The shovel bit clumsily into the ground. He had started at just before sunset and now he was tired of digging, tired of trying to think of a way out of this.

He had been dragged off the streets with a hood over his head late last night and brought to a cabin somewhere in these woods. This evening he was brought to this clearing and handed the shovel and simply given the option of digging or the man in the mask would go back into town and kill his entire family.

So he dug. Each time the blade of the shovel hit the ground it felt a little heavier. His back ached, his shoulders burned, and his hands blistered and still he dug further down. He knew what this was about. He knew it would happen one day. You could only hide from them for so long before they found you. You couldn’t make trouble for people like them up and just keep on living. Sooner or later they’d send someone to kill you, kill you on your knees somewhere nobody would ever look for you. Deny you the dignity of a public death, just so you wouldn’t be remembered by anyone.

It was dark now. The soon to be killer sat on a log in the clearing with a lantern between his feet, just out of reach. All that could be seen of him was his legs and the rifle that rested on his lap. The hole would be deep enough soon and then that would be the end. Most likely it would be a shot to the back of the head. He would never know his killer’s face. The man with the rifle would just cover the hole and fade into the night. Maybe he would track down the others.

The shovel landed one last time. The killer groaned and set something heavy down at the edge of the grave, something that jingled slightly.

“In that box,” the assassin said, “is the name and last known location of the man who hired me to kill you. You’ll also find the two-hundred double eagles he paid me.” There was a clicking sound as he uncocked the rifle. “This here hole is for him. I’m gonna give you one year from today to put him in it or I’m gonna put you both in there.”

He stood, picked up the lantern, and turned to walk away. “As far as anyone knows you’re dead now, and that’s got some advantages to it.”

“There’s a horse tied up about a hundred yards that way.” He motioned with the lantern. “It has got food and water for a day or two packed on it. There’s a gun belt too. You’re a good man and don’t deserve this kind of killing. You just make sure and tell that son of a bitch that I warned him not to lie to me.” and with that he walked off into the night.