The crowd stands on the platform at Grand Central Terminal, waiting for the Six Train to arrive. They’re going uptown, and the board says five minutes. It’s mid-autumn now; and the cool October chill can be felt, even down here. There are women in high-heeled boots chatting near the stairwell, and a mother trying to corral her children, who are playing too close to the edge. Businessmen in suits talk finance as they pass by. “M&M’s!…Skittles!…One dollar!” shouts a kid selling candy, as he weaves in and out of the tightly packed commuters.
Everyone is immersed in their own little world. Some alone, staring at their phones; others in pairs, talking about work, or life, or love. They don’t notice that there’s one man who isn’t doing anything. The man who is dressed in all black. The man who stands alone, making no sound, thinking only of the task at hand. As the train arrives, and they all pile inside — no one notices the assassin.
He stands in the middle of the subway car; staring straight ahead, and loosely holding on to the metal pole. As the train clatters through the dark tunnel, he takes no notice of the pretty redhead to his right. She sees him, though: a dark, brooding man, probably in his late-twenties. He’s slightly taller than average, with broad shoulders; his jet-black hair is buzzed low, and he has a close-cropped beard. Everything about him looks foreboding — except his grey eyes, they have a mystery to them that she can’t quite understand. But those eyes never blink. They never move. He sees only one thing — the target.
As the train progresses through its stops, it finally reaches hers — 77th Street — and she gets off. She’ll never see him again, and that’s OK. That’s New York. she figures; an endless stream of what-ifs and near misses. The small, fleeting loneliness she feels will pass in a block or two — it always does, she knows that. As she walks, she fixes her long, red hair into a messy bun; then, she climbs up the dirty metal stairs to the street. An icy blast of air hits her as she emerges from the dark subway tunnel — she shivers, and pulls her navy-blue peacoat tight around her — then she walks on, smiling to herself, thinking how much she loves New York in the fall.
Back on the train, the target gets off at the next stop — 86th Street. He’s an elderly man: bald on top, with long, wiry grey hair around the sides of his head. He carries a brown leather briefcase in his left hand, and adjusts his round glasses with the right. It’s twilight now, and the street lamps are on. He crosses Madison Avenue, towards the park; he turns left on Fifth Ave, then goes down past the Met. He looks around, and sees no one else, so he ducks behind its high walls on the south side.
Now in the park, he opens his briefcase and removes the item that has caused him so much worry throughout the day: a small, red flash drive. He smiles, relieved that he’s done it. As he puts it away, he turns the corner and bumps into someone: “Oh, sorry…excuse me…” He adjusts his glasses and looks up — that’s when he sees him. His face goes pale, and he feels chills all over — he knows what will happen next.
After it’s done, the assassin wipes the blood from his hands. There’s a lot on his shirt, though — too much in fact — he got carried away again. He picks up his black leather jacket off the ground, and puts it on — he knows now to remove it first. As he walks back to the street, he puts the red flash drive in his pocket and continues south. But he can feel something wrong within him: even after the job’s done, he doesn’t feel…the way he used to.
He turns off, into the park, and finds a quiet spot to be alone: there, he sits on the ground and buries his head between his knees. He doesn’t know how to make this feeling go away — and lately, it’s been eating at him more and more. He thought that after this job was done, he’d feel better — but he doesn’t. About an hour goes by, and he knows he must go; he’s covered in blood, with a knife up his sleeve — he’s being reckless, and he can’t afford to do that.
As he walks back to the street, he sees a girl standing alone, staring at the bronze Alice in Wonderland statue. She’s beautiful, with loosely-tied red hair, and in that moment he knows only she can help him. He walks over to her and smiles. She sees him, and smiles back. “I…I saw you on the train…” she says, blushing, “you looked like you were having a bad day.” He looks around, then back at her, as his smile fades. “Do you wanna talk about it?” she asks, cheerfully, “Maybe I can help?”
He nods his head, but doesn’t speak; then, he brushes a wayward red curl from her face. He leans in close, as though he has a secret to tell her: she trembles with anticipation — in her romantic heart, these are the moments she’d always imagined could happen. Then he kisses her, softly, on the lips; and all at once, everything stops. That’s when she feels it — the sting of the knife. She looks down and sees the cold, bloody, steel blade as it’s slowly pulled out. Her lip quivers as she falls to the ground, unable to speak. Through her tear-filled eyes, she sees him walk away — he only looks forward, as her world fades to black.