Operation: Snow Leopard

The air was ice-dry under the coal-black Siberian sky; his ears were blistered from his snow-mask . He glanced at his watch, illuminated by the bright winter moon, only five seconds until an amber glow fell over his camp. The camouflage had worked well so far. He wasn’t worried. He was a professional. He clicked a button in his right hand. The lens on his scope snapped shut. He knelt in a prone position looking down waiting for the security light to wash over him. 

He waited thirty minutes in his camp, set behind two rocks jutting out the earth like death-grey battlements. He took the time to check his tactical backpack and weaponry, it was a habit. A habit that had saved him several times before. Once he was happy he had everything he’d need he took one last look at the map of the compound. He decided on going through the front gate. It didn’t have to be complicated. 

There was a slight wind carrying drifting snow. Right on schedule the lamp went out. The clink of heavy boots on metal, it took the guard between two and three minutes to walk through the wrought iron archway and into the warmth of the safehouse. He’d spent three nights doing recon. He was going to wait another couple of days before the assault but a call came through from Deputy Director Gorschev. It had to be done tonight. 

He remembered the mission briefing back in the mouldy room they had designated Operational Command. A nondescript base used by the GRU to train their agents. It was the closest to Ali bin Yadeen’s Snow Leopard’s compound. The Snow Leopard, a beautiful creature now tainted with the association to the jihadi terrorist he had been tasked with killing. He is responsible for the death of over fifty Russians and is a recruiter and trainer of deep-cover terror cells. He fled Afghanistan and has been running ever since from Russian and the US.

At the sound of a slamming door, he crouched and made a dash to the perimeter wall, then sticking close to it, followed it four hundred metres to the wrought iron gate that was never closed. Arrogance was a great instiller about false senses of security. And there was nothing more arrogant than a terrorist leader who’d managed successful attacks against the Motherland, he thought.

He walked through the iron gate. There were no guards on duty at this time. He still clung to the wall, keeping his trigger-finger ready on his rifle. The compound to the left consisted of two single-storey, opposing L-shaped buildings, one lit and filled with noise (which was closest), the other still and silent black. To the right was a large metal barn, which was also night-dark. He approached carefully, there was no front covering but he saw several vehicles including a tractor, bullet-proofed 4×4 and a couple of snowmobiles. Only the 4×4 and one of the snowmobiles were open with keys; he cut the fuel lines on everything else. He had planned on the 4×4 when he saw it pulling onto the  Returning to the rear of the 4×4, he unzipped and climbed out of his arctic camouflage ghillie suit then pulled up the tactical backpack on to the back seat. Leaving the mask on he laid out his kit. A block of C4 with some blast caps and receivers were ready to go. His SR-3 rifle was in good order, he no longer needed the scope. The GSH -18 pistol slid into its holster with ease. Quickly, he fastened his ammo pouches to his body, picked up his rifle hanging it over his shoulder and held the C4 and blast caps in his hand. He took one final item from the bag and placed it in his pocket. 

He crouched and left the barn, heading for the safety of the wall at the far end. He stood upright and made his way around the perimeter until he was at the wall closest to the front of the compound and started laying C4, blast caps and receivers. He set two on the wall, crept around the corner, placed one adjacent to the door frame and another further along under a shuttered window. He heard singing in a language he didn’t understand but one he’d heard years ago in the Bora Bora mountains. The scent of mutton, spices, hashish and cigar smoke was permeating through the bottom of the door. He thought they probably never reckoned they’d be found especially out here. But, their time had come. 

He heard the distinct rattle of the door, quickly he darted up and around a corner, staying out of sight. A man in robes was beating his chest, walking to the darkened building. He watched as the bearded man slid the door open, entered and left with two girls, both shrieking, gutturally in two different languages; Russian and German. He spat at them as he dragged them violently by the shackles on their arms. They cried and cried, the look of impending threat and dread etched into their hollow faces. This complicated things. He couldn’t kill these girls along with the jihadis. 

He ran back to the 4×4 and took two pepper bombs and two concussion grenades from the tactical backpack. He heard violent voices in the building. He ran back to the shuttered window and tapped on it five times and ducked. No response. Then another three taps and he heard metal scrape against wood he ducked quickly and watched as more light escaped out into the world. He pulled the pins from the pepper bombs and concussion grenades, stood up quickly then shot out the window watching as splinters of glass painted the face of the man looking back at him. He threw in the grenades and ran to the wall next to the door. 

