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Contract on the Hitman

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"First rule of assassinations: kill the assassins."
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

A professional killer (most likely a Hitman with a Heart) suddenly finds himself being hunted by the very organization he works for. Cue a plot line involving him taking out other assassins as he works his way through the ranks trying to find out who wants him dead and why.

Sometimes it's because the assassin wants to quit their profession, leading to The Syndicate (or The Government, or whatever other employers he's working for) reminding him, in deadly fashion, that there's only one way to leave. Sometimes it's because his employers don't want to pay him for a crucial job or consider him to have outlived his usefulness or failed them in some manner, particularly if he refused to do a hit for them that the assassin considered to be against his principles (women and kids are an all time favorite, falling In Love with the Mark being especially common). Sometimes it's revenge for a past loss or embarrassment at the assassin's hands, or because he or she wants something (or someone) that the assassin has and wants him or her out of the way. But most often, the reason for the Contract on the Hitman is because the employer doesn't want anything linking the killing that the assassin did back to them, and wants the assassin eliminated because — say it with us, people — He Knows Too Much.

Compare Assassins Are Always Betrayed.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Heart, Glass Heart's final job from the Organization that trained her was to kill a hitman, and once she goes missing, there's a contract out on her. Several cases in later volumes have to do with this theme as well.
  • This also happened a few times in City Hunter, the manga of which Angel Heart is a spin off of, as the title character had assassins sent to kill him in multiple occasions.
  • Teresa in Claymore. She isn't quite a hitman per se, since her assignments are only hits on Youma, but that's basically the same thing.
  • Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell is officially a special search and rescue team, unofficially a cybercrime-focused counter terrorism unit, but the entire country of Japan is in such a corrupt state that they are really just one of the countless hit squads employed by the many rival political factions. As one of the few units who take their job of protecting the population seriously, they frequently make themselves targets of other teams that want them dead for interfering with their superiors' illegal activities. Actually, they end up fighting against other government employees almost as often as against actual terrorists or criminals who usually end up to revealed to be goons of some politician or another as well.
    • As an example, in addition to Jurisdiction Friction between Section Nine and the police (with Section Nine more than once taking over a case the cops couldn't handle), and the corrupt Ministry of Health SWAT Team, the climax of season one sees them hunted by the Umibozu, the Japanese Navy's version of SEAL Team Six. In 2nd Gig, they get hunted down by Army Rangers.
  • Several of the employers of Golgo 13 have tried this. He's killed every last one of them for it. His first rule: "I will not accept a client's betrayal."
  • In the Knight Hunters OVA, Ken and Omi refuse to kill a sympathetic target, so their teammates are ordered to kill them. Turns out to be part of a plot, though.
  • Pretty much the premise of Lone Wolf and Cub is disgraced government executioner Lone Wolf evading the many, many, many people out to kill him.
  • Lupin III:
  • In Noir, the titular assassin duo constantly finds themselves targeted by the same people who they are working for, however, it is later revealed that their "employer" only wanted to increase their skills in The Spartan Way.

    Comic Books 
  • Button Man: Harry has found himself unwittingly becoming the target of hired guns or other Button Men on occasion after he tries to get out of the Game.
  • Jackie Estacado, mafioso hitman, of The Darkness finds himself on the receiving end of this once his powers manifest.
  • In The DCU, the Hook was executed by the League of Assassins for failing to kill the circus aerialist Deadman, although ironically it turned out he hadn't actually failed - Boston Brand happened to have an identical twin brother who took his place in the act, leading to the confusion. This is standard League of Assassins fare; if you can't close the deal, you've got not place among the elite killers of the world.
  • In Deathstroke, Slade, going after an employer who betrayed him, is targeted by a second assassin, Jannissary. When Slade has Jannissary at his mercy and explains his motives, Jannissary gives him the money he had paid; Slade returns it before killing the employer.
