September 3, 2011: Assassin

She sat there like a photograph of someone much further away. The coffee shop buzzed around her, lit far too brightly for her tastes, the windows shedding light on all the dark corners that people wanted to hide in. Coffee stains exposed on cheap tile, drinks spilled on threadbare couches. She sat there, drinking a bad American version of Turkish coffee, her nose wrinkling with every bitter sip. She sat, waiting, wondering why her contact had picked this exposed place when the alley across the street would have shielded them from any wondering eyes.

At her waist, the hilt of her knife pressed into the flesh of her skin. It was small, functional, and far deadlier than any gun she could point at an intended target. Her skill with the blade left no chance to struggle for her victims and she could slip away before any witness noticed her shadow against the building.

Who was it today? Whose life was to be cut short? What had he done to incur wrath enough to die?

A long sip of her coffee, again her nose wrinkled, and she stared through the arch of the coffee shop door, knowing that it would take exactly ten seconds to cross the thirty feet to the outdoor seating area. She would take fifteen steps, her long legs striding across the tile. She would not stumble in the entryway despite the crack in the brick. In ten seconds, she would be on the street, free from her assignment. But she sat there, waiting, a perfect photograph of a woman in a coffee shop, reading a book, pretending to be focused on the words and not the people around her.

When was the last time she had finished a book? When was the last time she had sat in a coffee shop for pleasure and not to meet a shadowy contact?

When was the last time she had tripped over a broken stair?

The tiny cup now empty, she leaned back in the broken couch, the springs sagging under her weight. Her contact was late and she was growing nervous. Looking around at the patrons, they were all lost in their iPods and their laptops. Glowing screens of attention deficit disorder inducing information; none of them would remember her black hair, olive skin, black cargo pants, or white t-shirt. None of them would remember the woman who strode through the door in three inch heels and ordered a Turkish coffee that was served to her in a bright blue cup.

The couch behind her shifted and creaked. Cracked leather breaking. The person smelled of spoiled garlic and stale cigarettes. He coughed once. The signal. Sitting forward, she picked up her cup, ready to turn and face him.

She never felt the blade slice through her ribs. No one noticed the woman slide back onto the couch, her hair falling from its loosely tied bun. No one noticed the man sliding through the back door or the blood that dripped onto the cheap tiles. She was a photograph in their peripheral vision. Nothing more.

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