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  • Writer's pictureK.C. Roy

The Contract

Updated: Apr 9

Harry wondered if he’d made a huge mistake. When a friend had called him about a job opportunity for his small consulting firm, it’d been too good to pass up at the time. They were struggling to make ends meet with the small jobs they’d found. Unfortunately, this contract had been a disaster so far. The client refused to take any of their advice or overhaul their personnel. This is why he found himself sitting with his wife/business partner in the parking lot of the client’s house.

The client was a lawyer who operated on the shadier side of corporate law. Most of her cases were defending companies who were caught doing something they shouldn’t have been. She was good at her job and wasn’t used to losing. She’d earned an admirer recently that wanted to see her, "gutted, skinned and hung like a side of beef." The note detailing this had included a package with a timed explosive. It killed the receptionist who'd opened it.

Harry was originally supposed to come in, overhaul her security team and stick around to make sure everything ran smoothly until the authorities caught the individual responsible. Supposedly the police had solid leads and were close to catching them. Two weeks, at most a month. They were at the end of the second week and Harry had a gut feeling everything was going to go sideways on them. He wouldn’t admit any of this to his wife.

Watching her now, he could tell she was worried by the fingernail she chewed and the constant glances she stole at her phone. She must have sensed him watching her because she pulled her hand away from her mouth and turned toward him.

"What?"

Harry couldn't help the smile that split his face. She was worried about something other than the job. and looked like a guilty child. "We were supposed to leave our phones at home." Eliza stuffed the phone under her leg trying to hide it. "I already saw it!" He laughed despite her annoyed scowl.

"I'm worried, okay?!" Eliza crossed her arms and stared out the windshield, set on ignoring him the rest of the time. He knew she was worried about the baby. This was the first field work she’d taken part in since giving birth six months earlier.

"Babe, the Sanders are taking excellent care of her, and she gets along great with their kid."

"They're six months old, how can you tell?"

"She stopped crying when they put her in the crib with him."

"Really?" When they'd arrived at the Sanders home to drop Sara off, Eliza had gone to use the restroom and wasn't present when Paula placed Sara in the crib with Bobby.

"Yes. Eliza, she's fine. Relax. You should be focusing on this anyway. If this job goes well, it will open a lot of doors for us. Maybe we can move out of the basement we're renting."

"I… yeah, sorry. You're right." Eliza jerked the phone out from under her leg and tossed it in the glove box before she could think about it. "Okay, head in the game. Are we sure someone will attack her again?"

"No. Hopefully the police will find them before that happens again, but this woman has pissed off a lot of people. I'm surprised someone hasn't tried before."

"Why did we take this job again?" Eliza already knew the answer, but it didn't mean she had to like it. If they were in a different financial situation, he would've declined but a newborn and a struggling business didn't allow them the luxury. If the job worked out though, their private security firm would have access to large companies with deep pockets. They just had to make sure nothing bad happened to the client.

"I know. A couple more jobs like this and we'll be able to pick and choose the ones we want. We just have to keep this woman safe until the police catch her number one fan."

"Are you sure we shouldn't have just taken money? We're almost broke."

"Trust me, this was the better option." As payment, he'd worked out a contract to have the client arrange meetings with three of her bigger clients. They wouldn’t receive any money for this job but had the potential to gain some very lucrative work in the future. The woman had agreed to the deal without hesitation. Hopefully, she kept her end of the bargain.

"Pfft. You're a shitty liar." Eliza waved a hand at him.

"What…" The walkie on the dashboard squawked and a voice came through it, interrupting him. It was the lead for their client’s security team. He would call each security check point to confirm they were there.

"Check one."

"Check."

"Check two."

"Check."

"Check three."

"Check."

"Check four." The radio buzzed but there was no response. "Check four, answer."

"Check, damn…" Clattering sounded in the background followed by cursing and then silence for a few seconds. "CheckSorry!" The man rushed and crammed his words together.

