Part four available HERE

The storm raged. The violence came back to him. The men died in droves and screamed, pleaded, begged. He paid them no heed, his rifle a barking cannon in the raging heat of the desert.

The Hitman awoke soaked in sweat. He felt the cool air of his apartment assault his body, an alien sensation next to the fire that raged on his skin. He groped in the darkness and flicked the light switch. The bedroom was a chamber of protection, a mirrored wall the only luxury. Everything else was sterile, defensive. He got to his feet and dressed quickly, picking a suit from the many similar styles in his wardrobe. His white shirt pulled taut over his toned frame. He stared into the mirror for a moment, his sunken eyes analysing the man that stood there. The stranger.

He studied the Teacher’s laptop. Through it, he found the names and addresses of their sick little chatroom. He read the chats they’d had. They were all above suspicion, people that existed in the middle class and higher – people you’d trust your children with. One of them was a policeman. That could cause issues.

Since the Teacher’s death only one, the Doctor, had mentioned anything in their chat. ‘Nobody wondering why the fuck Peter got killed?’ He’d asked. No response. In danger, rats abandon each other and flee to safety. The Doctor had to be first. He might panic and do something silly.

Rule three: Research and know your target.

The Doctor was easy enough to study, working in the public eye. Dr. Robert Parks, a paediatrician. The Hitman struggled not to laugh at that, of course he worked with children. It was a pattern of this group, a sickness. Just like the Teacher. A newspaper article let him know that Dr. Parks volunteered at a women’s refuge, offering treatment to the sons and daughters of abused mothers. Three guesses what he was doing there. The Hitman spent the day learning everything there was to know about the Doctor. The more he read, the less he liked.

Then he read what he needed to know about each member of the twisted little group. He studied their habits, stalked their accounts, found out their secrets. The Hitman was a master – a codebreaker of the highest level. He remembered how his early days in the Military had been brutal. He’d been chastised, torn-down and then built-up. The war in the Gulf almost broke him – a nineteen year old dashing from cover to cover and begging a god he didn’t believe in to save his life. When he’d got back, he had transferred to the intelligence corps and found he had a real skill for computers. Then they found him stealing funds and re-routing payments to charities instead of the munitions factories. He was booted out of the military and forced to wander migrant camps. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Hitman closed the laptop at dusk, satisfied with his sleuthing. He slid out into the garage and into his vehicle, a red hatchback with ‘baby on board’ hanging in the back window. The engine purred to life, a tiny thing compared to the roar of his black sedan. He’d ditched that after the Teacher. The car crawled out into the night, a blanket of darkness illuminated by the moon and stars. Thick clouds blocked vast portions of the sky, rain pouring from them.

He drove to the women’s refuge, checking the time on his watch. 20:00 hours. The building was a two storey house, nothing unusual in the quiet suburb on the outskirts of town. The darkness of the night sky seemed to push in against the building, as though trying to get inside. Lights shone behind curtains and repelled it. But the Hitman looked at the new BMW in the carpark, and he knew that the darkness was already in the building.

The Doctor had been very open about his ‘score’ at this refuge. The others all encouraged him, especially the Teacher. He’d told them all about the kids that he had access to here. Told them things that the Hitman wished he’d never read. A woman walked past his car, a steaming hot coffee in her hand and the other gripping an umbrella that fought off the pouring rain.

The coffee stirred something in his lizard brain. It had been shortly after he’d left the children’s home, when he’d signed his enlistment papers. He had sat in a warm café and sipped one. He remembered how it’s been so warm in there, with the rain outside so severe that people were ducking into the café and being forced to buy something just to escape the downpour. He remembered how he’d just signed his life away, and how he had no one to miss him. He was eighteen years old. He could be shot to death in a foreign country and not a soul would know he was gone.

Thirty minutes into his stakeout, the Doctor appeared. He seemed to sneak his way out the front door, shooting glances around from behind thick glasses. A pathetic figure, hunched and skinny with dirty blonde hair combed over a bald spot. He shielded himself from the rain with a briefcase, hurrying over to his car.

The Hitman saw Melissa’s face, swimming into his mind. Rule two: Be calm and precise. Calm down, he told himself. The Doctor’s chatroom history flashed into his mind ‘I can do anything I want to them – their mothers are fuckin’ strung out. They don’t say a word.’

Rule two can suck my cock.  The Hitman bounded out of his car and into the stormy night, rain immediately battering and drenching him. Across the road, Dr. Parks was hastily fishing for his car keys and cursing at the rain.

He looked up just in time to see the Hitman strolling briskly towards him with his hands by his sides, sunglasses on despite the darkness.

‘Can I help you!?’ The Doctor asked with a frown. The Hitman saw only Melissa’s crying face as he closed the distance and plunged the knife deep into the doctor’s chest. Blood sprayed out onto his already soaked suit. Dr. Park’s gave a cry of surprise and fell forward, grabbing tight onto the Hitman’s collar as he slumped.  His eyes were wide, fearful. Just like Melissa’s eyes were at the window.

Again and again the Hitman stabbed. He’d learned how to kill a man with a single wound – but that knowledge seemed pointless as the blade sunk in and out of the insects flesh. The doctor’s grip weakened with every stroke of the knife until he finally he crumbled and fell, face-down into the pavement. The noise of bones cracking against tarmac made the Hitman wince.

He looked around, panting from the effort. Just like the Teacher, it’d been up close and personal. These men didn’t deserve a clean death – a ‘true’ hit. They deserved murder, violence and brutality. The Hitman tucked the bloody knife back into his suit and walked back to his car. He left the Doctor where he lay, hoping deep down that one of the children in the refuge would see the body of their tormentor, and then they would know they were safe.

As he drove away, he noticed the rain had stopped.

Two down, four more to go.

A few days passed before the Hitman was convinced the heat had died down enough to start hunting. He spent his downtime idling over his guns, making sure his bank accounts were in order, watching repeats of cartoons on the TV. He also visited Melissa. He didn’t go inside, of course not. He just sat in an SUV across the street and watched the little girl at the window. She looked less troubled, now. Her face seemed ever so slightly more like the child she should be, instead of the ruin that she was.

Once the Doctor’s death had faded out of the news and been replaced with presidential elections and foreign wars, the Hitman logged back into the Teacher’s chatroom. He raised an eyebrow as he read through the history and then chuckled softly in the safety of his apartment.

One had fled. The computer guy had logged out, deleted his history.

‘Someone is hunting us. First Pete now Robert. I’m fking telling u guys.’ The shopkeeper had typed.

‘Fuck off Larry. Who’d hunt us? Nobody knows jack shit about us. We’ve got Joe, remember.’ The reply came from the trust-fund guy. The Hitman figured he was the one that must have hired him in the past, the only one who could have afforded him. But his name, Thomas Henderson, didn’t ring any bells.

Joe the cop, piped up – but the computer scientist had already logged off and disappeared. Joe typed his re-assurance: ‘Listen guys. Everyone needs to play it cool. Peter and Rob both got killed up close and personal. I think maybe something is going on. Keep your heads down and leave it with me. It’ll be fine.’

The Hitman shivered at that. He had always disliked authority figures, but imagining a police officer in his uniform molesting children, bragging in their chatroom and then begging the Teacher for a chance at his daughter really took the cake.

No Joe, the Hitman thought, things would not be fine.

Written by Craig Thomas Boyle