View Full Version : Killing Free

Roy Goode
June 25th, 2018, 06:16 PM
Synopsis: A crime boss operates a hitman-for-hire website on the darknet, the wild west of the internet. Maintaining his secrecy and evading capture by the authorities becomes much and more difficult as he encounters old friends from his younger days, and his hired guns face issues with their health and in their personal lives.

Chapter One

Murder at the orphanage! It had barely been out of the headlines for several days. James was awaiting a visit from one of his employees, and he had an extremely important task for him. He paced around the office space that he owned, excitement coursing through him, rapidly. The news reporter was explaining about a female care worker who had been murdered, bleeding from several deep cuts. The suspect of the case was called Toby. James knew Toby. They were old friends. Things were finally starting to move, at long, long last.

Toby was an Indonesian teenager of sixteen years, and had been set to leave the Mandale comprehensive school within the calender year. The story resonated with James because he too was wanted by the authorities. He paused one second to scrutinize the news reporter who was grim in his description of the details. He walked over to the double newspaper spread on his desk, stroking his chin as he scanned through it.

James was not an attractive man. He was smaller than average, standing at around five foot eight, and prone to looking soft and round. His complexion was pale. He had thus far only reached his mid-twenties, but his face showed lines of wear and care. The black hooded jumper he wore was a size too large, a necessary evil to conceal the excess around his middle. His hair was brown and grew as it pleased in no particular style, and the line was receding. He had blue eyes that were always sad and empty, a pug nose and a thin mouth. The closest he ever got to smiling was his triumphant smirk. A smirk that people always found distasteful, and a smirk people rarely ever saw these days. As well as his baggy black hoody, he wore black, baggy jogging trousers and a pair of black suede trainers that were decorated with ornamental spikes around the heel and the toe cap. The soles were red-lacquered.

His unspectacular appearance had been but one contributor to his bland dating life. Attention from the ladies was something that James had found hard to come by in recent years. He had given up on that aspect of his life.

James licked the tip of his finger and turned the page, looking for anything else pertaining to the murder. The newspaper was his town's local paper, the Thornaby Light. A small town of around twenty thousand people, a sizeable percentage of which were housed within the four high-rise tower blocks that dwarfed the rest of the town. These were sited at four corners of a vast expanse of grassland, the municipality named the 'Little Boy Recreation Ground.'

When James was but a youngster, the park was always thriving. Children kicking footballs, chasing each other to the top of climbing frames, chasing each other around the tall poplar trees and waiting by the park's green gates for Mr. Crolla, the much revered Ice Cream entrepreneur.

James' office was a second storey leasehold above a car valet business. The front door to the premises and the door to his office were both wrought of steel, and secured by high-end, electronic smart locks.

He walked quickly around the desk and sat down on the black leather swivel chair, spinning one complete turn in another flurry of excitement. Edging it underneath the brown wooden desk, he pulled his laptop towards him. The rig was recommended to him by Jake, the employee who would be arriving soon. But that was purely because Jake was a video game connoisseur.

“You should definitely get this one.” Jake had said. “Listen to this...two point eight gigahertz processor, eight gigabytes of RAM, one terabyte internal hard drive, one hundred and twenty eight gigabyte solid state drive, fifteen point six inch full high definition, Wi-Fi and a two gigabyte graphics card.” Jake finished, brimming with satisfaction. He had a way of telling other people what to buy as soon as he had been paid.

James ran his finger over the top row of numbered keys. A light shone from underneath each of them. Red from the left, then green and ending in sky blue on the right, a colourful spectrum and a nifty feature of the rig. That was not why Jake had recommended it, though. James laughed as he entered three separate passwords, each of them a cumbersome combination of special characters, numbers and upper and lower case letters.

He had booted the incognito operating system and was just about to access the darknet, when there was a notification from the smart lock that was fixed to the front door of the office. Jake's face gradually filled the screen of his phone as he moved in closer to the lens of the door camera.

No one favoured this system. Perhaps nobody enjoyed being visible to somebody that they could not see. It reminded James, somewhat bizarrely, of the magic mirrors used by police officers when putting their suspects to questioning.

He granted access to Jake by swiping his thumb across the screen, thus disengaging the smart lock. Jake had an important job to do today.

