Ivy's Bitter Poison
The following morning comes without any remorse. I roam the hallway down to the empty kitchen, with the sun barely peeking through the window, greeting my tired brown eyes. I look toward the entrance and see dad's shoes are already gone. I place my forehead against the island counter, a headache forming; I understand my dad, and yet I don't. I always end up humbling myself, knowing my line of work is more dangerous than his. Still, I just want him to relax since someone needs to be here for the kids in case anything happens to me.
Time passes quickly, and the kids eventually get up on their own as I make them a quick breakfast: eggs, and avocado toast. I hand them the lunches dad made the night before; he’s such a good parent. Luke is the first to leave; his bus arrives earlier since his high school starts sooner. He waves goodbye without turning around and mumbles, "I'm holding you to that promise." With that, the door closes behind him.
"What does Luke mean by that?" Angela questions, some toast crumbs decorating her small face.
"Well, if he manages to keep his promise, you'll find out soon enough." I give a playful wink. They both begin coming up with their own ideas of what the promise could be as they continue to eat their breakfast. Twenty minutes slip by, and the girls finish getting ready, putting their plates in the sink, and grabbing their bags. They rush out the door, their energy unmatchable; they always take every day in stride, smiling and laughing every chance they have. Ever since we've moved into this place, it's rare to see them without a smile on their face.
Once I see the girls walk off to their bus stop from the window, I take a deep breath and walk back to my room to prepare for my day of work. Pushing aside my clothes hanging in my little closet, I kneel to the floor and press down on the boards. The floorboard pops up, revealing my collection of various concoctions and handguns. I only have three guns with me here, along with the upkeep for them; ammo, holsters, repair, and clip-ons. My choices include a Glock 43, Sig Sauer P238, and Sig Sauer P365. My small stock of poisons contains strychnine, cyanide, tetrodotoxin, and ricin– all of which I handle with extreme care. The custom-made hiding place is temperature-controlled and custom lit to ensure the poisons won't alter their state. The rest of my assets stay safe at my "office". I also have a small bottle of nail polish laced with coral snake venom, something I spent years building immunity to. While I'm not wholly immune to it, its effects are less significant on me compared to another human of my stature.
I get dressed to look the part for heading into the corporate building, a lovely short and simple black dress paired with matching wrist-length gloves. Before putting on my gloves, I walk over to my desk and gently glide the sliding drawer out to reveal rows of expensive jewelry. I carefully pick out a set of delicate gold accessories: A double loop golden chain necklace, two gold studs, and a single chain golden bracelet. Underneath the skirt of my dress, I put on a thigh holster and equip my glock handgun. The unique shape of each gun I know how to wield has forced me to buy many unique holsters for whichever I decide to go into the field with. Finishing out, I head to the bathroom and put on light makeup, tying up my hair to show off the pair of gold stud piercings. I make my way out of the apartment, putting on my thigh-high boots and coat before leaving and locking the door behind me.
After walking a safe 15 minutes away from the complex, I hail a cab to take me the rest of the way to my destination. I pay the driver the fee and exit from the vehicle. Before me is a tall building, towering 15 levels high with giant letters spelling out Arrowspring's Art and Jewelry in cursive above the entrance doors. The automatic doors open for me as I walk up, and my boots make a distinct clicking sound as I walk on the marble floors. The two ladies at the front desk slightly bow, welcoming me into the establishment. I gently wave my gloved hand to acknowledge them and head straight to the elevator.
As I enter the elevator, a man steps on too, asking me a question. "Which floor, Miss?" He extends his hand to the console, brown leather gloves concealing his skin. He wears a gray suit and brown dress shoes, which match the leather gloves. His pale youthful face is slightly disfigured by a scar on his left side, which slightly resembles a port-wine stain.
"Thirteen," I reply, making contact with his ocean blue eyes.
