A vial, full of breathless deception. Plastic bottle of sulfuric acid. Two magazines brimming with brass and lead. Silencer. All there. He eased the black metal cylinder out of its nylon strap, turning its oiled threading onto the tip of the pistol. Chambered a round and flicked off the safety. It was a soothing ritual. He lowered the weight-altered pistol in his right hand, upside-down, pointing the muzzle behind him, toward the wall of the bedroom. There was a long wait coming—no point holding it by its grip and risking hand cramps. He stood to the side of the door, out of sight from the other room, statue-like in a constellation of tasteful art prints and heavy furniture. He dropped into meditation, halting pointless speculation before it could take flight. Only the flowing of breath punctuating inner silence.
When he next opened his eyes, the afternoon had turned away, lost to the rotation of an indifferent planet. Orange beams cut brilliant stripes across the suite’s curtains. Footsteps outside the door had disrupted his peace. Then came the faint rasping of a plastic cardkey in the electronic lock on the other side of the door. Again. And again.
His heartbeat considered rebelling as a deep-breathing mass invaded the silence of the darkening hotel suite, stepping heavily into the living room/kitchen/guest bedroom. The door grimly latched itself shut. These moments required a distinct type of meditation, erecting walls only on the sides of the brain. He needed to remain in the present, but contained in a shell of focus. He registered a sucking sound as a cheap refrigerator door seal released its hold. Then the quiet cacophony of glass bottles tumbling as a careless hand disturbed their cheap mannequin poses.
Irregular, stumbling footsteps approaching the bedroom. “Nothing but euro-piss. Not even any goddamn whiskey.”
No room for contempt. He would feel that later. He steadily raised the pistol to eye level, reinforcing it with his left hand. A slow inhalation.
He felt the gentle kick of the pistol, jumping soullessly as it heaved a hot sliver of metal into close-cropped hair. The head jerked unnaturally sideways before the body crumpled.
That was the secret; you started thinking of them as bodies when you first got the job, and never stopped. That way, when their wide-eyed faces caught you unsuspecting, blood running from dark nostrils, they were only portraits of history. No more disturbing than the mummies of the Egyptian Museum, seen as a child. That was the theory anyway.
‘He violated the contract.’
He knelt precisely and retrieved a small brass casing from the cream carpet, innocent in its diminutive size and simple shine. Slipped it into a pocket. The light on the curtains had pooled into the room, congealing into a dark purple. Moving mechanically, he flicked the pistol’s safety back on, unscrewed the silencer, and replaced both inside his leather jacket. Next he removed the vial, uncapped its plastic lid, and shook the hairs it contained onto a tightly gloved hand. Lies in fiber form. Two on the body, one on a chair, another on the floor. After replacing the vial, he opened the plastic bottle and tipped steady drops of clear liquid onto the forehead of the body, where they began to bubble and smoke. The hair and modus operandi were lifted from an Italian serial killer. Useful for burying an investigation.
‘Lead us not into temptation’ he thought, replacing the bottle’s lid with an unworried hand.
The light in the room was now a deep violet, which flowed into a moonless dark as his legs carried him into the deepening night.