Don't Ask Questions
By Hailey Mills
The first rule when working as an assassin for a top-secret international agency:
Don’t ask questions.
In the last twelve years, I’ve traveled all over the world and done some pretty insane things. Hurling knives through limbs, dangling out of helicopters, and firing automatic rifles from the roofs of thirty-story buildings are all just parts of the gig. I’ve broken 29 bones and been shot 6 times, all before the age of thirty. Having been roped into the job as a young sixteen-year-old girl, it’s been deeply ingrained into my being to follow orders without even a spark of curiosity. It doesn’t matter who I’ve been assigned to terminate, as long as I succeed the mission…and get paid.
Don’t get me wrong, curiosity is a natural human trait. But being a skilled assassin is not a job for the natural human. We cannot afford to ask questions, or even succumb to basic emotion. The key is to see each target as nothing more than a job to be finished. When you start seeing them as people, well, that’s when things get rough. There can’t be anything holding you back from pulling the trigger when the moment arises.
There’s only one more rule:
Don’t return until you are absolutely certain the target is dead.
Following these rules has turned me into a cold, fierce, and ruthless assassin. The Agency knows that there’s no job I can’t complete, and despite my young age, I am assigned the most dangerous and vital missions.
That’s why I was a bit surprised by my encounter with the Director this morning. I visited his underground office to receive my next assignment, having executed a gang of heavily armed drug lords in New York the previous week. The whole room was aglow, with flashing screens taking up the space on every wall. Some showed a constant stream of updates on the mission progress of other agents currently in the field, while others showed live footage of the world’s most revered leaders. I figured I would be sent overseas next, maybe to take out the leader of a barbaric terrorist group. Thirsty for a challenge, I slipped into the chair facing the Director’s desk with suppressed anticipation.
The Director was an intimidating man, with a square jaw, dark skin, and narrow black eyes. “Stand back up, Diaz. This one’s a local job,” he said casually, not looking up from his computer screen.
Slightly taken aback, I regained my standing position and faced him with the same callous expression I always wore. “Yes, sir.”
“It’s just a quick drop-off,” he continued, motioning his head towards a package on the counter behind his desk. I hadn’t noticed it when I’d first walked in. There were no words or markings on the brown paper packaging, and it was about the size of a large shoebox. “I’ll send you the address, and that’ll be it for the day.”
I’ll admit, I was puzzled. Intrigued, even. Surely, a simple delivery couldn’t be all the Agency’s top assassin was tasked with. The emotions felt foreign as they flickered through my mind. I quickly shoved them away before responding with my usual, “Yes, sir.”
The Director waved his hand, and an assistant gently lifted the parcel and placed it into my outstretched arms. It was a bit heavier than I expected. “Do be sure to handle this package with the utmost of caution. And by the way, nice job in New York.”
I nodded sharply, feeling those same strange emotions flood into my chest. Trying to make sense of them, I quickly exited the office and made my way back to the world above. I realized that I had been going about it all wrong. This wasn’t a boring delivery job; it had to be a mission. As soon as he told me to handle the package with extreme care, I knew that it had to be carrying a bomb. I was used to having little information on the jobs I was tasked with, and deduced that after I delivered the bomb, the Agency would electronically activate its motion sensors, enabling it to explode when the unsuspecting target made contact with it. That had to be it.
Now that I had a strong suspicion of its lethal contents, the package seemed to grow heavier in my hands with every step. By the time I’d reached my car, the Director had already sent me the location I was to deliver the package to. The GPS concluded that it would be a two-hour drive, but I knew my bulletproof and weaponized car could make it in half that time. I carefully set the package on the passenger seat and started the drive north.
Yeah, no biggie. Just cruising around with a bomb.
Being alone with my thoughts gave way to some mystifying realizations. First, this was not in any way professional. The tactic of concealing a motion-activated bomb in a package on the doorstep was an amateur one, for someone working alone. It wouldn’t make sense for an organization as widespread and powerful as the Agency to handle things in this fashion. Second, bombs aren’t as sure of a kill as a quick bullet to the skull. There had to be a specific reason for this approach, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.
Enough! I quickly stopped myself. Just get the job done, and don’t ask questions.
I finally reached the address and was surprised to find a strikingly beautiful mansion, surrounded by several acres of open farmland. The sun’s rays glistened in the bright green grass, and colorful flowers grew neatly all around the house. There was a small swing hanging from the branches in a nearby shade tree, and a brick pathway led from the deserted country road up to the front porch. The peaceful scene would have been perfect for a painting, but all I could think about was how long it would take for emergency vehicles to arrive. With no other buildings around, it was the perfect target for an explosion.
