Mary held no malice for the people she killed. How could she when she didn’t know them and never would? She knew that her actions killed people, but it was abstract knowledge and she took some solace in that. After all she was creating the weapons, but she wasn’t pulling the trigger herself. No, that was all on the people who bought them, the people that used them. She herself could take no blame. She gave no instructions, no commands for what they must do with her weapons, they did it all willingly. If they didn’t use hers, they’d use someone else’s and at least she knew that her stuff was quality. Quick and painless and really, what more could someone ask for in a death? Her weapons could be saving those people from months of agony as disease ravaged their body.
She didn’t want to hear the reasons, not anymore. She had in the beginning, asking each person why. She thought it might give her some closure on the matter, would help her understand. She stopped asking after the first few. She didn’t want to hear about jealousy, inheritance, usurpers and petty disagreements. No, after the first few she realized they would never have a good reason. The mystery was better. She could think that someone of great evil was being killed, someone who would rise to power and kill millions, someone who tortured and killed for fun and pleasure. Those were her targets, the ones she started so someone could stop them.
Mary’s mother had taught her everything she knew, which was ironic, given that her mother was the type of person Mary wanted to stop. An awful, domineering woman ruling their home with pain and an iron rod. A rod that Mary had felt many times across her backside, across her knuckles and once across her face. It had knocked out several teeth, though you wouldn’t know it to look at her now. The bruises and swelling had lasted for months. She still remembered the look in her mothers eyes, as she lay on the floor, hands clutching her face as she screamed. She had seen fear there, fear for the first time. Mary had thought her mother was fearful of what she had done to her only daughter, scared at what her inner demons had made her do. Mary realized that wasn’t why she was fearful. It was the fear of getting caught, of finally causing damage that couldn’t be hidden or explained away. Mary had missed school until the bruises faded. Her mother had forged doctors notes, claiming she had some sickness.
Every day Mary thought of how easy it would be to kill her. Slip something into her tea, her cereal, her wine. Something that would be slurped back with her seventh drink, untasted and unknown. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She wasn’t brave enough and for that she hated herself a little. Her father had once been a strong man, kind and proud but her mother beat him down, wore at him until finally he was just a crumpled shell of himself. When she was a child, when her father still tried to protect her, Mary imagined that they would run away together, disappear into the night and start a new life. A life free of Mother and one filled with light and happiness. As the years passed, as her father weakened, she tucked away the dream. Something well worn and comforting to be brought out at the worst of times until finally the image of her and her father slipping away crumbled and blew away with the wind. She knew her father wouldn’t take her away from all the pain and horror, she knew that he could barely keep himself together. She wept at his graveside for hours. Long after the other mourners had gone, until her mother had returned, looking for her. Mary had expected a slap, a kick, instead she received a hug, fierce and tight, her mother held her. It was the only time she could ever remember her mother touching her with love. After what seemed both far too long and far too short her mother let go of her and stood, towering over Mary again, she sniffed, then said, “Pull yourself together. You’re a disgrace.” Her mother turned and wobbled out of the graveyard, high heels sinking into the damp grass. Mary had been disciplined by her mother that night, for not entertaining the people at her fathers funeral.
Mary had planned and plotted, thinking of how exactly she would do it, but she never needed to. Her mother did it to herself first. Mary didn’t know exactly what happened. Her mother was getting old, sloppy, the drinks made her shake, made her clumsy. Perhaps she had given a bit much of this, too little of that. Either way the result was the same. She drank it down and within minutes she was dead. Mary found her the next morning, cold and a thin line of dried vomit crusted to one cheek.
Still, she had to make a living, she didn’t know anything else, not really. She had no hope of going to college, she wasn’t clever enough, she had no hope of finding a man to look after her, she wasn’t pretty enough. She needed money, she needed to survive, so she did the only thing she could. She contacted her mothers old clients and started up the family business. People told her how sorry they were, how her mother was a kind and caring woman. Mary bit her tongue so hard it bled on more than one occasion. She knew if she blew up at them, told them to truth behind the secrets and lies they would flee and never return. Soon she made a name for herself, one that outstripped even her mothers fame. People came from all around for one of hers. There was no comparison. She loved making them, mixing this and that just so, heating it and cooling it. It was magic, but it was also scientific. Everything had to be exact, measured and precise and Mary had a knack for it. She never had to measure, she could just pour and sprinkle and it was always correct. Her potions could fetch a pretty penny too, they were fast, clean and undetectable and no one was better at it than her.