Like any other profession, method is often deeply misunderstood. Even those that say they don't want to hear a word about how it's done, they always want to know. Out of sight and out of mind is not as common a demand as you'd think when someone purchases a death. Even now as April sits in what a mildly rich man in a Midwest town considers an expensive restaurant, she wonders if he'll ask the question. He might even have a suggestion and, for another half of a digit, she might comply. He tries to hide an awkward laugh behind a cough and April stares at him.
"I... uh, is it safe, I mean--" he coughs again. At this point she worries if he's asthmatic. The last thing she needs is a dead body on her hands, right? "I am involved in multiple sexual scandals and there could be any of those vultures anywhere around here."
"Nobody is following you," she says and takes a sip of the cheap red wine she'd ordered.
"Yeah, but how can you be sure?"
She eyes him, noting the cushion his soft fingertips provide for the cup soon in his hand. He takes a gulp like he's never known how to hold a glass. Unlike several hunters she's seen in the area alone, he doesn't squint with one eye near-closed when focusing on her. "Nobody is following you," she repeats. "Loser."
In the end, he doesn't ask the question. He never stops glancing over his shoulder and at adjacent tables. Dexhart can't even look her in the eyes when he slips a very discreet, bright blue folder her way.
The first week is preparation.
In all of her jobs, none have been so petty. Even the basest of requests for a spouse's silence couldn't compare to the audacity of a man asking for his political rival, for something as small as a city council position, to be killed. Be it as it may, April had work to do and first she needed information. More than whatever little she gleaned from a stolen resume, a birth certificate with some woman's face stickered to it, and a Polaroid of the target sitting at a booth in a diner. She is grinning at someone out of the shot.
The target had a routine that she rarely deviated from and only had when her campaign started. Breakfast at the same diner, lunch at the same diner as breakfast, and dinner on weekends at the same diner as breakfast and lunch. The meal is the same every time: waffles with a helping of far too much whipped cream. Sometimes a breakfast meat is ordered, but rarely is it eaten. April spends her time in that diner holed up in a booth while ignoring the small talk of the waitresses.
Between all of that, Ms. Knope works at the local government in the Parks and Recreation department. Waltzing in under the auspices of a phony zoning ticket or whatever else she can think of would mean a little too much sight on her, so April waits for her breaks and lunches at that JJ's Diner. The breaks don't come and she often works through the lunches. April can hide behind a paperback bought at the airport before Eagleton's stop. It's mesmerizing watching her do this, even if only for the week. It takes a sigh and a hard pillow at a local motel to remind April that she, too, is working the long hours of Leslie Knope.
She doesn't seem to sleep much. Those breakfasts? The moment the diner is open, Knope is there. April drinks black coffee and neglects the usual single sugar when her target sprays even more of the canned cream onto another waffle for the sixth day in a row. The weather forecast comes true. It's raining to a near-flood when April follows after her requisite ten-to-thirty second delay after Leslie Knope leaves the diner.
Barely able to see in the terrible rain, April is surprised to see Knope's car drive up alongside her. The window rolls down.
"Hey, d'you need a ride?" the woman's voice is bright, April knows. But even when she offers a stranger a ride in her car it's no different from answering a question at a public forum that previous Wednesday, or ordering her food, or small talk with a passerby on a street corner who recognizes her from the campaign ads. "Bejeezus, It's raining cats and dogs! Sorry, I try not to say the B-word."
April simply stares, not minding the rain.
"You're gonna get sick, don't be a dumb dumb," Leslie waves her in and does the requisite, polite Midwestern nod that goes along with it. "C'mon! It's raining, I can drop you off wherever you're going."
So April steps into the puddle underneath sneakers that soak immediately and enters the passenger side of an unknown car. Possibilities swirl in her head. None of them ring true for the would-be councilwoman. This could be a setup, it could be a honeypot, or it could even be a betrayal of contract. Not one seems right here.
"What's your name?" she asks and April is barely done with her seat belt when she bursts into another question. "Sorry, that's abrupt. We don't always get such interesting new people in Pawnee! I hope you'll stay for a while. Where are you staying?"
"Roach and Poach," April answers without thinking. It wasn't a lie, nor an abandoned back road. She wants to smack herself for the mistake.
"Ugh, you know that place has roaches?" Leslie glances at her and the look lingers for a moment. She turns back to the road and the windshield wipers working overtime.
"Yes," April says.
"But, I hear it's cheap. So... it's probably worth it, right?"
