The End of Snow
(Prologue to The Kickass Assassin by Dana Webster - December 2020)
The latest photo on her phone showed he had brown hair; longish, little curls of brunette tucked behind his ears. First thing she noticed when she first tracked him down a week ago was that now he had short white hair, shaped and sharply cut behind his ears and across the curve of his forehead. From a distance, you might think he was wearing a white, knit cap. How did she know the guy in the photo was the same as the guy she’d been following for five days? The face. Handsome, cool, boyish despite the tired eyes that had seen it all. Smart thing would have been to grow a beard in the time since his disappearing act thirteen months ago. Even a mustache would signal he was at least trying to stay hidden. But her experience taught her that these pretty boys were all about the challenge to be known and admired, and to still get away with shit.
Well, not this time.
She waited in the shadows of a doorway across the street from the cafe, watched him standing in line scrolling through his phone, casual, not a care in the world. Coffee in hand, he turned and made for the exit. He took a left, heading north. She waited till he put enough distance between them, and she set out. Followed at his pace, dodged the odd other pedestrian. A couple of blocks later, he stepped into the street, holding up while a car passed, and hastened his steps to cross to the other side, her side. She slowed her pace, kept to the inner edge of the sidewalk and watched as he deked down an alleyway
She wasn’t expecting this. When she followed him, on previous occasions, his routine was to get a coffee and then head a few blocks up the street to an office building, his work, where he could be counted on to remain for the better part of the day. Her heart beat a little faster. Had he made her? Was she exposed? No matter, she had to go in anyway. She hadn’t expected the day to come as soon as this; she was still in the research phase of things. But it looked now like the plan had changed.
Before entering the alley, she let her eyes adjust to the dusky obscurity. It smelled in there of too much urine and vomit, a hangover from nighttime pub crawls. Slowly, she entered. Her body was tingling, warning. Long ago, she had learned to befriend the fear. It made her instincts sharp as long as she didn’t give in to it. She drew her gun from the holster hidden under her hoodie. In the shadows, there was no movement, no sound. Waiting, she took a moment to steady her breath. It was a one-way alley. The only way out was through her and she figured he couldn’t hide out in there forever. As though he’d read her thoughts, suddenly he stepped out from a narrow doorway tucked into the wall. He faced her, two feet planted firmly on the pavement, bracing. She could just make out the features of his face, and the white of his hair. She raised her gun.
“So, you’ve come for me,” he said, matter of fact, like he knew she was hunting him.
“Yeah, I’ve come for you. Can’t say you were hard to find.”
“Can’t say I wanted to be.”
“Too bad,” she said, “I was hoping for a challenge, but you’ve turned out to be a rather disappointing assignment.”
“Is that how you see it?
She paused. What the hell did that mean?
Maybe noticing her hesitation, perhaps even her confusion, he took a step forward. She could swear she heard him chuckle. No longer hesitating, her instincts kicked in; she pulled the trigger. Once, twice, in quick succession. She was aiming for his heart and she was right on target. His body crumpled to the ground, the cup of coffee spewing cream-coloured liquid across the pavement.
Rae approached, holstering her Sig, knowing he wasn’t going to get up from this. Two fingers on his carotid confirmed he was near death, his pulse faint. His mouth moved in small motions. Rae lowered her ear. “Nicely done,” he whispered. Last thing she noticed before he died was the subtle rise of his lips in what looked to her like a smile. She pulled her phone out of her back pocket and called up his file. The photo of him, and below that, his code name: Snow. Another job successfully completed.
She deleted the file and looked around her. They were undetected in the alley. Rae pressed a speed-dial number on her phone and spoke, “The bloom is off the rose,” then she pinned her location. Dusting herself off, she covered her head with her hoodie, and exited the alleyway.