A/N: I know, I know. Who does this guy think he is, strolling back in here after being gone for so long? I swear I was faithful. Plus, I figure if Canadian Crow can get back into the game, so can I.
This is something I wrote a LONG time ago, and stopped about two sentences short of finishing. Found those sentences tonight, but you may wish they'd remained lost. This is a dark one. This is so dark it smudged my soul.
The rifle bucks.
Through the haze and the smell of the cordite, I see the mark go down. Looks like a clean hit, but it can't hurt to be sure. I set the rifle down, check the clip on my automatic in case of any surprises, and climb down the fire escape to the alley below. I remember to walk. I remember not to look over my shoulder.
You do what I do, you have to look like you belong in any situation. You have to look like you're supposed to be wherever you are. And that means no shifty eyes, no nervous fidgeting, and - most important of all - no looking over your shoulder.
It's that last one that gets most guys. Even when you've pulled a job off, even when you've done it perfectly clean, all it takes is that one look, that one indicator of the need for self-preservation, to blow your cover. Someone walking along looking straight ahead has done nothing worthy of suspicion.
Someone looking over his shoulder just did something very bad.
So that's why I can say I've lasted so long in a field that isn't exactly known for its retirement plan. That's why groups from all over the world have me on speed dial when they need something done and no trace of it back to them.
That's why I'm the guy who just killed Charles Carmichael.
Chuck vs the Last Request
Finally in front of him, dying in the loading dock of an electronics store in Burbank of all places, I crouch down over him to confirm his identity. The face is a match, even screwed up into a painful grimace.
He stares at the wound in disbelief, as if this is something that shouldn't belong to him, a world he doesn't inhabit. It throws me, that look. Someone as hunted, as wanted dead, as Charles Carmichael - someone like that - should expect this. Accept it. This man…
This man, it seems, was meant for gentler things.
"Sorry friend," I say, and am startled by the sincerity in my voice. "Nothing personal."
He manages something close to a laugh at that, and his eyes go unfocused for a moment. For a moment, he's somewhere else, and then just as quickly he's back and his face goes serious.
"Need you… to do something for me."
That's a new one. I cock my head in reply, to let him know I'm listening.
"There's a woman," he continues, his voice shaking. "One like you've never seen before. Beautiful… dangerous."
"One way or another, they all are, my friend."
"No," he replies, shaking his head. He squints, trying to focus. Not much time left now. "Not like this. She… she's a force of nature. Driven… unstoppable…" Delirious now, a tiny smile graces his lips.
"And yeah, beautiful. So amazingly beautiful."
His face goes slack, and for a moment I figure he's gone. Not the worst way to go, dying with the image of someone like that in your head. But then he turns to me again.
"When you see her, tell her… tell her that she was the one great thing in my life. That I'd do it all again, even this, for the time we had together. Tell her… tell her that now, at the end of it all… that my thoughts… were of her."
He stares at me expectantly.
"Sounds like quite a woman," I finally say. "And how do I find this goddess of yours?"
With a devil's strength he pulls himself up, soundlessly in spite of the obvious pain, and brings his face a few inches from mine. Agony written in his features, he still manages a hint of a smile. "Don't worry," he finally says, and lowers his voice to a whisper.
"She'll find you."
Something deep inside me goes cold, and he sees it. Satisfied, he sinks back and rests his head on the ground. His last breath escapes in a deep, gravelly laugh, and then he's gone.
I stand there, for a very long time, looking down at the man I've killed. Just one. One of hundreds, but different from any. For the first time out of all of them, I feel I've done something terribly wrong. For the first time out of all of them, I regret. And as I turn to walk away, to disappear into the night and the streets, for the first time ever…
I look over my shoulder.
I know, right? I promise the next one will have puppies or something.
If you're not reading Canadian Crow's "Hidden File" stories, I just don't know what to do about you. Go, check them out now, and keep in mind that they were started BEFORE the S2 finale. You'll thank me, I promise. Either that or your momma brought you up wrong.
Thanks, as always, for reading. -Nick