This Could Be Love
In hindsight, I should probably have just turned her away there and then. However, you know how it is – no matter what sort of day you have, you just can’t turn away a devastatingly attractive woman on your front doorstep.
Even when you know that she’s a professional assassin – and the reason you know this is that you hired her to kill your business partner less than two months ago.
I’d moved into my new apartment shortly after the divorce began in earnest, it had dragged out longer than I’d anticipated mainly due to Liz’s bloodsucking lawyers trying to find ways to separate me from my company wealth. My solicitor assured me that it was a matter of offer, then counter-offer until we reached an amicable middle ground. I left at the stage when Liz decided to vent her anger at Trent’s death towards me – if only she knew how much of a role I’d played in his death I’m sure if that had been the case her attempts to harm me would have been more concerted and fuelled by a desire for revenge rather than Jack Daniels.
The apartment was a penthouse suite in a new development in the city. One of those high-rise glass things that seem to be springing up all over the place under the banner of urban renewal. Personally, the price of the place was more than worth it for the solitude it bought me.
I recall the night clearly – not for any particularly untoward reason, simply because the buzzer of the door rang for the first time in the few weeks I had been in my new home. It was a strange, metallic sound and to begin with I thought it was an appliance in the kitchen informing me that I’d left it one when I shouldn’t have done.
By the time I had realised it was the door it had rung again. I cursed internally – what’s the point in having a security-controlled building if someone can just wander up here and knock the door? I opened the door; scowling at the intrusion my expression registered no small amount of shock at the sight of the woman standing there.
“It’s not polite to keep a lady waiting,” she said as she looked at me, a charming smile playing across her face and those hypnotic grey eyes looking into mine. I found myself at a loss for words. “Well, aren’t you going to invite me in Mr Waltham,” she asked. “Or would you rather I called you James?”
I stepped aside and gestured as gallantly as possible to her to enter my apartment. I took a moment to notice what she was wearing – her grey overcoat covered what looked like some sort of polo neck sweater and a pair of plain black trousers, finished off by low-heeled boots.
Cassandra Vincent walked back into my world and from that point onward I knew my life was never going to be the same again.
“So, is this a case of business or pleasure?” I asked as I fixed both of us a drink. A single malt whiskey seemed appropriate, for me if not for her. She looked at me from the sofa, tracking my movements every step of the way.
“Well James, I can assure you that if this were a business visit you’d already be dead,” she said with a slightly comical tone dancing between her words. I didn’t doubt that she meant it, but since the dance at the benefit I’d sensed something different in her demeanour towards me.
Whether that was to reinforce her position of authority concerning payment – which she still hadn’t asked for yet – or my sensations of guilt over my role in the events as they had transpired was unclear; however her behaviour was somewhat different to how she had treated me in the professional surroundings of her office. In retrospect, her behaviour was probably no different to how I would treat a potential new customer under the circumstances.
“I won’t even ask about how you found me,” I remarked as I handed her the drink and sat at the other end of the sofa. I looked at her as she was coiled up amongst the leather cushions – she reminded me of a cobra that waited in its basket to be released. The question remained though – how would she react once the lid was removed.
“I must commend you on your choice of décor,” she stated, casting her eye around the room. “Art deco – very tasteful.” She took a sip from the glass and nodded in an approving manner. “Although your security here leaves a lot to be desired, I’d bring that up at the next tenant’s meeting if I were you.”
“Please tell me that you didn’t…” I could feel the sweat beginning to form on my forehead as I formulated the question in my mind.
“…Kill the guard?” Cassandra looked at me quizzically. I held her gaze, trying not to show that I felt more than slightly uncomfortable in her presence. She smiled at me again. “Of course not – I can be very persuasive when I want to be.”
“I can imagine,” I replied. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” Cassandra stood up and drained the rest of her drink in one swoop. She looked at me, her eyes burning with something that I could only describe as barely concealed lust.
“You’re taking me to bed first.” Her matter-of-fact tone left me in no doubt that the topic was not up for debate. “Then we’ll talk.”
