THE END OR THE BEGINNING IS NEAR
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Enough time for a smoke, he reasoned. He took the crumpled packet of Camels from his shirt pocket. He pulled a cigarette from the packet and placed it in his mouth. It took him a couple of seconds to locate his Zippo lighter. He flicked it, had to flick it again and lit the cigarette. The first drag tasted of butane. He grimaced, took another drag and looked at his watch - Nine minutes and forty seconds. He swore softly and leaned back against the stair railing, placing the Zippo in his pants pocket. The posts hurt his back.
The nicotine from the cigarette calmed him a bit, but not enough to reach the surety that he needed. He pulled the Beretta from its holster again, checked the clip again and the silencer. The cigarette hung loosely from his lips and he had to squint as the smoke burned them for a moment. Lowry put the gun next to him on the stair, let go and then grabbed it up again in a quick smooth motion. Satisfied that he would be able to get to the weapon quick enough, he leaned back against the railing again. His head cocked to the side with the cigarette still dangling from his lip.
He checked his watch. Seven minutes to midnight. Lowry sighed. He got up and walked down the four steps to the front door. He had memorized the layout of the room, so he knew to avoid the coffee table in the middle of the sitting room. He made his way to the door and pulled the curtain back. The driveway was still empty; same as it had been the last time he had checked.
Lowry stretched; long moments in the same position had cramped his muscles. He finished his exercises and remembered that the Beretta was still lying on the stairs. He moved to pick it up, making a conscious effort not to check his watch. He retrieved the Beretta and placed it in the shoulder holster. He checked his watch and cursed himself simultaneously for doing so. Two minutes to midnight. Lowry’s eyes were accustomed to the dark, so he looked at the position he had occupied on the stairs. It was too open he realized.
Lowry scanned the room. If he moved behind the door, he would have a clear shot before the mark saw him. One shot, clean through the back of the head. Lowry did not want to see the mark’s eyes. He would not be the first hit man to fail if he looked into the mark’s eyes. Lowry looked at his watch again.
A minute to midnight! He moved to his position behind the door and readied himself. Mere seconds later, car lights lit up the room interior.Lowry was safe in his position behind the door. The car came to a stop and Lowry heard the engine die. The lights went out and a door opened. There was a cough and the slamming of the car door. Lowry could hear the footsteps approaching the door, then the keys at the lock. Lowry almost shouted as the keys hit the floor and a curse sounded from beyond the locked door. Then the keys at the lock again and the sound of tumblers turning. The mark came through the door, stumbling ever so slightly over a piece of loose carpet. There was a soft pop, almost like a in-drawn breath suddenly expelled from tight lips and a body hit the floor.
Lowry looked down at the corpse. He unscrewed the silencer and placed it in his jacket pocket. The Beretta went back in the shoulder holster. Almost with a shock he realized that the dead cigarette still dangled from his lower lip. He took it from his mouth, took a plastic bag from an inner pocket and placed the butt in the bag. The bag he placed in the same inner pocket. Lowry checked his watch as he walked