"Get your shit together!"

Harry let out a sigh and reached for the radio but stopped short of grabbing it. Reprimanding them on the radio wasn't good for morale and it wasn't professional. He needed to wait for the last two checks anyway.

"Check five!" The security head was irritated now.

"Check."

"Check six!"

"Check."

"At least they made it through the checks this time. What's the rotation?" Eliza asked.

"Twelve, six then eighteen minutes. After that, everything shifts by four minutes." Harry had the calls set on a random rotation changing the length of time between each check randomly. The head of security had bitched nonstop about the change. Since he was the only one, besides Harry, that would know the cycle, he had to pay attention and do his job. The man was lazy, and Harry had recommended getting rid of him. Unfortunately, it turned out the man was the client’s nephew. Nepotism won the argument. After that, Harry didn’t suggest any further personnel changes. "Come on." Harry snatched the radio off the dash and got out of the car.

"I thought we were just observing?" Eliza stared at him through the window from inside the car. He didn’t miss her glance at the glove box. She wanted to stay close to the phone.

"Eliza, she'll be fine. Get out of the car. We should check on the guard at four and see what that was about."

"Grrr. Fine!" Eliza slammed the car door hard enough to cause the entire vehicle to shake. Harry took a moment to admire his wife in the pantsuit she wore. Navy blue with thin white pin stripes, it hugged her in all the right places. The high heels were a nice touch, but he was surprised she'd worn them. She usually preferred dress flats. She'd even put on a bit of makeup for the job. That was something else she didn't do often.

"What?"

"Admiring the view." He wore his best smile.

"Shut up, let's get this over with." The small smile on her face gave her away. She liked the compliment.

The client's house was a sprawling twenty-three thousand square foot mansion of glass and concrete. The floor to ceiling glass most of the walls were made of was another reason Harry had tried repeatedly to get the client to relocate. They offered an unhindered view into most of the house. She insisted she was safe because it was at least three quarters of a mile to the outer wall surrounding the property in any direction. Harry had been forced to give up the argument. Normally, with this difficult a client, he would’ve just quit but they needed the job too badly.

They'd parked in a small parking area at the front of the house that the client used for the cars she drove on a regular basis. Their ratty old corolla looked out of place next to the Range Rovers, Porsches and Ferraris. They'd almost lost this job when they'd pulled up in their car. Eliza ran a hand down the side of one of the Range Rovers and look inside. If this job went well, he'd get her something nice first chance.

"Four was around back at the service entrance. We should hurry." He took off jogging toward the side of the house.

"I'll catch up. I'm not running across gravel in these."

"Don't take too long." He called over his shoulder. It was just a check. The guy probably just dropped his radio or something. He’d only asked her to get her away from her phone. If she was going to start working again, she needed to focus on the job.

Harry continued around the corner of the house. A small courtyard, circled by an eight-foot wall, led to the servant's entrance. Inside the courtyard were trash cans, commercial AC units and a backup generator in case the property ever lost power. Access to the courtyard was normally restricted with a card reader. That didn’t work when the gate was propped open with a brick.

"You have to be kidding me!" Harry hurried to the door, stopping just in front of it. The brick was red with ACME printed on the end. The gardens only had stones and everything else on the property used white building materials. The improvised doorstop wasn’t from here. The AC units droned making it hard to hear anything that might be happening on the other side of the door. The small opening in the door left by the brick didn’t give him much of a view inside.

Harry and Eliza had an edge over most other security contractors, big or small. They were essence users. They could use the life energy around them. Harry had one of the rarest and arguably most powerful abilities. He was a purple essence user with the ability to see and manipulate all other life energies. Most only had the ability to use one aspect. They could control trees, water, mind or body energy. Harry could manipulate the energy itself. A body essence user, a red, could make themselves stronger, faster or heal better. If they were strong enough, they could help heal others. Harry couldn’t do this, but he could turn their ability off or pull it from them completely.

