though this be madness

though this be madness

(Becky snaps her cell phone shut. —I love you too, Mom.)

I keep the cigarettes out, tips facing her and the lucky sticking out a little. But she doesn't accept it (they always take the lucky, I'm wondering why she Just Said No), she rolls her pretty lips inward and looks at the floor (noIdon'tsmoke,thankyou) with those impossibly blue eyes of hers.

The world might be black in white but not those eyes, and I'm startled for a moment because she's (justthatpretty) not what I expected when Gail told me to take of The Problem (Becky-my-Becky) but when are they? You'd never guess all the people that deserve (or don't deserve but are anyway because fuck, it's just my job, everyone's gotta make a living) to die in this city, sin city, Sin City.

I try for a smile. —Don't smoke, huh.

—No. My Mom doesn't like the smell. She pushes the carton back at me but fiddles with the lighter. (Her nails are red but chewed all the way down to the tips.)

She knows I'm gonna kill her anyway, smoke or no smoke. I've got bills to pay too, honey, and don't bother with a sob story 'cause I've heard them all. But Becky knows better, she just looks naïve. She's looking at me like (maybeyoucouldmakeanexception) but she doesn't say it because we both know I can't, I can't. (I'm the only honest worker in this town.)

—Maybe now's the time to splurge.

I offer them again but she just looks at me and shakes her head (I don't want your fuckingpitysmoke, I'm not gonna be another name on your résumé).

I'm thinking of the last time I saw her, all dolled up in that blue dress that made her eyes look evenmoreblue (more blue) than they already are, dark hair spilling onto her shoulders because when I found her on the balcony she let me pull it from its ponytail. It was shiny and wavy and framed her face just right, justlikethat, and I couldn't say anything except that she was beautiful.

She blushed because I was so close and she's, God, only seventeen, and it was so red against her pale pale cheek but she said I've heard that before and I didn't know how to make her believe me, because I kill for a living and she don't do anything but die.

—You wanna walk me to my apartment? I don't want to die on the streets, God, it's so dirty.

And that's Becky, afraid of getting her fucking corpse muddy but I'll do what she wants because I can afford to be nice, there isn't anyone coming to save her and she knows it. We walk in silence, bumping shoulders, and I can tell she's getting antsy as we get closer to her building because she starts toying with one of the crosses on her neck.

Into the silence she asks, —Gail?

—Gail, I say. —Loose ends.

—At least you aren't Miho, gawd.

It's said with a sort of half-smile but there are big tears in her eyes, swallowing some of their color. She blinks them back, unlocking her apartment. She fumbles a little but we get up in the end. She smiles at the landlady, some old broad who smells like cats.

I want to tell her that it's gonna be quick and she won't even realize she's dead until she is. Maybe she'll go to that God of hers or maybe not, but I can't imagine Hell could be worse than Sin City so it's really only up from here.

In her apartment she hands me a drink. It's apple juice and I'm thinking (fuckBeckyfuck), apple juice, Jesus.

—Have a smoke, Becky, please.

She doesn't pour herself anything. Not thirsty or nothing strong enough. —Enough with the cigarettes, God. Let me just… can I ask you something, before?

I couldn't ever say no to Becky, Becky of the blue eyes, not old enough to vote or smoke or drink or do anything except get hurt. —Sure.

—Don't make it look like a murder, okay. My Mom, it would… just let me fall down the stairs or something.

I nod. —If that's what you want.

She takes my glass, bringing it over to the sink. She's washing it out and putting it away and that's when I shoot her once, in the head. She goes down with a little gasp of surprise and her glass is balanced precariously in the cabinet, halfway to falling. Most things are black and gray but her bloodisred and her pretty unkissed mouth forms a little 'O' and I wonder how many men have seen her make that face.

I bend down and brush her hair out of her face, looking into her still-open eyes, kissing them shut. I take the lucky out and almost drop it next to her (one cigarette for one murder, it'sjustthewayit'sdone) but think twice.

Her little voice (enoughwiththecigarretes,God).

I leave the same way I came in, have a good night, Mrs. Leibowitz, and put the lucky in my mouth. I light it on the dirty streets and then I throw the lighter away.

It tastes just like every other smoke.