The acrid smoke of her first cigarette of the day surrounded her, and she took comfort in the burning it created in her lungs. Expertly, she blew it out in a steady stream before taking another drag. In her motions, there was nothing desperate; yet there was everything desperate.

On many levels, she didn't care – a sip of the black coffee, then back to the cigarette – as she enjoyed self-destruction at its finest. On many levels, she wanted the final impact and she wanted the pain. She wanted the end, but for no reason that she would let herself remember. Her Uncle had taught her the single-minded dedication that had led to this moment, but she had learned to push the little things down. She wasn't psychotic enough to truly not care, not yet, but the joys of the twenty-first century came in packets and pills aplenty. She was never short distractions.

Now was not a time for distractions, though. She had to be on her game.

There were no blood splatters on her turquoise top, nothing concealed amidst its button-down ruffles. Not a drop on her khaki capris, nothing marring perfectly painted toenails. She was good at her job – it was why her employers valued her. Personally, the allure was the chilling proximity to the death she both feared and loved. It was always a rush, and it had always been a part of her. Or at least, it had always been a part of this her. Somewhere deep, there was another her.

That her was old and quiet, surrounded by familia. But that her was also dead, and she, she was alive. She was alive, although she had felt death, had tasted it, had shuddered as its slimy tendrils passed over her because she was marked for something greater. It was thrilling, and she did not know what to do without it.

Pressing the butt of her second cigarette into the ashtray in the centre of the clear, marbled glass table, she turned dark eyes towards the news flickering across the screen inside the café. A very serious man with white eyebrows as bushy as her Tsura's tail was speaking. Words too small for her to read scrolled across the bottom of the screen in blue and white. News was more or less irrelevant to her on most days, but as she lit a third cigarette with the distinct shick of her Zippo, she watched anyway.

She watched dispassionately as highlight after highlight flipped on and off the screen. Small children on a playground, mothers on a bus, men in suits, women in dresses. Some women in suits, too. It meant nothing to her, not now. Later, it would mean rage and blood, but for now she was calm.

Another cigarette snuffed in the ashtray. Another from the package, clean crinkle of cellophane interrupting her darkness.

There.

The body was misshapen from this angle, the limbs almost indiscernible from the dark pool that surrounded them. She remembered the dusky face and the look of surprise turned horror turned pain as she effortlessly and emotionlessly executed her duties. The silence enforced by the drugs had led to a calm that belied the tense and quivering emotions in that moment. The subsequent slash, the slowly seeping puddle. The quick, mindless cleaning of the beautiful blade and the swift escape. She stopped watching, swigged the final dregs of her coffee, and stubbed out the cigarette. It was half unsmoked.

She left.

Heels clicked dispassionately as she walked towards the apartment, sleek clutch with the knife concealed in the handle, the Zippo and cigarettes inside. She wasn't picky about brands; too many had come and gone in her time.

Down one street narrow enough to be called an alleyway and up a flight of stairs to the cramped three-bedroom currently housing five people. There was nobody in the kitchen when she entered, so there was time for her to heat up a soup and carry it, steaming hot, back to the room that had been hers for the past several years.

A white and grey spotted shorthair let out a miaow of greeting as she stepped into the room. Before even laying down her soup, she gave her Tsura a scratch behind the ears and the cat purred her gratitude. Tsura was never to leave the room. The cat never had a problem with it, but she fretted now and again. Tsura was her greatest comfort and she bore no trust to the other inhabitants of the apartment when it came to the cat she had raised from kittenhood years and years and years before.

Suddenly exhausted, she slipped off her pumps, changed into a loose, grey set of pyjamas, and crawled into bed. It was only eleven in the morning and her soup lay untouched on the vanity, but she crawled underneath the covers anyway. With an offended miaow, Tsura resettled herself on the pillow next to her.

And so they slept.