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by Paul D. Brazill

Wayne leaned against his car and opened a packet of Menthol cigarettes. He lit up and stared into the distance at the pitch black lake. His thoughts drifted into memories.

For a long time, Wayne had been able to compartmentalize his life as a contract killer and completely function in the straight world as an accountant. Anyway, it was a job he enjoyed. He’d always been good with numbers. Putting things in order.

But last July he’d ended up in Cumbria. Alston, to be precise. The highest market town in Britain, apparently. In the middle of bloody nowhere.

He’d been working for an outsource agency, to get money to send Gavin and Gareth to Oxford. And it had been nice enough work, though it had entailed a bit more travelling than he was used to.

One day, the company sent him to work at a slaughterhouse. Hammonds Sharp Cutz Ltd was making a packet through EU subsidies and the job was boring but easy enough. Then Old Man Hammonds arrived. He’d set up the firm years before. Dragged it from nothing to success, though his daughters ran it these days.

Hammonds sat next to Wayne, who could see that the old man was a little drunk and had a hard on. Wayne cringed as the old man moved close to him. Patted his shoulder.

“Sorry, but just I have to do it sometime. I’m really sorry,” said Hammonds.

“Yes, of course,” said Wayne, grinding his teeth.

He didn’t have a clue what Hammonds was prattling on about.

Hammonds went over to a cupboard and took out a hammer. He walked out of the office. Wayne gasped as Hammonds took a gulp of air and beat a cow to death, licking his lips.

The old man came out of the barn with blood and sperm on his trousers.

“God, that was good,” he said. “I feel so free.”

He took a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from a wobbly Ikea cupboard and put it on Wayne’s desk.

“Fancy a gargle?” said Hammonds.

Wayne had been sober for fifteen years until then but at that time his resolve disappeared like spit on a hot griddle.

“Make it a double,” said Wayne.

Shortly after, through sticky, clammy dreams and nightmares, Wayne had started to think about the cow that Hammonds had killed, and the odds and sods he himself had killed over the years. He’d known that if you pulled on that particular thread hard enough your whole life would unravel. But pull he did.

Dusk was melting into dawn and Wayne was cold. He took a can of strong Polish beer from his backpack and downed it before making a decision. He got back into his Audi and listened to The Stranglers’ Golden Brown as he drove towards Alston. Old Man Hammonds would feel free tonight, for sure.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of The Last LaughCold London BluesGuns of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German, and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has also edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit, with Luca Veste. His blog is here.