I slammed my fists over and over into the punching bag, watching it flail from my hits. I punched to forget. I kicked to feel. The radio blasted loudly – sucking all my thoughts away like a vacuum. It hadn’t been hard to become acquitted to my new routine.
“Firecracker,” Chuck called, “the Director wants to see us.”
I followed him out immediately like the good little soldier I was trained to be.
The concrete facility located underground would have made the perfect horror film set, I thought. The lacerations in the walls and the missing layer of bricks every so often helped to keep me on my toes.
My fellow agents avoided making eye contact as I passed them in the crowded hallways – often rubbing shoulder to shoulder with an overly armed guard instead. No matter how many times and ways my innocence was proven, no one would accept it.
Innocent until proven guilty, what a load of bull.
We entered the old fashioned elevator. The unsteady lift churned my stomach. My ears popped as we were lowered even deeper into the cold, dark, earth.
The Director stood with his hands behind his back as Chuck and I yanked the iron wrought gate opened. He offered no assistance. I didn’t expect him to.
“Director,” I greeted calmly.
“I’m going to cut to the chase. The murder is taking place tonight,” his usual stone cold eyes reflected a touch of sympathy for me. I didn’t appreciate it. His compassion only reminded me of how high the stakes personally were for me.
“Is it confirmed?” even Chuck’s light voice dropped a few pitches lower.
“Yes,” the Director nodded, “I need the two of you to go to the hotel across the street from the museum, where the target will be.”
“We shoot them before they can pull the trigger?” Chuck guessed.
“No, you shoot as they do.” With that the Director reached for his access card and re-unlocked his office. Chuck and I were not invited in.
The hotel room reeked of cigarettes. The ruffled sheets and torn curtains did nothing to put me to ease. I slumped down on the lumpy mattress, and allowed emotion to cover my face.
“He’s going to die,” I muttered, keeping my eyes closed so I didn’t have to look at the cobwebs on the ceiling tiles.
“We’re here to-”
“To take care of the situation and make sure it doesn’t progress rapidly enough to start a war,” I snapped. My legs were now entangled in the bed sheets. “Whatever happens, tonight a bullet is going to fly through his skull. Tonight he’s going to be laying down with his hair shaved off and his head cut open. By the end of tonight, a dozen tubes will be jabbed into his skin.
“And right now he’s most likely pushing his daughter on her swing-set wondering how his life went from absolute horror to kind of okay.”
“One life or a million?” Chuck recited. He turned the t.v. on to a football game. The background noise clogged some of the radio static.
“But what about when that one life means hope and inspiration to about four billion people?”
“I don’t know,” he mused.