They had her.
For all the crimes the Hitman had committed in his lifetime, he had never felt punishment like knowing these sick fucks had Melissa. Knowing he had failed to protect her.
Not just failed – helped. They couldn’t touch Melissa while the Teacher was alive. They wanted to but Melissa’s mother had put up too much resistance. And the Teacher had wanted Melissa to stay his ‘special girl’. Now, the Teacher was a corpse and Melissa was in their hands.
He thought about the remaining members of the Teacher’s circle. The computer wizard’s name was George Elliott. He was the youngest of their club. The Hitman had done his research and found a sordid history of child pornography, but he’d had to dig deep. The records had been hidden well, scratched out of existence to any normal consumers of news. But, like a dark shadow in the unforgiving sun, the history followed George. At least, it followed him if you knew where to look. Now he was one of the few remaining, and he had Melissa.
The Hitman’s car roared as he raced towards the mansion in the countryside. Caution and a measured approach had once been his rules, ones he never intended to break. The Highway had a limit that he was breaking by double. The rubber tyres screeched and stunk of fire. I’m coming, Melissa.
The other one, Trust fund. It was so obvious now who must have paid for the Hitman before. How he got caught up in all this. Trust fund. Thomas Henderson. The Hitman still didn’t recognise that name, but a quick search brought back the entitled son of a billionaire who kept himself to himself and owned a mansion outside of the city.
The sun was setting when the Hitman broke from the outskirts of the city. He tore across empty fields and past farms, dark shapes with the baleful sun hiding behind them. It didn’t take long to reach the address, but the Hitman felt his heart pounding as though he’d been running a marathon.
A tall country mansion loomed ahead. A large porch protruded into well maintained grounds. The fields around the gardens looked almost as well-kept, green and verdant for a mile around the house. But the Hitman could smell the stench of the place. It stank of fear. He shuddered to think what had occurred out here in the remoteness.
The gates were open. A Rolls Royce was parked outside the garage. The Hitman couldn’t see any movement from the house. He felt tense. Excited, even. He realised just how much her cared for this little girl. Something in her made him feel real. Knowing each one of these scumbags that he erased brought her closer to peace made him feel…better.
But they had her.
He opened the trunk and retrieved his weapons. As well as his pistol he shouldered a heavy SPAS-12 shotgun. He turned to look at the building again. Still no movement. If they know I’m coming, If they invited me here, don’t they expect I’m going to kill them all?
There was a gentle breeze that bit at the Hitman as he started towards the house. The cold winter sun was dying on the horizon and he shivered as the breeze picked up. It reminded him of the cold, lonely days after the army.
A light flicked on as he approached the door. He pointed the barrel of the shotgun towards the light, breath catching in his throat. Nothing. No movement. He slid to the front door and threw it open.
He moved quickly into the open hall area of the house. It smelled like fresh cotton sheets and new furniture. Despite the sweet scent there was an undeniable sickness in the building, infesting it. The Hitman smelled the fear, the dark things that had happened here.
A wide staircase led upstairs and doors to his left and right lined the walls down to the end of the hall. He kept the shotgun at the ready as he swept from room to room. Kitchen, empty. Downstairs bathroom, empty. Billiards room, empty. The Hitman reached the last door at the end of the hall, where a light shone out from the open door. He stepped inside and paused with his gun pointed forward.
“Don’t shoot!” The Computer-guy said. He stood in the centre of the room, holding Melissa’s mother by a leash. She was bound at the wrists and gagged. He held a knife to her throat. Trust-fund stood to their left, holding a pistol at the woman. Mascara ran down her face like tar. The three of them greeted the Hitman’s arrival with mixed reactions. The Computer-guy and Trust-fund both looked terrified. Melissa’s mother looked more confused than anything. Her teary eyes looked empty and broken. No change there.
“Really, don’t shoot. Or she gets it!”
The Hitman lowered his shotgun.