"What a coincidence." He states as he hits the button to take us to the 13th floor. He fixes his pale blonde hair as he steps back into the elevator to level places with me. I roll my eyes as I look away from him, crossing my arms in the process. He leans back onto the railing behind us. This same routine every time we both enter the elevator; he never fails to reenact our first encounter when given the chance, and I never fail to play into it. His code name is Shadow, and we've been working together ever since I joined the agency. I don't know his real name even after seven years. The only thing I can recall at the moment is that he's 25 years of age and always acts as a refined gentleman in front of outsiders. Looking back, my first impression of him– even though he was only 18 at the time, was that he was the perfect image of a spy, aside from the defining scar on his face. After getting to know him, if he's not working, he's a little bit clumsy and more passionate than he lets on. He also has a bad attitude when he's tired, granted, I'm not the happiest person when I'm tired either, but he takes it to another level. Shadow handles every job seriously, never allowing himself to let his guard down on missions. Sometimes, I wish I had his tenacity. If I think a target is an easy shot, I might get a little cocky, which isn't a great trait to have.
The elevator silently makes its way to the designated floor, the only sound coming from the mechanics of the pulley. Finally, a ding goes off, letting us know we have made it to the 13th floor. “Ladies first.” Shadow insists before I walk off the contraption, and he follows suit. There’s a security guard right outside the elevators who soundlessly greets us before we trail off.
"Do we really have to keep doing that every time both of us get on?" I ask as he paces behind me, making our way down a long hallway to the back of the floor.
"I just do as I always do. You don't have to play along if you don't want to, Ivy." His voice is soothing to my ears. Ivy is the code name I was given, based upon the poison ivy plant and my piqued interest in poisons as I entered the facility.
"You can drop the gentleman act now; we're already on the right floor." I continue down the hall with long, confident strides, my coat dragging behind me.
"Sorry, once the suit is on–"
"Yeah, yeah, until you take the damn suit off, you're gonna stay in character. You're so weird." I find myself annoyed but also wearing a meager smile on my face, amused simultaneously. He gives out a small but polished laugh at my reaction.
We finally reach the door of the room we're supposed to meet at. The number 1347 is embedded on the plaque resting on the door, and I carefully knock once, pause, then twice in quick succession, and finally three more times. In return, I hear the click of the door unlocking, allowing myself and Shadow to both enter. It's a bigger office-like space, with a desk facing away from a wall made entirely of fogged glass and two armchairs sitting in front of the desk. A small couch rests against the parallel wall with another of its kind mirroring it; an empty coffee table separates the two. Three women sit patiently in the room, one sitting on the couch, another swiveling in one of the armchairs, and an older one leaning against the desk. I'm definitely the youngest in this group, which leaves me feeling a bit intimidated. It happens no matter how many times these meetings occur, but I continue to hold my head high. Shadow and I take steps toward the empty sofa and take our places on opposite ends. Finally, the session can begin discussing the failed plan for John Garner's death last night.
"Now that everyone is here for this operation, we can begin conferring the new plan." The first person to speak is Secretary, the older woman leaning on the desk with rich terracotta skin, black straight hair, and dark round eyes. She wears a beautiful white pantsuit, unlike the other two women who wear outfits similar to mine. To outsiders, she is a top executive at this company, but to us, she's second only to a man known as 'Boss,' someone none of us have seen. She calls the shots around here: what missions we accept, which team to assemble, and recruitment as well. On top of this, she still runs a thriving art and jewelry business. Although I would've loved to see what she was like 30 years ago, she still remains beautiful, skilled, and highly intelligent.
"Aren't Tech and Fog a part of this op?" The woman in the armchair leans forward as she speaks. Her code name is Raven, which is suitable for her flight skills and bird's-eye-view as a sniper. She styles a straight medium bob cut which compliments her slender face. Her dark hair contrasts her cool fawn skin tone,meanwhile, her downturned dark blue eyes soften her features.
