Tom stood alone in the dark and lighted a cigarette. He was cold and slightly bored but he had a job to do. He was standing guard.
No job for a professional, he thought. He was a hired killer, not a sentry. But the pay was good and all he had to do was make sure that no one went down the dirt track he was watching. He didn’t know why he needed to watch it and he didn’t need to know.
All he needed to know was that he was to kill anyone who appeared on the dirt road from which the track led. Someone wanted some privacy.
Tom wore jeans over black tactical boots. He had on a leather biker jacket, zipped up against the cold. A black knit cap fit tightly over his head. With a rifle in his hands and a knife in his boot, he felt ready for anything.
He had a hard, fit body to match his hard, cold mind. Tom was in his early thirties and had killed many men in many ways. He was familiar with sudden violent death and had watched men gasp away their last few seconds in shock and pain.
Someday it could happen to him. But not if he kept on his toes. And tonight, Mike was watching his back. He’d worked with Mike before and trusted him.
Mike had gone to check out the surroundings a little further down the road. His appearance was similar to Tom’s—same age, same cold face and hard body. His jeans, boots and cap were like Tom’s too, but he wore an olive green nylon jacket. He was as experienced a killer as Tom and could take care of any problems quickly and efficiently.
Tom took another drag on his cigarette. He wouldn’t be smoking if he thought there was a chance for some action, but he knew there was no one but Mike around for miles.
But for once his killer instinct let him down. As he took a third drag, he was unaware that he was being stalked and set up for a kill.
When it happened, it happened fast. Tom barely knew what hit him.
A gloved hand clamped over his mouth, crushing his lips. At the same time, a knife sheared through his leather jacket and plunged into his kidney in a burst of agony.
Shock flooded Tom’s body. He went up on his toes and bent backwards to escape the pain. He could feel the muscles of his killer’s chest against his back and hear his ragged breath in his ears. But the pain was what held him frozen—the pain and the adrenalin shock.
The killer’s arm held Tom like a steel trap as the knife was twisted viciously in the wound. The gloved hand sealed his mouth, his screams of pain reduced to muffled groans.
Then the knife was removed and the hand was grabbing his chin. Tom could open his mouth but deep shock prevented him from doing more than gasping. He felt himself pulled backwards so that his chest was exposed but he had no control of his body and was powerless to stop it.
He saw the gloved hand holding the blood-smeared knife a split second before the knife was slammed into his chest. It punctured him with such force that his breath was expelled in a long rattling moan.
Tom stared dully as the hand twisted the knife into this wound. The killer was grinding it, trying to cause as much damage as possible. It also caused as much pain as possible. The injury to his kidney was nothing compared to the searing agony of his quivering heart slicing itself to hamburger on the probing knife.
Tom’s wide, panicked eyes dilated and he lost control of his bowels. The air reeked of piss and shit and sweat—the smell of a dying man. He sank slowly to the ground. His killer left as silently as he had come. Tom twitched on the ground for a while, his eyes glazing into dull terror. He come up against someone who was a better killer than he was and experienced the same violent and painful death he’d dealt out himself.
The faint moans Tom had made in his death agonies hadn’t been heard by Mike. The first clue he had of trouble was his leg being kicked out from under him and his arm being twisted behind his back. He was on his knees with a razor-sharp knife slashing at his throat before he could react. The killer sliced Mike’s throat to ribbons, multiple slashes in a quick burst, cutting deeply through the larynx and esophagus. Then the killer was gone.
Mike knelt in the road, his eyes wide and his face white. His hands clawed in horror at the gaping flesh of his ripped-out throat. A rhythmic jet of blood pulsed from his neck, splashing his hands and the ground in front of him. The gurgling and hissing of his breath in his shredded windpipe grew more frenzied as pink foam bubbled out of the hole in his throat.
Suddenly Mike pitched forward into a pool of his own blood. He struggled for life for a few more seconds, slowly blinking his uncomprehending eyes, opening and closing his mouth as if he was still trying to speak.
His killer was long gone as Mike shuddered to his death alone on the dirt road. The hardman was left to rot in a sticky puddle of his own blood and piss.