Part two AVAILABLE HERE.

Our main story tonight is a continuation on that terrible murder that occurred last weekend at Gassy Burgers restaurant near the city limits. Peter Chambers was killed with a hand axe at a popular garage and eatery. CCTV caught a man in a formal suit and dark sunglasses with dark hair leaving the area. A seven year old boy was also found at the scene, disturbed but unharmed.

The 42 year old high school teacher leaves behind a wife and young daughter. The attack seems to have been completely at random and police are still appealing for witnesses.

Of course they were appealing. They had to cling to straws, had to keep up appearances. But they’d never find him.

It’d been risky, breaking rule two. He had lost his cool, lost his sense of timing or restraint. The teacher had been a cancer and instead of surgically removing him, the Hitman had hacked the disease away from the world. He remembered only the rising and fall of the axe. Even now, four days later, his arm still ached.

It had caused a storm in the local press, even saw national coverage. Axe murders weren’t commonplace, and the media loves a good panic. The Hitman had listened and watched the reports for days afterwards. Not once was the teacher exposed for who he was, for what he was. It made him sick. Peter Chambers is the name he’d went by, they painted him as a family man and a pillar of the community. To the Hitman, he would always be a creature that needed exterminated. He’d never enjoyed a job so much.

Even though it was done and the blood was spilled, the Hitman still carried Melissa’s note. He read it from time to time as the days went by, letting the innocence roll over him – wash him clean. He stopped arranging payphone calls, forgot about future jobs. He had more than enough cash, more than enough property. Contracts usually helped him forget about the dull monotony of life, gave him something to focus on. But now, after his $23.42 kill – all he could focus on was Melissa.

He felt uneasy about that little girl. The initial anger and desire to solve her problem had faded, leaving a sorrowful memory of her waif-life face at the window. He began to wonder how she’d found him, how she’d known what he did. He covered his tracks well.

There were questions he should have asked before he even took the note seriously. It both amused and frightened him how passionately he’d pursued the Teacher without properly checking any of the facts out

Rule three: Research and know your target. He’d monitored the teacher, but how much had he really known? He’d acted hastily.

It was emotion that had driven him to act. Funny, he thought, maybe I’m human after all.

Five days after the kill, the Hitman found himself stood on the porch of Melissa’s home. A skeletal building that he still felt uneasy around, a house of horrors like those rides you visit when you’re a child.

He remembered a visit to a fair, back when he’d been in and out of social care after his father died. An older child had threatened to throw him off the tracks and called him a freak. The Hitman waited until night, when he was asleep. He’d climbed on top of the older kid and placed a pillow over his face before beating him to a pulp. No one had seen it happen, the Hitman was never suspected. The next day, the older kid was taken to hospital and never returned.

He knocked on the door of Melissa’s home. His hands shook ever so slightly – something he’d not experienced since reading her letter. This little girl had a funny habit of making him act almost like a real person. He chuckled aloud, a rasping laugh. The door opened slowly.

“Hello?” A small, slight and surprisingly beautiful woman stood at the door, holding it open just enough to show the Hitman her pale face and blonde hair. Melissa’s mother, he thought, a dead cert. She was beautiful in the same way any damaged work of art is. A relic of past beauty, a hint of a good life, once.

“Hello Ma’am. I’m a representative of the department of rehabilitation.” His lines were practised. The falsity came easy. Long years of lying had made him an expert. “I’ve come to talk about how you’re coping following your loss and give you some assistance in dealing with it.”

A flash of an official looking I.D badge and a bit of purpose behind his voice seemed to swing her. She looked at him with sky-blue eyes and whispered, “Come in.”

The Hitman cast a look over his shoulder into the street. Oakfelt Drive shone in the still morning sunlight, leaves falling from trees and slowly dying as the winter rolled in. The Hitman felt a stab of unease, but he stepped over the threshold and into the little girl’s house.

Rule three: Research and know your target.

How much research had he actually done? It was sloppy of him. He’d rushed into this and killed the Teacher and now, as he stepped inside the house of horrors, he knew he’d been too hasty.

