Mila was taking Aaliyah and I to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce, though I didn’t feel remotely hungry. The few hot dogs I ate not long ago weren’t enough to fill me, but what transpired afterward was enough to make me feel ill. If most two men attempted to attack me with knives, I was certain that I would win, but I failed to consider the would-be muggers could use magic until I was already at a disadvantage. I knew magic existed and that there were other supernatural dangers in this world, but I still wasn’t careful. Now the two men were dead, killed by my diminutive secretary who I regularly babysat.; they were killed by a exceptionally tiny, twelve-year-old girl who I thought wasn’t remotely dangerous, save for her adorable nature stealing away people’s wits. Even as I looked at her now, I found myself wanting to disbelieve that this cute girl rambling about flavors of cheesecake could possibly have killed two men. When she suddenly opened her door and jumped out of the vehicle, I started reaching to catch her, realizing a moment later that we had arrived.
“Good to see you again so soon, James. Aaliyah told me that you two were in the mood for cheesecake. I believe I have just the ones you’ll be wanting,” said Carl, as he greeted us at the front door. I didn’t recall Aaliyah pulling out her phone at any point, but I rarely did catch her in the act of texting. As the three of us walked inside, I was trying to remember every moment I had spent with Aaliyah. The memories seemed countless, despite only having met her months before. All of them were swept away when I saw where we were eating. Carl had remodeled again since yesterday, and I couldn’t understand how or why. I could smell the wood burning in the fireplace just beyond the small, wooden table set for two. With the lit candles on the table, one might think that this was a private room set for a date, but I couldn’t fathom Carl’s quirky taste anymore than I could understand how or why the man remodeled so quickly. A serving cart sat nearby with some form of drink in a crystal pitcher and a glass lid over two small plates of cake. “I’ll leave you to it then” was all he said before leaving us through the single, wooden door between us and the restaurant’s entry hall.
I looked down to where Aaliyah had been only to see her skipping over to the cart and then lifting off the lid. “These are so cute, boss-man, sir! Carl has the bestest cakes!” she exclaimed. “Aaliyah,” I started, “about what happened. Can we talk?” She had both plates in her hands and danced them over to the table. Then she lifted the plates over her head to slide them in front of each chair, bumping the silverware in the process. I was barely able to catch my fork before it hit the ground, and sighed as I stood again. I hadn’t noticed the thick pillow under the cart until Aaliyah pulled it out, placed it on her chair, and hopped up onto it to sit. She gazed at the beautiful, round cake which filled the small plate with obvious appreciation. I could recognize the skill of the decorator in the intricacy of the elaborate tiara drawn on top. I frowned, thinking of how the sparkles of the tiara were probably sugar crystals which would surely make the girl even more wired. My own cake was decorated in a very complicated pattern which reminded me of Celtic knots.
Not wanting to tower over Aaliyah while talking with her, I sat down and tried again, saying, “Aaliyah, about those two guys in the alley…” She looked up questioningly with a mouthful of cake and asked “What about them, boss-man, sir? They won’t bother you anymore, and there won’t be any evidence that we were involved.” I hadn’t even thought about what the police would do when they found the bodies yet. I was in too much shock over Aaliyah killing for that idea to even register before. What would I do if they police came inquiring? We left the scene without even reporting the incident. “Boss-man, sir, don’t worry. Everything’s fine.” she told me. I purposefully shut my mouth, which had dropped open, but I couldn’t keep it closed for long. “What do you mean ‘everything’s fine’? Two people are dead, Aaliyah!” I exclaimed, perhaps a bit loudly. She was chewing another bite of cake when she told me “People die every day, boss-man, sir. People would continue dying if we did nothing. Those two weren’t innocents in any way. There’s no reason to mourn them.”
My mouth was open again. I snapped it shut and tried thinking of how to explain. Then I said, “But taking a life is wrong, Aaliyah. Yes, they might have tried injuring us, but couldn’t you have just subdued them instead? You’re so fast and…” She interrupted me, though her mouth was still full of cake, and said, “They were my marks, boss-man, sir. I decided to set them up because I want you to know me better.” Marks? “Set them up? How? What do you mean by ‘marks’?” I asked. “Targets. I was hired to kill them, boss-man, sir. Normally, I make sure there are no witnesses, but I wanted you to see this time. I wanted you to know more about me, boss-man, sir. You’re my friend, and I want less secrets between us.” she explained. She was so earnest, and her big blue eyes were completely adorable. I felt so conflicted. “Why would someone hire you to kill them?” I asked. “They hit a five-year-old boy with a car while escaping the scene of a robbery two days ago. If they at least would’ve called an ambulance, the boy might have survived. His mother said she would give anything for revenge, and I accepted.”
