The woman applying for her license was sweating a lot. Understandable with the circumstances being what they were. The average person only applied for one kill license in their lifetime. Some never did.
As a Kill License Officer, the first thing Mortimer Larkin learned was not to let sympathy skew the picture. If he approved every applicant based on a one-sided story the firm would be in debt within a month. Risks had to be considered every time.
He cleared his throat and spoke without looking up from the paperwork. “The intended target… Mr. Winslow?”
“My Husband,” she said.
“Of course,” he said with a nod. “I didn’t want to assume.”
“It’s common, is it?”
“The most common of all.”
He scribbled a few numbers down on his notepad and flipped to the second page of the application.
“Sad,” Mary said.
“Huh?” He looked up from the paperwork and saw sadness on her face. “Oh. Yes. An unfortunate result of the societal statistics, I think.”
Other common applications were for a brother, a sister, father, uncle, and every other possible family member. It’s where the phrase, ‘Kill the ones you love’ came from. He had even handled an application for a man seeking to kill his grandmother. Fastest decline he had ever done.
“You haven’t written anything under applicable experience,” Mortimer said.
Mary’s gaze dropped to the kleenex she was wringing in her hands. “I don’t have any. I’m a homemaker. I was a homemaker.”
“Have you ever fired a gun?”
She shook her head.
Mortimer sighed and added a few numbers to his notepad. He was confident what the numbers would come out to, but he would still do the math.
“You haven’t listed a reason.”
“Not sure what to call it,” she said, dabbing the tissue at the corner of her eye.
“Can you describe it?”
“There’s another woman.”
“And another house. Three kids. An entire other life. I don’t even know if she’s the other woman, or I am.”
He paused with his pen hovering over the form. She had a point. It seemed more of a betrayal than adultery.
“For the sake of the form, I’m going to put general abuse.”
She nodded and dabbed another tear away.
“Almost done.” He spared her an emotionless smile and fed her application into the built-in scanner on his station. Within seconds her file appeared in front of him.
As he expected, it was a by-the-numbers denial.
“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Winslow, but—”
A distinct tone sounded once in his ear piece and was gone.
“But, I’m going to need you to excuse me for one moment.”
She nodded and continued to twist the remains of her tissue.
Mortimer crossed the office, to the hidden door at the very back, and knocked once.
Mortimer opened the door and left the drab walls and mood-dampening lighting and walked into an even more depressing office. Hope was among the emotions the firm’s decor was designed to suppress, but this office evoked true hopelessness.
Behind a desk in the middle of the room sat a woman hunched over her desk screen, monitoring reports that never stopped scrolling by.
“You wanted to see me, Ms. Brubacher.”
The woman behind the desk looked up as if Mortimer was interrupting her in the rudest possible way.
“You were about to decline Mrs. Winslow, were you not?”
“Of course. You’ve seen the numbers.”
Ms. Brubacher’s job was to monitor all applications, past and current. Not a single approval or decline happened anywhere in the firm without her knowing about it.
“Indeed I have, and by those numbers you are right in your conclusion. However, this morning I received a carbon copy of an approved kill license. Theodore Winslow was approved for the murder of Mary Winslow.”
“I’ve made the necessary changes to her file and the approval package will arrive at your desk in three and a half minutes.”
“My thanks,” Mortimer said, taking two steps backwards before turning to leave the office.
When two applicants applied to murder each other, if one was approved, they both were. It was automatic, regardless of the numbers. The risk of approving one and not the other was irresponsible. The majority of scenarios would show Mr. Winslow killing Mrs. Winslow, but if the firm moved only to support one of those scenarios and she killed him, the firm would take a loss.
The other rule when two people applied for each other’s lives was that neither applicant was told about the other.
“Good news, Mrs. Winslow. Your application has been approved.”
Mary’s head popped up as Mortimer sat down at his desk. She didn’t smile, though her shoulders came up out of their stoop.
“I didn’t think…I just…”
“It’s okay,” Mortimer said.
Mortimer placed three forms in front of Mary and showed her where to sign. He asked her to place her hands on the desk and scanned her fingerprints into her file.
Just as she initialed the last required spot an armed guard marched over and placed a black box on Mortimer’s desk.
“My thanks,” Mortimer said and the guard spun and marched away.
“Yes.” He slid it over to sit in front of Mary and pulled back the lid. Inside was a simple handgun and three rounds.
