The streets were bare at that hour. No cars. No buses. No pedestrians. It was only the flickering street lights, the steady patter of rain, and James Thompson's guilty conscience. He knew he should have been at home tucking his daughter and son into bed, kissing their young, innocent foreheads, not sprinting down the street where they had done chalk drawings earlier in the day. He was supposed to be easing the worries of his young bride, not creating more. As it was she had already questioned his motives daily only to get the typical answer: "Just work, darling." She had lost far too much weight, her curves, her legs, even her precious cheeks, all gone. His young bride was no longer the woman he had fallen for, but rather the woman his schemes had created.
Still, James splashed in the puddles, the ends of his pant legs soaked in the rain. His blazer drenched in rain, sweat, and tears. He knew what was going to happen within the hour. He knew that those minutes were his final ones. So he ran harder, his breaths faster and heavier, his legs numb, his heart breaking with each step. He'd never see his family after that night. That leather suitcase had deemed his fate. James Thompson was going to die.
He took a sharp turn into an alleyway, pressing himself against the damp brick, the rain streaming down his face. And he listened. The footsteps were near, perhaps too near. James' hand lingered over his belt, the tops of his fingertips brushing against the smooth metal.
"Come on, James." It was a gruff voice, a familiar voice- his brother-in-law.
James pressed his head further against the brick, closing his eyes. This was it. This was all that his work had ever given him. His fingers wrapped tightly against the handle, suffocating it with his own fear.
"We know you're around here somewhere." The voice came closer. "Let's just make this painless, alright? You got kids at home. I got kids at home. We both want to see them again."
James scrunched his eyes tighter, his only conscience was playing against him now.
"Come on, James. No one has to die if you just give us that information."
He stared down at the briefcase. Should he? No. He had lost far too much trying to get all the information. His wife, his kids, his best friend had all been lost- he couldn't lose his job too. James' hand let the leather strap dig into his palms as he sprung around the corner, face to face with the brother of his young bride, Marcus.
Marcus raised his own pistol, a glimmering beauty under the streetlight, and laughed. "You think I wouldn't come armed?"
"I knew you would." James' other hand drew a pistol from his belt. "So I did too."
A smile crossed Marcus' scruffy face. "So we're playing that game, are we?"
"Listen, I don't want to hurt you."
"That's all you've ever wanted from the day Brooke and I first met."
"Silly, silly James," the smaller man chuckled. "I never wanted to kill you."
James felt his hand loosen around the handle. "You couldn't-"
"Oh, I could. Your little girl is the reason we're all like this, James. I'd be doing everyone a favor by-"
"NO!" James lunged forward, the pistol hitting the pavement and the briefcase becoming his only means of defense. "You so much as lay a hand on Eliza and I'll-"
"You'll what, James? Come after my Marchesa, who, mind you, is already well trained with a knife?" Marcus pinned his brother-in-law to the pavement, the rain chilling both of them to the bone. "Marchesa hasn't done anything to you."
"And neither has Eliza!"
Marcus drew his pistol once more, a smile crossing his face. "She took my life away, James. So, I'm going to take yours."
In the cloak of darkness, a single gunshot rang out, echoing eerily off of the buildings only to be caught in the wind and forgotten about forever.