The Dutiful Hit
Grim was sat on
a wooden chair in the corner of his cramped studio flat when the message popped
up on his computer. With a 9mm pistol in one hand, and an oilcloth and cotton
swab in the other, he paused for a moment and looked over towards his desk.
Frowning at the
screen, he debated to himself whether it was even worth getting up for. It was
probably going to be the same old story, the same as all the other messages
he’d received on the dark web over the last few weeks: fake enquiries from timewasters,
or a message from some disgruntled plastic gangster who didn’t even have the
correct funds to pay him. It was only now and again, about once every two or
three months let’s say, that a genuine customer came along.
him otherwise, however, some inkling that came from nowhere, and so he put down
his piece and walked over to the PC. The message read: Services required. Can pay
cash. Reply if interested.
After going back and forth with a few more messages,
gauging the authenticity of the client, Grim eventually tapped in the address
of a discreet meeting place along with a set of code words. This client seemed
genuine, and it was just as well, because the money from his last job was
beginning to run low.
Grim was not a
man suited for daylight hours; the daytime world rejected him and discarded him
like unwanted trash. The scars along his temples and cheeks were unsettling to
normal folk and family crowds, eliciting nervous or acrimonious reactions. His burly
gait turned heads and drew curious stares, and for a man of his profession this
was very bad news, even if he was only on an innocent trip to the convenience
store. If people began to know his face that meant he would have to move to a
new town yet again, find yet another apartment, and get caught up in the kind
of hassle that he didn’t want. Anonymity was his friend; reclusiveness was his
And so, it was
for this reason that he was making his way through a series of dark, sodden backroads
to get to the agreed meeting point, with the collar of his long trench coat
pulled up over his muscled, vein-ridden neck, along with a greasy ski hat
pulled over the dome of his scalp.
When he arrived
at the spot, a splintered bench over the road from a park, any doubts that he
may have been harbouring vanished. Somebody was there on the bench, a slumped
figure with his hands on his lap, apparently waiting for him. It was a man, a
withdrawn-looking man, weathered, subdued, staring down towards his feet with
resigned, puppy dog eyes and a hollow expression.
‘Which way does
the crow fly?’ asked Grim, as he planted his bulk down next to him.
The man slowly
turned his head towards him, grudgingly almost, as though this small act
required every bit of effort he could muster. Then, in a timid voice, opening
the thin crease of his mouth, he said, ‘Downwards.’
this familiar word, Grim got down to business. ‘Who do you want removed?’
Male, mid-fifties. Weirdo type. Lives alone in a large house.’
killing business had its own rules of etiquette, just like any other business,
and it went against etiquette for a hitman to ask his customers why they wanted
their chosen victim removed. It just wasn’t a question that was asked. That
never stopped Grim from wondering, though, and on most occasions he could make
an accurate, educated guess. If a woman came to him it usually meant a cheating
husband was on the prowl, if a young thug came to him it often meant a drug
dealer was selling on someone else’s turf, and if a well-dressed business man
came to him it probably meant a rival tycoon was undercutting him. With this
particular customer, however, things weren’t so clear.
“weirdo” had been used, along with a description of a lone man in a large
house. A paedophile, perhaps? thought
Grim. An internet troll who’d gone too
far? He didn’t know, and at the end of the day, when it really came down to
it, it didn’t matter either. Whatever monster awaited him in this house
couldn’t be anywhere near as bad as the monsters he’d dealt with during his
military operations as a younger man, nor could it offer him any sights as
gruesome as those he’d seen on the prison wings over the years. Fear was now an
alien emotion to big old Grim, a relic, a vestigial part of a former self. A
hit was a hit, a job was a job, and money was money.
He always asked
this question out of courtesy, even though he was not always willing to carry
them out. There was one time, for example, when an angry wife wanted him to cut
off her husband’s testicles on film before killing him, then send her the
recording afterwards. He’d politely refused, on the grounds of it being too
‘Just make sure
he dies,’ said the man. ‘A shot directly to the head.’
‘He’ll be at
home tomorrow night.’
‘You got the
An envelope appeared
in the man’s frail, claw-like hands, and he passed it over to Grim, along with
a slip of paper with an address on it. Both were tucked away inside Grim’s
thick coat, then, after a brief nod, he rose and disappeared into the night,
his footsteps echoing along the misty street.
The house was
large, as described, and the following night, as Grim approached it, its brick
walls and dusty windows seemed to stare down at him with hollow disdain. It was
1:00 am, the moon bright in the sky, and the only sounds to be heard came from
the foxes and crickets in the surrounding fields. Using a specialised lock pick
that he’d acquired during his army days, he gained entry into the house via a
side door, creating minimal noise.
