Mikael was walking through the bus station, jostling between the other potential passengers as he tried to make his way to the platform. He kept his gloved fingers shoved deep into the pockets, one hand wrapped securely around his wallet, the other around the package. He kept looking around him, the wild movement of his eyes the only indication that he was at all distressed. A rough-looking customer in a black overcoat knocked shoulders with him and he almost fell over.
“Asshole.” He hissed under his breath, not loud enough for the stranger to hear. It wasn’t uncommon these days for rough characters to be packing and he had nothing on him that would go up against a gun. He was trying not to attract attention.
Around him, the ebb and flow of conversation drifted, like the tide on a windless day, lapping at the air around his ears. He couldn’t fix on any one conversation, but neither was he capable of shutting all of them out.
“I heard she’s going to get herself fixed…”
“Broke down right in front of…”
“I told him, he brings that…”
“Been sick for months now…”
“No, I got enough money. No. No. I’m all right, Daddy.”
Mikael raised his head like a bloodhound scenting the air, his brows drawing together. There she was, her dark hair down her back in a single braid, her cellphone pressed to her ear and her bags clutched in one hand. He stared at her, for a minute, memorizing her features. Later, he thought vaguely, he would do a sketch of her for his wall. He liked to keep track of beautiful women, and she was beautiful, even wearing old jeans and a baggy t-shirt.
With proper makeup, she would stun.
He had ex-girlfriends who had always found it suspicious when he told them things like that, gave them advice on hair or makeup. He didn’t understand why those peculiar qualities were trademarked for women. An artist looked at the whole and saw the potential for beauty. He saw beauty in everything, but most especially the female form.
He made his approach. “Katherine Locke?” His quiet tenor voice always surprised them. She raised her head and looked at him with a quick smile, grateful and confident. This was a woman in charge of herself. He admired that.
“Yes. You must be the driver, am I right? My, Daddy did say you were young. How old are you, fifteen, sixteen? Are you even old enough to have your license?” She followed him through the crowded station with ease. He didn’t look back at her, sure she would follow him out. Besides, if he looked, she might see the lust glazing his eyes and that would be extremely inappropriate.
He had a job to do.
“I’m nineteen. I’m a Columbia student and this is how I pay for it. Not all of us can be Nathaniel Locke’s daughter, you know.” He said, as they emerged into the crowded New York street. It was overcast and humid. He hated this time of year.
“Believe me, it’s not all good.” She had a charisma about her Mikael liked, able to connect with people. “I mean, my stepmom’s a real bitch. You must have heard all about her, the clichéd diva trophy wife.” She played with the end of her braid as he loaded everything into the sleek black limo waiting for them on the corner. “It’s not like you could miss it. It’s in every tabloid—I think E! has done at least three specials on how screwed up our family is. I’m just glad I finally turned old enough to go to college. I mean, Daddy loves me, but I needed out of that house. Hey, maybe you could show me around Columbia sometime?”
He grunted an assent. Her braid started to come loose as her fingers jerked roughly at the ponytail holder. Mikael thought that it was a pity so pretty a girl couldn’t have a measure of grace, but what did you expect from the modern world? Women these days had abandoned grace and charm for anorexia and blatant sexuality that disgusted him.
“Well, we’re ready to go.” He said cheerfully, holding open the door. She slid into the seat comfortably, nestling against the leather, her eyes closing with sensual pleasure. He paused a moment to take in how beautiful she was. He would draw her like this, when he got back to his flat. As he closed the door, he saw her reach down into the mini-fridge and get a coke.
He opened the car door and started the car.
“You really should stock this fridge with more. There’s like, one coke, and not a single beer. I could really go for a beer. Any way I could convince you to find me a bar? I bet you know all the best places.”
“Sorry, ma’am, but orders are orders.” He said innocently. She snorted and guzzled the liquid.
“I don’t think I ever caught your name.” She said with sudden coquettishness.
He didn’t answer her. He never tells them his name. After a moment, she sighed and stared forlornly out the window, watching the cityscape go by.
She began talking again soon, though. Maybe it was the urban disease, the inability to cope with silence, or maybe it was just the desperate desire to share her problems with someone. She seemed like the type. “It wasn’t so bad until this year, when Daddy told her he wasn’t sending me away to boarding school in England just to please her. That’s when she started looking at me like…like…” Her voice trailed off and she slumped in the seat.
Mikael pulled the car over. “Miss Locke?” He asked, looking back at his passenger. She was still, her eyes closed as she snored softly. Chloroform was virtually untraceable, unless one knew what to look for, but it would keep her out for long enough.
He pulled the package out of his pocket, and set it next to her. A heroin ‘kit’, as they call it, filled with a small needle and a cord used to tie off the arm prior to injection. He looked at them for a minute and then set about injecting her with the entire shot.
Her body had been clean for too long—which meant what she told the tabloids was true, she really wasn’t using anymore. He felt a momentary swell of pride in her, watching her convulse on the back seat. Finally, she went limp and still and he touched two fingers lightly to the side of her neck.
There was no pulse.
He took her cell phone and flipped it open carefully, scrolling through the list of numbers until he found the correct one. He dialed it and waited until a woman’s voice answered. An impetuous, annoyed voice.
“Mrs. Locke? It’s done.” He hung up before she could answer. She would wire the money to the account. She wasn’t the kind of woman who would betray him. After all, she threw money around like it was nothing. Nothing at all.
To people like her, it was nothing. Just a means to an end, a way to get the world to work in their favor. To people like him, it was everything. It was a chance for freedom and a life outside of a trailer park and a dead end job.
He put the phone back, carefully dusting it clean of his prints. He looked down at her one last time, memorizing her face. Then, overwhelmed by a sudden wave of emotion, he leaned down and carefully redid the disheveled braid.
Then he began to scream for help.