  • Three businessmen who once hired Elektra had this as official policy. They would routinely "retire" hitmen after they performed three jobs, using their replacements to do the deed. One of the three was smart enough to avoid trying this with Elektra. Too bad one of the others didn't get the memo...
  • In From Hell, the conspirators contemplate having William Gull killed when his mental illness reveals him as a liability. Ultimately they throw him into an asylum under a false name.
  • In Ramba #12, Ramba is hired to murder the head of the Teamsters' Union. Ramba is given specific instructions and a gun to use. This is a little suspicious, so she copies down the license number of her employers' car. The hit goes badly, because the gun does not shoot straight and it only has one bullet. Ramba chases her quarry into his office building and finishes him with a knife, but the police have already been called. She escapes and backtracks to find out who set her up.
  • Living Weapon assassin X-23 ran into this after arriving at the Xavier school. Kimura was dispatched in an attempt to assassinate her, and had Laura all lined up in her scope and was ready to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, she forgot to account for the school's resident telepaths. Emma Frost knew exactly where she was, and went completely Mama Bear on her, Mind Raping her by not only removing her only happy memory, but reprogramming her to go after the ones who ordered the hit in the first place.

    Comic Strips 
  • Toyed with in Dick Tracy. In one story arc, Big Boy Caprice, now dying, decides to get revenge on a thorn in his side, Dick Tracy. So he puts a million dollar contract on Dick Tracy's life; but the younger folk running the crime syndicate now tell the villain that Dick Tracy wasn't worth it and so they put a million dollar contract of their own on anyone who accepts the Dick Tracy contract.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas, Charlotte Flair and the assassination organzation the Bullet Club went to war after one of the BC got arrested and Charlotte refused to use her contacts in the LVPD to get him out, as it would have blown back on her. They launched a decapitation strike on her resulting in the deaths of Charlotte's top security people and she responded by tasking her new associate, Becky Lynch, to kill the entire group which she does.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, two of the Conduit's associates, Miss T. and Mr. Wire, make plans to deal with Mr. Black.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Belgian film The Alzheimer's Case, also known as De Zaak Alzheimer and Memory of a Killer features this after the main character refuses to kill a child prostitute.
  • George Clooney's character in The American ends up with one of these after deciding he'll quit the business after his last job which is simply to build a gun for another female assassin. The employer of both him and the woman decides to have him be the first person terminated by the woman after the gun is completed, but she can't find a safe time to do so. He rigs the gun to misfire in a moment of conscience, thus killing the other assassin after her attempt on his life. He is then wounded in a shootout with his former employer and his fate is left ambiguous.
  • Subverted in the 1969 film The Assassination Bureau in that the head of the titular agency willingly accepts a contract on his own head as a challenge to weed out the unworthy elements within his organization.
  • The Sylvester Stallone movie Assassins, where Antonio Banderas is contracted to kill the Hitman with a Heart.
  • In the remake of Bangkok Dangerous, Joe's most recent employer is already paranoid from hiring an international assassin in the first place, never mind his somewhat odd requests. But when Joe grows a conscience and refuses to kill an altruistic political figure, his employer immediately sets every gun at his disposal out to hunt him.
  • In Branded to Kill, the #3 killer in Japan becomes the target of the #1 killer after botching his latest assignment.
  • In Crank, Jason Statham's hitman character is targeted after his Columbian employers hire him to assassinate a Chinese mob boss, and they want to use him as the scapegoat. The twist is that he didn't kill the Chinese guy, who is appropriately grateful. At least until the sequel.
  • The Grammaton cleric John Preston in the movie Equilibrium is a highly-trained police officer/executioner for the Fascist theocratic government of a mid-21st century police state. Once he recovers his own emotions and realizes what monstrous society has been created in the name of peace and tranquility, he becomes a rebel himself and turns the tables on his former employers, killing the people send out to kill him and executing the head of the State Church.
  • Fulltime Killer apes the film Assassins, in that the wild hitman Tok has modeled himself after action films and intentionally imitates the Stallone film in his rivalry with number one assassin O.
