There are many rules to a safe life in a city. Don’t stay out later than the sun. Avoid the narrow alleys and stick to the broad streets. Blend into the surrounding, never wear anything bright or colorful. Still, anyone experienced with assault would know, daylight does not guarantee one’s safety. Crimes don’t always happen in the middle of the night. Nobody plays ominous background music as a forewarning of what’s to come. Criminals don’t always wear an all black ensemble, nor do they have tell-tale tattoos. Sometimes, their body was just a plain canvas, clothed in a vermilion dress to match the evening sky.

Twilight tinted the world red like a filter on a photo. Although the sky looked like a pretty blush, the city itself took a turn towards Carmine.

Regretting the impulse to take a walk, Anna clutched her handbag closer to her chest. As usual, she slipped a pocket knife in the back of her boots, checked for the pepper spray in her bag, pushed her dark sunglasses up the bridge of her nose and picked up her pace. Ten minutes later she stepped into the Ivory Island Hotel and headed straight for the reception desk.

“Hello, I’m here to meet a guest.” She said to the receptionist who was a bored young lad, no older than sixteen. From her bag, she pulled out a thin satiny black envelope. The note inside had nothing more than an address on it, written in silver, slanted cursive calligraphy. “He’s supposed to be in room number 196.”

“Ah, Mr. David Taupe, this way ma’am, let me take you there.” He said, with his eyes fixed on her bare calves.

“No, that’s fine. Just tell me where to go?” Anna said, her voice shaky with nervousness, and he squished his eyebrows to form a straight line.

“First time is it? I thought Mr. David wasn’t into that.”

“Yes, it’s my first time. Could you just tell me which floor I’ve to go?

“Alright, it’s not my business.” He said with a slight shrug. “It’s the room on the third floor and the lifts are through here,” he said pointing to his left.

At the third floor, she got out and walked to the apartment at the end of the corridor straight ahead, knocked thrice in quick successions, and stepped back.

“Took your sweet little time did you.” A man’s adenoidal voice sounded from behind the door along the clanking of the door’s chains. “Good thing the wife is gone for a long trip this time, or you wouldn’t make a single buck.” The door opened to a man wearing a crisp gray suit that seemed ready to pop with the effort of covering his enormous belly. There was a faint hint of gray in the roots of his hair, and despite being an arm’s length away, Anna could smell the strong citrusy scent of his cologne. He didn’t wait for her to come in. Instead, leaving her to shut the door behind her, he climbed on to the king’s size bed.

The whole ordeal was over in less than a blink of an eye and a flash of silver. White, over-washed sheets turned crimson. The gray suit colored black as blood oozed from David Taupe’s abdomen and lungs while the knife stayed lodged firmly in his heart. His cheeks and neck bore marks when she’s muffled his screams.

Walking back in the darkened city half hour after leaving the cleaned hotel room, Anna thought to herself,

Pretty good for the first day at work.