She was full of energy, youth radiating from her perfect olive bronzed skin. The young lady was barely 20 years old. Her Chanel silk dress poured black cloth over her body. Energetic, sexy and full of life, exactly how every young person should be, but often are not.
The man she was with was in his late 40s, brown salt and pepper hair, still in very good physical shape; I noted the only ring on any of his fingers was a golden pinky ring on his left hand, with the family insignia engraved upon it. Impeccable 3-piece light grey suit. The sound of their zest for life from the table was at a polite level. Plates of select meats, cheeses and fruit came and went, along with the bottles of fine wine.
I finished my dessert, read part of my novel – ‘A Very Private Gentleman’. The espresso came to the table, I sipped between pages. It was bitter, delicious, and ageless. Dusk gently seeped through the large window along one side of the restaurant, gentle lighting warming the light gray leather padded seats and smooth marble tabletops. When not keeping an eye on the couple I gave interested glances at the restaurants staff as they worked in the open and immaculately clean kitchen.
Now the fun couple were finishing up, at least for the restaurant. They said no to a fifth bottle of wine, but ordered two bottles of Moet Champagne for his room. I stared at the pages in my book, but I was no longer reading. I was hunting.
We had never met, Mr. Baxter and I; but I could see that we would have been friends. We clearly enjoyed the same things. It would be a clean and painless death for him. His name was Morgan Baxter, 49. Ten years ago he’d inherited a successful women’s clothes and accessory company, branches of which were in London, Paris, Hong Kong, and were now looking at opening one here, in Baku.
Azerbaijan is an oil rich country, but with years of being stifled by the USSR, and thus the older generations often seem to have a disagreeable personality, it has fallen behind in the world, previously ignored by foreign interest. Now though it holds one of the F1 races annually and has busy luxury hotels springing up, so it is gradually becoming a hip and modern city with international interest.
This – the company’s Baku deal – is why I had been hired, to take down this great man, this lover of life, leader of temptation, this perfect specimen of a disappearing breed. Mr. Baxter had to die, not because of the new store, not from the Azerbaijanis. No, the £50,000-plus expenses, was being paid to me by the chairman of Baxter’s own company. Morgan was squandering whole chunks of the company’s profits on his lifestyle. Hotels, jets, sports cars, mansions, his armies of bespoke suits, fun girls and high class prostitutes, extended exotic holidays… He was becoming an embarrassment, a drain on the company.
It was 11pm; I was listening as Morgan thanked and tipped the staff then left the restaurant. His room was 2617. I knew the number already. I’d been in his room 4 hours earlier when, ten minutes beforehand, he’d dressed, left and met Miss Italiano in the hotel’s lobby.
As with the restaurant, his room was beautiful, spacious, and perfectly lit. Large bed, marble bathroom, a wall for a window that overlooked Baku and into the Caspian Sea. I am six foot, the modern, cream wardrobe and swivel mirror both towered over me. I looked at myself in the mirror with its back to the window, dousing my reflection in natural light.
I took the button camera from the inside of my sports jacket – light blue jacket with white shirt (top two buttons undone), slacks and shoes, no socks – against my tanned skin I looked fantastic. 45 years old, slim, finely groomed, black hair, a black silk eye patch over my left eye. The bottom of an old faded tattoo pokes out of my left sleeve on the top of my hand. Stopping myself from too much self-admiration, I focused and attached the camera to the top middle of the mirror. I checked the view on my hand held screen.
I could see most of the room with the king size bed at centre stage. I’d made sure I was booked in the opposite room of the corridor. This way I could see anyone arriving or leaving the room through the spy hole on my hotel door.
Arriving in my room after the meal and around 30 minutes after Morgan and his lady went to theirs, I was stood by the door checking the spy hole every time I heard a sound outside and staring at the screen in my hand.
I watched them, already undressed, lying on the bed drinking the Champagne and snorting a little of the white stuff. In between they would make love, fast and sweaty, a full bodied cardio workout.
