The assassin

A short story after a long time! I got caught with exams and could not post. For a change, this one is a thriller. Also, I set this in the US, unlike my usual stories. Enjoy!

Breathe in. Breath out. Stay calm.

After a year, it had finally come to this. He stood in the shade near the house, with the gun clutched tightly in his hand. He kept tightening his grip every now and then, as if to reassure himself that it was there. The wind howled around him and threw snow into his face. But his gaze was focused on the path from where his target would emerge. This winter cabin was on top of a small hill, and the rough path was the only way to the cabin. He would see his man before the target saw him.

Winter Woods

He kept hearing the words of his instructor. Breathe in. Keep the hand steady. Keep your center of gravity low. Do not give the target a chance to respond. Aim for the center. Fire off multiple rounds. Breathe out. Part of him wondered whether now that it had come to this, he would be able to take another man’s life. Another part of him crushed the thought.

He was not used to outdoor work. His work was with computers. He was one of the best hackers in the country, working for the government. He used to stay in so much that his colleagues gave him a nickname – “The Vampire”. And yet, here he was, gun in hand, about to kill a man.

The face of his target swam in front of his eyes. It had been burned into his memory since that fateful day, when his life had been changed upside down. Almost against his will, his mind replayed, for the millionth time, the events of that tragic day, and the chain leading up to today.

He had married his high-school sweetheart and gone on honeymoon to Hawaii. They had stayed at the Royal Hawaiian, one of the best luxury resorts in the country. Celebrities routinely stayed there, and they heard that the Governor was staying there when they checked in. From their room balcony, they looked out onto the brilliant blue of the ocean, and the sunlight dancing on the waves. It was perfect.

Down at the swimming pool, they had made new friends. Most of them seemed the show-off type but there had been one guy he had liked. He had not quite remembered the guy’s name, but had enjoyed the conversation. An investment banker from New York. Seemed to know a lot about computers too, which was rare. They chatted on about their taste in music and books before parting to get ready for the party later that night.

The party was in full swing by the time they entered. They were excited to see the Governor there as well. She wanted to talk to the Governor, and so they weaved their way slowly through the crowd. Wherever they went, heads turned to look at her. He felt proud of her beauty. The Governor seemed nice, shook hands with them and made small talk. He looked behind the Governor and saw the glint of metal. He saw, almost in slow motion, as the investment banker raised a gun. Somebody else had seen it too, and a shout of “GUN” went up. He heard the blast of the gun. With reflexes beyond his age, the Governor dropped to the floor, barely missing the bullet intended for him. He turned to her and saw her chest covered with blood.

No. No. This cannot be happening. They were married just a few days ago. He had waited so long to marry her. She had been his entire life. Rushing, he carried her to the first aid ward. But it was too late. She clutched his hand and smiled. That sweet, radiant smile that he had fallen for, all those years ago. Everything stopped in the world, and he relived their moments over the years in a single instant. And then she was gone.

Everything was a blur after that. The present and the future held no meaning anymore, so his mind lived in the past. He vaguely remembered the funeral, and the meaningless sentences that everyone threw at him. He went through the motions of life like a zombie. It was while he was reading the newspaper one day that his remaining purpose in life came to him.

The search for the assassin had been called off, citing lack of leads. Another piece speculated that it was because the opposition party and the ruling party had made up, and hence the murder was not investigated anymore. He knew what he had to do. He used his contacts to gather as much detail as possible on the assassin. It was the first time he was glad he was working for the government. He traced the wire transfers that the assassin got as payment for a kill. The killer was clever, he would give him that. Every payment went back and forth over a dozen banks, and many bank accounts spread over different countries, making it almost impossible to get a court permit to look at all the records. But he was not working within the law.

One morning, after about a week of working non-stop, he finally found the killer. The assasin had just finished a major kill, and was planning to relax at his secluded winter cabin on the Devil’s Hill. How apt the name was. He had scrambled to get a gun and learn the basics from the his instructor. He knew he would be no match for a trained assassin. But the thought of trying gave him peace. The thought of being killed by the same man who killed her seemed strangely poetic. What if he would be killed? He would see her again.

And so it had come down to this. His breath caught in his chest as he saw the outline of someone walking up the hill. He hid a little more in the shadows. The guy came up and took out his keys to unlock the door. He stepped out of the shadows. “Hey”. The guy turned in shock. Yes, it was the same face. No time to think now. Do it! Do it! Do it!

