Hi everyone, I’m Gontranno47 (obviously) and for as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to write. For years, I’ve been working on a dark spy thriller that I’ve been writing and re-writing until finally I am happy with it. And now it is published and available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle!
I’m still fairly new to the forum, so I’m not sure what kind of feedback I’ll receive, but a lot of you guys seem very well-read and as this is quite a dark book along the lines of Hitman Contracts, I thought it would interest some of you to read. Many of you have a deeply analytical nature, I’ve seen it in the Story Speculation thread, and discussions of Providence, and I think you will enjoy this because while the book can be enjoyed on a basic superficial level, it is also designed to be analysed and dissected. To this end, there are lots of hidden things in the book, and an overarching plot where not everything is as it seems. But I can assure you there is a grand explanation at the end, where you will likely go “Ooooh!” in epiphany, as you realise what it was all about. In short, this novel can be for people who just like shooting and action and all that - or for people like yourselves, who like to analyse and speculate.
I’d also like to thank @BogdanMD for his help in checking the medical aspects of the book before I sent it off to be published, I hope we can do this again with whatever I write next!
The novel is called Privatising Freedom and this is the blurb:
"In a dystopian near-future, where privatisation has run rampant, society’s police forces and militaries have been replaced by mercenary companies with questionable loyalties and limitless influence. Amongst this sea of corporate imperialism and withering governments, is Sherman Saffel: an ageing MI6 assassin whose long career of murder has more than taken its toll on him. For Saffel, death has become routine.
But when an ordinary mission hints at foul play from the corporations the world has come to rely upon, everything changes. Saffel embarks on a journey to uncover a terrorist attack nearly 50 years in the making, chasing shadows across a spider’s web of calculated deception - from the battlefields of unseen wars, to the corridors of power so skilfully consolidated. Tested beyond his limit, both physically and emotionally, Saffel discovers a conspiracy so powerful it could change the very nature of mankind. A conspiracy to which he has a deep personal connection."
The book is quite long (about 668 pages!) and so I thought it would be unfair to ask readers to take a chance on an unknown author before knowing the quality of their work. Consequently, I’d like to present to you the first chapter (and a bit) of Privatising Freedom. Please feel free to give me constructive feedback, positive or negative, and I hope you enjoy it Due to word limits on posts, I’ll have to paste it in pieces
CHAPTER 1 – Alive. Mission: Active.
The Rue d’Église train station in Accra was the latest addition to yet another so-called ‘smart city’ where everything from public announcements to police dispatches was controlled by a central operating system outsourced to its manufacturer.
Distracted commuters milled about the enormous dome-roof station as they called down mobile phones pressed into their cheeks by their shoulders, lugging suitcases while their free hands frantically looted their pockets for an elusive ticket. Overrun desk clerks struggled to tend to the hundreds of travellers trying to buy tickets to earn them passage aboard the bullet trains that were nestled between the concrete platforms being pounded by the boots of station guards.
Mercenaries stood in cream bulletproof vests and caps, their eyes sweeping the station and its commuters from behind shatter-proof sunglasses as hands clad in fingerless gloves gripped assault rifles optimised by their company for use in urban environments. The ignorant masses didn’t give a second glance to these ‘private military contractors’, choosing instead to focus solely on their own concerns. Many of them had been there since the early hours of the morning as they arranged meetings and mistresses at their destinations.
Littering the walls of the train station were jumbo-sized monitors adorned with a screensaver that featured a company logo of a globe rotating on its axis, with a shield and a baby blue backdrop behind it. Every few minutes, the logo would fade into this backdrop as an attractive man came into view. With manicured brunette hair and a confident, albeit false, smile that exposed his whitened enamel, he was wearing a grey suit whose colour scheme matched that of the logo. He opened his mouth and out poured corporate propaganda.
“Phoenixwood International,” the words of French were dubbed onto his beaming lips. “Faire de meilleures vies, pour les précieux.”
Such advertisements bombarded everyday citizens wherever they went, conditioning them into accepting the broadcasts as the norm and rendering them brainwashed into blindness. Years ago, such a thing would have only been heard of in an Orwellian novel. But that’s the thing about dystopian societies: you don’t realise when you’re part of one.
In a temple of noisy conversation and constant motion, it was near impossible to be out of the sight of the surveillance cameras erected on high steel poles as they processed the stressful lives of the hordes below. Commuters, mercenaries, station staff and train marshals – no one could evade the prying eyes of their for-profit protectors.
