By Edele Winnie
There were always four. That’s why this didn’t make sense. Wherever you went- corporation, village, unit, class, whatever- there were always four. But this time Melanie found five.
Melanie was a pro- not only highly trained and a weapons expert but she also had 12 years hard experience to back it up. She knew the ins, the ups and was careful enough to never even have been wounded. She was fast, thorough and deadly.
She had discovered them on her first day. It was at the Belcon Corporation head office, employing 350 with a fine dining cafeteria and company swimming pool. She’d had new employee orientation in the morning and then gone to the cafeteria for lunch. She was the new girl- short bobbed blonde, natural makeup, blue skirt and jacket- and all the company wolves took note. Clothes can’t hide real power- and Melanie was extremely fit and capable. Every wandering male eye was drawn as if by a magnet. But she ignored it. She had to. Not only was it an inconvenience, but the four would be unaffected. It might even make her stand out too much, and her cover would be blown.
Tray in hand, plate heaped with the salad of the day, Melanie strode into the cafeteria seating area prepared for the stares. She swayed her hips just a little bit more for those hungry eyes. She had to play the part if she was going to survive. She’d done it too many time before for it not to work. The men in suites looked up, the females scowled, and she was invited to sit beside a corporate vice president alpha wolf who was practically drooling. She flirted as she picked at her salad but her eyes were scanning for the four. They might be in hiding or they might be elsewhere- usually they were so used to being ignored that they were easy to spot. And there they were.
There were typical cliques- female secretaries sitting together, young male executives sprinkled among the female executives they were chasing, the table of senior executives and vice presidents with their work trophies- where Melanie was sitting- and one strange table of four. Except this time there wasn’t four. There were five.
Melanie was smiling at something her alpha executive was saying while trying to comprehend the uncomprehendable. Five. There were five. What did that mean? One was a senior male executive- that was usual- one was a female junior executive, one was a female secretary and one was a female technician of some sort- she wore a white lab coat. But there was a male secretary there too, which didn’t make sense. The four were always the most common, to blend in: male senior exec, female junior exec, female secretary, female technician. And an unexplainable fifth.
It was blatantly obvious that they were the four, there could be no mistake there. But there were five. Five did not make sense.
In the afternoon Melanie absorbed company gossip. Predictably the four were seldom mentioned. They blended in. Except there were five.
That night Melanie had a casual dinner with a male junior executive. Now, in the beginning, she had complete freedom before the males decided who she belonged to. Dennis was in marketing. Market executives generally talked too much and she had high hopes for Dennis. He was divorced, had one kid, thought Melanie was beautiful blah blah blah. A few more drinks and her bare foot rubbing his leg under the table yielded more. He knew nothing of the four. But the fifth, the male secretary, was named Gene Pakoswaloski and had only been at the head office for eight months. Gene was withdrawn and kept to himself, except for the four. He hung out with the four. Dennis had nothing else of interest so she finished getting him drunk and put him in a cab home.
Michael was waiting for her at her current apartment. She’d had more apartments than she could remember. Identities and addresses were changed constantly for safety. She’d had a friend named Ellen who had been assassinated in bed, asleep. You could not be too careful.
Michael was her mission supervisor. He sat on her couch, waiting. He never smiled, never laughed and was always on time. He didn’t scold her for being late. He knew what she’d been doing. It was said that he knew everything. But he did not know about the five. He frowned even more. Silence and frowning- not a good sign.
“He could be a trainee. They could have a new program. It might be an experiment. He could be a secret weapon.” Michael said.
She didn’t speak. She let Michael voice his paranoia. It was his job to think. Her job was to take action.
Michael chewed on the side of his mouth, frustrated, in thought. One might make any number of guesses, but they would remain just that- guesses. Guesses were dangerous.
“Do you have a plan?” He asked, already knowing the answer.
“Moving quickly is good.” He said. “But I want number five alive. I want to question him personally.”
She tilted her head.
