First appeared in Bent Pin (2009)
The assassin watched the apprentice remove the M24 sniper rifle from its case and hold it as if it was his firstborn son.
“Sweet. Where’d you get this?” the apprentice asked. “I thought the army and the police were the only ones who could buy them.”
“Gotta know the right people,” the assassin said.
“You gonna introduce me to these people?”
“We’ll see.” The assassin lit a cigarette and leaned against the stone wall, his ankles crossed.
The apprentice sat on the bell tower floor, lowered the rifle’s bipod to the edge of the arched window and placed the stock to his shoulder. He reversed his cap’s visor, sighted the target area through the Leopold Ultra M3 scope, then fingered the stock, cheek and day optic adjustments.
“Wind’s strong today,” the assassin said. He formed a circle with his lips and launched a lazy smoke ring.
“This is calm compared to the mountains in Afghanistan,” the apprentice replied. “And it’s only half as long a shot as this baby can handle. Hell, I got a kill outside of Kabul at 1000 meters.” He sighted the entrance to the building once more and imitated the sound of a silenced rifle expelling its projectile. “Now that was a hell of a shot.”
The assassin frowned at the younger man’s arrogance.
“Besides, one shot’s all I need.”
“Better be. This ain’t Afghanistan, and the people paying the money don’t like mistakes,” the assassin said. “I hear you had a problem on your first job.”
“The guy was unpredictable.” The apprentice shrugged. “The job got done.” He lifted the suppressor from its case, screwed it onto the end of the barrel, and adjusted the settings one last time.
“Maybe you didn’t do your homework.”
“Is that why we’ve been following this guy for a week? We could have killed him last Monday and been done with it,” the apprentice said as he continued to watch through the scope.
“You don’t do it right, you screw up, and screw ups get you in trouble” The assassin dropped the cigarette on the floor and flattened it with the toe of his boot.
The apprentice shook his head. “Or stuck with some old fart.”
The apprentice pretended to adjust the scope, then changed the subject.
“Do you know who this guy is?”
“The man somebody wants dead. That’s all I need to know.”
“You’re never curious about the targets? Who they are? What they did to piss somebody off? If they have a family?”
Neither spoke. A distant jackhammer, a plane passing overhead, car horns below and the smell of garbage filled the void.
“The wife left me and took my kids to her parents shortly after I got back from my third tour.” The apprentice pulled a cloth from the rifle case and wiped the eyepiece. “She said I was different.”
“Listen up, kid,” the assassin said. “I ain’t your friend, or your priest. I don’t care about you, or where you been, or what happened to your family. We’re here to do the job. Got it?”
The apprentice started to reply when the assassin said, “Here he comes.”
The apprentice angled the rifle to the right and saw the black Lincoln rolling toward the hotel. He panned the barrel to match the speed of the limo.
The assassin knelt next to the shooter.
“You’re making me nervous,” the apprentice said.
“Just concentrate on the shot.”
The apprentice slipped the safety off, placed his finger on the trigger and waited. A heavyset man in a grey suit stepped out of the car and up to the doorman. They shook hands and laughed.
The apprentice squeezed the trigger. The gun recoiled. The target lurched into the doorman’s arms. And as grey suit fell to the ground, the apprentice felt the needle pierce his neck.
The assassin pushed the plunger and watched the apprentice slump to the floor. He sat back on his heels and waited for the end. As with the others, he felt no remorse. He knew if he ever did, he would end up on the wrong end of a needle, or gun, or whatever his killer’s preferred method would be.
He glanced at the confusion across the street, then packed the rifle in its case and stood. He looked at the cloudless sky. “Really good shot, kid. Too bad you screwed up.”
He picked up the case and walked calmly toward the exit. He had another apprentice to deal with.