The Dead End

Minerva pulled on her favorite skin-tight gloves. They were the same gloves used by professional police forces around the world, which was why she chose them. They created a wild goose chase that led the police to a dead end every time. She smiled at the play on words. She was one of the lucky few who truly loved her job. She reached out to test the handle to the greenhouse. With a faint click the glass door popped open. Just like that, Minerva started building her corporate espionage skill set. She clenched her fists and let the surge of giddiness take over her entire body. Not a very professional response, she realized, but better than repeatedly jumping up and down in the greenhouse until the adrenaline-backed rush wore off.

She barely pulled open the door, slid through the space, closed the door behind her, and stood surveying the scene before her. The greenhouse looked like the typical home garden greenhouse, but it was located in the backyard of the CEO of Kinwel Chemicals, and Minerva had already seen how the gardens behind the McMansion house stretched out, row after row protected by twelve-foot tall electrified fences with giant red-and-yellow warning placards posted every six feet. But she knew that the simple, nondescript greenhouse was where the real treasure could be found. If you knew what to look for. And had the balls to walk right in and take it.

Moving to stand among a grouping of large plants so she would not be seen by any errant passers-by, Minerva commended herself for the jogging get-up that she wore as the humidity of the greenhouse was already making her shirt stick to her in uncomfortable places. She took a moment to focus on taking slow, even breaths as her lungs acclimated to the dense air. Although the outer area within the greenhouse was full of tropical looking plants and flowers, the interior area was clearly more of a work area than a growing area. Several portable white boards were stationed throughout the area, with complex equations written in black, blue, and red markers. Minerva walked through the work area, until she found what she was looking for. Two large square containers painted red, with tall purple flowers growing in them. Each flower had long upper purple petals and shorter yellow petals at the bottom. The lower petals reminded her of rotting teeth. She shuddered as she picked up a small pot with a single flower in it.

“What, you don’t like flowers?”

Minerva forced herself to turn around slowly, as if the intruder were interrupting her work.

“I should’ve known.”

Minerva remained quiet, trying not to roll her eyes at the Kinwel Chemicals security patrol standing a few yards from her, his gun trained at her.

“Well, well, quiet today, ain’t ya?”

Minerva shrugged. “Well, I—”

“Oh, no, no,” he said, waving the gun slightly. “I wasn’t telling you to talk, sweet cheeks. Just enjoying the silence.” He licked his lips and let his eyes travel up and down her body, pausing once at her crotch so he could lick his lips again and once at her chest. “Although I wouldn’t mind making you scream a little.”

Minerva glanced at his knee-length brown shorts and short-sleeved button-up top marked with the Kinwel insignia and snorted. The wannabe cop scowled. He took several angry steps toward her, until the gun was just a few feet from her face.

“That’ll be the last time you laugh at me, bitch.” He jerked the gun in the air, as if punching her, to punctuate each word. “The last time!”

Minerva shrugged and leaned against the worktable. She kept her eyes focused on him as she set the potted flower on the table.

He shuffled forward, keeping the gun trained on her as he grabbed the pot off the worktable, then moved back to his original spot. Minerva affected a bored look.

“Yeah, sweet cheeks, you ain’t fooling me.” He held the potted flower up, then let it fall to the ground, shattering the pot. “Don’t worry. No one will come check on the noise. It’s just you and me here today.” He knelt down, keeping the gun pointed at her.

Minerva continued her bored look as he felt around in the dirt until he found the purple and yellow flower. He grabbed it by the stem and held it up as he stood up once again.

“See you just offered me the perfect escape. I catch you ransacking the greenhouse. You try to run. I shoot you dead. In the mess, no one notices this little fellow has gone missing. Then I can use it for myself.” He sneered at her, dropping the hand holding the daisy to his side so he could push the gun closer to her face. “Don’t worry. I’ll make it look like you put up a real fight, something to make your family proud.”

Minerva tensed.

“Oh? That’s your soft spot, eh?” he said. “You a daddy’s girl. Just like your whoring sister?”

Minerva clenched her teeth and pressed her lips together tightly.

“Yeah, I’ve known all along,” he hissed. “Since before we got hitched even.” He took another step closer to Minerva. “See, I figured a cheating spouse? Hell, the judge would give me half her money—your family money—no problem, what with me being the injured party and all.”

He spat on the ground.

“But then your daddy produced a prenup.” The guard snarled, pushing the gun against Minerva’s cheek. “I never signed no fucking prenup.”

He dragged the gun along her face and neck, down her chest to circle her nipple repeatedly until it pressed hard against the black t-shirt Minerva was wearing. She looked away, disgusted.

The guard laughed softly and Minerva could smell salami on his breath. “But now I can just feed this little guy to your sister and I become the grieving widower. Bigger payday.” He dragged the point of the gun down to between her legs. Minerva tensed her thighs and shifted her knees together.

He clucked his tongue at her. “Don’t make me force it, sweet cheeks,” he whispered. “We wouldn’t want the gun to go off down there.”

Minerva turned back to look at him, her stare boring through him. “We don’t have to worry about that,” she said. She leaned forward slightly to whisper in his ear. “You don’t have to eat it, you dumb shit. Its stem has the poison.”

She half-smiled as he stumbled back a step, his eyes wide. He started to lift the flower to look at it once again, but his arms fell to his sides. The gun clattered to the floor, but the flower stuck to his fingers. His knees buckled, and he toppled over onto the ground.

Minerva scooped up the gun and walked over to the guard, sliding the gun back into its holster. “Limb weakness, check. Next should be diarrhea and vomiting, unless Kinwel modified the poison in addition to intensifying the speed of its effects.” She patted the guard on the shoulder and stood up. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t wait around for that.”

She pulled a plastic bag from her pocket and stepped over to the large red containers. She picked two flowers from the base of the stems, dropping them into the bag along with her carefully removed gloves. She visually swept the area, making sure no trace of her presence remained, then turned to leave the greenhouse.

As she stepped over the man on the floor, she heard him gasping for air. “Final stage: asphyxiation,” she said to herself, noting the time on her watch. “Impressive.”

She retraced her steps to the gated entrance, used her shoulder to push through the door, then followed the dirt path to the servants’ entrance until she found the small hole in the manicured hedge. She slipped through, and checked her watch again as she started jogging on the sidewalk away from the McMansion, her ponytail flopping in time with her footsteps. Eighteen minutes, start to finish.

She crossed the road to move into the next block, slowed to a brisk walk, pulled out a phone and hit the redial button.

“It’s done,” she said. “And tell dad I have a nice present for him, too.” She patted the pocket with the modified Anconitum genus. Stealing corporate secrets would definitely add a nice bump to her assassination earnings.


  • Such a powerful and intense storytelling! It felt like a movie! And the ending-witty!

    Mary PapasMay 21, 2015
    • Thanks! This was a response to a Chuck Wendig writing challenge, so I had to follow specific requirements (always my Achilles heel)

      cjaiferry@gmail.comMay 22, 2015
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