THEIR head entered, plumb on the axis of the vertical/ horizontal sight line.
I’d inhaled ten seconds prior: my body morgue-like.
Steadier than the surgeon that a surgeon could trust, my index finger, as if acting alone applied a brief pressure to the trigger, the sensitivity so low you wouldn’t have even seen the skin turn white.
This bullet was kissed by the cousin of silence.
Two hundred and sixty eight yards; destination? – the lone male drinking an early coffee at the side of a cobbled courtyard in Verona.
I watched through the scope.
The head…didn’t explode. Instead they looked around, crinkling their white suit before placing hand back on cup, crossing their legs, idly fiddling with a straw hat on their knee.
Mild to severe panic set in.
I reasoned it was a fluke, adjusting my sights marginally, the tranquility of the morning sending no wind.
Before dispatching a second bullet, I scanned the vicinity for a sign of the errant shot. The stone wall leading to a cemetery was unaffected. A tree to the left of my target offered no hints but it was inconceivable I’d missed by ten feet.
Grey cobbles like goosebumps shed no clues. The cafe table itself and ground nearby were unblemished.
A waiter in black and white emerged from under the crimson awning, hair shining. They lingered by my target briefly, whisking a cup and saucer away.
Mr. Terrence Melville Davis brought a phone out. An incoming call; it went straight to his ear.
Yes, you keep talking. If he wanted to live, it had better be long distance, the devil himself on the other end.
Micro adjustments made, I steadied myself once more, concentrating absolutely, the handful of pigeons that flitted through the scope registering on a subconscious level.
You keep talking…
If I was in a normal line of work it would be insured for millions. A finger, the finger, responsible for close to thirty funerals pulled back steadily, and as Mr Davis, one of the most dangerous human traffickers idled lazily, gesturing with his free hand, I set another bullet free to atone, to bury into his skull and out the other side. Failing that it would ricochet inside his skull, lacerating his brain.
Focused, oxygen deprivation building, I observed with the rubber surrounds of the scope pressed to my eye socket. No! A second coffee arrived along with a croissant.
A sense of shock numbed me momentarily. I’d never missed two shots in a row on contract before.
Like a gargoyle, still watching, I saw the phone slip away into the breast pocket. Tenderly, the coffee was raised and a sip taken. Then Mr. Davis’ eyes darted around – and…settled on my own.
But coincidences don’t wave at you…
Seconds later, before I could even think of reaching for my side-arm in my prone position, two men in suits burst through the roof access, pistols aimed at me.
Twisting my body on the concrete terrace, I reluctantly raised my hands.
One of them spoke as he neared, muscly but short, the accent more English than Thames water.
“Mr Davis has a message for you. He’d like to offer you a second chance. How does a holiday in Lithuania sound – all expenses paid.”
The evil bastard had been operating from the Baltic state for the best part of a decade, ever since Lithuania gained European Union membership status – and probably before. The irony. It certainly opened up trade. But you wouldn’t find people on the imports/exports GDP.
“And if I decline?” I noticed both wore ear pieces.
“It’s already been booked. No refunds. You’re fucked.”
And in that moment I had to decide, if reaching for my gun was a better method of death, or if being mercilessly trafficked for the remainder of my days was something I could… deal with – no, bad phrasing – …escape from?
“Mr Davis also says don’t worry there’s nothing wrong with your shooting. Your bullets were exchanged with blanks as you dreamed. And he promises that you’ll at least be drugged up before being banged across Europe and beyond.”
I slept with my Glock 17.
Mind racing. Do or die. I calculated I could get the squat one if I distracted him for a second. The taller big chinned one would likely kill me.
Visualising the action, my right hand twitching, I breathed as steadily as possible given the situation, unable to tame the rattling heart, like a kidnap victim trying to get out the boot.
“Who’s the silent partner?” I said, motioning at chinny. Squat turned briefly. It was enough.
My hand buried into my coat pulling my gun out. In one clean motion, I shot squat right in the mouth, a few inches lower than optimal. And as I swept to shoot the second bullet I felt a searing heat in my left shoulder, the agony wrecking my aim – my sight- as my eyes clenched, then a second kept them shut, swimming into my chest, my breathing broken.
The bastard got my lungs.
What happened next took awhile to make sense of as the pain rendered me barely conscious.
Four shots had rang out.
I heard raised voices. Italian. As if at the other end of the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
Shortly after, sirens echoing, filling the courtyard.
Before passing out I remembered thinking, that if I lived, I would visit Lithuania.
I hoped they were a friendly bunch – because I’d be knocking on every damned door.
Spluttering, chuckling, I thought, well maybe not knocking.