Right now, he relaxed and focused his mind, seeing the world around him differently. Colors exploded into view. Whites, reds, greens, browns, an entire rainbow moving and shifting everywhere. Every living thing has life energy and all of this was now visible to him. He focused on the gate and the courtyard looking for any tampering or a lingering trail of essence. There was nothing. This just meant essence hadn’t been used to open the gate. Standing to the side, he slowly pressed the door open as far as he could. The inside of an empty courtyard greeted him. He slid inside, nudging the brick out of the way as he did so. Eliza had her own access card. Harry moved away from the door as it swung shut in case there was someone behind it. Nothing.

Where was the guard? He should have been standing outside the door. Heading further into the courtyard, Harry heard a sound from the back close to the entrance where a large AC unit sat nestled in the corner. Rounding the corner of the unit, he found the missing guard, sitting in a chair, in the space between the wall and the AC unit. He was oblivious to anything around him.

"Really?!" Harry said loudly from beside the man. The half-naked woman, providing the man with his own private lap dance, screamed and fell off the man's lap. She made a poor attempt at covering herself with the clothing she’d previously shed on the ground. Harry couldn't believe what he was seeing. How had the woman even gotten on the grounds with no one noticing? "Get your clothes on, it's time to leave. You…" He pointed the radio in his hand at the abashed guard trying to pull his pants up while he remained seated, "consider this your last day on the job."

The woman stood, tripped and staggered toward Harry. He raised his hands to catch her, but something slammed into the radio in his hand. The radio was knocked from his grasp to bounce off his chest followed by a searing pain across his side as he twisted away. He lashed out punching the woman in the head, knocking her into the AC unit next to them. The woman fell to her knees using the side of the unit to hold herself up. He glanced down at his side to see a long shallow cut along his ribs on his left side.

Great! This was my last good shirt. Harry ignored the burning sensation from the cut and focused his attention on the woman.

"HEY! What's wrong with you?!" The guard, pants still not completely up, rushed to the woman's aid.

"No!" Harry reached for the guard trying to stop him from getting close to the woman but couldn’t reach him in time.

The guard hadn't seen the knife in the woman's hand. If it hadn't been for the radio, that knife would be in Harry’s heart right now. The woman was fast as evidenced by how quickly she turned and brought the knife up under the guard's chin. Buried to the hilt, the man clutched at the hand holding the knife in his throat while he made choking noises and stared at the woman in disbelief. She pulled the knife free and let him fall to the ground. She seemed unconcerned with the fact she was now covered in blood and wearing only underwear and a bra.

Hoping she still had an advantage she attacked Harry again with short sharp swipes. He avoided them easily by shifting backward. She followed, advancing more cautiously after the first failed attempts. Harry wanted to bring her into the open where he had room to move. The woman fell right into it.

"You stepping out on me?" Both of them glanced at the new voice. Eliza had caught up. She stood ten paces away, one hand casually on her hip and the other dangling a pair of high heels from two fingers. She eyed the woman with a raised eyebrow, clearly judging her appearance.

"Not hardly. She isn't nearly pretty enough. She's the distraction. Go find the main event. Hurry." The woman didn't react to the small jab he took at her appearance. Her eyes moved from Harry to Eliza and back again. She was deciding if she could stop both of them. He needed to convince her she couldn't. Eliza handled that for him. She took two steps, flung her shoes at the woman's face, then jumped to the top of the AC unit and launched herself through the second-floor window. The woman put her arms up to protect her head from the shower of glass. Harry used the momentary distraction to attack.

He hit her in the face with a quick jab. She recovered quickly and blocked his second punch before attacking back with the knife aimed at his throat. He just barely got a forearm up to block the swipe. It earned him another burning cut across his forearm. With Eliza gone and the woman focused on him, he skipped back out of reach so he could better access her. While the cut on his ribs and the new one on his arm weren’t serious, the effects would add up if he got to many more. Using essence, he could see she was a red essence user but not very strong. She'd be able to adjust the strength of her body and the speed of her movement some. Not something he couldn't handle. He could just pull the essence from her body, making her powerless, unconscious, or dead. With others potentially inside already, he needed this over quickly, but he also needed information.