  • In Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai the main character is an assassin who works for a mid-level mobster because said mobster saved his life years ago. After his latest job The Don marks him for cleanup as well.
  • Gomorrah (2008). Two teenage hoodlums have been running out of control in the local Camorra clan's territory, despite warnings from the mob boss to behave themselves or die. They ignore this warning, stealing a cache of weapons hidden by the Camorra. An older mobster points out they'll have trouble with the police if two youngsters are killed publicly, so he approaches them with a deal — for 10,000 euros they return the weapons and kill a mobster who has betrayed him. The youths follow their target to an isolated location, only to be murdered in an ambush and their bodies carted away by a bulldozer to be disposed of.
  • The main character in Grosse Pointe Blank is targeted by fellow hitmen after he refuses to join their labor union.
  • In Bruges is an example where the assassin is targeted because Even Evil Has Standards: he accidentally killed a child with a stray bullet.
  • In The Informer the leader of a murder for hire organization starts having his killers murdered to prevent the police from climbing the food chain to get to him.
  • The International features a MegaCorp that's rather too fond of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. The fact that their Contract on the Hitman shows its hand before "The Consultant" manages to kill the protagonist saves the target's life, resulting in a fairly awesome Enemy Mine Blast Out in the Guggenheim.
  • In John Wick the Big Bad puts out a two million dollar bounty on the eponymous back-from-retirement assassin when the latter seeks vengeance on the Big Bad's son for wrongs done to him. It happens again in the sequel. By the end of that movie, because John broke the rule against killing in the Continental, even if the bastard deserved it, his membership is now revoked and he has an open $14 miliion dollar bounty on him.
  • In Kill Bill, the Bride's Roaring Rampage of Revenge begins when the other members of her hit squad try to take her out at her wedding rehearsal.
  • In the Bollywood film Kill Dil, Dev's boss (and foster father) puts a contract on Dev after Dev falls in love and attempts to quit the business.
  • The titular character of John Woo's The Killer (1989) has to deal with his syndicate trying to kill him after pulling off the hit that he hoped would earn him the money to have a singer he accidentally blinded be able to see again, due to the boss, Wong Hoi/Johnny Weng, wanting to keep the money for himself and clear the table for his ambitions. He doesn't survive, though to his credit, it takes the mob boss himself to finally end him.
  • An amateur falls victim to this trope in the 1976 film Killing Of A Chinese Bookie. Strip club owner Cosmo Vittelli reluctantly accepts the title contract to pay off his own heavy gambling debt. The "bookie" is actually an elderly triad leader, and once he's dead the contractors decide the hit is a faux pas that has to be covered up by eliminating the hitman.
  • The Mechanic (1972) movie with Charles Bronson as a mob hitman. Bronson's character trains the son of a Mafia boss in his art without getting permission from his employers, so they set them both up to be killed. Ironically after escaping the trap, the mobster's son then murders Bronson for his own personal reasons, and is himself killed by a bomb left by Bronson in his car.
  • Handled more subtly in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005); the two assassin organizations found out their best employees were married to someone on the other side, decided this was bad for business, and set them on a collision course so that they'd have to kill each other. The result is alternately tense (as a straight up action thriller) and wryly amusing (as a metaphor for a troubled marriage). After they end up refusing due to a mutual In Love with the Mark (only after much drama, naturally), both organizations try a more traditional way of getting rid of them. They fail.
  • Chow Yun-Fat's character in The Replacement Killers also has to deal with a syndicate who wants him dead after he refuses to kill a cop's eight-year-old son for a Triad boss with a fucked up sense of revenge.
  • Road to Perdition saw a hitman for an Irish gang hunted by the Mob after his ex-partner and boss's son kills his wife and son; of course this causes him to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Mob.
  • Jeff Costello from Le Samouraï, the French movie that inspired The Killer (1989). He is seen leaving the scene of his latest hit, picked up by the police and questioned. His clients decide to kill him before he can implicate them.