The office was a spacious rectangular room with yellowing walls, the paint peeling in places, wooden floorboards covered only in one place by a rug of thin fabric below a green sofa and a wooden coffee table. There was a TV set in one corner atop a glass cabinet with various satellite TV receivers and gaming consoles on the shelves underneath. And there was James' desk. A large and ornate piece of furniture that had various biblical carvings of saints and apostles. Most of the time, the only illumination was the ominous glow of James' laptop, though there was a shaded lamp by the arm of the sofa, a lamp on his desk and one hanging from the ceiling by a single wire. All lights controlled by a smartphone application.

The most important thing in the room, however, was a short length of green and white earthing tape that covered the lens of the webcam. Another length of tape was used to cover the microphone. It was entirely conceivable that a skilful hacker could win access to James' laptop if he was feeling inquisitive enough.

When Jake entered the office, James motioned him wordlessly to the green couch opposite his desk.

“Good to see you again, Jake. Good journey?”

“You as well. And yeah.” Jake replied, none-too-convincingly.

“Have you heard about that orphan in the news?”

“Yeah, as a matter of fact I have. Killed a woman didn't he? Apparently the police forces of three counties are out looking for him. But be that as it may. I have troubles of my own, you know, James. I really do.” Jake said, eyes rolling slightly.

“Well that's no good. I can't have my top employee feeling blue can I?” James said cheerfully.

James locked his laptop with the CTRL, ALT and F4 keys. It was not that he did not trust Jake, it was only that curiosity was such a powerful force. He got to his feet.

“I'm going to put the kettle on. For you it's no sugar isn't it?”

“Yeah. Thank you.” Jake said.

When James returned with two steaming mugs of tea, he set one down on the coffee table in front of Jake, and one on the desk for himself.

“Is there any word on that ping?” Jake asked, not looking at James, but at the tea in front of him.

“I'm giving the job to Clarence. You wouldn't have wanted that job anyway.” James assured him. There were some jobs that Jake would refuse on principle. All the same...he looked frustrated that he had missed an opportunity. He eyed James.

“It's just that...I'm really struggling you know, James. I'm unemployed at the moment. I'm claiming job seekers allowance and housing benefit. I met a girl recently as well...I really like her and I can't afford to take her out. Sometimes I have to starve for a few days to make ends meet. I'm desperate.” Jake said, and he sounded tearful. However, this is why Jake was a reliable employee.

James took a brown leather wallet from his pocket. There was a stack of notes held in place under a metal clip. He counted out one thousand pounds and handed them to Jake, who accepted them wide-eyed.

“There. That should be enough to ease your money troubles for a few weeks. I would have something of you though. A job. It's not in your usual remit, but it's something that needs doing. Immediately.” James added, emphatically. Jake pocketed the cash and got to his feet.

“The orphan from the news. It just so happens that I know this man. Well...I say 'man'...but he's only sixteen, in truth. I know where he will be hiding, as well.” James said, and he noticed Jake's curiosity swell. James walked briskly around the desk and pulled the laptop towards him.

“The police are looking for him.” Jake said.

“Yeah. But I want you to get to him first.” James shot back.

“Why?” Jake said, looking confounded.

“Don't worry, you'll be paid well for this job, Jake. More than what you usually get. All you have to do is go to this location, speak to him, tell him you work for me and then bring him back here.” James unlocked the laptop and turned it around. On the screen was a niche GPS service running on the darknet, it displayed the route from James' office all the way to a small remote building surrounded by a few acres of farmland. It was situated on the outskirts of a neighbouring city, out in the sticks. The round trip would only be two hours travelling by car.

“How much more are we talking?”


Jake sat up a little. “What happens if the police stop me for some reason and he is sitting there in the car with me?”

“Don't get stopped by the police.” James said simply.

“What if he tries to kill me? I mean...he's got form. Beating and cutting a woman to death and then going on the run. I'd be alone with him as well. I'd be driving and I wouldn't be able to keep a close eye on him. What if he decided to elbow me in the head or something? What if he knocks me out when I'm not looking?” His stress level was rising quickly.

“Just stick him in the boot if it makes you feel safer. Buy some cable ties and some tape. For fudge sake. Get creative. Do what you have to. But what I would say is...make sure he is docile before you bring him here. Don't be dragging him by the hair or anything.”

“fudge. Mate...” Jake dropped back down onto the sofa, shaking his head slowly. “Why the hell do you want to go looking for somebody who is wanted by the police, who is in the national news, and then bring him to where you live?”

“He didn't do it. The orphan, Toby, is a suspect. I can vouch for his character, he wouldn't do this thing. He didn't kill that care worker, I'm telling you. He discovered what happened, panicked and then fudge off. Think about it. Every orphan and staff member associated with this incident will likely be traumatized, Toby is no different.”