"Don't suppose you want to tell me who you're working for?"

The woman lunged trying to reach him. He spun away, keeping distance between them. Glass crunched underfoot as she chased after him and staggered with a grunt of pain. Blood smeared the concrete where she stepped.

"Judging by the amount of blood you're leaving on the ground, that went pretty deep." Her eyes moved from him to the gate leading out of the courtyard. "You won't make it." Harry watched the woman as she seemed to consider his words. "Let me help you. It's just a job, we don't have to kill each other."

"You ass, that's the job. You weren't supposed to bring the woman."

"What?" Confused, Harry stated the obvious. "You're here for the lawyer."

"Yes, but you were supposed to be a nice little bonus." She hobbled toward the large AC unit while she talked through gritted teeth. Bracing herself against the unit, she pulled the glass from her foot. Harry didn’t try to stop her. It wouldn't make any difference. The piece was large enough, he wondered how it hadn't gone completely through her foot. She tossed the bloody piece of glass away and gingerly placed her foot back in the pool of blood on the ground. While she was a red and capable of speeding up her healing somewhat, at her level, she wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding anytime soon.

"Maybe you ought to sit down and tie that off? Looks like you hit something important. You can explain who wants my client and me dead at the same time?" The pool of blood was growing quickly. She didn't have much time left before she wouldn’t be able to stand.

"That isn't going to help." She pushed herself upright.

"Don't…" Harry didn't get a chance to finish before the woman rushed him. In another circumstance, it would've been comical. Her foot slid in the pool of blood. She tried to catch herself with her hand, but shards of glass crunched as her weight settled on them. She cried out, jerked her hand away and fell face first on the pavement. More glass was ground into her face, chest and then back as she rolled over screaming in pain. Harry grabbed her essence and pulled. Not wanting to kill her, he pulled just enough to knock her out. She stopped thrashing around and went limp on the glass covered pavement.

From what he could tell, most of the cuts were superficial. He quickly ripped away a piece of his ruined shirt and used it to bandage her foot and then another piece for a nasty looking cut on her hand. He wanted to do more for her, but he needed to get inside and make sure Eliza was okay. A boom from inside the building helped him forget about the woman at his feet. He turned and rushed into the house, only slowing down to swipe his card to open the door.


_____________________________________________________________________________________


Unlike the woman downstairs, Eliza was one of, if not the strongest red in the world. The body has three life energies associated with it. Red, the energy of the body. Blue, the energy of water in the body. And finally Pink, the energy of the mind. Red controlled the physical nature of the body. Strength, speed, endurance and healing rate. Eliza’s ability allowed her to strengthen her body so she could make the leap to the second floor and harden her skin, so she didn't get cut by the glass. By comparison, the woman downstairs only had enough ability to make herself equivalent to an elite level athlete…maybe.

Eliza landed in the second-floor room in a shower of glass and slid into the desk that sat facing the now shattered window. She shook herself off and vaulted over the desk, releasing some of the essence she'd been using to toughen her skin and protect herself. The long hallway outside the room had plain white walls with a beige granite floor stretching in both directions. Doors lined either side of the hallway.

"Damn it." Where’s security? Someone should be here already with the noise I just made.

The glass shattering should’ve brought security running. She could’ve called the with the radio but Harry had that and she didn’t think it was a good time to ask for it. Making a lot of noise was the easiest solution. So why wasn’t anyone coming? The thump of running feet and a flash of movement at the end of the hall caught her attention. Eliza sprinted down the hall and rounded the corner at full speed, her bare feet sliding slightly on the slick polished floor. Her speed and uneasy footing carried her quickly past the man waiting to ambush her. His swing was slapped off target by her flailing arm as she tried to hold her balance mid-slide. Eliza gave up on staying upright and fell forward into a roll. The man's follow up swing went just over her head as she rolled away from him.

