Surely it is the
definition of futility to spend an hour listening to someone who you know is
destined to die moments after she leaves the office; her murderers already in
place, just waiting for my signal. I could grant her a reprieve, but that
wont happen; I just want her to stop talking and to leave.
She was pretty,
certainly when compared to most of the women I had to deal with and clever
a Double First in Classics from Cambridge no less -, but irredeemably
careless and she knew too much. She was talking about the M.P. I had asked her
to follow; telling me how he had spent the weekend, which I already knew from a
more reliable employee. I nodded and pretended to make notes, whilst outside
people I did not know waited in the November cold, for this woman to hurry up
and meet her doom.
okay? she asked, her monologue having at last come to a finish.
I smiled at her,
yes, you have done well. Keep up the good work.
actually mind lying; it serves a purpose, and if you cannot lie convincingly
then where are you? In fact I seem to spend most of my life doing it, but
thats the nature of my work and I dont really care.
She looked around
This is new, I
had to use the A-Z to find it. It feels barely used.
I nodded, and for a
moment felt sorry for her, who would soon be a thing without consciousness, but
only for a moment, as I was anxious to leave and get on with my day.
Yes, we have
only just moved in, it is in a good position; nice and quiet.
She gave me a look
then, just a glance, but in it I saw fear and I wondered if she had guessed
that she was about to die.
I shook her hand
briefly and she left, giving me another anxious smile, as she turned for a
final time. She smelt of something pleasant, a perfume that I recognised, and
it lingered in the office, as I quickly packed up my things. I wondered if I
would hear the gunshots from the office, and for a moment I stopped and
listened, and there they were, two pops, unnoticeable unless you were
concentrating, and then silence, not even a scream.
By the time I had
taken the lift down to the front door, the small road on which the office
stood, looked as if nothing had happened. It was quiet, hidden behind a
main road, with just a few offices, which looked unused. I walked past an alley
and glancing down, I could see what seemed to be a blood stain just at its
entrance, and I wondered if this was where the deed had been done, hopefully it
would be cleaned up within a few minutes, no point in being careless.
By now, Linda, my
administrator, who I had never met, and who worked who knew where, would have
erased all the womans files, and it would be as if she had never existed;
apart from an empty flat somewhere, with unanswered letters and unpaid bills. I
hoped it had been quick and painless, after all I am not a vindictive man, just
efficient and methodical, which is how I got where I am.
There was an email
from Linda waiting for me, sent at five that morning (did she ever sleep?).
Rushworth. The subject has no political affiliation. She is 47, divorced
and has nothing to do with her ex-husband. She has two children, neither of
whom live with her
Who was Michelle
Rushworth, I wondered. The name sounded vaguely familiar, was she a new
operative or a target? I was about to email Linda back for clarification, but
then made myself a coffee, as often when I give my brain time to think, things
come back to me. I was in my latest office, just outside the city, despite the
window being closed, I could hear non-stop traffic as commuters drove into
And then as I sipped
my coffee, I remembered who she was; I had been in a bar one evening, having a
lonely drink and got talking with this woman, who was on a works night
like them much at the best of times she told me, and now they are
all drunk and even more boring than usual
I dont know why I came
out, just lonely I guess.
I could see her
companions at the other end of the bar; mostly young women dressed up for a
night on the town. I would quite like to have colleagues such as these; whereas
I had thugs and psychopaths, most of whom I saw once or twice at most.
They are all
much younger than me; I can bear them at work, but all evening
I smiled and asked
her about herself, using interrogation techniques from work, and she told me
about her ex-husband, her children and her job, the details of which Linda had
now confirmed. Eventually we discretely left together, and got the tube to her
house, out in Highgate, where we drank wine in the garden and eventually
drunken sex, which next morning I could barely remember.
I had promised to
call her, I had enjoyed her company and found her attractive. But I knew I
should do things by the book, after all I expect my underlings to do the same,
so I had reported it all to Linda and asked for Michelle to be given a Level
One check. And now here it was, and she had passed.
