He lounged there in the shadows in his sharkskin suit and dark gray fedora. His nose and mouth were briefly lit by a struck match touched to a cigarette. A thin cruel mouth, hooked nose. He was also thin and his hands trembled a little. Did a shred of conscience trouble him?
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The gun hung heavy in the pocket of his coat. He had a holster under his arm but he wanted to get to the gun fast when the moment struck. He waited patiently. He did not know how long he had stood there. Hours for sure. About midnight, it rained a little. He may not have noticed. When the church bells down the block tolled two a.m., fog began to roll in. This was his perfect time, his perfect place. This would be his chance. When all was done, when the bright deadly moment was past, he could fade into the shadows and the fog and be gone like a wisp of nothing, taking a man's life with him.
The streets were touched with a hint of the coming winter. Leaves skittered in the gutter, disturbed by the unnamed things that traveled there. He was one of them, spiritual kin. He listened to their faint chatter and thought his own dark thoughts, his hands trembling a little with neither excitement nor fear. He meditated on the clarity of the moment and perhaps there was a thread of regret, of remorse, but perhaps not.
Then he heard it. Footsteps. He'd heard footsteps earlier and watched with cold eyes as the wrong man hurried by, turning up his collar against the cold of the wind and the eyes peering out of the dark. For a long time, though, the street had been empty even of cars. That's why this spot, this perfect spot, was chosen. So when death came it would be lonely, swift and silent. So it would go unremarked until the street sweepers came in the morning, sleepy from a night of dreaming about better things and found the empty husk ready for the grave.
The footsteps approached and the man who owned them felt, maybe, the chill of the dark and the menace in the shadow. Perhaps he felt the mist of the fog enclose him and knew that shadow or this one would be the last he'd ever see. His eyes darted into every dark doorway looking for the reaper who would gather him up in an icy embrace. Looking for the bright spark, the bark of the bullet, the bite of death and the draining away of warm life, of blood and hope and tomorrow.
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