Elenda Bestimmt was hard at work baking cookies.
Every square inch of the kitchen counters were covered in baking materials: a sack of flour, a bag of chocolate chips, sugar, salt, butter, spatulas, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and cookie sheets. The oven was set to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and one batch was nearly done. The aroma of sweet snacks filled her apartment like a fog, and slipped under the door into the halls. Her neighbors would slow down and sniff appreciatively as they passed her door.
In the two years she had lived there, Elenda had earned a reputation as the "cookie girl" among her fellow tenants. Those moving out would carry with them stories of the magnificent odors emanating from her room, while those moving in usually went about a week before experiencing the wonder of Elenda's cooking. She never shared her baking with the other tenants, but many swore the smell was enough; so thick and rich, it was like eating a cookie – without all the calories, the women joked.
Thos same women scoffed at her whenever she passed them in the building. She was fit, bordering on skinny. How could she bake so much and retain that figure? She must be anorexic. No, I heard she works out every day. Maybe she just has really good metabolism. God, some people have all the luck.
But Elenda Bestimmt was anything but lucky, at least in her own eyes. If any of the other women knew what she really was, they wouldn't think she was so lucky. They might even feel sorry for her. But that was impossible – Elenda never spoke to anyone in her apartment complex. The most contact she had with anyone (beyond a blank stare, or a curt nod) was with her live-in boyfriend, Thomas Rhem.
Those same women who scoffed at her while enjoying the aroma of her baking also gawked and drooled over Thomas whenever he came and went. Unlike Elenda, Thomas was polite to other tenants. He engaged them in conversation, helped them move furniture, and was all around a nice guy. Not only that, he was gorgeous. And a doctor. No one could ever understand what he saw in a bland girl like Elenda, but whatever it was, they didn't have it.
The timer on the oven beeped, startling Elenda. She clutched the bowl of batter she was currently stirring tight to her chest as tears streamed down her face. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. The steady rhythm of the timer faded into the police sirens whirring through her mind.
Elenda Bestimmt, Messier catalogue number LV915, slipped gently through the crowd, pushing only gently to get through. So buried in their own business, the waiting passengers gave way without much of thought. A few caught a fleeting glimpse of her blond hair shimmering in the artificial light of the train station but gave it no more than a moment's notice. That suited her just fine; using her power more than was necessary wasn't something she liked to do, even if it was necessary.
The crowd ended at the yellow line that marked the end of the waiting area. A few feet ahead of her, the platform dropped away to the electrified rails. On the other side was another waiting area, with a crowd just as big as this one. She quickly scanned the ignorant masses. To her great pleasure, her target was standing directly across from her, buried in a newspaper – doing the Sudoku puzzle, she knew from her research.
Elenda vanished back into the crowd and discreetly check her gun to make sure it was safe. In the same instant, she selected a pawn: a working man type. Not management, but maybe a step or town down from middle. His suit was nice a pressed; a briefcase was carried in one hand, and his jacket was draped over his other arm. It was a rather warn day.
"Excuse me, sir," Elenda said quietly to him. "But how are you feeling this morning?"
"Oh, I'm feeling alright," he answered, as if telling complete strangers his feelings was perfectly normal. "I think I might be getting that promotion today. Johnny likes to keep it a secret until the day of, but Mark has it on good that it'll be me." He paused. "Still, I can't get my hopes up too high; I didn't even tell Karen or the kids. Don't want 'em disappointed if it doesn't come true, eh?" He flashed a friendly grin at no one in particular.
"That's good," Elenda answered, her eyes fixed on the target. Jarvis Maerk, CFO of Hard Volt Electronics. She had been hired to kill him by Ron Feltch, the CEO of Feltch Systems - a rival company. Actually, the man she had just spoken to – Donny – was employed at Feltch Systems. "But," she continued, "are you sure you aren't angry?"
Donny's face scrunched up. "No. I mean, I hadn't thought about it until now, but why would I be?"
Elenda's eyes sparkled as she called on her power. "Well, that man on the other side of the tracks is the CFO of your top competitor." He knew exactly who she was talking about instinctively. "He's been using dirty business tactics for years to get a leg up on your company."
"Yes. That's how he's grown so much in the last year and a half." Everything she said was made up on the spot, designed to evoke an emotional response from Donny. That was her power: emotional manipulation. "Doesn't that make you angry?"
She saw Donny's fists tighten. "Yeah, you know, it kind of does. The world doesn't need dirty businessmen like him. What they need is more honest men, like Ron Feltch."
"That's correct," she stoked. "Would you take matters into your own hands if you could?"
"What…do you mean?"
Hate. "Would you kill him? You said it yourself: the world has no use for dirty businessmen like him." She pressed the gun into his palm. "You would be a hero."
"No…no, I couldn't. He doesn't deserve that. I'll tell the police and let them handle it. Death is…extreme."
Anger. Hate. Fury. "What if I told you he was sleeping with your wife?" She felt Donny's muscles tense. Righteous fury.
"What? No! Karen wouldn't…she couldn't…"
"She can, and she has. You're just a salesman, Donny. What is that compared to the CFO of a profitable company like Hard Volt? Nothing. You're nothing to her, Donny."
"That's…that's not true. Karen loves me! She – "
"She loved you once, but no more. Thanks to that man. That one, right over there." His mind became easier to mold, and she sent relentless waves of emotions at him. Anger. Hate. Fury. Abandonment. Betrayal. Hatred. Vengeance. Hate. Anger. Anger. Hate!