He held his rifle level to his body. The way he’d trained near Averyeko. It was muscle memory. His finger was twitching on the trigger. He heard the door heave open and two men ran out in single file, covering their eyes and choking. They took bullets through their necklines. Their scarlet spilled out, staining the purity of the fresh snow. Then another man this time using the door for cover, ran out again. His eyes were covered by one of his hands but he held a revolver in his other hand. As the man twisted his arm to take the shot, a bullet plunged through his elbow, the power of the subsonic round mangling the tendons. He fired another bullet through the man’s cheekbone. Another one down. By his count he only had another five to get rid of. Nobody was coming out of the front door for a while but as he approached, his boot made a crunch in the snow alerting the terrorists to his proximity. 

He heard the footsteps from two men get closer to the door. One fired a couple of tracer shots out into open air warning him their guns were ready. Their training camps must be poor these days, he thought as they jumped out back-to-back their AK 47’s, trained at chest level. The terrorist facing him looked full of spite and hatred, then had the blank look of death in his eyes as a bullet went through his forehead. The other man spun around and fired a shot that he felt nip the outside of his knee, then nothing. He thought he was being toyed with for a second then realised this next victim’s AK was jammed. He let a glint of a smile wash over his face as he approached the man shot out his legs then his head. There was only the leader and his bodyguards left. They never left his side. He heard shouts in different languages until he heard a shout in Russian saying they would pay him to go away. He can also have the girls. They are willing girls. He heard the Russian girl tell him he was dead; then, he heard a slap.

The two bodyguards walked out with the slight young girls who looked even worse close-up. He spoke to them in both their languages asking what had happened to them as his main target stepped out with a holdall. It was grim listening. Kept as slaves. They had been physically and sexually abused. He said he would get them help immediately and asked for their trust. He stepped back a few feet, telling the terrorist to release the girls saying his vehicle was hidden behind the compound walls. His gun was aimed straight at the main target. He knew they’d release the girls. These men were cowards; they were in hiding. Being a martyr for Allah didn’t appeal. He stepped back further, waited a minute then the girls stumbled past him. He asked in English what was in the holdall. The target replied with ‘five million dollars US, give or take ‘. He started moving his body to his left, the bodyguards and the bin Yadeen followed suit, keeping the space between them. He watched smiles cross their faces as they realised they were close enough to retreat into the house and if he stormed it again they’d easily take him out. He asked for the holdall and as Bin Yadeen threw it, slim bricks of paper money slipped out. He didn’t attempt to catch it, that gave them another advantage. The three men were speaking in the language he couldn’t understand. Not glancing at the cash, he screamed at them to go back inside the lodge. They retreated, back and inside. The last bodyguard heaved the door shut. It was almost silent. They had a perfect sniper position from the window. He heard the instruction to take it up. Then an explosion. A big explosion. 

The snow was disturbed by chunks of wood, burning money, bricks and concrete. There was a fire in the middle of the freeze. He heard wailing and moaning from three voices. He saw limbs detached from bodies. He approached the debris, a mental map of the interior in his mind. He found the body of bin Yadeen tangled in brickwork. Saw the tears streaking through the dirt on his face. Heard the gurgle come from his throat. Then heard the bullet from his SR-3 shatter his skull as it travelled through his head from the optic nerve. 

He moved all of his kit into the front of the 4×4. You could never be too certain of your safety. It started immediately, the engine purring as he pulled out of the compound onto the gravel track. The two young girls were shivering with shock and cold next to the wall. He slit open his gilly suit to make a blanket as best he could, then turned the heating up as much as possible. He had a couple of protein bars and the remains of a bottle of vodka which he gave them. He heard them devour the food and within ten minutes of being on the road, heard the girls sleeping.

He drove back to Operational Command, the 4×4 handled the snowy conditions well and it had a good top speed. The journey was quiet, apart from the restlessness of his passengers in their sleep. He had to take them back to Command. They’d be questioned about anything they’d heard. He knew they’d never be able to give anything of value. But you never knew, especially with trauma. They would, at the very least, be reunited with their families and be given a medal by the state. And some money. The Politburo would use it as a positive story between Russia and Germany. His name would be kept out of it at the very least. 

