The entire room was filled with chattering and murmuring of people within - all guests of an anniversary party hosted by the one and only James Phillips.
Inside my mind, I jokingly wondered why I hadn't been given an invitation to the event - but then again, I had no interest in these kinds of people - not that they had any interest in me.
The part itself and the mission had led to my partner - Jessica - and I were observing everything from afar from inside the air vents that snaked around the ceilings of the large mansion.
There were a few of the guests I managed to spot and recognise from where I was hiding, but none of them were the ones we deemed as our target. It was purely just a sad coincidence that there was a celebration on the day we decided to carry out the mission.
"Have you found him yet?" Jessica asked me, squirming her skinny body around into a more comfortable position and sighing in quiet relief.
I simply shook my head in disappointment, guessing that she was having no luck as well. It was to be expected of course, what with all the crowds of people moving about in the glittering ballroom below.
The tight space was getting a bit too much anyway - I wouldn't mind getting down onto the floor and getting familiar with our target.
A rather familiar-looking man appeared in the centre of all the commotion, seeming to be shaking hands with all the people - a man no other than James Phillips himself.
"Target spotted. Let's move quickly." I whispered to my partner in an urgent tone, hoping he wouldn't suddenly decide to go someplace else and put us back to square one.
She nodded and gave me a thumbs up, a look of serious determination on her dimly lit face.
Just a few minutes later, the both of us were clothed in the sort of things everyone else were wearing - fancy suits, shimmering dresses and the likes. Brushing a few specks of dirt off my coat, I glanced around at my surroundings, noticing Jessica staring at me.
“What? Do I have something on me?” I instantly raised a hand up to my face, feeling puzzled. Like she had just been in some sort of trance, she hastily shook her head a few moments later, her cheeks turning slightly pink. “N-No, it’s nothing. I just…” She paused, trying to get the correct words out of her mouth. “I just think you look quite nice in a suit."
I blinked in surprise at her sudden compliment - of course startled and slightly uncomfortable. I'd never thought of her in that way. “Oh, thanks.” I grinned in response, patting her softly on the head, causing my partner to cross her arms in irritation. “Ah, you wouldn’t want to make others suspicious by not mingling with the others and dancing, would you?” I added in with a small smirk, nudging her in the direction of our target standing a few meters away.
Knowing what I was about to do, she opened her mouth to protest but she closed her mouth as I laid a hand on her waist. “Come on, this’ll make up for the fact that we were unable to get time off from work.” With a sigh, she placed her own hand against my shoulder, linking her free one with mines.
Hearing the music change into a slow song, we used this as the perfect moment to move in closer to James, dancing along the way to erase any suspicions. “As soon as the woman he’s talking to leaves, we make contact with him, okay?” she whispered softly, glancing around in a nervously to see if anyone was listening in. I simply nodded. We had gone over our operation plan several times already, so it was pretty much engraved into my mind now - either it was because of that, or because of the fact that I almost had a photographic memory.
It would seem that the woman we were waiting for to go away was having an enjoyable time chatting with James, and we were beginning to get bored of just standing around and doing nothing. "Want to dance again for a little bit?" I questioned Jessica, noticing how she kept shuffling her feet around. I thought she was going to refuse again like the first time, but surprisingly, she said 'yes' this time. Perhaps it was so I wouldn't start pestering and begging her.
A well-known song that even I recognized came up, and I found myself humming along to it as we held hands once more and started dancing around within the same area. I caught her intense stare again, which I responded to with a questioning look. “No, seriously. If I’ve got something on me, just blurt it out.” I said.
“That’s not-“ she sighed in exasperation, struggling to get the words out.
Wanting to tease her a little, I pretended to come up with a brilliant theory as to why she was acting this way and slowly asked, “Is it because of my handsome face?”
Her mouth almost fell open, but in a blink of an eye it was gone. Quick to regain her composure, she snorted, “Pfft you wish that was true!” This caused us both to burst out laughing in amusement, not caring there were at least twenty other people turning around to give us weird looks. Hey, what’s there to complain about us if all the other guests are giggling like idiots as well?
As the song changed from one to another, we soon ran out of topics - pretty easy to do when you knew everything about your partner from their family to their birthplace. I knew everything about Jessica - some information I'd had to research myself, of course. She knew everything about me that'd occured from the moment I became an assassin - pre that date? She wouldn't know - or at least for now.
"Jessie - look," she whispered a little too close to my ear.
My eyes met the figure she was fixed on - James - and he was heading straight for us.
"Target moving in," I replied as he came within touching distance.
James Phillips gave us a look, as if to ask us who we were. Of course, he didn't reply first off and instead waited on his move. "Plus ones?" he came to the conclusion, and more stated than asked.
Jessica nodded for us both. "Both are. It's a great party, Mr Phillips."
"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, young lady," he replied, grinning like a cheshire cat.
As Jessica awkwardly retreated, I took my stand. She was never good at the casual part of the job, anyways. "I'm Harry, Harry Lauder."
Of course, you never tell a target your true identity unless you have a death wish - not that on this occasion Phillips was a target I personally was going to kill, the fake name was more for Jessica's reassurance than anything.
My hand shot out to meet his in a firm and secure handshake - and despite that being intimidating to a regular man of average build, it was no threat to me.
His eyes zeroed in on the watch on my wrist - I'd worn it especially for the occasion, knowing fine well for his weakness to jewels, not that James was the type to go around with heavy chains. It gave us a perfect conversation started... and distraction.
"I do say, that's a fine watch you have on," he said, as he escaped my hold and snatched my wrist into his hand.
Jessica gave us a look and wandered off again - of course she felt like everything would be finished - done and dusted before the days end. She was mistaken, and in a way I felt sorry for what I was about to do by the day's end but it's what my family wanted, its what my life was set out for. Jessica wouldn't know what hit her, and of course I'd feel guilty. But she was disposable in the larger, grand scheme of things.
As she was out of sight, off to the refreshments, Phillips gave me a look of understanding - in on the deal - and signalled to the door with his eyes. "How about we look at my private watch collection?"