Perhaps I should
give her a call then and there, but then I thought she was probably at work and
I would have to wait until the evening. And then I realised, that I had met
Michelle when I was shadowing that member of the CBI, was it last August? That
would be five months ago, I could hardly call her back after all that time. And
then, as I finished my coffee and tried to ignore the traffic, I thought back
and realised it was actually the summer before. How could I have
forgotten? It had been so warm, and I could hear that Everything but the Girl
track which had been such a hit playing from someones garden, whilst
Michelle told me about her life, and we drank wine and became more and more
drunk and romantic.
Why had I reported
it? I could at least have waited until I knew the relationship was going
somewhere. I am in charge of the organisation, surely if anyone can bend the
rules I can. I wondered what had happened to Michelle; and hoped that she was
happy. Had she realised that the young men following her about, the aggressive
salesmen and her childrens new friends, were all due to me? Hopefully she
had forgotten about me, dismissed me as someone who was just after a bit of
sex, and nothing more. I deleted the email with a sigh and got on with my
When I had finished,
at about eight or so I left the office which we hired by the week; it was
almost Christmas and I noticed that other people who had rooms in the building
had put up decorations. I smiled at one of the cleaners, the only people left
in the building, before heading to the car park. My car had been changed; a
blue Mondeo this time, parked where my Ford Estate had been this morning.
I found the keys,
where I had been told they would be. Unfortunately, whoever had swapped the
cars had not seen my cigarettes and put them in the new car, not that I smoked
but sometimes I needed one. With a sigh of regret I set off for
I was almost there
before I realised that I was driving to my previous flat just outside Brixton,
so I reversed and got home for ten. There was nothing in the kitchen so I rang
for a takeaway, and ate a Hawaiian Pizza in a cold kitchen, with Radio 3
playing quietly so as not to disturb my neighbours who I had never met and
There was just a
voice on the end of the telephone, at least he was ringing from a payphone.
We have found
You know what
you have to do. Why ring me?
There was a pause,
and then but he has a wife, and there are two children in the house, from
her previous marriage.
dont have to kill them
not children? They are only young.
We are not
running an adoption agency, I told him and put the phone down.
Immediately I sent a
long email to Linda about the operative who I had never met and whose name I
did not know. We needed people who did not question and who I should not have
to repeat myself to. And how had he known my number? He had sounded young, so
he had time to learn. Perhaps a Disciplinary Hearing would be all he needed
this time, but any further mistakes and that would be it of course; I allowed
employees one mistake at most.
I took a sleeping
pill before I went to bed, something powerful that our pharmacy department had
procured for me as it was stronger than anything available in the UK. But even
so I dreamt disturbing dreams; a family sat in front of the television,
chatting and laughing. Just an ordinary family; the mother in her dressing gown
and her hair down, the children happy after having done their homework. Then
the knock on the door.
answer it I cried out, but our former agent, with a resigned look at his
wife, got up to see who it was, and was shot where he stood, and by the time he
had slumped to the floor, his killers were in the house. I tried not to watch
as his rather plain looking wife and her two dark-haired children were shot
before they had time to realise what was happening, and then the killers were
gone; all dealt with in less than a minute.
Awake, after my
nightmare, but still feeling tired I decided to get up. I sat at my
kitchen table with breakfast; decaffeinated coffee and sugar free muesli with
skimmed milk whilst my dream faded away. I usually wait until I get to the
office before I check my emails, work life balance and all that, but I wanted
to know whether the agent had carried out his job. Sure enough there was
an email from Linda; Last nights mission complete. Do you still
want me to arrange a Disciplinary Hearing?
responded, and then after a moment added, but not too harsh. Which
was code for make sure he survives.
I walked from the
station; it was about two miles to the care home, and after spending most of my
time sitting in one of our various offices I felt every step, but the sun was
shining and the Yorkshire countryside either side of me was beautiful; long
golden fields leading to green hills in the distance, so I enjoyed the walk
despite my sore legs.
Twice I had to stand
aside as cars drove past, and then a young woman stopped and offered me a
I am going to
Newhaven, it is a Care Home I told her.