Artyom Garin, the Snow Leopard killer.

Thanks for reading the first story in the Artyom Garin series. I hope you liked it.

Take it Easy

Paul

Ricard’s Fall

His midnight-blue suit was sharp and shoes were polished. He flipped his lucky coin. Heads. He felt good. To the casino it was.

He walked outside into the winter air, blowing rings resembling sleeping dragons. The higher they floated, the more they grew.

The car pulled up. Tonight he was using the Silver Phantom, his favourite, his driver’s favourite. He won it last year in a game of cards. His driver was dumbstruck when he’d handed him the keys.  Ricard, the previous owner, still wasn’t happy about it. Especially as he’d rigged the game and still lost.

The Phantom pulled up to the casino. This wasn’t what he expected tonight. He just wanted to play some dice and speak to some interesting people. Out of the darkened windows Ricard and his crew were standing outside, guns visible and a hungry look in their eyes. He knew the guns were for show only. Ricard and his crew didn’t need weapons to kill. He flipped his lucky coin and caught it on the back of his hand. After three taps it sunk into his skin. He opened a compartment in the armrest, pulled out a silver sabre and silver rope, got out and slapped the car to leave. 

He breathed three rings out into the cold air touching each one. They floated higher, changing colour in the reflection of the casino lights, then disappeared. He smiled and said “I don’t want any trouble. Why don’t you and your pals just put your weapons down. It’s the only way you’re gonna live”.

“You against us? You don’t even know what we’re capable of”. Ricard replied, baring his teeth and long reptilian tongue.

“Oh I know exactly what you and your followers are. A bunch of cheats and sore losers. Look, let’s be as civilised as possible. I’ll count to three. After that I’ll have to draw my sword. I really don’t want to ruin my suit and shoes. One,” he said.

“Brave words for one man against twelve of us.” Ricard loved an audience.

“Do you want to call more men, I still fancy my odds. Let’s make it interesting? You can have a hundred if you want, that’s two by the way,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Who the fuck do you think you are. Nobody threatens me. I’m gonna have fun killing you. Maybe I won’t kill you, maybe I’ll keep you as a slave.” Ricard snarled, he hated losing face.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s three!

He drew the sabre and whispered something in a dead language. Two of Ricard’s guys rushed him, teeth bared, fists clenched, salivating. He sliced through the air. Their bodies were no more, disintegrating immediately into the ether. He took his handkerchief from the suit and wiped the sabre. 

Five more stood on the casino steps in a crescent formation. They leapt. The rope in his right hand slackened. He raised his arms, cutting the air like a circular saw, every circle expanding. He watched four of the five explode when the moonlit-silver rope made contact. He smiled to himself. Ricard was shaking with rage.

The earth gave a tiny ripple as the fifth of the pack landed behind him. He let him approach. Clenching his fist, he pirouetted and threw a right hand, catching Ricard’s footsoldier clean on the jaw so he dropped to his knees. Lightning fast, he followed through with the sabre again and took his head clean off. There was no blood because they were already dead. His suit was still sharp but there was a scuff on his shoe. He cleaned  it with the handkerchief in the breast pocket.

“Ricard. Let’s stop this. You can leave. Take your minions with you.” he said calmly. A few people were watching them now. He gave them all a wave and a smile. They turned away walking inside the casino.  Ricard was mouthing instructions to the last of his men and stepped forward. In an instant they vanished from the steps and he found himself surrounded.

“Your luck’s eventually run out. Who even are you? I could make good use of your skills. Join us. I’ll give you eternal life. I’ll give you this casino. I’ll give you all my casinos.” Ricard still seemed confident. Replying evenly to Ricard and the last of the group around him, he said,“You must be scared or stupid or both to be trying to bargain with me.”

“Not scared, just intrigued. I think I’ll enslave you after all”, Ricard smirked.

Just as Ricard had said that, there was a change in the air. Warmth just above them. Five dragons the colour of the night, the colour of dazzling neon lights,  the colour of the moon, swooped down like mist on the wind grabbing Ricard’s gang, tearing them apart, then engulfing them in flames. 

