I woke up with a dog licking my face. It wasn’t my dog. Boss is a retriever. This one was of unknowable lineage, smaller, faster. The moment I opened my eyes, the dog stopped, chomping at the bit to resume. We stared it out very briefly, perfectly still, hypnosis only averted by his tail thrashing leaves off the plant. When he sounded the tremble of a dog about to be freed I took my chance to retreat, wrapped up tight, rolled over, tried to cover all entry points.
His wet snout burrowed and snuffled and growled to get amongst the covers. It only took him a few seconds to strike gold with an exposed armpit.
The dog left the room victorious and probably to report back to whoever’s house it was. Whose dog was that? Where was I? Two fundamental start points for the day.
I got up and made quiet stealth, barefoot on the stone floor, invading the hallway, then round the corner to a big bright room, ninja quiet, listening.
Holy shit. It was a big room and the walls were all glass. It was like being in a treehouse, trees for miles and miles. There was still no sound from anywhere in the house. It was so quiet it felt like being deaf. I poked a finger in my ear and heard that. I was fine. Silence is often more frightening than noise. There should always be the sound of something, the low drone of the fridge, the breeze blowing the branches about, various plumbing-related gurgles, but this was black silence.
I remembered something from a dream I didn’t know I’d had. There was so much more to the dream I just knew it, but I only remembered how I felt. I felt totally useless, like I’d been weak and pathetic, run away from something. I felt ashamed of having been that person. I’ll bet it was Zero, Zero by name, Zero by nature.
I don’t mind when some of them occupy me but Zero. It’s like he’s better than the rest of us because he was first. Oh, and 37, who’s just so mind-numbingly enlightened.
I’m 73 by the way. Today is just another $20,000 day to do something deadly to somebody I’ve never met.
Alright, calm down. Business. It’s a job and a damn good job. Philosophically, I do it to maintain my trust in the randomness of probability.
Horseshit, I kinda love it. Well, I don’t love it so much as I love being so good at it, good at what I do. I don’t think it’s soulless to take pride in one’s work as long as you treat the situation with respect.
You may think it shouldn’t be easy keeping appointments with everyone else in me waiting for their piece of daylight. But so far, and it’s been a long while, I’ve never missed one. If I had I wouldn’t be here.
The silence in the house gave me time to double-check the details. My phone made an annoying beep as it came to life. First slip of the day. Twelve midday at the Wisteria Cafe on Kepler Street. He’s always first there when they open. He takes a little solo table at the back of the terrace and reads his paper.
Fine. It was 11 am. I needed to get ready. As my attention turned from the sounds of the house to exiting the house, I noticed something familiar in the room. It was a framed photo over on a big dark oak dresser by the window.
I got my phone out and checked but sure as daylight, it was him. My mark.
He had to be here. It was the first thing he did on a Sunday. Head out to the wisteria cafe. He had to be upstairs.
I got my luger out and changed tack again as I scanned for the stairs.
I couldn’t think about it too much in-mission but how the hell did I wake up in my mark’s house? Maybe he knows someone else inside me. Just happens to be my mark.
Can’t compute. Point taken but a mark is a mark.
At that moment all the sounds in the house that had been hiding up until now, broke free from somewhere upstairs. Doors slammed and at least one human and one dog descended the stairs at speed like a herd of wildebeest.
The stairs were long enough to allow me to slip behind a door off the main room and I left enough of it open to see as everyone hit the ground floor. There, strolling the other way with dog at his heels was my mark. Clear as day.
The dog was a problem. I needed to separate him from the dog because I’m not having that again. I could just shoot the dog but that would give him a head start and at no time has any animal been hurt in my missions, nor any bystanders. Just the mark. I told you I’m good at what I do.
And this dog and I have been intimate.
I heard the jingle of keys and the noise of a wagging dog been scratched and tickled and generally wound up. Maybe he takes the dog for a walk first. The dog’s never been at the cafe with him. He’d have to come back here first.
But when the mark went down another flight of stairs, the dog knew he was to stay up here. The front door slammed and the dog embarked on his daily ritual of home alone. He sprinted back up the stairs and it was my chance to get the mark alone.
I slipped out of the same door he did and I was just in time to see his car pull round in front of me. The mark caught me out of the corner of his eye, stopped and opened his window.
‘Hey, sorry, were you just in my house? How did you…”
Tap. Forehead. Tap. Side of the head. I checked round to see if anyone else was about but there was no-one apart from the dog, still wagging its tail, looking down from the window wall in the main room.
Please vote for how the story should progress and use the comments facility to contribute to the story.
Whose story is it next? 4? 13?
Or do we stay with 73? Does 73 keep the dog and Boss has a friend?
Suggest another personality?