Exactly at 9:00 on a cold winter morning on a busy London street, W walked out the door of his townhouse. As he started to walk down the short flight of steps, he had a vague feeling of unease. He was forgetting something. By the time he remembered it was too late. He stepped on the banana peel that he had carefully avoided for the last two weeks. He slipped backwards, and his head crashed onto one of the steps. Groaning, he rolled down the stairs and lay motionless at the bottom.
As he was losing consciousness, he remembered with annoyance how that banana peel seemed to be there every day for the last two weeks. He assumed it was one of the tourists who carelessly threw it there, but surely someone should have been cleaning the stairs regularly and have swept it away by now? Or was it a different banana every time? And then everything went dark. Passersby noticed him and called an ambulance, but in the fifteen minutes it took the ambulance to arrive he had already died.
M sat in his grey Ford Focus, parked just across the road watching the scene. After the ambulance left he dialed a number.
"Yes?" said a voice from the other end. "It's done. It was quick and painless like you asked." "Good." came the reply and then M disconnected. Reaching into the backseat, he plucked a banana from the many bunches he had lying there and started to eat it. He had never liked bananas much, but over the course of this assignment he had developed a fondness for them – having to eat one everyday and then strategically place the peel on the stairs.
After a few minutes he drove off. By 5 PM seventy thousand pounds had reached his bank account.
Assignments were hard to come by these days. Few people could afford his fees, and those that did wanted strong guarantees of the final outcome that he couldn't give them. They'd want to know by when he could get the job done. He'd reply that it could take days, weeks, or even months.
They'd ask how he would do it: would he shoot the target, stab the target, push them off a tall building, poison them, or something else? He said he preferred methods that were less violent. He'd try almost a dozen different things, and wait until the odds worked in his favour.
For this vague promise of an outcome he would bill them somewhere between fifty and two hundred thousand pounds. Not many took him up on this offer.
But then again, he loved his job. He might only have a few assignments a year, but they paid really well, so it worked out in the end. And few jobs were so intellectually fulfillling: It was a job that required creativity, patience, persistence, and optimism, while solving tough problems.
It was several weeks before he got his next assignment.
H was on her way to Harpenden train station, a fifteen-minute drive from her home. She did this drive every weekday, then took the train into Central London where her job at the bank was.
Today was sunny, and as she drove south the morning sun glared into her face. As she approached the roundabout she felt a sense of discomfort; there was something unpleasant about this place but she couldn't put her finger on it. When she was halfway through the roundabout, as usual driving far over the speed limit, a car suddenly dashed across her, exiting the roundabout from the wrong lane. She gasped and jammed her brakes. She missed the car by inches, but the vehicle behind her crashed into her.
Then she remembered why she felt uncomfortable. She had a few close calls at this roundabout in the last couple weeks. It just felt more dangerous these days. She sighed, promised to herself that she would drive slower now, and drove off.
M stopped the car at a service stop nearby and sighed. He's tried this almost a dozen times already, with a different car each time. But it wasn't working. And even if he did manage to crash into her, their speed on the roundabout wasn't high enough to kill or injure her. This seemed to be the only opportunity he had found in the short path from H's home to the station though.
Finally he decided to talk to his client and decided on a new strategy.
That Friday H set out for the Lake District at five in the evening. The husband had arranged a weekend getaway for them, which she had been looking forward to. He was already there at the hotel, extending his stay after his business meetings had ended so they spent a couple days at the spa. This week had been long and stressful. Some relaxation would be very welcome.
It was some twenty miles from her hotel in Keswick where he lay in wait for her. It was almost 10PM, and H would have been driving for over five hours at this point.
About five minutes before she would reach his location, he walked to the middle of the road and placed a large stuffed toy dog there. It was just after a sharp bend. He scrutinized the location of the dog for a few seconds and adjusted it once or twice. When he was happy with where it was he walked back.
As he watched from the side of the road, H's black SUV came into view. She was, as usual driving too fast – probably at seventy on a fifty mph road. When her headlights picked up the dog, which in the dark seemed as real as a dog could be, she panicked and swerved to the left to avoid it. And then everything went according to plan. The car smashed through the barrier that protected vehicles from the two hundred foot drop below. He watched as the car flew into the air and them down off the cliff.
Satisfied, he quickly walked across and picked up the dog, which was unharmed. And then he sat on his bicycle and rode off.
Two hundred thousand pounds were wired over promptly to his bank account after he notified the client about his success.