Blood dripped down the shooter’s fingerprints. I could only see the silhouette of his body frame sitting on the roof of the hotel across the street. In his nervousness he had chewed away the thin layer of flesh surrounding his fingernails. I thought suicide fighters were supposed to be in more control than he was exhibiting. His loyalty and patriotism already outweighed his will to live. Why was he scared? Hadn’t he been programmed to wholeheartedly embrace death?
The shooter gripped a yellow flower like it was his good luck charm. He cradled the flower protectively between his fingers, applying the least amount of pressure needed.
It was ironic – someone designed to bring death clung to an obvious happy force of life. It was like his clutch, an okay to kill. What a psychopath.
Hell, we were all psychopaths.
I removed the binoculars from my eyes and flung them onto the table, near the window my body had been leaning out of for the last three hours. I kicked off my heels. Chuck tossed me a water bottle in an attempt to combat my shakiness. It wasn’t everyday a secret government organization dictated your actions.
Chuck was already in position. He used a laser to burn off a minuscule section of the window. The glass broke without noise. Once the incision had been made to the precise diameters, Chuck removed the briefcase from underneath the bed.
“Extraction team set?” I talked into the microphone glued to one of my molars.
“Yes mam,” one of the Director’s goonies replied.
The snaps of the rifle positioning into place consumed the air. Light wind blew the long curtains. The sun and my innocence had begun to set.
“I need less light,” Chuck grunted. It must be uncomfortable to sprawl a lanky body in such a confined area. I turned the cheap hotel lamps off.
“Target’s exiting the museum,” another one of the Director’s goonies spoke. Static surrounded the voice. An upgrade on tech was needed.
“Civilians?” Chuck wheezed. His claustrophobia was showing. He had his feet kicked up against the bed; they didn’t stay in the position long. He was finally exhibiting his restlessness after three hours of stuffy air.
“I need a visual on civilians near target,” the Director had joined our group chat. I took the camera out of Chuck’s emergency bag and cranked the window adjacent to the rifle as wide as it would open. I grabbed the ski mask and tugged it over my blonde locks.
The camera was heavier than I remembered. I zoomed in on the crowd below. Children and adults alike leaned over the guardrails waving their Union Jacks. The King and Prince made their way patiently through the crowd, stopping to take pictures and flowers from well wishers.
“High def facial visuals Firecracker. I want to know everything about potential collateral damage. The less casualties, the less clean up,” the Director said.
Maintenance must have fixed the static.
The camera automatically focused on the faces of the civilians surrounding the King. Mathematical angles and visuals covered the lens. The red box of doom highlighted a teenage boy who was patiently waiting his turn to shake the King’s hand. The boy held a stuffed animal in his arms. For the King’s daughter, I thought. A daughter he may never see again depending on the angle which the bullet tears through the skull.
I glanced at Chuck to see how he would respond to the new development. A large amount of perspiration sprinkled in his hairline. Yet his hands didn’t shake. “You okay with killing a kid?” It didn’t matter what his answer was. He would still have to commit the worst sin.
“I don’t want to know the name,” Chuck croaked. His eyes didn’t falter from the targets. A professional like always. After all he had been through, he deserved to let his emotions leak into his solemn exterior.
“The Russians have engaged on ground level,” the director chimed in. His thick voice did not portray any of the hesitation I felt. This was easy for him. He was able to hide behind a screen in an air conditioned office drinking freshly grounded coffee.
Surely enough, while I was monitoring the scene five pale men emerged from the museum and began to patrol the steps. The Russians were out to play. Chuck’s blood pressure skyrocketed, mine did as well.
“Are they targeting?” Chuck removed the safety.
“Unclear,” the Director responded.
“Is the boy collateral damage?” He turned his weapon to the left.
My heart rate increased. I waited for the gunshot. I waited for the screams. I waited for a bullet to rip through a good man. I waited for a child to become an orphan.
“Confirmation on the boy. He is now a target. Permission to engage. Hawk, you have permission to kill. Firecracker, permission to use lethal force during evac.”
“Russians are aimed at the hotel room directly below. Your extraction plan has been altered,” the Director finished.
“How so?” Chuck’s finger was on the trigger. He made no effort to conceal his perspiration.
There was a knock on the door. I waited for Chuck’s instructions. “Get low,” he mouthed to me.
I flipped over the coffee table and landed silently on the bed furthest away from the window. The evening gown concealing my body floated in the air with my movements. The outer wall of the bathroom blocked the door from being in my eyesight. My fingers brushed the open floor space before settling on the spare gun. I muffled it just as I had been taught.
“An American is at the door,” the Director said, “take him out.”
Pressed against the cool wall I crept to the door, ducked down, lifted my arm and fired six inaudible shots. There was a thump from behind the door.
“American’s dead. Get the body and leave it in the bathtub. Clean up is coming.”
The body flipped into the tub. Blood laced my fingertips and was splattered on the skirt of my gown. I approached the sink and washed my hands. The smell of lavender masked the coppery stench. My face was paler than usual. Chuck had been right; I looked like I had been living under a bridge.
A gunshot filled the air, stealing all the oxygen. Screams from outside bounced into the hotel room, haunting me. The street would be bloodstained from where the King fell. Brain matter might be splattered on the pavement. Sirens blared into the night.
The sound of helicopters consumed the air. It was as if all the light left the world. Chuck kicked the door open. There was no sense in being quiet. He tugged on my arm, and we were off.
Intelligence agents were sprinkled all over the hotel. Men and women in suits couldn’t help but slam into each other as they scurried to report the jumbled information they had gained. We were safe from the local government. If there was one thing I had learned from my time as a spy, it was that agencies did not share.
Once we entered the elevator I knew we had avoided conviction. I didn’t care about that. There was only one thought consuming all of my soul.
For a moment I thought of the yellow flower, reflecting innocence. I thought of how a shooter clung to it. And I understood why. Terrible actions could be countered with kindness.Or at least, I had to believe that.
“Is the King dead?”