Chapter 8


As promised, Bethany picks me up at six thirty. Being the third day in a row that I’ve had to get up at an unholy hour, coupled with a slight hangover and regret over how far I let Bethany in last night, I am back to my normal, surly self. When it comes time to perform for the job, I will play the part, but when it’s just the two of us, there’s no need to act.

Apparently Bethany senses my reticence, for she is noticeably less chatty than usual—well, for her at least. She still talks most of the way to the school, but she actually takes a few pauses for an occasional breath in between streams of verbal diarrhea.

Our first day is pretty much just teacher orientation, since classes won’t actually start until next week. The orientation meeting takes place in the school cafeteria. The principal, Mr. Charles Davison, stands up and makes a speech, introducing Bethany and me as the temporary English teacher and new student teacher. There’s also another newcomer to the faculty, a Michael Harris, English teacher.

Mr. Davison is a wiry thin man, of moderate height. He appears to be in his late forties to early fifties, complete with graying and receding hairline. Wire-framed glasses rest comfortably on his nose.

He starts sweating slightly, and I notice a slight nervous tremble to his hands, as he tells the faculty about Bethany and me. I’ve seen this before, and it is not unheard of to cause problems with the mission. Even though it is in the PSK’s job description to be flawless actors and liars, our clients do not always fit into that mold. Clearly Mr. Davison, despite coming to THEM, is suffering some misgivings about his decision, and is not good at hiding his anxiety. I shall have to address that with him in private, lest he jeopardize everything.

Despite his unassuming disposition, there is something about this man that immediately sets off my internal douche bag alarm. When I’m able to put my various prejudices aside, I’m actually an extremely good judge of character, and can get the measure of someone quickly. I just have to focus and turn off my usual internal monologue of automatically hating every single person I meet. It’s the difference between listening to my head—which dislikes everyone—and listening to my gut, which tends to be a more accurate personality barometer. Mr. Davison triggers my gut barometer.

Maybe it’s because we are talking about a man who has contracted me to mercilessly slaughter several of the very students whose lives he has been placed in charge of protecting. That could be it. I think there’s more to it, though.

Once Mr. Davison’s finished introducing us, I stand up and do my best impersonation of a sweet, innocent, and infuriatingly irritating belle, and say, “Thank you, Principal Davison. I look forward to working here at Vince Vaughn High, and getting to know the students and faculty while Ms. Dixon is in recovery.”

My little speech receives a patter of applause, after which Bethany stands up and says, simply, “Ditto,” which garners a round of chuckles from the faculty. Little Miss Cheerleader just can’t help but winning everyone over. She almost—almost—got me, too, but fortunately I sobered up enough since last night not to fall for her act any further.

Our introduction complete, Mr. Davison continues on with the mundane details of starting a new school year. New campus policies. Revised dress codes. Holiday schedules. Blah, blah, blah, blah. I, unfortunately, have to absorb all of this boring ass crap, because Jennifer Donner is, of course, a model teacher who takes her job seriously and would want to be current on the school’s policies and rules so she can uphold them to the letter and make a good impression that will help establish her career.

The fact that I, Sarah Killian, don’t give a flying monkey’s ass about any of this nonsense is irrelevant. It just makes it harder for me to focus and pay attention, but I grit my teeth and suck it up.

As I take down copious notes, I can’t help but notice that Bethany is not being quite as diligent. In fact, rather the opposite, as she seems to be spending most of the meeting not-so-surreptitiously flirting with a man whose face I recognize from the case file. It takes me a moment to recall his name, Tim Collins. Soccer team coach and P.E. teacher. He got into the case file because he earned a place on Derek Johnson’s hypothetical hit list for repeatedly putting Derek in detention for various reasons including, but not limited to, truancy, refusing to comply with dress code, refusing to participate in P.E., insubordination and cussing out the teacher in class.

My eyes roll in disgust, even though there is technically nothing wrong with what Bethany’s doing. Fraternizing while on assignment is certainly not discouraged by THEM, in fact it’s somewhat encouraged as establishing roots and developing a social life within the community where you’re working can alleviate a lot of suspicion that might otherwise arise.

In general, I refrain from such entanglements—though certainly not because I have any problems with short-term relationships. Hell, if you haven’t figured out by now that I am the type of woman who would prefer short-term relationships, you might as well stop reading.

