"It's hard to know how to live your life when you are battling two wars in your heart." Shelley mused.
One half was telling her how strong she was, that she could make her way through this tunnel, that things would get better.
But the other half insisted that the darkness in the tunnel would never end, that life was a game she couldn't win.
She felt that life would NEVER be the dream she wanted but ALWAYS a never-ending nightmare.
A thought struck her: Why not take out a hit on her own life by hiring the best hitman she knew: herself? Then she could disappear and start again. Someone already wanted her dead.
Shelley stared at the email in front of her. At first she thought it was a joke. Maybe someone she had crossed paths with on a job. Most people in her line of work didn't joke about death.
It happened. There were no second chances. You lived, or you died. She scanned the email hoping to find a clue. Clients were discouraged from explaining WHY they wanted someone dead.
They had to provide the person's name, home and work address, habits, stores they frequented, places they visited, normal routes taken,
a recent photograph and deposit the payment into an animal rescue account.
In return, she would provide proof of death via pictures, coroners reports, and sometimes obituaries after the job was done. Her alias was as different from her real name as she could make it.
Even her clients' names were fake. Everything was as untraceable as possible. At least it was suppose to be.
She was still mulling it over when she arrived at the pet training facility the next morning. Who would order a hit on an animal psychologist?
Shelley opened the squeaky door to her office, juggling a hot cup of tea in one hand and a package of strawberry pop tarts in the other. She flipped the light switch with her elbow.
Her office was neat and bright. Pastel paint tinted the walls. Flowers grew in the open window boxes. Crisp white curtains embroidered with paw prints blew in the gentle breeze.
A wooden desk sat in the middle of the room its top sprinkled with lopsided bean filled kittens, puppies and birds.
The colorful toy box near the door spilled balls, and ropes, and tiny fabric mice onto the floor. A small agility course sprawled across the back of the spacious office.
A smile touched her lips. This was just the office you would expect of a carefree freelance pet psychologist.
Behind her desk a muted wooden frame highlighted Ben Franklin's often quoted phrase "three may keep a secret if two are dead.
" When asked about it, she would say it was an idiosyncrasy of hers: The love of strange quotes.
She set her cup beside the small white computer screen on the desk. It still looked new. She pressed the on button and the computer hummed to life.
Cute images of baby animals flashed across the screen. She scanned through her training schedule. Just a few appointments this morning. The afternoon was clear.
A scratching noise pulled her attention to the mesh carrier that she brought with her this morning. She unzipped the bag and a little black nose poked out to sniff the air.
A few seconds later a tiny ferret emerged, happily dooking her way across the keyboard. Her dancing feet added memos to the schedule.
" Monster", Shelley giggled. " Off you go". She set the tiny animal on the floor and turned back to her work.
Most of her "assignments" were kept on a password protected tablet. Easier to slip in and out of her purse while she was on a job. Easier to dispose of if necessary.
It took less than two minutes to wipe it clean of data and fingerprints. Maybe she should add a self destruct app. The thought brought a chuckle.
Shelley pulled up the strange email again. Her picture stared back at her. The email read : Donation given. Then gave her home address, work address, her favorite stores and the nearby park.
A quick click on her bank account showed a deposit had been made. She sat back for a minute staring off into space.
Why not disappear? She always wanted to explore more of this unique country she called home. It was easy enough to write an obituary. Clues could be planted.
A search would reveal nothing until months later when the snow had melted and the sun didn't fail to light up the night. The media would think she had gotten lost while hiking .
Probably eaten by wild animals.
She read the email again, wondering why someone wanted her gone. There was something oddly familiar about the writing style. A sudden bolt of anger struck her. She knew.
Shelley looked at Monster who was running around the office.
" What do you say, little girl? Should we go on an adventure?" Monster started at her for a minute then ducked into her tunnel to chase an imaginary prairie dog.
Shelley shrugged and turned back to her computer. She had some planning to do.
A week later, Shelley was settle behind the wheel of a mini motor home. Monster slept contentedly in a spacious carrier buckled into the front passenger seat.
The body would show up soon enough and people would assume it was her. Her car had been left near one of the trail heads.
She had made a few causal comments to friends and co-workers about exploring some back trails. A DNA test would probably be done on the chewed remains. She felt a twinge of remorse.
This was the first time she had taken a life that wasn't assigned to her. She broke every rule she had vowed to uphold when she was hired first as a bounty hunter then a finisher.
She could have gone to the police; shown them the proof. But she knew nothing could be done. A request to end a life wasn't the same as taking one. She brushed the guilt away.
This was a classic case of self defense. Kill before you were killed.
Why fate would lead her husband to choose her as the assassin to end her own life she would never understand. She brushed a strand of hair away from her eye.
There was no sense in dwelling on the past. She smiled over at Monster who had climbed into the viewing area of her carrier and was gazing out the window in wonder.
Their future was ahead of them.