“Are you sure? I mean are you absolutely sure? Do you know him that well?”

“On my life. He wouldn't do this.”

“Could you not have him mixed up with somebody else?”

“No chance.”

Jake let up for a second, so James pressed his advantage.

“If you do get stopped by the police, just say he is a hitch hiker. But don't bring him here in such a case. Just make up a story. Wing it. You're dropping him off here or there and you didn't know who he was. You were just trying to help him out.

Jake looked at James carefully. He sighed. “I'll do it for triple.”

James picked up his mug and drank some of his tea. He looked at Jake and beamed, wide-eyed. “Aye ok. Triple. Done.”

Jake drained some tea from his mug. “I do have to ask...why? Why help this lad?”

“We an accord, Jake.” James said, nodding his head.

“I just- I just need a reason. Why do this? Do you have history with him or something? I mean it just seems like-”

“Listen you selfish bastard...that's an orphan out there. He's probably got no one. He's fugitive. A suspect of something obscene. Something he didn't do. Just bring him back here.” James said, his tone leaving no doubt that this was a no-brainer for Jake. He was licking his teeth as he turned away from Jake.

“Alright then. Alright. For triple. I'll do it. I'll hire a car and drive up there straight away.” Jake said, and drained the last of his tea before making his way. But James wasn't finished...


He was at the door when he stopped and turned back to face James.

“Do NOT speak to him about the orphanage incident, please. Be tactful. Emphasize my circumstances here...the electronic locks, the small town and the spare bedroom. And for fudge sake...do NOT tell him what we do. Got it?” James instructed.

“Got it. I'll have him back here in no time James. Don't worry.” And with that, Jake left.

Jake had been an employee of James' for two years. His previous criminal convictions meant that he found it difficult to get a job without lying on an application form, and he had said that he suffered tremendous anxiety when thinking of the future and the poverty that awaited him. He had been convicted for trafficking controlled substances, and after failing to clean up his act, had decided to return to the business that had once earned him several years in Her Majesty's custody. That, he said, was when he had stumbled across James' website. Jake had been looking to source narcotics from the Gold Road, a thriving darknet marketplace. He had, however, “miss-clicked” his way onto Red Rum For You, James' website. It was the only time James had received an online application form.

The fact that Jake was a desperate man made him a good addition to the team. The thought of it was still amusing to James. In fact, nigh every time he thought of Jake he felt the urge to laugh, although face-to-face he kept it professional, so his contempt was hidden for the most part.

Today was a good day. Clarence would be arriving soon, for James had another contract to issue. Whilst he was sat waiting, he decided to take a meal.

The space that James lived in was modest. Besides the office in which he spent most of the day, there was a small passageway at the bottom of a wooden staircase that led to the front entrance, a small kitchen, a bathroom, two single bedrooms and a store cupboard that were all situated along the second storey landing next to the office. The store cupboard was behind a steel door and another electronic lock that was more formidable still than the those guarding the front entrance and the office entrance. The main assets of the business were stored within.

James went to the kitchen and warmed a pan of chicken soup on the hob and cut some bread from a loaf. He turned the tap and filled a glass with cold water, which flowed clear today. At times, it would flow dull orange because of the rust in the pipes.


He tore off pieces of bread and got through his bowl of chicken soup rather quickly. Before he had finished, though, his smartphone began vibrating again. This time, it was Clarence at the door. He moved on and off the screen as he paced back and forth before the entrance. Clarence was by no means a patient man.

He granted entry with another swipe on his smartphone. Heavy footsteps could be heard on the wooden staircase beyond the office door. Clarence then appeared in the office, looking somewhat smug.

Clarence was wearing a dark blue sports jumper with the stripes of the brand down each arm, a pair of blue jogging trousers and cheap white sports trainers. He smelled of tobacco smoke. Clarence had a way of showing his teeth most of the time, but he rarely ever smiled unless it was to laugh at someone else's expense. His small dark eyes had bags underneath them.

“So...how is my favourite employee?” James asked, all fake enthusiasm.

“Stupid Paki bastards them.” Clarence said.

“You drove here?”

“Yeah. I bought their premium valet service and I told them I wanted the job finished in a couple of hours at the earliest. They complained about that. When I finally shut them up they started asking me questions. Basically being nosy bastards mate.”

“Ah.” James said, bored. “But apart from that...?”