She twisted and came to her feet facing the man. Unlike the woman her husband encountered, this man wore all black with a ski mask and carried a baton. The moment she had her feet under her, she launched herself at him, tackling him across the midsection as he raised his arm for another swing. Her shoulder sank deep knocking the wind from his lungs. On the ground, she quickly mounted him and slid up, so her knees were in his armpits, and she sat high on his chest. He tried to swing the baton at her face but being pinned on his back didn't give him the position he needed to swing hard. Eliza brought her left arm up, taking the hit on the biceps and hammered two quick punches into the masked face. The blows were hard enough to bounce his head off the granite floor.

A scream echoed through the house before she could punch again. Looking at his eyes rolled into the back of his head, she didn't need to hit him again anyway. Another scream sounded, this one more frantic and terrified. It sounded like their client. If she got hurt, they were finished. While Eliza understood Harry's optimism about this job, she also understood what could happen if something went wrong. This woman could get their small firm blacklisted by some very powerful companies. If she lived. Either result wouldn't be good for their small company.

The scream came from across the entry and downstairs. Eliza vaulted over the handrail to the first floor and took off running across the lobby down the opposite hallway. At the end of the corridor, she saw two men, dressed like the first man, trying to force a door open. That door was giant, made from solid wood and had steel hinges. It would take a lot of effort to force it open. It looked like they'd gotten it partially open, or the woman hadn't had it fully closed when the men arrived. The burglar bar installed in the floor on the inside was doing its job and preventing the door from opening completely. Both men were putting their shoulder to the door with rhythmic thuds that caused the door to shudder with every hit.

Mid-stride, Eliza hurled the baton as hard as she could hitting one man in the lower back. The baton punched through him and stuck into the wooden door he'd been trying to force open. A scream of agony echoed through the long corridor, startling his partner. He couldn't immediately see why his partner was screaming. Preoccupied with why his partner was screaming in agony, he didn't notice Eliza until she slammed into him. Her speed carried both of them into the wooden door with enough force to break it from the hinges and send it crashing to the floor with a giant boom. Eliza and the two men spilled into the room, rolling across the floor.

The one she'd impaled bounced free of the door and continued to scream. He was joined by the terrified woman who stood in the center of the room. One look at the blood and the people rolling across the floor set her off with renewed vigor. Across from them and behind the woman was a huge desk with a massive bookcase built into the wall stretching the length of the room. To her left was a sitting area with a couple of cushy chairs and a fireplace. On the other side was a daybed with an armoire. Paintings and art decorated every other space available. Her Eliza’s brief glance around the room took barely a second. In that time, the man she'd tackled had regained his feet. She’d hit him hard enough to break something, but he was standing ready to fight. These were red essence users. He sized Eliza up and shot a glance toward the woman.

Deciding the client was an easier target, he charged her, hoping to outpace Eliza with a burst of speed. She matched him easily and grabbed the back of his shirt. With a rough shove, she propelled him past the woman who cringed away and tripped over her own feet. Another shrill scream filled the room. The attacker, unable to stop himself, flew into the built-in bookcase. The impact destroyed a few of the shelves causing books to rain down on the man's prone form. He shook the impact off and rose quickly to his feet, surprising Eliza with his resilience.

"What are you doing?! Some of those are priceless!" The woman screamed. Her voice was shrill and Eliza had to wonder if the lady truly realized her life was in danger right now.

If I kill her myself, can I make it look like these two did it?

Eliza fancied the idea for a moment while she faced her opponent. "Go to the corner and stay there!" Of course, the woman just stood there staring. Great. She didn't have time to deal with her. The man on the floor had stopped screaming, which might be a good thing but with her luck, probably not. He was behind her now and she couldn't afford to turn away from the man at the bookcase. He was still intent on their client. Where the hell was Harry at?