  • The 1995 Venezuelan film Sicario has a group of Columbian street kids being trained for an assassination by a cartel boss. He picks the best one, the protagonist Jairo, and sends his men to kill the others. Despite a speech by the Affably Evil cartel boss how they aren't so different, Jairo knows full well he's next on the list after he carries out the assassination, so draws a gun on his best friend who's driving his getaway motorbike, only to be forced to kill him when he refuses to let him just walk away. Jairo and his girlfriend then try to get out of the city, only for Jairo to be gunned down by another street kid like himself.
  • Telefon (1977). Charles Bronson plays a KGB agent sent to stop a Renegade Russian who has stolen a list of Manchurian Agents that could be used to start World War III. In order to ensure that word won't get out about this cock-up, his superiors order a female American Double Agent to kill Bronson once his mission is complete. Fortunately she's smart enough to realise that she'll also get the chop for knowing too much, and the two run off together at the end of the movie.
  • In This Gun for Hire - employers of hitman Raven pay him with recorded bills and report him as a violent robber, telling the police to shoot to kill. Overall it's a stupid plan.
  • The nameless protagonist in Yojimbo (and the remake, A Fistful of Dollars) leaves the first family he hires himself out to because he overhears them plotting to kill him when the job is finished, to avoid paying him.

  • The David Morrell (creator of Rambo) novels The Brotherhood of the Rose and Fraternity of the Stone, both involving US government hitmen. In the first novel the assassin kills a friend of the President in what he assumes is a CIA-sanctioned killing, but it turns out his controller is meddling in politics — in order to protect himself the assassin is framed as a double-agent and slated for termination. In Fraternity of the Stone the killer has a mental breakdown when he sees he's orphaned a young boy in a bombing (the same thing happened to him) and so doesn't do the second hit on his list, angering his employers who needed the two killings to happen close together.
  • Inverted in the Burke novels by Andrew Vachss. Sociopathic hitman Wesley is given a contract by The Mafia to kill a martial arts expert, but Burke kills the target first. The mob then decide there's no point in paying Wesley, so he decides to Leave No Survivors.
  • Vlad Taltos in Steven Brust's Dragaera series finds himself in this situation after a few books in the series.
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: In The Sanctuary Seeker, the killer hires an outlaw to help him murder the first of his targets. He then immediately kills the outlaw, takes back the money he paid him, and dumps the outlaw's body down an old tin mine.
  • Elemental Assassin: In Spider's Bite, Gin is hired to kill a target. Another assassin, the Viper, is hired to kill her immediately after she completes the contract so that the authorities have a convenient scapegoat to hang the murder on.
  • Rachel Morgan of The Hollows novels isn't technically a assassin but a runner, a combination bounty hunter, private detective and law enforcement agent. When she tries to quit her job at Inderlander Security and go independent they put a death mark on her to make an example to other employees who may be thinking of quitting.
  • John Rain:
    • In Redemption Games, Rain and Friendly Sniper Dox find themselves on Mossad's hit list after they bungle an assignment, killing two American bodyguards who are thought to be CIA agents.
    • In The Killer Ascendant, CIA Rogue Agent Jim Hilger kidnaps Dox and uses him as leverage to force Rain to kill three people. Rain quickly works out that the last target is nonexistent. Rain himself is the intended victim, as Hilger has no intention of having Rain come after him once the job is done.
    • In The Detachment, our anti-heroes find themselves on the US Presidential hit list, blamed for a series of terrorist acts they were actually trying to stop.
  • Mort: Death comforts the ghost of an assassinated king with the knowledge that he has an appointment with the king's assassin later on. One would think an assassin would know better than to let an employer skilled in poisons and capable of contracting a killer prepare them a packed lunch...
  • James Holding
    • In the short story "The Photographer and the Sailor" an assassin (the Photographer) turns down a contract on a high-profile victim. His employers hire another assassin (the Sailor) to do the job. After the Sailor attracts the attention of the police, they hire the Photographer to eliminate the Sailor.