“Yeah living the dream mate. I went out last night. You should've seen it out on the town. Wall-to-wall fanny it was. Not your average birds either. We're talking supermodels. Classy birds.” He paused for a second. “Although I'm feeling a bit worse for wear today like.” He finished, rubbing his temple.

“Never mind. You have plenty of time to do this job anyway. It would be preferable if you got it done before you went out and got 'poop unicorns and rainbows' again, however. This client is valuable.”

“Yeah?” Clarence asked, sitting down on the sofa just had Jake had done.

“Aye. You know how it usually goes. I ask for half the fee up front and then the other half when the job is complete. This particular client, though, sent treble the fee up front. She also hinted at the possibility of repeat business.”

“Why would she do that?”

“She and her other half...they're affluent. Plus, I can tell you that she has been scorned in a rather unforgivable way, and she has begged us to deliver retribution for her. And so, this job is for you. You're my favourite employee. You are undoubtedly the best operator. I want you to do this. I know you weren't happy that I gave that other job to Stuart, Jake wasn't either...but fudge that. This one pays more.” He mopped up more of his soup.

“You're the boss. I don't know why you bother with that Stuart by the way. He's constantly depressed about something and I wouldn't like to ask him what it is. But erm...James...mate...what with this woman paying the fee up front...does that mean I am getting paid up front as well? Clarence asked, tentatively.

“No I'm afraid not. I haven't made the exchange yet. There is a long-anticipated date on the horizon. Thousands of users on all of the bigger darknet forums are raving on in anticipation of this new networking tool....called Seth 2.0. It's expected that droves of people will be buying up d'coins so that they can buy it anonymously. When the value d'coin goes up, I'll convert back to good ol' Great British Sterling. And then I'll pay 'ya.” James finished with a nod.

“Ah. Fair enough mate. I can't really make head nor tail of this bitcoin business to be honest. But if you say so.”

“The majority of business' on the darknet deal in d'coin, and many of them sell alcohol too. You might find the price much more reasonable than your local off-license, and definitely more reasonable than these nightclubs you like to visit.” James wiped the breadcrumbs off of his desk.

“Could end up a blind man though.” Clarence argued.

James removed a small stack of papers from the top drawer of his desk. It was the print-out of the order form that he had received from the client in question. James proceeded to read it to Clarence.


My husband has fallen victim to another woman and both of them seem hell bent on ruining our marriage. We have been married for twenty years but that doesn't seem to matter to him, he spends more time with this other woman or at work than he does at home with me. I feel completely abandoned but I am not ready to file for divorce yet, not whilst I have some control over the finances.

In fact, once you have disposed of this other woman, perhaps then you can do the same for my husband as well? I would equal the price I am paying today if you can actually do this.

Kind regards,

Clarence whistled.

“Yeah.” Said James.

“Well...sounds like a winner. Do you know anything else? Is that all she wrote?” Clarence asked, not as aloof as he usually was. The gossip and back-story related to a contract was a guilty pleasure for Clarence. All of James' employees were alike in that aspect.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact. She went into a wealth of detail. It looks to me like the beginning of a feud that could last the rest of their lives. Or at least her husbands life.” James took a piece of bread and mopped up the last of his soup. “Not too long I should imagine.” He was a fast eater. He winced in pain. He had just bitten from the side of his mouth.

“Yeah ok...I'll do it.” Clarence sat forward and rubbed his hands together, full of giddiness, as he often was when he was given a contract. “If we do get another contract out of this...”

“I see no reason why it wouldn't be you, Clarence.” James finished for him, kindly.

“Ok. Where abouts am I going? Where does she live, this...she-devil?” Clarence asked, as he poured over the contract.

“It's down in Portsmouth. I suggest you drive home and hire a car.”


“And make sure you wait a couple of days after you're done before you contact me. I want to hear from the client before you. I setup a web server and coded a contact form so she can get a hold of me. It's all encrypted and she's the only one who has been given the address. It's all tight, as usual.” James said. It was important to put his employee at as much ease as possible before sending him out into the field.

“What piece am I getting?” Clarence asked, all of a sudden. He had a greedy, childish look on his face that James found irritating. He was planning on issuing to Clarence the newest addition to the arsenal for this job. A quality weapon, and definitely not a toy.

“Just wait there.”

James went to the store cupboard and threw several items noisily into a cardboard box, and brought it into the office. He placed it carefully down on the coffee table, and took from it a compact and lightweight pistol, and examined it closely. An elegant weapon of metal and polymer.

