Afterglow II Nightfall, Ch. 01

Updated: Apr 25

The Hitman

A shot rang out in the late afternoon.

It did not alarm me. I’d been the one to shoot the rifle. It was hot in my hands, the metal warming my palms in the cold. An early snowfall was drifting down and covering my target. It was bleeding, falling to the cold forest floor.

The buck.

“Father, you got it.”

I looked to my right and found a steel-eyed Jibril. It had been a near-impossible shot, but I’d been confident in my abilities; I needed to prove to my son that even the seemingly impossible was often possible. He lowered his Remington 700 chambered in .308 with a scope, same as mine, and beside him, two others followed suit. Ashley and Danny, each with the smaller .243 Winchesters, a good deer rifle with low kick. Both looked a little disturbed; they were not used to death, not as Jibril was. He’d spent eleven years in Pakistan, witnessing the sacrifice of animals every Eid. It did not faze him.

“Sick,” Danny whispered, sounding slightly impressed. Mostly, he was anxious, but he was doing his best to hide it. I felt a surge of pride for him. I’d been teaching him to obscure his weaknesses.

Ashley was quiet, her golden braids rippling in the cold wind, a determined look on her face. I’d told her to make the shot, and when she’d been unable to, I’d made it in her place. She was the best shot out of all the kids during target practice, but she was also most squeamish. She did not have it in her to kill, and that worried me. To survive, she’d have to learn.

I had not always planned to teach the children how to shoot, at least not in their youth, but as dangers loomed before us, I’d changed my mind. They needed to learn to defend themselves, to kill to keep from being killed. I kept tabs on our enemies; they searched for us, even now, three years later. Ayd Farooqi, once my esteemed teacher, the man I’d looked up to, was in the United States, trekking from state to state, torturing my old contacts for information on our whereabouts. Word came to me in snippets—often, he left them dead, so there was no news at all. It was when the communication went cold that I knew.

The kingpin in Los Angeles was not a professional. He’d put out feelers but hadn’t had much luck in following our trail. Still, I despised that my family was forced into hiding because of the likes of him.

Naeem Badrashi, my father-in-law and Jibril’s grandfather, sat upon his throne in Pakistan, now a corrupt politician, dirtying his hands with the drug trade. He was easiest to keep track of, now that he had gone public. I did not view him as an immediate threat—only his faithful dog, Ayd. Naeem couldn’t touch me, not in a million years, but a professional like Ayd could.