12 May



The curtains at the window wafted in the draft as the man with the rifle looked through dirty glass. It was an easy enough shot, he just didn’t know if he wanted to take it. Course he’d been contracted and so was bound to – in truth he’d little say in the matter.

Terrace houses lined either side of the street. Dads washed cars whilst children ran around playing cowboys and Indians and mothers chatted over clipped hedges. A typical suburban scene where traditional London mixed with the new arrivals. Everyone had been through here – from the Romans and Huguenots to the Pakistanis, Greeks and Polish. A regular melting pot the Yanks would call it, only problem was this was one was boiling over. He wasn’t a racist himself although his father who he’d despised had been. He’d grown up in mixed schools, dated colored girls and come to realize long ago that color was truly only skin deep. It’s what was on the inside that mattered – the book not the cover. This was different though – this cloth-wrapped-muppet apparently had it coming to him. He glanced at his watch, it was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon. The sooner he got the job done, the sooner he could go home to the wife.

He’d been in the upstairs room since yesterday evening, had broken the window at the back of the house and forced his way through the kitchen door. A sleeping bag lay on the floor with some magazines he’d brought to kill the time – a Walkman and a couple of cassettes. He liked to listen to books on cassette, saved him from turning the pages. Quicker access to the theater of the mind, the stories and characters absorbing quickly into his brain – the willing suspension of disbelief rapidly becoming reality. It wasn’t that he didn’t like books, it was just that the presentation of a story through the vocal chords of a stranger was so much better. Got you there that little bit quicker, made the story that much more real. The way people will sit around a camp fire and listen to a guitarist play a couple of familiar tunes or a story teller, flashed by firelight, relating a story from way back when. He’d always been a sucker for an exciting tale. Probably why he was in this line of work.

It had started in the boy scouts with weekends in the woods , the field craft and survival skills he’d learned from the troop leaders. He could recognize all the animal tracks – jaguar, lion, tiger, however in Epping Forest there were so few of them to hunt. The big game around the city was all rabbit and squirrel sized!

Caught and cleaned and served up of an evening, the whole troop sitting around the camp fire. Happy ruddy faces of boys subjected to fresh air and exercise. He’d never slept so well as under the stars and no five star restaurant had ever come close to replicating the rabbit stew. A sense of adventure is what he’d yearned for, something more than the regular nine to five. It wasn’t about pensions and medical coverage; it was more than that. It was the white-hot flash of knowing you were alive, if only for the briefest of seconds, the nervous rush as the adrenalin dam burst and flooded the system – the euphoria of battle.

As with most good stories, his started in a pub. A chance encounter with a man who’d kick-started fate and forever changed the course of his life. When the path less travelled suddenly became more familiar than the road already followed. 

The job was easy enough. They were looking for a couple of likely-lads to do a bit of business. Apparently somebody was encroaching on what wasn’t theirs and needed to be taught a lesson. Fisty-cuffs and a possible torching. Nothing too heavy, and there was five hundred quid up front.

He’d taken to it very naturally, the violence coming easily, his conscience not affecting him in the least. In the beginning nobody really got hurt. Sure there were the broken limbs, smashed faces and smoldering properties, but nobody actually got killed. It was like raising puppies. If a dog shits on the carpet then it needs to have its nose rubbed in it. Same thing with people – if they got out of hand then they needed a quick reminder not to be so bloody cheeky!

The guns had been a turning point, a bit of a thrill. Never handled one until a few years ago, but with the attention and instruction of one of the senior faces he could handle a weapon the way most people handle a tooth brush – with ease and dexterity. He was a master. If he’d been a painter his work would hang in the Victoria and Albert, a sculptor the British. He was a surgeon removing that which hindered life. An arborist, chopping back dead wood to allow for new growth. Amputation to the benfit of the forest, surgery to the benefit of the body. A little detriment for the greater good.

He saw the man walk out of his front door, down the garden path and open the front gate. The man mouthed something to one of his neighbors,waved, smiled and turned into the road. It was an easy shot. He’d had harder. It was a hundred yards tops; back in the day he’d killed a man at nearly a mile.

He was prepared to take the rough with the smooth. The money was the same and why should it always be difficult? Although he’d studied his photograph and cased the place he lived, there were no hard feelings – he didn’t know the man. The last couple of weeks he’d become very familiar with the man’s comings and goings and to be honest had seen nothing that gave him cause for alarm. But that wasn’t really the point. The job was the job. The man now walking towards the corner shop wouldn’t know what hit him.

He was looking forward to the break. The money from this job, along with the money he’d already put aside, would allow him a couple of weeks in Italy with the wife.

Loved Italy – the weather, the food, the history. He prided himself on being a bit of a history buff – watched all the TV shows. In fact the book he was currently listening to was CALIGULA.

Now there was a randy Italian!

He raised the weapon to his shoulder, and squinted through the scope. The target was so close he could have thrown the bullets and probably hit him. He squeezed the trigger, saw the red mist spray through the air, and watched as the man fell to the ground between two parked cars. Nothing changed. Dads continued washing cars, mothers carried on chatting and the kids went on with ritual genocide.

He quickly disassembled the rifle and gathered up his things. It was time to go, the job was done. No point in hanging around. As he turned the latch on the back door he heard the first scream. It wouldn’t be long now before The Old Bill was poking their nose in, and he wanted to be long gone by the time they got there. He walked quickly down the garden and turned into the back lane running between the houses to where he’d parked the car. No point in rushing, no need to attract any attention. Clean precise and surgical, just the way he liked it. No fuss, no mess, and one fresh corpse to guarantee his wage packet.

His gear stowed, he turned the key in the ignition and turned up the radio.

 Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

 He loved this song.

“Late September 1963”

 He waited for a couple of seconds, enjoying the tune, singing along to the lyrics.

“What a lady, what a night.”

Amazing how a familiar tune could turn your day right around. He looked in his mirror, indicated and pulled out. They could probably leave for their holidays next week.

That should put a smile on the wife’s face.


3 Responses to “WORKING STIFF…”

  1. Deanna Schrayer May 26, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    Colin, this is fantastic! You’ve got his character absolutely nailed. Good stuff!

  2. Mike Robertson May 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Great story, if a bit ghoulish. But point taken: a job is a job, especially if you’re the kind of guy who has no conscience and feels no remorse. Quite an advantage in the work world, actually.

    So well done.

  3. John Wiswell May 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    I like that the shooter has audiobooks with him. You get so into his life and routines that it doesn’t seem out of place at all. It feels like you can fit anything into someone you build up so incrementally.

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