Part Seven HERE (This is the final chapter of this story. I began it in earnest after a writingprompts thread blew up and people asked me too. I’ve enjoyed the series and I’m grateful for the feedback you guys have given me. I hope you enjoyed the ride. If you’ve enjoyed this series please subscribe. This story is available in a handy ebook format HERE at $0.99. Buying a copy would be a nice gesture, but the story will always be available for free here.)

He left Melissa’s mother, the battle-maiden, behind. He raced through the grass behind the house, away into the night. The sirens died to a silence as he sprinted away. He drew the fresh, cold air of the autumn night in through his lungs as he ran. Free from the trap he’d almost been snared in.

Daniel ran into an open road and flagged down a passing car. His old self would never hijacked someone at gunpoint. Too risky. But Melissa was in that warehouse and time was running out. Who knew what the Policeman was going to do. The man in the hatchback screamed and cried as the Hitman pulled him from his car and hurled him into the road. He threw a look at the man and debated apologising for doing this. But there was no time for explanations, so he gunned the engine and sped towards the warehouse. I’m coming, Melissa.

Daniel headed towards her. His angel. As he blazed through the countryside and into the city limits, he thought of her tiny little face and the innocent, desperate plea she’d made to him in her first note. It had freed him. He’d spent so much time hopping from place to place, killing with clinical precision. His bank account rose uselessly. His humanity crept further and further away from him, leaving him a husk, a lizard, an alien. He had fallen into feeling nothing at all.

Not any more.

Since her first letter had dropped into his lap, Daniel’s soul had come flooding back into him. He felt her pain and it brought something back. Something he’d lost. Her innocence had called out to him, reminded him of his own childhood. How he’d felt so trapped and afraid. All of his contracts had felt sterile, detached. As though his life was something he watched through a pane of glass. Killing Melissa’s abusers had felt real. More than that – it had felt right.

Darkness enveloped the industrial section of the city as Daniel pulled into it, his stolen car smelling vaguely of burning rubber and an overworked engine. He looked at his watch. From stealing the car it had taken him thirty minutes to get there. Melissa might still be alive.

He brushed his forehead with the back of his hand and wetness greeted it. He was soaked in sweat.

There was no time to grab more weapons, no time for casing the perimeter, no time for waiting. Just like his assault on the mansion, Daniel had no time. His rules screamed at him from the back of his mind. He didn’t care. Melissa was waiting. The Policeman had her. Tick, tock.

His sweat-soaked suit still held a pistol and a folding pocket knife. The pistol had been a sidearm for the mansion assault. Now it was his first line of attack. The knife was a military relic he’d never been able to let go of, a tough tool with a deeply scored yet razor-sharp blade. With those two weapons, Daniel had dished out death to some of the most valuable targets on Earth. What chance did the Policeman have?

So why had he sounded so confident on the phone? Daniel shook his head and pushed the doubt away. He had to stop doubting. He had to save Melissa. He thought I’d be arrested. That’s why he didn’t sound worried. He’d sent all of them to capture me.

He pulled his car up into a side street between the Warehouse and another unit. The night held full grasp on the sky, darkness filled the whole industrial district. There were a few streetlights here and there that brought just enough relief for Daniel to see the front door of the Warehouse, standing open. His eyes saw better than most in the dark, so he scanned the perimeter, expecting it to be guarded.

No one.

He stepped out of the car and gently closed the door, sliding into the shadow cast by the Warehouse. His heart thundered in his chest. He checked his pistol and knife, the steel glittering in the night. Satisfied, he tucked the knife into his trousers and kept the pistol in hand. Be alive, Melissa. Please.

The Warehouse’s open door stood next to a closed roller-shutter used for deliveries. Above it stood a sign marked “Henderson Haulage.” Trust-fund’s dad must have run quite the business, back in the day. The building was massive. Daniel stepped through the open door, his gun pointed out. Ready.

Inside was a reception area, with a desk and an old coffee machine that looked like a fossil. Whatever Trust-fund’s family business had begun as, it had not ended pretty. Decay was setting in all across the room, with the wooden frame of the desk covered in damp and the floor scratched and stained. The Hitman swept through the area, silently moving to each corner. He held the gun out in front of him – ready to steal the Policeman’s soul from the Earth.

The reception area had a door tucked behind a protruding wall. Heading through it, Daniel felt his nerves bristle. The door gave way to a huge holding area. It must have once held trucks or similarly massive machines, but now it stood deserted. Still, stale, empty.

Except for the little girl tied to the chair in the centre of it.

She was dwarfed by the room, an infant to its enormity. Daniel felt a pang in his chest as he realised she wasn’t moving, struggling or calling out. He felt the hot taste of copper in the back of his throat and quickly moved towards her. Melissa. The girl who sent him an innocent note stained with tears, begging him to free her from her father. From all of these men. They all wanted her. Daniel drew closer, he could see that her hands were tied behind the chair and her mouth was bound with duct tape. Her tiny chest rose and fell. She’s alive!

He sprinted the rest of the way, drawing near her in a matter of seconds. His heart thundered as he retrieved the knife and cut her free of her bindings. Her eyes fluttered open. Those youthful eyes so full of sadness looked straight at the Hitman. She shouted from under the duct-tape, looking over Daniel’s shoulder, nodding frantically. Daniel knew in a sickening instant what had happened, but he wasn’t quick enough.

The gunshot nearly burst his eardrums, perversely loud in such a cavernous space. The pain hit him a second after the noise, his knee giving out in a shower of blood and bone. He fell to the floor and clutched at it. His gun skittered to the floor. He grabbed desperately for it, but the Policeman was too fast. He ran to the pistol and kicked it away, grinning down at Daniel. Joe, the cop. Outwitted by a moron.