No one but him.
He stood there in a dark suit with a perfectly straight posture as his grey eyes observed even the slightest of movements around him. A gaunt ageing face featured such sunken cheeks and earnest eyes that it seemed almost fox-like in appearance. But his skin was light, coupled with faint wrinkles across his forehead and in the shadows under his eyes.
This fox was getting old.
This was reinforced by the stray grey hairs reaching down across his forehead from an otherwise neatly combed head being invaded by such greys. Clutching a briefcase in his left hand, his chest heaved an uneasy sigh as his face sported the remorseful look of a fox tired of hunting.
Effortlessly negotiating the shape-shifting crowds of civilians, he slipped his way through to the exit as his ears picked up every conversation around him and translated them into English.
“Is this the train to Ouagadougou?” a man muttered under his breath.
“So then she turned it off!” a baggage handler complained to a colleague.
“Foster to Command,” a guard reported into a wireless earpiece. “I’m in position on platform 3.”
“I’m at the station now!” a woman shouted on the phone over the din.
“Now boarding: the 4:15 train to Tamale will be departing in five minutes,” an announcer spoke from a number of compact speakers lining the building’s walls.
Reaching the exit, he passed through a security checkpoint before being released out onto the sun-baked streets of Accra.
The capital city of Ghana was a metropolitan utopia of impressive skyscrapers, sports arenas and other ways of demonstrating its municipal might. Known as the City of Castles, Accra was originally centred around historical forts left behind by the British, the Dutch and the Danish, but since then the city had spilled out across much of the southern coast of Ghana – dominating both the fishing and tourism industries as previous mayors had successfully managed to encourage multinational corporations to invest in the city. Hotels, corporate headquarters and executive apartments housed Ghana’s rich and powerful of the highest class in their hedonistic pursuits of further wealth, not caring to gaze out of their lofty windows to the Korle Lagoon below.
On the banks of this black body of water was Agbogbloshie or “Sodom and Gomorrah” as the locals called it, due to its high rates of crime. Red Cobra, the private military company that provided the municipal police, turned a blind eye to the crimes committed here because of the clandestine profitability of the site.
Agbogbloshie was a sprawling electronic waste dump populated by roughly 80,000 of Accra’s poorest citizens across eight acres of what could only be described as a sea of discarded computers, laptops, mobile phones, cameras and games consoles as far as the eye could see. This was where the first world countries exported their unwanted or outdated electronic goods by the shipload, under the guise of donations. Now that Accra was a developed city in its own right, such ‘donations’ had to be re-labelled as imported goods ordered by Ghanaian shell corporations, complete with shipping addresses, port papers and invoices.
Gangs of young boys no older than sixteen scavenged the man-made mountains of outdated technology in search of copper, aluminium and other metals used in such electronic devices – often pulling them apart and wrenching out the metals with their hands and teeth. With all this water pollution, burning plastics and non-existent plumbing: Agbogbloshie was arguably one of the most hostile environments known to science, where only the strongest immune systems survived. The people there were born into such harsh conditions, taking to living in a mass of lean-to huts made from rotting wood, while they relieved themselves amongst the very electronics they had to rifle through. The fact that such extreme poverty in the lagoon was neighboured by such extreme wealth along its banks was one of society’s cruellest juxtapositions.
The traveller hailed a taxi, climbing into the back with his briefcase, and asking the driver to take him the short distance to this slum.
“Agbogbloshie? Are you sure?” the taxi driver asked over his shoulder in French.
“Yes, I’m a UN inspector,” he produced a gravelly voice that disguised a mild British accent.
“Oh we get a few of them,” the driver replied as he manoeuvred his vehicle through Accra’s difficult streets. Luckily, after the recent completion of a five-year government initiative: the street layout of Accra had been re-configured to one more akin to a grid, like that seen in New York City – to ease congestion and fuel wastage. “I’m Kofi Nikubi by the way – I run a lot of the taxis around this area,” he added enthusiastically.
“Leon Vega,” his fare responded as the driver exploited a gap in the traffic.
“So, are you going to shut the dump down?”
“It’s not as simple as that. I have to check the air for lichens and the lagoon itself for pollution indicator species – like rat-tailed maggots,” Vega informed him, tapping the briefcase on his lap.
