The Three Directives

I went over to the Stroud's about 5:30. Allie was in the front room doing one of her contrapposto paintings, and listening to that godawful combination of jangling guitar and incoherent vocals she called "punkabilly". "Hi, Rad," she said, not looking up. "Hillary's upstairs--she had a problem with her dress, and Mom's fixing it for her. And she might not even have started her makeup yet--she hadn't when I talked to her half an hour ago."

"Figures," I said, setting down my burden and sitting on it.

"What is that?" she asked, still not looking at me. Her peripheral vision is something amazing.

"What, this?" I slapped the object forming my seat. "It's a kilderkin."

"What's that?"

"Like a barrel, only smaller."


We sat in companionable silence for another half an hour, she painting, I watching. The body on the canvas was horribly twisted, for no reason I could discern. Perhaps the reason hadn't been added to the canvas yet. I didn't bother to ask Allie, since she never could explain her paintings while they were in progress--or after, for that matter.

Finally Hillary came down the stairs. She was wearing a frilly pink strapless dress and heels. I said, "My lady comes, all bows and furbelows/her dress the shade of rose or baby's cheeks."

"Is that Shakespeare?" she asked, her heels clicking on the linoleum as she stepped into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water.

"No, just impromptu," I said.

"Never heard of him, but I can never get all those French guys straight. What is that?"

"It's a kilderkin. Like a barrel, only smaller," I said, forestalling her question.

"I don't know why you use all those strange words, Rad. I mean, can't you talk so people can understand you?"

I shrugged. "Some people can understand me. Some people could understand me if I was speaking French, or Burushaski, or Basque."

"Well, I'm not one of them. I've never even heard of Buru-whatever." She picked up her purse. "Ready to go?"

I picked up the kilderkin. "Ready."

"You're not going to carry that, are you?"

"You want to do it?"

She fretted. "No, but you look silly with it on your shoulder like that. It makes you look like a construction worker or something."

I shrugged and carried it down to the car, opening the trunk and putting it in gently. She waited expectantly for me to open her door, and slipped in when I did. "Why did you lock your doors? You were only in a few minutes, right?"

"Half an hour."

"Oh. Still, it's not like this is a very crime-heavy neighbourhood. Never mind."

We arrived at the gym where the dinner and dance were to be held. She waited while I got the kilderkin out of the trunk, and was visibly relieved when I set it down just inside the gym door. Her heels clicked on the floor covered with basketball markings as we headed towards our table. "What is this thing, anyway? I forget."

"Some political rally," I said, trying to appear nonchalant. Hillary being who she was, she didn't ask for more details.

The dinner was good enough, for local caterers. Hillary chatted with the others sharing our table, finding out they were friends of her uncle who ran the dry-cleaning chain in the state. I rebuffed gently all attempts to draw me into conversation, and eventually they ignored me as I pretended to eat.

As the dinner came to an end and the speaker mounted the podium, I checked my watch. It was getting hot, and I couldn't rely on them keeping the gym doors closed much longer. I might have to move before schedule.

I waited till the last minute, though. The speaker hadn't quite reached the high point in his speech when I saw motion out of the corner of my eye, headed to open the doors. I stood up, coughed, and pressed the buttons on my watch.

The kilderkin burst open almost silently, and a cloud of red gas spread quickly throughout the gym, aided by the fans whirring above us. There was some panic, but it quickly stilled as motion stopped. Soon all in the gym were prostrate on the ground.

First directive--create chaos. I took table knives in my hands and slit the throats of several present, the ones at the head table mostly, although a few other prominents also deserved my attention. I pressed the knives into the hands of several ladies present, selected at random. I would leave no fingerprints, of course.

Second directive--remove traces of my presence. The remains of the kilderkin had by now disintegrated mostly into dust, which was reacting with the traces of the gas remaining to produce harmless and innocuous chemicals that would barely be noticed as they swirled through the air, and certainly wouldn't attract attention. And this body would be disposed of soon as well.

So all that was left was the third directive--spread seed. I returned to Hillary and raised the skirt of her dress.

<Larry Huntley gave me the assignment

Contrapposto Punkabilly Kilderkin Furbelow >

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