Mis/matched

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tracy is looking for love.

Leo is a professional killer.

What happens when a dating site brings them together.

Submitted: May 23, 2016

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Submitted: May 23, 2016

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Tracy sat at the bar, her fingers stroking the stem of a glass of white wine. She opened her handbag and began to search, pulling out lipstick, a compact and a diary before finding her mobile, the latest iphone in a sparkly pink case with a cartoon kitten in one corner, the phone matched her handbag. She checked her reflection in the dark screen before turning it on and typing in the passcode; 1, 2, 3, 4. When she saw there were no new messages, she checked the time. Twenty past ten. Then she checked her email, her whatsapp, facebook and twitter. Finally, she opened the browser, logged into findtheone.com and tapped the small envelope icon at the top of the page to go to her messages. The most recent was from LEO2727. Tracy tapped it. No new messages. She scrolled through the previous conversation.

FINDTHEONE: You have been ‘matched’ with LEO2727

TRACY2266 : Hi LEO2727, I see you like Tolski.

LEO2727 : Hi, Nice to meet someone with a common interest in Obscure Russian poets

Tracy wasn’t interested in poetry, Obscure Russian or otherwise. She was interested in obscure 90s boy bands one of whom turned out to be named after an obscure Russian poet. Tracy chose not to disclose this information.

LEO2727 : Tell me about yourself.

TRACY2266 : Well I’m Welsh, 30, blonde hair, blue eyes just like my profile picture, 5’8, I work in sales, love reading, painting, baking and Cupid, my cat.

Tracy was 33, but had decided that if she was under 35 that counted as 30ish. She did have Blonde hair, although the roots were starting to show, her eyes were blue, in the right light, and she was five foot seven inches tall if she wore heels. She had worked in telesales since she was 28, cold-calling for a company that sold insulation to offices. She was good at it. She wasn’t proud of this fact. Before then she’d worked in a theatre selling tickets, constantly hoping for a chance to move in front of the curtain, or at least somewhere near the stage. Eventually she had decided that she should start looking for what her parents would have called ‘a real job’. She’d started Telesales as a temp job while she looked for something more long term. She was still looking. Tracy did like reading, although, she preferred watching period dramas and rom coms on television, she had been to some art classes for her thirtieth birthday, ate cupcakes more often than she baked them and had a cat called cupid.

TRACY2266 : What about you? Tell me about yourself. You don’t have a profile picture on here?

LEO2727 : Tall, dark, athletic. But, I’m a very private person. Appearances aren’t everything. But I am reliable, trustworthy and very professional. I own my own business and have worked with several high profile clients.

TRACY2266 : You sound interesting. Want to meet up?

LEO2727 : Just let me know the time and place.

TRACY2266 : Do you know bar Orbital? 8 O’Clock Friday?

Not the most thrilling conversation Tracy had ever had, and Tracy normally made a rule of not meeting men who didn’t have profile pictures, but it wasn’t the worst conversation she had had and things on the dating front had been quiet, so she had decided to take a chance.

LEO2727 : Just to be clear, Tracy, blonde hair, 5’7” you want me to take you out, 10pm Orbital?

TRACY2266 : I know it’s a bit quick, but I find it’s better to ‘bite the bullet’ with these things, don’t you?

LEO2727 : Indeed

It was now 10:34pm and Tracy had seen no sign of LEO2727. It wouldn’t have been the first time that Tracy had been stood up. It was an unfortunate part of internet dating. A few weeks previously Tracy had arranged to meet Mal, an IT technician from Wolverhampton, only to receive a message saying his Mother was ill and he’d have to call a rain-check, but it would be lovely to try again some time. This had been fifteen minutes after their agreed meet time. Tracy had written back saying that she was sorry to hear about Mal’s mother and yes, they should try to rearrange. Everyone deserved one second chance. Tracy had messaged Mal several times after that but never received a reply.

Tracy wondered if LEO2727 hadn’t recognised her. Tracy had chosen her profile picture because it showed her in the absolutely best light. It had been taken in a lucky moment during a friend’s wedding reception. It had captured her in mid dance, just as she happened to smile in the photographer’s direction. It made her look slim, happy and carefree. It was the exact opposite of most photos. Cameras seemed to have a special timer, just for Tracy, that always captured her mid blink with a crazed, drunken look on her face, her mouth open and a double chin. The wedding had been a few years ago, and now her hair was longer, and she hadn’t had as much time to work on her makeup. It wouldn’t be surprising if Leo2727 had failed to recognise her, and without having seen a picture she had no chance of recognising him.

Perhaps he had seen her and decided the real thing didn’t measure up to the online version. It was always a risk when meeting someone who didn’t have their own profile picture. They had the option of sneaking in unnoticed, checking her out and disappear without making contact if they were not satisfied.

She checked her reflection again before putting her phone back in her bag and taking another sip of wine.