Trust-fund spoke up, his voice shaky with fear, “Look man, we know you’re after the girl. We want to help you. We just want out of this!”
The Hitman noticed a slight drop of Trust-fund’s pistol. Computer-guy still held the knife to Melissa’s mothers throat. I wonder if I can shoot them both before the knife cuts her too deep.
“Joe, the cop, he found out I’d hired a professional…that I’d hired you, once. Then he busted all of us for child pornography and started forcing us to work together. He set this all up! He’s the one you want, man!” Trust-fund’s whole body language stank of fear. Of desperation. He wanted out. The Hitman raised an eyebrow.
“Why should I believe either of you little freaks?” It was the first time he’d spoken out loud in days.
Computer-guy broke in, “Look. This is deeper than us! Yeah so we like it a little on the young side!? So what? But Joe, he’s building a fuckin’ empire. He used us. Used me. When you killed Pete, Joe could finally get at Melissa like he’d always wanted.”
The Hitman thought of her tiny face, the pigtails. He thought of the Teacher’s death. His grip tightened on the shotgun.
They both flinched. They had seen the ghost of violence creep across the Hitman’s face. They kept their grip on Melissa’s mother. Trust-fund spoke.
“Look man, this all started with me. I got busted for my… hobby. Joe kept me outta jail in exchange for financing our group. He brought everyone else in over time. Pete wouldn’t give up his daughter to us. Joe didn’t like that. He wanted the Teacher dead, but he doesn’t want anything getting put on him.”
The Hitman felt a pang of anger. Had he caused this? Had killing the Teacher exposed Melissa to a greater evil? Her pale white face came flooding back to him, reflected in the struggling, gagged face of her mother.
The Hitman spoke, a cutting edge to his voice. He felt like a serpent speaking to rats. “If you let the woman go and tell me where Melissa is right now, I won’t kill you.” He paused and let the threat hang. They both looked at one another. Melissa’s mother screamed from under the gag.
“This offer is a one-time deal. Take it now or I will send both of you to an infinity of darkness.” He raised the shotgun as if to reinforce his point. “And if I ever hear that either of you are involved in your…sickness again, I will hunt you down.”
His words hung in the air. Heavy like an anvil.
Trust-fund spoke. “Yea..yeah. Fine. We just don’t want to wind up dead over this. It was…” he dropped his gaze to the floor, “it was just supposed to be a bit of fun.”
The Hitman struggled to not kill both of them at that point.
George Elliot and Thomas Henderson lowered their weapons. The Hitman’s inner fire raged so strongly it nearly consumed him. Killing them would be like scratching an itch. Only the discipline he’d learned in the army kept his shotgun at bay.
“Joe wanted Peter to hire you. He wanted her dead.” Computer-guy motioned to the bound and gagged mother. The Hitman felt stupid, now. He remembered the Teacher’s phonecall. “Joe reckoned if we could get rid of her, with a professional, it wouldn’t get traced back to us.”
The Hitman cut in to their little story, “So Joe wanted her dead, so he could have Melissa? Why didn’t he just take her if you’re all on his rap sheet?”
“He likes other people doing his dirty work…even when we get a girl he usually wants us to get her warmed up.” George sounded almost sorry.
The Hitman swung the gun up and pointed it straight at him. “I don’t want to know!”
“Okay man, cool it – okay!”
“Untie her.” The Hitman motioned to Melissa’s mother.
Trust-fund, or Thomas, did as he was told. He put his pistol down on a coffee table and slid the collar and bonds off her. As soon as she was ungagged, she drew in a breath like someone who had not tasted air in weeks. The Hitman couldn’t decide if he loved or hated her.
“Joe’s taken Melissa to a warehouse we use. It’s one of my dad’s properties. It’s Unit 55, South Nelson Road. Be careful. Joe is dangerous.”
The Hitman scoffed, “If you think your silly little policeman is dangerous, you have no clue what is going on here.”
