Contingency Plan - Chapter 7 - Murderous Girlfriend #1
Updated: May 26
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard, or some inescapable effect of my personality. Or maybe it’s just bad luck that every one of my serious relationships has ended with my attempted murder.
I often think of my first serious girlfriend and attempted-murderess, Mae Shin. We met while we were both guests of the organization on the peninsula; we were so young! I can still recall the instant my infatuation with her began. We were sitting opposite each other at the splendid twelve-meter dining table of the Duke of Wilsham. The staff had finished clearing the table between the main course and salad. When Mae Shin stood up, I could not help but to notice how her tight red dress complemented her athletic body. Why hadn’t I noticed before? Had I been too preoccupied with the preparations for the brazen crime we were about to execute?
The next moment was precisely the instant that I fell in love with her. She slowly removed the long pin that held her hair up, sexily shook her head to let her hair fall onto her shoulders, and drove the hair pin though the hand of the man sitting to her left.
The commotion that followed was predictable. Stunned silence. A gasp when the elegantly dressed elderly woman next to me realized what had happened. A cry of shock and pain from the syndicate boss whose hand was now impaled by the hair pin and effectively nailed to the table. Mae Shin delicately pulled the syndicate boss’s pistol from his tuxedo and pressed its barrel into his temple.
I was so taken with the sight of Mae Shin that I nearly forgot my role in the festivities. She gave me a subtle nod, prompting me out of my daze of admiration. I stood up, calmly climbed onto my chair, and then lightly stepped onto the table. “My apologies, ladies and gentlemen,” I announced humbly. “We were going to wait until after dessert, but the consommé was so long in coming from the kitchen that we had to advance our schedule.”
I explained to the guests that all we really wanted was the left leg of the man who was currently struggling to free his impaled hand. After waiting for the subsequent horrified murmur to subside, I further explained that the leg was prosthetic and we were only interested in the microfilm that was hidden inside it. Mae Shin uttered a slightly-annoyed sounding cough and I cut my explanation of our activities short, no doubt leaving the guests wondering what the images on the microfilm contained.
Several minutes later I held Mae Shin tightly as she maneuvered the Ducati through narrow alleyways, against traffic on the promenade, and through the occasional hotel lobby. The night ended wonderfully as we watched the ancient skyline drift away from us. Our yacht’s¹ motors ran at a low idle and we could still hear the wailing sirens of the Polizia cars that were futilely hunting us in the city.
For the next six months, Mae Shin and I were inseparable. In our next plot, we posed as a pair of romantically-involved philanthropic industrialists in order to gain access to the high-end art galleries of Europe. Convincingly presenting myself as a philanthropist was a challenge, but no acting was required to present myself as Mae Shin’s passionate lover.
We soon moved in together, setting up a cozy living space in a corner of an unused warehouse outside of Milan. In the mornings, Mae Shin would practice her sword and knife kata while wearing heels and an evening dress.² I loved to look up from my engineering drawings and plans to watch her perform her ballet of beauty and steel.
“Why knives and swords, Mae?” I asked her one evening. She had finished practice and was lovingly honing the blade of her katana. “Why did you come to use blades as the tool of your trade?”
“A blade,” she said, “can be the tool of a butcher. Or it can be the tool of a surgeon. With a blade, I can be either, as the occasion requires.”
“You can be a chef, too!” I offered.
“If I am a chef, then I specialize in only one dish. Revenge.”
“Let me tell you how I came to understand the meaning of the blade. I learned it from the men who killed my father.”
I put down my wine. This was the first time Mae had given me any information about her life before joining the organization on the peninsula.
“I was very young. I do not know what my father’s business was. Only that it made him many enemies. He believed his guns would protect him. He always carried multiple pistols. His rifles were always nearby. But when the time came, I learned that guns can jam. Guns can run out of ammunition. The men who took my father’s life came with blades. When my father’s weapons failed, his enemies’ blades were still in perfect operating condition.”
She ran her finger along the edge of her sword, then looked down the blade.
“When you kill someone, you must do so for a reason. And most of the time, that reason calls for you to be with your victim. Perhaps you need to get information from them before they die. Perhaps you want them to know why they are being killed. Perhaps you need to ensure they die in a very specific way. In all of these situations, a blade is the only reasonable tool to use.”
She looked at me and smiled. She said “seventy-five!” then lunged forward, thrusting the sword at my desk. I flinched, but my reaction was unnecessary. She was aiming at a book that was standing on the desktop. Her sword penetrated the book, but did not go all the way through. She pulled the sword out of the book and sheathed it. “Open the book. To page seventy-five.”
I did as I was told. Page seventy-five had a small slit cut into the middle from the tip of the sword. Page seventy-six was untouched.
“When I find the men who killed my father, I will use a blade to learn why they killed my father. They will know why they are being killed. And I will ensure that they die in very, very specific ways.”
* * *
Our relationship ended in the rocking and pitching gondola of a hot air balloon, pushed by gusty winds over the surface of Lake Balkhash. I think of the last few moments I saw her nearly as often as I dwell on the moment I fell in love with her.
She held the cruel curved blade of her karambit a few inches in front of my face, slowly moving the knife from side to side as I leaned back and forth to keep my balance. “Give it to me,” she said.
“It” was a small cylinder containing 450 carats of rough-cut green garnets. I held the cylinder at arm’s length, my hand extended as far outside the gondola as possible. “Stealing these garnets is suicide, Mae. The leadership on the peninsula will call for your sanction.”
“I don’t care about minor fluctuations in the level of hazard of my situation. I care only for revenge. All else is secondary. Except you. You are tertiary.”
Her statement about my tertiary importance was, in my opinion, more hurtful than the precarious scenario playing out in the gondola called for. Her assessment of the danger the wrath of the organization on the peninsula would bring was also misestimated. I would eventually manage to safely wriggle my way out from their influence only after years of delicate political maneuvering. Blatant theft of their treasure, as Mae Shin was doing, was suicide.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said. Then I threw my weight backwards, pitched myself over the edge of the gondola and plunged into the dark, choppy waters of Lake Balkhash.
Paradoxically, jumping from the balloon saved both of our lives. The cylinder I designed to hold the garnets was equipped with a beacon that would guide the organization’s helicopter directly to it. I only had to endure a brief twenty minutes in the lake before being fished out by the chopper.
The balloon had no such tracking device. I looked up upon surfacing to see it moving away rapidly, driven by the wind into the gloom. For a moment, I was able to make out Mae Shin peering out of the gondola, looking for me in the water.
After the helicopter fished me out of the lake, and my body temperature returned to something approaching normal, I reported that Mae Shin had been killed during our theft of the garnets. I had to abandon the balloon because, I lied, I was being chased by motorboats dispatched from the shore. My lie was believed (I’m an excellent liar, you know), and I never saw Mae Shin again.
I wonder if she managed to avenge her family. I wonder if she is still as beautiful as she was when I knew her. I wonder if she knows that my actions that night saved her life.
¹ Technically, the yacht belonged to the Organization on the Peninsula. But it was ours for the evening
² Mae Shin’s summarized her attitude towards her work this way: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” She left nothing to chance, training under conditions identical to the ones she would encounter when it was time to put her training into practice.