The quiet slipping of tires on the wet streets hides under a steady battering of rain on the car. This could be it, just a few miles from the place she was staying and roughly equidistant from Pawnee as it was the motel. Under the cover of a storm, maybe even a thunder clap if she gets lucky, April could end this now. Her seatbelt is fastened and she can easily take the wheel to guide the car into a stop somewhere safe. Fleeing the car would take minutes at most and well before anyone even found the vehicle. The familiar weight of a pistol strapped to her side underneath layers of shirt and jacket would take a moment to reveal.
A single round at point blank range could do it. April is a hell of a shot at sixty yards, let alone sixteen inches. She had done it before in the South. It was almost the exact same scenario, though April could barely stand the stench from even a minute in the overwhelming heat afterward. There wasn't even that risk. But something was telling her to stop, something that held her hand near the car door instead of the inside of her shirt.
The image of the possible aftermath shocks her brain for a second. There is the blood she can almost see on the glass behind Leslie, the limp body, and the wonder of what could have been. The loss of a small town -- losing their hero they didn't deserve. It would be a life ended for money and political gain. Blood for cash, April's usual, suddenly sickens her.
This work isn't hard. It can be complicated, technical, and even strenuous if surprise isn't an option. It always ends with a corpse and a spent round. The same results, a different body. They didn't even have names anymore. April can already feel the imagined weight of years knowing the color of Leslie Knope's blood, an imagined flashback ringing her ears with the finality of a high-velocity impact, and the tomb a small car can become in an instant.
Some do this work out of passion, most for money. A few prize finesse or even notoriety; for some of them an infamous name is a name nonetheless. Whatever their reason, they kill. Why is it, then, that some can seem so lost in quite the mess of their own making? Sentimentality gets you killed and April isn't the type to get attached.
"Hey, we're here!" Leslie calls out after a fugue that April blinks out of to that bright, pleasant voice.
"Whatever," April says but doesn't move. There's a way about the look Leslie gives her, a lingering moment, that paralyzes April.
"So... are you you gonna be around for a while?" she asks in a voice softer than before. Her eyes are a mistier blue than the vibrant azure April imagines despite what she sees.
"Do you have a name, or am I supposed to say You whenever I wanna talk?"
She considers it and her various aliases run through her head. None of them fit. Her heart beats a step faster. It beats faster than when she knows a job is complete; it beats faster than a cartridge emptied behind her; it thuds in her chest. Only one answer makes sense. "April," she finally says.
Leslie looks out at the rain and laughs. It's this soft, quick giggle and April can already feel the rush of blood to her face. All that heat in her cheeks is alarming but not as disarming as what a laugh does to her poor heart. Again it thuds, ignoring how tender her chest is and thump thumping along to its own rhythm. Eventually, Leslie looks at her again and April loses herself in those kind eyes and that smile.
"It fits you," Leslie remarks and means to continue but stops for a deep intake of breath. "Do you--?"
"Thank you again," April interrupts and before she can hear another damnably enticing word formed with an enchanting voice, she is in her room.
April has never made this mistake before. Sure, she meets men and women in the course of work that fit along the spectrum of fling to summer's romance. One even lasted for several years before it became clear that what April was buying with money turned into an imagined relationship.
While the Pawnee storm rages outside, April tries to remember the last time they spoke. It must have been at least a year.
The snow of a television channel not paid for sizzles through the motel room. Lying in bed, half an amount agreed upon in a manila folder on the bedside table, April wonders what could have been said if she had stayed in that car for a moment longer. What would a scared, curious heart do with a weapon at hand and conflicting thoughts fighting over how to handle the beautiful woman in that car. That generous soul that works to the bone for ungrateful citizens in a nowhere town for nothing other than... what?
What exactly motivates Leslie Knope to be a superhuman force?
April considers it when Leslie notices her in the diner. She waves for April, beckoning her to join the table of one. A familiar weight is missing from the usual hiding place under her shirt and April doesn't notice until she's standing and almost walking over to Leslie's -- the target's -- booth. Instead of sitting there, steady steps take her out of the diner and down the road towards the Roach and Poach motel.
In the motel, April takes a puff of a cigarette she'd sworn off of less than a month ago.
Within the hour the newcomer to Pawnee is gone.
Within the election cycle, a noticeably frustrated Councilman Dexhart loses his reelection bid.
Within the year, April is still looking over her shoulder for the swift reminder of why few age out of this business.
Within the confines of a killer's lifetime, she keeps the Polaroid.