Below us the group of people left the building right on time and began to walk up the street, their usual route would eventually bring them directly past us. From beside me I heard the voice of my mentor, “Do as I do, act when I act”.
Always the same words for as long as I could remember. On the day we had first met he’d introduced himself as Patroclus, addressing me only as Diomedes from that point on. Of all the kills I’d made with Patroclus at my side I remembered one the most vividly, the first of which had been my initiation. I had been sixteen at the time, in a crowded pub on a Saturday night nobody have given me a second glance when I cleared the empty glasses from the table, a simple sleight of hand trick being sufficient to poison one of the pints of beer on the table moments before it was seized and gulped back. He had brown shoulder length hair and a broad northern accent as I recalled, ironically the conversation topic had been something along the lines of future plans. I found out later that he’d been the boyfriend of some rich heiress and didn’t have the intelligence to keep his trousers zipped up without bragging about it. Naturally enough word had quickly got back to her. He’d probably heard the phrase “beware a woman scorned” a dozen times before without thinking it would be instrumental in his death. Even before the poison had started to take effect we were long gone like shadows in the night.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the trigger finger of Patroclus tighten as made the first shot as he done many times before, a half-second later I copied the action and seemingly as one the two people within the group below us fell, their bodyguards swiftly moving to protect them. I allowed myself a smile, too little too late I thought to myself.
“Time enough for celebrations later,” Patroclus said as he glanced round at me, an edge of irritation in his voice. Instinctively flicking the safety on, I picked the rifle up and returned it to the centre of the carpet used to transport it, its twin swiftly joining it before we rolled the carpet up and retied it at both ends. Nobody spared us a second glance on the way down the stairs, two men dressed in white uniform carrying a carpet barely warranted this.
Two minutes in, two minutes out, that was the clock we worked against, the sirens barely audible as we loaded the carpet back into decorators van we’d parked with hazard lights flashing right next to the service entrance. As Patroclus had pulled out into the main road I had taken a glance over at where the bodies lay. A crowd of people was slowly building around them, clearly waiting to be ushered away by the police as they were told there was nothing to see.
“Who were they?” I asked with vague interest.
“District Attorney and his wife trying to gain re-election, their little crusade earned them, shall I say, certain enmities”.
Ten minutes later we watched the van as it entered the crusher, the owner of the scrapyard was a friend of a friend and knew enough to take a long coffee break when we came calling. We were always careful not to take chances with DNA or fingerprints but, as Patroclus constantly reminded me, you can never take enough precautions. From my position standing behind his right shoulder I removed the syringe from where it had been carefully fastened to my belt and thrust it into my mentor in an upward angle, its sharp point penetrating clothes, skin and flesh alike as it passed through his ribs and into his heart before the air bubble sprung forth. In all likelihood an injection into a vein would provoke a similar cardiac response but a vestige of sentimentality made me select the harder and less painful option. I grabbed hold of him as he fell, lowering him gently to the ground, he didn’t speak a word but I think I detected an edge of pride contained within his eyes before he breathed his last.
I hadn’t asked when accepting the assignment but they’d told me anyway. He’d been seen in the company of agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sources telling them that in less than a week he was going to enter witness protection prior to singing the whole opera in front of the grand jury. Taking a last look I took a deep breath and walked away without a backward glance. Whoever it was who removed the body obviously wished to send a message, it turned up outside a federal building within the hour. Three days later I walked into a room and looked upon the nervous boy who stood there.
“My name is Diomedes,” I said, “As from today your name is Menelaus”.