He watched Ricard’s face. Saw his mind racing.  He felt the back of his palm again. Pulled out the coin and flipped it. Heads. A little smile. He saw Ricard’s expression change to panic, because he didn’t understand what it meant. He knelt down placing the sabre and rope in front of him. Ricard flinched and anger flashed behind his dark eyes.

“How long have you been around Ricard?” he asked.

“Long enough to know I’m not going to die. You’re too weak to take me on” Ricard replied.

“But you’re already dead aren’t you. Why don’t you show your real form Ricard? It’ll probably make you a little stronger, won’t it?” he asked.

Ricard smirked. “I’m dead, yes. As for my form, this is my real form now. I made a deal a long time ago to make sure I’d always be the strongest I can be in this form.”

“So you’re at full strength? Tell me then how long you’ve been wandering the world, building wealth? Were you a greedy man when you were alive Ricard? Is Ricard your real name?

“Yes, I’m at full strength, don’t you believe me? My name, I forgot my birth name a couple of centuries ago. I’ve been here since the English came to the Americas. I sailed on the first ship. My ship. They were all my ships back then. All the people belonged to me as well. Then freedom happened.” Ricard spat the words out.  

“The thing you made the deal with, what did it take in return? For you to keep your wealth, make more and make sure people would always belong to you or serve you?” he asked. “You’re very knowledgeable about my history. I suspect you’re the same as me. A creature of darkness, yes? All I had to do was kill a pagan on each full moon. In pitch black. It was easy.” Ricard was arrogant again. When Ricard had tried to cheat him out of the Phantom, he had the same tone.

“You will pay for your crimes.” His voice was getting louder.

“Not today I won’t.” Ricard hissed then vanished, appearing for a split second, dust rising from the earth, a couple of specks hitting his dinner jacket. He’d stolen the sabre. A scream echoed through the wind and Ricard reappeared, on his knees, his hands on fire.

He picked up his rope, it was shifting between glimmer and shine. He straightened it through his palms, transforming it into a spear. He struck it in the ground then removed his jacket and waistcoat and hung them on it. He did the same with his shirt and tie. His eyes were fixed on Ricard. He put his hands in his pockets. “Ricard, it’s time”. The wind carried his whisper, extinguishing the flames that were once Ricard’s hands. 

Pulling out the coin, he flipped it and let it fall to the floor. A great light enveloped them. Horns grew from his head and down his back ending at his waist. Black and white wings expanded from his body. Finally, his hair grew down his back, a shimmering haunting silver. He held a giant glowing longsword. “Ricard, you asked if I was a creature of the dark? I am so much more. The darkness cannot truly exist because of me. Some know me as Tsukoyomi, others as Khonsu or even Máni. I am the Moon God. STAND UP AND FACE ME!” His voice boomed inside the light, it was everywhere at once, in every language, known and forgotten. He watched Ricard stand up, his eyes were hollow with jet black smoke snaking through each one. He spoke the dead language again. “For the slaves, for your greed, for the suffering you have caused, and for all those you have cheated of life, I JUDGE YOU UNWORTHY OF EXISTING ANYWHERE UNDER THE SEVEN SACRED SKIES AGAIN. With one quick nudge of his arm he, the sword sliced through Rickard top to bottom and he was gone. A black cloud expanded trying to escape the light from the sword’s blade. Khonsu released a sliver of silver and sapphire lightning. It covered the smoke, swallowing it up. Nothing remained of Ricard, but Khonsu wondered which God provoked him.

Returning to human form, he flipped the coin again. Heads. He walked into the casino. He wanted to listen to some stories and throw a couple of dice. 


Thanks for taking the time to read this short story. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know in the comments. Khonsu will return…

Take It Easy

Paul

The Stranger

The New York night was bleak, cold and solemn. Even the moon concealed itself in the comfort of clouds so it would not bear witness of what was to come. Tonight, death felt inevitable.

Carter Samson’s stomach rumbled as he got out of the elevator at basement level. His senses took ten seconds  to adjust as he stepped out of the soft lighting and droning muzac into the pitch darkness of the subterranean garage. Clumsily, he pulled out his keys and used the mini torch on his keychain to light the path to his car, clicking the remote central locking. He climbed in, started the engine, then felt the firm crush of steel on the back of his shaved scalp. He checked his mirror and stared into the eyes of a face he didn’t recognise. 

