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Author's note: This story will appear alongside over a dozen others in my next horror story collection, coming this September!

Rhett paced the parking lot and held the car key up in the air, clicking the lock button repeatedly until he heard a beep beep. He followed the beeps and arrived at the source; a Sacramento green station wagon with a long antenna jutting from the hood. 
Skull mafia

Glad they thought enough of me to stick me with this piece of shit, he thought with a roll of his eyes. 

Rhett set his briefcase down in the backseat and then hopped in the front. He pulled his Glock 19 from his holster and set it on the passenger seat within easy reach, placing a cloth over it to hide it from view. He started up the wagon—at least it ran well—and drove off. 

***

He had been a hitter since his teens. It all started when he became a busboy at a little pizzeria up in Utica, New York. On his breaks, he would go out back for a smoke and mess with the dumpster cats. He enjoyed luring them with food. And when he got them to trust him, and when they got close enough, that’s when he would snatch ‘em up and snap the neck. 

Crack

God, how he loved that sound. It was tremendous. He got good at snapping those feline necks but it soon became boring. So the next unlucky kitty that entered his midst, that one got the water bucket. It mewled and yowled and made all sorts of horrible noises as he drowned it, and because of all the noises it made, it alerted Vinny, the storeowner. 

“The fuck ya doin’ to him?!” Vinny shouted in his New Yorker cadence. 

Rhett released the cat and it stumbled away with a limp in its step, seeing stars. Surely Rhett would be fired.

But that wasn’t the case. Vinny saw the potential right there in front of him. He worked for some OG’s in the Five Families of New York and he gave Rhett a referral. The capos groomed Rhett and had him doing hits at the age of sixteen. 

Rhett’s first hit was some sideways asshole by the name of Big Henry, a mafioso that had been skimming the mob’s funds. Rhett, on a motorbike, pulled up next to Big Henry’s Cadillac at a traffic light, and Big Henry rolled down the window and gave Rhett his infamous cocky stare with a cigar poking out from the corner of an insolent grin.

“The fuck you lookin’ at?” Big Henry asked. “Fuck you, man.”

“No, don’t fuck me,” said Rhett. “Fuck you.”

Boom. 

Big Henry’s eyes hadn’t even fully widened at the sight of Rhett’s handgun by the time Rhett pulled the trigger. 

Rhett became a go-to for contract killings. He was colder than ice and would stoop to just about any level, long as there was a paystub with his name on it. 

***

Today, Rhett was tasked with killing a kid. 

He found himself in the cold winter weather of Spartanburg, South Carolina to carry out perhaps the easiest killing of his career. 

The target was Asher Pryce, a 10-year-old kid who had (allegedly, but Rhett didn’t really care) killed three people in the past three months, one per month. Perhaps even more strange was the person who had hired Rhett for the hit: Asher’s own father, Barton Pryce. 

“No one can believe it,” Barton had said. “But I know the truth. He did it. He killed those people. I don’t understand it, but I swear to god, he killed those people. His mother knows, too, but she won’t admit it. Not her Asher.”

Rhett hadn’t cared too much for the details of who Asher had killed or why or how. It didn’t matter to him. He did his job without question, without remorse, without a second thought. And this guy, Barton, was paying a hefty sixty-thousand dollars of untraceable cash for this easy hit. Rhett would never pass this up. 

***

Rhett pulled up on the side of the dirt road and shut off his headlights. The Pryce home was out in the countryside of Woodruff County, the epitome of flyover country. There were horse pastures, there was farmland, there were thick forests on either side of most roads. 

Rhett pulled his pistol out of the glovebox and screwed the silencer to the muzzle. He gazed out the window at his quarry, a two-story home with immense acreage around it. 

“You’ve got to do it tomorrow,” Barton had said. “Not tonight. Do it tomorrow.”

But Rhett did things on his own time. He would carry out the hit, tonight, while the family was sleeping. He had to get back up to New York to do some more big game work for the capos. He would creep into the house, find the kid’s bedroom, and give the kid a good pop to his sleeping noggin. Then he’d find someplace to chop up the body. 

“It has to be painless,” Barton had said, before. “I don’t want him to suffer, at all.”

Rhett always followed through on what he was assigned. If the victim wasn’t to suffer, they would not. If the victim was to endure incomprehensible agony for twenty-four hours straight, he could arrange for that, too. 

Rhett stepped out of the car, pistol in hand, and strode toward the house, purposeful and methodical. The night was silent but with the occasional whistling of cold winter winds. The grass was dead and dry, and it crunched beneath Rhett’s feet as he rounded the back corner of the house. He approached the sliding glass backdoor. He stuck his pistol in his coat pocket and pulled out a screwdriver. He jammed the screwdriver into the crack of the door and jimmied the door open. 

The house was quiet and still. Small sounds, such as the sloshing of water within the wall pipes or the puffing of the heater, took nil from Rhett’s focus. He was like a machine. 

Rhett strode past a family photo on the wall. He looked at it for a moment and saw two happy parents, smiling alongside their ten-year-old child on a camping trip. Rhett wondered when the kid had started killing. He wondered if perhaps the kid hadn’t run into Rhett tonight, maybe he would have become a contract killer, too. Didn’t matter, now. 

Rhett saw that one of the bedroom doors had a heavy padlock on it and a… bear trap? Yes, a bear trap on the floor, in front of the door. Christ, they’re really afraid of their kid

Rhett ascended the stairs with his pistol held by his waist. His steps were quiet, his pace was slow but steady, like a snake. One could even imagine the sound of a rattler while watching Rhett stride forth. He got to the top of the stairs and saw the little boy’s room at the end of the hall. He proceeded toward it.

Bright moonlight poured into the room in a singular beam from the window. The door made a light creak as Rhett entered…

…and saw that Asher was not there. The room was tarnished, ransacked. The carpet was shredded, foam and pillow feathers scattered everywhere, busted toys and broken glass. But perhaps the oddest part about the scene was the window. It had been barred, and the key phrase is had been. The steel bars were bent outward, just enough room for someone to squeeze through them. 

Rhett approached the window, fearless yet unfathomably confused. He poked his head out and saw fragments of steel and glass in the grass below, illuminated by moonlight. 

Rhett swatted at the back of his neck as he felt a raindrop. Then another came, and when he wiped it off, he realized it wasn’t a raindrop. It was thick and sticky, like drool. He cranked his neck and looked up, and that was when two big, hairy claws snatched him under the armpits and yanked him out of the window as though he were a small child. 

It was a hulking creature, big and hairy with long gorilla arms and a canine face. It snarled and bellowed, its hot and pungent breath hitting Rhett’s face and blowing his hair back. Rhett’s feet dangled as the monster stood on the roof and held him in the air. He raised his pistol and fired six shots into the creature’s midsection. The creature yowled and grew angry. It lurched forward and sunk its teeth into Rhett’s throat. 

Rhett stared up at the night sky as hot blood sprayed from his neck while the creature feasted. As the light faded from his eyes, he put it all together. The kid had killed once per month, every 29 days. What also appeared every 29 days was a full moon that shone down on the red blood that poured from Rhett’s wide-open throat as everything faded to darkness. 

The wolf man ate Rhett’s corpse and then ran off into the night in search of his next meal. The night was young.

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