"They're busy on another mission now, hence the meeting to restrategize." Secretary informs the group, standing up fully from her previous position. "We have one week until the rescheduled media promo for John Garner to take over his late father's hotel chain, Eden's. After this media filming, he will attend a preliminary meeting to discuss his takeover with the other executives. Everything should remain the same on the target's end, as long as he doesn't unexpectedly get sick again. Still, we need Shadow behind the scenes rather than on the floor with everyone else. He'll replace Tech and Fog's role, which means Fox and Ivy will have to split their tasks differently."
"Which means it'll just be Ivy and me on the floor." The woman sitting across from Shadow and me speaks up, elegance weaved into her voice. Her code name is Fox, suited for her cunning nature. She uncrosses her exposed tawny legs and brushes her long dark brown hair back from her oval face. Her monolid eyes look directly at my almond ones. We share an understanding look. To most people, going from three individuals to two in a group project may not seem like a big deal, but for us assassins, it could be life or death.
"Here's what I suggest based upon our last plan. Without me there, you two will have to be able to extract information from the guest with only one of you. At the same time, the other needs to deliver a spiked drink during the pre-show dinner. It's best to use something that will take some time to take effect since we don't want you to be trapped in the area if they lock everyone in once he begins having a reaction." Shadow directs his gaze at me, waiting for a response.
"Got it. Last time we were only going to place a delayed paralyzer in the drink since we didn't want the handler to possibly have severe effects from anything stronger. Since I'm more adept with poison than Fox, I'll take the position of becoming one of the servers in your place, Shadow. Because of that, I'll be using something more deadly. I already have some ricin reduced down to a liquid. It's a small batch, but that's all we'll need. It should take a few hours before any symptoms show up." I remark.
Shadow was supposed to be a server at first, while Fox and I distracted the guests as socialites for the evening's events. Afterward, if Fox or I had successfully seduced the target, we would've followed him around the rest of the evening until he was alone, hopefully, when the paralyzer took effect. If that didn't work, we would have sniped him out once he couldn't move in the evening. Shadow initially insisted on being a server for the off chance that if we were caught, the servers would probably be questioned first, buying us more time to escape. Now that's my burden to bear.
"Will Fog still have time to help with prosthetics?" Fox questions Secretary.
"Yes, but only simple ones. You'll have to apply them yourselves, unfortunately." Secretary leans back against the desk as we hash out our new plans.
"Ivy and I will slip in with all the guests at 1800 hours." Fox continues.
"I'll be across the street in the building adjacent and set up my sniping post again in case things go south. Shadow will set up with me instead of Tech and Fog." Raven chimes. "You both will have to get there on your own, but once you get out of the main hall, I'll head over to pick you up in our getaway car. It should be inconspicuous enough for the area, but it's fast if we need to get out quickly."
"I'll stay behind on the cameras even after Raven leaves to make sure you guys make it out of the building safely. I'll be your eyes for the whole mission." Shadow leans back on the couch; even so, I can tell he's not relaxed.
"After Fox and I make it in, I'll talk with one of the servers, telling them I don't feel well. I'll coerce her into escorting me to a private bathroom, where I'll drug her and swap clothes with her. I'll inform other staff members that a guest became very intoxicated and passed out in the bathroom. Then I'll join the rest of the servers in the kitchen, ready to serve more drinks. I'll quickly slip the ricin into one of the glasses and make sure I'm serving his table."
I think back to a few weeks when we planned the original attempt. Three of the female servers on duty looked similar enough to me to achieve blending in, and if Fog makes a decent skin wax for my skin tone, I shouldn't have any problem morphing into whoever I need to be. Admittedly, it would be even better if Fog were on this mission; his makeup skills are severely underrated.
"During this time, I will interact with guests in order to obtain any extra information I can on John Garner's business plans. We know he hopes to conduct human trafficking through the hotel chains across the territory, but we don't know who any of his connections' true identities are. I'll also draw attention to myself in hopes of attracting Garner's fancy, but that won't be guaranteed since people have described him as a loyal husband. His wife is currently expecting, which can either strengthen his loyalty or cause him desire to find another partner in the meanwhile." Fox strategizes.
"Such harsh words, but in this case, I guess we're hoping he's a complete ass." Shadow sighs out.
