Armand sat as his cubicle in the windowless corner of the seventh floor office space. It was 8:15am and as usually he was the first to arrive. Charlie, who brings the donuts wouldn’t be there for another 7 minutes. Nancy, the accountant with the short fuse and the long lashes would follow exactly 3 and a half minutes later. Nancy had a sweet tooth, but it was more than Charlie’s donuts that she had in mind. An irrelevant observation, Armand thought, but a reflex nonetheless. Armand had been trained to observe, to watch. And to wait. But soon the waiting would be over thought Armand. The day of triumph was at hand. He was prepared.

Every day Armand’s pencil cup was filled with one dozen yellow-coated Dixon Ticonderoga 2b pencils with the faux copper metallic band encircling the standard 1/4 inch eraser. Every day, except today. Today Armand had replaced the 12 weak, soft-leaded pencils with one dozen blue-coated Faber-Castell 6h extra-hard eraserless graphite drawing pencils. Eleven now sat point down in his cup resting gently on points carefully honed to needle-sharpness. Were the tips visible, few would notice the glistening spectrum of color caused by the refraction of the light coating of black mamba venom. Armand would notice, but then Armand was trained to notice things.

But what of the twelth pencil? – why it was poised delicately behind Armand’s right ear in readiness, as was Armand – the delicate instrument and the patient agent both prepared for the long awaited signal…

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