‘So, what do I call you?’ Tony asked, his hand quivering as he offered it to shake. Her refusal disturbed him not at all.
‘I’m Kate, Mr Evans.’
‘Call me Tony.’
He scratched his ear and watched as the shaky skin he disturbed dropped slowly onto the brown of his jacket. Snow on earth. Perhaps snowdrops and crocuses would emerge soon, to pierce the fabric with their speared-sharp shoots.
‘So, Kate… do you do this kind of thing often?’ He used the back of his right hand, and then his left, to smooth out the sweat droplets that were gathering and being absorbed into the bushy mat of his eyebrows.
‘You’d be surprised just how often. It is a strong demand chain. Tell me what you need.’
Tony rubbed his eye and cursed the roughness of his fingers and their tips. He cursed the labouring and the constant scratches of the gardener’s life. He was sure he’d scratched his own eyeball, and rummaged in his bag self-consciously.
‘My wife,’ he said as he passed a photo to Kate. It showed the couple surrounded by lupins, both man and wife smiling joyfully at the icecreams they licked.
‘I’ve put our address on the back, with a list of the times when she’s at home and I’m at work.’
‘I’ll be in touch when it’s done,’ Katie said, and left without another word. She hadn’t been as he’d expected – a young, vibrant woman with short, bobbed hair, a woman who was sleek and agile with wealth and who was tough, almost psychopathic in character. Kate must have been in her sixties at least. Ordinary. Attractive, even. And he’d liked her no-nonsense approach enormously.
Deciding against another drink after having watched the barwoman tip out the drip trays, it was time to return home. He knew that Tina would be waiting, and she’d doubtless have a barrage of questions for him.
Tony opened the door of their living room, a room they’d decorated only a couple of years ago. He remembered their giggles as the wallpaper crinkled and fell, and sighed. He found his wife asleep in her favoured armchair, with the fire on full blast. He turned down the heat, then turned down the television’s volume.
‘Well?’ Tina said, waking groggily and looking at him straight in the eyes. ‘Is everything on?’
‘Yes, darling. I met Kate. She was lovely. I gave her your specific requirements, I told her we’d already said our goodbyes. We need to leave the safe open and empty, and trash the living room and home office before she arrives. She’ll be in and out. Quickly.’
Tina smiled gratefully. She knew that the Euthenasia Hitwoman would be discreet and gentle, and that all her pain would soon be no more. Kate had been hard to find, even with the assistance of her son, and with hours of scouring them all Dark Web, but for Tina, her services would be well worth the expenditure. At any rate, all of Kate’s earnings would be paid as charitable donations for hospice care, cancer research, heart disease research and much more.
‘Kate said you can still change your mind up to five minutes before the event,’ Tony said, begging her to have a change of heart.
‘I’m sorry, darling, but we both know I won’t.’ Tony stroked his wife on her head and she winced in agony. ‘Not long now,’ she whispered, and for the first time in months, she looked content.