Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Thane Drapetevo. Please enjoy. Also, if you haven’t already checked out my FAQ on my upcoming book, Magic Once Removed, please check that out as well. Thanks again!
He took off his gloves and wiped his hands against his vest. It was unseasonably warm which made it a bit uncomfortable for him up there. Certainly, his dapper suit was not conducive to the heat but it allowed him to blend in, more or less, with the other guests at the business conference he was attending under a pseudonym, though that is not to say it was atypical of his usual garb. He remembered the conference’s theme being mergers or some rot though it wasn’t as though he was particularly focused on the event.
The man looked around to ensure that it was still clear. Not another person was in sight. He had made sure no one was around before he crawled up the fire escape to the roof but it never hurt to double-check. He put his gloves back on and placed one on the recoil pad and the other on the grip of his sniper rifle. It was positioned at the floral shop below. His mind wandered and he reminisced on what led him there.
A few days ago, he was alone in his one-bedroom apartment on the bad side of town. Next to him was an antique teakwood table that seated an exquisitely designed porcelain kettle and saucer as he held an equally ornate teacup in his hand. He was sitting on a black clivedon carved armchair identical to the one in front of him. A single lamp above his head provided the room’s only illumination so the apartment’s dilapidation was mostly hidden in the shadows though this did not hide the fact that his home was in shambles. Its ever-growing mold problem spread from the floor to small sections of his ceiling. A pungent smell of wood rot emanated throughout. Maintenance was certainly not a priority.
He allowed this to happen. It was what he wanted. Such conditions dissuaded visitors which was perfect for him considering his profession. Only those who were desperate for a man of his abilities ever dared to enter.
An otherwise tranquil evening was interrupted by a knock at the door. The man reached down and pressed a button underneath his seat. Several dials were turned and locks were disengaged with a series of loud clangs. He called out to the person behind the door in between sips of tea. “It is now unlocked. You may enter.”
A young woman opened the door slowly, starting with a slight crack before opening it fully slowly. Her hands covered her nose almost instinctively the moment her olfactory nerves were assaulted by the stench. She opted to remain in the shadows as she spoke.
“Are you Mr. Drapetévo?”
“Please, it is unnecessary to be so formal. Thane is fine. And please, there is no need for you to hide. You are in completely safe hands.” The man set down his tea and adjusted his bowler hat, which was his custom when meeting guests, and extended a hand to the seat in front of him.
The thin young woman with chestnut brown hair tied into a ponytail walked across the warped and dank wooden floor before sitting down. Her soft pink lips struggled to display a strong smile. Both cheeks seemed permanently stained with tears.
“Is it true what they say?” she asked with a raspy, wavering voice just above a whisper.
“It depends on what they say.”
“That you don’t require payment for, you know.”
“The work that I would be contracted to do, yes, though I must contradict that statement and elucidate. I may not require financial compensation but it would be inaccurate to say that I do not require any sort of recompense. I do charge what many have asserted is an unusual expense, more akin to a request than a fee.”
“A story, right?”
“More accurately I would like a reason that you require my services. If I find it satisfactory, I will perform the deed.”
“Why a story, though?”
He grinned. “My mentor taught me never to do any activity pro bono.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Why don’t you want money? I mean, I know I’m being nosy and all, but I just find the whole thing weird. Don’t guys like you, I mean, well, you know what I mean, want money? Have you made so much you don’t care about it anymore? Are you trying to atone for sins? Do you do bad things for good people? Like, I don’t get it.”
The man’s face grew stern. He silently grabbed his cup and took another sip. “I think it would be best if you didn’t ask any more questions and simply told me why you would like to procure my services.”
She smiled meekly. “Sorry. I just get so curious, you know, like, I just don’t know when to quit. I don’t mean to pry so that was wrong of me to do so I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing and tell me why you are here.”
She let out a heavy sigh. The young woman started to tell her story then stopped. This occurred several times. With every abandoned attempt she did her best to collect her thoughts and restart. Her predicament weighed on her immensely. It was deeply personal and concerned someone she loved or at least, thought she loved. Finding the right words proved difficult. Finding the courage to speak was harder still. During all of this, the man silently drank his tea. When he finished a cup, he simply poured another. He continued this taciturn practice until his fifth cup when she was finally able to tell her melancholy tale.
“You see, at first, things were great…” The woman told him of the verbal and physical abuse. How when she’d return home late or seemed too friendly with another man, the two would get into an altercation that would always escalate to physical abuse. At first, it was just a rough grasp or a push that was a little aggressive but nothing too serious. However, it had risen to the point he no longer hesitated to slap or punch, and would often angrily shove or throw her into bookcases or doors, down short steps or into windows or kitchen tables and chairs.
Her boyfriend was emotionally manipulative as well. When the young woman told him she wanted to leave him or that she was about to call the police, he would threaten to kill himself, even going so far as placing a revolver to the side of his head and telling her that his blood would be on her hands. Despite this, once she somehow did find the strength to leave intending to never return.
Only she did. He apologized through a text message that said he was waiting at their doorway with a bouquet of her favorite flowers in his arms.
That was always her problem. She would always relent. It was as if she were soft putty in his hands. She would always go back to him trusting that his apologetic gesture meant that the violent or psychological mistreatment would never happen again. Only it always did, over and over and over again.
