CHARACTERS: Shelly de Killer, de Killer sr., Dominique Blanc
WORD COUNT: 2,607
SUMMARY: Her father by blood had been a tradesman, and her father by trade had been in the business of bringing death about prematurely.
NOTES: From the following exchange: I don't even know what I'd request from you. 8D; / If I had to put money on it, with the nature of this comm, I'd say Shelly as a lesbian. For mistytpednaem!
Her father by blood had been a tradesman, and her father by trade had been in the business of bringing death about prematurely. Both had named her, and both had been equally as attentive to detail, though if asked what the former had penned upon her birth certificate, the answer was invariably some form of Jane Doe. At sixteen, her switching of father figures had cemented her switching of names, and from then on, she was Shelly; and, more importantly, a de Killer.
It was de Killer when she trained, de Killer when she worked, and even de Killer when she looked in the mirror. She was the first woman to take on the title in over seven generations, and though her second father had reassured her that prejudice hadn't played an active role in this picking and choosing of assassins-to-be, Shelly had never been entirely sure that was the case. Still, potential was potential, and she believed her father when he told her she had a rich vein of it running through her.
Her education prior to losing her first father had been a good one, with emphasis on the good; it had sufficed. It had not been exceptional, and it was far from great, for her former school had been all her hard-working, honest father could afford, and had tried far too hard to be modern. As such, the standards of teaching what was really important slipped. At the end of it all, Shelly could recite her times table as naturally as she breathed, list off all the capitals in all the world, and speak both French and German with as much sophistication of a street rat belonging to each respective country.
For some years, she remained in America, learning all her new father had to teach. She suspected that it was more a case of her earning his trust than any particular titbit of knowledge he could impart, but after three summers, he apparently considered her learned and trustworthy enough, and placed her on a boat to Europe. From there she had a cabin in a train, with one of those rickety old beds that shuddered every time the carriage recalled it was passing along tracks, and covered the length and breadth of the continent numerous times for close to a decade.
In every city she reached, there would be some stranger who recognised the small imprint of a shell in the leather of the only piece of luggage she carried, and from thereon out, everything fell into place. There was always an apartment or hotel room waiting for her, always something new to be learnt. In these European cities, Shelly was always careful to look both ways before crossing the road, and she never failed to do this at least twice. Her father (the innocent one) had been killed in a rather gruesome accident whilst crossing the road to greet an old friend, and Shelly remembered more of that day in its every intricate detail than she did of the fifteen and a half years he had presided over her life.
It was an issue that simply was never dealt with. Some pains were better left on the surface, albeit never spoken of, to ensure that a certain drive to work remained.
How the man who'd taken her under his wing had known that she would be right for the job, for the family name, Shelly had never known. She had no history of violent behaviour, and had never taken pleasure in torturing small animals, but even she had to admit that there was something eerily natural about the way she eased into her new lot in life. If asked, though she never was, she would have said that she went with her second father purely because she had nowhere else to go. Her mother had died almost a decade before her father, and most of the memories she still possessed of her were manufactured from her father's stories. Neither parent had any siblings to speak of, and all four grandparents were departed. However, Shelly had always been well aware that this wasn't the case.
She went with de Killer because it felt like the right thing to do.
In these strange cities, amongst her routine of double-checking that roads were clear, her days would go something like this: on the Monday, she would acquaint herself with her temporary home. She would visit museums and public parks, the theatre and local restaurants, and at the end of the day, find herself in a zoo, as if she had not planned to go there all along, and it was merely that time had worked out in such a way that it permitted her visiting. On Tuesdays, she would visit with the prerequisite stranger who soon became a mentor, learn from them as best she could, and then on a Wednesday several weeks later, would take on a small job and kill somebody. On Thursdays, before the inevitable departure the following day, she would treat herself to some fine local teas from one of the more expensive stores in the region.
When she returned to America, nearing the age of thirty, her routine did not do much in the way of changing. Her father always had more to teach her, and for a few years, she attended a medical school under the name that had served her so well in Europe. She was Scarlett Haringa, an American of ambiguous Croatian heritage, but had never thought to trace her family tree back further than her grandparents. Not that she didn't already know all there was to know about human anatomy, of course, but it was good to have something on paper, even though the name printed upon it was false, and it was a real, solid piece of her own history that would satisfy the curiosity of inquisitive strangers.
In Europe, she had practised many ways in which to disguise herself. She had been a maid, a nurse, a cook, a cleaner, a kindergarten teacher; and then, as society progressed, as if to catch up with her, a businesswoman, a chef, a police officer, a professor. The list was endless. In America, she learnt of ways in which to kill people that she would have never dreamt up in a thousand years, and knew from that moment on that the de Killer title was something that she would always have to continue to earn.
Sixteen years after her return to America, and her father lost his life to a tobacco addiction. Shelly didn't seek out a replacement. She took over the family business with all the efficiency and ease that he would have expected of her, took care of her father's clients, and began leaving her business card in more and more crime scenes.
She did everything her father had taught her. Although at first she had favoured making deaths as quick and painless as possible, she had soon learnt that speed could be quite brutal. Still, she always ensured that she was respectful, never going to any lengths to mutilate a body while it was alive or dead. (There was one exception, however. A young woman had assured her over tea that she would never be able to truly consider her cheating husband as dead, unless that expression had been carved from his smug face. Shelly wasn't certain which expression in particular the woman had made reference to, because when she undertook her job, he made a variety of them, all portraying some degree of horror, but she supposed that the customer was always right.)
