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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Crime/Gangster · #2313110
I'm only a man with a candle to guide me...
I was awakened at 2AM by the shattering of glass somewhere in the house. I shot upright in bed. My wife pressed her hands over her mouth, her face ghastly pale in the dark room.

"Lock yourself in the bathroom and dial 911."

I knew the security system would summon the cops, but I yanked the bedside drawer open and grabbed my revolver. I rushed down the hallway and into the living room.

Two masked men stood there with guns. I shot twice and they both went down. Well, that was simple. Or so I thought.


As a bank clerk, I fussed and fretted a lot about money. There never seemed to be enough for everything that the wife and kids needed or wanted.

It was about a month after I had to kill the two men who had broken in. The situation had been cleared with the police, as it was an obvious case of self-defense.

I had to stay late at the bank, and the brief winter day was long gone by the time I approached my car in the lot. I heard footsteps behind me. Then it felt like a tremendous explosion went off inside my head.


I came to in a room somewhere, sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, with my hands tied behind me.

"Oh, he's awake. Hey, Kevin. Time to meet the Boss."

A big burly guy pulled me to my feet and led me into another room, an office. A fat guy was sitting at the desk, smoking a cigar. I could tell he was a wannabe Al Capone. The first guy plunked me into a chair and left.

"Okay, what's the big idea here?" I growled. "Am I being held for ransom?"

"No, that's not what's going on," the boss said smoothly. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Frank, leader of the local branch of the mob. You are here because of the measures you took against the two men who broke into your house last month."

"If they were associated with you, they deserved to die. Did you really expect me to take an armed home invasion lying down?"

"Ah, but it was a mistake." Frank leaned over the desk and glared at me. "This was no robbery. This was a hit job. They had the wrong house."

"Oh, is that right? Well, too bad. Looks like I did the world a favor."

"You didn't do me no favor!" Frank roared. "You idiot—you took down my two best hitmen! Don't you realize what this means? You're a marked man."

A sickening flush of fear swept over me. My head was throbbing where I'd been hit.

"So I'm about to die because your men were too stupid to get the right house?"

"Not necessarily," Frank replied with a slow grin. "I have an offer for you… a job offer."

"What, you think I'm going to be your replacement hitman? Fat chance."

Frank stood up, came around the front of his desk and placed his hands on my shoulders. His dark brown eyes drilled narrowly into mine.

"Listen, you killed two men with two bullets in two seconds. That's exactly the skill we're looking for. Do you realize how much money you'll make?"

"I'm not going to be a murderer for hire."

"You're the one who said you did humanity a favor by bumping off those two. I'm just asking you to do a few more favors, with recompense."

"You're crazy. I'm not doing it."

"Go ahead, name your year's salary."

I grunted. Thought a moment and named the amount of money it would take to pay off our mortgage, close to half a million dollars. Surely this Frank guy would balk. He chuckled.

"That comes out to less than a hundred grand per person. A reasonable price to pay for your marksmanship. Now come on, wouldn't you like to have that kind of money just for ridding the world of certain undesirable people?"

I wriggled in my seat, trying to break my hands free of the ties.

"My perception of those people's undesireability probably doesn't line up with yours."

"This is an offer you cannot refuse, Kevin… I don't suppose you care to see Linda suffer? Or your little boy and girl go missing?"

My eyes widened. A cold shudder ran through my nerves.

"No! Don't touch my family! I'll go ahead and do whatever you want me to do, okay?" My shoulders sagged with the realization of what I was up against.

"You will be well rewarded for your efforts."


And that was how it began. We agreed that I would work as the gang's hitman for a year, collect the money, and then I would be free, as long as I never revealed what I had done. I didn't tell my wife, of course, and she didn't seem to notice that I was spending more time away from home. Her job as a market research analyst for a major public relations firm kept her preoccupied. Sometimes I marvelled at the fact that we had two kids and yet we hardly knew each other anymore.

My first target was a rival gang leader that was on the FBI's most wanted list. I saw no reason to object to that one.

I had to fly to Chicago to find him, and it took almost a week before I had my opportunity, in a poorly-lit parking lot one night. I felt a strange, video-game satisfaction as I took aim and fired. One bullet was all I needed.

That twisted sense of victory, of accomplishment, grew stronger with each target. As the year went by, I found I even looked forward to each assignment. They came every couple of months or so; some took more careful planning than others.