"Don't get me wrong; I view women the same way. If her partner is busy working to provide for them, they too might look for another partner in order to get more attention. And if that's the case, who knows if Mrs. Garner is carrying her husband's child or that of another." Fox coldly replies, turning her face away from his, a slight frown forming. "We're all human."
Picking up on this change in her demeanor Shadow swiftly apologizes, "You make a fair point; all of us are capable of immoral things, no matter who. I mean, look at us; we kill for a living. My bad."
Fox quickly lets the issue go and continues with the plan. "Once Ivy successfully delivers the poison, she'll signal with the empty serving tray."
"If it's tucked under my left arm, that means success; if it's tucked under my right arm, that means something went wrong." I confirm, "If it goes wrong, Fox should plan to act sick just as I will have done in the beginning, and we'll head to the bathroom Shadow directs us to." I point to my ear, mimicking the earpiece we will all have.
"I'll keep an eye out for alternative escape routes in case the ventilation systems cause any problems." He responds properly.
"Once you give that signal, I'll head over from my post and wait in the parking garage across the way. Shadow will help coordinate us to meet up properly. If everything goes well, I'll look like your ride once you exit the building." Raven pivots back and forth in the swiveling armchair, almost looking bored.
"If everything has still gone according to plan up to this point, Ivy and I will stay throughout the media coverage, which should begin around 1930 hours. This way, we can listen to his plans unedited before it airs to regular TV audiences." Fox turns her attention to me, her eyes piercing. "You're absolutely sure the poison won't take effect until after the media clears out?"
"Yes. The dose is fairly small, so any respiratory or organ failure symptoms shouldn't arise until about six hours later. If he's lucky, Garner might die in his sleep." My stance is strong, with confidence stemming from my answer. This seems to put Fox more at ease, tension leaving her body. Poison is the one thing I'm 100 percent certain of.
"Jeez, this is such a pain. Honestly, everything will be fine. I wish we could just get this over with. Shame yesterday didn't work out." Raven stretches her legs, standing up from her chair. "I'll see you guys next week; I'm heading out." Without approval from Secretary, she strides out of the room, her dark hair and outfit mimicking a trailing outline.
The rest of us look over to Secretary for her reaction, but her substantially profound atmosphere from earlier is gone, replaced with the feeling of a person in high command who isn't taken earnestly. "Out of everyone in Unit 47's group, you three are the only ones to take me seriously." She half sighs, half whines, letting her head drop in disappointment. "Dismissed. If you have other questions, you know where to find me."
One by one, we all stand up to leave, but before my hand can reach the door's handle, a voice speaks out. "Sec, this is a prominent man in this territory's southern and western parts, who is looking to expand east as well." Fox begins. As Fox looks over to Secretary, the older female remains quiet, and even though her head still droops a little, you can see her dark eyes are serious. Fox then glances over to me and then back to Secretary. "Some of us might have concerns over the possible consequences if we're caught."
Secretary doesn't hesitate to answer, lifting her head high once again. "I assure you that no harm will come to anyone outside of this agency. I cannot, however, guarantee you won't get hurt." With this affirmation, I release a breath I didn't notice I was holding. My sweaty palms clutch my coat, the fabric absorbing my anxiety. My family… they'll be safe even if I get caught… right?
In succession, Fox, myself, and Shadow all leave the room, the door locking automatically behind us. "I'll see you at training later." Shadow nods his head with a slight bow to both Fox and me. He walks away without a response from either of us, and Fox takes off not far behind him. I slowly follow after them, and, being honest with myself, I am worried about this mission. It's not like the others, where I quickly get in and get out; this requires a lot of planning and flawless execution. While it's not the first time playing the role of someone else, it's never been on this large of a scale for me before. Maybe... I was relieved that it was pushed back yesterday, but now, we have even fewer assassins to execute this. I can't help but worry, though I'm also confident in my remaining teammates. I can't let them down, and I already made a promise to my family. No matter what happens, this assassination has to be a success.