Leo2727 watched Tracy from his corner booth. He had arrived an hour before her and was now waiting for the right moment to make his move.

Tracy’s resolve gave way. She took a gulp of her wine, checked her phone one last time, slid from her bar stool and headed for the door.

Leo rose from his seat, silently slipping into the crowd behind her. As he moved he reached into his back pocket, pulling out what, to anyone observing, would appear to be a simple retractable ball point pen.

What anyone observing would not know about was the mechanism hidden inside the pen’s casing. In its slender shaft was a tiny canister of compressed air, which, when the pen’s button was clicked twice in quick succession, would propel a small dart out of the hole where the pen nib would normally appear. The dart was laced with a fast acting and powerful toxin which, within seconds of contact with a person’s skin would cause loss of consciousness, and shortly afterwards, death. Leo held the pen casually, spinning it between his fingers as if he simply wanted something to occupy his hands.

Tracy pushed open the bar door and took a sharp turn to the left into the cold night. Leo hurried after her, trying to stay close enough to avoid losing her, but keeping enough distance that anyone watching wouldn’t think that they had left together.

He looked down the street in the direction Tracy had headed. He couldn’t see her, but he could hear the click of her heals echoing from a nearby alley, that Leo recognised as a short cut to the train station.

He walked as quick as he dared, pausing at the corner of the alley. The sound of the girl’s footsteps had stopped. Maybe she had taken a wrong turn, maybe she had stopped for a cigarette. Her profile on findtheone.com had said non-smoker, perhaps her information was incorrect.

He gripped the pen-weapon in his hand, his thumb on the trigger. He raised it, took a breath and rounded the corner.

“Leo?” asked Tracy. Leo almost walking into her.

“I thought it must be you,” she said, “I mean, I saw you looking at me, but thought, you know… I guess, maybe you weren’t sure it was me. I really should use a more recent profile picture.”

Leo palmed the pen and smiled at the girl.

“You were expecting me? I mean, I'm sorry, of course you were,” he said.

“We should go back inside and find a table. If you want to?” Tracy asked.

Leo nodded, “Of course, after you.”

Putting his left hand on the small of Tracy’s back, he guided her back towards the bar. His right hand sliding the pen into his coat pocket.

Tracy walked to the bar.

Leo nodded to the bar man.

“Another white wine?” he asked Tracy.

Tracy blushed slightly but nodded.

“And a lemonade for me.”

“Are you sure?” asked Tracy.

Leo nodded and handed a folded banknote to the barman.

Tracy picked up her drink and took it to a table with comfortable mismatched chairs. Leo took his change and followed her.

Tracy’s choice of table was worryingly public. As Leo sat down he shifted his chair closer to Tracy’s, trying to turn his back on as much of the room as possible while still keeping the exit in sight.

Tracy looked Leo up and down. His hair was short, but not so short that he looked thuggish. He was fit, but like an athlete, not a weightlifter and his clothes were smart but reserved. He wore a dark jacket, a crisply pressed white shirt and black tie. He looked handsome, but not memorable. Even if his dating profile did have a picture she wondered if she would spot him in a crowd.

“So,” said Leo awkwardly, “you work in sales?”

“Yes, at the moment. I sell insulation to businesses.”

“Oh,” said Leo, “you must meet a lot of people.”

Tracy smiled.

“And you? What do you do?” she asked.

Leo hesitated. ‘What do you do?’ was always a difficult question to answer. There were very few situations where ‘professional killer’ was an acceptable answer.

“I’m what you might call a freelancer in conflict resolution,” Leo replied. “When an agency has a client that they’re struggling to deal with, they refer them to me and I resolve their conflict.”

Findtheone.com had been the idea of one of Leo’s former colleagues, an assassin that Leo only knew as ‘Grey Wolf’. Grey Wolf had come up with the idea of a faux dating website as a cover for assassins and their clients to connect and communicate anonymously without drawing attention.

Initially Leo had thought the idea ridiculous, but over time grey Wolf had proved him wrong. It was a simple system. An assassin would set up a profile with an assumed name, and would include certain code words among their likes and interests that would appear innocuous to most users, but would alert clients in the know to the assassin’s profession. Clients would upload the details of potential targets to the site, including certain code words among their profile's likes and dislikes that would look innocent to most users, but would be recognisable to hitmen and the website's operator (grey wolf). By this process hitmen and targets would be matched. The website also operated as a legitimate dating site which a) provided camouflage to hide targets and hitmen among a crowd of real dating profiles, b) was a genuine income for grey wolf and c) allowed for the laundering of money. Clients did not have to transfer funds directly to hitmen or to Grey Wolf but instead could pay for several premium annual subscriptions attached to anonymous dating profiles. The website operators would then pay their hitmen via bitcoin for ‘website administration’.

Up until now the system, as far as Leo could tell, had worked perfectly. Better than perfect. Leo was receiving regular contracts, from a trusted source, through anonymous means and never had to take the risk of meeting a client face to face. All contact was through the dating site’s chat feature.

