“The Johnsons have invited us round on Saturday,” she said. She wiped the fresh blood from the knife’s blade. There wasn’t much of it—she’d pulled it free before the bleeding started in earnest.
“What excuse did you give them.” He pulled the rope tight, checking his knots.
“I told them we’d go.”
“You’re joking! You know what it’ll be like—she’ll be gushing about her perfect little angel, and he’ll drone on about his ruddy veg patch. I really have to suffer that?”
“They’re our neighbours. We should be friendly.” She rubbed at the second blade. This one would take more effort. She still didn’t understand how he made such a mess. And, of course, she had to clean it up.
“Friendly, my arse!”
“And watch your language.”
“Why? The kids are at home.”
“Make it a habit. I don’t want them repeating what you say at work.” She poured on some of the cleanser and rubbed again. The metal started to shine. The bottle was only a quarter full, though. They’d need more supplies before the next job.
“Can’t wrap them in cotton wool.”
“I know. But they’ll be grown up before we know it. I want them to enjoy being kids. You know they were playing families yesterday? Had their dolls all round the table for dinner. Even had Floppy snuffling when the food was cold. They had you down to a tee.”
“I don’t snuffle.”
“No?” She laughed. He swore he didn’t snore either. Or pick at scabs. And she didn’t want to start on some of his other habits.
“No. I just don’t like cold food. And playing families is fine, but what if they start play-acting our work?” He did a little dance, waving his hands around dramatically. One of them hit the bitch in the chair, the sound of skin-on-skin echoing sharply.
“They think we work in an office.” The scrawled writing on the fridge said as much—‘Daddy does sums and Mummy talks to people and they sell lots of things to make money.’ And above this, the smiling stick-figure drawing.
“But for how long? What if…what if they say something at school, and one of their teachers calls us in? Or calls the police, or…I don’t know…anti-terrorist people?”
She loved his concern. He was so good with the twins.
“That’s not going to happen. We’ve planned, remember?” She gave a comforting smile.
“Wouldn’t help to watch the swearing, though.”
He shrugged. “I suppose we can always move. It’s not like we’re tied down with this job, is it?”
Sure enough, he was grinning at his joke, pulling hard on the rope. The chair threatened to spill over, and the rope must have bitten into the punk, because she cried out. Although it was muffled by the rag stuffed in her mouth.
“So you want to do this?” He held the syringe out. “Payback?”
Her ribs were sore, and she could feel the bruise forming already. She’d been sloppy, to allow the little runt to get the better of her like that.
It was tempting to take the syringe, but she shook her head. “I don’t need vengeance.”
“It’s been too long, dear,” he said. “You used to enjoy this part.”
“It’s your role now.” It had been for five years. After having the twins, she could no longer be mad at someone simply because they caused her pain. Besides, he needed to see this through, otherwise he’d be too hyped-up, and he wouldn’t sleep well. “You do it.” She held up his knife. “Unless you’d rather do clean-up?”
It wasn’t a gamble—she knew him too well. He shook his head and turned to the chair.
There was no need for her to watch. She scrubbed—yes, scrubbed—the flesh and blood off his blade, and listened to him work. She heard his familiar threats, with their quiet aggression, and the scumbag’s rasping voice when he grabbed her throat. That was one of his favourite moves. After years of medical training, he knew how to extract maximum pain with minimum effort. He was an expert on pressure points. Of course, in their more intimate moments, that knowledge served a different purpose.
He was building up a sweat. At least he’d taken her hint and hadn’t worn that new shirt. He’d only have moaned later, when the stains still showed. He always said the smell of vomit lingered too long.
Another of his quirks, making them retch like that. He said it put them into a weakened mental state. And when they soiled themselves, they were ready to talk.
But this little bitch wasn’t talking. The intel said she was tough, and the job specs listed elimination as the number one priority. They didn’t expect to get anything from her, but he needed to work off his energy. It was good for him to feel he’d done a complete job.
The girl’s head hung to one side. There was very little blood, but she saw—and smelled—the other stains, and she admired the man who had done such fine work. Others wouldn’t understand, but he was a perfectionist in his own way, a skilled technician and a master at his job. And a wonderful husband and father.
He stepped back and turned, and she saw confusion in his eyes. “What?” he said.
She realised she was smiling. “Nothing. Just enjoying the moment.” She wrapped the knife in the cloth and put it in the bag. “And Saturday? I’ll make it up to you. Something special tonight. Any preferences?”
He stepped over to her. “Anything. Whatever you do is perfect.”
She reached out, and he took her hand in his, warm with sweat from his work. When he squeezed her fingers, she smiled again.
“Let’s go home.”
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