Chapter 1


Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Okay, okay. Sorry, I just hate these stupid introduction things. It always makes me feel like I’m in grade school, again, and I hated grade school. I also hated middle school. And high school. Thank porcupines I didn’t go to college, I probably would’ve hated that, too. I hate a lot of things, incidentally.

All right, let’s start over.

My name is Sarah Killian, and I am a professional serial killer.

No, goddammit, I am not a mother-fucking assassin, goddammit.

Sorry. Again. That was my Tourette’s. I just have issues with assassins. They’re jackasses.

Every. Single. Last. One. Jackasses.

Let’s just say that it’s no coincidence the word starts with two asses, because one ass is not enough for those douche bags.

So no, I’m not an assassin. I’m a professional serial killer, also known as a PSK. Assassins are lazy. Kill one terrorist with a sniper rifle from a hundred yards away and then disappear into the night without a trace. Boring. PSK’s make Murder for Hire an art form. Any Catholic schoolgirl can shoot a man or put poison in his scotch, but it takes real finesse to make Murder for Hire look like the workings of a deranged sociopath. Granted, it does help that most PSK’s are deranged sociopaths, but that is completely beside the point.

Sometimes our target is actually just one person, and the other victims are unfortunate by-products that act as distractions from the primary target. Sometimes our target is an entire group of people. But most of the time—and this is where we get the big bucks—our job is simply population control. When the population of a town or city starts to get too large for the area’s available resources, the officials call on me and my associates to thin out the herd by making it look like a serial killer is on the prowl.

In every case, the PSK is planted into the town they will be working several months ahead of time, and they stay for several months after the murders have been concluded. This way the PSK is less likely to become a suspect. During that time, the PSK works to establish their role in the community, and detracts as much suspicion as possible away from the person they are pretending to be—we call this character the ‘Dupe.’

But that is not where the art comes into my work, oh no. The art comes out in the setup of creating a unique serial killer persona for each case. No matter what the job is, there is always a ‘Herring’—an identity the general public accepts as the killer. Sometimes we make one of our victims into the Herring, and make it look as if he or she killed themselves once their rampage was finished. Other times, we’ll create a completely fictitious psychological profile for a killer, and make it look as if the killer escaped, moving on without getting caught, Jack the Ripper style.

Each case is different, and will require a different type of Herring, but they all require the PSK to be absolutely and completely thorough and remain in character not only for their Dupe personality, but for their Herring personality as well—and all at the same time! For example, if the profile of your Herring is that they only kill with a butcher knife then you have to stick to that profile while you are on that job—no chainsaws allowed.

But, it’s so much more complicated than that. Not only do you have to worry about staying in character on one job, but you have to worry about creating different characters for each and every job. Otherwise, the Feds might be able to connect the dots and determine that both jobs were the work of one person. Of course, since the Government is actually our biggest client, we don’t have to worry too much about the Feds, but there are still enough meddling amateur detectives out there trying to solve unsolved murders themselves, so we have to tread lightly.

Needless to say, this job is perfect for killers with multiple personalities.

You’re probably wondering how on earth I would have gotten into this line of work.

Obviously it’s not like I went to career counseling in high school and had some stupid computer program tell me that I should become a serial killer. Truth be told, that stupid computer program couldn’t find anything for me. You shoulda seen the face on that prissy career counselor—apparently the computer wasn’t stumped very often, since even the dumbest teenage fuck can be told they are destined to be a cesspool cleaner, but to be so absolutely useless to society that nothing can be suggested for you, now that requires real talent.

Of course, the computer didn’t know I’ve been a murderer since I was sixteen. For the most part, I preferred killing men. I did try a woman once, but it just wasn’t as enjoyable. There’s something incredibly satisfying about plunging the cold, merciless blade of a knife into the soft, moist gut of a man.

I was twenty-two and I had killed thirteen people when THEM finally caught me.

No, it is not a motherfucking type-o.

Sorry. My Tourette’s again.