“But you do know that environmental inspectors aren’t treated very well down there, right?” Nikubi spoke concernedly. “The last guy they sent – well woman – ended up being – ”
“ – I can handle it,” Vega bluntly interrupted him.
It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the ramp leading down to the waste dump. To innocent eyes it would have been a shocking sight of waste, desperation and extreme poverty in the shadows of high-rise hotels. But to Vega, it was nothing in comparison to the horrors he had witnessed.
He paid the driver and ignored his wishes of good luck, before stepping out of the taxi with his briefcase in one hand. Having acclimatised to the African sun, Vega didn’t boil in his suit as he began to walk toward Agbogbloshie with a straight and firm military gait.
Marching across the wetlands of the Korle Lagoon, he passed an archaic fax machine that had been robbed of its metal and then later, a laptop that was almost completely bare. As he walked, the electronics were coming in greater frequency and within twenty minutes he was stepping cautiously across a sheet of every device imaginable. All around him, there was no flat land in sight as Ghanaian children briefly paused their work to observe the well-dressed white man treading across the e-waste dump with surprising balance.
Then the smell hit him like a bulldozer.
A putrid stench of faeces, urine, vomit, burning rubber, smoke and rotting flesh penetrated his nostrils and made him blink back stinging tears as the sun did its best to intensify the experience. He negotiated a way over the flatter electronics, confident in the assumption that falling over would not only injure him, but also infect him with enough diseases to kill a man within a week.
As he ventured further into the pit of reclamation, Vega found himself surrounded by stumbling prostitutes foaming at the mouth, and gang members in torn clothes swinging chains as they watched the outsider step into their territory. Vega was unfazed by their group intimidation tactics and their brandishing of weapons – such thugs were often poorly trained and had low pain tolerance, because they were used to hurting people who couldn’t hit back.
Stepping over the smouldering blanket of computer parts, he advanced on his target: a lone shack larger than the rest and made up of sheets of corrugated steel, with a piece of cloth for a front door. Substantially larger than the others, this isolated abode had two topless thugs stood either side of the improvised door, both in their mid-twenties and malnourished.
“Partez,” Vega spoke quietly but authoritatively to these two men when he reached this piece of prime real estate. From his jacket, he produced two stacks of 800 Ghanaian cedis fastened with elastic bands, before giving the thugs one each.
Without hesitation, they abandoned their posts and wandered off back home for the day – no doubt to show their families, before rallying a mob to beat and rob Vega for the rest. It would take them fifteen minutes to accumulate the men across this terrain. Vega only needed five in that shack.
Moving a suspiciously wet cloth-door aside with the back of his hand, he stepped into a dark room populated by old laptops and lithium batteries littered across the ground. Bright sunlight endeavoured to squeeze through the cracks in the metal walls as cockroaches scurried across the batteries below, climbing up and over one of his shoes.
In front of him, a scruffy Ghanaian with a holey cap looked up from his soldering on a stolen table he was sat behind – his pockets bulging from money hastily stuffed into them.
“Who’re you?” he demanded to know as he rose to his feet, nudging something on the desk behind a disused laptop.
“Mister Kandiala, my name is Ryan Little and I represent the interests of Cross Seas Insurance,” Vega introduced himself without poising for a handshake.
“H-How do you know my name?”
“Mister Kandiala, I’m a professional,” Little spoke as he gave him an intolerant look. “I know everything about you.”
This seemed to offend Kandiala, whose brows furrowed with contempt.
“Look at you with your fancy suit and your briefcase. You have no idea what it’s like down here!” Kandiala viciously mocked him before spitting on the floor. “You don’t know what I’ve had to do to survive. You don’t know the first thing about me!”
“Gumbin Kandiala. Five feet, nine inches,” Little proceeded to reel off the man’s file. “120 pounds. Eyes brown. Hair colour brunette. Born 14th of July. 38 years of age. Migrated from Botswana five years ago with a doctored passport. Involved in the narcotics trade the following year. You established yourself as an information broker for Agbogbloshie gangs, while building a business recovering private financial information from waste computers,” he added, his grey eyes not moving as they bore in Kandiala’s. “One prison term, three years for grand theft auto in Kumasi Central Prison. Prison medical records suggest a cocaine addiction and syphilis at a young age. Never married. No formal education. No firearm licences. No official address. In possession of a 41 gigabyte USB stick containing both semi-literate poetry and gay – “
“ – Alright alright!” Kandiala nearly screamed. “How do you know so much about me?”
