The alarm on his phone was fifteen minutes away from buzzing, but Tom was already wide awake. Sleep had become a luxury he couldn’t afford anymore, and when the alarm did finally chime from his phone, Tom sluggishly got up from his bed. Another long day ahead to wade through, he thought to himself.
Since Marla had broken up with him, Tom had become an empty shell of a man, it was as if Marla had reached into Tom and grabbed his soul and taken it along with her, leaving him as vacant as his apartment. His endless pleas did not bring her back, neither did the flowers, nor did the letters. When he had exhausted all options of bringing her back, Tom decided to put himself out of his misery, but the means to his end were either painful or needed a doctor’s prescription, or required the false bravado to run a blade through his veins. Why should he be the one to die? He asked himself one day. Shouldn’t it be Andrew? That smooth-talking son-of-a-bitch who had come out of nowhere and taken his Marla away from him?
His Marla, he missed the way she twirled the curls of her hair when she was lost in her thoughts, he missed the way she’d nuzzle her nose against his neck while he was watching the television, he missed the way she’d talk nineteen to the dozen a moment, and fall asleep the very next, he missed the way her hands ran over his hair while he was reading the morning daily, he missed the way they lay in bed and made conversations out of nothing on a warm Sunday afternoon. And now, it will be Andrew who would have his fingers moving through the curves of her body, it would be Andrew who would listen to her breathe while she slept next to him, her face resting on the rise and fall of his chest. It would be all Andrew, Andrew had to go.
Tom was once a funny, generous and friendly man, today, the only remaining trait left in him was his generosity. Now, he drank generously and mingled selectively. It is perturbing how pointless life becomes when the only person around whom your life used to revolve, leaves you. Tom would only speak until he was spoken to, he wandered the corridors of his office aimlessly like the zombies from that TV show he used to watch along with Marla, curled up on their couch in the living room. During lunchtime his mind would wander to thoughts of torturing Andrew, hurting him while Marla watched, a satisfied smirk would sprout around the corner of his lips, one that would vanish as quickly as it had appeared once his mates prodded him. But that was all those would remain as, thoughts, Tom sighed. Tom wanted to kill, he wanted to make Marla pay for what she had done to him. She had turned him into a rabid dog that wouldn’t stop until it sank its teeth into the flesh of the one it had been faithful to. But, he knew he could never do that to her, he didn’t have the heart to pull the trigger even if he were given a chance to get away with it. His spirit may have been broken, his faith may have been lost, but Tom still had his conscience intact. The truth was simple, Tom could never kill, even if it gave him a sadistic pleasure to hurt the one who had betrayed him. Tom couldn’t kill even out of spite, for Marla’s absence had become too heavy a cross to bear. He couldn’t imagine a future without her, but he had to make her pay.
Zeus was skimming through the classifieds section of The Tuesday Daily when he found what he had been looking for, another job that required his special set of skills. It had been a while since he had been employed in a job that had asked for his expertise, he fished for his phone out of his pocket and dialed Handler, as was the norm for jobs such as these. Handler would screen the advertisement, after which he would get in touch with the person who had posted the ad, checking for the veracity of the job and negotiating the payment. After the background check performed and the requirement deemed to be “genuine” the Handler and Zeus would meet in a dingy pub in the suburb to discuss over the when and the how of going about the job.
Zeus never met with his clients, if things went down the crapper the anonymity maintained between Zeus and his clients would make it harder for the law enforcement agencies to trace things back to him. The deal was always taken care of by Handler, who acted as a liaison between Zeus and his client, in this case it was Tom. They had met in a crowded mall-- a cloak and dagger affair--heavily dressed to maintain their anonymity with neither of them wanting to be recognized by the other. Tom had a cap on with shades covering his eyes, and a heavy overcoat covering his slim build. He had taken enough effort to make sure his movie star looks never stood out from the crowd. Handler had been a part of enough such meetings and had come out of them as incognito as he had gone in, yet, his years with the Secret Service had taught him to never be complacent with his appearance, he took pains to look ordinary.
On a cold Wednesday morning, when the only people in the mall were the employees of the stores it housed, they had met each other near the large fountain that lay right in the middle of the sprawling courtyard. Just two middle-aged men, probably unemployed, catching up for a drink too early in the day as they bitched about their wives, and lament on how unfair the world had been to them. But all that happened was a solemn exchange of the envelope which had the pictures of the mark in it, and a piece of paper with the number of a bank account to which the money for the job had to be transferred.
“His office is at the Millennium Towers, he works from Monday to Friday and gets off work at 5.30 in the evening. He carries a brown leather bag to work and has a black Saints cap on, it would be hard to miss. I will wire you half the amount now, the rest will be done once I read about it in the papers.” Tom whispered hoarsely, and then he added “I want it to be done in one clean shot through the head, he should never see it coming.”
“It will be done.” Was all Handler said.
It was a Thursday, Zeus had chosen a building under construction as his vantage point. He had been studying his target for a week. His mark was slim-built, with a week’s growth of beard and unkempt hair that needed to be trimmed, he had a set routine, enter at 9 a.m. exit at 5.30 p.m. He would enter Millennium like a man walking his last mile taking each step in trepidation. He would walk in with his shirt tucked in, but it always found a way to sneak out of his waist by the time he got out of work. Zeus had taken pains to set the vantage point, to gauge the right distance from Millennium while aiming at his target, and the escape route through the fire escape. He took cover on the ninth floor of the building. Dressed in a plain sky-blue shirt and cream chinos, with a briefcase that could hold the blueprints to the building but had the unassembled parts of an M25 Sniper Rifle in it instead, Zeus very much looked the part of an architect. He waited patiently for his digital watch to dawdle past 5.30, and when it did, he craned his neck towards the entrance of Millennium as he saw the employees hurriedly file past the entrance.
He took a deep breath and wrapped his finger around the trigger and aimed the rifle toward the exit gate. He spotted his mark lingering far away from the crowd savoring each step on his way out, like he was in no hurry to go home. Zeus squeezed the trigger when the target was in the center of the crosshairs, the barrel spit a muffled cough as the bullet zipped out and hit its mark.
The Saints cap flew off his head from the impact the bullet had made on his forehead as he dropped his mobile phone and the briefcase. As promised to Tom, he never saw it coming. A moment ago he was trundling toward the parking lot thinking of reasons to go home to an empty apartment, he had nobody waiting for him, no more Marla. And in the very next he lay sprawled to the ground glad that the misery was finally over, as blood oozed from his forehead. The people around him thought the man had a heart attack, but when they saw a man next to the fallen shriek in horror at the bloody mist that had sprayed across his face, it then dawned on them of what had happen.
A phone rang next to the now dead body.
A dazed bystander picked up the phone and pressed the button and held it to his ear.
“It’s done” was all Handler said before he hung up.