(From the Lumiere stories)

And there I stand.

Hands in pockets, hat tipped down, my breath steaming in front of me. The wind wipes across my neck and I flip the collar of my coat up to keep the tongue of winter from lapping at me some more.

I don’t know why I keep coming here. Every day for the last two years I’ve stopped by this same coffee shop and looked in the same window at the same waitress serving the same customers the same orders. She’s bound to have noticed me by now. But to be real
honest, at this point I don’t care if she hasn’t. I’m not really attracted to her. I couldn’t even tell you if you asked me why I keep coming by here and watching her.

I don’t care if the customers have noticed me. I’m sure they haven’t. I look just like everyone else in this part of town. The same tattered gray coat, the same faded black gloves, the same face that looks like its seen one too many hard days.

Except for her.

 She doesn’t have that supermodel look to her. Screw that. If anything, girls that look that way just look even more generic. Everyone wants to look like that. Everyone wants to look like they don’t and they only want to look like people that they know they’ll never get to be.

But not her.

She’s got that classic look to her. Slim, but not thin. Full lips, full cheeks. Bright eyes. Hair
that just kind of falls into place. A great figure is hidden behind that apron, though you’d be hard pressed to notice given that she doesn’t flaunt it. She’s like a painting in motion.

In the two years that I’ve been watching her, I’ve never gone inside. Never sat at one of her
tables, never asked for a cup of coffee. I have no idea what her voice sounds like and I like it that way because I can complete her in my own little way. I can fill in her little personality flaws and make her laugh at the jokes that I’ll never tell her. I can comfort her for all the problems she’ll never tell me about and I can stroke the hand I’ll never hold.

Damn it.

I couldn’t tell you why I do this. Why I make this all up in my mind. Why I pretend that she’s some ideal girl. I couldn’t tell you because I’ve never thought about it. Never wanted to think about it.

Every day I stand here for two minutes. No more, no less. Two minutes and I get to think about her and I get to not think about all the other crap that makes my life such a pain in the ass. She completes me, but she’ll never know it and I’ll never know why. And I kind of like it that way.

I walk away from the café window, briefcase clutched tightly in my gloved fist. It’s almost time. I could go on some generic monologue about how the emotional weight that the case carries is so much heavier than the rifle tucked inside of it, and how it gets heavier with each time I use it blah, blah, blah. I could, but I won’t. What I will say is that the rifle in there is one badass piece of weaponry and I am very good at using it.

It’s time to go make a living.

 The rooftops of Lumiere are a thing of beauty. Why anyone would want to leap over them in a single bound is beyond me. At the right time of day, when the sun is just starting to melt beyond the skyline and the wind is softly licking at the nape of your neck, everything that seemed generic and frustrating back in the world below suddenly melts away. I wish I could
take her up here. She’d probably love it. It’s like a whole other world. Connected yet complete in it’s own way.

I think about how much I love being up there, the ground below becoming smaller and smaller as I slowly make my way up the fire escape. The noise and headache of the city slowly fades into a muted mutter as I finally reach the top. Perfect timing. The sun’s just in the right spot and for the second time today, I lose myself in a beauty that will only last for two minutes. I let my mind clear itself and for just a brief moment I wonder. I wonder what I would do if I
had a normal life. Would I still go watch her? Would I still come up here to enjoy my own private heaven? The questions come and go with the wind, leaving my mind almost as soon as they enter it.

It’s time.

Before I even realize it my gear is all set up and ready for the kill. I’m sure not many people can say putting together a sniper rifle is second nature to them. I’m not sure if I should be proud of it, but in my own little way I am. Am I the best there is at this sort of thing? Maybe. Never bothered to ask anyone who might care.

The few people I’ve ever told what exactly it is that I do for a living have always asked me if I
get satisfaction out of the job, if I somehow find it gratifying or even justifiable to kill people for money. And each time they’ve asked me that I scroll through every face that I’ve blown off, stabbed, poisoned, hanged or charred and simultaneously list every rape, robbery, kidnapping, molestation, bribery, extortion and murder that face ever committed and I realize: Yeah. It is worth it. I may be taking them out so that some other boss or accomplice can get
richer or have the competition taken out of their way, but I know eventually their time will come as well and they’ll find their face on the unpleasant end of my crosshairs, too.

Just like this asshole right here coming down Staunton Ave. Nelson Welles. Calls himself “The Nail.” No one else does, just him. He always refers to himself in third person and by that ridiculous nickname. He hasn’t earned it through being tough, though he sure likes to think he has. This piece of shit is the physical manifestation of everything I just mentioned. You name it and he’s probably dabbled his soiled, sausage fingers in it.

On top of all that, he’s incredibly arrogant which is why he’s in that shiny convertible. Fine by
me. Makes my job a hell of a lot easier. Usually when the target’s in a car I have to get up close and personal, something I try and keep at a minimum. But thankfully, Welles is as oblivious as he is arrogant. He’s a sloppy businessman who makes enemies left and right, something I was often called to take care of for him.

 Welles was just a pain in the ass and I almost smile to myself when I splatter his head open like a cantaloupe and make the leather seats match the crimson clear coat paint job. Almost.

I dismantle the rifle and silence the faint chirping of my cell phone. It’s this week’s employer.

“How is our mutual friend,” the voice inquires.

“Dead,” I say, my tone indicating only the slightest hint of satisfaction.

“Good. Make sure he stays that way,” the voice is stern, but satisfied. “Payment will be delivered as discussed.”

“Pleasure doing business with you,” I reply, snapping the phone shut.

It’s been a productive day.

When he’s not working as a mild mannered reporter in Meridian, Mississippi, or wasting time on the internet or watching movies, Stewart Smith likes to write about whatever happens to pop into his head at the moment. This has included everything from rants on theology to musings on why Animal Man was the world’s first existential comic book hero.

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