Clean – F. Winfield

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The first definition given on Google is “free from dirt, marks, or stains.” It’s an adequate definition. Not immaculate, not perfect, not… clean.

I define clean differently. Clean is the absence of any trace, any hint of defiling removed. To clean is to make something as it should be. Immaculate. Undisturbed.

I am clean. My marks have no relation to me, nor do I to them. It is simply a business transaction. I provide a clean service. There is no long range .308 rifle with a custom skeletonized carbon fibre barrel fired from the roof of a skyscraper: That would be excessively dirty, even filthy. The blood, the bullet, the boom… so much evidence to be erased, so much to wipe clean. No. I favor a quieter approach. A misunderstood allergy and an expired EpiPen, perhaps, or even an incorrect dosage of sleep medication. If I’m in the mood for a swim, a boating accident or a passing killer whale. If I’m in an ironic mood, the hydraulic lift crushing a mechanic, or something the wife always said would be “the death of you.” All easily explained, covered up not by me but by medical professionals and family. All so clean.

This last errand was different. I was careless, didn’t account for the young dog that the family had adopted 8 hours and 30 minutes ago. The mark woke up, came downstairs to check on the noise. No matter, I could improvise. A petty burglary gone wrong, the mark a victim of manslaughter. The mark walked down the stairs, footsteps heavy from sleep, and turned the corner to face me. He wasn’t shocked, however, he knew what I was here for.

“So it’s come to this?” He sighed. “I thought we could work things out, that we could be happy together. Damn. Hoped that I could change her.”

He looked at me resignedly. “She hired you, didn’t she? You know, I knew her game as soon as we met, but she was so beautiful, I didn’t care. I pretended not to notice the pills, the tampering with my fuel tank…But you’re a professional. I wasn’t supposed to notice. You have ways to make this seem normal, to make it seem like an unfortunate accident. You have ways to make it seem-”

“–Clean.” I spoke deliberately, slowly.

“That’s it. Clean.” A new light came into his eyes. “But I’m not going to make it clean. She tore my heart apart, and now I’m going to tear hers open too. She’s going to wake up tomorrow and remember the scene for the rest of her life. The money she gets will be tainted by my blood.” He gestured to the gun safe sitting under the table. “If you wouldn’t mind…”

I hesitated. The situation had evolved further from what I had expected. A gunshot would wake the wife–no, the client. Things were quickly becoming messy. I should just deliver a quick punch to the jaw, “accidentally” breaking the neck. But something told me not to. Against my better judgement, I unlocked the safe and pulled out a Beretta M9, putting the muzzle on the man’s forehead.

“Wow, you already knew the code. You ARE a professional. Do you mind if I do the honors?”

I hesitated, the second time that night.

“Don’t worry, I know that you could probably disarm me in a second if I tried anything. Just let me have this.” He raised his hands. I deliberated for a second, then again, against my better judgement, placed the gun in his hands. He examined the gun for a long few seconds, then in one swift movement put the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

The shot blew chunks of skull and brain onto the white walls. The man’s body fell forward with a thud, splattering more of the grisly grey matter on the carpet. Blood pooled out from the head, slowly enveloping a larger and larger area. I could hear the client get out of bed, her cautious footsteps approach the stairs. I decided it was time to leave.

As I strode away, I looked at my hands. They were the same as they had always been, gloved and slender, but today they felt different. For a second, I thought they were soaked in blood. Tonight had been strange. Tonight had been out of control, visceral. Tonight had been… Dirty.

Listening to the sirens in the distance, I came to a realization. I provide a clean service. My methods are clean; I leave no trace, remove any hint of myself. But clean is the absence of any trace, any hint of defiling removed, and I am that trace.

I am dirty.

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