Austin By Night – Cassandra [Layer 7]

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It takes less than an hour to secure the medical equipment to properly conduct the procedure. I waited in the hotel room for the two other contractors to show up with the rest of the “props” that would finish this task and allow me to get back to my condo before sunrise.

One of my cell phones started to ring and I flip it open to answer.

“Yes?” I ask.

“Did you just order a cleaner to help wrap up your job?” It’s Kimberly, at least that’s what she calls herself.

“Yeah, I have a defector that’s about go into the deep sleep,” I tell her.

“God, I just found some asshole snooping around one of our offices at the Austonian, earlier,” she tells me, “I had to burn the body on the roof earlier. Somebody’s been talking.”

“I’m not paid to speculate, Kimberly,” I tell her.

“No, Cassandra,” Kimberly tells me, “but we are paid to keep our employers happy.”

“Uh-huh,” I say as I take the syringe of dioxin, and plunge the needle into the neck of the defector, while keeping a hand on his pulse, “did your intruder have anything on them?”

“He had his phone on him, the idiot,” says Kimberly, “I traced the only number in the cell’s memory to some parking lot outside a hotel in the downtown area, but they split before I could send a hit team over there. I can pull something off the surveillance cameras, though, if you help me.”

I keep my fingers on the defector’s pulse. I can feel it starting to slow down.

“Possibly,” I tell her, “it’s not exactly my expertise.”

“Do you have another job lined up after this?” asks Kimberly.

“Maybe,” I tell her, “it’s not clear yet.”

The pulse gives a few more slow, thumping beats and stops. The defector is dead.

“Let me know as soon as you find something,” says Kimberly, “I have a feeling this job may start to stop paying as well as it once did.”

“Will do,” I sign off and close my phone shut.

The body is limp as I stay with it inside a dimly lit hotel room that is facing Oltorf Drive in East Austin. I wait until the people I’m expecting open the door, but it is just the woman tonight. She’s dressed in a white pants suit and has blond hair. She looks much older than I do, as if she’s just aged by an extra ten years on this night alone. I can see so many new wrinkles around her cheeks and eyes.

“Sorry, my husband can’t make it,” she tells me, “He’s still trying to negotiate his release from house arrest.”

“You’re late,” I tell her.

“There was an incident at the Austonian and my son was there.” she says, as she sighs and puts her white, leather purse down, “there’s police everywhere right now.”

“How is your son?” I ask her, not really caring, but trying to feel more human than what the pills have done to me.

“Not good,” she says shaking her head and pulling out an orange bottle of labelled prescription medication, “he had to be sent home. It’s frustrating when your own flesh and blood can’t do the job you trained him for.”

I take the bottle of pills with my gloved hand and look at it.

“This man,” says the woman, “I made sure his medical records were altered to state that he had a history of heart problems.”

“Was he a loner?” I asked.

The woman looks down and raises her eyebrows.

“A loner?” she repeats the question as if it bears repeating at all, “he’s just some punk like the rest of them. Like all those other lefty ingrates who don’t know how to make a real buck in this world.”

I look up at the woman and see that she’s serious and I can’t help but raise my eyebrow at her.

“I suppose you’re right,” I tell her.

Author’s note: you can find the other chapters here at the Austin By Night page.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

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