He walked through the dimly lit streets, all around him revellers laughed and shouted. He moved through them carefully, a pool of silence in the cacophony. He ignored them as he passed and they in turn ignored him, and, any that noticed his presence, soon forgot about it. He was a shadow, a wraith, able to move amongst the living but never be fully seen. His true self was hidden beneath many layers and decades of practice allowed him to hide it further. He had no particular love for his work, but nor did he despise it, he was ambivalent. It paid well and though he needed to do things that were unpleasant, after every job he felt a certain satisfaction that everything had gone to plan.
He followed his prey carefully, there was no real need at this point, but it was nice to get a sense of who the person was before they were gone. She was tall and attractive in an odd way, her features were slightly disjointed and separately would doom their owner to teasing and obscurity but together, formed a cohesive whole. She was thin, almost skeletally so, and her predilection for black clothing did nothing to help dispel the angular bones jutting from her body. Despite all this, she radiated confidence, her strides long and even, her head held high, her shoulders set. A shrill ringing emitted from her purse and, reaching in without looking, she retrieved her phone, “Hello? Yes, I’ll be there now in a moment, just on Jackson street, cool…Yeah, why not? Fine…see you in a few.” She hung up, a slight smile spreading across her lips.
He didn’t know what she did, nor why they wanted him to get rid of her and frankly, he didn’t care. It was none of his business, long ago he decided that it would drive him mad to think about it. The people he worked for were powerful and going against them was obviously a bad idea, but through the years he had been given assignments to get rid of people who seemed quite innocuous. They had no obvious ties to anything illegal, they had no evidence, they were marked out for death for esoteric reasons, ones that he could not figure out, nor was he privileged enough to know. Obviously they were not trained, he had easily and effectively dispatched each without them being aware of his presence, at least, not until the final moment.
The woman he had been sent to kill this time seemed to be like the others, an ordinary woman whose very existence seemed to offend his employer. He had already planned how he would get rid of her. It would be more personal than some of the others. He didn’t know why, but he felt drawn to her, he felt as though he owed her something and, though he couldn’t give her an explanation, for he didn’t have one himself, he could extend the courtesy of being the one to kill her directly. In the past he had used many methods, poison, accidents, car crashes, so few had the privilege of dying at his physical hands.
She would probably spend two or so hours in the bar, only having a single drink, before leaving her companions and going home. In the past two weeks, she followed the same pattern, she went out regularly, but never for long. She would leave her friends and walk home, a journey of almost an hour, but one she seemed to enjoy anyway, then, she would enter her house, which would be empty as she lived alone, then she would either get a drink and retire to upstairs where she would bathe and prepare for bed or she would sit down and watch television for a while before going to bed.
The next morning, she would be up early and, after preparing a large breakfast, which was eaten slowly with three cups of coffee, she would go to work.
He had already decided that he would take care of things in her house. She lived alone and it gave him a few hours to clean up afterwards, there it was less likely for him to run into problems. Her house was detached and he doubted that anyone would be able to hear her scream, he did not intend to prolong her death, but sometimes they escape and made things more difficult for themselves.
She had done everything as expected, there was one point where he thought she was going to be attacked by a drunk on her way home. It would have made his life easier if she had. If the drunk attacked her, he could kill her soon after, the drunk would be blamed and he could go on to the next one. She made it home safely, locking the door behind her.
He waited until she went into the kitchen, he would have ten minutes or so, and moved closer to the front door, after a moment of rummaging around, he found what he was looking for, a spare key, nestled between the eaves of the ornamental roof that jutted above the door. He moved away from the house, towards the shadows the trees provided. The whole neighbourhood seemed to favour heavily wooded gardens, this worked in his favour, more places to hide, more shadows to sink into, it was less likely anyone would spot him.
He waited in the darkness, the night was mild and helped sooth him, he was always nervous in the moments before. As he waited he ran through his plan again and again, trying to cover any problems that might arise. The lights downstairs flicked off, he looked at the windows above, then circled around the back. The bathroom light was on, that meant she was having a shower. Perfect.