‘Where did you hide the bodies Carter?’ the Stranger asked calmly, in a thick Russian accent.

‘W-w-w-what do you mean? I think you have me mixed up with someone else’ he snivelled.

‘Carter Samson, or should I say Cesar Samsonivich you’re not going to get away with murder any more, I know who you are and what you’ve done. This is the last time I ask, where did you hide the bodies?’

The worry on Carter’s transformed to a wide grin, a gold tooth glinting in the mirror’s reflection. ‘I didn’t hide the bodies, Comrade, I feasted on most of them and fed some to my wolves back in Saint Petersburg, well my Russian delicacies anyway. I am the embodiment of the demon, Bauk and tonight I will feast on you. It has been a while since I’ve tasted a Russian eyeball and heart. and I am hungry’

‘Oh, tonight you will only be tasting justice for the lives you’ve taken, zasranec. Turn off the engine. Now’, the Stranger replied angrily.

‘You can’t kill me here, there is security all around, you will never get away. Mmm, I  can smell the doubt on you now. A pity. It sometimes gives flesh a sour note. Maybe your blood will be sweet, though, we’ll see’ Cesar said matter-of-factly.

‘You talk of security, Comrade, but I got in here unnoticed. Very easily. I have no doubt I will be ending you tonight. So tell me, how many have you killed in total? I know of forty-seven in the Motherland and thirty-five in Finland, and for the last time turn the fucking engine off, ’ the Stranger demanded.

‘You are quite the investigator, aren’t you. Okay I’ll play along. You’re right about Russia and Finland, very tasty morsels there. Especially that young couple from Lieksa, they were pure, saving themselves for marriage. I gave them a taste of each other before they died, it seemed fair but they didn’t want to taste each other so maybe their marriage would have failed. There were only ten in England, I wasn’t there long. Then two here in America. The Americans taste of processed foods. My palate is more  refined, I can keep you alive while I gorge on you and tell you how you taste if you wish?’ Cesar replied with a maniacal look in his eyes, his lips being soaked by his meaty tongue.

Seeing the disgust in the Stranger’s eyes, Cesar used this as a distraction and pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator then braked. He no longer felt the gun on him. He turned his head, hoping to see the Stranger crumpled and disoriented in the back seat but his hope immediately turned to horror. The gun’s chamber met his eye and he felt the faintest glimmer of heat on his eyeball a millisecond before the bullet killed him.

The Stranger climbed through to the passenger seat and turned off the engine. He pulled a small axe from the back seat. It had nearly ripped him open when Cesar had tried to knock him off balance but now he was meticulously hacking through flesh, sinew and bone. He started with the head, it always took the longest time and the Stranger wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Once the head was detached, the hands, feet, arms and legs quickly followed. It was a tight space to cut up a dead body and somewhat impractical but the Stranger had worked in tighter spaces before this. He knew once the remains were bagged up, there would be much more space. 

The Stranger drove Cesar Samsonivich’s car to the Russian embassy. He wasn’t worried about being caught; the tech team knew how to get the Motherland’s preferred candidate into The White House, so making a car disappear from traffic cameras would be easy. When he pulled into the gates, a man he recognised as Ilya took the keys and drove it to the hidden workshops where there was a team ready to change the car’s silver colour to something darker and remove the New York State license plates. The Stranger knew the plan; the car would be sent to Russia by plane tomorrow with the bags of Carter’s body laid out on the leather interior and be used in a propaganda campaign to arrest some foreign nationals the FSB had identified as terror cells. Some information would be leaked. The State media always needed fed and dead bodies and terror cells always kept them full for a few days. 

The night felt cold and pure as he walked through the embassy gardens toward the rear door. The guards on duty saw him approach and waved. The youngest asked him for his identification even though they had sat together at the breakfast table earlier that day. He appreciated the normality after killing that piece of scum. The Stranger looked up watching the breath escape his mouth. He caught a glimpse of the moon peering out from behind a cloud seemingly happy at what was going on underneath it as it grew brighter. He opened the embassy door and let the rest of the night swallow him up.

