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Second Chance Slaughter


Chapter 8: The Cleaner




Avery’s eyes narrowed as he observed the man ahead. As a seasoned assassin, he could tell this guy was no ordinary player. Each step was almost imperceptible, the soft crunch of gravel underfoot nearly silent. His posture was fluid, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.


Carefully, Avery kept a safe distance, his own footsteps silent as a whisper.


He needed to bide his time, wait for the perfect moment to make his move.


The crowd from Third Street began to thin, the noise of the gathered throng fading into the quiet hum of the city night. Avery’s senses sharpened, a tingling alertness coursing through him.


It was as if the man knew he was being followed and was deliberately leading him into the shadows.


But retreating wasn’t an option.


His goal was right in front of him, and he wasn’t about to let it slip away.


As he continued trailing the supposed cleaner, the man seemed to blur into the darkness, almost disappearing from view. Avery's eyes widened. This guy was good—really good. Even as a creature of the night himself, Avery found it unsettling.


But Avery had an edge. He sensed the subtle shift in the air, the faintest disturbance that gave away the man’s position. He was still there, just trying to cloak his presence.


Avery melted into the darkness, becoming one with the shadows, his form seemingly vanishing without a trace. He kept his gaze locked on the man, who suddenly paused and scanned his surroundings.


“Come out,” the man called, his voice calm and unruffled. He pulled off his glasses and began cleaning them with a handkerchief, as if this cat-and-mouse game was merely a minor inconvenience. “I don’t have time for these games.”


Avery remained motionless, his breathing controlled to the point of near nonexistence. He couldn’t afford to reveal himself, not yet.


“Suit yourself,” the man said, sliding his glasses back on and continuing his pace.


Avery waited a beat, then resumed his silent pursuit. He had to see where this path led.


The man slipped into a dilapidated building that seemed even more rundown than the rest of Third Street’s sorry collection. If the buildings in the area looked decrepit, this one was a veritable relic, barely holding together under years of neglect and decay.


Avery paused, considering his options. Should he follow the man inside immediately? It was tempting, but not his style. As an assassin, Avery had been trained to observe his surroundings meticulously, to wait for the perfect moment before striking.


Instead, he moved silently, climbing up to the roof of the adjacent building like a shadow gliding through the night. From his perch, he could see the top of the abandoned warehouse. He cut off all his senses except for his hearing, an assassin’s trick from his past life that allowed him to focus intensely on the sounds below.


At first, he picked up the faint murmurs of voices—eight people, maybe more. But then, something else caught his ear. A labored, ragged breathing.


Someone inside was in distress, teetering on the edge of death.


Avery’s mind raced. Should he stick to the efficient methods he was trained for, observing and waiting for the opportune moment? Or should he rush in, risking his cover to potentially save a life?


He clenched his fists, feeling the weight of the decision.


Avery moved with the stealth of a shadow slipping through the night, finding a crack in the building just wide enough for him to squeeze through. He entered silently, his footsteps as quiet as a whisper.


The room he stepped into was empty, filled with the scent of dust and decay. He could hear the labored breathing more clearly now, guiding him.


Navigating through the halls of the building, Avery’s senses were on high alert. Every creak of the floorboards, every distant murmur heightened his awareness. He kept to the shadows, inching closer to his target with each careful step.


Finally, he reached a vantage point where he could see into the room ahead. There, sitting like a dark king on a wooden chair, was the man Avery had been following. His glasses glinted in the dim light, and his black suit was pristine, a stark contrast to the bloody, battered figure before him.


It was Billy Johnson, the beggar from Third Street, clutching a pack of cigarettes like a lifeline.


One of the men standing beside Billy sneered, reaching for the pack. But Billy clung to it fiercely, his grip ironclad despite his condition.


“Let go, or I'll cut your hand off!” the thug barked, his laughter cruel and mocking. “Look at you, holding onto this trash like it’s gold.”


The man in the black suit didn’t react, his expression detached. He simply observed, as if waiting for something—or someone.


The thug grew impatient. He drew a short blade. Avery’s muscles tensed as the man raised the knife, ready to strike. He had to act.


“STOP!” Avery’s voice rang out.


All eyes snapped to him. The room fell into a stunned silence as Avery stepped forward, his presence commanding. For a moment, no one moved.


The man, suspected to be the cleaner, broke into a chilling smile as if he had been expecting this encounter all along.


“I knew it was you, Enigma,” he said, his voice dripping with icy amusement. “Why are you following me? Are you afraid I’m about to snatch your target, or have you suddenly grown a conscience and decided to abandon your mission?” He rose from his chair, his gaze locking onto Avery’s with a predatory intensity.


Avery stood his ground, his face an unreadable mask. Silence hung thick in the air between them.


The man continued, his tone condescending and sinister. “You see, Enigma, the organization has no use for members who can’t uphold their end of the bargain. They become liabilities, loose cannons who can’t be controlled once they start having their... ‘episodes.’ The organization craves order and precision. Surely, you can understand that?”


With deliberate slowness, the man walked over to a camera set up on a tripod and pressed the record button. “Come here and finish the job. This is the only leniency I’ll offer you. You missed your deadline yesterday, but I’m willing to give you one final chance. Fail to comply, and you know what happens next.”


Avery’s eyes narrowed, but he kept his voice steady. “What?”


“Don’t play coy,” the man replied with a sneer. “You know exactly what happens to artists who don’t complete their masterpieces on time. I’ve already done you a favor by delivering your canvas right to you.” He gestured towards the battered figure of Billy Johnson. “All you have to do is start painting. That shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?”


Avery’s fists clenched at his sides. “Are you one of the cleaners?”


The man’s eyebrows shot up in mock surprise.


“Hmmm?” He studied Avery as if trying to gauge his sincerity. “You don’t remember? This isn’t some kind of melodramatic soap opera, Enigma.” His expression darkened. As the cleaner assigned to this district, he knew about the artists here, including their movements. The logs showed Avery tried to access the system multiple times until he was locked out. Then, he failed to meet the deadline.


“Not everything. Just bits and snippets,” Avery replied.


The man alleged to be the cleaner let out a chilling laugh, his smile widening into something that sent a shiver down Avery’s spine.


“How amusing,” he said, voice dripping with icy sarcasm. “Did your latest kill finally rattle you so much that you’ve started forgetting things? That’s so unlike you, Enigma.” He leaned back, a look of twisted satisfaction on his face. “But enough chit-chat. Get over here and finish the job. Memories or not, you have a contract to fulfill. Killing this worm is part of it.”


Avery’s gaze shifted to Billy Johnson, sprawled on the floor, surrounded by a pool of his own blood. Avery could barely recognize him through the mess of bruises and cuts. Billy’s grip tightened around a pack of cigarettes, holding onto it as if it were his last treasure.


Stepping closer, Avery picked up the small blade held by one of the men. He stood over Billy, looking down at the pitiful, broken figure. In his line of work, information was everything. Killing Billy could keep him in the cleaner’s good graces, perhaps even open doors to more secrets. This is the more efficient way.


Billy’s eyes fluttered open briefly, a faint, bloodied smile crossing his lips. It was as if he was telling Avery that it was okay, that he understood.

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