There weren’t many like him, just a handful in his part of the world perhaps. He was a freelancer whose contracts came to him through a long and convoluted chain with links so temporary and so disconnected that tracing him required Sherlock Holmes in the flesh. But as everyone knows, Sherlock is fictional. Therefore, he continued honing his skills and killing his conscience for way too long without any hiccups! And that, precisely, was the problem. He was getting bored!
But today, here it was! Another ordinary brown envelope with another job! He sighed and prepared for the toss. This was a drill he had followed since the first time. It helped him shed off all responsibility. God decided the outcome of the toss. If God willed that he was to be the instrument in someone meeting their fate, so be it!
The toss itself felt like a prayer to him. Time seemed to slow down when the coin was up in the air. That was a time of magical possibilities. A time suspended between someone’s life and death. The swish of the coin as it somersaulted high into the air sounded like incantations to summon a genie. Him!
These days he derived pleasure only in this act. What followed was merely mechanical.
So, it had to be done. He picked up the envelope on the table in front and opened it deftly.
Cash, coordinates, and a photograph. Like always!
The photograph was of a young boy who seemed vaguely familiar. This was a bad omen! But the toss dictated everything, and there was no going back.
The coordinates took him to a small town in the Alps frequented by hikers. He knew the area from his childhood; picturesque with pine-covered hills and plenty of cover if the need arose.
The target perhaps was a hiker, and accidents from treacherous cliffs weren’t too uncommon in these areas. He would be done with the job and be out in a matter of days.
His modus operandi was a simple 3-step process: Locate. Track. Nullify. No bullshit.
His carefully chosen watch point, the café at the foot of the hills, bustled with hikers at this time of the year. It wasn’t long before his target came sauntering in. But to his horror, the boy walked up to his table and proceeded to occupy the seat right opposite him! That threw him off a bit. He never chatted up his targets.
The boy smiled at him, and gestured to the waiter for coffee.
“It’s getting cloudy” the boy remarked looking directly at him.
He simply nodded in agreement.
“My first time *bushwhacking!”
He studied the boy for a moment. Athletic but lightweight. Physically, no match for him really. Was this an opportunity cropping up?
He decided to take up the lead.
“Alone?” He asked the boy
“Yeah, but I don’t mind company. You game?” the boy replied.
“What’s the trail you’re taking?”
The boy whipped out his phone and showed him the route marked on his GPS. Thickly wooded and taking a sharp mountain ridge.
He took the phone from the boy and zoomed in studying the area and mentally crossing out every possibility of an unwanted outcome. The trail ended in another town which meant that the hikers did not have to return to this side necessarily. “Perfect!”
“Perfect!” repeated the boy and smiled.
They entered bear country a few hours into the trail. One had to be careful in these parts. Bears did not appreciate being taken by surprise. Newspapers frequently reported maulings.
He wouldn’t be able to fake a mauling, so it had to be an accidental fall. The right time, the right moment, and he would be done.
“I gotta pee!” The boy said as he gestured for him to go on ahead. “I’ll catch up.”
Perfect! He would get time to survey the area of the ‘accident’.
As he studied the steep drop, the bushes rustled ever so slightly and before he could react, the animal had him pinned to the ground. He should have seen this coming, His instincts screamed warnings, but with experience comes overconfidence.
The boy stood there looking at him as his Rotweiller-Pitbull mix waited for a command.
“I’ve been a fan, Colin, but time for you to retire! The old order has to make way for the new!”
With that the boy tossed the coin in his hand high up in the air.
Glossary: *Bushwhacking – Hiking off regular trails often into wild terrains.
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