I parked my car and shut off the engine about a hundred yards down the dirt road, concealed by a hedge of rose bushes. Peering through my binoculars, I scanned the area for any booby traps or sign of movement. Other than a little rabbit scurrying across a flower bed, the area appeared to be secure.
Just get the job done. I repeated the words to myself as I got out of the car and carefully lifted the package. The doors crept closed silently, another one of the car’s many perks. With my first breath, I was overwhelmed by the sweet scent of honeysuckle.
I crept along the edge of the yard, remaining in the shadows until I reached the front porch. Despite the setting’s beauty, I reasoned that it had to be hiding a secret underground cellar, filled with drugs or an armory of illegal weapons to be sold on the black market. Or perhaps it was home to a gang of foreign criminals or conspiracists. These ideas calmed me, as I checked for traps around the house one last time before gently setting the package on the doorstep.
Free from the burden of the bomb’s awkward weight, I stealthily started running back across the yard. As I prepared to revel in my latest victory, a tiny voice suddenly stopped me in my tracks.
“Hi, I’m Jenny!”
It belonged to a little girl standing under one of the shade trees, about five or six years old. She wore a pink summer dress and a plastic tiara, glittering with tiny sparkles. She had friendly hazel eyes, a small mane of dark curly hair, and warm olive skin. Shocked, my breath caught in my chest and I froze, staring wide-eyed at the three-foot intruder.
“If you’re looking for my dad, he’s inside working.” She smiled through her chubby little cheeks and full pouty lips. “But if you were looking for me, you could push me on the swing!”
I could hardly register her words. Where had she come from?
“I’m in kindergarten, and my teacher always says I do really good,” the little girl went on, beaming with pride. “We get to eat goldfish, and I really love goldfish. But I stepped in the mud and ruined my new shoes!” She almost lost her balance as she held up her tiny foot. “What’s your name?”
“Evelyn,” I said softly, my voice sounding strange to my own ears. Yeah, that’s my real name. I didn’t exactly mean to just give it out, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had engaged with anyone that wasn’t dead or the Director. Besides, how could this little girl possibly be threatening?
“That’s kinda hard to say,” she replied, giggling. “Jenny is easier.” She continued to talk, but I couldn’t hear her over the blood roaring in my ears. How could I not have noticed her? The package with the bomb was just a few feet away, sitting innocently on the doorstep. I knew the Agency was always tracking me, but had they activated the bomb yet? Shifting a few feet, I tried to block it from view of the girl. My assassin instincts were out of wack, but I knew I didn’t want the child to be harmed. This was all going so terribly wrong. My job was to get in and out as quickly as possible, and now this little girl was severely complicating things.
Just leave, and whatever happens, happens. You must follow orders, the voice in my head screamed at me. But then I looked down at the small wide-eyed girl, and my feet wouldn’t budge. I was sure the Agency couldn’t have been targeting her, but she was in extreme danger. I had to do something.
The innocent babbling stopped, and to my horror, the girl suddenly gasped. “Oooh, a present! You brought it for me?”
“No!” I burst out anxiously. “It is special for your dad, don’t touch it!”
“I just want to see!” Curls bouncing, she instantly made a beeline for the front porch. Barely beating her to it, I scooped up the package as gently as I could and held it high out of her reach.
The little girl giggled and squealed, jumping up and down as she reached for the package. The situation had left me completely clueless. In my hands, I held a bomb that risked going off at any second, while this gleeful little girl danced around my ankles. No amount of training could have prepared me for this.
I hadn’t expected the sweet child to suddenly latch onto my leg, clinging to me like a fireman’s pole. I lost my balance and fell to the ground, the package slipping straight into Jenny’s lap. Unable to move, I watched helplessly as the child excitedly ripped open the brown paper packaging. My heart was pounding, and I braced myself for the intense heat of the explosion, expecting the two of us to be instantly blown to bits by flames and shrapnel.
Instead, she gave a dejected sigh. “What a boring present.” The box slid to the ground, and I reached for it desperately.
It was a beautifully intricate China set, with each of the little plates and cups snuggly enclosed in bubble wrap. Tucked at the bottom of the box was a card. Furiously, I ripped it open to find a short message made out to a Mr. Johnson, thanking for him for his contribution and wishing him a happy retirement.
“Do you have any more presents?”
I ignored the girl as my feet shakily carried me to the car. Flooring the gas, I glimpsed her waving goodbye in the distance.
Was this the Director’s way of giving me an easy day off after a crazy expedition in New York? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know. It was time I take it back to the first rule:
Don’t ask questions.