Okay here's my first draft:
You know it’s going to be a bad day when Cupid is taking pot shots at you, and instead of using a bow and infatuation-tipped arrows, he’s using a 9mm Glock.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My name is Maggie Lee. I’m the niece of three crazy aunts, the daughter of two unstable parents, and the proud aunt of one amazing niece. In my spare time I make some extra money (to care for my aforementioned niece) by killing people. I’m a hitwoman.
It takes a village to raise an idiot, and it takes more than one idiot to pull off an assassination. I’m helped out by Patrick Mulligan, my murder mentor who moonlights as a cop, Godzilla (God for short) a smug, talking lizard and Doomsday (she prefers to be called DeeDee) a Doberman who has the worst grammar, but the best of intentions.
On a good day my life is pretty crazy. On a bad day Cupid is trying to kill me.
“Your aura looks funny, chica.”
I glanced over at Armani Vasquez, sitting on the opposite of the table in the Insuring the Future break room. “Is it green?”
Squinting at me, she nodded.
“Maybe that’s because I’ve never seen anyone eat candy hearts like that before.”
“No. That’s not it.”
I looked down at the pink heart that said “Be Mine” poking out of her chicken Caesar salad. My stomach turned in protest.
Armani pulled out a purple cloth bag and shook it at me making the contents rattle. “Pull.”
Sighing, I did as she asked, removing seven Scrabble letters from the pouch and laying them down for her to read. DEGOSTV
She scowled at them thoughtfully. Some psychics deal Tarot cards and some gaze into crystal balls. Armani reads Scrabble tiles and has prophetic dreams.
Not that long ago, I scoffed at her predictions, but then they started coming true. Granted they didn’t play out the way she or I thought they would, but their accuracy became too much of a coincidence for me to ignore.
So I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich while she used her good hand (the other was injured in a tragic Zamboni accident) to maneuver the game pieces like a street hustler playing Three Card Monty.
“What’s wrong with your dog?”
Armani looked up from her work and looked at me like I was the crazy one, despite the fact she was talking about my aura and interpreting my Scrabble picks like a fortune teller reads tea leaves.
“Just kidding,” I lied, swallowing my mouthful of PB&J. I’d never confided to her, or anyone, that the car accident that killed my sister and injured my niece, Katie, left me able to talk to animals. Or at least to lizards and dogs, so far I hadn’t had much luck communicating with cats, but I suspect they may be too stuck up to talk to the likes of me.
“Do you have a vet?” Armani asked.
I shook my head.
“Doomsday is fine.” Doomsday, who prefers to be called DeeDee, is the Doberman Pinscher I took into my home after I killed her owner Gary the Gun. I already told that story in Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman, so I’m not going to go into that now.
“Then why do your letters spell Dog’s Vet?” She pushed the line of tiles across the table at me. DOGSVET
“Maybe it says God’s Vet,” I mused worriedly.
While Katie recovers in the hospital, I’ve found myself responsible for the care and feeding (like crickets only) of her lizard, Godzilla, God for short. The little guy is big on attitude and loves Wheel of Fortune.
“You need to find a vet,” Armani told me, dropping the tiles back into the bag.
Apparently that wasn’t the only thing I needed to find.
“We need to find you a man,” my Aunt Loretta opined the moment she walked into my apartment.
Ignoring her, I took the large shopping bag she held and put it on my kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit in the living room.”
“This is a questionable neighborhood,” my aunt worried.
“You shouldn’t be here alone.”
“I’m not. I’ve got DeeDee. Speaking of which, I’m going to let her out.”
I waited a beat for my cashmere-clad, blinged-out, perfume-soaked aunt to protest, but none came. Shrugging I opened my bedroom door, freeing the eighty-pound dog who almost knocked me over in her rush to greet Loretta.
While the two of them got acquainted, I stuck my head in the bedroom to see how God was doing. “Do you need anything?” I asked.
Sprawled out on the driftwood inside his terrarium, he waved me away, without even bothering to look at me. I should have known better than to interrupt his viewing of Chicks Cooped Up (a prison-based reality show).
“I brought you some jewelry, dear,” Aunt Loretta said as I joined her in the living room. She was perched on the edge of the sofa, petting DeeDee’s head, which had been unceremoniously plopped into the lap of my unsuspecting aunt.
I suppressed a groan. The last time Loretta had gifted me with an jewelry it had been an oversized cameo broach that I wore exactly once, the moment she insisted I try it on. “I don’t really need any more jewelry, Aunt Loretta.”
She blinked at me, her fake eyelashes dancing like oversized spiders. “It’s not for you.”
“But you just said…”
“It’s for Darling DeeDee.”
The dog tilted her head at me. “Darling,” she panted happily.
“Be a dear and get the pink bag,” Loretta ordered, waving a bejeweled hand in the direction of the kitchen.
I did as she asked, doing my best to ignore the way Doomsday kept panting, “Darling. Darling. Darling.”
“I’m sure she’s wonderful company,” Loretta said, “but we need to find a man to warm your bed.”
“The darling dog warms my bed just fine.”
And here's the version that was finally used:
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re stuck at a red light and Doomsday is breathing down your neck.
In this particular instance Doomsday happens to be a seventy-pound Doberman Pinscher. Instead of having the voice of doom, she sounds an awful lot like an air-headed, bimbo-y blonde. “Way that! Way that!”
Did I mention that Doomsday has really lousy grammar?