    • In "The Photographer and the Undertaker", the Photographer is hired to kill a mortician, but realizes that the mortician is also stalking him. He determines that his target is the Undertaker, another assassin, and that their mutual employers wanted to downsize staff, by setting their best hitmen to eliminate one another and retaining the services of the best one.
  • In the Keller series by Lawrence Block, Keller realises that a rival hitman is going around eliminating the competition and suggests using this trope to lure him out, as the hitman couldn't resist being paid for something he's already doing for free.
  • Max Allan Collins's Quarry novels are an inversion of this; the main character is a hitman, who after fatally breaking with his handler, keeps tabs on fellow hitmen, alerting their targets that they are in the crosshairs and offering to remove both the assassins and those who hired them.
  • This method of dealing with unneeded hitmen is used by the Big Bad of the novel Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre, and the protagonist uses his knowledge of this trope to his benefit later in the story.
  • Save the Enemy: Zoey's mom was an assassin specializing in slow-acting poisons. She was murdered, supposedly by a random mugger, for wanting out.
  • An interesting variation occurs in A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation. Arya rescues three men from a burning wagon, after which one of them reveals himself as Jaqen H'ghar, a Faceless Man— a member of a group of assassins who are known for changing faces. H'ghar reveals that, by saving the three of them, Arya has stolen three lives from the God of Death, but as a recompense for having his life saved, he will take three lives of her choosing, so long as she gives him the names. She gives him two names, which he carries out. She wants to give him a third, but must escape the castle she is held up in, and Jaqen refuses to help her escape, so she names him as the third name. Jaqen is horrified at this, and begs her to un-name him because he cannot refuse, and she promises she will if he helps them escape. He does, and she un-names him. This impresses him enough to give her a nudge and some help to walk the path to becoming a Faceless Man herself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done memorably on Angel, much to the frustration of the contractors. Wolfram and Hart hired Faith to kill Angel. She then made a Heel–Face Turn and Angel gave her sanctuary in his apartment. Wolfram and Hart then hire a demon to kill Faith, but Faith kills it instead.
    This is getting ridiculous. The first assassin kills the second assassin, sent to kill the first assassin, who didn't assassinate anyone until we hired the second assassin to assassinate the first assassin.
  • Babylon 5: In "The Parliament Of Dreams", after Tu'Pari fails to carry out his contract to assassinate G'Kar, G'Kar deposits money in Tu'Pari's account to insure that the Assassins' Guild will assume that he was bribed and send assassins to kill him.
  • Criminal Minds: This is the impetus for the Villain of the Week in "The Job": One of his previous clients realized that the hitman was still keeping tabs on him, grew paranoid, and hired another to take him out. He survived the attempt and, not knowing which client ordered the hit, decided to track down and kill all of them.
  • CSI: The Victim of the Week in "Passed Pawns" is ultimately discovered to have been a low-rent hitman murdered as a result of his activities.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "Death Warrant", a ruthless Bounty Hunter, who took the gun from a target, gets a taste of his own medicine when the mother of a boy he accidentally killed puts a bounty on his head.
  • Dragnet: One episode has Friday and Gannon going undercover to investigate a solicitation to murder. It turns out that the husband who wants his alcoholic wife eliminated plans to shoot the hit man and make it look like self-defense.
  • Ellery Queen: In "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep", the killer provides the police the location of a hitman who had bungled an earlier attempt on the victim, knowing that the hitman will shoot it out with the police rather than being taken alive. The killer does this because the hitman can identify them as the successful murderer.
  • Parodied in a The Kids in the Hall sketch, where a hitman is contracted to take himself out.
  • In Kidnapped, the ruthless conspiracy that employs the Accountant gets ticked off and decides to have him killed after he botches a couple of hits. The cops scoop him up first, though, so they only manage to kill his wife instead. This somewhat upsets him.
