Some people look at the act of killing as something they could never do. Personally, I’ve always found killing to be fairly easy. You really don’t need much except the right tool and the opportunity. And, the willingness to live with the consequences. Consequences can be a bitch.

Most of the killing I’ve done was paid for by your tax dollars and took place while I was wearing desert camo. And, after I’d done eight years of that kind of killing, I did four more years of custom work sanctioned by people who paid me in cash and arranged free transportation to the job site on big green airplanes. 

My history and experience is why people like Eddie Bonnaire keep me on the payroll now. I’m able to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, without leaving a trace of my presence. I’ve developed my skills over the years and I’m proud of them. And, even though I don’t engage on a daily basis, I still like to keep my skills honed. That’s why I never hesitate when Eddie Bonnaire calls me.

I’ve never met Eddie face-to-face, it’s always by phone. The word on Eddie is that he’s an old-school organized crime guy—the kind that isn’t afraid to get a little dirty. He doesn’t overthink the consequences of getting personally involved. He always calls me directly to set something up, instead of having somebody else call. And, when Eddie calls, he always lays out the reasons for the job, like a prosecuting attorney in a capital murder case explaining the facts to the jury. At least he always did until he called about Tina Simmons.

It was the first time Eddie had ever asked me to kill a woman, but I still listened to his request. A target is a target. In the early years of my training I learned a tactic that made it easier to put my own opinions aside about whether or not a target should be eliminated. Once I knew who I was assigned to kill I just thought of them as “Target Alpha” instead of the multi-faceted human being they were.

After telling me that Tina Simmons was my target, instead of ticking off a list of what my assigned target had done wrong, Eddie just gave me her name and address and told me where she worked. Then, he said he wanted the work to be up close and personal.

“I want her to know what’s coming before it happens,” Eddie said. “Make it last long enough that she has plenty of time to understand that she’s dying.”

It wasn’t a big house, but it sat back off the road a bit, built on one of those bigger lots in an older section of the city. I watched it from some distance away and didn’t approach until it was completely dark and I knew it was safe. The backdoor lock was old and the door itself a thin veneer plywood thing that splintered without making too much noise.

At the top of the stairs I could already hear the deep, steady breathing of Target Alpha. I eased into the bedroom and stood over the bed a few seconds before kneeling and clamping a hand over my target’s mouth while pinching both nostrils tightly, cutting off any source of oxygen.

The bucking and kicking only lasted a few seconds before Target Alpha went limp. I removed my hand and turned on the bedside light, waiting for the fluttering eyes to open and focus on me. When they did, I waited until I saw the fear and the certainty of approaching death in them, then pulled my knife and drew it across Target Alpha’s throat. The cut wasn’t deep, but it opened the jugular and Target Alpha’s life drained quickly.

That was when the sound of footsteps running up the stairs told me that Eddie’s security man had returned from his smoke break much sooner than I anticipated. It was my time. Eddie Bonnaire had just faced his consequences, and now it was time for me to face mine.

~ fin ~


Mark Cotton spent most of his life in southeastern New Mexico and is the author of two mystery novels,Two Bits Four Bits and Twice the Heist, both set in the oil fields of west Texas. He lives with his wife and two cats on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, where he is currently working on his next novel. He also has a story forthcoming in Yellow Mama.