I fuckin’ knew you’d try to save her!” He laughed. Daniel’s knee was a mess of screaming agony, so he gritted his teeth and stared up, hatred in his eyes. The cop advanced, shushing Melissa’s screams from under the tape with a sickening “Sssshh”.

It’s my lucky day today. You got rid of all those morons and then you handed yourself to me. A paedophile ring and one of our country’s most sought-after hitmen all in the space of a week? Damn. I’ll be fuckin’ furious if I ain’t getting a pay rise.”

Daniel wheezed, trying his best to hold his breath and mask the pain of his ruined knee. The Policeman stood over him, leering. Even from here, Daniel could smell the stench of booze and body odour.

He looked over at his gun, several feet away. Out of reach. His knife had been dropped when the shot landed and now lay behind Melissa’s chair. She sat stunned, tear-filled eyes pleading from behind the tape. Her hands were free, but she was glued to her seat, watching the horror movie play out in front of her.

Funny how a little girl brings out the weakness in all of us. Different kind of weakness for you though, huh?” The Policeman pointed his gun straight at Daniel’s chest. He looked up into Joe’s eyes. They stared at one another for a long moment.

She’s just a little cunt to be used, y’know. You’ve fucked up trying to save her. She’s mine. Ain’t ya, baby?” Joe looked away and over at Melissa, chuckling.

She kicked Daniel’s knife with her foot. Even lying on the floor, he managed to grab it in a split second. Joe was slow. Too slow for a cop. Maybe he’d grown soft with his sickness, with his diseased hobby. Either way, he didn’t even have time to point his pistol back at the Hitman and pull the trigger before Daniel had plunged the blade into his thigh.

The Policeman shrieked and it echoed through the warehouse. He wasn’t stupid enough to drop the gun, though. He pointed it down at Daniel but the Hitman’s reactions were too good. He tackled Joe’s ankles and suddenly both of them were level on the ground. The Policeman snarled as Daniel dragged himself on top of him, pinning the gun at an angle. Joe fired a few shots and they almost deafened them both, but the bullets fired away harmless into the building.

Melissa was crying behind the tape as the two men wrestled, screaming and shouting. Joe was wild-eyed, frantic. Daniel was too strong. Even with the hole in his knee, he managed to slide his way up the Policeman’s thrashing body, pinning him under his weight. He sat on his chest, pinning Joe’s arms with his legs.

She’s not yours. She’s not her father’s. She is Melissa…and she is free of you!” Daniel swung the knife down and buried it in Joe’s eyesocket with a wet clicking noise. The policeman went limp and his struggling stopped. The life went out of him as quick as turning a switch.

Daniel dragged himself to one leg, hopping to Melissa. She was crying, but her face looked so angelic that it made tears fill his own eyes. All this, for her. Daniel had money. He’d been the highest paid Hitman in the country. Money was what everyone wanted. But he didn’t care. He didn’t want money. He needed Melissa. He needed what she represented. That innocence. Something he lost long ago.

Melissa… remember me?” He knew she did. “My name is Daniel, the man you sent the letter to. No one is going to hurt you any more.”

Then he had to break his word by tearing the duct tape from her mouth. That was painful. She didn’t make a sound. Once her thin little lips were free, she stood up and looked at him.

You’re hurt.” She said as she pointed at his knee. Daniel chuckled softly. He took her hand, steering her away from the Policeman’s body. He limped and struggled but stayed on his feet, her tiny hand squeezed in his.

Together, they walked out of the Warehouse. It was getting lighter outside. Dawn was coming.

…….

The Hitman’s rules had been things to live by. His life had been a design, a product. His own father had broken him with neglect. The Military had tempered him, then drove him to the edge. The homelessness had made him violent. Then Melissa had set him free.

After they left the warehouse, after they’d gotten home and the Hitman had paid a doctor to treat his leg, they had talked. He found something beautiful in her childlike regard of the world. Her broken soul, the victim of sexual assault, still coughed up pure innocence and wonder at the world and her future.

She asked about her mother. The Hitman told her she’d been arrested and that they would wait for her fifteen year sentence to end. His knee was too broken to continue contract killing, but he had more than enough money saved up and had become tired of the job.

Together they moved into a nice home in a new town. Each day, they learned more about one another. Each day they grew closer. Melissa relished having a protector who didn’t molest or abuse her. The Hitman relished having a spark of innocence in his life. He relished normality. He relished being a father.

It had been four years so far. His knee was getting stronger, but he ignored any urge to go back to work. Melissa went to a normal school, coming along nicely at the somewhat difficult age of thirteen. They had made a new life, the both of them. They still visited Melissa’s mother. She couldn’t thank Daniel enough. They agreed when she was released they’d all try and live together.

Late at night, when the routines of fatherhood were done and Melissa was asleep in her room, Daniel would retreat to the basement. There, he still checked his old guns, still went through similar training routines. He thought back to his old rules.

Rule One: Don’t sell yourself cheap. But money didn’t matter any more. What he’d done for Melissa he’d done for less than $25. And look at his reward.

Rule two: Be calm and precise. Fatherhood had been a hard trial. He’d had to stay calm when Melissa cried at night, begging for her father not to hurt her. He’d had to be precise when he helped her with schoolwork. When he tried to mend her broken heart.

Rule three: Research and know your target. Melissa’s new school had taken him months to find. He’d found out about each class, each teacher. He needed to make sure she was never exposed to threat ever again. That she’d never be made to feel scared.

His rules had changed, his life had changed. Now he only knew one thing for certain. That he would keep her safe. Forever.

Written by Craig Thomas Boyle