His chest heaved and his breath stung in his throat. He was blanketed in the surreal darkness, submerged in the glassy glow of the television screen that gently stretched over the recesses of his hotel room.
He was staring glass-eyed at the television screen as the newscaster reeled out the unfortunate event that took place 3 hours ago, his mind numbed heavily with a condescension that baffled him. Her lips moved in perfect harmony with the droplets of sweat stinging his brow and racing feverishly down his arched spine.
“The minority leader of the Republican Party, A.H. Davies is dead”, she said, her voice rattling against the gentle swirling of the ceiling fan and the turgid humming of the air conditioner. “Shot dead by what was apparently a sniper’s shot from one of the surrounding edifices during the political rally held in the first few minutes of noon. He was…”
The man in the room let her voice trail on into oblivion. He knew the details. He was there. He was the assassin. Instead, he focused on the uncomfortable heaving of his broad, powerful chest, and once again felt disgusted at his ebony skin. Slowly, he stood up and walked towards the dust covered mirror on the wall and stared forlornly at his reflection. Big, heavily built and powerful, he was the apt depiction of a human beast. Stronger than most of his colleagues, he had managed to reach his present height in this job through sheer force, brute and determination. An emptiness settled sublimely on his consciousness and something watery kissed his cheeks. He couldn’t tell if it was sweat or tear.
They called him Bloodclot – because he literally stopped your heart from beating. He was the only African-American assassin in the TRUCE to have ever attained the level of X7, the 4th highest rank in the covert criminal organisation. But it’s been six months now he had wanted out; yet, for some reason, they wouldn’t let him.
Sometime in the past, he had been privy to some classified information that had turned up suddenly during a certain man hunt in Northern Africa. The information exposed him to some very troubling revelations – The TRUCE had never let any assassin leave the organisation alive. They used you till you died in active service or they turned you against several other underground deathly organisations, and before you knew it, you would have had experienced mercenaries from around the continent coming for you. No one ever made it out alive. It was probably a conspiracy theory but so far, he had never seen an ex-killer walking as a free man, not since his adoption at the tender age of 12.
The TRUCE made him who he was; moulded him into a human killing machine, took away his humanity, gave him a home, friends and money but also took away his right to make any decision. They were his creators and they could destroy him if they ever wanted. He knew he was treading on dangerous ground: nursing the thoughts of leaving the organisation was tantamount to treason. But recently, he had wished to live again, to live a life devoid of bloodshed and darkness, he needed to see the sun at the end of the rainbow and needed to bask in the aftermath of a downpour and breathe in the fresh air of peace and tranquillity.
He hadn’t had these thoughts until 6 months ago when he had walked into a bar and met some men harassing a young lady. He had come to her rescue and she had given him a hug of gratitude. That was the first time a woman had ever held him so close with purity and untainted affection. And when he looked into her eyes, he saw for the first time, a world with the possibility of true happiness. He learnt she worked there in the bar and almost every day, he would come around to visit. And she would always welcome him and give him some of her time.
Deep inside, he knew he would rather die than let any harm come to her. And as he increasingly found himself thinking about her every night, he realised if he was ever going to really be close to her, he would have to shield her from the dangerous world he lived in, and the only way to do that was to quit his evil occupation.
He knew she was worth it. She was the first person to have ever called him by his real name: Arnold.
A movement in the darkness alerted his senses and he spun around. Someone was there, seated at the far corner of the dark room, watching him intently. He could see the outline of the figure against the background of the blackness. For a fleeting second, he wondered how long the person had been sitting there.