Two people sat at a table: one in blue, the other in grey. Neither summoning the courage to blink their same-coloured eyes in case they missed anything.
They had arrived exactly five minutes earlier and made their way to the dimly-lit indoor enclosure. Everything was either made of wood or very exquisite cloth. The window had been disguised as part of the wall and slid open to let the raw, unfiltered night air into the room.
The absent moon, of course, meant that the person in grey had not seen the rest of the setup before they were seated.
Things would have been very different otherwise.
“Well, this is interesting,” said the person in blue, who was first to blink, but very briefly.
“Neat trick,” said the one in grey, “shutting one eye at a time. Like you’ve been trained to.”
The one in blue smiled as the one who had just spoke proceeded to do the exact same thing: using their eyelids to lubricate their ocular orbs, without losing focus on the person seated across from them.
The decorations at the table had been tastefully arranged to match the wall, and contribute to the ambience of the place.
“A mistake,” the person in grey realized.
Perhaps there was hope of defeating them after all.
The vase, serviette-fan, tiny model of a Chinese junk and lanterns had done their part to draw attention from the nearly-invisible piano wire that snaked from the opposite end of the table, looped around the table legs and secured themselves through tiny yet functional grooves in the columns that held up their oriental-style booth.
A trap that had sprung shut when the person in grey sat down. Good thing they both had the habit of good posture, or someone would have noticed the strain.
“Do you know the beauty of these?” Asked the person in blue as they raised the wooden chopsticks high enough to enter their field of vision. “Simple yet complicated. Difficult yet practical. A paradox given form.”
“You hold them well,” the other person risked a compliment as the chopsticks – which held the knots that somehow secured all ends of the piano wire – grew tighter the higher they rose in the air.
Do you remember when I said that all the grey-wearer’s limbs were secured by the wire? I lied.
Four minutes earlier, the person had noticed something shiny on the floor. Thought it might be a coin someone had dropped before, and reached down – ever so slightly – to pick it up.
The wire had caught their right arm, both legs, neck...but only managed to snag their left shoulder.
Something had told them to play at being completely at the other person’s mercy, while trying to make sure the wires didn’t transmit too much motion to the side of the table as they reached for the hidden holster at their raised right calf.
The cold, hard metal pressed into the blue-wearer’s thigh.
“Oh my,” the person joked, “you really are happy to see me, aren’t you?”
“Such coarse humour does not become you,” the one with the gun remarked. “But I guess even the most decorous among us will lose all composure when they’ve lost.”
“Have you noticed that none of the decorations has moved?” The one in blue decided to hint.
The vase, the statuette, the flowers, the small paper serviette fan, even the lantern...had all been still, even with wires passing...through them.
The wires – hidden in shadow – had not been a spider’s web, but a strange hybrid between one and a fisherman’s line.
“And have you noticed the chairs aren’t the same as everyone else’s?” The one in blue prompted once more. “No need to turn your head: there’s a mirror behind me.”
And it was true. Theirs were diner chairs: plush and strangely out of place if one cared to take notice. Everyone else sat on comfortable wood with no cushions at all.
“The friction caused by a bullet entering the my seat – or the floor beneath me – or the wall behind me – will cause the tiniest flame, which will last for the briefest second.”
“And that will be enough to set off the explosives,” the one in grey realized.
“So you see...neither of us would leave in one piece,” the one with the chopsticks smiled.
Of course: they weren’t alone. “Would you like to order now?”
“Maybe give us a few more minutes,” they both pretty much chorused, and the waiter left wondering if they were a couple.
“Could you imagine this is the first time I’ve met anyone this way?”
“You seem remarkably well-prepared,” the one in grey replied. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
Safety released on the pistol: a motion sensed by the one in blue, who tightened the wires enough to cause a thin necklace of blood to appear on the other side of the table.
“Thoroughly. Although I could do without the creeping carpal tunnel syndrome this early in the night.”
The one with the gun laughed. “I suspect that’s something heterosexuals don’t have to worry about too often when they go on dates.”
The one in blue decided she liked the one in grey: lowered the chopsticks and waved a waiter over.
“We will place your orders,” she declared when he was close enough, “and then we will both go into the bathroom for about twenty minutes and return having swapped dresses.”
Later that night, as the sweat dried from their bare backs in the hotel room, they both reviewed “Shadow: the Dating App for Assassins” at 3.5/5.
Anything higher would make them sloppy.
- NEXT CHAPTER -Bomoa