Clearly, on this occasion, something had gone wrong. Leo mentally ran through the options. Possibility 1. Tracy was a client and had entered her own information as a way of organising a meetup. Perhaps she wanted to check that the professional she was hiring could be trusted or perhaps her hit was too sensitive to be communicated through the website. Possibility 2. Tracy was also an assassin; it wasn’t unknown for killers to create more business for themselves by eliminating the competition. It also wasn’t unknown for assassins to seek a partner for especially difficult contracts. Possibility 3. Tracy was law enforcement. Police, MI5, MI6, CIA, Interpol or some other agency from one of the many nations Leo had visited for work and she would try to trick Leo into incriminating himself. Or possibility 4, Tracy had highlighted herself as a target by sheer bad luck.

If any of the first three possibilities were correct then Tracy had created an excellent online presence for herself that had stood up to his research attempts, and Leo’s research was thorough. He always made sure he performed a proper investigation on clients before fully committing to a contract. Even with the security and anonymity that the dating site provided even the simplest job could be full of risks.

The alternative was that somehow, Tracy had stumbled on the correct combination of likes, dislikes, and hobbies purely by accident, the odds against any one person doing this were astronomical. But, with so many innocent people using the site, the odds of someone somewhere picking the correct combination were a near certainty.

“Do you enjoy your work?” Tracy asked, taking a sip of wine.

“Most of the time,” said Leo. “It’s challenging and there’s lots of variety, but some days are harder than others.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“It is certainly that.”

“Have you been on the website long?”

“Findtheone? A little while. You?”

“Oh, not very long” said Tracy smiling, “I’ve been on a few dating sites, but findtheone seems different.”

“Oh, why’s that?” asked Leo.

“Well, a lot of the other sites, the men who use them, they're only looking for a one night thing.”

Tracy was not averse to the occasional one night thing, she had a draw in her bedside cabinet ready for any one night things that might happen. She even had a blindfold and a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs in there. They had been gifted to her during a friend’s hen party. At the time she’d laughed, and, of course, she’d never actually used them, but she had kept them just in case.

“So you're looking for something special?” said Leo.

Tracy smiled, “you think I’m naïve?”

Leo shook his head, “I wouldn't say that.”

“Let’s say I’m hoping to find someone special.”

“Your profile did have some very... specific interests.”

“I wanted to make sure I found the right man,” Tracy said.

“Most people I’ve met,” Leo said, “well, let’s just say, we were set up by a mutual friend.”

“Really?” said Tracy, “Have you been on a lot of blind dates?”

“Blind dates?” asked Leo.

“You know, when you’re set up with someone by a friend.”

“A few,” said Leo nonchalantly, “although I like to know a little about who I’m meeting beforehand. Otherwise the date can go badly.”

“Oh, I know about that,” said Tracy as she patted Leo’s arm, “there was this one guy I met, on another site, and it was all going well, he seemed lovely, we had similar interests, we spoke online and he seemed very respectful and polite so I said do you want to meet up and he did so we did. Anyway, we were getting along okay, he’s being friendly, and a little bit flirty, you know?”

Tracy patted Leo’s arm, “and I’m starting to enjoy myself and thinking, yeah I think I’d quite like to see this guy again and we start talking about the site and he says ‘you know what the only problem is’, and I say ‘no’, and he says ‘too many Asians’. I mean can you even believe it?”

Leo shook his head. Although in his line of work Leo found that kind of casual racism to be a minor personality flaw compared to, say, the desire to commit mass genocide as some of his targets, and a couple of his prospective employers, who it must be added Leo had politely refused, had suffered from.

“Too many Asians,” Tracy repeated for emphasis, “apparently that’s ‘not his thing’ he says, and I’m thinking, ‘well that’s a bit weird’, but I don’t make a big thing of it, and he doesn’t mention it again, and the conversation carries on, but then he gets onto ‘the Jews’, and, oh my word, you wouldn’t believe the things that came out of that guy’s mouth. It turned out he was some sort of neo Nazi type. He used to go to rallies and all sorts.”

“Not the sort of person you want to get involved with then?”

“No, absolutely not,” said Tracy, “oh, you’re not… I mean, you don’t…?”

Leo shook his head. “No, don’t worry, I am very much an equal opportunities dater.”

“Ok, that’s… good.”

“Yes,” nodded Leo. “So you set up your profile yourself?”

“Oh yes. A friend suggested the site to me after I split up with my ex.”

“Your ex?” said Leo.

“Yes, we were together for a couple of years, but he decided to sleep with a girl ten years younger than him so... We're not together anymore.”

“Ah,” said Leo, things starting to make sense in his mind.

“Kevin. He’s an accountant at Smith and Smithson travel agency, she was one of the sales reps.”