  • Leverage: In "The Mile High Job", a Corrupt Corporate Executive puts a killer on a flight to take out an accountant who knows too much about his unethical dealings. However, as a backup plan, he plans to crash the plane, thus ensuring that both the target and the assassin are dead.
  • After the eponymous character in The Mandalorian rescues The Child from the Imperial Remnant he delivered him to earlier in the episode "The Sin", all the bounty hunters on Nevarro come after him on the way to his ship. The Bounty Hunter's guild puts a bounty on Mando's head, which at least one character will try to collect on per episode until the end of the season, when the head of the Guild, Greef Carga basically pardons him and performs a Heel–Face Turn when The Child saves his life.
  • The beginning of the series Matrix (no relation to The Matrix, despite also co-starring Carrie-Anne Moss) has its protagonist, mob hitman Steven Matrix, nearly being killed by another hitperson who had been hired to take him out.
  • The episode "Under Covers" of NCIS had a twist on this. When two married assassins die in a car wreck, Tony and Ziva take their place to find out who the target was at a Marine event. Later in the episode, we find out it was a set-up to kill the assassins.
  • In the Queen of Swords episode "Duel With a Stranger", Montoya hires a swordsman to kill the Queen, planning to have Grisham murder the swordsman so he won't have to pay him.
  • Non-lethal variant: in the pilot to Werewolf (1987), a bounty hunter breaks off contact with his boss to track Eric across the country. His frustrated employer grouses that he's going to have to hire a bounty hunter to locate his bounty hunter.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Norse Mythology: The dwarf Fáfnir turns himself into a dragon to protect his cursed gold from his brother, Regin. So, Regin hires Sigurd to kill Fáfnir, but then Sigurd learns from the birds that Regin plans to kill him, too, making this Older Than Print.
  • Someone intended to assassinate the Buddha by sending one guy after him; then to remove the assassin by hiring two hitmen to wipe him out, then two each for those guys, then two more for those guys. He must have reckoned that by the time it got to the fourth level, none of the surviving ones would know anything about the first assassin's mission.
  • A similar legend to the above is told about the Greek tyrant and sage Periander. In his case, the first target was himself - he wanted to save his grave from being desecrated. So the first assassins killed him and buried him on the spot, and by the time the last ones were done, no one knew where the grave is.

  • Referenced in Old Harry's Game. Among the many sins Thomas committed while he was alive, he once hired a hitman to kill a union leader, and then, rather than paying him, sent a second hitman to kill him. And then a third one after the second one.

  • Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter is about two hitmen, Ben and Gus, waiting for their next assignment. No prizes will be awarded for guessing who Ben is ordered to kill.
  • In Macbeth, the title character hires two men to murder Banquo, and then another one to keep an eye on the other two in case they betray him. The third murderer never ends up killing the first two (except in Polanski's movie version), but the intent is still there.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed Multiplayer is all about this. Each player is given the goal of assassinating specific players within an area filled with similar-looking NPCs. The player then must find and kill their target while avoiding assassination themselves.
  • In Borderlands 2, one optional mission has a rather unique take on this trope where Handsome Jack (in the throes of a Villainous Breakdown) contacts you and offers you a nice reward to kill yourself. He instructs you to go to a specific cliff and throw yourself off of it. Alternately, there is a phone there which will contact a suicide hotline, which tells you "Thank you for calling the Hyperion Suicide Prevention Hotline, Handsome Jack regrets to inform you that you are a coward". Whatever you do, it doesn't really matter; the Hyperion New-U station will instantly resurrect you if you die, taking a portion of your money but earning you 12 Eridium as a reward; Jack knows this, he just wants to watch you die for kicks. If you call the hotline instead, you get no Eridium, but triple experience for the quest.
  • In Dead or Alive, twice:
    • Ayane is required to kill her half-sister Kasumi, as desertion from a ninja clan is punishable by death.
