They called him Top Dog.In the shady world of assassins where loyalty is a commodity and trust is a joke, nobody revealed their real names any more.He ran a tightly knit band of expert killers and made sure they were happy. Happy meaning well paid. He prided himself on being super-efficient and ruthless when it came to managing them.As Top Dog stepped out of the travels agency that served as a front for his real profession, he mulled over the phone call he had received half an hour ago.“Catfoot’s been taken care of. It’s a small brief in a couple of newspapers today,” Loco told him.True enough, the brief was about a man found dead in his car on the western express highway. Top Dog had particularly liked Loco’s touch of claiming the dead body himself, posing as Catfoot’s brother.
Top Dog locked his office and began walking along the row of shops to his right, taking care to stay on the pavement. It was harder for snipers to get you that way, with all the telephone and electricity poles and lamp posts lining pavements. He would only have to leave cover once, to cross the street to get to the railway station, which he would do with a quick dash. Nobody could shoot that fast or accurately.Top Dog didn’t drive. Stupid people took the risk of being run off the road or bombed by using cars. he preferred the crowded public transport, which drastically reduced the chances of a hit. As for surprise attacks, he could still put up a mean fight and was ready for one all the time.
As he walked on, he mulled over Loco. The rascal had successfully interpreted his intentions and come out alive. However, Top Dog was willing to bet that Loco was at this moment planning to kill him. He wasn’t the kind of guy to forgive someone who had tried to get him killed. And certainly not the type of fool who would trust Top Dog ever again.
As he passed an alley between two buildings, he heard a soft footfall behind him and chuckled. The revenge seemed to be coming sooner than expected. He took off his mirrored glasses and pretended to examine them, and saw a man reflected in the glass. He was of medium height, well built, clad in black and was keeping his distance.
The man quickened his pace as Top Dog approached another alley, the last one he would pass before leaving the pavement and crossing the street. His instincts told him that the alley had been slated to be the last place he would ever see. Top Dog slowly reached inside his jacket and fingered the handle of the stiletto knife in the inner pocket, expecting to be tackled from the left and pushed into the alley to his right.
The man behind him, however, surprised him by tackling him from the right. Top Dog quickly recovered, drew his knife and buried it deep inside the man’s chest while the latter was still struggling to get a stranglehold. He had a syringe in his hands, and was trying to pierce Top Dog’s neck with it.
“The heart-failure serum, Loco?” Top Dog whispered. The man struggled further, pushing the syringe closer in spite of the blade twisting in his chest. With one powerful blow, Top Dog hit the syringe out of the man’s hand and dragged him off the pavement into the street. A nearby street lamp illuminated his face and an alarm went off in Top Dog’s head.
The man wasn’t Loco.
The next instant, Top Dog’s head exploded in a mass of blood and brain. His hands released his hold on his assailant, who staggered away, the knife still protruding from his chest. A van came around the corner at full speed, skidding to a halt near him and he got in. A fully equipped medical team was cutting away the man’s shirt even before the van started moving again.
On the terrace of a building across the street, Loco had already finished dismantling the silenced sniper rifle and was placing the parts in the case. ten seconds later, he was walking away from Top Dog, who was already dead. Fifteen seconds later, the crowd started forming around the dead body.