I am sprawled on the couch chatting with Tommy when the unlabelled package arrives. The thunk as it falls through the slot reminds me of that first time, six years ago. Back then, they didn’t understand my needs. Hell, I didn’t understand my needs. That’s when I met Tommy.
I shake myself. I need to stay in the here and now.
‘I am Charon, the ferryman of Hades,’ I say to myself as I close all the curtains in the small apartment. ‘I am the human embodiment of the shadow creatures from Ghost.’ Tommy laughs, but he’s too young to understand the film reference. Glancing at the innocent-looking brown envelope laying on the floor, I feel the familiar spark of anxiety and excitement alight in my stomach. ‘I am the dark angel, delivering the sinners to their fates.’
There is a certain ritual which must be observed when opening these packages. I slide the top drawer of my desk open and survey my collection of letter openers. Each has its story. Shall I use the silver one with the bone handle? It was a birthday present from my parents. I lift it from its resting place, running my fingers along its sharpened edge.
‘Do you really want to think about your parents today?’ asks Tommy. He’s right.
I return the sleek implement to the drawer, and as I do, my eye is drawn to the ornate, dagger-shaped letter opener buried near the back. ‘You naughty thing,’ I mutter under my breath. ‘Were you hiding from me?’ Retrieving the elaborate object, I slice the envelope open, feeling the paper tear easily beneath the blade. Shivers of satisfaction ripple down my spine.
The pages fall easily out of the envelope and onto my desk. For a moment, my heart stops as I run my eyes quickly over the body of text. But it’s okay – the blacked out sections confirm that they have remembered my requirements and I relax. Some people think that you need to know everything about your client. In my line of work, the less you know, the better. Except for their crimes – it’s best to know each grim detail of their wrongdoings. I commit her name and location to memory, then ravenously absorb the contours of her face.
‘She’s pretty,’ says Tommy.
‘Pretty evil,’ I reply, reading the list of her sins.
I compel the rage to build up within me. It starts as a spark in my stomach, but with some stoking it soon pulses throughout my entire being. The leader of a drug ring, she is responsible for thousands of deaths and the destruction of countless lives. I look at Tommy. Innocent, sweet Tommy. How many Tommies has she driven to addiction? Or families has she ruined? How many has she killed?
I retrieve my faithful trench coat from the wardrobe, and slip into it easily. It hugs me like an old friend.
Now I’m ready.
The restaurant is across the other side of town. ‘Stay here,’ I say to Tommy, but he doesn’t listen.
The traffic is heavy, and I keep checking the illuminated display on my dashboard as I run the options over in my mind. There’s the messy option. I finger the suppressed Sig P232 surreptitiously hidden in one of the deep, inside pockets of my coat. I could follow her home from the restaurant and blow her brains out as she walked from the safety of her car to her front door.
‘You don’t want to do that,’ says Tommy. ‘You don’t like mess.’ I agree that there are cleverer, more subtle ways of achieving the same results.
The traffic has been at a complete standstill for the last ten minutes and I start to sweat. The man on the radio tells me there’s been a crash on the M1. Bugger.
Even following backroads, I arrive late, and my heart sinks as I realise she isn’t sitting at any of the restaurant tables. Disappointed, I turn towards the carpark, and then I see a familiar face stumbling across the street into a dirty looking bar. The enthusiasm returns, but I hesitate, reading the neon sign above the dingy venue. ‘Tommy’s Bar.’ How fitting.
When I enter, she is already sitting at the counter, alone, with her head propped up on her hand. I scan the room, but aside from the regular bouncers there is no real security.
‘She’s probably not even a drug dealer,’ says Tommy. ‘At least, not a ringleader.’
He’s probably right, considering the lack of personal security, but I ignore him, trying to stay focused. Tommy stands beside me, his face tilted upwards. ‘Maybe she’s the wife of some rich businessman who finds divorces too messy. Or perhaps an affronted ex-lover has decided that if he can’t have her, no-one can.’
I frown. He isn’t talking like a kid anymore, but I suppose it has been six years.
Telling Tommy to disappear, I feel inside my coat for the small vial. Then I walk casually across the crowded room and, from a metre away, squirt the clear, tasteless substance into her drink. I stay just long enough to make sure she takes a sip, and no longer. I don’t need to see the aftermath.
Tommy meets me outside. ‘Go away,’ I say brusquely.
‘She probably has kids too, you know,’ he declares. ‘What do you think was under all the blacked out bits on the paper.’
‘She was a sinner Tommy, just like your father.’
Tommy’s eyes well with tears, and I feel terrible. Both for what I just said and for what I did six years ago.
‘Look bud, I’m doing this for you, you know. I’m like the grim reaper, but I only take the bad ones.’
I reach out to ruffle his hair, but he disappears in front of me.
I sigh, feeling glad that they leave out the details of the families now. Otherwise I’d have a lot of bad memories following me around.