Chapter 2


Zeke calls me at 5:00 in the fucking morning. He likes to do this; calling as early as possible with new assignments just to fuck with me, because he knows it pisses me off. And I can’t do anything about it, since he’s my boss.

Even though I know it’s him, since no one else has enough cajones to call me at 5:00 in the fucking morning, I answer the phone. “This had better be Nathan Fillion calling to tell me he’s on his way over to my apartment—wearing his Captain Hammer uniform, fake nipples and all—to take advantage of me in every position imaginable.”

“Hello, Clarisse,” Zeke responds.

That’s another irritating quirk of Zeke’s. He tries to make himself seem creepier than he already is by impersonating famous movie sociopaths. I suppose that kinda shtick might work on normal girls, but it takes a lot more than Anthony Hopkins to creep me out. Truth be told, if I was ‘one of those girls,’ Zeke wouldn’t need to impersonate Anthony Hopkins to make my skin crawl. Fortunately for our working relationship, I’m not ‘one of those girls’ and the only reaction he garners from me is a rolling of eyes.

“What’s the job, Easy?” I say, using my only rhetorical weapon against him—the nickname I gave him six years ago when he first recruited me.

“A standard zoo project,” he responds in his normal, slithery voice.

‘Zoo project’ is a code—it does not mean I will be killing giraffes and koala bears. Zoo projects are probably the most common assignments for us PSK’s. In a nutshell, the marks in a zoo project are high school students—bet you’re wishing it was giraffes and koala bears now, don’t ya? Unless, of course, you are one of those poor unfortunate souls who actually remembers high school, in which case you are probably cheering me on right now. I know for a fact that my remembering anything whatsoever of high school is the sole reason why I don’t lose a wink of sleep after working zoo projects. At least koala bears are fucking cute. Teenagers are just . . . ugh.

And it’s not like I’m killing children—Zeke would never agree to a job like that. As irritating as kids may be, it’s not really in their control. They don’t know any better. But teenagers are at that awkward point of life where they know the difference between being a decent person and being a douche, but they still act like douches anyway, just to prove to the rest of the world that they can be. Fuck rags. It’s no surprise I started killing when I was in high school . . .

Anyway, here’s how it works: A principal of a high school hears a rumor that a certain group of students is going to ‘pull a Columbine.’ The principal warns the mayor about the potential threat. The mayor contacts Zeke. Zeke researches the rumor and determines whether there’s any validity to the accusation or not. If he deems there is a possible threat, in comes a PSK to work their magic. It’s one of the easier types of jobs for us, since we don’t have to pick someone to be a Herring or invent an imaginary profile, since our target is the Herring. Plus, it’s almost always easiest to have our Dupe just be a teacher, which is easy enough to pull off; slip into the role of a substitute teacher for a few months, get to know the students so you can pick out which ones are going to get axed, figure out the best modus operandi for the Herring, and then disappear into the ether a few months after all is said and done. Piece of cake. As it’s the last week of August, it will be even easier to slip into the community, as the school year will just be starting. Getting out will be a little more challenging, but worst case scenario I can always kill off my Dupe.

“Where am I going this time?”

“Minnesota, sweetheart.”

Sweetheart. That’s another one of those things he does to tick me off. He’s not actually a sexist, he just knows it irritates me, so he says it as often as possible. Sometimes I hate that man.

“Minnesota? You’re sending me to ‘Little Canada’ again? I just went there last year. Please, tell me it’s not St. Olaf. You know I have issues with people who put their livestock into their wills . . . ”

“It’s not St. Olaf. It’s Duluth. Do you want the job or not, sweetheart?”

I contemplate this critical question for several moments. On the one hand, it means that I will be stuck in Minnesota in the fall and winter—the worst times of year to be stuck there. On the other hand, I really need a new Porsche. My last one was confiscated by Los Angeles County after my most recent speeding ticket. I was only going 90. In a school zone. And I passed a school bus with its stupid little stop sign sticking out and red lights flashing. And, technically speaking, I don’t have a driver’s license as I’m not supposed to drive due to a ‘freak-of-nature’ medical condition. And I crashed into the side of the aforementioned school bus due to said medical condition.

