[This story was written by Paul E bailey. its a short one but fitting and enjoyable hope you enjoy it]
As is my usual custom, I knock upon the door to ensure that nobody is inside. There never is because that would be extremely poor planning on the part of my employer, but one can never be too careful in this line of work. In twenty-five years, seven months, one week and four days in this job there have never been hiccups to cause me problems, and I have never failed in my task.
What is my job? That’s simultaneously very easy to answer and extremely complex. I’m a hitman. I kill people. It’s not a job I yearned to have or anything. I fell into it by accident. I learned how to use ranged firearms in the army, and I was by far the best in my regiment. Word has a way of spreading when somebody is exceedingly talented in the art of meeting death, and I wasn’t ten years into my tenure with the army before my current employer approached me. There was a period of forethought. I didn’t just jump straight into it. It would mean going from serving Queen and country to killing purely for money. The thing that swayed me was the rate of pay. Depending on the contract, I could earn up to ten times my annual salary in the army for one hit. How could I possibly refuse?
As a result, I’m afforded the opportunity to live comfortably, but it was absolutely impressed upon me from day one that I never flash the cash. My apartment is stylish and modern yet discreet. The car I drive is an innocuous saloon. I always fly economy class. Nobody would ever know that I’ve earned yearly seven-figure sums for the last quarter of a century. All of this means that I have a massive amount of money stored in an offshore account; a massive amount of money that I will soon be able to access and live out my days in the greatest of luxury. I may be in my early fifties, but I’m in fine fettle having looked after myself well and will be able to enjoy what years remain me.
Who knows? Maybe I can finally find myself a woman!
I check over my trusty rifle. Just as I knew the room would be empty when I knocked upon the door, I know that my rifle is pristine. I’m meticulous though and check it anyway. That’s why I’ve been so successful in this job for so long. My checks reveal that everything is as it should be.
I take a look out of the window. The building my target will exit in the next ten to fifteen minutes sits a couple of hundred metres down the road. I’m not going out on anything big here. It’s some tycoon who’s got a little too big for those who have paid for this hit. I know of the target only what the client wants me to know and that’s fine by me. I may well be a stone-cold killer, but I do have a conscience and if I’ve ever known more than is necessary about my target then it has allowed emotion to creep in. It’s never good when that happens. This is business, and I have to remain professional in order to complete the task.
I think back to my first kill as I often do. I always find it odd that I remember my first few kills extremely vividly despite the passage of time, yet most all others have slipped from my mind. That says a lot about the emotional value I placed on their lives I guess. Anyway, I digress. My first kill was a political rival of some such person or another in a country few people care about. He was one of the few I gleaned too much intel on beforehand. He was a family man and a good person to boot. I very nearly backed out when the time came to pull the trigger. What caused me to go through with it? Well, the fact that those who’d paid to have him killed would have killed me if I hadn’t was the main reason. My employer promised only to employ the best hitmen in the business, so I had a standard to uphold. I’ll never forget the spray of blood that covered his wife as the bullet passed through his brain. I’ll never forget her screams of anguish either.
As time passed, I grew more resilient. I accepted the job for what it was and that people would be hurt by my actions. I did what I had to, and I continue to do as I must now even in this late hour.
I’m grateful to be out of the intense afternoon sun. Pretoria is an unforgiving place in the summer months. I don’t know how the locals cope with it. I never get the chance to acclimatise as I don’t settle in one place long enough to do so. Even my flat in London doesn’t see me for six months in a year cumulatively.
The streets are moderately busy in the midweek lunchtime rush. This is one of the more affluent business areas of South Africa’s capital city, and most people are dressed in suits. The target will be dressed in similar garb as those people, but I know his face so well now that missing him will be nigh on impossible. I’ve studied photos and video footage extensively over the past fortnight as is my usual ritual. I’m nothing if not studious.
I hoist the rifle up onto the tripod I’ve since set up and take a good look down the scope. Having already adjudged the distance between my position and the entrance of the building I don’t need to alter the magnification of the scope too much. Then I check my watch. Any minute now and the target will leave the building.
I’m patient. Impatience and failure often go hand in hand. There’s absolutely no call getting aggravated in waiting for the target to appear. He’ll show up.