The man snatched a hardcover book off the shelf behind him and hurled it. Eliza just barely managed to slap the book off course. Another book followed and then another. The books were flying at her rapid fire, and she was forced to take some hits directly to stop them from getting past her and hitting their client. The force they were being thrown with would put the woman in the hospital, at the very least, if they hit her.

A noise from the door caught her attention. The other man was on his feet again with a bloody baton in hand confirming he was a red essence user as well. His other hand was over the hole in his side as he worked to slow the bleeding. He did not look happy. A book bounced off the side of her head causing her to stumble back.

"Asshole!" She didn't need to put her hand to her forehead to know the sensation she felt was blood running down her face. The man with the baton rushed her while the one at the bookshelf circled around her. They were splitting her attention to get to the woman. Well, one of them was. The one with the baton had murder in his eyes.

Is he pissed about being turned into a shish kabob?

Eliza ignored both men and headed straight for the woman instead. She reached the client in a blink, grabbed and hurled her across the room into the daybed. The impact made the piece of furniture flip over onto its back and the woman disappeared behind the overturned bed. After the throw, she spun, intercepting the baton swung at her head by grabbing the arm and turning her back into the man. She pressed her hips firmly against his body and bent down hard while pulling his arm toward the floor. His feet left the ground and he flew over her back hitting the floor with enough force to drive the breath from his lungs.

The other man tackled Eliza before she could finish. They hit the floor rolling, each of them trying to end up on top. He won and went straight for her throat. He smiled down at her as he squeezed her neck. Eliza knew better than to panic. He was leaning into his arms but keeping his head back. It would be difficult for her to reach his face. His fingers wrapped tightly around her neck would be difficult to get hold of as well. She used one hand to grab the front of his shirt and pull as a distraction. She slid her other hand between their bodies and grabbed a handful of his crotch. His eyes bulged as she squeezed as hard as she could and twisted. His immediate response was to pull away, but she kept a firm hold on the front of his shirt keeping him from sitting back. He tried pushing up with his legs, which only worsened his pain and made him collapse back on top of her. She squeezed harder and the man started to scream. He took his hands off her throat and fell to the side trying to pull her hand away.

Eliza let go quickly and rolled away and to her feet. The man stayed on the floor holding himself leaving him open to a kick in the face rendering him unconscious. She heard someone hit the floor and turned to find the other man on the floor just behind her.

"You okay?" Harry asked from the doorway.

"No! Asshole hit me with a book. A book!" Eliza wiped her hand across her face trying to clear some of the blood from her eye.

"Client?"

"Behind the bed over there." Eliza waved her hand in the direction of the daybed.

"She okay?"

"Yeah…" Eliza shrugged. She hadn't heard a scream in the past thirty seconds. That probably wasn't a good sign.

"I AM NOT OKAY! This "woman" threw me across the room. I would've been safer with the killers. You better not have bled on any of my books. You’re paying for all of this!" The woman stormed out from behind the overturned furniture, her clothes and hair disheveled. She stomped toward Harry with an awkward limp having lost a shoe somewhere.

Clop, slap, clop, slap sounded as her steps alternated between high heel and bare foot. Eliza was unconcerned. Harry would handle her. She reached down and pulled the mask off the man closest to her. She didn't recognize him or the other man after removing his mask as well. A brief inspection of their pockets revealed nothing either. Eliza pursed her lips while she thought. These two weren't run of the mill elementals. Both were red, fairly strong and they operated well together. It's possible she hadn't heard of them, but they tried to keep track of who was operating in the field. She felt she would've heard of these two….

"The third one! Did you find the third one?"

"I refuse to pay! You're fired! I'll make sure…" The woman continued on waving her finger in Harry's face and screaming. He ignored her as he looked down at the two men.