Thane set down his cup of tea. He closed his eyes as he overlapped his fingers and rested his hands against his chin. His austere expression belied his shattering heart.
“Your words move me deeply. Still, I must inform you that I am a bit apprehensive about taking this job.”
“I know what you mean. Killing someone can’t be easy no matter who it is and besides that, there’s all the planning to ensure you avoid the police and don’t get caught not to mention, like, oh my god, all the stress and everything and-”
He raised his right index finger in the air, a motion which she interpreted correctly was an appeal to stop. “It’s not that. Whether he deserves his fate or how I would proceed is not what vexes me. You deserve to be free and I have done this kind of work for a long time. It is simple compared to what I’ve done in the past.”
“Then what’s bothering you?”
“Killing him won’t set you free.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean exactly what I said.”
“If he’s dead, I’ll have a clean slate, right, and be able to start over?”
“Naturally, and you’ll find someone else, and that is the problem.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” The woman pondered for a moment before her brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed and became overwhelmed by an inferno of rage. Her arms flayed wildly as she pointed to herself, to the man, and to various random parts of the home as she ranted and raved.
“Oh, I get it! Let me tell you something, you’re wrong! Once my boyfriend’s out of the picture, this kind of thing will never, I repeat, never, will happen to me again! All I need is to start over! Why won’t you let me start over?”
The man remained silent and the only noise was the woman’s heavy, exasperated breathing.
“I’m sorry,” the young woman said after she had calmed. “I shouldn’t have yelled but I’ve made up my mind and you won’t be able to talk me out of it. You’ve heard my story. You agree that he deserves to die. I must insist that you fulfill your end of the bargain.”
Thane nodded. “I understand. I assure you that I have no intention of neglecting my duty. Perhaps it would be best if we did not speak of the issue further and concentrate fully on the task at hand.” She agreed.
She told Thane where her boyfriend liked to shop when he bought that dozen red roses he’d purchase to apologize for whatever abuse or malevolent action that caused egregious harm to his girlfriend. It had become an almost weekly affair. Though Thane did not know the exact date the boyfriend would make his purchase, he had chosen to attend a ten-day conference so he had plenty of time to wait.
On the seventh day, the boyfriend finally arrived. With but a glance, the shopkeeper knew what he wanted, he did not have to say a word. After all, he was her best customer. The florist went to the section of her store where she kept her best red roses and prepared a bouquet.
Thane lined the shot with the scope. When the boyfriend’s head was to the right of the salesperson, a moment before payment could be made, the assassin gently squeezed the trigger. Glass shattered. Brain matter and blood exploded from the boyfriend’s head and spread against the walls, the floor, and the merchant who let out a horrified squeal. His lifeless mass crumpled to the ground.
Panic emerged on the streets below. Many desperately fled from the perceived danger having apparently no qualms plowing into and over their fellow man or woman while doing so. Several more froze in place with a couple losing the contents of their last meal after witnessing the ghastly scene.
Those of a stronger constitution gathered into a burgeoning crowd around the shop. Though some wanted to see whether they could help even though that time had long passed, others, though, had a ghoulish desire to see a corpse and what remained. By the time someone directed attention to the building above where the shot originated, Thane was already hidden from view behind one of the parapets putting his rifle into his briefcase. By the time the police arrived and ordered the facility shut down and declared no one was allowed to leave, he was already gone. Thane had used the commotion within the building as a means to escape. After all, amongst over a hundred stampeding businessmen, what separates one from a sea of dapper suits and briefcases from another?
The police were able to find the bullet and match it to his gun’s make and model but they were unable to trace it to him. He made sure of that. Thane also used a fake name and identity with realistic false paperwork and identification to aid to the subterfuge. Additionally, his disguises, though not greatly varied, caused enough confusion amongst witnesses that no one was able to provide a matching description. For all intents and purposes, Thane was a phantasmagoria, a specter, an angel of death. He was very good at his job and this one wasn’t particularly difficult. There was no way he would be caught or could be caught.
Before he arrived home, he stopped by the post office to send his client a postcard. It read, “It is done.”
He received a reply a few days later. It was another postcard. “Thank you and thank God. Now, I am free.”
The man shook his head and tossed the card in the pile that rested in the corner of his room.
Years later, the man once again sat alone in his one-bedroom apartment underneath a single lamp that hung above his head that provided the room’s only illumination. Its ever-growing mold problem had spread even further such that it covered the entire ceiling. The pungent smell of wood rot had only gotten worse. Maintenance was obviously still not a priority.
Once again, he heard a knock at the door. As before, he reached down and pressed a button underneath his seat. Once again, several dials were turned and locks were disengaged. Once again, he called out to the person behind the door in between sips of tea. “It is now unlocked. You may enter.”
The young woman entered timidly and remained in the shadows as she spoke.
“Please, I’ve told you it is unnecessary to be so formal. Thane is fine. And again, there is no need for you to hide. You are still completely safe.” The man set down his tea and adjusted his bowler hat, which was his custom when meeting guests, and extended a hand to the seat in front of him. The thin young woman with chestnut brown hair tied into a ponytail walked across the warped and dank wooden floor before sitting down. Her soft pink lips struggled to display a strong smile.
“Do you still do jobs for stories? I’ve met someone else but, well, I suppose you know it hasn’t quite been working out if I’m here. It’s strange. You see, at first, things were great…”
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