When Peter returned to his home office, he found Sedena there. She was at his desk, wearing reading glasses and scratching with a blood red gel pen.

“What’s that you’re doing?” he asked amicably.

“Paperwork,” said Sedena.

“Paperwork for murdering somebody?” Peter said. “Isn’t that a little counterintuitive for assassination?”

“Not really, no.” Sedena removed her glasses and tossed them to the desk. “Littleton & Associates expects a full report for every job. It’s not all that different from corporate finance, really.”

“I find it hard to believe that anything could be as convoluted as corporate finance, least of all a transaction with so few steps,” said Peter.

“Try me.”

Peter rummaged through the stack of documents from his last day telecommuting. “See this? This is Form 943-X: Adjusted Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees or Claim for Refund. My firm has to fill it out because of our minuscule agribusiness holdings, and it is tedious to the point of brain failure. I take care of it so that junior employees won’t have to bear its terrible brunt.”

Sedena pulled a sheaf from her own stack. “Form B3-7: Certification of Lifesign Termination. I have to fill this out, in triplicate, on demand so the suits can be sure the target wasn’t resuscitated in the hospital. Very tedious when a job was done from a mile away with a wildcatted Barrett M82A2.”

“Meet my friend Form W-8EXP: Certificate of Foreign Government or Other Foreign Organization for United States Tax Withholding,” Peter said, winnowing a sheet from his pile. “It is a tidal wave of red ink and nightmares, and I have to spend hours on the phone with people for whom English is a fourth language in order to collect the relevant information.”

“Try Form L8D-12: Collection of Organ or Organs as Proof of Contract Fulfillment. Rarely invoked in the past, very popular since the dawn of the DNA era,” replied Sedena. “That one comes with its own plastic baggie; I have to supply the bonesaw.”

Undaunted, Peter dipped back into his stash. “Uncle Sam is worried that, when you die, you will give all of your money to family members. To prevent this literally grave injustice from occurring, I have to handle Form 706: United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. It involves collecting information from helpless, grieving family members like some kind of hideous beancounting ghoul. Every time I have to fill one out, I die a little inside.”

“Speaking of dying,” Sedena said, “here’s Form X2X-99: Notice of Circumstances Requiring Escalation. That one’s a little vague, so let me clear it up for you: witnesses are bad, and sometimes Littleton & Associates needs to take them on as ‘clients.’ It’s like a cascade of paperwork, since every X2X-99 means filling out another complete set. Worse, we don’t get paid for X2X-99’s; they come out of my own pocket. And that’s without the feeling that you’re just ruining someone’s day.”