"No, where was he?"

"Second floor, across the lobby. On the landing."

"ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!"

Harry held a hand up in front of the woman's face stalling her while he replied to Eliza. "Go get him and bring him here. I'd place bets I know who it is." Eliza left the room, and the irate client, to her husband and quickly made her way back to the landing. The man was still there and snoring softly.

"Huh." She wanted to pull his mask off now but decided to wait. If she walked in with the man unmasked, the client would probably think they were wrong. Pulling a bit more essence to strengthen herself, she tossed the man over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes and returned to the reading room. Eliza put as much bounce in her step as possible, digging her shoulder into the unconscious man's gut with each step. She entered the room just short of skipping and dumped the man roughly on the floor. He was wide awake by this point.

"I told you to get rid of your head of security." Harry addressed their client who'd finally stopped talking when Eliza dumped the man at their feet. He stayed there looking up at each of them in terror. Harry pulled the mask off. "They paid him for a keycard and your location."

"You ungrateful… How could you? Your mother will hear about this! You can all just leave now. Get out!"

"She wasn't supposed to be here!" The man said, pointing at Eliza.

"What does that have to do with anything? God, you're an idiot. Your mother will hear that too. Just leave, go!"

"I'm sorry but there is the small matter of payment."

"I said you're fired!" She pointed to the door showing clearly, she thought the discussion was over.

Harry considered the woman for a minute before looking around the room at the mess and the prone bodies. "Okay. Let's go, honey." The pair headed for the door.

"Hey! What about these… these… men?"

"We're fired. They're your problem. Good luck!" Harry threw a wave over his shoulder while he walked across the broken door on the floor.

"NO! Hey, wait! You can't… Come back here!" A rapid clop slap chased them into the corridor outside the room. "You have to take them with you! That's your job!"

Harry rounded on the woman abruptly bringing her up short. "No, you fired us, which means we don't have a job. My suggestion to you would be to call the police and pray they get here before those men wake up." Harry turned to leave but stopped short. "Oh, and make sure you mention the naked woman in the maintenance yard. She likes to play with knives. Don't want to forget about her."

The woman stood frozen with confusion and didn't respond. Harry was halfway down the corridor before she found her voice.

'Okay, okay, okay… FINE! I'll pay!" Harry ignored the woman and kept walking. In the main lobby, he headed straight for the front door. He had his hand on the handle before she caught up with them. "Damn it! STOP! I said I'll pay you!" She tore the remaining shoe from her foot in frustration.

Harry turned slowly from the door and regarded the woman in silence. The tension built the longer he kept quiet. The woman glanced at Eliza hoping for something but only received a hostile stare in return.

"Look, perhaps I was a bit hasty with the stress and excitement. I'm sure we can work out an agreement of some kind?" The pleading desperation in her voice made Eliza want to gag.

"I'll be blunt so there is no misunderstanding. I told you we should be in a hotel or other neutral location. You didn't listen. I told you to hire third-party individuals instead of your own security team. You didn't listen. I told you to get rid of your head of security…." Harry went silent and waited for the woman to get the idea. She fidgeted, looking from Harry to Eliza and back again.

"Look, FINE! I should've listened to you. How was I supposed to know?" She threw her hands out in exasperation. She wasn't going to accept any of the blame if she didn't have to.

"You were supposed to know because I told you. I explained everything to you, but you had to have it your way. The only reason you're alive right now is because of her." Harry hooked a thumb at his wife. "You owe me three meetings with three of your biggest clients."

"I can't promise you that. I might be able to work out a deal for two."

"The police might be here in time if you call now." Harry opened the door and was on the stairs leading off the porch before the woman could react."

"NO! WAIT! Three, I can make it three!" The client pushed past Eliza who was just exiting the door and rushed down the stairs to catch Harry. "I can't promise with the biggest…"

"That wasn't the deal." He kept walking toward their car, his long legs quickly outpacing the much shorter woman. Eliza watched her from the top of the stairs as she practically ran to keep up with Harry.

