Short Story: Masquerade

His head was clear through the digital sights of her scope as she stalked him from the shadows of a fifth floor balcony outside an empty apartment. The building straight ahead was the usual conglomerate of department stores for the first three levels, the fourth jam-packed full of offices. The fifth story contained the high-class and fine cuisine the wealthy elite were so accustomed to. She knew he would find him here sooner or later, in this seat; it was his favorite place and seat, and this was his favorite time of day.

Overhead, lighting cracked in clouds that unleashed the torrential downpour between the two buildings. Somewhere below, cars splayed streaks of light across wet asphalt while people scurried like ants through the rain. She cared nothing for them or their existence. Her mind and gaze were fixed, her posture rigid. Her rifle’s bi-pod sat studiously atop the cement edge of the balcony wall, it and her beneath a specially-made poncho that masked her heat signature from any surrounding surveillance. In moments, she would make the hit, he would be dead.

The why didn’t matter to her. It was her job to kill, not to care. She did, however, know the man’s steel-gray hair and chiseled features from newscasts. He was Leo “The Lion” Wilco, CEO of the fortune five-hundred company Wilco Industries. The company was deeply embedded into every major manufacturing industry through either its own holdings or those of its subsidiaries. With proper motivation, Wilco was perfectly positioned to make a swift move, gain market share and monopolize all of those industries. Evidently someone believed it was about to.

Another crack of lightning. With it she racked the bolt on her rifle, placed her finger beside the trigger. All she needed was another strike. The thunder that followed would hide any remnant of sound that her rifle’s flash-sound suppressor left for prying ears. Through the scope she watched the minor shift of the wind indicator along its edge, inched the rifle back into alignment. The cross-hairs flashed red, a kill-shot centered on the left-side The Lion’s head.

He sat with his hands on the edge of the table, fingers-interlocked to await the arrival of his meal. His back was rigid, un-moving, but his jaw and face made the subtle hints of a low conversation. His mistress of the month curled a hand around her wine glass and sipped with a forward lean. She was clearly a trophy, arm-candy; all legs and tits that crossed and bulged beneath her crimson dress. She gleamed with millions of dollars worth of diamonds that decorated her ears, neck, and fingers.

The woman’s obvious vanity made the assassin sick, for a moment she thought of turning her rifle on the trophy. But it wasn’t her job. Eliminating gold-diggers and trophies was a job for street-thugs and heart-disease. That, and it never paid nearly well enough. No, her job was simple, fruitful; one breath, one round, one life. A hundred G’s was all it took to end the insanity Wilco was positioned to bring.

Unbeknownst to his assassin, The Lion’s head was sought for what was known but that he believed to be unknown. Wilco’s closest friend and associate, Robert Kiely, with him since the start of Wilco Industries and largely responsible for its success, had recently discovered that business had a way of separating those believed closest to one’s self. This information came in the form of a mysterious package Kiely had found on his doorstep in the middle of the night.

The forty-eight year old millionaire of modest home, was drawn from his bed in the wee hours of the morning by a ringing doorbell. Like any cautious homeowner, he answered the door with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands, ready to bring hell to any would-be intruder. Instead, he found a small, brown-box with his name on it and nothing more. Kiely laid his shotgun on the island counter in his kitchen, tore open the box to find a lone SSD flash-drive. It took mere moments for Kiely to boot his laptop and sift through the contents.

Both video and text files alluded to a massive, off-the-books deal that would end with Wilco holding a monopoly over three separate industries; construction equipment manufacturing and sale, Northwestern US Logging, and West-coast Realty development. In essence, Wilco was ready to purchase, develop, and monopolize the entire West-coast of America. The how and why bothered Kiely much less than the final two snippets of information he found; information, that in time, would lead him to hire Wilco’s assassin.

The first snippet was a money trail to various contract lawyers. There was little to go on, but it was clear Wilco intended to cut Kiely out of the deal, and likely, out of Wilco Industries entirely. The next was a simple text file that offered a solution without explanation. The small notepad file enlarged onto his screen, readout; “We have a mutual problem. Bring $100,000 US to the address below. Tomorrow. Midnight.”

The address was somewhere in NorCal; a nondescript storage facility made of small, garage-like units. The moon overhead made a shadow of Kiely as he followed instructions that led him to the last unit in the back, right corner of the storage compound. It was open, dark, but from the way the shadows seemed to breathe outside the unit, clearly occupied by a man.

He lit a cigarette, his face showing only enough to hint at angry, European features despite his obvious, American accent, “Toss the money inside, and leave. The problem will be handled.”

And so here she knelt, in freezing rain, ready to correct the problem. It was her job. She was an assassin for the highest bidder. She did her job well, had eliminated more targets than most in her line of work. Partly, it was her handler that allowed her to get her work, and partly it was the fact that no-one suspected a small, ex-gymnast girl with a dyke spike and no tits could ever be a threat.

She smiled at the thought. Lightning cracked. Her finger laid over the trigger. Her breath stopped. The world around her was silent. For a moment, the thunder seemed not to come. She knew it would, even through a calm dispassion.

Then, the low rumble. The trigger was squeezed. A crack and the thunder apexed. The rifle recoiled with a thump and near-invisible flash from its barrel. It was hidden from view before Wilco’s brain finished splattering out the far-side of his head. The trophy’s screams signaled the successful hit as the rifle broke down into its few pieces, was deposited into the small backpack she kept it in. She slipped back inside the empty apartment in time for a group to gather around Wilco’s corpse.

Someone examined the tempered glass to locate the single, small hole while she made her way down in the elevator. It stopped at a random floor, her masquerade solid as a man entered and paid her no mind. Somewhere in her pack, the rifle was still warm with fresh powder, but no-one could ever know.

When the elevator opened in the lobby, police cruisers screamed past. She and the man from the elevator exited the building together.

He stopped to watch the cruisers fly past and around the corner, pulled on a set of gloves, and mused aloud, “Must’ve been an accident.”

She didn’t smirk, or smile, or anything else that would indicate inside knowledge. Instead, she was indifferent, stone-faced, “Guess so.”

She and the acquaintance parted ways. Off on their separate paths to their seemingly ordinary lives. Her job was done and it was time to collect payment. Lighting cracked overhead to blind anyone watching, but by the time their vision would have returned, she had disappeared into the rain-storm, and back into obscurity.

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