I twisted the silencer gently. Standing on tiptoes, staring up at the spiralling staircase. The floor was carpeted, meaning I could tread lightly without making a clacking noise, like heels on concrete. It was quiet; so far so good.

Sure a gun to someone’s head was less subtle than a poisoning, but it was 100% effective. I could be certain they were dead, I could ring my employer immediately and he’d get the news to the publishers who’d contracted us. Everyone knew it was a contract killing, but to prove whodunnit in a court of law was another matter.

Sometimes three or four companies were in cahoots, and they’d each take turns in making the bidding process look legitimate. If an artist hadn’t released any new material for a reasonable amount of time, they’d probably be advised to start distributing profitable material. Or hire a guard dog, a really sodding loud guard dog. I hate shooting guard dogs, it’s inhumane.

They usually don’t see it coming, asleep in the middle of the night. Soundly dreaming up their next musical failure, an avant-garde number about the futility of life, or a modernist musical about the making of musicals. Terrible things. Terrible things that need to be stopped.

In one of my early encounters, I had a waker, pleading desperately. Shouting absurd things like “I’ll do a duet with Beyonce” and “I’ll write a hundred 4 chord pop songs tomorrow.” Totally delusion, a has-been. It’d been 20 years since he’d even picked up a guitar, let alone written a song. He’d stalled on his autobiography that the publishers had kindly paid an advance for, quite simply: his time was up.

I walked carefully up the first couple of steps, trying to judge the pressure required to avoid the creaking. One that could set off a light sleeper with a mobile phone next to the bed.

I rounded the spiral to find a man pointing an object at me. Maybe I’d been a bit too confident in my ability, maybe he’d been awake the whole time. It didn’t matter, with a couple of quick shots it was all over. I didn’t have time to decipher what he was carrying, it looked gun shaped but I suppose it he’d have wanted me to believe that to stop me from shooting. I’d checked for a pulse, but he was dead, my work was done. I phoned up my boss to confirm and left the house as quietly as I’d arrived.

It’s a misnomer that there’s no such thing as a famous contract killer. The ones everyone’s heard of are all shit at the job, languishing in prisons trying to sell their stories for an early release.

So it was certainly a surprise to be awoken with the news that I was incompetent. On the plus side, I shot the man twice and both bullets would have killed him. Unfortunately, the man was the boyfriend of my target. Had I not glossed over the details, or had I done a quick online search, I would have learnt that Taylor can also be a girl’s name. I had a shitstorm being vocalised down my inner ear that I didn’t care to be part of.

But it was too late, a memo was sent to every news agency describing me as a disgruntled employee, along with a rather fetching photograph of me snarling for the camera.

I actually walked into the police station myself. I sat down in the waiting area staring at coffee stains along the browning dark blue carpet, no doubt infested with 30 years of more intelligent colonies than our own. Nobody came for hours. I began to think I ought to have fled the country. I filled out a job application form, even offered to clean the carpet. The receptionist sat in her glass house, pupils hidden by the bright white light reflected back from the computer. Every breath she took was in exasperation, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was dangerous.

I headed back out into the dusk light, the lampposts sparking into life the colour of my lit cigarette. I saw the police cordon surrounding my apartment, guns ready. Armed and dangerous.

According to the reports I shot first, and I was the only fatality. Over 100 bullets to subdue me, I’d take that as a compliment if I didn’t know the truth. I shook my head in disbelief at the news report, they’d ruined my apartment. I’d paid good money to fix that place up. I wondered who the poor sod was. Set up, tied into place, and target practice for a PR exercise.

I finished my cigarette and checked my messages. Time to go back to work.


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