Madame Flattery was not a woman to be made a fool of, but she was now quite sure she had been made a fool of. She was also not a woman to be kept waiting, and she had waited days for even a word, let alone for tonight’s visit. She was currently a fool being kept waiting, and she was less than amused. She paced her office angrily, making no attempt at poise. The richly colored brocades decorating her walls rippled as she stormed about, as if the entire room were flowing with her anger.
She had been in a state for days, which was bad for business. It was hard to be alluring and coy when there would be more satisfaction in breaking some necks. She really didn’t have that many customers who were really into pain and intimidation, no matter what they might claim in public. And she only knew of one who would enjoy some broken bones. She was not about to give him the pleasure.
After an interminable time, the door creaked. She liked doors that creaked. They kept people from sneaking in and out.
Before the person who entered the room even had time to close the door, she was snapping at them in a voice devoid of grace and charm.
“You told me that girl would come to no harm! She was the one used for that little cretin’s life locket wasn’t she?”
“What of it? Her contract was paid in full.”
“Not to have her tortured and killed. I know full well what goes into making those things. I do not approve.”
“Oh come now, what is one less human sullying this earth?” Madame Flattery looked sincerely shocked and offended. A dark snarl crossed her lips. It was not a response she wanted to entertain.
Her visitor seated themselves calmly at her desk, as if they owned it. Madame Flattery, through a supreme act of will, did not explode in rage.
“So how did your visit go?”
“Exactly like I told you it would. People offended all around, myself most aggressedly embarrassed, denied, and almost bitten by a rabid dog. If this gets out I will be a laughing stock of the community. I don’t even know why you wanted this insane charade.”
“Like I said. I was interested in the girl.”
“So I had the privilege of being your clown.” Madame Flattery, certain she didn’t hold enough cards, folded herself into her most comfortable and elegant chair. If there was no sense in fighting, then at least she could be comfortable.
“Nonsense. You were just yourself.”
Certain that those words were meant as condescension and insult, Madame Flattery just glared at her invited but unwelcome guest.
She had been harboring a distinct sense that she had been charmed by means most illicit to get her to do what she had done. That meant she had been sloppy and it was, at least in part, her fault. She was certainly never let her own calculated arrogance get in the way of the underlying, coldly rational calculations, especially if those calculations involved absurdly large sums of money. Right now her calculations were telling her this was not a time to pick a fight.
After she felt an appropriate amount of time had passed, she said, “ I think it might be best if we settle up as agreed and you leave. I don’t even know how you talked me into it. The amount you offered certainly got the better of my admitted greed, but nonetheless …”
After a period with no answer, she continued, more emphatically, “I went in there most mortarfied. I’m a terrible actress, and I am most certain they knew something was up. That—that bitch of an apothecary pegged me in an instant.” Though, Madame Flattery thought, her being there meant this was a bigger and more dangerous game than she had thought. She had known the woman was in town, having arrived in Madame Flattery’s sphere of influence a decade or so ago, but Madame Flattery had made a studied and, to date, successful attempt to ignore her. Seeing her sitting there as she waltzed in that night frightened her beyond measure, causing her to interrupt her stately entrance by stumbling over the hem of her dress.
“My visit has certainly imprecated me in the events of the night before, even though that botched attempt was, I presume, yours. I am going to have enough of a problem dealing with what will happen when they trace that girl back to me without that on my head. Do tell me it was intended to be botched from the beginning, I most decidedly do not approve of killing children.”
She glared at here guest, not expecting an answer. None came.
“I don’t know why this place isn’t already crawling with guards and officials asking hard questions. At least I have a nice sheet of paper safely hidden away and showing that she was no longer one of my girls at the time. Though I did follow up enough to discover the name you used was false, as was most every trail I followed.”
“Of course. I’m not an idiot. I always cover my tracks.”
Madame Flattery was not entirely taken by surprise when the bullet hit her, fired by her visitor from under the desk, though she had expected the conversation to last a little longer. She really had expected a few more answers. The bullets kept coming until the gun was empty. It was a decidedly quiet gun, magicked for silence, so no guards would come running. Through the pain, she could feel fast acting poisons that had coated each one working into what blood was still inside her. Judging from their unique torments, at least three different varieties. She was impressed at the clean execution and the extra effort involved in making sure she was dead, even if it was with a coward’s weapon. On the other hand, it was just a wee bit sloppy. Nothing would clear her name faster than an assassin with a total lack of proper discretion in these matters.
“The guards with questions will be here quite soon, but you won’t have any answers to give I’m afraid.”
She wanted to scream, but couldn’t. There wasn’t much left to scream with. She wanted to laugh. She couldn’t do that either. She settled on mouthing some rude words. She really should have held out for more than a twenty percent advance.
Her guest let themselves out the way they had come.
When her secretary came running in to make a panicked announcement that the building was on fire, she found the room empty. The only sign of Madame Flattery was a chair soaked in blood and a note on her desk.
The note was in Madame Flattery’s handwriting, with her secretary’s name on it in letters large enough to see across the room.
I do hope you find this note before it joins the configuration.
Tell the girls all contracts are paid in full and they are free to do as they will. Distribute whatever is available in our various safe deposit boxes, all of them, to all employees, especially the girls, equally, based on seniority. And don’t think I won’t find out if it doesn’t happen.
When you are ready, you know where to find me.
I have a score to settle with someone who thinks they can kill me and pin the murder of one of my own girls on me. Besides, they left without paying.
Her signature was hastily scrawled at the bottom.
Madame Flattery’s secretary went through the secret door at the back of the office into Madame Flattery’s private chambers. She made sure the emergency corpse was properly positioned in the elegant bed in Madame Flattery’s chambers and used the letter to set the bedding on fire.
Then Seji sighed. She had liked this place.
The Pirate Apprentice by Mootly Obviate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.