No, I avoid romantic entanglements because I have a tendency, after sleeping with someone, to want to kill them, and that kinda thing can lead to obvious complications. The F.B.I. profilers assigned to my case had dubbed me the Preying Mantis.

If Bethany wants to pursue some extracurricular activities while we are on assignment, she’s more than welcome. I have my little friend, who I named Monty Python, to take care of my needs, and I don’t feel any compulsion to kill him after I’m done, so it’s the perfect relationship.

Once the meeting is adjourned, and the faculty is dismissed to attend to paperwork and other preparations, Mr. Davison asks to speak to Bethany and me in private.

“I just wanted to—” he starts to say, but I cut him off.

“Excuse me, sir, but discussing anything at anytime, even if you think we are alone, would not be prudent,” I say. “You know why we are here. We know why we are here. Just let us do our job and we will be out of your hair before you know it. Because, to be frank Mr. Principal, you are a terrible liar. Hopefully none of the faculty noticed anything out of the ordinary with you today, but the more involved you become in everything, the more likely someone will begin to suspect something is going on. So, it will be best for everyone if you just sit back in your office, do whatever it is that you do, and try to pretend like Bethany and I are not even here. Once the mission starts going down, you’ll be able to get away with a little more leeway, as you can pass your skittishness off as anxiety about what’s happening, but even then it will be best if you avoid any public interaction with us as much as possible. Am I clear?”

“Perfectly,” Mr. Davison replies with a nervous gulp.

I can’t help but notice that throughout my entire speech his eyes were focused at a point somewhat lower than my eye level. Fucking F.U.C.K.’s.

“Good. Just do your job, and we’ll do ours. If we stay out of each other’s way, everything will go smoothly.”

“Yes, of course. You know best,” he mumbles, still glaring at my chest like a zebra caught in the headlights of a safari cruiser.

“Very nicely done,” Bethany whispers to me as we make our way out of the cafeteria and toward our classroom.

“Yeah, well it needed to be done,” I whisper back. “We can’t risk him screwing everything up. A client who is a bad liar can be the most disastrous element to any mission.”

“Well, yes, there’s that, too,” Bethany replies, “but actually I was referring to not slapping that pig across the face for drooling over you. I was close to telling him off myself.”

“Yeah, well, get a few more makeovers from the guys, and you’ll get used to it,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“Can we add Davison to the hit list?” Bethany asks, a hopeful note to her voice, as we enter our classroom and close the door behind us.

“Highly unlikely,” I respond. “Generally speaking, killing off your client is not a good idea. Granted, if we are to be technical about it, the city of Duluth is our client, and Davison is just the guy who informed them of the threat, but it would still be too close to biting the hand that feeds you. We could always submit a request to Zeke, but as far as I know such a request has never been approved, for obvious reasons.”

“That’s a shame,” Bethany says with a sigh, and I have to remind myself that I had promised not to like her anymore.

When we get to our new classroom, we find one of the other teachers waiting for us—the other newcomer to the faculty. Being a newcomer, he obviously wasn’t included in the case file as he has yet to cross paths with Derek Johnson.

“Hi, I’m Michael Harris,” he says, holding out his hand for me to shake. “Just thought I’d introduce myself personally, as we’re all new here. I just moved into town from upstate New York.”

He’s about average height, dark hair, dark eyes, almost hidden behind his glasses. Sweater vest pulled over a striped button down shirt. Khakis. I suppose he’d be cute if that was my kinda guy, but he’s not. He stands out because out of all of the other men I’ve come in contact with since my makeover from the F.U.C.K.’s, he’s the only one so far who is able to consistently look me in the eyes.

“Jennifer,” I say taking his proffered hand. Bethany follows suit and introduces herself as well.

“Nice to meet you, Jennifer and Bethany,” Michael says. “Hopefully we can all help each other get acclimated to our new environment, so if either of you ever need anything, just let me know. I’m just down the hall from you, in room 107.”

“Thank you, Michael,” I say in my sweet Jennifer Donner voice, “we’ll be sure to take you up on that offer, that’s very sweet of you.”

“Great! Well, have a good first day, you two.” He laughs, a little awkwardly, and then heads down toward room 107.

