There’s a moment, just seconds before the act itself, where time slows to a crawl.
It's difficult to put to words the sensation that washes over your body as hunter and prey move closer and closer to the point of finality, when they become, in essence, one. With each tick of the second hand their two hearts beat closer and closer in time until the two are indistinguishable one from the other.
In that moment, and only in that moment, do I pull the trigger and silence one half of the thunderous heartbeat.
The silence in the moments after is almost deafening.
It's the closest thing to knowing the mind of God.
I have often wondered if the target feels the joining as I do? I hope so. It is as intimate a bond as any two strangers can know. I would hate to think that the intended misses out on this beautiful, perfect moment. I suppose I will never know.
I've been asked before how it is that I can do what I do and still sleep at night. There are no words that could ever adequately explain the feeling to one who has never felt the particular tingle that prickles the skin as muscles twitch or heard the satisfying Kra-Kow! of explosive discharge as the rifle bucks in your hand. The only answer I can give them is, “quite comfortably.” I heard it best described once in a movie. “Professional assassination is the highest form of public service.” That's as good a definition as any, I'd say.
From the moment an assignment is accepted, I become the target’s shadow. He doesn’t make a move that I don’t know about. When he goes to eat I am there. When he sleeps, I watch through the scope of my high-powered rifle. Through the crosshairs I track him each step of his day, knowing that with but a single, simple twitch of a trigger finger I can not only end the man’s life, but also change the lives of those closely connected to the target. Like dominoes in a line.
That, my friend, is power.
The power of life.
And all of that power rests in my right index finger. It is not a responsibility I take lightly, mind you. Taking the life of another living being, to snuff out the light of the soul like the candles on a birthday cake. That is pretty heady stuff.
Not the killing, per se.
Any idiot can kill.
What takes skill is doing it right and leaving no evidence.
It is a delicate dance.
I have been doing this job for close to twenty years. In my line of work, that is almost unprecedented. The pay is good, the hours flexible, and the life experience is invaluable. I have traveled the far corners of this earth, set foot in countries that could have been another planet compared to the civilized world I knew. Like any profession, this one has its ups and downs.
You have your good days and your bad days.
No one -and I can't stress this enough- no one is perfect. Even the greatest marksman misses eventually. Simple mathematics. The trick is knowing how to bounce back from your mistakes and to make sure they happen very few and very far between.
The man I have been contracted to hit is a diplomat from a third rate country I had never even heard of before taking the assignment. I watched the target as he exited the United Nations building, briefcase in hand. He seemed awfully happy, as if he had not a care in the world. I wonder if he would be so cavalier if he knew how much money someone in his own government was willing to pay to have him taken out.
In the three and a half days I have been watching this guy several opportunities to put a round in him had presented themselves. While that would have expedited fulfilling my contract, the moment was not right at any of those occasions. Our hearts had not yet begun to beat as one. That was important. I will not pull the trigger until that happens.
And then I heard it, faint at first, as if from a long distance. At first I wasn’t even sure if I had really heard it or if it was my mind playing tricks on me. I strained my ear, listening for that second telltale thump. The seconds seemed to stretch into eternity, but finally I was rewarded by a second occurrence, then a third, and a fourth until finally there was a steady stream of thump, thump, thump.
I was so excited.
The moment was close at hand.
The target rounded a corner and entered the plaza mall. From my carefully selected vantage point I was able to watch without obstacle. A creature of habit, he had been coming to the plaza every day at this time. Predictable. And every day I was there, waiting for him. It’s guys like this that make my job so much easier.
The beating thundered louder and louder until I couldn't take it any more.
My finger, ever so steady, rested on the trigger, waiting for the precise moment.
The target stopped and purchased a snack from a street cart vendor, oblivious to the fact that this would be his last meal. If he had known, I have to wonder if a giant pretzel would have really been his meal of choice.
Louder, louder, and louder still, the beating threatened to deafen me.
And that's when the target, the man I had been contracted to kill, turned and looked directly at me. How he knew I was there was a mystery unto itself. Even more incredible was the smile and tiny little wave he tossed my direction, as if we were old friends from childhood who had not seen one another in many years. There was familiarity in that smile.
In that moment I realized that the man in my scope was not the prey and I was not the hunter. It was not his heartbeat I was hearing. At long last I had the answer to the question that had plagued me for years. The intended does indeed hear the blending.
You see, the man I’ve been following is not the target.