“I know it’s a risk. But there’s much to be gained. It’s worth it.”
She said nothing.
The next morning she dressed for killing. She was always armed, but a planned killing warranted extra equipment. Extra knives, explosive charges, rope- for her convenience. She liked rope.
She chose a dark blue pant suit and oversized jacket with a white blouse. The jacket had room for all kinds of things and the long pants allowed her to strap extra blades to her legs.
She had three cups of black coffee for breakfast, hoping the extra caffeine would give her an edge.
It was always strange walking into work on the day of a scheduled killing. She was prepared for an Armageddon while those around here were bored and ensnared in their usual routines. Sipping coffee, trying to stay awake, feeling lost- she flowed around them like water through rocks.
Dennis, her drunk date from the night before, was too embarrassed to do anything but wave to her. She smiled and waved back. Poor Dennis.
She spent the morning exploring the building layout, and locating the work areas of the five. It sounded so weird to think it- five.
She ordered the same salad for lunch. She wasn’t going to eat it. She walked into the cafeteria and then left immediately. The five were not at their table. They must suspect. Exploration time was over.
They would be together somewhere, she knew that. But where? Not their work areas- too predictable. She decided to try the roof. It was restricted access and unsupervised.
The door to the roof was secured with a lock. She poured acid from an inner pocket and melted the metal. She pushed the door open with her foot.
They had not even made an attempt to hide. They were standing near the roof’s edge, talking. But there was only four. Gene Pakoswaloski was not with them.
She felt a shiver on the back of her neck. Was it a trap?
Think and die. They taught that every year in refresher training. There is no time for thought. Think, and they will get you first.
She walked towards them normally, smiling.
“Hi!” she said, though they already knew she was coming.
The female secretary dropped to one knee, pulled a hand gun from her pant leg and fell backwards with one of Melanie’s throwing knives in her forehead.
Damn, Melanie thought. She’d been trying for the eye. The lowest would be the highest, she knew, so she focused on the female technician. The male executive swung some sort of glittering blade that cut Melanie’s cheek open. She thrust one of the explosive stabbers into his chest and ignored him as his torso blew apart. The female secretary was already up, moving jerkily because of the knife in her forehead, but she was raising the handgun to fire. Should have been the eye, Melanie scolded herself. She threw one of the explosive knives as the secretary fired. The bullet tore through the muscles in Melanie’s upper left arm and the knife blew right in front of the shooter’s face. Goodbye eyes.
The female junior executive grabbed Melanie from behind and tried to restrain her. Melaine flipped the woman over her shoulder and onto the roof in front of her. She jammed her hard pointed fingers into the flesh between the ribs and grabbed the beating heart. She twisted and pulled the organ out with a gush of blood. The heartless executive cursed as her body began to die. But where was the female technician? She would be their leader. And where was number five?
Melanie spotted the technician at the roof’s edge. She was ripping away her white coat and skin, trying to extend a pair of dark red wings. Melanie ran for her while pulling out her rope. It was super strong, ultra light line and Melanie tied it as she ran.
The demon’s wings were fully out now and it jumped off the roof, trying to fly and escape. Melanie lassoed it easily in the air- they were such poor flyers when inhabiting human bodies. She looped it around the neck and pulled. The creature screamed and smacked into the building. It struggled and squirmed and Melanie yanked it back on to the roof. It tried to say something but Melanie didn’t listen as she drew her left back blade and beheaded the creature. Four down. But where was number five?
She paused to catch her breath. Her arm burned where she’s been shot and she was losing blood. She radioed in.
Michael was in the white van. He sat beside her as the medic bandaged her arm and injected her with stimulants.
“I’ve had number five followed.” Michael explained as the van drove. “He’s at home. He called in sick today.”
Melanie grunted. Demons don’t get sick. “What do you want me to do?”
“Enter, secure him if he’s there and leave him for me.”
Melanie nodded. Unwise perhaps, but one didn’t argue with an archangel.
