15 years ago, Tokyo, Japan
He took another long drag of the cigarette and then flicked the butt, mesmerised by its perfect arc and fall. The red embers glowed against the white snow for a moment before the cold wetness engulfed them. The butt lay next to roughly ten others, but he wasn’t counting. He’d been freezing his ass off for an hour, catching a glimpse every now and again of a silhouette. Some of his peers would have grown impatient and charged into the small apartment, taking out both the target and his mistress. The killing of a wife would never be sanctioned, never forgiven, but a mistress . . . they were expendable. But why kill an innocent woman just to avoid discomfort? It was unnecessary and uncivilised; and this business could still be conducted with honour – his father had taught him that. He sighed. It wouldn’t be much longer now – the mark rarely spent more than an hour with his mistress.
He returned his gaze to the window, and the entrance. Waiting. This was a big hit, and as the time dragged by he felt himself growing anxious. It was paramount that no one link the killing to him, or his boss. It had to be fast and discreet, no half-alive victim and no witnesses. He must live up to the honour bestowed upon him. To be trusted with this kill . . . It wasn’t his first, and probably wouldn’t be his last, but the high-profile nature of the target made him keen to get it over with. The warmth of his fiancée’s bed also called to him. He’d had many other women, but she was different, special. She was the only one he’d wanted to marry.
His fingers slipped inside his down jacket until he felt the cold hardness of his gun. It was instinct to check it every few minutes, to make sure he could draw it fast. He looked up at the window again – movement. This time the silhouettes were moving towards the door. He slipped his hand into his inside jacket pocket again and withdrew the gun, but not before glancing up and down the street. He could take the shot from the doorway and then slink back into the shadows, before immersing himself into the crowd that would gather around the body. The entrance light flicked on and the target came down the stairs, smiling and buttoning his full-length overcoat. A satisfied man.
He leaned back into the doorway and brought the gun up. The mark had only taken two steps onto the pavement when the bullet hit him, piercing his lung and nicking his heart. The perfect shot. He staggered backwards, the smile gone from his face, and slumped against the outer glass door before sliding slowly down it. The killer watched the blood pooling and melting the snow ever so slightly, just like his cigarette butt had moments before. He smiled, happy with the visual analogy. And happy with the amount of blood. His shot had been good.
It wasn’t long before a crowd gathered. He moved onto the street, towards his victim, ready to confirm the kill. Then something, a feeling of being watched, made him look up. The mistress stared directly at him from her window. They both froze, eyes locked. Then she ran, and he ran. She’d seen him. She’d recognised him.
He pushed past the dead mark and into the apartment complex, racing up the stairs. As he rounded the last step onto her floor, he saw her hurtling up the stairs and away from her apartment. She was barefoot, dressed only in a jade-coloured negligee. He ran, confident he’d soon catch up.
She looked over her shoulder, panicked. ‘Help!’ she screamed, but her plea for help was cut short as he put his hand around her mouth.
She struggled, kicking.
He didn’t want to kill her. He’d never killed a woman before. It wasn’t right. But the other option – failing his boss – was much worse.
He took a deep breath before grabbing her head…