He laid his garment bag on the second bed in the hotel room, unzipped it at the front and then immediately hung up the suit that was in it. He wanted the wrinkles to fall out before he had to wear it. He was a little nervous. "It's normal. Like they used to say in the Army: you watch out for the guys that are fearless," he thought. Out of his small carry-on, he unpacked his weapon. Nothing fancy: a .40 caliber Beretta that would easily do the trick.
He then pulled out the box. It wasn't fancy like you see in the movies. Just an old Nike shoe box. Inside were countless pictures of his target. Her husband was reluctant to take them from their home but if he wanted the job done right, he knew that the pictures would give the killer all he needed to get the job done.
The Killer carefully examined the wedding picture. The couple looked happy back then. Their youth seemed so innocent, so clean of their experiences to come. Their future was bright the Killer was sure, until it all started to unravel. He tacked it on the wall. Then another picture taken a few years later. The two looked equally happy—out on a boat during a summer outing. The wife held up the fish she had caught.
The Killer roughly rummaged through the rest of the pictures. He needed a more recent one. "Ah, there," he mumbled. She stood in all her glory with a flowing, flowered cotton sundress smiling for the camera. She was a few years older than in the first few pictures, but her beauty was still apparent. "Today's gonna be a bad day for you Mrs. Franklin." The Killer reviewed the notes the private eye had given him. "Mrs. Franklin's been a bad girl," he sneered. The Killer took a deep breath and began to lay out the grainy pictures of Mrs. Franklin and her lover in various compromising positions. He went through this ritual every once in awhile to ensure he could go through with it all; to make her pay. The ritual was the Killer's moral compass, reminding him what he had to do.
He took in a deep breath and exhaled. He stood up and put on his suit. He took extra care to ensure that he hadn't missed a spot shaving and that his hair was all in place. If it was going to go according to plan, everything had to be in place.
Stacy Franklin was finishing up her day's action items. She was tired and ready to sit in a hot bath. She wanted to go home, put on her pajamas and do nothing but lay down. Veg out. Watch TV. She hadn't really done that in weeks. She'd been too busy.
When she wasn't toiling away at her job, she was dealing with her husband. Their marriage had been deteriorating since last August when she got her promotion. Luke was a good husband to her—"a good man", as her mother would say—but there was plenty he was lacking. And now that she'd moved up in the corporate hierarchy, she began to notice what she didn't have.
Her affair with Greg started out as a small peck on the cheek after an extended "happy hour" get together on a Friday after work. That built into dancing at the next client-site review. They'd gone to the hotel and fucked like she hadn't since her college days. Did she feel guilty? Oh yeah; everyday! But she just couldn't extract herself from Greg's allure. Now, every Thursday, she'd "work late", but it was really to meet Greg at his apartment. And it was good. The past seven weeks had been great! She'd done things she'd never done with a man. Yeah, she felt guilty, but... Stacy loved her husband. It was the excitement that she missed. The chase. The wonder whether the other person likes you enough to make the first move. She wanted that again and her chances of ever feeling that were drifting away with the years.
Her phone rang. It was Luke. "Yeah, what's up," she said as she collected her things to go home.
"I've got a surprise for you," he replied. Despite the growing distance between the two, she still enjoyed his occasional charm. "What did you do?"
"You'll see," he said. "I've got something special for you down at the Holiday Inn...maybe a little dancing, a little booze...," he said.
Stacy winced even though she appreciated his effort. "Ah baby...I'm just so tired. I just wanna go home and..."
"No! Come out here Stacy," Luke said a little more forcefully than she expected.
"Ah, Luke, are you okay," she asked wondering what the fuck was going on.
Luke's voice calmed down. "Yeah, I mean, sorry about that. It's just important that you meet me down here."
Stacy released a long sigh recognizing that her relaxing evening was blown. "Well, okay."
The Killer now knew the target was coming to the hotel. He was certainly ready. He stared blankly into the large mirror in the hotel suite. He didn't have time to wax philosophic about what he was and what he'd done with his life. "I am what I am," he said to his reflection. Besides, he had a client to be serviced. He laughed internally at the professional way he described it. "Client". "Serviced". He laughed again.
Stacy parked. She thought about what the hell was going on and what Luke had planned. She didn't hate her husband or anything extreme...she loved him...she guessed. She decided that she was just bored. She pulled down the visor and ensured her makeup was straight and her hair wasn't out of whack. It was the least she could do. She walked into the hotel lobby—the nicest in their town—and waived off the guy behind the counter. She looked into the bar and saw him. It was still early—about six-thirty—so there was still light coming in through the windows of the bar. It was pretty much empty.