The interior was
quiet, musty, and illuminated only by the moonlight that seeped in through the
ground floor windows. It was likely that the target was asleep in an upstairs bedroom,
but he could take no chances. He diligently checked every room, starting with
The kitchen was
a mess, with plates, cups, beer cans, leftover food and cutlery all over the worktops.
And medicine bottles—lots of medicine
bottles. As well as blister packs and piles of crushed powder here and there. Rapist?
thought Grim. It wouldn’t have
been the first time, that’s for sure. Were these tablets rohypnol? Or some
other kind of date rape drug? It was too dark to tell, but the suspicion was
off, Grim ventured into the living room. It looked neater than the kitchen,
classy and ornate even, but then a reflection drew his attention over towards a
coffee table to his right. A scalpel blade sat there on the tabletop,
glistening in the quiet blue moonlight, its steel tip menacingly sharp. Further
assumptions and suspicions then bubbled up to the forefront of his mind,
pictures of torture and mutilations at the hands of whatever sicko awaited him
upstairs. Pulling out his gun, he took one last look around the ground floor
before making for the stairs.
That’s when he
saw the mirror.
straight past it at first, this mirror in the hallway that connected the
kitchen and living room. It was a thin, tall mirror, cased in a varnished
wooden frame, and upon first glance, the glass looked dirty and smeared. As
Grim stepped closer to it, however, it became apparent that the smear marks
were in fact a series of scratches. Somebody had scratched words into the glass
of the mirror, many words in neat lines, and the more Grim squinted at them the
more they resembled a poem.
‘What the hell
is this?’ he grunted, leaning in towards the etched sentences.
It’s all lies
The nice pleasant smiles
Decorations that go on for miles
It’s all a fake display
A mask for the endless putrid decay
‘An angry fuck
up,’ hissed Grim, looking around him, checking there was no one lurking in the
shadows. When he was sure that he was alone, he read the rest of the poem.
Nice clothes and hairstyles
Shiny cars and cash stacked in piles
Genuine, it is not
smokescreen for the fetid rot
The glammy TV shows
The neon lights with the fanciful glows
A form of denial
A clever ruse for the planet’s bile
It’s all lies
Darkness in disguise
It’s all lies
Thinking that he
might have a hard done by, disillusioned school shooter on his hands, Grim
puffed out his barrel chest, flexed his muscles, and headed for the staircase.
He tried to be
quiet and stealthy, but the wooden steps creaked under his immense weight.
Nevertheless, there didn’t seem to be any other movement in the house as he
reached the first floor. In fact, the entire first floor hallway was empty except
whispered, peering into the semi distance.
A large wooden
contraption was positioned at the far end of the hallway, resembling a bench or
a giant chair. Stepping closer to it, creeping, squinting through the dim
light, he tried to ascertain what he was looking at. Up close, it didn’t look
like a chair at all, or a bench. The wooden beams were too long, and the
circular hole at the end made no sense. To Grim’s eyes, it actually looked more
‘It’s a fucking
guillotine,’ he muttered, gazing up at a chunky slanted blade a couple of feet
above his head. But it wasn’t a normal guillotine, not by any standards. It was
homemade for a start, and instead of having a pulldown chain or rope to
activate the blade, there was a pedal at one end of it.
Home executions? Who the fuck am I dealing
from the device with a growing sense of horror, he methodically searched all of
the rooms on the first floor, ready to fire off a shot at the first sign of
company. There was no one to be found, though, and so he climbed the stairs again
to the second floor.
There were no
contraptions to be found on the second floor hallway. Grim was instead greeted by
two closed doors. He chose the one on the left, just on a whim, and opened it
with his free hand. Despite the darkness, he could see that it was a bedroom
straightaway due to a single bed in the corner, and the bed appeared to be
What the fuck is that?
A thin, scrawny, dangling object was suspended above the
bed, hanging there in the dark. Grim’s first thought was that it was a corpse,
but if it was a corpse it was an extremely small one, and a strangely formed
one at that. It hung from the ceiling like a black tendril in the musty moonlight,
directly above the pillows on the bed, its main shaft drooping but rigid.
then closer still, Grim reached the edge of the bed. The tendril-like object was
in fact a double barrel shotgun fixed to a metal bracket on the ceiling. A
mechanical contraption was also screwed to the wall next to the bed, with a
round dial that could’ve been a clock or a timer.
A house of horrors.