“That job you did a few months ago. You remember that piece you used? Well this is from the same manufacturer. You can fit the same silencer to this one as well.” James said, and he took out the silencer from the box to demonstrate, screwing it into the nozzle.

“When I killed that girl's rival?” Clarence asked, with traces of pride.

“That's the one. I want you to complete a field strip, clean it and apply the lubricants. You'll remember from last time that you'll have to dry fire once to remove the slide? When we're both happy with it, you can be on your way.”

“Aye it's said by some that dry firing should be avoided. It supposedly damages the firing pin.”

“In this case it's something you have to do. I've researched. The average gun enthusiast loves a heated debate, the more technical the better. Dry firing really isn't that bad.” James said, and he removed the silencer before handing the gun to Clarence.

Clarence busied himself disassembling the handgun. He removed the empty magazine, verified the chamber was empty, pulled the slide back, disengaged the slide lock, removed the receiver, the recoil spring assembly and then the barrel.

“Don't go any deeper than that.”


“No.” James said in bored tones.

Clarence laughed as he rummaged around the box for a small black bottle. It was a cleaning lubricant preservative with a trigger spray. He also took an old toothbrush, some clean rags and the polymer cleaning pick. He sprayed the lubricant into the receiver and worked it in using the toothbrush. He repeated the same process with the barrel.

“Dya' fancy a cuppa?”

“Does a bear poop unicorns and rainbows in the woods? One sugar for me.” Clarence was smirking and hyper-focused on the stripped pistol before him. His hands were steady considering he was a heavy chain smoker currently suffering a hangover. James removed himself to the kitchen and returned with two steaming cups of tea.

James stood leaning against the desk with his arms folded, patiently observing the progression of the field strip. It was a meditative experience, James knew, as he noted the depth of concentration that Clarence had achieved. That level of focus would be needed after reading through the rest of the literature that James had given to him. The woman he was getting paid to kill...she was something of a weapon herself, and Clarence was only human. Emotional involvement had to be absolutely zero, without question. Clarence was good at that...but he was only human.

“She's a right fudge siren this woman. So be advised, Clarence...OY.! Are you listening?”

Clarence looked up.

“Don't get distracted. As soon as you've entered her home, make your way up the stairs to the bedroom, and do it quickly. Don't fudge mess around either. As soon as the job is done, you leave. Got it?”

“What exactly are you getting at mate? What do you think I am? Some sort of sicko'?”

James ignored him. When Clarence had completed the field strip the two of them mustered the entire kit. They did so several times and talked each other through the procedure.

“Make sure you drive far out in the sticks before setting fire to everything. Remember...that pistol was obtained from a darknet vendor and was shipped to a dead drop location that only I know of. The police will not be able to trace it...so there's a chance it's not your gun. You with me?” James said, absent a trace of urgency.

“Yeah I remember mate.” Clarence said, fidgeting. James handed out the papers for Clarence to take.

“That contains all of the correspondence I had with this woman. You will find much of it entertaining I am sure.” Clarence took the paper and folded it into his inside pocket.

June 26th, 2018, 05:18 AM
When a reader is making a decision to invest their time and money in a book, you have roughly three paragraphs of ‘grace’ during which they make a decision. In that time you have to establish voice, hook them in and intrigue them.

Your first sentence promises something, but then you slip into an in-depth description of everything and anything, right down to the colour of the soles of the MC’s shoes. The story strays into inaction and verbosity, becoming bogged down in detail that isn’t relevant at this point (or arguably relevant at all) and that’s a hole that few readers will be happy to climb out of.

Starting a story in the right place is vital and delivering something to hook the reader is essential.

June 26th, 2018, 12:57 PM
Hi Roy. I agree with Pete. I would suggest keeping the tempo up that you started with in the beginning, before telling your readers about your MC. I, too, want everyone to know what I see when I think of my characters, but have learned over time that if you can't show how they measure up (or don't :)), its best to leave it up to your readers how they see them.

I think you have a lot of material here. I would suggest an out loud read to find those little places where words are missing, or the sentences do not flow right. The fast pace you began with seems to continue throughout, even when it's not really necessary. Consider slowing down a bit.

Even with all the info you have, I couldn't quite get a handle on what it was that James and company actually did, what the front cover was. He said he was waiting for his best employee, but I didn't know if that was Jake or Clarence. I also found the jargon (I recognize the need for it, though) a little confusing.

All in all, I think this might be a good story with some attention to detail and a little more showing than telling. Keep going! :)