He was obviously nervous talking to Bethany and me—again, I’m sure some women would find his sweet disposition somewhat adorable, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. So I really hope he’s not hoping for more, because even though I’m something of a bitch, I’m not completely heartless and I don’t enjoy breaking the hearts of nice guys. I may be a cruel, merciless murderer, but I’d rather be that than one of those women who enjoys toying with and breaking the hearts of guys like Michael. That kinda thing requires true wickedness and evil.

“Well, well, well,” Bethany says coyly, making me want to gag. “He was cute.”

“I suppose if you’re into that whole puppy dog type of guy,” I say.

“Ah, I see. You’re more of the bad boy type of girl, huh?”

“Can you really picture a nice guy being able to handle me?” I snort.

“Well, Mr. Connor back there certainly seems to be interested in handling you,” Bethany replies with a giggle.

Great. Just what I was afraid of.

“No, he’s interested in handling Jennifer Donner,” I whisper, to make sure I’m not heard outside of the classroom. “Not me.”

“So what? I bet even Jennifer Donner could use some handling. It’s not against the rules.”

“It’s against my rules,” I say shortly. For once, Bethany seems to get the message and lets the matter drop.

We spend the rest of the day—and the rest of the week, for that matter—playing the teacher game. Cleaning up and arranging the classroom, reading up on our instructions and lesson plans from Ms. Dixon, and getting ready for the arrival of our students.

Every evening after we’re done at the school, we come back to my apartment for dinner and spend an hour or two re-reading through our briefs, so everything will be more or less committed to memory once the school year starts. That way we will be able to take mental notes about our subjects without having to constantly refer back to the case files. We also share mental notes on the various teachers we have met who were in the case file.

On Friday evening as Bethany is leaving after our last revamp session, she turns to me and says, “So . . . would you care to join me for church on Sunday?”

“Wait, what?” I ask, taken aback.

This really shouldn’t have surprised me. I mean, Bethany is a big ol’ bundle of conflicting personality traits, so I should have known the people pleasing side of her personality would be religious. But . . . still. I mean, we are talking about a fucking serial killer here. Her job description alone completely violates the one basic rule that is universal across just about every religion on the planet—you know, that whole thou shalt not kill thing.

“Church. Sunday. Do you want to join me?” Bethany repeats.

“I’m sorry . . . I just . . . how does that work for you? Being a . . . well, you know . . . and all?”

“Well, I admit it ain’t easy,” she says. “Hell, I have more conflicting emotions than a gay Catholic, if truth be told. I suppose a lot of it has to do with appeasing whatever guilt I feel about the life path I’ve taken. But, I’ve talked about it with The Big Guy Upstairs, and we’ve come to a mutual understanding. He’s not thrilled about my career path, but He’s happier now that I’m channeling my homicidal tendencies through THEM, as opposed to murdering random cheating bastards and their pop tarts. He’s kinda like a father who no matter what will be there to pick you up at a random bus stop in El Paso at two in the morning, and the only person you have to keep you company is a skuzzy homeless guy trying to convince you that he’s Steven Spielberg and wants you to star in his next blockbuster. You know, one of those dads who will always love his little girl, no matter what.”

She should have met my father.

“Well, that’s great for you, I guess,” I say out loud, “but it’s not for me. I have a hard enough time keeping myself under control around religious fanatics without throwing myself into the lion’s den. Thanks for the offer, though.”

Damn it. There I go again. Liking and being nice to this little twerp.

“Fair enough,” she replies, being infuriatingly understanding and agreeable as always. I already know this will be the last I ever hear of it. Porcupines, I hate her.

“If you ever change your mind,” she says, “you know where to find me. Just keep in mind, religion is for those who are scared of Hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there.”

And what about those who have been to a place worse than Hell? I silently wonder.

“I expect a little bit of spirituality can go a long way in our line of work,” she says. “I know it has for me. Anyway, I won’t beat you over the head with it anymore. Goodnight, girlfriend.”

“Goodnight, Bethany. See you Monday,” I say.

“Bright-tailed and bushy-eyed!” Bethany chirps, and then leaves.

For the first time in almost a week, I’m finally on my own and free for two whole days. I should feel better about it. Hell, I should be jumping up and down with elation, but I’m not.

Stupid Bethany.

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