“I’m looking for a computer that was salvaged from this waste site,” Little deflected the question, his gravelly voice steady under the man’s shouting.
“Look around you, computers are my business!” Kandiala proclaimed irritably, spreading his arms to encompass the room and all its dissected electronics.
“The one I’m looking for used to belong to the British foreign secretary. David Barrett. Cross Seas Insurance would like to recover the computer’s hard drive intact and uncompromised.”
“Un…compromised…?” Kandiala replied dimly, struggling with the man’s wording and husky voice.
“Where is the hard drive?” Little asked him sternly, quickly losing his patience.
“Err…yeah the hard drive…” Kandiala stalled as he backed up to a laptop and discreetly slipped a hand behind it to grab something. Noticing this movement, Little allowed him to reach for it as he dropped his briefcase to the floor.
Suddenly, Kandiala’s hidden hand swung up a handgun.
Little effortlessly grabbed the impeding arm with both hands at the wrist, twisting it behind his back to make the man bend double in pain as Little moved to his side and held the arm straight. A hand clamped around his skyward arm and another on his back, Little merely had to nudge the arm a little in an unnatural direction to get Kandiala to drop the firearm to the ground with a clonk.
“I’ll repeat the question: where is the hard drive?” Little calmly interrogated him as Kandiala spat and swore angrily, bent over with his left arm pointing up in the air like a beacon.
“What kind of insurance company do you work for?!” Kandiala snarled in disbelief. “I don’t know nothing!”
“Is that why you need two guards outside? To protect you from people who want their useless information back?” Little asked him rhetorically. “Is that why you attacked me at the mere mention of the foreign secretary?”
“I thought you were here to rob me! I don’t know anything about Barrett’s laptop!”
“Mister Kandiala,” Little began quietly and menacingly. “I didn’t say it was a laptop.”
Little booted Kandiala’s legs out from under him, making him face-plant the dirty floor with a grunt. Little put his knee on the man’s back and pushed his arm a little further out of place. “In this position, your humerus will break with very little resistance, so stop stalling and tell me where the hard drive is.”
“I sold it!”
“Did you remove, tamper with or distribute the data on the hard drive first?”
“Do I look like I have internet connection?!” Kandiala exclaimed, his face shoved uncomfortably into a battery.
“One more question. Who did you sell the hard drive to?”
“I can’t tell you that!”
“On the contrary, you can and eventually you will,” Little defied him logically. “But not before a number of bones are broken in your body.”
“Please, he’ll kill me if I tell you!” Kandiala begged.
“And I’ll kill you if you don’t. They only difference is that I’m very good at prolonging the agony.”
“I’ll kill you, you ba- AAAARGH!”
“Concentrate,” Little uttered simply as he pushed the arm bone to breaking point. “This is your last chance before you have to seek medical attention.”
“Gerogi Halprax! Gerogi Halprax!” the words erupted from Kandiala’s lips in desperation.
“Thank you,” Little spoke quietly.
Leaning down, he released Kandiala’s arm and slipped his own around his throat, pulling him into a tight choke hold.
“What are you doing?!” came a stained cry as Little squeezed, cutting off the blood supply to Kandiala’s brain. The man’s arms flailed wildly in an attempt to fend off Little as he quickly fell unconscious.
Leaning back from the body and into a squat, Little slowly pushed himself up into a stand while still retaining his perfect posture. He used one hand to brush aside a stray grey hair that invaded his face, as the other one pulled a disposable mobile phone out of his pocket and dialled an otherwise unused number. Placing the phone on the table in the middle of the room, Little pressed a button to put it on loudspeaker after checking for eavesdroppers outside the ‘door’.
After one ring, the recipient of the call answered but didn’t say anything – as per protocol.
“Saffel to MI6, field code: 55/49/44,” Little addressed the phone with a tone of formality. “I’ve located the hard drive. I need you to run a name check on Gerogi Halprax – try all spellings.”
“Searching,” came a woman’s amplified voice that was peppered with a British accent similar to his. “What do you need?”
“Basic information – along with criminal career, financial dealings, medical history and any unusual connections,” he requested. “Get immigration to pinpoint a country and a city, if possible.”
As he spoke, ‘Saffel’ as was his real surname, grabbed the briefcase that he had dropped prior to the encounter and settled it on the table next to the phone. Clicking it open revealed black padding shaped specifically for a hard drive to fit in. However, it was currently holding a pair of white latex gloves draped across drug paraphernalia undisturbed by the train station’s security because it was not illegal to take the paraphernalia into Ghana.
