UK Crime Book Club on Facebook is a lively, friendly group of nearly 10,000 readers and writers. They run regular short story events. Here is my recent contribution.
THE ASSASSINATION OF EDDIE TENCH
The target was close now. He could see him, smell him, but the doomed man would never see his soon-to-be assassin. It was as it should be, as it always was.
His focus was totally on the mission. Reasons did not interest him. He took no pride in his work. It was a job. He was tasked to carry out a hit. Success was the only criterion.
No doubts, no shame. He was a murder machine, honed perfectly to his task. It was ingrained, printed into his DNA. There was no stigma when you come from a culture of killing. They knew him only as Spike.
The target was old but it didn’t matter. None of his targets mattered. Men, women or children, old or young, all races, creeds and colours, it just was not important. He never knew the reasons why but the assassin was an equal opportunities killer.
After an active career he was unaffected by death, unconcerned. The people whose lives he touched were just chess pieces, entries on a spreadsheet. They were nothing.
Spike had never known anything else. He’d been brought up to this task. It was his one and only role, his sole reason for existing, kill and move on to kill again.
Many of his contemporaries were gone now. He didn’t know how few of them were left, he suspected not many, but it didn’t bother him.
That was just the way things were, the mission. It was what he had been born to and he would continue to do it until his time came.
That lifestyle might sound bleak to an outsider but it had its upsides too. There was plenty of travel. He’d been to more countries than he could remember. It was exciting at first but they blurred together after a while, became just another routine.
He accepted he was growing weary, burning out. No matter how committed you were to your role it took its toll over time.
He would die eventually. He knew that, It was obvious, especially as his activities were attracting ever-increasing publicity.
The days of working in darkness, exploiting ignorance and misunderstanding, that was long gone.
The glare of public scrutiny didn’t sit well with Spike. The work, by its nature, was highly secret. No interviews. No memoirs. It didn’t matter. No one was interested in their story because they were universally regarded as evil.
The uninformed observer might dismiss his activities as mindless violence but they would be mistaken. Always there was purpose and organisation. He was a professional. But you played the cards you were dealt.
It was good that he did not have to become tainted by the target’s personal details. Their termination was the only consideration.
But if he had been remotely interested it would be hard to think why this old man must die. He was frail, his mind slowly crumbling like a stale biscuit.
But Spike had no conscience, no, never that. It was just the relentless physical challenge. If you gave one hundred percent of your effort and energy to every job it had to come at a cost.
The target slept most of the day. His short waking hours spent watching television that was an anaesthetic for a brain already numbed. It just made the assassin’s work simpler.
The old man’s only other regular activity was a pathetic flirtation with the ward care assistant. Somewhere inside that sweaty, wrinkled head there were synapses, flickering as they withered and died, that projected old memories into his current fading life.
Spike couldn’t remember how long he’d been in this spot but it didn’t matter. Time was not important. He was in the perfect position for the hit. It was only a matter of waiting for the moment.
The killer had seen it all before. Truth be told, he was starting to weary of it all. Perhaps he had seen too much, orchestrated too many deaths.
Target on the move! The assassin was instantly at maximum alertness, ready for anything.
It was an automatic reaction but not really necessary with this target. He was a man of regular habits, simple to track and predict. Old people were easy, slow and frail.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter, he didn’t need reasons. It was his job. If he didn’t do it someone else would.
And the time was now. He sensed the moment to strike would come in the next few minutes. He tensed, alert, ready to attack.
Then a long black cloud came down out of nowhere. Everything went dark. Spike screamed.
‘Edward, You didn’t eat your jelly.’
Eddie Tench looked up, red watery eyes squeezing to focus. Who was she?
Then he recognised the smile. It was Sorina. Lovely young girl. Where was she from? She’d told him but he couldn’t quite remember. One of those old communist countries out east somewhere.
Sorina! That was it, lovely name. Matched her beautiful smile. So much like his Ruthie.
She’d had a beautiful smile too. It’s what had first attracted him. That magic evening at the works’ Christmas dance.
Eddie still missed his Ruthie, so so much. It was like a deep ache that never went away, in his bones and his joints and his muscles, what was left of them after all this time sitting in a damp chair staring at daytime TV.
How long had Ruthie been gone? He couldn’t remember. But it had been an awfully long time.
Sorina tilted her head as she studied Eddie Tench. His colour was still bad. Perhaps more oxygen. She’d speak to the doctor when he came.
‘You sure you do not want your jelly, Edward?’
No he didn’t, never liked strawberry. Ruthie would’ve known that. Half trapped in the past, Eddie Tench couldn’t speak, couldn’t explain, so he just shook his head.
Sorina swept the little jelly bowl off his tray and onto her trolley.
‘So, Edward, you sit there for a little digesting and I will come back soon with your medication.’
Sorina looked at Eddie Tench but his eyes were watering and misted, his thoughts miles and years away. Then she noticed the pudding spoon still lying on the tray.
She plucked it up, wiped it with her disinfectant cloth, dropped it onto the trolley.
And Spike, the last Covid-19 virion, died.
* You can find UKCBC here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1116799071717588/
More of my CoviDiary tomorrow. #StaySafe – Bill
Meet DANNY LANCASTER here http://www.billtodd.co.uk/danny-lancaster-books/