He raised his gun and shot three times, right in the centre of the guy’s chest. The sound of the gun was deafening to his ears, even though he knew the storm would suppress the sound. The guy went down. He thought he saw a hint of a smile on the guy’s face as he dropped. He knelt and checked the pulse. It was gone. The thing was done.

He let out a primal scream that even the wind could not suppress. And then he started to cry, as everything that had happened crashed through his mind and losing her felt real in a way it had not before. He did not know how long he was on his knees, crying. Finally, he felt at peace. He rose up and walked down the hill.

After a while, the assassin rose. He opened the cabin and went inside. He removed the protective vest from under his shirt. He stood at the window and watched his would-be killer walk down the hill. So the old trick of reducing his pulse worked after all. He had known the hacker was on his trail for months. The hacker was good, but not the best. You did not survive in the assassin business if you were not the best at every aspect. He had tiny little sensors that would go off when anyone was checking his trail. They were impossible to detect unless you were looking for them. The hacker had missed them.

He had spied on the hacker after the first alert. He had seen the zombie life that the guy was leading. He had remembered the couple as they were at the resort. So full of life and excitement. And the look between them. It was true that love was in the eyes. He had remembered, how almost a lifetime ago, he had felt that sort of love. He had remembered his wife, and all that she had meant to him. It was the killing of his wife that had gotten him started in the assassin business all those years ago.

The killing of the hacker’s wife had been an accident. But he knew there were things for which you did not just say “Sorry” and walk away. The hacker’s life could be redeemed only by a death – either the hacker’s or his own. And so he had planned this. He had left information lying about that showed he would visit this cabin. He had chosen this place because it was secluded – nobody would hear the gun shot. Police did not patrol this way. He planned to wear the metal vest. He practised his pulse-lowering technique.

Of course, there had been risks. A professional would have popped two bullets into his head just to make sure he was dead. But he gambled that the hacker would not do so. He was willing to take that risk. After all, an assassin is an expert at assessing and managing risk. Another man would have actually died at the hacker’s hands, in repentance for all the kills, all the blood on his hands. But he was not that stupid.


35 thoughts on “The assassin

  1. Hey nice story. I liked the happy ending 🙂
    I’d really love some more details – and I believe they matter a lot to increase the suspense! I wanted to know about the gun involved!! Seems to be a 9mm since it was from close range?

    things I am pondering about right now –
    – the hacker checked for pulse and not blood? shooting 3 bullets from point-blank range will produce blood, and I’m sure the hacker has played Counter Strike 😀
    – I wonder if in real life, a cold blooded assassin will ever take this big a risk for something not involving a kill. I mean since a political figure was killed there has to be some non zero chance that a professional might accompany the hacker

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Glad you liked it. Check out my other short stories too! Ya, it would have been 9 mm.

      As to your questions:
      The assassin fell down facewards, with his body covering any blood marks. The easiest way to check was pulse. Remember that the hacker would have been a little rattled after his first kill. Also, he had no reason to investigate thoroughly – all his expectations were met: he shot a man, man goes down, the pulse goes off. It’s similar to magic – As long as you give what the audience expects, you can get away with a lot of stuff.

      The assassin was watching the hacker too – After all, he planned the whole thing. He knew when the hacker was coming, with whom and so on. So no real risk in that aspect. The main danger was a head shot, the risk of which he is willing to take. As to whether an assassin would do it, depends 🙂 Nobody is completely cold-blooded. People do risky things when they get emotionally involved.

  2. Vc
    Assassin story koda, happy ending with the assassin having a good heart vachu mydichitta 🙂 nice one. This is like short film. Just a neyyar virupam Next time do not give us pictures of the place instead write about it so we can imagine. Keep it coming.

  3. Hey Vijay! good one..:) I actually liked this one more than your usual romantic ones.. I also liked the fact that it was short..:D all your stories seem to be from the point of view of a guy.. try it the other way..lets see how much you know how girls think ;):D

    1. Morea! Wow 🙂 When I make it short, people miss the details 🙂 Next one will be long again 😀

      Ya the next one is going to be from a girl’s viewpoint 😀 It’s guaranteed to be horrible, but I want to give it a try 🙂

  4. Well written! 🙂 I would’ve liked a little more intensity in the ending! 😛 Did you by any chance cut down on describing, to keep the story short? I liked the way you painted some scenes in your earlier writings and was expecting a bit of them, here too 🙂 Nevertheless, a very good one! 🙂 Keep writing!!!

