The sun was setting on Oakfelt Terrace by the time the Hitman left that haunted house. The dead autumn leaves were turning to skeletons in front of his eyes. Winter was rapidly approaching, bringing with it the cold and the darkness. Appropriate, he thought.
Tomorrow would be violent. Like the old days. When this was all new to him. The early times had been ultra-violent, dangerous, lucrative.
After he’d made his first hit in the migrant camp, things had progressed quickly. A lawyer was shot in the back of the head walking home from work, a bent cop had his car blow up on him, a banker had his throat slit in an elevator of a popular hotel – people still talked about that one, how the blood oozed out onto every floor the elevator stopped on before they could remove the body. The old, wild days.
Then he’d gotten smart. No, surgical. His hits had became a work of art, practically undetectable. He’d learned how to poison, how to disguise gunshots as self-inflicted, how to pass off a garotting as an auto-erotic accident. Before long, he commanded top dollar and his first rule had been formed.
Rule one: Never sell yourself cheap.
Fuck that. Fuck the rules. Melissa was going to get her vengeance. A ring of white collar workers thinking they can harm children and keep everyone quiet. It boiled the Hitman’s blood. A couple of week’s ago, he might not have cared unless he was paid his proper fee for each and every one of them.
Now, all he had to do was think of that ghostly little face and that tiny little smile.
He stepped across the street and slid into his car. He remembered what he’d said after Melissa had showed her face in the room. He could still see the shock on her mother’s face when he’d told her.
“I killed your husband.” He’d whispered to the ruin of a woman.
“It was me. I killed him.”
She’d stared with her dead eyes for a long time, blinking away the tears and still shaking with fear. Or perhaps withdrawal.
“W-why? I thought you were the…what was it, the rehabilitation man?” Her sunken, mascara bled eyes were full of questions – but not of distrust. The Hitman had felt discomfort, then. He’d expected more of a reaction – more hatred. Instead, she seemed to blindly accept what he’d done. The seconds dragged in silence, stretching into a grim eternity.
Melissa spoke, her tiny voice splitting apart the tension.
“He’s the one who daddy was going to hire.”
The Hitman arrived back at his apartment, the one Melissa knew about. One of his favourites, actually. A totally non-descript bungalow apartment with its own back garden and front lawn. A house you’d see a thousand times and couldn’t describe.
Melissa had found him quite easily. Laughably easily, in the way only a nine year old girl could. She’d found him when fully grown men couldn’t. Her father had been trying to arrange a hit.
The Hitman thought back to the voice on the phone the day Melissa had left him the note.
“I thought it was one hundred.” The cheap little slime-ball of a teacher couldn’t even afford him. Not even with all his sick fucking group chipping in, trying to barter him down from his two hundred figure. The Hitman remembered the voice clear as day. He remembered it even better when it was begging him for mercy as the axe rose and fell.
Melissa had told the Hitman everything he’d needed to know. Right there in front of her corpse-like mother the little girl had spoken. Her speech didn’t seem as stunted as her writing skills.
“Daddy used to tell me he was going to get rid of you, mom. When he came in and…did stuff to me. He would tell me that you were in the way of us and that him and all his friends wanted me and you wouldn’t let them have me.” The Hitman had felt a sudden flush of admiration for that strung-out woman on the couch and winced as he recalled it.
“He said he knew a man that he could pay to make you gone forever. Not like his friends made people gone, where the police might find out. A real guy who could vanish people. He told me a friend had used him in the past and knew where to go.”
She had looked at him then, directly at him. Piercing eyes for such a shattered and broken little girl.
“My daddy knew your address and phone number. He’d written them down on a card and he always showed me it when he came into my room. He’d say he was going to call you to get rid of mommy. I cried and begged him not to and he’d say he’d only leave it if I did things with him…”
That was all the Hitman had needed. Sometimes he let clients that had paid him know an apartment address for a drop. Whoever it was that the Teacher had known must have employed him in the past. He shivered in disgust. Melissa had been brave to steal the card and write down the address. She’d been brave to leave him that letter. He had been stupid to have read it. Stupid to have got mixed up in all this.
Melissa’s mother gave him the Teacher’s laptop. She didn’t seem too bothered by the fact he had killed her husband, or that her daughter had hired an assassin. He wondered if that empty wreck of a human being even felt a thing any more.
He wondered, not for the first time, if she was perhaps more hollow than he was.
After he was finished combing the Teacher’s email history and writing down some names and details, he’d taken his leave.
“Clean yourself up for her sake.” He’d said to her. “Stop drinking and don’t take anything.”
He knelt down to her ear and gently, but firmly whispered into it: “If you do, I’ll kill you.”
The Hitman slid the last of four locks aside from his front door. He drew his gun as he entered his apartment. Rule two: Be calm and precise. That applied even to coming home. Check your corners. Everything fine? Good.
The apartment was cool, almost frosty in the dying autumn. He looked around and sighed. Usually it was a sigh of relief to be away from civilisation and back in his nest. Back in his cocoon. But that night, a disturbing thought entered his clockwork brain. The Hitman began to wonder what it would feel like for another human to see inside his sanctum.
He wondered how Melissa’s sad little eyes would take in the guns, perfectly polished and laid out on the table and the worktops. What she would think of the dull grey furniture on the hardwood flooring. What she’d think of his lack of normal possessions. He wondered, with a tight feeling in his chest, what she would think of him.
He wondered what he thought of himself.
Sleep came quick and dreamless. Good.
Tomorrow comes research, and then death.
Written by Craig Thomas Boyle