget?” Armani asked. “You’ve sent five freaking e-mails about it.”
Ignoring her, Harry focused his lusty gaze on me (I guess he thinks nothing is hotter than a woman with cheeks like a chipmunk). “We’re going to have breakfast.”
He made it sound like it was some sort of intimate date, not a meeting with a dozen other people present.
I just kept on chewing, waiting for him to take the hint and go away.
He transferred his gaze to Armani. “We may have to let some people go.”
She raised her arm and waved her stump of a hand, the tragic result of not paying attention to her own premonitions and an out-of-control Zamboni hurtling across the ice. She wore her disability like it was some sort of magical amulet allowing her to break the rules of Insuring the Future without repercussions. She knew damn well that if someone was going to be fired, it wasn’t going to be her.
I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be surprised if I was on the short list of possible employees to dump. Working at a call center, listening to the umpteenth caller claim to have swerved to miss a deer at three-thirty on a Saturday morning, wears on me, and I’ve been known to make a snide comment—or two dozen—about drunken deer. While the audits of my recorded calls show I do an accurate job, my numbers for “customer support and empathy” swirl around the bottom of the toilet.
And they’ve only gotten worse since I started killing people. I’d like to blame it on the insomnia that kicked in just before the second hit I pulled off, or the fact that I’m stressed out because my niece, Katie, is in a coma, but the truth is my tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time low.
“Don’t be late.” Harry and his stinky breath cleared our airspace.
“He makes me sick to my stomach.” The fact that Armani said this while spearing a mouthful of candy and salad turned my stomach. It was all I could do to swallow my bite of sandwich.
I never did get the details of the damn disco ball because an IT guy had an allergic reaction to something he ate, which necessitated a lot of oohing and ahhing and wringing of hands from the lunchtime crew as everyone waited to see if he was going to make it, or if his obituary would read, “Random tech guy from Insuring the Future passes on after brief battle with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.”