“Not that way,” Severus Snape drawled from the front passenger seat. Okay, not really Snape, but God…zilla, a talking Gecko, with an attitude to match his namesake.
Have you followed all this so far? The superior talking lizard is in the front passenger seat, the breathy Doberman is in the back, and I, Maggie Lee, am in the driver’s seat, even though it doesn’t feel as though I’m in control of this wild ride we’re on.
I know this whole thing sounds crazy. I know animals can’t talk, but ever since I was in a terrible car accident a few months ago, I can understand them. Of course I haven’t mentioned this little side effect to anyone, because I’m afraid they’ll lock up my crazy ass in the nuthouse (hell, with my luck, they’d probably make me room with my mom who’s a long-term resident) and I’ve just got too much to do to let that happen.
Which brings me to why God and Doomsday were arguing about which direction we were headed. I needed to kill someone at a wedding.
It’s a toss-up which I hate more: killing people or weddings.
Unfortunately, I’m getting pretty good at both.
“I see a disco ball in your future.” Aramani Vasquez, the closest thing I had to a friend at Insuring the Future, delivered this pronouncement right after she sprinkled a handful of candy corn into her Caesar salad.
Disgusted by her food combination, I pushed my own peanut butter and jelly sandwich away. “Really? A disco ball?”
If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be leaning over a table in the lunchroom, paying close attention to the bizarre premonitions of my half-crippled-wanna-be-psychic co-worker, I would have said you were crazy.
But I’d had one hell of a month.
First there had been the car accident. My sister Teresa and her husband Dirk were killed, my four-year-old niece Katie wound up in a coma, and I ended up with the ability to talk to animals. Trust me I know exactly how crazy that sounds, but it’s true…I think.
On top of everything else, I inadvertently found myself hurtling down a career path I never could have imagined.
I’m now a hitwoman for hire. Yes, I kill people for money…but just so you know, I don’t go around killing just anyone. I’ve got standards. The two men I killed were bad men, very bad men.
Before I could press Armani for more details about the mysterious disco ball, another man I wanted to kill sauntered into my line of vision. I hate my job at Insuring the Future. I hate taking automobile claims from idiot drivers who have no business getting behind the wheel. But most of all I hate my boss, Harry. It’s not the fact that he’s a stickler for enforcing company policy or even that he always smells like week-old pepperoni. No, I hate him because Harry “likes” me. A lot. He’s always looking over my shoulder (and peering down my shirt) and calling me into his office for one-on-one “motivational chats” to improve my performance.
I know what you’re thinking. I should report his sexual harassment to Human Resources, or, if I deplore the idea of workplace conflict (and what self-respecting hitwoman wouldn’t?) I should quit and find another job.
I was getting ready to do just that, report his lecherous ass, and then quit (because I really do despise “helping” the general public) but then the accident happened. And then the paid assassin gig.
So now I need this crappy, unfulfilling, frustrating-as-hell clerical employment because it provides a cover for my second job. It’s not like I can put HITWOMAN on my next tax return. Besides, if I didn’t keep this job, my meddling aunts would wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.
Harry, thumbs stuck into his suspenders (cuz everyone knows that suspenders are the height of fashion in a place where the typical dress code is t-shirts) strolled over to the table Armani and I occupied in the back corner of the break room. “Ladies.”
Neither of us answered him. I took a giant bite of pb&j while Aramani speared a piece of candy corn covered with anchovy-laced salad dressing.
“Don’t forget we’ve got a team meeting tomorrow morning.”
“How could we forget?” Armani asked. “You’ve sent five freaking emails about it.”
Ignoring her, Harry focused his lusty gaze on me (I guess he thinks nothing is hotter than a woman with cheeks like a chipmunk). “We’re going to have breakfast.”
He made it sound like it was some sort of intimate date, not a meeting with a dozen other people present.
I just kept on chewing, waiting for him to take the hint and go away.
He transferred his gaze to Armani. “We may have to let some people go.”
She raised her arm and waved her stump of a hand, the tragic result of not paying attention to her own premonitions and an out-of-control zamboni hurtling across the ice. She wore her disability like it was some sort of magical amulet allowing her to break the rules of Insuring the Future without repercussions. She knew damn well that if someone was going to be fired, it wasn’t going to be her.
I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be surprised if I was on the short list of possible employees to dump. Working at a call center, listening to the umpteenth caller claim to have swerved to miss a deer at three-thirty on a Saturday morning, wears on me, and I’ve been known to make a snide comment-- or two dozen-- about drunken deer. While the audits of my recorded calls show I do an accurate job, my numbers for “customer support and empathy” swirl around the bottom of the toilet.
And they’ve only gotten worse since I started killing people. I’d like to blame it on the insomnia that kicked in just before the second hit I pulled off, or the fact that I’m stressed out because my niece Katie is in a coma, but the truth is my tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time-low.
“Don’t be late.” Harry and his stinky breath cleared our airspace.
“He makes me sick to my stomach.” The fact that Armani said this while spearing a mouthful of candy and salad turned my stomach. It was all I could do to swallow my bite of sandwich.
I never did get the details of the damn disco ball because an IT guy had an allergic reaction to something he ate, which necessitated a lot of oohing and ahhing and wringing of hands from the lunchtime crew as everyone waited to see if he was going to make it, or if his obituary would read, “Random tech guy from Insuring the Future passes on after brief battle with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.”
A little different, right?