A tourniquet, a Bunsen burner, a tiny handheld gas canister, a dirty cotton bud and a burnt spoon sat under the gloves. The tools of today’s work.
“I have a Gerogi Halprax with a registered address in Accra,” his MI6 handler got back to him.
“Basic information?” Saffel asked, pulling on the white gloves with an elastic snap.
“Halprax is the founder and CEO of an electronics firm of the same name. He was also, as of last year, the mayor of Accra. He was forced to step down due to concerns regarding conflicts of interest between his political and business careers.”
“Corruption,” Saffel spoke simply as he grabbed Kandiala’s body and with a strained grunt, he hauled it into a chair behind the table.
“Apparently the mayor had been offering smart city contracts to his own Halprax firm, but was also in league with Red Cobra PMC,” his handler continued as he secured the body. “Halprax is now a high court judge working in Accra, with a house in the suburbs. He does a lot of business through shell corporations and launders bribes through charities, so a full financial breakdown could take time, but if you need something to be going on with then I can tell you that during his tenure as mayor of Accra, Halprax’s Cayman account received large routine deposits of £5 million on the first of every month – transferred from an address in Washington DC.”
“US government?” Saffel asked openly as he went to work squeezing Kandiala’s finger onto each of the pieces of equipment, to imprint his fingerprints onto them.
“It’s a Wohlstand bank branch and even that took a bit of digging to get to.”
“What do we know about Halprax’s residence?” he continued to question his handler.
“14 Kingston Drive, in the Cantonments suburb of Accra. Three floors, a two-car driveway, no gas or electrical vulnerabilities, no surveillance cameras. He has a personal security detail of ten professionals – making him the most well-protected judge in the country.”
“That’ll slow me down,” Saffel spoke reasonably as he lifted the padding out of the briefcase to reveal a stoppered syringe taped to the underside, filled with clear liquid cocaine.
“Hargreaves doesn’t care how you retrieve the hard drive. Make a mess if you have to.”
“Understood,” Saffel replied bluntly before hanging up the phone and stowing it away in his pocket.
He carefully took the stopper off the syringe and – taking the time to press Kandiala’s fingers onto the instrument – squirted some of the solution to check that it wasn’t blocked, before tapping it gently a couple of times to burst any air bubbles. Force of habit.
He took the syringe in his white gloved hands as he penetrated the brachial artery of the unconscious man’s cubital fossa and pushed the plunger, dumping the liquid cocaine into his bloodstream.
Within seconds, Kandiala began to violently convulse, his eyes rolling back in his head and turning them into two white orbs. Thick red foam bubbled out of his mouth as the fits flicked it around the room, with blood gushing from his nose and ears without relent. Convulsing, twitching and bleeding from all orifices, Saffel left Kandiala as he packed the padding back into the briefcase and de-cocked the handgun on the floor.
Upon this, he took his briefcase, clicked it shut and calmly left the shack.
14 Kingston Drive was the same as the rest of the houses down its street: a cream villa-style residence with smooth outdoor lighting that contrasted with the darkness of the night.
A knee-height stone wall skirted the property with an electronic gate at the front. The wing of the house to the right led away from the gate as it connected to a horizontal wing – creating an inverted and upturned ‘L’ shaped building. Between the gate and the front door of the horizontal wing was a drive where a sports car and the latest Jaguar sat proudly. Dark wooden shutters matched the railings of two small balconies on the second floor as their open doors revealed brightly lit rooms within. As with many of the houses down the street, all of the indoor lights were on, as Halprax’s bodyguards could be seen occasionally passing the windows. Although they were professionals, for an experienced operator like Saffel, it would have been child’s play to outsmart them.
He was a couple of houses away, walking methodologically along the paving of an orange-lit street that was eerily silent as though baiting its breath in anticipation.
He was one house away, clutching his briefcase tight as he one-handedly unbuttoned the jacket of his suit so he could reach a silenced handgun in his hip holster. He had sourced it on the black market since leaving the waste dump at Agbogbloshie. Using the free fingers of his case-toting hand, he gripped the skin-tight black leather gloves around his hands, pulling them tighter, before breathing a sigh of resignation.
“It begins…” Saffel spoke to himself mournfully as he reached the residence.
