The Time Aaron's Roommate Murdered His Date
By J. L. Thurston
The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming novel, The Lyrebird Threat.
LIKE A VISION OF APHRODITE, Anna awaited him by the revolving doors wearing a simple floral romper with her black hair pulled back in a low bun. A coral colored headband sat like a tiara upon her head. Her lips were colored to match.
She blushed when she spotted him, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear while gripping a blue clutch. She was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that Aaron regretfully didn’t realize he’d forgotten his cologne until he was arm-in-arm with her and caught the barest hint of her perfume.
He had an icy stomach for a full minute as he racked his brain trying to remember if he had put on deodorant. With a sigh of relief, he remembered he had.
The streets were nearly empty in the night. The sky had just darkened but the city lights kept everything aglow. The city was picturesque. A warm wind blew, causing a single black lock of Anna’s hair to blow idly as they talked. It was hypnotizing.
The Riverwalk was close, but Anna insisted they turn down a blackened alley for a shortcut. She held her clutch in one hand, Aaron’s arm in the other. They avoided puddles and potholes in the alley, moving as one. He couldn’t help but soak in the feeling of her pressed against his hip. They were fluid together, their bodies already recognizing perfect chemistry.
In the darkness ahead of them, a silhouette emerged. No details could be made out in the inky blackness, but it was clear the man was tall, thin, with curly hair. His back was straight, one arm elevated as he aimed a gun at them.
Though his face was hidden, Aaron recognized him instantly. Disbelief flooded his entire being. Ben was pointing a gun directly at them.
“Ben?” a shocked cry came from Aaron.
Aaron’s eyes tore away from the ghastly sight of his dead date and found Ben.
He turned to Anna. His lips were forming a warning to her but his words died in his throat. Anna was aiming a pistol right between his eyes. In her face was nothing but a lethality similar to that of a hungry snake.
His brain barely had time to process what he was seeing when Anna’s head exploded.
Blood, chunks of brain, and shards of skull flew out the side of her head. A red flower of blood bloomed on her temple from Ben’s bullet. Her body jerked and crumpled to the ground before her eyes had even lost focus. Her once-beautiful face slackened into an expressionless mask.
Aaron’s eyes tore away from the ghastly sight of his dead date and found Ben. The dark figure hadn’t moved, but now smoke trailed from the end of his gun.
Aaron felt the world tilt and he stumbled. In a flash, Ben was by his side, holding him up while he wretched stomach acid onto the pavement.
Aaron remembered some of the walk home. He remembered Ben explaining to him that he was just in shock and that it would wear off soon. He remembered Ben telling a concerned onlooker that Aaron had taken too many birthday shots at the bar. His voice had sounded so jovial when talking to the stranger that it was an undeniable story. Aaron’s eyes slid to Ben and he breathed, “Who are you?”
Now, sitting in his armchair, a cup of hot coffee in his hands, Aaron replayed Anna’s death in his mind. The first few replays he had thought of it as her murder, but his rational brain knew that to be false.
She had taken a gun with her on their date. Upon seeing Ben, she had put it to Aaron’s head. Ben had killed her before she could fire.
“I’m ready to talk now,” Aaron said after an unknown length of time.
Ben had been lounging coolly in his armchair, stroking Porthos. “I just want to say that even though I didn’t want you so directly exposed,” he began formally. “I knew that with you living here, you’d find out eventually.”
“Find out what? Are you a serial killer?”
Ben gave a hearty laugh. Aaron felt chills on his arms. “That depends on how you look at it. I’m an operative for a secret sub-branch of government known as Eagle. Do you know what that means?”
It was nowhere near the answer he was expecting. “Eagle? Wait.” His brain was firing to life. “The Eagle Rooms in the Newberry…”
“That’s right. You’ve signed on to work for us and didn’t even know it. Sip your coffee.” He folded his hands together. “I kill people for the government. Eagle has me target criminals too powerful, beloved, or slippery for traditional justice systems.”
Aaron took a shaky sip of his coffee. “Anna was a criminal?”
“Undoubtedly so,” came the reply. “I have never had a roommate before, so today was the first time I ever had a target pull a gun on someone who wasn’t me.”
“She,” he attempted to make his voice sound normal. “She was a target?”
“Yes. The hit was put on her this morning. It seems she had intel on me and used you as bait. I’m sure that was terrible for you, and I understand if you don’t want to live here anymore.”
He pulled a photograph out of his pocket and rose from his chair, taking strides in the direction of his bedroom. Aaron set his coffee down and followed him. He caught a glimpse of the photo. It was Anna.
Note from the author:
If you enjoyed this excerpt (I certainly hope you have, since I have found you here at the end of it), please locate the novel in its entirety on Amazon.com, and do be so kind as to leave a review and share your thoughts with fellow readers.