She smiled, oh
yes, I know it, I am going past it. Get in.
visiting a relative?
She nodded. She
smelt of perfume, which was rather beautiful and I was intensely aware of her
bare legs close to mine. On the radio something jolly and with a tune was
playing, although nothing I recognised.
I visited my mother
at least once a month. Now that she had dementia, she did not recognise me, so
I was perfectly safe, although why I bothered, only a psychologist would be
able to tell me.
Browne, the receptionist recognised me.
Yes I have
come to see my Aunt.
her son is already here with her and the children.
Oh, I will
give them a few minutes, I muttered and hurried out.
Sitting in the park
opposite, I waited for them to emerge and drive away. Security should have told
me that they might be visiting today; it just goes to show that even the best
of us get lax. I wondered if David would have recognised me; it was twenty
years since he saw me last, and I had never met his wife nor his children; my
two nieces, although security kept me abreast of their lives.
Eventually I saw
them emerge; David striding in front and getting in the car, his rather tall
wife just behind and then their two daughters, looking bored, and who could
blame them? For a moment my heart melted and I pictured another life where I
saw them regularly, and was still in touch with my brother. But that was
not for me, and I did not regret it, not really. They swiftly drove away,
off to get on with their lives, whilst I got up and headed back into the
She was sitting in
the dining room, television blaring out, as it was in every room I had walked
She looked up at me
for a moment but did not say anything. A young nurse came over.
probably tired. You have had lots of visitors today havent
My mother nodded
slightly and chewed.
Would you like
a cup of tea? I suggested.
She said nothing,
but the nurse said that she would get one for both of us.
You saw your
son and your grandchildren.
She smiled slightly.
At least she looked and smelt clean, one hears horror stories, even of the most
expensive care homes, and this was one of the most expensive. After a few
moments of searching for something to say, I realised that she was dozing, and
so I drank my tea and watched the television, something about antiques. It
would be good to have a hobby, I thought, an interest. Maybe when I
I am going to
go now mum I told her, and then realised my mistake, but there was nobody
else within earshot. She looked up at me, her eyes met mine.
Thank you for
visiting she said her voice, as clear as when I was a child, thank
you Mark, thank you.
And I left her and
for a moment I felt a wave of sadness before I pulled myself together and
prepared for the long walk back to the railway station.
It was good to think
that nobody knew where I was, an exceedingly rare feeling; Linda probably
thought I was still in my office, whilst I had managed to lose my
chaperone on the tube. No doubt I would get a stinging email from
the head of security talking about responsibility and employee
safety, but I did not care, I wanted to enjoy my freedom. After all what
was the point of having this power if you were in thrall to administrators and
I was queueing
outside the House of Commons, the heart of government, or so people thought. It
was a sunny day, despite being early March, and I had felt like going to out to
survey my domains.
As the security
guards ushered me through the detection device there seemed to be a brief hold
up and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the two women briefly look at each
other, before letting me go through and in. On another day I would have
been nervous and probably left, but I knew that hold ups happen all the time
and that I had nothing to be scared of; I was untouchable.
It was Tuesday, and
the first Prime Ministers Questions of the week. I sat watching M.P.s
crowd into the chamber, which always surprised me with how small it was. And
then the Prime Minister walked in with the Home Secretary by her side.
She looked regal and in control as she sat down and began to deal with the
questions thrown at her, as if she were the most important person present.
Looking down on them
I felt contempt for those suited representative of the people. So many of these
Members of Parliament on all sides were employed by me; asking
the questions that I wanted them to, voting how they were told and resigning
when they stopped being useful. Even a couple of them had been murdered at my
behest, when they threatened to become a problem.
I laughed out loud
as I sat there, the countrys government, even members of the Cabinet, in
the palm of my hand, doing exactly what I tell them to. Me, the most important
man in the world; Empires crumble before me, Kings and Princes do my
will. Is there anybody who I dont control?