The house was disgusting. It was everything he despised. His own apartments were clean, sterile environments where he could relax between jobs or plan new ones. The only litter in sight were firearms he kept handy for cleaning, or tools that he liked to touch and maintain from time to time.

This house stank of alcohol, stale piss and a heavy shred of fear. Melissa’s mother led him through the house into the living room, where she hastily swept dust from a spot on the couch with her sleeve and looked at him apologetically. Empty bottles and cans were discarded across the floor. The pale faced woman frowned and looked like she was holding back a sob.

Oh please, please don’t let her cry.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I haven’t been expecting c-company…we…we don’t get many visitors.”

“That’s okay Ma’am. I understand you have -” His voice caught, realising with a sudden tug of nerves that the girl he’d built up in his head might actually be real. “That you have a daughter.”

“Yes, Melissa. My little girl.” She broke off for a moment. The Hitman could smell the sickly stale breath of an alcoholic, even across the room. “My poor little girl…she’s always quiet. E-ever since Peter was killed she’s been silent.”

The more the Hitman looked around the room the more he hated the woman in front of him. She was weak – that he could hardly blame her for. But there were no pictures on the walls, not a single photo of her daughter in sight. The woman’s hands shook and she couldn’t make eye contact with him. He spotted the bruising on her arm and the rings around her eyes. She was a junkie. It wasn’t hard to tell.

“I’m Amanda. You said you’re from rehabilitation.”

“Yes.”

“Who is going to help me. I need money. Peter never let me work.”

“We’ll get to that Ma’am.”

“Everyone is mourning him, the kids in his class, the other teachers. They don’t even know.”

“Know what, Ma’am?”

“Peter…he…he wasn’t normal.”

“Normal?”

She sank into the seat and beckoned him over. He flinched as he sat down next to her. He couldn’t stand the stink of alcohol and she reeked of it. In any other situation, he’d never sit next to her. But it was important to keep pretending, for now.

“He…he touched her. He beat me. He told me he was going to introduce her to his friends.”

“Friends?”

“I..can’t…I’ve said too much. I’ll get in trouble!” The washed out eyes looked at him, fixing him with a gaze of utter desperation.
“Ma’am, the more we know the more we can help. The more I can help.”

Half an hour later, he wished he’d been less kind. He wished he’d stayed away, went back to high profile targets and creative, surgical murder. The alcoholic mother of that tiny little girl told him news that filled his gut with anger and made his knuckles turn white as he gripped the couch he sat on: The Teacher wasn’t the only one.

They were a group. A bunch of them, abusing children across the city. The kid the Hitman had seen in the cafe when he killed the teacher must have been one. Mothers were expected to stay silent or be killed while these men abused, fondled, deflowered their kids.

The Hitman sat and listened to her, her raving fear of the group – how they were ‘important’ and they would find her if he told anyone. She begged him to take her away, to make it okay, to save her from the group.

The Hitman only sighed deeply.

Rule three: Research and know your target.

The mother was not fit for duty. Melissa couldn’t live here. They would come for her. If what this alcoholic, drug-addled, fear-poisoned woman was saying was right, they’d come to collect Melissa. She’d been one of their favourites.

Rule three: Research and know your target. What a fucking mess he’d made of this. He silently wished he’d never set eyes on that letter.

Then he saw her, standing in the doorway watching them talk. Her mother sobbed into open hands and begged him for help. Melissa, the innocent, beautiful little girl faced him without fear. Her eyes fixed on his. They were the same blue as her mothers, but full of more sadness than any eyes he’d ever seen. It was a black hole, a monstrous sorrow that a child should never bear. He met her gaze, his own eyes a perfect reflection – harbouring the same pain.

He thought of this group of men, higher ups in society that were above suspicion. He thought of the pathetic drug addicted wife being beaten as she tried to protest. He thought of their hands on Melissa, stood in front of him now. She was so skinny it looked as though she might break in the breeze.

Rule three: Research and know your target. It was time to find out everything about that group. Research, know, destroy. The young girl stepped forward, still looking directly at him.

“Hi.” She said, a dusty whisper that broke days of silence. Her mother looked up in surprise. He smiled, knowing what had to be done.

He had a new target, now.

Written by Craig Thomas Boyle