    • This is the entire plotline of Bayman. After being hired by Victor Donovan to assassinate Fame Douglas, Donovan decides that he has outlived his usefulness and makes him a wanted man as his "payment".
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Zevran will be targeted by the Crows if the Warden spares him. While Master Ignatio doesn't act against Zevran, declaring him to be dead in his eyes, Zevran's old comrade Talesin will track him down and make him a final offer: rejoin the Crows or die. If Zevran's loyalty is high enough, he will fight against Talesin at your side. How Zevran's battle with the Crows is resolved depends on whether or not the Warden sacrifices himself/herself. If the Warden lives, Zevran will continue to fight and evade the Crows as best he can while living his life which is apparently canon in Dragon Age II. If the Warden dies, Zevran will return to Antiva and singlehandedly take over the Crows and become their new Grand Master. His epilogue questions whether this counts as a victory or a defeat.
  • Done in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim during the Dark Brotherhood questline, when first Arnbjorn, and then the player character are sent after Cicero. Depending on whether you agree with the reasons for this or not, you can either do the deed, or just lie about the hit.
    • May be done to the Player Character completely by accident. If you keep killing the hired thugs sent after you for stealing or murdering, the Dark Brotherhood may be contracted to kill you. The assassin is spawned somewhere and hunts around until they find you. They may never find you until after you've joined up yourself. Cue being interrupted by a Khajiit assassin while you're on your way to fulfill an assignment. You may even find the contract on you on the dead assassin, signed with your boss's name.
  • In the Fighting Game Eternal Champions, this is how the character Shadow died - her organization realized she wanted to turn against them, and thus "gave" her a trip off the 100th floor of their headquarters.
  • This is the premise of the game Bushido Blade; your character is trying to escape from the clan of assassins he or she belongs to, and the rest of the cast wants you dead.
  • Late in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Sonia sends Jaffar and Nino to kill Prince Zephiel on behalf of his father, and then orders Jaffar to kill Nino afterwards so they have a scapegoat. Lucky for her, Jaffar picks now to turn good and tries to sacrifice himself in a Last Stand against his former masters only for Eliwood and co. to show up and save them both.
  • Hitman, naturally, has this a lot.
    • In one mission of Silent Assassin, which has you revisiting the site of a previous mission, turns out to be a setup from your current employers, who are trying to 'terminate' 47 - using another Hitman, codenamed 17. 47 was both surprised - since he thought he'd killed all of his 'brothers' already - and somewhat insulted that they'd think an inferior model had any chance of taking him out.
    • Somewhat related is the plot for Blood Money, in which a major part of the plot involves a rival contract agency called "The Franchise", who is killing off all the ICA's agents. Towards the end, only 47 and his handler, Diana, are still alive. They split the remaining money and part their separate ways. However, Diana seems to be a turncoat for the Franchise, and "kills" 47 to fulfill the contract on the guy's head by the Franchise's Corrupt Corporate Executive (he wanted 47's clone DNA as a starting point for his own super-assassin cloning scheme). This turns out to be a ploy by her to weed out the one behind the Agency's liquidation, and she revives 47 just in time to finish the bloke off.
    • In Absolution, after 47 goes rogue Benjamin Travis sends an Agency hit-squad known as "The Saints" after 47, who ambush him while he's resting in a motel.
    • World of Assassination Trilogy: The ICA attempts to sniff out a mysterious mercenary known as "The Shadow Client", for manipulating the ICA into by way of getting clients to contract 47 to further his goals. 47 himself isn't sympathetic to the Shadow Client's cause (at that point because he doesn't care for Politics behind assassinations). As revealed in the Colorado end cutscene, The Shadow Client has spared 47 multiple times for reasons unknown, but alludes to knowing him "better than anyone". Those reasons reveal themselves in the sequel where it's revealed that The Shadow Client is actually another clone of Ort-meyer; Subject 6, and intended to team up with 47 and Diana to take Providence down one head at a time. The final entry has a mission in Berlin where you are hunted by ICA Agents hired by Providence via a client and the following mission in Chongqing has 47 takes down the ICA, publically reveals them, specifically so they stop hunting him and Olivia down.