My sole remaining scruple was to ensure my targets never knew what hit them. I reasoned that it couldn't possibly be such a terrible thing if it happened quickly, without a struggle, excessive bloodshed, or the victim's awareness of impending death. Even hunters of animals didn't stick to such standards when stalking their prey.

Finally, the year drew to a close. I was sitting at the kitchen table one evening, planning on how I would explain the half a million dollars to Linda. It would be an inheritance from a great-aunt that had died and left me in her will. A windfall that would take care of our mortgage.

I looked up at the clock on the wall and realized with a shock that I was actually feeling some measure of disappointment at being done with my stint as a hitman. What kind of a person had I turned into, I reflected. Did human life have any significance left to me at all? Who was I going to kill next, my wife? I rested my head in my hands, wishing it was already over and done with so I could try to move on, battling a distasteful blood lust that I had not known was within me.

My cellphone rang. It was Frank.

"Listen, Kevin. We have one final assignment for you. There's a private investigator on our trail, and I want her eliminated."

"Her?" My voice came out a faltering squeak. "You—you've never made me kill a woman before."

"What, are you afraid of women?" Frank's voice was laced with sarcasm. "There's nothing about this one any different from the others. Just happens to be a gal."

"I've already done the five targets we agreed on. I don't want to do another one. Just pay me and let me go."

"Oh, no. You ain't getting out of this that easily. If you don't take care of this one, we'll out you to the cops."

"And you think I can't rat on you the same?"

"Linda, Kevin. Linda. And the kids."

I clenched my jaw. My hand trembled as my grip tightened on the phone.

"I… okay, I'll do it."

"We'll add another hundred thousand to your pay. Enough to buy a Cadillac Escalade along with your house payment."

"I don't care about the money. Just don't touch my family."

Frank laughed.

"Sure, Kevin. Now, here's the rundown. This is no ordinary hit. I want you to be there when our bomb guy attaches an IED to her car."

"What?! Man, that's a bridge too far!"

"You aren't the one blowing it up. Just go along and watch."


"In case anything goes wrong, you'll be the gunman. The guy who does bombs can't shoot straight to save his life."

I rubbed a hand across my wrinkled forehead.

"Yeah, whatever. I'll be there."


It seemed odd that the target was in Atlanta at the same time Linda would be there on a business trip. But I thought nothing of it.

I went down there with Spike, the bomb guy. The guys had already hidden an Apple Airtag on her vehicle, so we knew where it would be. When it appeared at the parking lot of a grocery store in the Alpharetta suburbs, late in the evening, we were ready.

"Say, that's the same make and model as my wife's car," I remarked as we pulled into the lot.

"What does she do for a living?" Spike inquired.

"Market research."

"Oh, really…" Spike chuckled low and unnervingly.

I sat in our car and watched as he got out with his equipment and wired the explosive device to the car's undercarriage. It was timed to detonate within thirty minutes. We would watch from a safe distance to make sure she was there with it, in case the timing was off. I couldn't help wondering why we were going about it in such an odd way.

I got my answer when the lone figure finally came out, carrying a few shopping bags. It was Linda. My heart stopped for several seconds.

"No! That's my wife!"

"Sure she is," Spike laughed. "She's the private eye—didn't you know?"

"You filthy monsters!"

There was barely two minutes left to the countdown. I tried to get out. Spike grabbed me and held me back. I pulled my gun and shot him. I leaped out and ran towards her rigged vehicle, yelling,

"Linda, stop! Get away from the car!"

She jumped and spun around, staring at me in shock. There wasn't a second to lose. I swept her up into my arms and stumbled as far away as I could get.

We were a couple hundred yards away when the explosion came with a dull roar that shook the ground and sent me to my knees. A cloud of dust and bits of shrapnel rained down on us.

When the dust settled we were still on the ground, holding each other tightly.

"I—I need to explain…" I began.

"I already know."


"As an undercover detective, I was working to crack open this gang from the outside." She brushed back her auburn hair and gave me a stern look. "I was hoping you were cracking it open from the inside. I couldn't blow our cover to find out—we would have been in big trouble."

"Oh, I suppose we're all fine now." I managed to make a weak joke as I helped her stand up.

"Unfortunately, it looks like our problems are only just beginning," she said wryly as a fire truck and a squad car pulled in.

I had no idea how I would get us out of this mess. I knew my days as a hitman were over. But would there be a chance to escape the monster I'd become in the process?
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