It was difficult to ignore the fact that she was a woman, despite her air of professionalism. Some of her female clients were instilled with confidence by this fact, as if it somehow made what they were doing right, whereas others would furrow their brow, sceptical, and ask if Shelly herself was some sort of secretary to the real de Killer. Men would scoff, want to pay less, but Shelly never relented, never did anything but the perfect job. Still, during some jobs, her target would allow himself to become all too aware of the fact that she was a woman, and Shelly would always allow them to come close. Close enough to kiss her, but the men, always believing that the anticipation and pang of excitement they felt was mutual, would afford themselves a moment to take stock of the situation; and then, before they could move forwards, and before they knew what was happening, they would find themselves with a bullet lodged in some vital organ.
Her interest in romance was not soured by her line of work; it simply had not existed for more than a few months outside of a single hotel room in Cohdopia.
The name the woman used at the time was Dominique Blanc, and she was a contact of her father's. She was a striking woman, ten years Shelly's senior, and had long since been considered a respectable assassin. They met at a bar in Cohdopia, close to the station Shelly had arrived at, and Dominique spoke the language fluently, though edged in a hint of a French accent that Shelly always suspected she could do without. It gave her an air of mystery, though, and avoided any awkward conversations that ended with Dominique saying her parents would both roll in their joint grave to learn that their daughter was socialising with Cohdopians, much less been mistaken for one.
She wore large, round sunglasses, like the women in posters for movies Shelly would inevitably never see, and taught her, as she had put in her own words, invaluable lessons for any female assassin. In truth, Shelly did not see how the lessons were gender specific; she taught her the foundations of the Cohdopian tongue and mastery of her own, and how to assemble a high calibre rifle, scope, stand and all in close to twelve seconds. She taught her to fight in a style she claimed as her own, though Shelly recognised the fluidity of the movements from Aikido and the brunt of the impact from the streets. She taught her odd little medical facts, information that would be entirely useless in all situations, save the most dire, and lectured her in strange tricks she could play by prodding a certain nerve just so.
Dominique claimed to have worked in the field for eight years, though Shelly's gut told her it was, in truth, at least double that figure. She was elegant, if not a little eccentric. She always wore her sunglasses; even inside, they would be pushed atop her head, creating ripples in her otherwise perfectly sleek hair. They were the last thing she would ever remove, and the two of them would sit there on the bed, legs idly draped over one another's, while Shelly did everything in her power to just concentrate. This was all to test her resolve, she decided. Dominique would ask her where a specific bone or nerve was, and with a furrowed brow, Shelly would press two fingertips to her bare skin. When Dominique asked her how she might dispose of a thirty-eight year old man, six feet tall and ninety-four pounds overweight without the use of weapons, Shelly's hands would ghost over her body, the slight pressure behind them displaying capability, not intent.
And then, once she was quite tired of teaching, Dominique would say something altogether vulgar in French, and Shelly would be frozen there, blinking.
“Oh, my Scarlett,” she'd say, and then add something to the end, half muttered under her breath. A Cohdopian endearment, she'd later explain. “You know so many ways to kill, so much about anatomy, of heartbeats, and yet you know nothing of people.”
Or words to that effect.
It ended on schedule, the moment the train pulled into the station and Shelly was due to move onto the her next location, eight cities over. When she thought back to Dominique – and that wasn't her real name, she was certain of it – Shelly remembered a good number of things, most of them technical. How she killed, how she disposed of bodies, how she cleaned a gun. Years later, when she was back in America, Shelly once considered making an attempt to get back into contact with Dominique, knowing well enough that her father would've had some false address of hers written down somewhere. The desire to do so left as quickly as it came, and though Shelly occasionally found herself looking for Dominique in the comically large sunglasses of the American girls, all she ever found was her own reflection.
Eventually, they went out of fashion.
It was the night of the millennium when they met again. Almost a decade and a half had passed since the hotel room in Cohdopia, and the first thing she noticed about Dominique – she was in America as a favour to an old friend, apparently – was that her hair was greying. Had probably been grey for some time, too. Shelly's wasn't far removed.
It was a sophisticated evening. They spoke of business, first in French, then in English, and then in euphemisms, strolling along the riverside, almost deaf to the overhead fireworks. They did not hold hands, though they were never particularly far apart, and Dominique apologised that she made no move towards the physical, but surely her darling Scarlett would understand that they were no longer in Cohdopia, so it would not very well do to act like animals in public. Shelly laughed at this. She hadn't laughed in a while. Her face creased up, a firework exploded in greens and reds and stars, and Dominique asked her what had caused such a dreadful scar to form on her face.
Shelly told her, and she was the first and last person she ever told the whole truth of the matter to.
Their departure was at an airport, this time, and held none of the warmth of a dusty little European train station. Dominique left, she was gone, and that was the whole of it. Years later, Shelly would still think of her from time to time, wondering what had become of her. Many of the assassins she had known from her days as a trainee had been caught and executed, and those residing in countries with less permanent means of punishment had retired in prison. Dominique would've loathed the latter and rolled her eyes at the former, and it was then and only then that Shelly would allow herself to indulge in idle daydreams. For Dominique's sake, she would imagine that she packed up all her belongings and riches, left her gun in some cosy French café, and made her way to a tropical island of her own, location unknown.
There was never any sense of longing lodged in between any of her feelings. Shelly was not a person who longed for anything she knew to be out of her grasp, and was content enough with what she had; a trusted client base, an oddly spacious apartment with a number of subtle weapons kept around – unusually sharp kitchen knives, a hefty fire poker, and so on – and the reputation as the strange old lady down the hall, who didn't have any family of her own, but kept one too many cats around; and, as ever, the scarred face of de Killer staring back from inside the mirror's frame.