It was now a waiting game, waiting for them to tire themselves out. Waiting, waiting.
Morgan will be my fifth contract. I’d hunted large and small game all my life, but from an early age I constantly craved for the ultimate prey. Four years in the army didn’t get me what I wanted, but it gave me the skills that I needed. My first contract went well, a Scottish gangster with a shot gun. Second was the ex-wife of a rich businessman with a pistol (take the deal ladies!).
On the third job I got cocky and it turned into a knife fight with a large Russian criminal boss. I won the fight but lost my eye. A year and a half later I’d recovered and learned how to work with my disability. I took another year away learning more skills, all the best, cutting edge methods of a professional cleaner. Number 4 was a journalist investigating the background of a rising star in politics. He went off a bridge in an ‘accident’.
Sitting on a small wooden chair by the door, I checked my OMEGA Seamaster. It was now nearly 5.30am. She finally showered and started to gather her things. They had one last small kiss, she placed a large wad of euros into her bag and left. With my ear to the door I listened to her footsteps go down the corridor and with my eye on the screen I watched Morgan finish his thick cigar. He stood up and walked off screen toward the window where I could not see him. I imagined him stood there, the rising sun bathing him as he closed his eyes, smiled and breathed in deeply.
At 5.45am he lay on his silk sheets and slept, I watched him for five minutes. He did not stir, sleeping arms out, a Christ figure for the decadent, naked and in complete contentment. He dies so that I may sin. It was time, I put the hand held back into my pocket, took out the duplicate key card for his door and the poisoned syringe.
Did I want to kill Morgan? No, not particularly. He seemed the kind of classy gent that I enjoyed drinking with, going on skiing vacations with, enjoying a day of golf with or hunting wild boar in German forests with. Gentlemen with a craving for life. Fearless, unquenchable thirsts for women, travel, adventure, wine and clothes. Following this thought and if you do a little reading in the history books, you finally arrive at the conclusion that guys like him do not make it to a particularly old age. He had had a longer life than many of his ilk; crashes in sports cars, shot by angry husbands, executed by self righteous religious groups or extreme left wing governments and so on. When he dies, I get my £50,000 and I will spend it exactly as he would have spent it. I am at my core a hunter, he is my prey. His time has come, there are no questions.
If Morgan Baxter had been awake the injection would be a numb, comforting feeling. It will be a good death, 20 seconds after the injection he would be dead, stone dead. It would look very similar to a heart attack. Mr. Baxter was over 45 years old, a life of drinking, womanising, high adrenalin sports and mixing in a dash or drugs, it would be dismissed as a heart attack. Even if foul play was suspected, I would be long gone.
Click, the door opened. I stood in the doorway. The only sound was his low snore. Sliding in the room, I pulled off the plastic lid of the needle and held it between my teeth. His right arm was stretched out towards me; it couldn’t have been more conveniently placed if I’d have asked him to put it there. With my left hand I held his wrist and looked for a good vein. It wasn’t hard, he worked out and was in great shape. I took the largest, most pronounced blue line.
I had received some medical training for this. I checked for air bubbles in the syringe, had a small cotton bud ready for the clean-up. Pierced the skin, inserted the hair thin, hollow needle’s lethal spike. A little pressure from my thumb and the liquid went in.
There was a low, quiet ‘huh?’ I looked up. In the light of the rising sun I watched Morgan’s sleepy, ghost blue eyes open.
‘Who are you?’ he asked, barely audibly.
I replied in a voice barely louder than his, ‘I’m Hern, a friend. Everything’s OK.’
He then slipped into the eternal sleep and never closed his eyes.
Back in my room I stripped, showered, dressed in a new tailored, light brown suit and disposed of all other belongings. I met the company’s pilot in the airport bar and boarded a chartered flight carrying a beautiful new dark brown leather bag full of money. We took off and flew over a city that I could never visit again.