by Brent Pope
“Before you pull the trigger, love, I just want you to know that I only meant to sleep with one of your friends.”
“Only one?” There was a pause. “Do you want a medal or something?”
“There’s no need to be snide. After all, with what little time we have left, I should think you wouldn’t want to—how should I say it—part on strained terms.”
She suppressed a laugh. “Why should it be any different than the last 50 years?”
He nodded. “Touché.”
She cocked the revolver and struggled to keep it steady. The end of the barrel danced. “Careful,” he warned.
“Always.” She aimed the piece and exhaled to steady her hand.
“Tell me again why we’re killing the milkman.”
She reset the hammer and lowered the weapon. “The mailman, dear. Not the milkman. Don’t you ever pay attention?”
“Not since Sex Ed.”
“Clearly,” she hesitated. “…you learned your lesson.”
“You’re positively on a roll.”
She ignored the comment. “We’re killing him because our mission would be compromised if he delivered the package to the North Koreans.”
“Ah, yes. Loose ends and all. I’d quite forgotten.”
Satisfied that he understood, she lifted the revolver and took aim at the prone man in a blue uniform.
“Of course, it could be,” he interrupted, “that your medication is wearing off and you’re…”
“Confused?” she offered.
“I was going to say ‘unfocused.’”
She didn’t lower the weapon this time. She turned her head to face him. “I could say the same thing about you.”
He nodded. “True. You have. Often. In the past. It’s a side effect.” Her gaze was locked on his, a fire growing in her eyes. The postal carrier stirred on the wooden porch. “Ask him. He’ll tell you.”
The mailman began to take in his surroundings. He sat up and rubbed his head. He found a bump. He then saw the two people standing over him, ten feet apart. His breathing quickened as he looked back and forth, especially at the sight of the revolver trained on him.
“Him?” She was indignant. “He can’t be trusted. He’ll talk, for sure.”
“Honestly, I won’t tell a soul,” the man whimpered.
“Shut it,” they spoke in unison.
“After all this time. At least we agree on something,” he appealed to her. She shook her head.
“We haven’t seen each other five years, haven’t been on assignment together for a decade, and you spew this drivel?”
It was his turn to sigh. “Delores…”
Her nostrils flared now. “You use my real name? And you were hoping to spare his life?”
“Oh, I never said that,” he corrected. “I simply suggested that all is not as it seems. And besides, if he is who you say he is, he already knows your name.”
“I doubt that.”
“It’s on the letters he’s delivering.” He looked at the civil servant, now shaking. “Show her. Go on, show her!” The mailman made no attempt to retrieve a letter from his satchel. The gun remained pointed at him. “Well then. You’re completely useless.”
Tears appeared at the corners of her eyes. He took them as an invitation. “Delores, my dear, do put the gun away. I’ll make some tea.”
“It’s too late for that, Henry.” She wiped a tear away with her free hand. “Your dementia has progressed too far. No one wished for me to know it. No wonder we haven’t worked together in five years. But then…”
“What, my love?”
“When’s the last time you remember working?”
“You mean at the tennis shoe plant where I was assistant manager for quality control?”
She gazed at him. “Good grief, Henry, they’ve reprogrammed you.”
“Delores. Listen to what you’re saying. ‘Reprogrammed…North Koreans.’ It’s all quite mad, really.”
The tears increased, affecting her vision. “When’s the last time you heard of a tennis shoe made anywhere but China or Vietnam or…”
“Or North Korea?”
“I don’t even know why I’m arguing about this. Please leave. You’ve no need to see this, especially if your brain has already been reset. I can only hope I’m as lucky.”
He took a deep breath and moved forward, one tentative step. Then another, with more confidence. And another. She watched, holding the gun ever tighter. “Let’s put the gun down.”
He was over the mailman, who stared from the floor at what might be the last image his brain ever recorded. Now Henry was beyond him. He stood between Delores and her target on the floor. “Hug, sweetie?”
She was nearly bawling at this point. So she would have to kill him, too. That’s great. Just great. Fifty years of service and then you have to kill your twin brother.
He reached out. He could do this. Talk her down. Maybe this time, they could just adjust her medication. No more institutions. If he handled it right, had a few words with the postman.
She could do this. She could say goodbye and then do what had to be done. She just needed to be strong. She relaxed her arm. Let the gun drop to her side. Henry leaned in and hugged her. She scrunched her eyes and lay her head on his shoulder.
From the floor, the man in blue never took his eyes off them. He slipped his hand into his satchel and wrapped his hand around a Beretta, fingering the safety to ensure it was off. He pulled it out of the bag, lifted it up and took aim. The woman opened her eyes just as he squeezed off four rounds, three of which went through Henry into Delores. They crumpled to the ground, heaped together in a pile of death.
The mailman stood up, still holding the gun. He re-engaged the safety and dropped it back in his satchel. He pulled his cell phone out of his pants pocket and speed-dialed a number.
“Yeah, it’s me. The targets are retired.”
With that, he descended the steps of the front porch and walked away.