It happened in an instant. Both men had visibly relaxed, knowing they were going to live another day, Melissa’s mother sprang to life. Finally free of her bonds, she snatched up Trust-fund’s pistol. Gone was her drink and drug-addled face, gone was her weakness. As she grabbed that gun and unloaded rounds into both of her captors, she looked like Joan of Arc, of Xena Warrior Princess, of the goddess Athena gone to war.
Both George and Thomas died like animals. Melissa’s mother emptied the entire clip into both men. She screamed as the gunshots rang out, but held the pistol surprisingly steady. They shrieked and cried out before falling silent. All that was left was the hot smell of blood and her desperate panting. She looked up at the Hitman through a mask of matted blonde hair and fury.
Then she dropped the gun and stared at him, desperation slowly creeping across her face.
“Let’s go get my daughter.”
The Hitman nodded, motioning her out.
“I never did get your name, did I?” She said.
The Hitman’s mouth folded into a frown. “I don’t make a habit of giving it away.”
“A man who turns up at my house after he’s killed my husband and then kills off all of his twisted little friends, I figure I ought to thank you properly…” She trailed off. Sirens sounded in the distance.
Way too fast. No one around here would have heard the shots.
A phone started to ring. They both looked around. Melissa’s mother bent down and picked up Trust-funds phone, shrieking out a jolly little tune in that room of corpses. She offered it to the Hitman. He took it and answered. Call it a hunch.
“Hello?” A gruff voice.
“Who is this?” Urgent this time, a voice of authority.
The Hitman stayed silent.
“Fine. If this ain’t George or Thomas then I know just who you are. Hey, that’s good. You’ve done my work for me. Thanks.”
“Look here. I told them boys to capture you and put an end to this. Can’t have no assassin running riot killing people. So they were going to stop you.”
The Hitman looked at the dead bodies on the floor. “They didn’t stop me.”
“Yeah. I figured that would happen. But hey, I needed them all dead anyway. Y’see, I’m getting heat in my department and I wanted to get rid of all these boys. Too many links to me. Too many loose ends. But hey, it ties up nicely now huh!?” The policeman laughed, an infuriating noise.
“I am coming for you.” The Hitman said.
“Haha, boy! I’ve got half the precint heading to you right now! If they’d captured you I was gonna get you all written up. But now you got two dead bodies on your hands! I’ll see you in the cells. Reaaaal nice.”
The sirens were nearly on them now, loud and blaring. They were coming fast and he was in the middle of nowhere. The Hitman dropped the phone. No time. No way out.
Melissa’s mother looked up at him. Panic had been replaced by sadness. Tears dotted her vision.
“You’ll go get her, won’t you. You’ll save my baby?”
“I’ll stay here. I’ll tell them I did this. If you leave now you’ll get away! There’s a back door they brought me through. Go!”
He couldn’t believe the courage she had. He had misjudged her, this one. Stood in the centre of the room, with bodies at her side and a gun at her feet, she looked like an angel. Dirty blonde hair, gorgeous body and a face riddled with sadness, guilt and steady resolve. He saw his own face reflected there, a mirror. He smiled at her then. He’d have touched her, if it wasn’t for the sirens beating down on them. Deafening.
“Go!” She screamed again. Tears rolled down her face. “Save my baby! Tell her that her mommy loves her! Tell her she’s sorry – sorry for her father, sorry for everything.”
The Hitman nodded. He took one last look at her. The broken mother of a broken girl. Transformed. Now, the Valkyrie woman, a battle-maiden.
“My name is Daniel.” The Hitman said. She smiled at that. The moment held, an eternity stretched out in his mind. How things could have ended. That smile of hers brought hope to an otherwise broken face. It brought him hope.
“Save my daughter, Daniel.” The Sirens were on them now. He could hear the shouts of the police as they pulled up and got out of their cars.
The Hitman nodded at her, one final time. He turned and fled out of the back door and into the night. Towards Joe the cop. Joe the ringleader. Joe who had Melissa.
Written by Craig Thomas Boyle