Tracy took her phone out and started swiping through her photos. She passed the phone to Leo, the screen held a picture of a man in his mid to late thirties, with smart red hair. It looked like a holiday photo, taken at night on a beachside bar. He was holding a cocktail with a curly straw and little umbrella sticking out of the top.

“We were engaged for a while. I should have known something was wrong when he kept delaying the wedding. First he wanted to wait until Spring, for the weather, then he wanted to wait until next year, so we could save up properly, and then there was a big promotion coming and he wanted to get that out of the way. I thought he just wanted everything to be perfect, for me. But in the end, he just wanted something else.” Tracy wiped a tear from her eye before it had chance to roll down her cheek and ruin her mascara.  

“Every now and again he calls me, wanting to get back in touch, wanting to patch things up, usually while he's drunk. I just wish he’d leave me alone.”

Leo nodded his head.

“I’m sorry,” Tracy said shaking her head, “I’m sure you’ve heard enough about my problems.”

“Don’t worry, I understand,” said Leo knowingly.

“How do you find the website? Have you been on there long.”

“A little while,” said Leo, “it’s a good way to connect with people.”

“Do you have any interesting stories to tell?” said Tracy.

Leo wondered for a moment what Tracy could mean, before realising, “Oh, you want to know my… history? My exes?”

“Well not everything, just if you’ve met anyone interesting?”

Leo got his phone out, “well here’s the last person I… dated.” He took his phone out and showed her a photo of a glamourous looking woman in a black ball gown.

“Eliza,” he said, “she was a cellist for the Russian National Opera.”

“So what happened?”

Leo looked around the room to see if anyone else was listening. He leaned into Tracy and whispered, “I didn't get along with her family.”

Eliza had been difficult. She was beautiful, intelligent and kind, but she was also the wealthy daughter of a crime family who used her connections to smuggle weapons to Ukrainian rebels.

“Before Eliza there was Helena, she was a politician.”

Leo showed Tracy another photo. Another glamourous woman looked back at Tracy, although this woman was significantly older than Leo and wore a suit.

“But I was working for the competition,” Leo swiped the phone again. “And this is Daniel.”

Tracy’s eyes widened.

“Daniel and I were in the same line of business.”

“Oh. You really are an equal opportunities dater."

Tracy swallowed the last of her wine.

“Would you like another drink?” she asked Leo, “don’t worry, I’ll get it,” she added as he began to stand.

“Just another lemonade.”

Tracy frowned at him, putting her hands on her hips.

“No, I’m not going to be the only one drinking tonight, if I’m buying you’ll have a proper drink.”

Leo smiled back at her.

“Ok, if you insist. A double vodka on ice.”

Tracy nodded and headed to the bar.

Leo took out his phone, opened an anonymous tab, looked up Smith and Smithson Travel Agency and switched to the page marked ‘team’. There he was, Kevin Patterson, head of accounts, looking just as smug as he did in Tracy’s holiday photo, although a little paler, and a little balder. Leo wasn’t sure if it was something about his eyes, or just the sense that Tracy deserved better, but he felt like he would enjoy killing Kevin. He would try not to, killing people was one thing, enjoying it was something else, but he would.

Leo bookmarked the page and put his phone away as Tracy returned to the table, drinks in hand.

“Do you have any pets?” Tracy asked as she sat down.

“No. I travel a lot, with work, so I don’t really have time.”

“You never wanted one?”

“I’ve not really thought about it, not for a while anyway, but I guess I’ve always quite like the idea of getting a dog, maybe one of those Alsatians, the kind the police use. A partner in crime, as the saying goes. What about you?”

“I’m more of a cat person, dogs scare me a little. I’ve got a cat, I got her from one of those rescue centres.”

“I bet you’re a sucker for every poor little kitten.”

Tracy laughed, “you’re probably right, but Cupid wasn’t a kitten when I got him. He was this skinny little thing, nothing but fur, claws and a bad attitude, not that you would know that now.”

“I need to take a quick bathroom break,” said Tracy, “Promise you won’t go anywhere.”

Leo smiled, “I promise,” he said.

Leo watched her walk away. As soon as she was out of sight he picked up Tracy’s handbag, which she had left dangling from the back of the chair. ‘Some people are far too trusting’, he thought as he searched for her phone. He turned it on, bringing up the lock screen. He breathed on the glass. The moisture revealed the marks from Tracy’s swipes and touches. They were all over the screen, but it was easy enough to see the fingerprints that lined up with 1, 2, 3, 4. ‘Very trusting it seems’, Leo thought as he typed in the code, unlocking the phone.

‘Okay, first question, are you who you say you are?’

He opened facebook and pressed ‘view your profile’. There was Tracy. Full name Tracy Manning, 33 years old, age set to private. Single, interested in men, member since 2005. If Tracy’s profile was fake, she had thought ahead. He looked through her photo album. There were albums dating back to the time she had joined the site, starting with a holiday in Greece, followed by old school photos, and random trips she’d taken. Leo quickly swiped through folders titled ‘family’ and ‘Malaga 2011’. The most recent folders were ‘Cupid’ and ‘Kevin’. Leo opened ‘Cupid’ first. It looked like she’d been telling the truth about the cat.