Grim had heard
about places like this, but he’d never been in one before. The lair of a warped
fiend, the chamber of a demented, perverted sadist. Faced with this obscenity, he
wondered again what his customer’s grievance was. A murdered relative? A
kidnapped daughter? It could’ve been anything. But still, he could see no
back out to the hallway, he neared the last room, the final room of the house to
be inspected. The door handle went down with a light click, the door itself opened
with a creak, and there, by a window a few feet away, a figure sat with their
back to him, perched on a chair, staring silently out towards the cold night
Stay calm, old boy. You’ve done this plenty
might’ve been a study. There were a couple of bookshelves and a desk and what
have you, but Grim focused all of his attention and energy on the person by the
window. They were still, unflinching, unmoving, seemingly oblivious to his
presence. They could’ve been asleep, of course, but something told Grim that
that wasn’t the case. Not that it mattered, anyway, for he was about to blow
this piece of filth to kingdom come.
Holding the gun at
arm’s length, cocked, loaded, he crept towards his target and readied himself.
As soon as he was close enough, the first bullet in the chamber was going straight
into the scumbag’s cranium. He was three feet away from them, then two feet,
but just as he began to squeeze down on the trigger a flash of light filled the
room, just for a second, as a random car passed by outside. It was fleeting, very
swift, but just long enough to illuminate the weathered countenance of the
person sitting in the chair.
The puppy dog
eyes, the thin crease of the mouth, the hollow expression—he recognized them all
at once. Confusion then flooded Grim’s mind like a tidal wave, a million
thoughts rattling his head as he tried to fathom what his customer was doing
there. For a moment, he wondered whether the man was being held captive in the
house, or whether he’d arrived there before him so that he could witness the
hit. But no, this certainly wasn’t the case. One look at that face, those eyes,
those desolate pits, told him everything he needed to know. One close look at
that desperate form in the chair, and the entire job suddenly became lucid and clicked
into place like a seamless jigsaw puzzle. It was as though the man’s thoughts,
torment and anguish were etched into the worry lines of his skin, printed
across the contours of his sunken features, and stamped across his crater-like
premonition, or a waking hallucination, Grim could suddenly see his customer’s
life swirl in front of him. There was nothing supernatural about it, nothing
ghostly, it was more akin to an epiphany or a moment of extreme insight or
observation. Standing by the frail man’s side, still holding the gun towards
his head, he could simply see the individual’s past woes and tormented
experiences as though they were being projected from his being.
Stood by the
chair, momentarily glued on the spot, Grim could see it all…
The lonely nights; the even lonelier days;
the overthinking; the failures; the failure to even try; the hours spent in
extreme melancholy listening to the sounds of life outside; the anger and
despair at having been born; the afternoons sat in the stinking gloom, uncomfortable
in the knowledge that the rest of the world was going about its business
without him, oblivious to him; the cold knowledge that after his death the
world would not even remember him; the dreams of all the people he could have
been, had luck or circumstance been more generous; the creeping onset of aging
and decay; the loss of loved ones; life after the loss of loved ones; mundane
jobs with despicable bosses; sleepless nights with thoughts full of bullying
work colleagues and unpaid bills; the disappointment present in his parents’
eyes whenever his past, present or future was discussed; the countless
hangovers; the groggy Monday mornings putting on a brave face; the mask he wore
for the world, and the lies he told to fit in; the suspicious looks on fair
weather friends’ faces after reeling off lies about sexual conquests; the
relentless march of time and the unwanted changes it brings; comforts taken
away; familiar culture becoming unfamiliar; the younger generation stripping
away all traces of relevance or appeal; the stupid little mistakes of the past
that proved themselves to be indelible upon his life; the bucket list that
would never be ticked off; the heroes he would never meet; the heroes he didn’t
even have anymore; the things he should’ve said; the things he shouldn’t have
said; the awkward moments caused by lack of charisma and confidence; the
nagging feeling that he should’ve been trying harder; the incessant grey skies;
the humdrum routines; the anger at life; the rage at life; the fantasies of
sick, cold revenge that swirled inside him during the most morbid moments; the
tablets and pills that he was too cowardly to swallow; the scalpel blade that
he was too wimpish to draw across his wrists; the bespoke guillotine he’d spent
months making but couldn’t quite bring himself to use; the elaborate mechanism
screwed to the ceiling above his bed that was designed to blow his head off
during his sleep, but had never fired a single shot due to the lack of bravado required
to switch on the countdown timer…
Grim witnessed all
of this and more as he stared into the emaciated face of the man in the chair,
the man who’d paid him cash to carry out the hit.
Most hits left
Grim with a sense of emptiness at best, or disgust at worst. But this hit was
different. This time, after pressing the barrel of the gun against the man’s
head and watching, feeling, the bullet obliterate the skin and the bone and the
brain tissue, after all of this, he was left with a sense of fulfilled duty.