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Face to Face I: Dr. Williams is Out
by Michael S. Collins

I scanned the waiting room, searching my next hit. Glancing to my right, I saw that the prey was still around. It read in black letters. Dr William is in. With those four words registering, I fingered the holster of my gun tightly and watched the unsuspecting faces in this crowded sanctuary.

I’d never met Williams before. They had given me a photograph of the man, complete with my money and instructions I knew nothing of the man, except that sometime later in the day he was going to die. I had no grievance towards the man, but I always honour my contracts.

The man was still in. How typical that this great man’s life be held intact by the psychosomatic ramblings of bored old age pensioners! The amount of money I have been given to remove him is quite substantial, so he would have to be a somebody. People do not throw that kind of money around anymore.

The room was packed. Aging ex-choirmasters with Macintosh coats, crumpled scarfs and weathered looks frowned in the direction of everyone. The type who breed on misery, whom you’d expect at the drop of a shilling to say “everything was much better in the good old days” and mutter about their angina. They seem to pollute unfortunate public places such as buses, newsagents and surgery waiting rooms.

“A ‘right mate, you got a ciggie on you?”

The man who spoke was high on hair and low on personal hygiene. He’d eaten an egg mayo sandwich recently – the remnants were embedded in his beard – and you could tell from his eyes that he was ‘happy’. To say he was unpleasant would be a gross insult to many other unpleasant personalities.

“Any chance of a fag? I’m gagging!”

“I don’t smoke, go away!” I said.

“Any spare change then?”

I pondered whether to shoot him. I was tempted, but it would have alerted Dr. Williams to the greater scheme of things. Cursing, I gave him a fiver and told him to scarper. My eyes wandered up to the board, in sudden horror.

The words read clear. Dr. Williams is out. The idiot had distracted me, and my target had escaped. Let me explain. Next to the reception, empty as that is, is an old oak chiselled board. On this board, the names of the doctors at this particular establishment were represented by titular pieces of card. Next to these nametags on the flick-board is two options, “In” and “Out”. A small piece of wood blocked one of these options at a time; the person to whom the board referred would flick the wood back and forth as they entered to and fro the surgery to let patients know of their presence or lack of at any given time. An old-fashioned novelty, but simple and effective. Moreover, this flick board read that Dr. Williams had left.