He let himself into the house, easing the door open and then closing it gently. The hum of the shower filled the house, the steady drone would drown out the noise of his entrance but he still wanted to be careful. He had not seen her come downstairs at night, but there was always a chance she would. Sometimes that happened, people did things out of their schedule on the night they were to die. They might have forgotten their phone, or a book, or gotten suddenly thirsty. Perhaps it was their senses trying to warn them with a fading and atrophied alarm system.
The evening progressed as he expected, she finished her shower then went to bed. The light would stay on for around half an hour or so before she turned it off. He waited for an hour, just to be sure, then moved up the stairs, wary of any creaks. He had learned that, if a floorboard should creak, it was better to roll forward with it, then remove your weight. If you stopped suddenly, so did the creak, but, if you kept moving it faded away. People tended not to notice them then. He didn’t know if she was a deep or light sleeper, but at this point, it didn’t really matter. She was already dead. He would take care of it quickly, stabbing her a few times, maybe twenty or thirty before cutting her neck deeply, he wanted to almost, but not quite, sever the head. It would be seen as an angry crime, they’d look for exes, enemies, maybe even try to find a stalker, but they would not expect it of a random killing. The door to her room was ajar and he pushed it open. In the gloom he could see her, her body a small lump beneath the covers, her face, just peeking above, serene and calm. He moved further into the room, the smell of her perfume, light and flowery, filled his nostrils.
He stood beside her bed, trying to decide whether or not to rip the covers back before stabbing her when she spoke. “Just hurry up will you?” He jumped, then smiled, she was still asleep, talking in her dreams. “I’m tired and just want to get this over with.” She opened her eyes and sat up, he stood where he was, unsure of how to proceed. “How did you know I was coming?” “Please, it was obvious. You weren’t exactly subtle in your stalking. I noticed you the first day.” “No one has ever-” “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. First time for everything and all that. Really though, you do kinda suck at it. Especially after what they told you.” “Told me?” “Yeah, when giving you the briefing about me…They did tell you didn’t they?” “No, I don’t ask and they don’t tell.” “Oh. Well. Now I almost feel bad for you.” He smiled, feeling reassured. She was bluffing. She had no training, he knew that much simply from watching her. She was trying to throw him off balance so she could try to run. Clever. He raised the knife. “It’s nothing personal. I’ll make it as quick as I can.” “I know, don’t worry. Same here.” He swung the knife towards her throat, he would stay true to his word and make it quick. The knife slid through the air, the force of his arm off balancing and dragging him forward, his eyes widened in surprise and his face becoming almost comical. He fell onto the bed where she had been. Though she had been lying beneath the covers, he didn’t feel any residual warmth. She was standing beside the bed, looking down at him. “You’re faster than some of the others, I’ll give you that. Though they only send their best assassins, once they’re done with them of course.” He struggled to untangle himself from his sheets. “Why?” “Well, partly to keep me sharp and partly because of what I can do. I can dispose of the bodies really easily and never be caught.” He was becoming nervous now, as far as he could tell she wasn’t lying and she was fast, he had never met anyone as fast as he was. He was trying to regroup. “I can disappear.” “Oh here we go, you’re gonna offer to disappear, I can say you attacked me, I killed you blah blah. I like how you offered me the same courtesy when you thought I was another mark.” “That’s different” “because you thought you were going to win then? No deal, sorry. It comes with the job, you know that. Besides, you could still win, it’s unlikely, but possible.” He stood up slowly. “Fine, let’s just get this over with.” She smiled, her teeth almost unnaturally bright in the darkness.
She sat on the covers, they were wet with blood, dark stains spreading outwards. She’d have to buy new sheets, again. Damn. She tried to be mindful of them before, but she always forgets. She felt a piece of meat wedged in her teeth and picked it out. He was quite tasty, all in all, took good care of himself, the meat wasn’t too springy or tough. Normally she had to tenderise them a bit first. Her stomach was bloated and distended. That would be gone by morning, she might look a bit fatter too, but no one would really notice, they never did. Or they never mentioned it anyway. She sighed and stood. She’d need to change the sheets, she was up early in the morning, and she always felt tired and groggy after such a large meal. She looked at the pile of bones on the floor. She’d gnaw those over the next few days, use them as snacks. She wished they’d start giving her warnings, that way she’d know to eat less before hand, plus, she’d be less likely to have to replace things. She burped, then began to loosen the sheets from around the mattress.