The man pulled out a pistol and fired three times. His victim slumped to the floor, dead before he made contact with the cold tarmac. His face was pale and twisted into a fearful expression, his eyes cold and distant. Blood flowed steadily from his chest, running ever quicker with the pounding, driving rain. His assailant turned and strode out of the alleyway, his face blank, his hands steady as he tucked the gun back into his jacket pocket. He did nothing. He said nothing. He simply walked. A rumble of thunder reverberated through the street as he exited the mouth of the alleyway, a smile now dancing on his otherwise motionless lips. He passed under a streetlight, his heavily tattooed face coming into view, the various shapes and words providing a makeshift mask that seemed to shroud his features and blunt his feelings. It was a clever idea. It meant he could stare his victim in the eye- and there were many- knowing that they would die never seeing his face, never knowing who it was that had ripped their life away. And yet, he could lap up every emotion, every feeling they expressed in their final few minutes. It was their eyes, teary and wide with terror. And their teeth. The way they were clenched with fearful anticipation. The way they seemed to cower, to curl up into a pitiful ball. That’s why he loved what he did. Revenge, intimidation and murder. They gave him some sort of perverse pleasure, an insatiable high, augmented by the astronomical amounts he was paid. Indeed, it was the life for him. He carried on walking along the pavements, thoughts of money and murder swimming in his head. Often the two went hand in hand. As he would soon find out. You see, distracted by the thoughts of money and cowering victims, he failed to spot the cloaked silhouette which stood on the adjacent building. He also failed to see the cloaked figure leap off, twist in the air, and land silently, but three yards from him. Hidden in the shadows, his black cloak billowed undetectably, his face shrouded from view. He crouched low, eyeing his victim as a lion studies his prey. The oblivious assailant sauntered on, still dreaming of what he would buy with tonight’s wages. Perhaps a car? The new Lamborghini Aventador looked a delicious prospect, its price tag matching its ostentatious, yet elegant appearance. Or perhaps he would treat himself to a luxury yacht? Or a new watch? He could even go all the way and buy a private villa. Or even- His thoughts were abruptly stopped by a strange feeling that seemed to spread through him. It was as if he could no longer walk. His legs seemed like slabs of concrete- no, steel. His breath caught in is throat. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t even move. He went to touch them, perhaps massage them into life, when he discovered he could no longer use his arms either. The buildings seemed to distort and bend around him, his eyes watering with the sheer effort of keeping them open. He felt something sharp sticking into his neck, something cold. And then the world toppled. He felt his head collide with the pavement, a sharp stab of pain coursing through his skull. He started to find it difficult to breathe, as if a giant weight was pressing down on his chest. He closed his eyes, nervously counted to five, and opened them. And something was staring back at him. Through his distorted vision, he saw something staring back at him. Something dark, mysterious, sinister even. It seemed to consume his vision, turning his breathe shallow and his blood to ice. He started to feel uneasy, as if a ghostly chill was passing through him. Desperately, he tried to reach out, tried to call out, but he felt his words catch in his throat, perfectly formed in his head, and yet unable to be released. Then the figure spoke. ‘Who sent you?’ he rasped. It took a while for the words to register, as the tattooed man heard it as more of a distant whisper, as if someone had spoken to him while he was underwater. He tried to form the words, but they would not come. ‘Who sent you?’ again he said, more forcefully this time. Once more, the tattooed man could not answer. All he managed was a feeble: ‘K…k…kr…’ He suddenly found himself being searched. The cloaked man was rifling through his jacket pockets, using perhaps more force than was necessary. He worked quickly, silently, pulling out everything- ticket stubs, a lighter, an empty packet of Marlboros- and casting them aside. He had searched through every pocket, and had found nothing. The cloaked man stood up, his cloak billowing in the wind. He raised his hand, and even through the tattooed man’s distorted vision, the object was unmistakeable. It was a gun. The barrel of which was pointing straight at him. He suddenly found himself consumed by fear, as if his entire being, his life, his past, present and future, were about to be forcefully torn from him. He found himself gritting his teeth, clenching his jaw so fiercely it began to throb, just so he wouldn’t cry out from the utter trepidation that was coursing through his veins. Slowly, his vision began to clear, the buildings gradually returning to their shapes. ‘Please…don’t do it’ he whispered, ‘p-please…’ He felt something cold running down his face- blood? No, the liquid dropped onto his lips, and he tasted salt. He had begun to cry. He felt strength return to his legs and arms, and yet he felt weaker than ever. As if he wanted to just crawl up into a ball and hide. As if all he wanted to do was cower. And suddenly… suddenly he wished he could see the cloaked mans’ face. He wished he could see what expression he held, what he was feeling. What he was thinking. It was torture, knowing that the cloaked man could see all of his emotions, could see his watery eyes, his face filled with fear, as he desperately recoiled. As he… as he… He stopped as realisation hit him. This was exactly how his victims had felt. Exactly what he’d done to them. Pain throbbed through his chest, as if great aching consumed his self, his being, trying desperately to claw itself out. And with all of this, if only for a few seconds, he felt remorse. Remorse for what he had done. For the lives he had took. For the lives he had ruined. And for the blood he had spilt. And then the cloaked figure flexed his index figure, and pulled the trigger.