- I -
Desmond sucked on his cigarette lazily, his entire posture completely relaxed, eyes half-closed. He was watching his mark for the last hour or two, and it seemed like the playboy was about to leave finally. Usually Desmond didn't bother with cases like this one; he could care less about scorned lovers' affairs. This one, however, paid more than enough, so he took the case. The woman who hired him (of course, it was a woman! A man would've just shot the son of a bitch point-blank without hiring an assassin) has made it clear that she wanted this "...piece-of-rat-shit" to die as painfully as possible. Desmond considered that for a few seconds. He wasn't going to torture the guy (not because it went against his principles, but simply because when you torture someone, the entire affair is ought to become quite messy, therefore, there will be inevitable traces left), neither would he take his chances with arranging some bizarre accident (those were opt to go wrong). That left poison. Desmond was fine with that. He knew his poisons well.
He was supposed to take care of this tonight, that was also specified by his contractor. Apparently, the third of February had some deep meaning to the woman. Desmond didn't care. He was, however, getting more and more annoyed with the fact that the playboy wouldn't leave the damn tavern. In the last several hours, Desmond had enough coffee to drown himself in. He kept on ordering countless refills, which made him a customer, therefore he wouldn't be kicked out of the tavern. He wasn't worrying that someone might identify him later. First of all, there was no way anyone would be able to even connect him to the mysterious illness of Mr. Pain-In-the-Ass, and second of all, Desmond was good at being just another face in the crowd. In fact, he was better than good. He hemmed to himself softly. That was probably one of the reasons he was on the top of the list when it came to his line of work. Also, it was probably one of the reasons he was still alive.
The playboy was on his way out and Desmond got up smoothly, leaving a couple of crumpled up bills on the table. Just enough not to be remembered like a cheap asshole, but not enough to become a great tipper either. He walked outside, ignoring the chilly wind, and made his way towards the playboy, who was smoking while waiting for his car to arrive. Desmond ducked his head down against the wind, the hood of his thick shirt successfully hiding his face, and pulled his hand out of the pocket. He was close enough to his mark now; so close that he could smell the man's aftershave. The playboy gave him a very bored look and turned away.
Desmond started walking across the street when he tripped on the metal grid covering the rain duct. His arm shot forward and he grabbed onto the smoking man's wrist, to keep himself from falling. The playboy was caught completely by surprise and he dropped his cigarette.
"What the hell?!" he yelled out when he almost lost his balance as well.
Desmond quickly drew his hand back, twisting the ring on his finger.
"Sorry," Desmond said again and walked away, blending into the crowd almost instantly.
He knew that the guy never even noticed a weak prick on his wrist, and even if he did, he would forget all about it in a couple of minutes. An hour or so later, he'll be writhing in pain so horrible that he won't remember his own name, let alone some clumsy idiot who bumped into him on the sidewalk. He'd be dead by midnight, just as Desmond's contractor wanted. He will go through two or three hours of agony at the most, but Desmond knew for sure that those hours would seem like eternity to him.
He made his way to the phone booth and dropped several coins into the slot. He didn't have to look for the phone number; it was imprinted in his memory. Desmond never had any problems with remembering things - numbers, words, addresses, you name it. He had to look at something only once, and it would be stored in his memory forever. He considered it a gift.
"Done," he said shortly into the receiver after he heard a 'click' on the other end of the line. "Finish the transfer."
He didn't wait for the answer and replaced the receiver in the cradle. He knew that the rest of his payment would be transferred into one of his accounts if not immediately, then very soon - he wasn't worrying about that. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and frowned when he realized he only had two left. He tutted with slight annoyance, remembering that he was smoking pretty much nonstop for the last two hours. After shoving one of the remaining cigarettes into his mouth, he shrugged to himself. There was a smoke shop on the way to his current apartment, these two cigarettes will last him until he gets there.
It was almost twenty minutes later, and Desmond could see the dim flickering light of the smoke shop's sign. He shoved his hand into his pocket and that was when he suddenly felt extremely uneasy. He couldn't tell what it was, but something was off, all right. The other reason that he was still alive was the fact that Desmond's instincts never betrayed him, and in return, he never ignored them. Something was wrong, and it didn't matter what it was.
He ducked and twisted around at the same time - that was the only reason the first blow got him on the shoulder instead of his head. "That would crack my skull open," he thought almost indifferently and dropped into a crouch, his left leg shooting forward. This trick worked almost always - people usually did not see it coming, and as a result, they were knocked off their feet, to Desmond's advantage. Yes, this trick worked almost always. There were exceptions though; like this one. Desmond's attacker avoided the kick with surprising ease and even grace. Then he landed a kick of his own onto Desmond's kneecap. Pain exploded immediately; it was like a case of dynamite charged with glass went off in Desmond's leg and quickly floated into the rest of his body. He grunted and tried to get up, but the pain incapacitated him for several seconds. He saw his attacker raise his arm again and tried to duck aside, but he was a second too late. The arm swung in a perfect arch and then something collided with the top of Desmond's head. For a second, everything around him exploded brilliant white and then the world became pitch-black.