Leo touched the search bar and Tracy’s last three searches appeared. Kevin Patterson was top of the list, followed by ‘The Cat Shelter’ and someone called Melissa who, Leo noted, had attended the same school as Tracy.

Next he opened Tracy's messages.

There were messages from Kevin, mostly sent after 11pm. Some were apologetic and reconciliatory, some just said "Hey,” there were a few that were just incoherent ramblings. These switching between compliments and insults seemingly at random. They were often followed the next morning with another apology.

Tracy had been telling the truth about Kevin too.

There were messages between Tracy and a woman, Maggy, with the same surname as Tracy. Leo decided she was Tracy’s mother. They regularly discussed recipes, cats, family and dating. The most recent messages had been exchanged that very evening.

Maggy Manning, 8:35pm: What are you doing this evening?

Tracy Manning, 8:40pm : I have a date.

Maggy Manning, 8:41pm : Hope it goes well, what's he like?

Tracy Manning, 8:43pm : IDK, I met him on the dating site, we've only talked online.

Maggy Manning, 8:44pm : Be careful, there's some strange men out there.

Tracy Manning, 8:45pm : Don't worry, I'll give you a call when I get in.

Maggy Manning, 8:53pm : Hope it goes well.

Maggy Manning, 10:12pm : Are you okay? How's it going?

Tracy Manning, 10:14pm : No sign of him yet. I'll give him a few more minutes then go home and watch Countdown.

Leo closed Tracy’s messages and opened her 'likes' page.

They matched her likes on findtheone, countdown, cats, a brief history of time, and Tolski, which had a photo of a pouting young man with slicked back black hair above the name. Leo clicked on his picture and found himself reading a fan page for a former boy band singer who, apparently, would have a big comeback tour in the Spring. There was a photo of a much older man with the same pout, the same slicked black hair, but tired eyes and crow’s feet around his eyes.  

‘That's it,’ Leo thought, his match with her had just been a coincidence, a fluke. She wasn't a client, she wasn’t a target, she was just another innocent.

Leo, closed the app, put the phone back in Tracy's purse and stood up, intending to leave. He would send a message through the dating site making an excuse for leaving, he could say there was a ‘family emergency’.

He put his coat on, then paused one arm in, one out.

‘She made me promise,’ he thought.

Then he shook himself, he couldn’t be concerned about her feelings.

‘If I leave now it will stick in her memory, that guy who left without saying something in the middle of a date.’

Leo sat back down, putting his coat back over his chair.

When Tracy returned to the table, Leo smiled at her as she sat down.

“I should really be going. I have an important meeting in the morning.”

“Me too,” Tracy said as she took out her own phone and checked the time. “Oh, I’ve missed my last train. Would you be okay to wait for me while I get a taxi?”

“Of course,” nodded Leo, “I wouldn’t want you waiting on the street alone, there could be dangerous people out there.”

They got up to leave, as Leo opened the bar door for Tracy they looked out into the pouring rain.

“Here, take this,” Leo said taking off his coat and slipping it over Tracy’s shoulders.

She smiled, “What about you? You’ll get soaked.”

“Don’t worry, my car’s nearby.”

“How will I get it back to you?”

Leo shrugged, “I have other coats.”

“Maybe I could give it back to you next time?”

Leo smiled, “Perhaps.”

Tracy turned around and waved her hand at a passing taxi.

The taxi slowed down and stopped beside the couple. Leo leant in and put his arm around Tracy’s shoulder. There was an awkward moment as Tracy went for a kiss but Leo went for a hug.

“Sorry,” said Tracy awkwardly

“It’s fine, don’t worry.”

“Ok. Well… Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

“Unless…” Tracy started to say.

“Yes?”

“No, nothing… Nevermind.”

“Ok. Bye.”

 Tracy got into the taxi, waving at Leo as the car drove her away.

Leo smiled to himself as he walked back to his car. He made a mental note to contact Grey Wolf in the morning and let him know there was a flaw in their system.

Leo’s car, a sleek black jaguar, was parked in what Leo knew to be a CCTV blind spot. He took his keys out of his pocket, unlocked the car and paused.

Something was missing.

Leo reached into his pocket again.

‘What is it?’

He checked his back pockets, then his belt.

And then he remembered.

His pen. His, compressed air, highly poisonous dart firing, concealed weapon, pen that was not a pen, was not in his pocket.

He thought back, trying to remember what he could have done with it. He remembered holding it when he followed Tracy out of the bar. He remembered taking it out of his pocket, gripping it ready to fire, turning the corner, seeing Tracy’s surprised face, palming the pen, and then? Then he dropped it into the pocket of his coat. The same coat that was now draped around Tracy’s shoulders.