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story about The Stranger. I may do a crossover with the main character in this and Killing Time in NYC. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Take it Easy,

Paul

The Magpie – A Short Story

I can hear a constant thumping on the door. That pisses me off. That’s what the doorbell’s for. Probably the pizza delivery guy. He never uses the bell.

I pull open the door and two men in black tracksuits push me back, one of them slams the oak shut. I hope it hasn’t splintered. It cost a fortune. The two invaders look and smell like a day-old shit that hasn’t been flushed. The tall one’s nose is twitching. Maybe his aroma is burning his nostrils as well as mine. The smaller of the two ushers me to sit on a stool next to the marble island. “Keep quiet and we won’t ‘urt ya”, the taller one spits out in a thick cockney accent. I keep my mouth shut. It gives them the illusion of control.

“The car keys, your phone, wallet, laptops, all your gear, where is it old man?” says the shorter of the two. He seems to be the brains of the operation.

“Well I wouldn’t keep them in the kitchen, would I?” I reply.

“You stay ‘ere and watch ‘im, I’ll check the place out” he orders, giving me a slap with the back of his hand. He’s happy with himself as I wipe my lips checking for any signs of blood. “Be quick” the taller one replies. I watch as the shorter man scurries off in the direction of the lounge. He’ll be happy with what he finds in there. I like expensive things. It’s why the people who hire me call me The Magpie.

“We’ve hit the jackpot” I hear him shout.

I’m getting more and more pissed off. These two cockney cockroaches think they’re going to rob me, one gave me a slap and called me an old man. I look at my lanky guard. He has a good foot on me but his frame is slight. His eyes are darting back and forward and he keeps touching his jaw. It’s clear now that he’s full of cocaine. I stand up from the stool. Just to see his reaction. He’s twitching. He says “sit down now”, pulling a knife from his hoodie pocket. It’s only a small blade. Four inches, if that. Probably stole it from his mothers kitchen drawer. I raise my arms in submission and step back further from where I came from. I sit on the stool furthest away from him. “You should be fuckin’ scared old man” he says.

“How old do you boys think I am?”, I ask.

“Fifties innit” he says.

“A couple of cheeky, robbing cockney bastards”,  I say.

“Forties? It don’t matter, you’re still ancient compared to us”, he laughs, pleased with himself.

“I’m in my thirties, you little twat. And since you’ve pissed me off so much, I won’t let you leave this house alive.” I stand up again, stretching my arms out, then sitting back down immediately. I doubt he notices what I slip in my hand. He walks straight towards me then picks up a glass from the island. Pours himself a glass of water from the tap. Gulps it down. Burps in my direction. Laughs again. 

The short one returns with my laptops, Ipad, Mac, Apple Watch, Rolex, Omega, Breitling  and the keys to my Jag. My wallets sitting on the top of the pile. “I’ll need help with the TV’s then I’ll check upstairs. May as well check the basement as well,” he says greedily.

“I’ll get the TV’s while you keep an eye on him,” the tall one replies. It’s agreed. I watch the tall one walk through to the lounge. 

“Must be pretty embarrassing for you is it?” I ask.

“What you talkin ‘bout?” he replies, a glint of confusion in his voice.

“That you need to bring along the big one for the higher stuff, ‘cause you’re a short arse?”.

“Shut your mouth, it ain’t like that. One more word and I’ll do ya”, his voice is full of spite.

“Sorry Jim, no need to get so angry”, I reply.

“Who the fuck is Jim, you old twat?”, he says, stepping closer.

“Sorry, I just came up with names for you both” I reply. He steps closer again.

“Yeah? Jim and what?” He snarls. He’s within a couple of feet. 

“Jim and the Beanpole obviously, like a budget Jack and the Beanstalk”. I see him open his body up, pulling his right arm back to throw a punch. I’m too fast for him and cold Japanese steel slides through his shoulder like butter, severing the tendons with ease. He lets out a wail and slumps to the floor. He’s sobbing and I can smell piss. I’m glad I bought the new mop last week. 

