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The thing about this person that Mr. Profit is making out of Gail is that Gail, if she is honest -

Likes her.

In the moment, flashing the fake badge or brandishing the fake clipboard, she is terrified, her heart beating so loud it's astonishing no one else hears it. But they never do. They always believe her and do as she asks. As she demands. Again and again they comply. This must be what Mr. Profit knows, that people see what they want and expect, not what is. That imagining the world is the first and most important step towards making it yours.

Each time she succeeds in one of Mr. Profit's missions the terror turns more swiftly to exhilaration. It is, she thinks, better than the best sex she ever had.

Mr. Profit killed that executive, Arthur McLean. She read in the paper about his allergy to strawberry pesticides and the apparent screwup that killed him - it was a great human interest story. Mr. Profit must have known she'd figure it out - he'd all but written out a confession, what with having her fetch both kinds of berries and then draw McLean's secretary away at the critical time.

It gives her a sick warm feeling in her stomach.

She was an accessory to murder. She hadn't known about the allergy when she brought Mr. Profit the strawberries, but she heard from the other assistants that McLean was well-known at G&G's highest levels, so the police might think she'd been fully aware of the danger. And anyway, she'd known that something had to be up - it's not like she thought Mr. Profit was conducting a taste test.

But even that might be all right. Mr. Profit trusted her enough to make her part of his plan.

She imagines McLean biting in to the perfect red curve of berry, like a woman's lips. He was a fool, she thinks: Believing in safety when the world is not safe, when even strawberries can give a deadly kiss.

****

At the office, Mr. Profit is in a fine mood. The executives had a party last night, and most of them come in late, except for Mr. Profit and Mr. Gracen; Mr. Gracen calls Mr. Profit up for a chat and so he smiles, his eyes crinkling up at the corners, almost relaxed as he leaves.

Mr. Gracen's assistant says something catty to her about her suit today. Gail smiles like Mr. Profit would, unbothered, and makes a mental note.

The rest of the day is quiet. Mr. Profit doesn't ask for anything else. Gail eats too much at lunch and spends the afternoon unhappily digesting. She drinks coffee at three o'clock and puts too much sugar in it, so much that her teeth ache.

Maybe tomorrow he will have something for her to do.

****

Gail wakes to the radio pouring from her alarm, warning that traffic is particularly bad this morning in the rain. She hits it once, then let laziness overtake her for a few minutes, enjoying the warmth of the blankets.

But Mr. Profit is expecting her to have those reports compiled, and she still needs to get them bound, so she can't dawdle.

Yawning, she frees herself from the cocoon she'd created in the night and totters into the bathroom. Still half-asleep, she uses her toothbrush, trying to be thorough.

When she looks down, the bristles are covered with blood.

Terrified, she snaps her head up and looks into the mirror, only to see Mr. Profit looking back at her, smiling redly.

Gail sits up straight in bed just as the radio begins to blare.

She pinches herself twice to make sure she is awake this time.

She has a book about the meanings of dreams, but she isn't sure she wants to consult it.

Gail thinks about her dream all through her shower, drying her hair, getting dressed.

Maybe what Mr. Profit is doing is like going to the dentist -- painful and bloody and carving things away from you.  But when you're done, you're clean.  Healthier.  Less weighed down.

She looks in the mirror and the blood on her teeth is her own.