Leo opened his car door, sat down and unlocked the glove box. He reached inside and pressed hard against the top of the compartment unlocking a hidden draw which slid out to reveal a small pistol, a knife with a viciously sharp curved blade and a slim laptop. Leo pulled out the laptop and opened it up on the passenger seat. He opened the browser and typed "https://findtheone.com/admin" followed by his administrator login and password. He opened the search box and typed “TRACY2266.” Tracy’s account page appeared. Leo clicked through her details. She hadn’t entered her full address in her profile, but she had entered her credit card details, including a billing address. Leo copied the address into his car’s satnav and started the engine.

Tracy paid the taxi driver, and walked up the steps to her house. She’d forgotten to leave the outside light on again, so she had to try and pick her door key out by the feel of it.

Leo pulled up outside tracy’s house just in time to see her taxi leave. He opened the glovebox compartment again and picked out the small, sound suppressed pistol and weighed it in his hand. As small as it was, without his jacket he would struggle to keep it hidden. He put it back and took out the knife. Leo looked towards Tracy’s house. He could just see her in the darkness outside her front door. He thought for a moment, and then put the knife back and closed the glovebox. He could talk his way through this, make some excuses, get his coat back, get the pen, leave the girl just as she was… and if he couldn’t… he didn’t need tools.

Tracy found her key and unlocked the door before she became aware of a presence behind her.

“Leo?” she said as she turned around, “but how…?”

“There was something I forgot.”

Tracy smiled, and leaned towards him, “Yes there was.”

She put her arm around Leo and kissed him. Leo felt her hand, just where his knife would have been hidden. Leo silently thanked God, and then the devil that he’d decided to leave it behind.

“Would you like to come in for coffee?” asked Tracy.

Leo nodded and they stepped inside.

Leo sat down on the sofa.

“How do you like it?” asked Tracy.

“Black,” said Leo, “Do you need any help?”

“No, you just relax,” said Tracy as she clicked the kettle on.

Cupid jumped down from the bookcase and began to rub himself against Tracy’s leg, purring gently. Tracy pushed him away and the cat gave her a disappointed look as he jumped up onto the countertop. Tracy ignored him and opened the coffee tin. There was only just enough coffee left for one cafetiere. Tracy would have to buy more coffee tomorrow. She tore a sheet off the pad of paper she kept by the phone and searched for a pen. When she couldn’t find one she checked her pockets, and found Leo’s pen. It was only then she realised she was still wearing his coat. She took it off and laid it across a kitchen stool while she tried to get the pen to work. She clicked the end but nothing happened. She clicked it again. Still nothing. She held it trying to see if anything was blocking the end, gave it a shake then quickly clicked the end twice. There was a rush of air and a ‘pfft’ sound as something flew past her face. Behind her Cupid howled. Tracy turned to see what had happened. Cupid gave her an angry look. Then he started hacking like he had a furball, before stumbling off the edge of the sideboard. Tracy dropped the pen and hurried to see if the cat was okay. She put her hand on its chest, feeling Cupid’s heart racing, his breathing becoming laboured. Tracy leaned closer. She could hear the cat wheezing heavily.

“Is everything okay in there, do you need a hand?” came Leo’s voice from the living room.

“No!” she shouted, and then trying to speak more calmly, “don’t worry, everything’s okay.”

The cat’s heartbeat was slowing now, it’s breathe turning into slow gasps. It let out a final sigh and stopping moving. Tracy stared at the dead cat in stunned silence before turning back to the kitchen table. Leo’s pen still sat next to an empty sticky note. She picked it up and looked at it.

The kitchen door opened and Tracy quickly put her hands behind her back.

“Are you sure everything’s okay?” asked Leo.

“mmhm,” she mumbled, “just make yourself comfortable, the coffee’s nearly ready.”

From where Leo was standing the sight of the dead cat was hidden by the kitchen table. He took a step forward.

“Here’s your coat,” Tracy said, taking a step towards him.

She picked it up from the table and held it out for him. He took it from her and checked the pockets. Then he smiled. It was a cold, hard smile. Firm and straight, and not involving the eyes.

“Okay?” she asked.

“Perfect,” said Leo.

They stared at each other for a moment.

Tracy jumped as the kettle clicked off, dropping the pen behind her. It bounced off the dead cat and landed on the floor. Leo didn’t seem to notice. Tracy turned her back to him, biting her lip as she picked up the kettle and filled the cafetiere. She handed it to Leo, before taking two mugs from the shelf and placing them in his other hand.

“Could you put those on the table? I think I’ve got some biscuits in the cupboard,” she said.

Leo looked at her for a moment, and nodded.

