Short story: Mary’s Retirement

Very excited to get through to Round 3 of the New York Midnight Challenge 2018! For those of you who haven’t heard of the competition, you get 48 hours to write a 1000 word story, and you have to stick to the prompts they give you. Here’s my Round 2 entry, which came 2nd in my heat.

Prompts: Action/adventure, first aid station, a lemon

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Mary’s Retirement

An ex-assassin tries to run a First Aid lesson in a retirement home, but old enemies are hard to shake…

*

Mary pounded the man’s chest, her forehead beaded with sweat.

“Don’t give up!” She gasped, breathing into his mouth and resuming a rhythmic pumping. She jammed her fingers into his neck for a sign of life, but instead felt the cold touch of truth.

Mary sat back, defeated.

“Patient is unresponsive. Next steps?”

She surveyed the classroom, which had been transformed into a mock first aid station for the day. A group of wrinkly faces stared blankly back at her, all except for young Brian, whose hand shot up.

“Phone an ambulance?”

“Excellent Brian! And you’d be the right person to do it, as our new receptionist.”

The class chuckled, only a week into the job and Brian was already their adopted grandson.

“So,” she turned to the puppy-eyed boy, but a movement behind his head caught her eye. Outside the window, a man stood in front of the rose bushes, dressed in black. He locked eyes with her.

Her stomach plunged. It had been ten years since she’d fled the academy and enjoyed a career change, but she knew they’d find her one day. Mary held the man’s gaze man through the window. He turned and disappeared from view.

“Brian, take over compressions,” she stood stiffly, “I’ve just got to pop out and get my volunteer for our next lesson.”

There was an excited murmur in the class, as Brian began to vigorously pump the dummy. She shut the door on his overzealous ‘Staying Alive’ tribute with a snap.

The corridor was silent. She crept along the wall, nearing the corner, but stopped suddenly. Footsteps. She crouched down, rolled up her right trouser leg, and pulled the claw of a karambit blade from her ankle-mounted sheath. It was best to be prepared. You never knew when it was your time, and as a 62-year-old ex-assassin, Mary knew she’d long outlived hers.

She took a deep breath, then sprung around the corner. A figure loomed over her, arms outstretched for her neck. A figure wearing a dressing gown and tartan slippers.

“Sleep walking again, Mr Pratchett?” She sighed, slipping the knife into her cardigan pocket. Mr Pratchett’s eyes were rolled back into his head, watching his dreams in another world. She steered him back to his room, tucked him into bed and poured a glass of water from the jug on the bedside table. “For when you wake up, old thirsty guts.” She winked at him, and turned to leave.

A man towered in the doorway. He was in his early twenties, with a closely shaved head and hawk-like eyes. In his right hand he caressed a 6-inch MK3 knife.

“Malovich,” he breathed. Mary twitched. Mr Pratchett snored.

“It’s Mary now,” she said softly.

“I am Petro,” he stepped forward, “It is an honour to meet you. And to end you.”

He lunged for her like a snake, his knife was like a silver tongue jabbing for her jugular, but Mary was quick. She dodged into the centre of the room, circling him slowly, and assessed the boy. Left arm was weaker. Top student. Trained hard. Not an innovative fighter, but a ruthless one.

He crouched and sprang forward, the knife aimed for her heart. Mary pirouetted in her clogs, kicking the MK3 from his hand. They both stared at the knife, which had buried itself into a puppy calendar by the door. Petro turned to Mary and rammed her against the opposite wall, his hands squeezing the air from her throat.

“Give it up, old woman,” he panted, but Mary grabbed the water jug from the bedside table and smashed it against his head.

Petro reeled back, dripping with water. A lemon slice was stuck to his snarling face, blood trickling down his hairline. He wiped it away, but Mary’s hand had already reached inside her cardigan pocket. As he raged towards her, she slipped her blade under his ribs.

“I did give it up,” she whispered into his ear. Petro slumped onto the floor, gasping like a goldfish on land. Mary grabbed a wheelchair from the corner of the room, plopped the assassin into it, and brushed herself down. It was at that moment she saw Mr Pratchett sitting up in bed, staring at her in horror.

“You’re having a nightmare, Mr Pratchett.” She said loudly, wheeling Petro out of the room. She shut the door and headed towards the first aid station.

“Everyone,” She beamed at her class, “I found our volunteer for a knife wound. I thought it’d be an exciting way to end the day.” She wheeled the boy in. “This is Petro, he’s a drama student from the local academy, and very dedicated to the art of method acting. Brian, could you help me with his legs? Thank you.”

They placed the boy down on the floor. The class gathered around as Mary unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a small gurgling wound.

“Gosh, that’s very realistic, isn’t it?” One of the women squinted, stepping closer.

“Oh yes. He’s outstandingly good at make-up. Right. What would you recommend?” She stared at her class, their faces scrunching up with thought.

“Stop the bleeding.” Brian said slowly. Petro stretched out his bloody hand to Brian, moaned one last time, then went still.

“Oh no.” Mary sighed, checking the boy’s pulse. “We’ve lost him. Ah well! Can everyone give Petro a round of applause, wasn’t he just marvellous? Now, I think we’ll call it a day, who’s up for tea and biscuits in the lounge?”

The class clapped politely and began to file out, leaving Mary alone with Petro.

“It just happened to be your time, not mine,” she whispered, placing a hand over his eyes.

The door clicked shut. She looked up. Brian was standing there, stony-faced, his gun pointed at her head.

“Sorry Malovich, but it is your time.”

*

 

Read my Round 1 entry for the NYC Midnight Challenge 2018: The Warlock’s Rebellion

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