The double doors of the building swing open and are held steady by two suited men; bodyguards no doubt. The unimpressive looking target walks out shortly after. Five feet and nine inches tall, one hundred and fifty-one pounds in weight, combed over thick black hair greying at the temples, chocolate brown eyes, Roman nose and a prominent bridge above two thin lips. He’s in the early stages of beard growth.
I pull the trigger once and once only. There are screams all around, and the bodyguards rush over to their man to reveal a neat hole just above and to the left of his left eye; narrowly missing his temple. There’s confusion all around. My work here is done. My last hit and another sixty grand to top up what’s already in my offshore account accruing interest as it has done for over two decades. I take everything apart and place it into my attaché case before leaving the office block and flagging down a taxi to the hotel in which I’m staying.
That evening after I’ve enjoyed a relatively decent meal in a nearby restaurant, I lie upon the bed in my hotel room with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and watch the news as it reports the assassination of the tycoon. The police are interviewed and claim they have leads, but they have nothing. They say what they feel they have to in order to minimise the public outcry. They’ll blame terrorists. They always blame terrorists.
There’s a knock at the door of my room, and I don’t flinch. I’ve been expecting the knock. With a slight groan, I slide off the bed and head for the door to open it. The man standing on the other side is one I know very well, but have seldom seen during my tenure as a hitman. He smiles genially at me.
“Another job well done”.
“I was perhaps a centimetre off my target of his temple,” I say nonchalantly.
He smiles even wider, and I move aside to allow him into the room. I close the door and follow him in. He stands at the foot of the bed and removes his hat to reveal what would be a bald head if not for a grey horseshoe around the back and sides. Thick and bushy grey eyebrows are roughly the same colour as the irises in the eyes beneath them while a slightly bulbous and reddened nose holds up a pair of unstylish round glasses. The circle beard is a new feature and surrounds thick, rubbery lips. He’s in his early seventies now and would have retired long ago if there was anybody he trusted enough to take over the running of the agency from him.
“It’s great to see you, Terry,” he says croakily.
“Likewise, Albert. How long has it been? Four years?”
“I believe so. It’s shocking to think that I know you so well, but I could perhaps count on two hands how many times I’ve seen you in the flesh”.
“The hazards of the job,” I philosophise.
“There are many of those, and yet here you are after twenty-five years still doing your job as efficiently as ever. It’s a great shame to be losing you”.
“The time is right,” I sheepishly utter.
“I know. I think if anybody in our organisation has earned himself the right to retire peacefully then it’s you. There was no way I could allow you to ride off into the sunset without personally thanking you and wishing you well”.
“It’s a gesture I truly appreciate, Albert. Perhaps once I’ve settled somewhere you could bring Wilhelmina and pay a visit every so often,” I offer graciously; referring to his wife.
“I really like the sound of that. I shall certainly see to it that we remain in touch”.
A slightly awkward silence follows. The conversation hasn’t gone as I envisaged it would. I had anticipated Albert guilt tripping me into staying with the company, but I’m relieved that he hasn’t. I reach over for the bottle of cab sav and pick it up.
“Would you like a glass,” I ask.
“No, that’s okay, Terry. I’m going to go now and leave you to your evening. I’ll collect your weapon though if it’s to hand,” Albert requests.
“Absolutely. It’s not as though I‘ll have any need of it from henceforth”.
I retrieve attaché case from under the bed and hold it reverently for a moment; looking at the black leather and envisaging the powerful and deadly weapon inside. That hunk of metal has perhaps been my best friend and companion over the years, and it hurts somewhat to hand it over. I smile and say goodbye inwardly as I hand the case to Albert. I do well to hide a smirk as he struggles with the weight of the case; apparently not expecting it to be so heavy. Why would he? He’s a paper pusher. It’s likely he never fired a weapon in his life.
“Thank you, Terry,” he utters with another smile and sad eyes.
“No, Albert. Thank you,” I retort.
Another respectful look between us before Albert walks towards the door and quietly lets himself out. I had expected him to stay longer, but I’m admittedly glad we kept the meeting short. I stand alone for a minute or so and recollect the memories of the gruesome job I just walked away from. I search for regrets, but there are none. I’m content. Now is the right time to move on.
I collapse back onto the bed and think of a destination I could call home. The world is my playground now. Play on it I shall!
(Title image from Forbes Commercial http://www.forbescommercial.co.za/news/pretoria-cbd-is-on-the-the-up/)