The van stopped right in front of the house. No point in hiding now. She slid open the door and jumped out, made straight for the front door. Her arm felt better and she was pumped. She had a feeling she was going to need it.
Ding dong. Ding dong. She leaned on the doorbell. Ding dong. Ding dong. She saw someone coming, slowly, to answer. She had that bad feeling again that something wasn’t quite right. What if he was just some stupid normal guy?
The door opened slowly. Gene Pakoswaloski, looking ill, in a bathrobe, stood staring at her.
She smiled. Blasted him with feminine charm. “Hi. Can I come in? I’m from Belcon.”
Gene blinked several times, like he thought he was dreaming. He didn’t manage an answer, but moved aside and opened the door wider.
The living room was dusty, untidy and completely normal. There was a big screen TV and empty beer cans on the floor. She chose to stand. He had closed the door but was still standing beside it. Ready to bolt, she thought.
She stopped smiling. He looked scared. He noticed the bloody bullet hole in her shirt. No time for thinking, she thought. She pulled her left long back blade knife with her right hand. His eyes bulged for a moment until he started screaming.
She took off the very end of his nose just to shut him up. It was a purely cosmetic injury. Painful, but people really don’t need that part of their nose.
“I require you to sit in a chair.”
He jumped, trembling, into a big comfy chair. She fetched a chair from the kitchen and pointed at it. He leapt into it. Blood was drooling down his face and dripping from his shortened nose.
She withdrew her handy ropes and fastened him to the chair. Then she opened the front door wide. Michael got out of the van and came in. She remained standing. It wasn’t necessary, but the house creeped her out. Cooties.
Michael stood in front of Gene Pakoswaloski who was firmly tied in one of his own kitchen chairs.
“Who is your master?” Michael boomed.
Gene cowered. He shook. “I…. I don’t know.” He answered. “I- I don’t know what‘s going on.”
“We should just kill him.” Melanie said.
“I can hurt you. Make you suffer.” Michael said. “Unless you tell me what I want.”
“-I’ll tell you.” Gene squeaked.
“Who’s your master?” Michael growled again. “What is your plan? Why were there five?”
Gene began to sob. He said whatever came into his head. “My master is Pacman. My plan….” his voice was just a squeak, “…was to get pizza. There were five…. because…. one got left behind.”
Michael turned away in disgust. “A lonely hanger-on. He was with them because no one else would take him.”
“What do we do now?” Melanie asked. “He’s just human. Kill him?”
The change happened so fast neither one of them saw it happen. One moment Gene was sitting there and the next his flesh and the ropes had burned off and he was swinging a sparkling blade at Michael. Melanie dove- too late to stop it but at least her body took most of the cutting blow. The sparkling blade cut through her, smoothly slicing bone, muscle and organ. Her left arm, shoulder and abdomen fell away in a gush of sloshing gore. Michael had taken the end of the blade through his thigh, and was bleeding rivulets of glowing light. With a roar he jumped at the demon, huge hands clamping around its thick neck. The creature dropped the long blade, useless now, and began tearing at Michael with its claws. The angel head butted the demon over and over while squeezing its neck. It didn’t matter that demons didn’t need air- there was no time to think about such things. Splashes of glowing light and shadowy darkness splattered all over the room.
The explosion startled both of them. Melanie had stabbed an exploding blade into the demon’s leg in her fatal leap. The blast threw the two apart and obliterated the scaly red leg.
Michael jumped up and pulled a golden chain from his belt as the demon writhed. The angel overpowered the stunned creature and bound it in the chain, which began to glow.
“Be gone demon.” Michael commanded. “Back to where you came, never to return.”
The demon was gone. Michael collapsed onto the floor, exhausted and distraught. It had been another assassination attempt. Brazen, by a powerful demon. He cursed himself for being so careless. His glittering eyes strayed to the bloody pieces of his human apprentice. She had been one of the best. He had loved her like a daughter. He would see her again, in heaven, and that was a small comfort. What he really needed was more help down here.