Beanpole has heard the wail. He comes running through, his small blade in hand. He lunges, but I drop down pulling the knife out of Jim. He stabs down but I roll out the way and slice the back of his ankles. Then the backs of his knees. He goes down. I get his used glass from the counter, swing my arm as hard as it will allow and bring it crashing down over the bridge of his nose. He passes out. 

The doorbell rings. I go to answer it. “Who is it” I ask through the door.

“Pizza delivery” replies a young voice. I open the door and hand him a tip. He smiles at the sight of the £20. I hear a scooter engine start up and fade into the distance.  I take a slice of pizza from the box, savouring the cheese. I’m always hungry after a fight or a kill. It’s the adrenaline crash. 

I’ve made sure Jim and the Beanpole are unconscious. I carry them to the basement. All my equipment is down here. I can have some fun. Should I use the axe or the saw or maybe both. Definitely the mallet.  I hear a phone buzz in one of their hoodies. It pulls me back to the present. It’s Beanpoles. A text message. I’ll reply to that later. I’ll keep the phone as well. It’s expensive. 

Thanks for reading, i’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take it easy,

Paul

Celebrating a Win!!!

Hey everyone, just a quick post to say I won a writing contest in April for Press 53.

The contest was to write a 53-word short story using their prompt of taste. I found out on Friday that I’d won and I’m really happy about it.

If you want to read “That Awkward First Kiss” click the link:

https://www.press53.com/53word-story-contest

Thanks for reading.

Take it easy,

Paul

Image courtesy of Danny Howe via Unsplash.

Killing Time In NYC

There was nothing ornate or sparkly about the dagger in her hand. It was her instrument of death. The blade was fatally sharp and coated in black oxide to prevent any glints from flashing in the restroom mirror that may alert her target. She had learned that bruising lesson in Berlin a couple of years ago. 

She had been waiting almost an hour in the stall, still focussed. There had been a trickle of visitors in the first thirty minutes or so who had added some floral fragrances from the handwash and their perfumes. The occasional waft of garlic, beef, and seafood permeated the walls which made her lick her lips.

A clean, crisp server’s uniform with a stranger’s name on a white plastic rectangle, a purse, and a blonde bob wig hung on the back of the door looking down on her. That was the only company she had. She had rigged the remainder of the stalls with a remote control locking device and they were now all set to ‘occupied’. Can’t have any distractions or witnesses. It was a waiting game which she would always win. She’d not waited in Berlin and that had ended badly.

To pass the time, she thought about the small space she was operating in. There was no room for a struggle. She knew it would be a quick kill. The dagger allowed that. In. And. Out. A few times. Rhythmically. 

She placed the dagger in the purse. Removed her phone from her pocket and checked an app that was streaming the CCTV of the restaurant floor. It was busy for early evening, probably a theatre crowd, she thought. Her eyes were drawn to the round table in the back. Her target, a heavy-set woman in her fifties wearing a figure-hugging scarlet dress that accentuated her curves, was just finishing a glass of wine that had been spiked by the sommelier, with a specially formulated laxative, at a cost. One hundred dollars, her phone number (which was fake), and the promise of a date. After two minutes she saw the look on the target’s face change from joy to fear. She watched her stand up reading her lips as they mouthed “I don’t feel so great, I’m just going to nip to the ladies’ room.” The target clutched her stomach. When she saw this she used her phone to unlock the cubicle directly next to hers then put it in her purse. It gave the target only one destination. Controlling the situation was the key to her success.

The night before, before rigging the locks, she had timed how long it took to walk from the same table to the restroom. She took into account the extra patrons and factored in the polite shuffling of chairs for the target to get by, estimating it would take her target around two minutes to reach the sanctuary of the restroom. She wondered whether they would make it there before soiling herself. It sometimes happened. It had in Berlin.

The hurried click-clack of heels on the restroom floor tiles announced her target’s arrival. She lifted the dagger in her hand, feeling its perfectly balanced weight in her palm. She listened as the clack got louder and closer, hearing the lock on the stall next door slide into place, the gentle thud of flesh hitting the wood, panting groans, and a violent explosion of crap hitting the pan. Her target sighed deeply, then in a low, thick New York accent said “Thank fuck I made it in time”. A smirk slid across her face. She had made it. She waited for the target to stop tearing the luxury toilet roll and for the flush. It ended being a couple of flushes. It wasn’t a surprise based on the amount of paper used. When she heard the door unlock and a more relaxed click-clack of heels on tile and the sudden rush of water, the waiting game was over. 