My back was
beginning to feel sore perhaps a reminder of my mortality so I
got up and left, wincing as I did so. This was a beautiful day, and I walked
along the Thames, appearing to be just an ordinary man escaping work for an
hour or two, enjoying the bright sun, that warmed me to my soul. Eventually I
would head back to the office, back onto the radar
but not just yet.
It is only a small
flat in one of the poorer districts of Naples; despite the marble it was
unpleasantly hot, and the neighbours were noisy, particularly the large family,
whose flat was below mine. I had been ordered to move to a small village in the
south of Sicily, where there was a house waiting for me, but I knew that would
leave me conspicuous, so I had disobeyed orders and found this flat, where I
hopefully blended in and was safe, for at least a bit longer.
It is another rainy
day; all week the rain has continued almost without a break. Every morning I go
out for a long walk and then back to my flat, where I hang my clothes up on the
shower rail to dry and then check my emails. I really should get rid of my
computer; I am sure that they can trace it but without it I would be lost.
Linda has gone now;
I hope that she has just been moved, or been allowed to retire, one of the few
who is given that privilege. But I fear for her; she knew much of what went on,
and I cannot imagine her being allowed to live with all that knowledge, but
then what did I know of her? Just a name affixed to the bottom of emails,
a name that was undoubtedly false.
It is someone called
Denis who emails me now, demanding to know why I made this decision or that.
Why did we kill this agent or this policeman? All these questions, and even
when I answer them more and more come to my Inbox. Many of them I refer to
things I cannot remember or dont want to. But Denis is a persistent man
and will not let go, cutting through my excuses and lies, with more
questions. I imagine him as an assertive middle-aged man with schedules
to meet and forms to be completed.
They will come for
me eventually, with more questions and then with a bullet. Perhaps I will get
to meet Denis at last, but I suspect not. It will be two hired killers, who
have no idea who I am or what I have done, and are just paid to do their job,
and who will eventually be disposed of in their turn.
Restless and hungry
I get up and leave the flat. I walk towards the harbour, where I go most
mornings; the rain has eased now, and the sun is trying to come out. I love
this city where I am anonymous and powerless, I hope that I am allowed a bit of
time to live, because I am actually happy, more so than I have ever been. If
only I could savour each minute without having to worry about the future, and
those questions without end.
I sit in the bar
that I go to most days, and swallow an expresso, eat a pastry and then sit and
ponder. I recognise the woman who served me, and the old man who is sitting at
the back smoking, but other than buongiorno I have never spoken to
them and am happy that way. I dont need to socialise, but I like the fact
that they are starting to recognise me, and perhaps might wonder where I have
gone, after the inevitable happens and I disappear.
Two young men walk
in and do not bother to disguise the fact that they recognise me; sitting at
the closest table to me and continually looking in my direction as they drink
their coffee. I pretend to be lost in my thoughts, unaware of the two men, but
of course I am aware of their every movement. After a few minutes I
pretend to make for the toilet, but there is a back door which I have noticed
previously, so I hurriedly slip through it and am free.
I think of heading
back to my flat to grab necessities, but I know that chances are somebody will
be there waiting for me. There is the railway station, but I cannot face the
walk all the way into the city, and where would I go? I feel a heaviness in my
bladder and wish I had used the toilet whilst I had the opportunity.
They must have
realised that I had escaped by now, and gone looking for me, and I should hurry
away I have a couple of minutes and at least I know the area, but I have no
idea where to go, or to be more exact, am too tired to bother. They are young
and I am old, and eventually they will get me.
I head down the long
road that heads away from the docks towards my flat, on either side closed
houses, looking grey in the dreary weather. Perhaps there will be nobody at the
flat, and perhaps the two young men were just friendly and bored. I had got
used to being over-cautious, that I could never relax. Was the whole thing my
And then in front of
me I see two figures, waiting, looking directly at me. How did they get there
so fast? I hesitate for a moment and think about turning around and running,
but I cannot do it, I am paralysed by fear or just weariness, and by now I
desperately need to piss, a need that overwhelms everything else.
After hesitating for
a moment, I take a breath, and then walk towards the two men, my hands
outstretched as if for mercy or if offering them forgiveness.