He walked slowly, slipping through the doors as they swung open and drifting into shadow. In each hand was a black-handled revolver. A hood obscured his face and a long coat settled around him as he waited.
He did not have to wait long. He heard his quarry approaching, noisily chasing some drunken harlot down the hall. It was the third this week, for the target was a creature of habit. The hooded man grinned, spinning his revolvers about his fingers. At exactly the right moment, he stepped from the shadows, pointing one of his two guns at the pair of revelers. The woman stumbled back, bumping into the wall and falling with a giggle. The target's eyes narrowed, making him seem far less drunk than he should have been.
"So, you're who they sent," the target said softly, a wry smile on his lips. The realization that the target, a noted unrepentant alcoholic, would be sober upon returning from the bar caused the trickle of sweat running down the hooded man's spine to chill.
From the depths of the gunman's hood came a low even growl. "I am."
"You must be good." The target still hadn't moved, but his eyes had taken in the entirety of his surroundings.
"I do okay."
The target nodded. "Ever blow a hit?"
The question made the hooded man blink. "Um, no," he finally answered.
"Not once?" A teasing smile.
"Never." A firm answer.
"Well," the smile turned languid and the target stretched in a yawn. "You're going to blow this one."
The hooded man tightened his grip on the gun and his trigger finger twitched. "Think so?"
The target's attention was drawn by his companion, who was crawling to her feet, looking blearily at the hooded gunman. Raising his index finger, the target said, "Excuse me a minute," then bent to help her to her feet.
"Whasssee doin' withat gun?" her slurred tones were tinged with worry. "He ain' gonna shoot you issee?"
"Shh," the target cooed, "don't be silly. He's just an old friend having some fun. He's probably drunk. Go on in here," he led her toward the door to his apartments, "and wait for me. I'll be along. I just need to talk to my friend here." He opened the door and she stumbled inside. He drew it closed and locked it again, finally smiling up at the hooded man, who'd kept his gun trained on the target the entire time.
"Thanks," the target said, pointing toward the door, "for waiting."
The hooded man gave a brief nod. "I prefer to minimize the collaterals where possible," he said.
The target smiled again. "Smart guy. No wonder you're still in the game." He chuckled. "I should call and thank them. Sending someone like you shows me respect."
Another hooded nod. This was getting old. He should just kill the target and go. But the target was talking again.
"You really want to shoot me, don't you?"
"I don't get paid if I don't."
"Fair enough," the target nodded and kept smiling. "So why don't you?"
"I don't know," the hooded man was forced to admit.
"I do," the target replied. Then, seemingly at random, he asked, "You live alone?"
"None that I know of." The hooded gunman laughed derisively. "You trying to play on my sense of loneliness? Come on. You just got done praising me. You think I'm going to fall for an amateur psych job?"
"No," the target stopped smiling. "You're going to stick that gun in your mouth and pull the trigger."
"I'm what?" More laughter. "Why the hell would I--"
"Because you really really want to," the target spoke bluntly. "You've been wanting to blow your brains out since the first time you picked up a gun. But you're scared, so you've been making others your proxies for years and drawing a nice paycheck doing it." His eyes became kind and his voice comforting. "But all you want, all you think about, all you fantasize about is what it would feel like when the bullet drills up through the roof of your mouth and into your skull. You wonder if you'll get to feel your brain explode."
The hooded man staggered back a step, the gun shaking. "How did you..." he stammered, "H-how..."
The target looked deep into his eyes. "I think it's time you find out, don't you?"
The hooded man slowly raised the gun to his mouth, taking the barrel between his teeth.
"That's it..." the target's voice was quiet and very soothing. "That's it," he said. "It's all going to be okay. For the first time ever, things are going to be okay for you. Now," his voice turned to one of command, "pull the trigger."
The hooded man's face split in two as the top of his skull erupted in a gout of blood and brains. The target crouched down and took the second revolver, looking it over appraisingly. As he walked toward his apartments, he tucked the gun in his jacket and removed his cell phone, placing a call.
As he slid his key in the lock, he said, "Ah, sergeant! It seems a young man has committed suicide in front of my home again. Would it be possible-- thank you. I really do appreciate it. What's that?" There was a pause, then he laughed. "Yes. Yes, I do think you should bring it back to them." Another pause and another laugh.
"Oh, I'm sure they'll know who it's from."