  5. It was awesome! The ending is very clever but I am wondering if an assasin could be that good to risk his life. Still a very good ending and nice writing – it was a bit short – add more details though I too feel a story like this is best kept short as otherwise the pace would wane. Keep writing!

    1. Yup that was exactly my reasoning too. But still, I think I should added some more detail to the conclusion and talked about why the assassin did what he did a bit more.

      What was in my head when I wrote this: When you connect at a personal level with a person/situation, you tend to do things and take risks beyond what you normally would do. The hacker’s situation and the assassin’s past were strikingly similar, and it was in these exact circumstances that the assassin started in this line of trade. So he feels some empathy for the hacker, and decides to take the risk. There is also an element of guilt on the part of the assassin here – In his past, he was tormented by the man who killed his wife, and now he himself has become his nightmare.

  6. Nice thriller da! Especially the ending was very good. Very clever idea about the assassin anticipating everything..Keep it up!

  7. Good one anna! I liked it.

    The only negative i noticed – You were a little hasty in explaining all the details. Instead of trying to be completely correct not leaving any logical loop holes, You can try to leave certain things to imagination. Just a suggestion!

    Great job otherwise. Keep it coming 🙂

  8. Good one Vijay. Liked it.

    But, like a lot of people have already said , a detailed description and more emotion (may be) would have made it better. This felt like a trailer to a short story 🙂

    1. Lol, I got similar comments for Quarter Life crisis. It’s kind of tough to do details in a shorter format. I think I will switch between the shorter and the longer formats for the stories.

  9. heya lol. I’m just a stranger here and I just surfed up your wordpress randomly.
    Anyway, it was a great effort of piecing the story together but I’d like to make a few comments haha 🙂

    Hmm.. cool story. The beginning was well-developed, saturated with much tension and the flow of the story seemed very fast-paced, so I guess the story could be crafted with a little more organisation in terms of tension – When your story is completely compounded with increasing tension, your reader would pretty much lose interest unless there’s a moment of relief. But since this is a short story, it wasn’t too bad. You could have a progressive build-up of tension.. Phrases like “he finally found the killer” is too monotonous to read just like that. You could probably have worked on it by reflecting on the effort he took, or you could have included the contrast of his character and what sparked him to “find” the killer. An avalanche of questions definitely swam around as your story lose it’s substance, or rather the hook as it progressed (Im sorry).. Diction could have been varied to include more metaphors, irony, or even dramatic irony. You could absolutely have included a little unexpected twist as the events were very expected.

    Well.. it was a great effort overall! You are a good writer! 😀
    p.s. I’m not a really excellent writer myself but these are what I felt when reading your story 🙂
    Oh and in a nutshell, try to show not tell. 🙂 Phrases like “He was willing to take that risk” could be replaced by something like.. “His facial expression fell, and his hands turned clammy as his mind was eliciting the valour out of him to (do that task), but his heart was trapped in a cage, refusing to step out and palpitated against his rib cage. The only audible sound was his heart, dissolving the rationale his mind was exuding out to him. His bravery didn’t match up to this fearful, cowardly heart as his knees buckled, his feet shifted and his torso turned. He trudged back. A coward. His mind was now tormenting him as to why he didn’t inch closer. However, that faint sound kept fading away in the distance, as his heart began beating softer, until his fear had gone. His conscious had no control of the movements of his body. His feet shuffled again, and the eagle within him soared as his boldness returned. Valour. Risks were all he took, after what seemed like a treacherously indefinite battle. Intrepidity. He had plenty of it. All to himself” Well, I’m not trying to boast.. but I actually kinda get around pages of blogs and write these stuff. So.. but but but! You are really great! Loved the story plot and way to GOO! 😀

    Well.. Much said! 🙂

    With much regards,
    Sharm 🙂

    1. Wow this must be the longest comment ever! I agree with you that I could have made it more descriptive. I was trying out a terser style here, hence I dropped everything which I felt would have slowed down the story. Check out my other shorts if you want more descriptive stuff. Thanks for the feedback!

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