He took a moment to observe the building, before putting a shoe on the knee-high wall and boosting himself over it.
Striding towards the front door, Saffel pulled a flashbang grenade out from his outside jacket pocket, removing the pin with his thumb, and tossing it up and over the balcony railings up to the right – through the open doors and into a first-floor room. As he reached the front door, a blinding flash of light burst out through the balcony doors – accompanied by an ear-splitting bang.
On this cue, Saffel booted the front door off its hinges, sending it soaring into the hallway of the building and bouncing off an end table as he dropped his briefcase.
“Ga!” three bodyguards in the hall all cried at once as they scrambled for their weapons.
Within the space of two seconds: Saffel swiftly knocked his jacket forepart behind him to reveal the hip holster, whipping out his pistol and flicking the safety off as he brought it up into his hands.
He shot the three of them through the head with surgical precision, switching from one to the other before they could raise their weapons. The three bodies hit the floor of the hallway as he jogged inside and pressed his back up against a panelled wall to his right, next to a doorway that led into a lounge. He gripped his firearm low, as he slowed his breathing and calmly listened to another bodyguard in the next room.
“Contact!” they shouted into their earpiece as they ran at the doorway Saffel was beside, unaware of the intruder’s location.
Suddenly, swinging out into the doorway, Saffel put his left arm around the man’s neck from the front – with his bicep pushing into his larynx.
His victim struggled and gasped as Saffel followed him down to the ground while the man’s body went limp. Deprived of cranial blood flow, he reluctantly fell unconscious as Saffel aimed his pistol into the cream-coloured lounge, in search of more targets paid to prevent him from accomplishing his mission.
When his victim was incapacitated, Saffel released him onto the floor and returned his second hand to his weapon as he rose to a stand. A distant authoritative voice shouted from upstairs, muffled by the ceiling, made it evident that the flashbang’s effects had passed. By Saffel’s count, there were still six men upstairs for him to deal with or bypass.
“You two, go down there and kill that son of a bitch!” came panicked English that he managed to pick out from the floor above.
Moving into action, Saffel traversed the lounge and moved through a pair of doors into a dining room, proceeding into a large kitchen fitted with marble worktops and all manner of cookery gadgets. Stealing a kitchen knife, he ducked behind a counter in the middle of the room and he patiently waited.
Eventually, one of the two guards walked cautiously into the dining room before stepping into the kitchen, pointing his submachine gun at a wooden door that led to a side room. He began to walk towards the door and as he did, Saffel flew up from behind the counter and put the knife around his neck.
“Drop it,” he ordered in French as he pulled a startled bodyguard into a tight grab, the knife digging into the man’s throat. He dropped his submachine gun as Saffel twisted him to face the dining room.
“Clear!” came a voice from the other side of the wing.
“Call him,” he commanded the bodyguard in a low voice.
“No please, I ca- “ he pleaded but cutting into him silenced him abruptly.
“ – I take no pleasure in taking lives. But if you don’t do this, then I won’t hesitate to kill you right here,” Saffel breathed into his ear, his gravelly voice made ominous by its tone. “Call him.”
“And you won’t kill me?”
“I won’t. You’re of no interest to me.”
“Kwame!” the guard called out.
“Yeah?” a distant voice replied.
“Now what do I say?” the guard asked Saffel.
“You’ve done your part, let curiosity do the rest,” he replied quietly as he brought up his pistol in line with the lounge door that led into the hallway. After ten seconds, curiosity fulfilled its part.
An SMG-toting guard wandered in with a confused look on his face, pushing one door open with his free hand. Saffel pulled the trigger and a muffled round coursed out of the nose of the silencer.
It cut through the air and lodged itself in the man’s forehead, slapping blood up the door as he collapsed.
His hostage was panting from the sight.
“And now?” he asked exhaustedly.
“What?! You said – “
“ – I lied,” Saffel replied before promptly slitting the man’s jugular veins and stepping away from him. He gritted his teeth and his eyebrows rose, squeezing together as he remorsefully watched the man die.
He wasn’t upset by the sight of death, or horrified at what he had done. He was upset that after all of his years doing this: it was still happening. That it was still necessary. And that he was still doing it.
The world never changes.
Snapping out of his grim daze, Saffel proceeded through the dining room and lounge, into the hall and – retrieving his briefcase from the doorway en route – up the stairs. Pistol at the ready, he silently ascended to the next floor, moving so slowly that not even the dust betrayed his presence.