  • In Mafia II: The Betrayal of Jimmy, this is what happens to the title character after wiping out The Triads and the Tongs for The Mafia and The Irish Mob for knowing too much. Thankfully, he manages to avoid being killed, and escapes prison to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • No More Heroes: By signing the contract, you get pay and your next assassin's location. Also an example of But Thou Must!, as you don't have the option NOT to sign it. The game forces you to do so in order to continue playing. The contract will stay on screen until you sign it, and there's no other way to make it go away.
  • The Outfoxies: At the beginning, your chosen hitman/hitwoman/hittwins/hitape has just finished assassinating the art collector they was assigned to... only for Mr. Acme to reveal that they are to kill the other 6 off as well. It's your job to comply.
  • The game Shadow Warrior (1997) has Lo Wang, the title character, being targeted by his former employer Zilla when he quit his corporation after learning of Zilla's plan to rule Japan with creatures summoned from the dark side. Being a martial arts style First-Person Shooter, it soon becomes a quest to avenge Wang's master, who is killed by Zilla's men.
  • Outerlight's games The Ship: Murder Party and Bloody Good Time are based around this trope. Kill a specific target while avoiding your killer... which is harder than it sounds for a game without very many NPCs that share player appearance, because of the needs system. Don't fulfill your character's needs? You lose control and present your killer with a very vulnerable target.
  • Tsukihime: After Kiri Nanaya, the head of the Nanaya clan of demon/demon-hybrid assassins, retires and leaves the protection of the organization he belonged to, Makihisa Tohno and Kouma Kishima lead an attack on them. After a prolonged battle, Kiri is killed by Kouma, who goes on to slaughter everyone else except Shiki. Both were motivated by personal vendetta: Kouma was attacked and had one of his eyes blinded by Kiri when he was younger during one of his missions, and Makihisa is implied to have been the client for that hit, who Kiri tried and failed to kill out of impulse.
  • Depending on who you ally with at the end, or allying with no one at all, the final missions of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines turns into this. Prince LaCroix, after sending you on dirty jobs, will have a Blood Hunt called on you, and you'll be under attack from vampires. Unless you go out of your way to get in his good graces, you'll have to fight your way from ground floor rent-a-mooks all the way up to his Dragon-in-Chief lieutenant.

    Web Comics 
  • Occurred in one story arc of Schlock Mercenary, with Bongo's squad of bounty hunters being employed to capture their previous coworker, Doyt/Haban, due to the highly classified gear that D/H was equipped with, which the UNS didn't want out of its control.

    Web Videos 
  • Played for laughs in The Hitman, where a hitman is hired to assassinate, himself. This proves to be a greater challenge than you would expect.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Ice King sends a hitman, Scorcher, to go after Finn and Jake, without knowing full well what "hitman" actually means (he thinks it just means hitting, like punching them on the shoulder or something). Having realized his mistake, Ice King tries to get Scorcher to stop, and when nothing else works, he hires a second hitman to kill him. Scorcher quickly dispatches the other hitman, leaving Ice King back at square one.
  • In Batman Beyond, Curare is targeted by the League of Assassins for failing to carry out a contract (due to Batman's interference). She then turns the trope around on the League and hunts all of them down, causing the last surviving member to come to Gotham and blackmail Batman for help by hiding a bomb somewhere in the city and rigging it to explode if he fails to regularly input a code remotely. He doesn't survive. Curare is luckier, but still ends up in jail.

    Real Life 
  • A TV special on Richard Kuklinski (a.k.a. "The Iceman") explained how he once committed an assassination with two accomplices. He then brought one of the accomplices along with him to kill the other accomplice (he poisoned him and when he didn't die fast enough he strangled him with a phone cord). The other accomplice had a blinding flash of the obvious and realized that he was next.