She stepped outside the stall, knowing that the noise and possibly shame would make the target turn around instinctively. Which she did. The dagger plunged deep into her throat. In. Out. No need to worry about screams. Then the dagger was plunged into the target’s heart, the thin blade scraping between the ribcage. No heartbeat. A quick kill. She walked calmly to the restroom entrance and locked the door. Then she returned to her target and went to work on the rest of her vital organs, precisely, rhythmically, then finished chaotically with a frenzy of slashes. Her clients had paid extra for that. Something about sending a clear message to some crime family, but she wasn’t interested in why. 

She cleansed the blade of blood under the running sink and went back to her stall, navigating around the slowly seeping pool of blood. Put the blade in the purse, took out her phone to take a picture to confirm her kill, and used the apps to unlock all the other stalls and turn off the CCTV in the hallway connecting the restroom, entrance, and kitchen. She changed into the uniform, fixing the nametag so it was straight.  She hid her other clothes in the toilet tank. She left the stall clutching her purse and used the mirror to straighten her wig. She looked like the name on her tag. Sasha. She walked to the restroom door and unlocked it. 

She was face to face with a younger woman, mid-twenties from the same table as her target. “Oh, sorry, this restroom is out of order”. Her words came out musically. “I’m looking for my mom” the girl replied in a lighter version of that thick New York accent. “You’re on the round table at the back yes?, I think I saw someone from your table with a red dress run into one of the accessible restrooms, the middle one I think, she didn’t look so good, give me a tick, I’ll just lock up here and grab the Out of Order signs from the storeroom, and let’s see if I can help you find her” her tone was reassuring. The daughter smiled and stepped back to let her lock the door watching her shuffle the keys to find the right one. “Thanks Sasha, that would be great”. 

She left the girl by the locked restroom door then walked into the kitchen, turning and holding up her fingers in a peace symbol to indicate it would be two minutes as she slid through the door. She glided past the busy fish and sauce sections and out into a yard where the staff had cigarette breaks. She asked for help, pretending to struggle to open the black security gate then walked to the end of the alley, dropping the wig into a dumpster, and stepped out into the slipstream of New York foot-traffic.

She walked casually to the end of the block hopping into a vintage boutique. She picked out a full outfit including a stetson and a pair of suede cowboy boots. She giggled with the sales assistant saying she had a date at a line dancing bar and wanted to look the part. She asked if she could pay and get changed there and then. Her eyes smiling and hopeful. She knew she had an easy way with people. The sales assistant agreed. She handed over a credit card. It was printed with someone else’s name on it. She asked for a bag for her belongings and headed for the fitting room. She removed the dagger from her purse and wrapped it up in the trousers from the server’s uniform and placed them on top of the shoes that were nestled tightly in the bottom of the bag, folding the rest of the clothes neatly on top. She tipped the assistant fifty dollars and walked out to hail a cab. 

The cab driver was Jamaican and talkative, giving out tidbits of New York trivia believing she was a tourist. She instinctively glanced over her shoulder at the sound of the sirens and saw the unmistakable blinking of an NYPD squad car echoing behind her. She asked to be dropped at Times Square and said he could take his time. She thought about the daughter of her target wondering whether it was her who raised the alarm. She would make sure to check the news websites over the next few days to see if it was reported. It wasn’t out of sympathy, she simply would like to know. She took out her phone and removed the sim card, snapping it in two and dropping it to the floor of the cab. She knew she’d never be caught or prosecuted. Her clients valued her too much. But a loose end is a loose end. She thought of Berlin. Control the situation. She inserted a replacement sim card then turned the phone back on.

She got out a block from Times Square. Tipped the driver fifty dollars. She quickly found a dumpster and discarded the bag of clothes and her dagger. She spent time gazing at the dazzling lights, inhaling the smell of a busy New York evening, the city felt alive. Until her next assignment, she only had time to kill. And where better to kill it than right here?

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story, I hope you enjoyed it. It’s my first time writing in this form so would appreciate any feedback. I may write a series based on the main character…

Take it easy,

Paul.