I held her in my arms – both of our bodies burning with the heat of the moment. She pushed the dark hair away from her face. The moonlight from the windows gave her complexion an almost alabaster quality to it. She ran her hand across my chest and over my stomach – the sensation was almost ticklish. My fingers ran over a series of strange marks on her otherwise flawless skin just above her right hip.
“I’ve never seen scars like yours,” I muttered. She glanced over at my hand and the tender skin my fingers were tracing circles around. A rueful smile played across her face.
“It’s a reminder to stay focused,” she said. “You’ve been working out.” It was a statement.
“Maybe.” I gave an unnecessary answer. Her eyes looked up at mine again.
“You can’t lie to me you know,” she said as she suddenly straddled me. I could feel the sinews of muscle in her legs as she gripped my torso between them. Her body was hardened by years of training, yet still feminine enough to be desirable. She pressed down against me. “Tell me, how do you feel about his death?”
“Who? Trent?” I said just to confirm what she was driving at. “I should feel guilty,” I said truthfully. “But I don’t. Not one bit. I hated the way they made me feel – I was so sick of myself, sick of what both of them had done to me.” She never broke her gaze once as I felt the anger and bile rising in my stomach. “I destroyed two people’s lives and the frightening thing is, I just don’t care about it.”
“You’re a remarkable man, James,” Cassandra said. “You have a clarity of thought that eludes most people in these situations. They would be muddled with delusions of a conscience and wracked with guilt.” She leaned against me, pressing the whole of her naked body against me. I could feel the sweat starting to cool between our skin. “Yet you view the situation with an almost professional detachment.”
“And there was me thinking I was some sort of emotional retard,” I quipped. “So, why are you really here?” I asked her.
“I just wanted to be sure of something, that’s all,” she answered. Her voice seemed soft, almost demure. That’s when I felt it – a single tear that rolled off her cheek and dropped softly onto my chest. That’s when the words flowed from her mouth.
15 hours ago
Anne Murray had entered Cassandra Vincent’s office not really knowing what to expect. As she saw the woman stand up from behind the desk Anne felt confused. After shaking her hand and sitting down, the question just blurted out of her mouth.
“I’m sorry, but you’re not what I expected,” Anne said. Cassandra smiled.
“How do mean?” Cassandra replied.
“Well…I don’t know…” Anne mumbled. “I…I suppose I expected…well…a man.” Cassandra didn’t try to suppress her laugh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you…”
“You didn’t,” Cassandra said. “No matter how many times I hear that it always makes me laugh.” She paused for a second to have a drink of water. “So, how can I help you?”
“It’s my daughter, well, no, it’s actually my grandson that I’m worried about.” Cassandra nodded, slightly surprised that the woman opposite her was old enough to be part of a third maternal generation. “He’s…he’s just four years old and…and he’s in danger…his mother – my daughter – has a substance problem that’s escalating out of control.” Cassandra nodded.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m turning away business,” Cassandra spoke softly. “But isn’t this a situation for Social Services to take care of?”
“I’ve tried…” Anne seemed to be on the verge of breaking down. “I…I contacted them, and the Police, but nothing seems to work…each time…” Her voice gave out. Cassandra opened her draw and extracted a compact box of tissues that she handed to Anne. She waited for her guest to regain some of her composure. “My husband spent his life trying to get her into a successful rehab programme, we sold our house, mortgaged our futures and devoted ourselves to helping her…but it was no good.”
“Have you got children?” Anne asked. Cassandra shook her head.
“I can’t say it’s something that’s on my horizon at the moment,” Cassandra answered, feeling slightly stung by the intonation the question carried. “But my cat can be a real pain at times.”
“You don’t understand, you do everything for them and they repay you by cutting you out of their life…” Cassandra could see the woman in front of her was distraught – it was something she’d seen before many times from both men and women, yet this time it made her feel uncomfortable.
