A Selfish Thing to Do
By Adam Dixon
I peered through my binoculars at the house on the hill. It was a simple detached house with large front windows through which I could see the old woman. She was as I remembered her from the previous week: white haired, bespectacled and bent almost double from arthritis. She was wearing a similar dated floral dress with a grey cardigan over it. I watched her impassively for a few minutes, observing her movements around the house. She got out of her straight-backed leather chair and tottered off into the kitchen to make a cup of tea; I could almost hear the creaking of her joints as she did so. She then resumed her place on her chair, and once I was satisfied that she would remain there I put my binoculars down and picked up my rifle.
I marked the old woman through the telescopic sight and adjusted the elevation knobs accordingly. She was just over two hundred yards away, and there was only a slight breeze ruffling my hair as I lay there and took aim. Conditions were almost perfect. I waited whilst the woman drank her tea; there was no reason to rush. Once she had placed her cup on her table I squeezed the trigger. The muffled rifle coughed and the bullet punched through the glazed windows effortlessly. The old woman jerked back in her chair, green upholstery turning crimson in an instant. Her head fell forwards onto her chest, almost as if she had fallen asleep. Satisfied, I stood up and began disassembling my rifle. My final target was dead.
I returned to the Institution later that afternoon. I relinquished my equipment to the reception staff and strode calmly through the corridors. After a few minutes walking I reached the door to the holding cell. It was reinforced and painted an emotionless white, just like the walls surrounding me. After punching in the security code I let myself in. The original target was slumped over at a table, flanked by two guards dressed in black suits. I nodded to them briefly, and without a word they exited the room. After a few moments of complete silence, the man raised his head to look at me. He was a short man in his forties, with a bulbous nose and a receding hairline. His face was haggard and there was torment in his eyes. That was good.
“They’re all dead.” I said, answering his unvoiced question. The man whimpered and squeezed his eyes shut, covering his face with his hands. Wretched sobs began to wrack his body as he sat there, and I simply watched him with disinterest.
“Why?” He managed to croak, his hands still shielding his eyes.
“You know very well why,” I said, slightly irritated by the question. “They had to die because you made a scene in that café last week and drew attention to yourself and me. If you had simply stood up and co-operated, this business could have been handled with the desired tact and discretion. You know how the Institution operates; we couldn’t risk any of those civilians recognising us at a later date.” I paused for a moment, letting my words sink in.
“I’m sure you will agree,” I continued. “That it was a selfish thing to do on your part. Their blood is on your hands.”
“Fuck you!” The man slammed his fists onto the table, glaring at me through tear-filled eyes. “I didn’t kill them! That was you, you cold-hearted murderer! There were children in that cafe!”
“Yes, four of them,” I replied matter-of-factly. “There were also three pensioners present, as well as the families of said children. A total of eleven civilians as collateral damage due to your outburst.”
“What was I supposed to do, just leave with you and let you kill me?!” The man spluttered, waving his arms about. I sighed at the moronic question.
“Yes, Mr. Clarke, that is precisely what you were supposed to do. However, because you decided to create a spectacle out of it, those unfortunate witnesses had to be silenced, and at great inconvenience to myself, I might add.” I allowed myself a token smile. “However, eleven targets within a week is something of a record in the Institution, I believe. Perhaps I should be grateful for the challenge.”
The man stared at me, incomprehension slapped across his red, snot-covered face.