He took the cafetiere and mugs into the living room. Tracy’s head was spinning, what was happening? Who was this man? Another thought hit her, his exes. She tried to remember their names. ‘There was a Helen. No, a Helena,’ she thought, ‘a politician right?’ Tracy got her phone out and searched for ‘Helena’ and ‘politician’. There were lots of results, but nothing that seemed relevant. Tracy tried again, this time searching for ‘Helena’, ‘politician’ and ‘dead’. The top result was a news article, ‘Italian Politician Dies at Fundraising Event.” Tracy read through the article. The woman’s full name was Helena Falucci. The article said she’d choked to death after suffering an allergic reaction during dinner. Tracy looked at Cupid. The news article had a photo of the glamourous older woman whose picture Leo had shown Tracy earlier. Tracy looked up the other name, ‘Eliza’, ‘Cellist’, and ‘Dead’. Tracy didn’t see anything relevant so she tried switching to an image search. Half way down the page she saw a picture that she recognised. The girl from Leo’s phone. She clicked the picture and found an obituary for a cellist from the Russian National Opera who’d died of an asthma attack.

Feelings of shame and stupidity washed over her. Of course that was the sort of man she would meet. Leo was handsome, wealthy, professional and crazy, why else would he be interested in her? And now she’d invited him into her home and he would kill her and it would be her fault.

She shook her head. No. Leo was the monster, not her. She had to stay calm, she had to take control.

She thought about running but that would mean getting past Leo. She considered calling the police, but what if Leo heard her. Then she had an idea.

Tracy tapped out a text message to her Mother, “call police now my house” and clicked send, then knowing that her mother’s first reaction would be to call to see what was wrong, she turned the phone off. Tracy Picked up Leo’s pen and slid it in to the back of her skirt. Then she took some biscuits from the cupboard, put them on a plate and walked into the living room.

Leo was sat calmly on the sofa two cups of hot black coffee on the table in front of him. He looked up at Tracy as she returned. For a moment there was panic in her eyes, then she smiled nervously.

‘She knows,’ thought Leo.

“You have a nice house,” He said calmly, taking a sip from his coffee cup.

“What?” said Tracy. It felt like her body was in a different room to her mind.

“Your house, it’s nice. Very homely,” said Leo.

“Yes,” said Tracy, “I rent.”

Tracy could feel herself turning red. ‘Come on,’ she thought, ‘say something sensible, keep him talking.’

“I like… your tie,” she said.

“It was a gift, my brother bought it for me.”

“You have a brother?”

“I have two, back home in Slovakia. I grew up there, except it was part of Yugoslavia then,” he said before finishing his coffee.

“I should wash these up,” Tracy said, putting the coffee cups on the tray.

“Leave them,” he said, putting his hand on hers.

Tracy fought the urge to pull away from his touch. She could feel terror and repulsion rising up in her, the desire to push him away, to run, to scream. Instead she put her hand on his.

“You’re strong, do you work out?”

“Every day.”

They stood in silence for a moment, her mind trying to force more words out of her mouth, but nothing came.

She kissed him.

She hadn’t known what else to do. At first Leo seemed as shocked as she was, but then he began to kiss her back.

He slid his hands down Tracy’s side, noting that there was nothing in her pockets.

Tracy felt him wrap his arms around her.

She pulled away just as his hand was about to reach where she’d hidden his pen.

“Let’s go upstairs,” she said.

“After you,” he replied.

She took him by the hand and lead him towards the stairs.

She walked backwards into her bedroom, pushing the door open with her backside.

She sat down on the bed, one leg curled around beneath her.

She kissed him again.

‘Take your time,’ she thought, the police will be here soon.

He began to unbutton her shirt. Tracy stopped him, taking his hands and placing them on the bed. She shuffled back an inch and began undoing the buttons herself. Slowly this time. She felt the cold goosebumps on her skin as she let her shirt drop to the floor.

She pushed Leo down onto the bed and began to loosen his tie. For a moment she considered trying to strangle him with it, imagining what it would be like. But she knew she wouldn’t be strong enough. Instead she pulled it away throwing it aside before unbuttoning his shirt. She sat back as he slipped the shirt off.

Tracy reached across to her side table and slid open the draw.

Leo’s hand took hold of her wrist.

Tracy tugged at her arm, but Leo’s grip was too tight.

They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment.

“Just give me the pen,” said Leo, squeezing Tracy’s wrist, leaving white marks around his fingers.

 “Let go,” Tracy said, trying to control her emotions.

“Just tell me where it is,” said Leo as Tracy began to struggle, twisting and pulling trying to break his iron strong grip.

“And then what? You’ll let me go?”

“I think you know that’s not an option.”

“You want me to make it easy for you?”

“I want you to make it easier for you. It doesn’t have to be.”

“How was it for those people you showed me? Your ‘exes’? You killed them didn’t you?”

“I did.”

“So you’re some kind of psychopath? A serial killer.”

“No,” said Leo, a hurt look on his face. “You think I kill people for the fun of it? Because I’m crazy?”

“Why else would you kill them?”

“For money, I’m a hitman.”

“What, but, why me? Who would want me dead?”

