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I creep along the floral wallpapered hallway, the colors muted under the moonlight filtering in from the kitchen. The house is silent, nothing rustles, and I steady my steps.

Black-wood picture frames speckle the large print flowered wall, showing the same faces in different places, some smiling, some with disdain for having a photo taken in the first place.

Who takes so many photos? Were they attempting to document their family love, the supposed glue that holds them together? Christ, how lame can they get? There were no smiles, hugs, and hanging out where I group up.

I finger one picture in particular: a single woman, long brown hair, soft eyes, a sleepy smile with an easy breeze splaying her hair away from her face. She’s beautiful, seems kind, but she wouldn’t care for me—no one good cares for a killer.

The woman is familiar somehow, maybe a younger version of the woman I was hired to kill? I secretly hope not, wishing she’d stay in the picture with the sea breeze combing her hair, enjoying the sunshine.

Another photo, an older woman—the same image I was presented with when hired. A matured version of the younger woman—older, plumper. Her smile is bright, belying the truth of who she is and what she does for a living. For a moment, I study her face and her family’s faces, the sand sifting in between their toes, and the ocean water that hides their calves from view.

That’s how it goes sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes the worst of us are the prettiest. I quietly chuckle. Maybe she would care for me, a branch from the same tree, her having murdered more than I’d ever killed in a lifetime. Beauty can be so darn deceptive.

I shrug my shoulders, pull the 9mm Glock from my side holster, check the pipe for a ready-to-shoot round, and move to the closed door in front of me. The brass knob twists easily in my leather-gloved hand. There is nothing more irritating than cranky knobs shouting intruder.

I swing the door wide, careful to guide its resting point, and peer in. A four-poster bed stands before me. Heavy, dark-colored curtains obscure the bedroom window’s view—a spectacular beach scene, black-blue waters, and pale sand.

I sweep my attention to the bed, where two people sleep, one rounder than the other. The rounder lump is most likely my target, but it doesn’t matter; the other will have to go too, just for being there.

I aim at the first one’s covered head, but hesitation stiffens my index finger. My breath catches in my throat.

Why can’t I pull the trigger?

I scratch my head with the barrel of my pistol. I am fairly new at killing, but still, this isn’t supposed to happen. What’s wrong with me, reconsidering my turn against humanity?

You know what this line of work is all about, I berate myself. Curly went over it, trained you, readied you for this. Do you know what he’ll do to you if you don’t go through with it? I shudder to think. Curly is ruthless, volatile at the most unexpected of moments.

Better step in and shoot them dead.

Curly’s voice bobs to the surface of my mind, “One day, out of the blue, you’re going to hesitate, Billy Boy. Nothing about it will make any goddamn sense, but you will, and then you’ll know if you’re a true killer or not.” He laughed then, a menacing laugh that chilled my insides, but I brushed off his warning, staying cool, and said, “No way. Won’t happen to me. I got this.”

Now here I am, hesitating. Damn it!

“Remember, if you hesitate—I know, I know, you won’t, but if you do, two things. First, it’s a damn job. Just do it—no big deal. Second, money. Lots of goddamn money.”

It being “a damn job” didn’t spark my feet, but the idea of money did.

I pivot around, sidle up to the end of the four-poster bed, and pop each in the head. Both bodies jerk as the bullets drill their skulls.

No problem here.  I got this.

Image from Kytalpa from Pixabay.

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