The Hitwoman and the Sacrificial Lamb
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 12
Some jobs are more challenging than others.
Take for example, Maggie’s latest assignment: assassinating a heartless, indiscriminate sniper. He deserves to die, but making that happen is tricky, especially considering that a certain red-headed police detective has been assigned to protect him.
And that’s not the only job Maggie has.
She’s struggling to find a way to communicate with her pets and care for her orphaned niece, while searching for information about her sister who disappeared years earlier. An investigation that puts her in harm’s way.
Maggie struggles to do all her jobs, while contending with her nutty family, vague psychic predictions, an unexpected chicken, and a complicated romantic relationship.
Is she up for the challenge? Or will one mistake cost her everything?
You know it’s going to be a bad day when your happiness depends on your ability to catch a chicken.
My name is Maggie Lee and I’d never caught a chicken in my life. (Unless you count the time in the supermarket my mentally unstable mother decided that a bird would make an excellent projectile to chuck at the butcher’s head. But that bird was dead and wrapped in plastic, which, you can trust me on this, makes catching it easier.)
Despite my lack of barnyard expertise, I found myself running around a backyard in a neighborhood where there are more needle tracks than chicken tracks trying to catch a ball of black, brown, and red feathers. Every time I got near the bird, it would flap its wings and race away, squawking at me indignantly.
I’d already performed a triple sow cow, or Salchow if you want to be technical about it, but since I was chasing a farmyard animal, I’m calling it a sow cow. Said move had resulted in me sprawling headfirst into the dirt. Now my knees are sore, my palms are scraped, and my dignity is dinged.
There would be no perfect 10 for me. The score so far was Chicken: 5, Maggie: Negative 3.
If I’d still had the ability to talk to animals, I could have reasoned with the bashful bird, but I’d lost that capacity after getting a knock on the noggin during a car crash, which was why I was chasing a damn chicken.
“Almost got him that time,” my friend Armani yelled.
I looked back at where she stood on the cement stoop of a rundown house.
It was her fault I was there. Her fault I was running around like a maniac trying to catch the wayward fowl.
“Go see the shaman,” she’d said. “You’ll be able to talk to the animals.”
I glanced at the old man beside her wearing only a ratty, oversized sweatshirt that barely hung low enough to cover his you-know-what. His skin was so wrinkled and his accented voice so soft, that I hadn’t been able to decipher his country of origin. And yet, he managed to look dignified and serene as he watched me.
I, on the other hand, looked neither serene nor dignified.
I looked like a klutzy madwoman, diving this way and that, stumbling, and gasping for air.
Finally, I muttered, “Help me, God.”
If anyone else said that, it would be a prayer, but I was just talking to the brown anole lizard who was tucked in my bra. I’d brought Godzilla, or God for short, along so that I’d know right away whether the shaman’s magic worked or if it was just a scam. If I couldn’t hear God, I wouldn’t be able to hear any animals.
“Do something,” I begged, trying to catch my breath.
I’d tried reasoning with the chicken, but it hadn’t responded to my pleas. Now I was reduced to asking the tiny reptile to talk to her for me.
For a second I thought the little guy was going to ignore my request, but then I heard him squeaking.
Since I couldn’t understand him, I didn’t know whether he was telling me off (something he’s been known to do) or if he was communicating with the chicken.
I stared at the bird’s darting eyes, trying to tell if the lizard had convinced it I was a friend and the fowl should cooperate. I advanced slowly toward the creature murmuring, “Take it easy. I just need your help so that I can hear my friends again.”
The bird shuffled its feet against the grass-bare ground, but it didn’t bolt as I inched closer.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I promised.
I leaned over. “I’m just going to pick you…”
My would-be feathered friend lashed out at me, her talons gouging my forearm.
Shrieking in pain, my other arm, as though of its own volition, flew out, and my hand curled around the chicken’s neck. I yanked it toward me, practically smothering it against my chest, which caused the lizard to squeak.
Even though I couldn’t understand him, I knew that God was screaming, “Sensitive skin,” and maybe some other choice phrases.
The bird struggled to free itself, but I tightened my grip.
“Stop squirming or you’ll force me to break my promise,” I whispered menacingly.
The lizard squeaked.
I imagined he was telling her that I’d killed a couple of human beings so I was more than up to snapping the neck of a scrawny bird. I wanted to tell her that I only killed very bad people, but I didn’t think that was the wisest choice considering that Armani and the shaman were watching.
The lizard must have gotten the message across because the bird stilled.
Ignoring the way my injured arm burned and the fact that the fowl had drawn blood, I carried her back toward the house.
“Way to go, chica!” Armani yelled enthusiastically.
I looked to the shaman to see if he approved.
He nodded grimly. “Now kill it.”
“What?” I asked.
The shaman pantomimed the act of violently snapping the bird’s neck. The action raised the hem of his sweatshirt.
I averted my eyes, afraid to even look in his direction.
The chicken squawked nervously.
“No.” I backed up a step. “I won’t do it.”
“No?” Armani shrieked. “Why not?”