“How did she know who did it? Why did she contact you? How!?” I asked. Aaliyah then explained that she reads the lady’s blog and admires her for being able to struggle against her circumstances to raise a son on her own. The sad story coming from the tiny girl was gripping and heartbreaking, but I still didn’t really understand. “But why you?” I inquired. “I’m the assassin.” Aaliyah explained around another mouthful of cake. “What do you mean ‘the assassin’? You’re a little girl. You shouldn’t be killing people.” I said, unable to keep the pleading sound from my voice. Aaliyah seemed far too innocent to be mixed up with such a business. “Boss-man, sir, you should eat some cake! It’s soooo good!” she exclaimed, gazing up at me. I stared back for a moment before giving in and trying a bite. The chocolate cheesecake was quite excellent, though it wasn’t able to overwhelm the tide of emotions drowning me. The next bite surprised me more. A warm chocolate syrup was somehow inside the cool exterior of the cake.
“The recipe for this was what I charged her for their deaths.” explained Aaliyah, leaving me gaping at her. What would those men have thought if they could have realized their lives were worth no more than a cake recipe to this girl? Before I got another question out, she told me “When I say I’m ‘the assassin’, I say that because I killed the rest years ago and made sure that everyone is aware of the cost if they try to take my jobs. Try some of mine, boss-man, sir.” The last part was said while she held out some of her cake on her fork. I was in too much of a daze thinking about what she was saying to truly register what I was doing until the taste of the dark chocolate cake registered. The chocolate syrup balanced well with the darker chocolate, making a slightly different flavor that was just as enjoyable, but my mind was still too much on the idea of Aaliyah being an assassin to truly give the cake my full attention. “But why would you ever start killing people?” I asked. Her bright eyes showed no sign of remorse as she said, “My gramps made me learn how to kill after mommy died. When my auntie brought me to daddy, he didn’t have money, so I arranged for him to earn some.”
Aaliyah was explaining things. I realized this, but I didn’t feel remotely satisfied. “You’re so very talented though. You can make money in countless ways. The video game, for example, has to be making you a ton!” I argued. Aaliyah shrugged and said, “I couldn’t have done it at the time. My body didn’t have the processing power, and I hadn’t learned near as much as I know now.” I got caught at the start of her explanation and asked “What do you mean by processing power?” With another bite of cake, Aaliyah explained “Gramps made me into a cyborg. I’ve been upgrading ever since.” I stared at her in shock, not knowing what to say. Aaliyah’s a cyborg? As I watched, she set down her fork, took out her phone, and opened it up. Inside the case was barely anything. “It’s mostly just a transmitter.” she told me. Then she turned the phone my way, and I could see the blank screen light up. I blinked and a long text message written to me was there. “But no one has that kind of technology” I started to say, catching myself as I thought of Mila. No one else had a car like that. Ancient Tribes of Earth, the most complicated game I had ever seen, was said to be written in under a month.
“You don’t need to kill people anymore.” I told her. She smile up at me and said, “Yes, I do, boss-man, sir. If I stopped, the wrong people would die. I really am saving lives this way.” I shook my head negatively and reasserted that killing was wrong. “Why?” she asked. “Surely you’ve read that life is sacred.” I told her. Staring up at me with another mouthful of cake ― my cake, I finally noticed ― Aaliyah told me “I have doctorates covering every field related to the human body as well as several in philosophy and psychology. Find someone who knows more about death than I do, and have them help you make your case. Until then, boss-man, sir, I think I’ll keep my own counsel on the merits of killing people.” I had no response, and the countless questions whirring through my head were multiplying too much to focus on a reasonable argument. Before I could fixate on one long enough to reply, Aaliyah said, “The evil twins have been begging us to return for a while now, boss-man, sir. We probably should head back. You can talk to them about my profession if you want. They know that much, but please don’t mention it to anyone else, especially not daddy.” The tiny girl leaped to embrace me as I stood, and I found myself hugging her tight. Who would’ve thought that I’d babysit an assassin?