“You were a mistake. We were matched up by the website, the dating site. It’s how I get sent my contracts.”

“You’re going to kill me over a mistake?”

“I didn’t want to. I was going to let you go. You could have got on with your life and never seen me again, if it wasn’t for that fucking pen.”

“You left it in your coat pocket.”

“And you found it? You know it’s a weapon?”

“It killed my cat.”

“Cupid? I’m sorry.”

“No you’re not.”

Leo looked hurt.

“No, I genuinely am. I’d never intentionally hurt an animal.”

Tracy reached behind her back, to where the pen was still hidden in the back of her jeans, she pulled it out, pointed at Leo and clicked the button twice. Nothing happened. Leo looked stunned for a moment, then he smiled.

“I’m afraid the pen is single use only.”

Tracy slashed at Leo’s hand that was holding on to her wrist. She caught him, taking a long chunk of flesh from the back of his hand. He let go. Tracy swung again, this time aiming at Leo’s eyes. He instinctively put up his arm, blocking her swing with his forearm, easily disarming her and countering with a swift jab to the chest that knocked the air out of her and sent her tumbling backwards. She felt her head hit the bedside cabinet, knocking it over. Tracy, the cabinet and its contents scattered across the floor. Before she knew it Leo was standing over her, his hands around her neck. He began to squeeze.

“This isn’t the way I like to do things,” Leo snarled, “Not very professional. But you had to make it messy didn’t you?”

Tracy’s hand groped across her bedroom carpet, looking for something she could strike back with.

“There’s a hundred ways this could have happened, I could have made it quick, tidy. I could have made it look like an accident, or a suicide,”

Tracy’s fingers touched something furry.

“Do you know how hard it is to strangle someone?”

Tracy’s fingers curled around the object. She could feel metal beneath the fur.

There was a loud knock at the door. Hard fists banging on wood, and a voice calling, “Hello! Tracy? Are you there? It’s the police, let us in.”

For a moment Leo looked away.

Tracy moved quick, and Leo felt something cold grip his wrist. He looked back to see grey metal, covered in pink fur. Leo instinctively pulled his hand away, releasing Tracy who took the opportunity to kick him in the groin, and attach the other ring of the handcuffs to the metal frame of her bed.

She dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed, Leo grabbing for her ankles, but only managing to receive a kick to the face.

Tracy scrambled under the bed, kicking as hard as she could until she rolled out the other side. Before she knew it she was screaming and shouting and running down the stairs. There was a bang as the front door was kicked off its hinges, revealing a pair of policeman in black uniforms and bright florescent jackets. Tracy flung herself at the two officers, falling into the first man’s arms. She pointed, “Upstairs, bedroom,” she heard her cracked voice say.

The second policeman ran up the stairs, hitting the bedroom door with his shoulder, flicking out his extendable baton as he went. He looked around at the devastation. Clothes on the floor, the broken bedside table and a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs still attached to the bed by one cuff, the other cuff hanging loose, the pink fur stained red with blood. The bedroom window was open.

When he came down stairs Tracy was sat on her sofa, shivering. A cup of coffee was already in her hands and his partner was comforting her.

“I’m sorry, he’s gone.”

That night Tracy stayed at her mother’s house, and the next night, and the night after that.

She closed her account at findtheone.com, and her facebook and twitter accounts.

She had a small funeral for Cupid. Just her, her Mother, and Melanie in her Mother’s garden.

After a couple of months, Tracy returned to work, bought a new phone, with a new number and even started dating again, although she never returned to online dating.

And when she felt safe, to her Mother’s protests, she returned home.

As she came in she found a stack of post inside the door. Bills, junk mail, a missed delivery note, although Tracy couldn’t now remember what she’d ordered. And a handwritten envelope, which contained a letter.

Dear Tracy,

Don’t worry. You won’t be hearing from me again. I thought it likely you wouldn’t want to hear from me at all, but it seemed important to set your mind at ease, as far as possible.

Yes, I am a bad man, with a bad job. Some people, maybe even most people would call me evil. I kill for money, I’m good at it and while I may not necessarily enjoy killing, I am capable of doing it.

You may worry that I will want to pursue you out of vengeance, anger or obsession. Don't. I am not angry, and I am not a psychopath, at least not as you would understand the word. I am sorry for trying to kill you, but it was only out of self-preservation. I know that doesn’t make it okay. I am sorry for the damage I have caused. I will not try again.

What would be the point? The police will have gone over your house, they’ll have my DNA, my description, they will have my little toy and my car, video footage of us together at the bar, and they will know how I was using a dating site to liaise with clients.

I have no choice but to retire, to disappear.

I really did enjoy our time together, up until I followed you home. You are intelligent, resourceful and a far better person than I am.

And you beat me. No one has ever beaten me before. You are the first, and you will probably be the last.

And if you can beat me, I believe you can beat anything.

Yours Sincerely,

Leo2727


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