“I promised I wouldn’t hurt her,” I mumbled.
Armani gave me the same look people often give my mother, who resides in a mental institution. “Are you a vegetarian now or something? Because if you are, your Aunt Susan is going to be very unhappy with you.”
“Of course I’m not. I’m just keeping a promise. And I promised this bird,” I smoothed its feathers, “that I wouldn’t hurt her.”
“You must kill it,” the shaman insisted.
The poor bird trembled in my arms.
I shook my head. “I won’t do it.”
The shaman squinted at me. “There is no other way.”
The lizard squeaked.
I knew what he was saying. “There’s always another way.”
Bending over, I put the bird down.
“Go.” I made a shooing motion as it scratched the ground by my feet. “Fly away! Save yourself!”
The bird clucked, beat its wings, and fluttered awkwardly, landing with an ungraceful wobble a few yards away.
Disappointment glittered in Armani’s gaze.
A slow, three-tooth smile spread across the shaman’s face.
I cringed inwardly wondering what he’d have me do next. Raising my chin, I put my hands on my hips and waited.
“You have a kind heart,” he declared.
I blinked, surprised. I doubted he’d say that if he knew I’d killed people. For money.
He considered me shrewdly. “You keep your promises.”
“Resonance,” he said.
“Residence?” Armani asked, clearly as confused as me.
“Resonance,” he corrected. “Find the right resonance and you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
“She wants to talk to animals,” Armani interrupted.
The shaman pointed to the chicken, indicating I’d communicated with the bird. Then he held out his hand, palm up.
I stared at him blankly.
“Pay the man,” Armani prompted.
I frowned. “For what?”
Armani shook her head and gave me a look that told me I was embarrassing her. “Pay him. He told you what you need.”
“Resonance?” I didn’t bother to disguise my skepticism.
The shaman kept his hand outstretched.
“How much?” I asked grudgingly.
“Whatever you think is fair,” the shaman replied softly.
That wasn’t helpful. I looked to Armani for guidance, but all she offered was a shrug. So I made the logical choice. I looked to the chicken for advice.
“How much?” I asked the bird.
She cocked her head to the side as though considering my question.
“You’re asking the bird?” Armani asked incredulously.
“It’s not like you helped,” I snapped.
The chicken bawked loudly.
“Twenty. Just give him twenty,” Armani offered.
The chicken ran up to me and pecked at my feet.
“Ow!” I stumbled away, trying to keep my sneakers out of reach of the bird’s beak.
The lizard squeaked.
Even though I couldn’t understand them, I knew they were telling me something.
I watched the bird as I pulled a wad of bills from my back pocket, trying to figure out what she wanted.
She looked back at me pitifully and I could tell she was still trembling.
I looked from the bird to the shaman and sighed, knowing what it was she was asking.
“I’ll give you twenty for your…,” I almost choked getting out the word, “help.” I sighed before adding, “And another twenty for her.”
The shaman grinned again. “Deal.”
Handing over two twenty-dollar bills, I scooped up the bird, who now let me pick her up without running around like a fool, and stalked out of the yard.
Armani limped after me. “You’re not putting that thing in my car.”
“Good thing I drove then,” I growled, not bothering to slow down so that she could keep pace with me. She’d been foolish enough to ignore the psychic warning she’d had that had resulted in the permanent injuries to her hand and leg. I’d been foolish to listen to her when she’d sworn the shaman could help me.
Getting to my car, I gently placed the bird in the back seat. “Stay still,” I pleaded.
I was behind the steering wheel by the time Armani threw herself into the passenger seat.
“What are you going to do with it?” Armani demanded.
I shrugged and started the car. “At least I’m not leaving empty-handed.”
“He told you what you need.”
“Resonance,” I muttered. “That’s even less helpful than your predictions.”
She gasped, offended. “What’s wrong with my predictions?”
“Except for the fact that they’re as clear as mud?”
She crossed her arms over her chest and sighed heavily. “They come true.”
“They do,” I admitted. They’d even saved my life, but I didn’t tell her that.
Armani twisted in her seat to look at the bird clucking contentedly behind her. “You’re a strange one, chica. You do know that sometimes you really don’t want what you think you do. Sometimes we have to let go of dreams that no longer serve us.”
I knew that I really wanted to talk to the animals again, so I ignored her.
I dropped Armani at her place before heading home with the chicken.
I was in the midst of telling the chicken that I’d find her a new home, when a late model sedan cut in front of me, causing me to slam on the brakes. I cursed, God squeaked, and the chicken squawked.
I pressed on my horn and yelled, “Get out of the way, you dumb jerk!”
Then, wondering if the car horn had the resonance I needed, I asked the lizard, “Can I hear you now?”
He squeaked, which meant I couldn’t.
I turned my attention back to the sedan. It hadn’t budged. Instead, the driver’s door swung open.
Imagining a hail of gunfire, because hey, if you’ve been in a car that’s been shot at, that becomes your default way of thinking, I threw the car into reverse and stomped on the gas pedal, determined to get out of there.