Don’t give me that look. It was the cops’ fault my condition acted up at that moment. You see, I have some sort of hyper-sensitivity to radar. No doctor has every really been able to satisfactorily explain it, but radar has a tendency to make me have mini-seizures. So, had the cops not clocked me with the radar gun, everything would’ve been fine. Stupid cops.

“Oh, all right,” I resignedly sigh, “I’ll do it.”

“I knew you would,” he replies, because he just absolutely has to rub in that he has me wrapped around his middle finger.

“When do I leave?”

“Tomorrow. It’ll be the usual six month assignment.”


“Your flight leaves from LAX at eight A.M. Say hi to your mother for me.”

“Fuck you,” I respond, and promptly hang up.

Of all the things Zeke does to piss me off, that last comment is always the worst, and it always makes me want to reach through the miles of telephone cable between us, wrap my fist around his blubbery, greasy throat, and strangle him to death. This time is no exception.

Yes, my mother is something of a sensitive topic, and no, I’m not going to tell you why. So don’t even bother asking. I can hear you thinking the question. Don’t even think it.

There is nothing between Zeke and my mother, there never was, and there never will be. Such a concept is not even on the table. It’s not even in the dining room or the fucking house at all. It’s somewhere out in the backwoods, behind the house where the family dog goes to crap and piss against his favorite tree.

Zeke always says this after giving me an assignment simply because he knows that, without fail, I will pay a visit to my mother before leaving for a job. I don’t really visit her that much, except before a project, and Zeke enjoys reminding me why that is, in his subtle, subversive way. All he has to say is: “Say hi to your mother for me,” and his hidden accusation is perfectly clear. It’s his way of reminding me that I am, essentially, his bitch and that he could utterly and completely destroy me if I ever betrayed him. For the next six months, every time I think about deviating from my job and picking off some jackass just for kicks, I will hear Zeke’s voice saying: “Say hi to your mother for me,” and it will be enough to keep me in line. And that is why Zeke says it.

I try to go back to sleep after hanging up on my boss, but of course I can’t. Zeke succeeded in riling me up. So, I pull myself out of bed—wearing my standard bedtime uniform of cotton PJ bottoms and a t-shirt—and cross to my second closet, the one that would have been occupied with my spouse’s belongings had I any interest in such a ridiculous notion.

I walk into the enormous walk-in closet and find myself confronted by my somewhat insanely large collection of stuffed creatures. Mutant-sized Easter Bunnies. Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja and otherwise). Bears of various sizes, including Teddy Ruxpin and his aggravating asinine associates. Unicorns and other fairytale critters. Basically, if you have seen it in the bin of random stuffed animals at CVS, I have it.

Why would I—a heartless, professional mass-murderer—have a collection of cute, cuddly animals? Doesn’t that seem rather out of character?

No, it’s not to balance out the evil with the good that must be buried somewhere deep down inside of me. That’s a load of horseshit. The only thing buried deep down inside of me is the Del Taco burrito I had for dinner last night. My collection of cute cuddlies serves a much more therapeutic purpose than appealing to the ‘little princess’ hidden within.

I ponder for a moment, trying to decide which critter to select, then my eyes fall on The Chosen One and I smile. I cross to the back of the closet, select a certain purple-and-green dinosaur, and remove him from the pile. In my imagination, I can hear the whimpering dinosaur pleading with me to let him go, and hear his friends crying as I take him out of the closet and back into my room, closing the closet door behind us.

I place the victim on my bed, and then open my bedside table drawer, inside of which are hundreds upon hundreds of cutout photographs of Zeke’s face. Nothing romantic about this, believe me. I pick one of the photographs from the top of the pile, and tape it onto my victim’s snout.

I then reach under the mattress and pull out my knife—the very same knife I used to kill those thirteen people before joining THEM—and begin stabbing, and stabbing, and slashing, and destroying the fucking smug extinct lizard, over, and over, and over again. It’s one of those talking toys, so as I am stabbing him he keeps telling me how much he loves me, which just makes me laugh even more.

Despite the fact that it is Zeke’s face taped to the dinosaur’s snout, it’s not Zeke’s face that I see as I tear the toy to shreds. I try really hard to see his face. Really hard. But, as always whenever I exorcise my demons like this, another face haunts me.

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