THEM is an acronym. It stands for: Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers. It was a lucky thing for me that THEM found me before the cops did, otherwise I probably would have been put in the shock chair—or worse, a padded room—years ago.

THEM is a very selective—and very secret—organization specializing in Murder For Hire. Everything from Assassins to PSK’s, and a few other specialties in between. Through their shady connections to the Government, THEM offered me a deal—the same deal they offer all their recruits: I work for THEM as a PSK, and THEM will have my record completely expunged and I will be immune from any prosecution for the remainder of my life. The catch, of course, was that I had to stop killing for pleasure. Cold turkey. Commit one single murder that is not contracted, and the deal is off. Fortunately, if I wake up some morning and have a hankering to kill, and I’m not on an assignment, my boss is very good at finding on the spot work for me so I can satiate my cravings.

I could have refused THEM’s offer, but then THEM would have turned me over to the Feds and I would be fully prosecuted for all the murders I could be connected to. I don’t know how many of the thirteen dots they had successfully connected, but I’m sure it was more than enough to either make my life very short, or very miserable, so it was a fairly easy choice to make.

Basically, here’s how it works. If you kill five people—five living, breathing, ‘fellow’ human beings—without being identified, you get onto THEM’s radar, as a Recognized but Unidentified Serial Killer, which basically just means THEM has connected your murders to each other, but not yet identified you. If you get up to ten people without getting caught, THEM will try to recruit you. Obviously, only if they’ve identified you—but they’re pretty good at identifying killers, so if you get over ten kills without getting identified by THEM, you’re pretty darn special. So, if you get to the point where THEM is knocking on your door, you’re pretty much fucked if you don’t take the deal they offer.

I was recruited by a man known only as ‘Zeke’—the founder of THEM and my boss to this day. Before he founded THEM, he was apparently quite a notorious serial killer in his own right.

Back when he recruited me, I asked him if ‘Zeke’ was short for ‘Ezekiel.’ He shot me a particularly hateful glare, which only goaded me to continue further. “Ezekiel,” I said, “kinda sounds like Easy Kill. You look like you’d be an easy kill, to me.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” he replied quietly.

Whether it was an accurate assessment or not, he does look like an easy kill. Morbidly overweight, more chins than a Chinese phone book, and as greasy as a fast food restaurant’s waste bin, even porn stars who have fucked Ron Jeremy would look at Zeke and say, “No way, that’s too much.”

Apparently he wasn’t always that way. Rumor is back in his heyday—back before he founded THEM—he was quite a looker. But after retiring from the business of actually killing people and becoming something of a corporate sellout—as much as a serial killer can become a corporate sellout, that is —he let himself go.

His only saving grace—physical appearance-wise for me, at least—is his hair. It’s curly and black. I love curly hair on men. I don’t care if it’s brown, black, red, or aqua. It’s not enough to make me actually want to jump Zeke, or anything, but it is enough to make me not want to vomit when I think of him. Thank porcupines he doesn’t wear a mullet. I never would’ve survived in this job if he did, because I would have murdered him within a week. I’m sorry, but every time I see a man with a mullet I want to bash his skull against the pavement until it’s a disgusting, indistinguishable mass of blood, brains, and bones.

But I digress. There are only a total of thirteen PSK’s in the department, but we do not know each other. On the rare occasion when I actually do go into the THEM office, I pass other employees in the hall, but I have no way of knowing who are PSK’s, who are assassins, and who are simply administrative staff. This, of course, is to protect the identities and integrity of THEM’s employees. Naturally, Murderers for Hire tend to be a temperamental bunch, so if we interacted any more than that, we might end up turning each other into the cops out of spite. We each have code names, which we use to refer to one another without knowing too much about each other; mine is Sick.

At first, I admit that it kinda sucked when I had to give up on my personal preference of killing only men and my favorite modus operandi—the knife. In time, though, I learned to find pleasure in killing women, and coming up with more creative ways of killing people than just a knife. Human beings are such ridiculously easy creatures to kill. The number of ways that you can murder someone really is almost infinite.

It’s often, literally, a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it, and I’m damn good at my job, if I do say so myself.

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