It’s 2AM and your phone has just buzzed you awake, filling the room in white-blue LED light. You have a message. It’s a photo. No words, no explanation. Just a photo. Tell us all about it. And what happens next.
All I want to do is sleep. The red-eye I took from California has personified itself as I am jolted awake in my hotel room in New York. I reach out my left hand for the phone, scars criss-cross the lines on my palm like snake trails across sand. I am used to them and give them no thought whatsoever. My focus is the phone, and I see as I bring it to my bleary eyes, a photo of a building here in New York. It is the New York Times. I know precisely where it is; I’ve been to this city many times. I’ve been to many cities around the world many times; my profession requires me to travel. Extensively.
My name is Troy. I am an assassin.
Switching on the bedside lamp, I breathe deeply and close my eyes against the soft glare. They water slightly as a gritty heat rises then fades to a weary submission. I want to sleep but I must go. With one burly arm, I push back the blanket and slide my legs to hang over the bed. I lift my feet and flex my quads and smile slightly with a raw confidence. I am strong, I am silent, I am mean. I am death.
I do not carry much with me; just essentials. In my holdall, two pairs each of jeans and boxer briefs, black. Two t-shirts, forest green, short-sleeved, crew neck. Four pairs of Hanes crew socks, white. A dobie bag with soap, shampoo, razor, bandaids. One navy blue, V-neck sweater. I will wear a black, boxy leather jacket and carry in my right hand a slim, black briefcase containing my tools. This is the most valuable possession I own. Without it, I cannot do my job; I am unable to function.
It is now 2:20am. I am dressed. I flip the briefcase open to inspect the equipment. I run my torn fingers across the body of the Glock; she’s a beauty in silver. For a moment, I am not here, I am somewhere else in my head, someplace from before. I have an inkling of rushing bodies, confusion, yelling. I can’t grasp it. I notice that these illusions or dreams, whatever they are, are becoming more frequent. I don’t understand them and I don’t care to so I return my attention to the briefcase. Check the silencer, screw it on, unscrew it off. Check for bullets. All is well.
I put my jacket on, sling the holdall over my left shoulder, grab the briefcase, pat my back pocket for the phone, take one last look around the room and leave. Quietly. The room is paid for so I am able to exit the hotel unobserved. I am stealth. Unseen.
The building I am instructed to go to is not very far. I do not waste time with taxis, with socializing, with being seen. I stride to my destination with purpose and keep to the inside of the sidewalks so as to remain in shadow. I have three blocks to go. It is cold but I do not care about the weather. I care only for my gun. I do not care for my target who shall only be revealed once I am there. I care only for the money which will be my reward.
Up ahead, I see a group of boys. I do not falter nor do I slow down but I can sense in their posturing around each other, trouble. I grip my briefcase tighter, look left and right and cross the road. I am too late, for they have seen my diversion. They think I am fair game, a lone man out on the devil streets of New York in the early hours. They begin to shout toward me and upon receiving no reply, convince themselves to poke further. Five or six of them, young men, hop and falter across the road beside as I continue my way forward. They catch up behind me with taunts and threats. They have no idea.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp stick to my left hamstring. I limp to a stop, look down and see a gash in my jeans. Beyond that, a small knife lies flat and shiny on the sidewalk, save for a sliver of my blood attached. I turn around, drop my holdall and confront these hoodlums of the night. They stand in a wicked line, a blockade of attitude, eyes blaring, daring me to come. And I see I have a choice.
Before I can make a decision, they are rushing me. Headlong and vile, spitting curses and thoughtless in their evil, vacant eyes. I have no time for my Glock so I am forced to rely on old skills. They are young and thin and wiry. I am older but I am fit. Strong. Evil with an agenda. And they will not stand in my way. The first one with black, shaggy hair leaps upon me, fists ready with right-angled elbows, and face exposed.
I am there. Again. That place. With the rushing bodies, yelling, grunting. Combat. Hands on. I remember that I could hold a knife without wincing, turn it around and slice a neck open. The kids don’t stand a chance.
When it is done, I am breathing hard. Memories of a job from a former life are fading quickly. The boys are strewn about, broken bones and cords are all that is left of them. I feel no pain from the pathetic stick in my leg so I jog to my holdall, sling it over my left shoulder, pick up my briefcase and continue my shadowy, purposeful walk to The New York Times Building where I will await the next photo. That of my target.