I KILL people; it’s what I do. It’s all I know, and dammit, I’m very good at my job—and, in turn, my job has been good to me. The last thing on earth that I have is money worries. Unlike the guy who just passed me on the street, stinking of desperation and fear as he heads home to a tiny apartment filled with a wife and kids, wondering how he’s going to make the next rent payment. I could almost see him making calculations in his head to figure out if he’s going to have enough money to make ends meet for one more month.

I never have worries like that. As I said, I’m good at what I do, and I’m paid highly for it. There will be no wondering if my imaginary children will have presents this Christmas, because I could afford any present I wanted without giving it a second thought. Which I don’t, because at this very moment, I’m close.

My target is a block away, and my mind zeroes in on the task at hand. Slowly, I pat the pocket on the inside of my coat, making sure what I need is still there. I don’t feel the cold trying to lick its way through the fabric or up the sleeve of my coat. Minor distractions, like the few flakes of snow that began falling a few minutes ago and are now getting heavier and thicker, barely register in my mind. I know where everyone is around me, and yet I hardly see them. The old man with a cane and tiny dog a few steps behind me and falling farther back. The lady in her thirties rushing past me, arms filled with Christmassy department store bags. As she passes, my senses reach out for any sign of a threat. There is nothing.

After all, I’m the threat. If you cross my path or end up on my list of targets, then hell, for all intents and purposes, I’m the fucking Grim Reaper. And I like it that way. No one messes with me, and I have everything I could possibly desire: a safe place to live, comfort most could only dream of, food, drink, heat in the winter, air-conditioning in the summer, and security. All the things I’d been without for large portions of my life. I have them all now. Every tick box on my proverbial Christmas list has been checked.

“Excuse me,” a man says as he comes out of one of the stores, bumping me with a bag that he then proceeds to drop on the ground.

Without thinking I pick it up and hand it to him.

“Merry Christmas.”

“You too,” I respond with a slight smile that lasts for just a few seconds before the training and goal creep back into my head, and I move on. A few steps later, I surprise myself and turn around to look after him, but the man is gone. I continue down the sidewalk.

My quarry is just ahead. I can see him coming out of his office the same time tonight as he has for the last week. He’s a model of clockwork and predictability. I love guys like that—it makes my job so much easier. Know your target, get into his head, watch him, know his routine, and when the time comes, get in and out fast, cleanly, invisibly. Then disappear into the city with no one the wiser.