Pan down from the afternoon sky over London. Pull in to close up on an ordinary looking man. You wouldn't look twice if you saw him in the street. Drab coloured hair and nondescript eyes.
Say hello to Mr Grey.
Slowly and silently the door opened and he eased himself inside the room. He was dressed in a dark, nondescript suit and carried a battered attaché case. Without turning on the light he closed the door behind him and walked to the middle of the room to have a look around.
The room was empty of furniture and no carpet covered the unpolished wooden floor except for a small dirty mat in front of the cold fireplace. The only decorations, if they could be called that were some old dust-sheets that hung down in front of the large window. Not that anyone could see in through the window anyway, at least not without a helicopter as this was the living room of an eighth floor flat that had been uninhabited for some months.
He placed the case on the floor by the window and pulled a small flat case from his jacket pocket. A press of a lip on the side and it sprang open to reveal what looked like opera glasses, however, they had cost him a great deal of money and gave a magnified view that rivalled any of the big name brands of 'proper' binoculars.
A twitch of the curtain and a quick sweep up and down the street below showed a normal scene of human life carrying on in its normal, everyday fashion. Cars snarled at each other as the rush hour traffic moved in both directions. A small group of school children in uniform sat or sprawled on the low wall that surrounded the play area talking, laughing and boasting to each other. He watched a policeman in a dark serge uniform with a tall, domed hat stroll in the time-honoured fashion of policemen everywhere at the regulation two miles per hour.
The man nodded to himself in satisfaction. Everything normal and everything quiet. Well that would change soon. In just under two hours he would be injecting a little excitement into a few drab lives.
He wandered into the bathroom and after a grimace of distaste at the state of the sink, he turned the cold tap on. After removing the surgical gloves he wore and placing them in his pocket he thrust his hands into the water and filled his cupped hands and splashed his face. The coldness of the water, although expected, still sent a shock through his face. A sharp intake of breath with eyes wide open and then he looked at himself in the cracked mirror that was inexpertly screwed to the wall above the sink. What looked back was a face. That's all that could be said really. A face of indeterminate age. A grey man. He had an instantly forgettable face, neither handsome nor ugly.
No distinguishing marks, no points of interest.
A truly nondescript man in every respect.
A quick smirk touched his lip and was just as instantly gone again.
Neutral. That was it.
In the past he had blessed his eminent forgetability. It had saved his bacon many times, and once or twice, even his life. To able to blend in the background was a huge bonus to a man in his line of work. In fact, it was the reason he had chosen his nom de guerre.
Little Paul Taylor held Father Thomas's hand and watched solemnly as two coffins were lowered into the double grave. He was seven years old. The only child of Brian and Sarah, who had been killed in a car crash with no other living relatives. This was his final goodbye to laughter. Up until now his had been a happy life, secure in the bosom of two young adults who had loved him dearly.
And now they were gone.
Snatched away from him by the actions of a drunk driver. Worse yet, a repeat offender who was already under a driving ban when he had caused the deaths of Mr and Mrs Taylor.
Father Thomas, who helped place young Paul in the Our Lady's Home for Wayward Children as it was called, recalled later how strange the child had acted on the day of the funeral. Although he was only seven, he had held himself with a poise and calm solemnity through the service that many adults would have found difficult, if not impossible. He considered that the boy was obviously far too young to really understand what was going on.
He was wrong.
Grey stretched and glanced at his watch. An hour and a half and the target would appear. He stepped into the bedroom and found a small wooden stool.
He carried it back into the main room, placed it on the floor by the window and sat down.
Pulling the case onto his lap he opened it, ignoring the rifle with the telescopic sight that nestled in pieces set in a bed of moulded foam rubber, he removed a small flask of coffee and a small pack of sandwiches.
A few thoughtful bites into his first sandwich and he stared into space. He hated this part. The waiting. Not that he was nervous, it was just so boring! At least it usually was. But today was different, today he had something on his mind.
Everyone had been surprised at how he had turned out. When he first arrived at the Home, he was seven years old, quiet, polite, industrious and solemn. He rarely smiled and spoke even less unless spoken too first. But over the years he changed. He darkened. The more street wise of the boys had started on him on his arrival and he had accepted everything they could throw at him. The taunts, the bullying, the way they made free with his personal belongings and the swift retribution if he complained.
But the one thing they had never been able to do was make him cry. And they had tried, oh they had really tried.
Paul had accepted it all until his eleventh birthday, at 12.35 p.m.
Joe Perkins was acting tough with his mates in the corridor. He had seen Paul go into his room holding the birthday card from Father Thomas and decided that he fancied a bit of sport. He followed Paul into his room and snarled, "So, the old pervert's given you a card has he?"
After a quick glance behind him to ensure that his cronies, who were crowded in the doorway could watch the show, he held out his hand and snapped his fingers, "Hand it over then. Lemme see."
Silently, Paul gave the card to the older boy and watched without expression as Joe read the message inside. He continued to watch as Joe's gaze returned to him, his face holding the familiar smirk of a bully secure in his control of the situation.
Studying Paul's face as he did so, Joe tore the card slowly into several pieces and dropped them one by one on to the floor.
"You don't have nuthin' unless I say so, ya little bastard. An' that includes this."
Paul examined the remnants of the small gift where they lay strewn around Joe's feet and then slowly, deliberately returned his gaze to Joe's face.
Joe was a little disturbed by the reaction that the younger boy was showing today. He never looked at you directly. He always kept his eyes to the floor no matter what torment or humiliation he was enduring, and Joe didn't like it. It looked like a challenge and Joe considered himself more than equal to the task. He clenched his fists.
"Summat to say, Bastard?"
Joe never noticed the small iron bar drop from Paul's sleeve into his hand and the first inkling he had that today the young boy had been pushed too far was when that same piece of piping swung in a swift arc and shattered the left side of his jaw. He dropped like a stone and squealed in pain, clutching his face as blood poured from his split cheek.
Paul knelt on the floor beside him and hit him with the metal bar again, and again, and again.
Joe's cronies stood in shock in the door as they watched their leader battered. They were by no means innocents, each one guilty of many acts of violence and petty larceny. But this was different. A fight was supposed to involve shouting and threats. Promises of the damage you were going to inflict. Basically, the need to work yourself into the frenzy required to fight so that you could overcome the fear and concentrate on winning.
It was not supposed to be an instant change from passive acceptance to explosive violence like this. They were also aware that Paul did not intend to stop. He had already won the fight. Joe's head and neck were awash with blood as he lay unconscious on the floor. But still Paul hit him. There was a loud cracking sound as the bar made once last connection with Joe's head.
Paul dropped the bar on to the floor next to the body and stood up to stare at the wide-eyed crowd.
Flatly he said, "Go away."
Without another thought or a backward glance towards the unconscious thug, Paul hurriedly grabbed all his belongings he could fit into a hand-all and left the home, never to return.
Grey, suddenly sat up straight on the stool, dropped his sandwiches back into the case and stood up.
"Oh my God!" he said to himself. He had made a mistake. He had not replaced his surgical gloves after he had splashed himself with water. Fingerprints! Where? The tap, the bathroom door handle. Did he touch anything else, of course! The stool.
He stood up, put his gloves back on and used a handkerchief to wipe everything that he had touched whilst his hands had been uncovered. Although he knew his prints were not on file anywhere he still got rid of them. It was a part of the thoroughness with which he carried out every job that had kept him from ever being caught, or in fact even under suspicion.
In the trade, he was renowned for two things; His careful reliability and the fact that he had never missed.
.... There is more of this story ...