“This is it?” Mary asked. “Three bullets? What if I miss? I’ve never fired a gun before.”
“This is what you were approved for. I can file an appeal if you’d like to come back next week.” He nudged the box forward. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Mary reached into the box and pulled out the gun. It looked awkward in her hand. She studied it with disgust on her on her face.
“Would you like someone to show you how to shoot it?”
“No, but could someone load it for me?”
The thought of a distressed woman sitting mere feet from him with a loaded gun was less than desirable, but he still loaded the three rounds and handed her the gun. If she even pointed the gun at him an security turret would put her down.
Mortimer walked Mary to the front door. She began to weep but, as he was trained, he kept it professional.
“We’ll be in touch next week about the insurance money. If you decide to cancel the license I’ve included the appropriate number in your package.”
She stepped out the front door without a word in response and stood on the sidewalk. Mortimer watched her through the window and wondered why she wasn’t heading home, or wherever she thought her husband would be.
Instead, she pulled out her phone, pressed a few buttons and tossed it on the ground.
She just stood there, hand inside of her purse, waiting.
Odd, Mortimer thought as he strolled down the hall to the coffee machine.
He spent some time scrolling through the news feeds on the company screens, refilled his coffee and walked back down the hallway. He approached the front windows again to find Mary Winslow still standing out front. He had to admire her resolve, whatever her reason. He couldn’t remember the last time he had to wait more than 90 seconds for something.
He was about to walk back to his desk when he saw a car speeding through the parking lot. The tires squelched with a recklessness that meant the auto-drive was off. The front end of the car wavered left and right as the car straitened out and sped straight toward Mary.
She stood with an outward appearance of calm. Mortimer couldn’t see her face, but he imagined there was fear there. The car was mere feet from her.
Sonic bollards flared to life in front of Mary and the car stopped immediately. Mr. Winslow did not. He flew through the windshield in a shower of glass and landed on the pavement at Mary’s feet.
Mortimer smiled. She was smarter than he originally estimated. Nothing in the numbers anticipated a move like that.
Theodore Winslow was still alive, but he wouldn’t remain that way. Mary pulled the gun from her purse and pointed it at her husband’s head.
She’s done it, Mortimer thought.
She only had to pull the trigger. The gun shook in her hand.
Theodore Winslow rolled over, groaning. Blood poured from a gash in his hairline. He sputtered a few words, accompanied by frothing blood.
“Bitch!” was the only discernible syllable.
He pulled a gun from his jacket, and still Mary hesitated.
Two gun shots sounded and Mary went stiff. She dropped to her knees with one hand covering the bullet hole in her stomach. With confusion on her face, she fell on her side and lay still.
Not the likeliest of scenarios, but it was the predicted outcome.
A few hundred years ago, when the human race was still trying to shed its barbaric nature, kill licenses didn’t exist. People used to murder each other on a whim and then it would take a court months, if not years, to sort the whole situation out.
Theodore Winslow struggled to his feet. He winced when putting weight on his right leg and opted to hobble on the left.
His eyes met Mortimer’s. Mr. Winslow looked to be holding back some nasty comments. He flexed his fingers around the handle of his gun. Mortimer took a casual drink from his coffee, never breaking eye contact.
There was a slight movement from the ground. Mary struggled to lift her gun. It shook, trying to drop back to the pavement, but Mary didn’t let it. The first bullet grazed Theodore’s arm, spinning him around to face Mary.
His arm was still moving to level his gun when a second bullet bore deep into his chest. He fell backwards and did not move again.
Mortimer looked down at Mary and smirked. He underestimated her twice and she proved him wrong as many times. She didn’t even use all her bullets.
Help was on the way. The firm’s security system would have sent a call the instant the car hit the bollards. If Mary held on a little longer, she’d live.
Mortimer took another sip of coffee and noticed more movement from the ground.
Mary was looking up at him, eyes hard. She pointed her gun at Mortimer’s chest.
He raised on eyebrow and wondered what she was thinking. Two gunshots rang out.
The second was from an outdoor security turret mounted above the building entrance. It registered a threat to an employee and executed its protocol.
The first shot had come from Mary’s gun. It had been on target, speeding toward Mortimer’s heart. Mortimer hadn’t flinched as the bullet bounced off the firm’s security glass.
Her arm, and the gun, fell back to the pavement. Mortimer looked at Mr. Winslow and then at Mrs. Winslow before turning to walk back to his desk.
He smirked. Double payout.