The wind and the rain pinned him back against the wall until he became little more than a shadow himself. Light from the lamp opposite pulsed its way through sodden eddies of mist and dappled down in sparkling showers through the branches and leaves that cloaked him from sight.

Long training, long nights like this, had taught him to resist the urge to shiver. Movement was his quarry’s friend. Movement swept the advantage from prey to hunter.

And so he stood, this insubstantial statue. He felt the rain pour off his wide-brimmed hat—wide-brimmed to maximise his vision in these conditions—and splat down the back of his oilskin raincoat. From here, he had an unrestricted view of the area beneath the street lamp. He had earlier removed the few small branches that might have blown across his eyes at the crucial moment. Neatly done. No one would notice. His hide was fit for purpose and a fit for him.

He had calculated how long the wait would be. Part of his modus operandi was that he was settled in position well before the appointed time. He could reduce his life signs to an almost trance-like state so that the passage of time and discomfort barely touched his consciousness. One of the reasons why he was so good at his job.

Another was that he had no commitment to, or expectations of life. He had had good times, but they hadn’t meant that much. Nothing had found any depth within him. He wouldn’t mind dying that much, either. Everyone had to sometime. He didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell or any form of existence beyond death. Human beings, he reasoned, were just a higher form of animal, and a pretty destructive one at that. In his opinion, the thing that made humans cling to expectations of eternity was that they have egos. And this sense of self drives the desire for continuation. It forges a belief in a soul. Nonexistence is beyond the capacity of the imagination.

And thus conscience became a questionable asset. Or indeed an impediment. He could kill because he didn’t believe in any consequence that he couldn’t handle. He didn’t relish the thought of a painful death; it was true. But he couldn’t dismiss the notion that he somehow might have deserved it. And morality? Well, that was questionable, too. He had reviewed in his studious way the suffering that had been caused and excused in the name of religions various. The lives that had been squandered and wrung out as a means of subjugating people, cultures, nations. Who would want to represent any “god” who expected that?

No. People, he had decided long ago, were the scourge of the Earth and were happily destroying it in the name of progress. From this, you might think that he cared. But he really didn’t. He just observed. Besides, it took effort to care, and he was happy enough doing what he did. He made a good living. He used money. He took advantage of the comforts of materialism.

The only thing that touched him in any way was job satisfaction. He prepared carefully, planned to the tiniest detail, and left the scene in as orderly a fashion as he could.

There had been two passersby at whom he hadn’t even looked. He knew what he was waiting for. He had done his research thoroughly. And now from somewhere to his left, a sound emerged from the silence.  Footsteps, fleet and light. This was his target…

The young man moved closer and closer, his dark hair glistening in the rain, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched. As he approached the streetlight, he slowed and removed his right hand from his pocket, perhaps to look at his watch.

But he wouldn’t have heard the muffled thud of the bullet that slipped down the gun barrel through the silencer and buried itself in his forehead, nor felt the whack of the pavement on the back of his head as he fell.

The assassin waited three minutes before crossing the road. The young man’s sightless eyes gazed up at him through dark orbs. The assassin bent down and closed the lids as a mark of respect. He stood back and watched the crimson halo ooze out around the quiet head. Spangles of ruby and diamond raindrops dripped from an azalea bush in the hedge above where the body lay. The assassin smoothed the young man’s coat and placed one hand upon his heart. He straightened the legs and, with his gloved hand, wiped a patch of mud off his left shoe. Standing back, he nodded approval. This was a true work of art: the precision of the kill, the tragic beauty of the subject, and the cooperation of nature on that wild night.

He turned and merged back into the anonymity of shadows.