Luke smiled meekly at her when he turned his chair and saw her come in through the front doors. It was a smile that asked, "What do you think?" Sitting on the bar next to him was a bouquet of a dozen red roses. Despite their recent distance, her heart swelled, supported by the memory of the man that she had fallen in love with. Her eyes began to well, though she quickly gained her composure. She walked to him, slowly at first. Then, she moved to a trot ultimately landing her in his outstretched arms.
They kissed and she felt the warmth of her husband's arms wrapped around her. Almost on cue, the song that the two had danced to at their wedding reception played (thanks to the gracious bartender whose iPod happened to have the tune). The two danced. Luke and Stacy, for the first time in a long time, were oblivious to the world and just danced. They looked into each other's eyes in recognition of a shared love. The moment was beautiful.
Luke leaned forward and kissed his wife. "I love you," he announced.
Stacy, moved by the gesture, wiped a tear from her eye and answered, "I love you too Luke!"
Luke leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "Well then, let's go take advantage of this hotel room we're paying for. We need to celebrate our anniversary."
Stacy instantly became alarmed. She thought, "Fuck! I forgot our anniversary!" Even still, she kept her poker face and walked hand-in-hand towards the elevator with her husband. She had to give him credit: this was more romance than she'd seen in a decade of marriage.
They arrived at Room 224. Luke handed her the key card and said, "I'm carrying you whether you like it or not."
She smiled. "Well, if you insist." He lifted her in his arms and she inserted the key card and opened the door.
He put her down on the floor. Stacy looked around the hotel room in awe. The walls were covered with pictures of Stacy and Luke throughout the years. The effect was an emotional one and Stacy found herself crying again. She walked up to the pictures on the wall: company picnics, birthday parties, college football games, friends' weddings, camping trips...it all reminded her of what she and Luke had together before the rat race had taken over.
Stacy ran to Luke and grabbed him like a prize, so valuable that she never wanted to let him go. Through sobs she got out, "Oh baby, oh baby, I love you so much. I can't believe I never saw your love like this."
Luke said, "I do love you Stacy. I love you more than you know. That's why I brought you here. That's why I put up all of these pictures. It's our anniversary—I know; I saw you didn't remember—and I wanted to do something special. Something you'd never forget."
She rebutted, "I remembered! I...," but he cut her off.
"Shh...It's okay." He laughed. "Trust me, it's alright. I know why our anniversary isn't necessarily first and foremost on your mind." He made a motion towards an envelope lying on the bedspread. Before she even approached it, she just knew. She knew what was in that manila envelope. "Open it," he suggested.
"No," she answered. As sense of foreboding gripped her.
"Open it," he said in a more commanding voice. She unclasped the envelope and began sifting through the pictures. She could hardly see them through the tears. The figure of Greg between her legs made her want to vomit now. She held the pictures at her side and looked straight down at the floor. Her marriage was over. The man that she'd genuinely loved for the past decade knew of her petty affair and it was over. Her life was over.
"Look at me," Luke said. "Look at me!" he yelled when she failed to respond. Sheer horror replaced her guilt when she saw the gun pointed at her.
"N-n-no Luke; let's talk about this," Stacy pleaded. "It was a...a mistake. I mean, I love you baby. I don't know..." she said as she moved to the corner of the hotel room. She cowered there in anticipation of the inevitable.
"LOOK AT ME!" he commanded. Slowly but surely, she turned her head up to look at him. His face was strewn with tears. She saw that beyond the barrel of the gun that was now aimed at her face. "What the fuck Stacy?! You talk about love and you can't keep from...Ah fuck!" Luke raged, screaming obscenities at her.
Stacy began to sob uncontrollably, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry Luke, I'm so sorry," she repeated again and again as if it was a prayer that would provide her some sort of salvation.
Then there was a silence. "I don't want to kill you Stacy. I still love you. But I can't be on this earth knowing you...shit, I don't know. I'm not doing it anymore."
Stacy looked up at Luke who stood with the gun at his side. His face was red from the rage he felt and wet with tears. He'd undone the tie at his neck. With his free hand, he buttoned his suit jacket. Suddenly, his face turned cold and resolute. Stacy knew he was going to kill her now. Stacy tried to steel herself against the pain that was about to come.
The Killer stepped back from his victim, pointed his gun at Stacy's face and said, "I'm sorry I wasn't man enough for you." He then opened his mouth and pushed the barrel into it.
Before she finished her scream, Luke's body was crumpled on the floor. The Killer had serviced his client.