"FINE! You fucker! Three meetings with my three largest clients." She'd stopped chasing him and stood at the edge of the white gravel parking area. She couldn't follow further without her shoes. Her voice strained as she yelled at him across the distance separating them. Harry was hoping the extra distance between them would press home the fact that he was about to leave.

Turning, he could see the woman at the edge of the gravel parking area standing with clenched fist and hate-filled eyes. The panic he heard in her voice had an underlying hint of venom in it. This woman was a snake and she'd bite him if he gave her the chance.

"Call them now."

"What?" Her eyes blinked quickly and her head shook a little. "This… I can't just call them and have it done. It'll take time."

"Call them now, tell them what you want, then hand the phone to me. I'll work the details out with them. Consider your response carefully before you answer. My patience is gone."

The woman stared Harry down with angry eyes for long enough that he was worried he'd pushed her too far. Wordlessly, she jerked her phone from her pocket, clicked through her contacts and held the phone to her ear. "Hello. Yeah, It's me. Good, could be better. Listen, I have a consultant I like you to meet with. Small firm, would you be willing? Security… Yes, I know you have someone, but this company specializes. I have him here now, can you talk to them for me?" She glanced up at Harry for the first time during the call. "Yes, I recommend them." To Harry the words sounded forced and untrue but apparently the person on the other end of the phone heard them differently. The client held the phone out for him to come take it.

Harry took the phone and waved for Eliza to go back inside. She knew what to do about the mess from there. He introduced himself to the man on the other end of the phone and had a short fifteen-minute call with him. At the end, he and Eliza had a contract for smaller security services with their employees traveling abroad. This same call was repeated two more times. While he didn’t get contracts for these, he was convincing enough to secure in person meetings with them. At the end, their client seemed both a little less hostile and a little bit impressed Harry had managed so well over the phone. The police arrived during the last phone call and secured the scene. Questions were asked and had to be verified with physical evidence only.

The two red essence users and the client's nephew were in cuffs in the back of cars. Harry had pulled the essence from the second red user to ensure he didn't escape. The man would never use essence again. Harry thought it was a fitting punishment for a hitman for hire. The woman, sadly, had bled to death in the courtyard. Harry regretted that but didn't hold himself responsible. He'd given her a way out and tried to help her as much as possible. All the staff and security personnel were finished being questioned when the investigators came to ask the client for her statement. The cameras had all been shut off leaving the police to rely on witness statements and physical evidence. The staff weren’t helpful. It turned out most of them hated working for the woman and were happy to disappear when the action started. Several of the security personnel had gambling debts and were easily persuaded to look the other way. Harry found out the mastermind behind all of this had been killed in a shoot out with the police earlier that morning.

"Are we finished?" Now that the police were on site, she made even less effort to hide the hostility in her voice.

Harry glanced back at the cars parked in the parking lot behind them. "No, I have one more thing…."


Eliza pulled into the Sanders' driveway and killed the engine. "I still don't… How?" She ran her hands across the leather steering wheel. Adjusted the air vents and the seat controls. Her butt was probably hotter than it needed to be, but she'd never experienced seat heaters before.

A smile stretched Harry’s cheeks at the look on her face. Her expression was like a five-year-old that got the exact gift they'd wanted on Christmas day. "You like it?" Eliza jerked him forward and kissed him hard. Harry couldn't help laughing. "I'll take that as a yes. Let's go get her. We're late as it is." They got out and Eliza pressed the button to arm the car alarm. The horn chirped and the lights flashed confirming the car was locked. She hit the button again enjoying the sensation. “Alright, you’re going to wake the neighbors.”

“Sorry.” She’d never had a car alarm before. One of the doors on their corolla didn’t even lock. She stopped at the door to the Sanders and glanced back at her new Range Rover one more time before going inside.

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