"That…man…" Donny raised the gun, released the safety, and cocked it. "Took my wife from me." A scream went up through the crowd. "Bastard!" He fired five shots. The first missed completely, striking the metal sign above Jarvis' head. The next struck him in the arm, causing him to lose his grip on the paper. The next three hit home in his abdomen.
Elenda fell back with the crowd, and watched the horror unfold.
Crying, Elenda set the bowl of cookie batter on the marble counter top – the only spot free of any mess. She stopped the timer, and slipped on her oven mitts. A blast of hot airs smacker her in the face when she pulled the oven door open and reached in to retrieve the latest batch of cookies, her latest penance. Holding them in her hands, tears fell like a leaky faucet all over the pastries.
This isn't right, she thought to herself. I'm a Contractor. We don't feel emotions! I'm only a step up from a doll, but I'm better than them. I'm better than everyone! So why do I feel like this? Why can't I stop crying? What's wrong with me!
In a flash of rage she hurled the steaming sheet of cookie at the yellow-painted wall, the wall she had Thomas had painted last winter. It connected in a loud clatter than made one passerby outside stop completely; he moved on quickly, though, remembering that the cookie girl lived there. Probably just dropped something.
Elenda fell against the counter and slid to the floor, taking with her the sacks of flour and sugar, which spilled all over her. The scene was further completed with the addition of the bits of fresh cookies scattered around her and the dented cookie sheet lying off to one side. She pulled her knees up to her chest and buried her face in them as she wept. Hand found her hair and pulled. Flour and sugar and batter mixed with tears and blood, and smeared across her lap.
The lock clicked and the door to her apartment swung open.
Elenda watched from a distance as the police moved in on Donny, weapons drawn. Each moment passed in slow motion, like in the movies she used to watch as a little girl, before Hell's Gate appeared in Japan. She kept herself near the front of the crowd, but behind a few of the more curious ones.
Donny lowered the gun, suddenly free of Elend's influence. Horror washed through him as he stared at the bloody corpse across the tracks. There was no logical explanation for what he had just done. The gun he held wasn't even his, and he didn't even know the dead man. How could he kill someone?
"Drop your weapon!" the police shouted as sirens whirred in the background. The officers in blue formed a barrier between the crazed gunman and the trapped passengers. "Drop your weapon!" they shouted again.
Donny didn't respond; he was too transfixed on the dead man, the man he had just murdered in cold blood, with no reason. He looked down at his shaking hand holding the gun. The police released the safety on their weapons, mistaking the situation. He turned to face the police, gun in his left hand.
"I'm sorry," he whispered and put the gun to his head. He pulled the trigger. The last shot tore through his skull, pierced his brain, and exited the other side. Blood and gay matter was plashed over the police immediately to his right, as well as some of the citizens. Drops peppered Elenda's face.
In the hours that followed, Elenda was questioned, denied any knowledge of Donny Denis, and was released without suspicion. Still covered in Donny's blood, she was struck with the uncontrollable urge to bake cookies.
Thomas Rhem was greeted with the heavenly aroma of fresh cookies. Many a day he arrived after a long day to find Elenda baking. She always insisted it wasn't for him, but he was thankful anyway. Even though they never ate more than two or three per episode, he still enjoyed them. He often suggested she look for a job, so she wasn't cooped up in the apartment all by herself all day, but each time she refused gently. She liked her alone time. Thomas made enough money for the two of them to live off of comfortably, so he never pressed the matter.
Today though, he came home to find the kitchen in disarray, and Elenda crying on the floor. He dropped everything and ran to her.
"Elenda! What's wrong?" He glanced around. "What happened here? The place is a mess." Then he realized she was crying. "Elenda…"
Love me, she insisted within her mind. Love me!
"I'm fine, Thomas," sobbed. "I just…need you right now." She lunged forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'm sorry about the mess. It's just – "
"No, no, it's alright. We'll clean up later. Are you sure you're okay, though?"
She hugged him tighter. "Yes. I just…need you." Love me. She buried her face in his soft brown hair, smelling all the familiar smells of the hospital: antiseptic, latex, blood. She inhaled deeply, relishing it almost as much as others enjoyed the smell of her baking.
Ever so gently, Thomas unwrapped her from his neck and kissed her lips. She returned it gratefully, hungrily. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her off to the bedroom, where he laid her down and left to clean up the kitchen. Sometime later, he returned and climbed in with her, enclosing her in his protective arms.
She cried again, and he let her without question. Her tears washed the flour and sugar and blood from her face and deposited them on the pillows they shared.
Thomas pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head. "I love Elenda," he whispered before drifting off to sleep.
"No, you don't," she whispered back. As she lay in the comforting embrace of Thomas, she wondered which was her real penance, the baking, or knowing that he will never truly love her back? It didn't matter, she thought miserably, because in a short while, she knew she would be at the oven again, baking cookies.
A/N: Mizagium here. Yep, this time I did a Darker than BLACK fanfic. Elenda's a Contractor I dreamed up the other, drawing inspiration from my sister. Mind you, she isn't depressing, nor is she a Contractor (as far as I know) but she loves to bake. Out joke was she baked angry, so...yeah. It was her idea for the power, actually, so some (a lot) credit goes to her.
After talking with her, I feel I should explain the puns I used for Elenda Bestimmt. Her name is actually based off of two German words "Elend" and "Bestimmt". Rougly, the mean "miserable" and "destined", respectively. So, her name translates as "Miserable Destined".
Her Messier number is another pun, albeit more cleverly designed. LV is simply short for "love". In computer speak, number can be substituted for letters (only in EXTEREMLY informal writing, though). In this case, 915 can be used in place of PLZ. Her number is LV PLZ. Love Please.
Ain't I a stinker?