“Again, Mrs Murray, I’m not sure I’m the person you need to talk to about this situation.” Cassandra tried to soothe her visitor’s jangled nerves, but to no avail. “I know the number of a private investigator, I can tell him you’re coming…”
“Miss Vincent, the people I’ve talked to told me you solve problems.” Anne Murray suddenly seemed filled with resolve, steeled by some inner drive that Cassandra didn’t quite understand or, as she thought privately, comprehend. “I have money – my husband left quite a sizeable life insurance payout after his last heart attack, so can you solve my problem?”
“That depends,” Cassandra mused. “On what exactly it is that you want me to do.”
“I want you to kill my daughter and bring me my grandson,” Anne Murray answered.
2 hours ago
The car sat idling outside the council house as the rain pelted down. The heavy droplets bounced off the roof, making a hollow and repetitive drumming sound. Cassandra pulled the gloves onto her hands and then looked across to her partner. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a young woman who would normally be sat behind the desk in the atrium of Cassandra’s professional office. When people first entered the pristine office they were greeted by the sunny disposition of Lacey Staunton. At the moment, her disposition was anything but sunny.
Lacey was an orphan who had been taken in by Cassandra after the death of a close friend and her husband. Her wild anger at the world following her parent’s death had been tempered by Cassandra’s training, replaced by a staunch discipline and devotion to her mentor.
“So, we’re clear on what we’re doing?” Cassandra asked her associate. Lacey nodded.
“We go in, I bring the grandson back to the car and you deal with the girl.” Lacey sounded assured as she ran through their plan. “Are we going for the drug overdose?”
“According to her mother she’s a junkie,” Cassandra said as she opened the glove compartment and removed a compact leather wallet. “So that shouldn’t arouse too many suspicions when they find the body after a few days.” She opened her door and walked along the drive. She heard Lacey follow suit behind her.
Her gloved hand rapped on the doorknocker. Both women stood there for a moment with the rain waiting for some sign of life from the squalid abode. The time seemed to pass slowly as they heard movement from within. A few more minutes of waiting were rewarded by the door being opened – and both women were presented with a pathetic wretch of a human being illuminated by the watery light from the living room.
“Miss Murray,” Cassandra spoke with authority. “Can we have a moment of your time please?”
Lacey buckled the seat belt around the young boy’s body. Even through his jacket she could feel his bones jangle against his skin. His poor physical condition seemed to be matched by his almost non-existent vocal skills. She reached into the pocket of her overcoat and pulled out a small chocolate bar. Lacey carefully unwrapped it and held it up to the young boy. His eyes lit up.
“Would you like this, Sam?” she asked. He nodded enthusiastically. Lacey gave him the treat as well as her best smile. She heard the sound of the front door of the council house closing. Taking that as her cue, Lacey closed the back door and got into the driver’s seat of the black BMW. A few moments later, Cassandra joined her.
“It’s done,” she said. “Let’s go.”
The Here and Now
“So, that’s when I came here,” Cassandra said as she lit the cigarette. “We dropped off the boy and Lacey dropped me off here.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” I said as I pulled myself upright. “I’m flattered you came here, but you seem upset by all this and that just doesn’t seem like you.” She looked at me – I couldn’t tell if she was scowling at me or the fact my question was spot on.
“I thought I was cold,” Cassandra answered, staring off into the night outside my window. “But she made me think otherwise.” She looked at me. “And you’ve convinced me that there’s still something inside me that beats with some degree of compassion, however shrivelled and withered it might be.”
“Are you sure that’s just a normal cigarette you’re smoking?” I asked, trying to lighten her mood. A faint smile drifted across her lips as her next statement dripped from her mouth.
“You know, James, I do believe you’ve found a way to make me smile,” she said. “So, what are we having for breakfast?”
By the time she had left it was nearly lunchtime. As I prepared to leave my apartment I noticed that my spare set of keys were no longer hanging from their hook above the kettle in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but smile when I realised that this wasn’t the last time I was going to see Cassandra Vincent.