Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frank’s Boss and the Fine Red Mist

I smiled to myself as I took off my new backpack.  It must’ve been a school night, but days of the week no longer held meaning for me.  Most seventeen year olds would be asleep in bed, visions of book reports and senior prom dancing through their heads.  I had visions of our mark’s head exploding, my first ever sniper job.
Frank sat on the roof ledge, watching in silence as I put together our rifles.  An angel-faced teenager with a backpack was a hell of a lot less conspicuous than a murderous looking man carrying a black duffel bag, although making me carry both guns up twenty flights of stairs was hardly fair.  Especially on a school night.
Once the backpack was empty I put it on again, since it was so windy on the roof that I was likely to lose it.  I handed Frank his rifle and sat beside him.  “What happens if I miss?”
“Don’t miss.”
“What if I do?”
“Then I won’t.”
I held my rifle.  My hands were steady, despite how nervous I was.  And excited.  But I knew that Frank not only hated sniper jobs, but snipers in general.  “The prima-donnas of the assassin world,” he called them.  Shooting someone who didn’t even see them coming.  I couldn’t decide which was worse; hating that type of job and being stuck doing it anyway, or loving it and having Frank think badly of me.  I set down the gun.  “Do you really think snipers are cowards?”
“They can be.”
“Am I?”  Bravery wasn’t exactly one of my strong points.  Even after months of assassin training, flight was still my standby response when it came to survival.
“Vincent, you weigh about ninety pounds.  Being up here in the wind is courageous for you.”
I swung at him.  Frank caught my hand and flung me off the roof, his fingers around my wrist the only thing keeping me from falling to my death.  He laughed as I dangled below him.  “You didn’t even scream.”
Of course I hadn’t screamed.  Frank would never let me get seriously hurt, much less do the hurting himself.  “I’m saving the screaming for tonight.”
“Tonight we’ll be on the road,” he reminded me.
I cried out in despair, “Just drop me, Frank!  I’ve had a good life.”
He pulled me back up, no longer amused with our game.  Frank took my blemished childhood more personally than I did, and I was way better at self-pity than I’d ever be at bravery.  “You’ve had a terrible life.”
“The last few months have more than made up for it.”
“Have they?”
“Of course they have.  I’ve made you happy too, right?”
“I’m just happy I don’t have to do sniper jobs anymore.”
This time he didn’t stop me from punching him, and even gave me a kiss afterward.  “You know, Bella loves sniper jobs.  She’s a lot of things, but a coward isn’t one of them.  And anyway…”  He pushed me onto my front and straddled me.  “I think you’ll make a great sniper.”  Frank placed my rifle in front of me, moving just far enough off me so he could position his own rifle.  “You’re a good shot, V.  You won’t miss.”
“And you’re there if I do.”  I adjusted the scope, and we settled in to wait. 
Gregor Braun was a low-level German Embassy employee who’d stumbled upon a high-level government secret.  From what we’d been able to tell with three weeks of surveillance, or what Frank could tell at least, since I couldn’t understand a word of what Gregor was ever saying, our mark didn’t have the slightest idea of the importance of what he’d found.  He never met with anyone wearing trench coats and dark glasses to sell the information; he didn’t even really have any friends to tell.  His social life consisted of drinking a lot of beer, eating a lot of sausage, and watching a lot of television.  Kinda like me.  Except without the beer.
Being assassinated would speak louder about what Gregor had discovered than Gregor ever could, but you can’t really argue with the kind of people who keep a hundred grand in the petty cash drawer.
The lights in Gregor’s apartment flicked on and I tensed, keeping my finger off the trigger lest I shoot him too soon.  He shut his door and flipped the deadbolt, then checked his messages.  Frank was staring through his scope, just like I should’ve been.  But I couldn’t help but look at him, watching the corner of his lips raise into a smirk.  “Are you going to take your shot?”
I turned back to Gregor, following his head around his apartment.  “Now?”
“Whenever you’d like.”
I took a deep breath and gripped the trigger, slowly exhaling as I squeezed.  It felt like it took forever for the trigger to depress, and then suddenly there was a red mist in the air where Gregor’s head used to be.  “I got him!”
Frank was already up, dismantling his gun with a proud smile on his face.  “You got him.”
I hopped into a sitting position, practically ripping my gun apart in my excitement.  “That was…fun!”
He smiled even wider.  “That was an excellent shot.”
I quickly kissed him on the cheek, shoving my gun into the backpack on top of where he’d carefully placed his.  “That’s it?  We’re done?”
“We’re done.”  He held open the door to the roof entrance.  I’d forgotten all about the wind.  I’d barely been able to get the door open on our way up.  I ducked under his arm, bouncing down the stairs as Frank walked beside me.
“You really don’t like these?”
“So I get to do them?”
All of them?”
I shoved the exit door, pushing forward into the alleyway and the cold night air.  Frank instinctively moved to the other side of me, keeping me safe from traffic even though the only car in sight was ours.  “What if it’s like, some huge high profile thing where the client goes to Silva instead of Charlie?”
“You just did.”
I tripped on my shoe and would’ve face-planted on the sidewalk if Frank hadn’t grabbed hold of the backpack.  “That was…really?”
“It was.”
I gaped at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why?  So you could be nervous about it?”
“But what if I fucked it up?”
“You didn’t.”
“What if I did?”
“Then I wouldn’t have.”
I sighed and adjusted my backpack.  “I just worked for Silva?”
He smiled.  “You did.”
“And I didn’t fuck it up!”
“You’re about to if you don’t get in the car.”
“Right.  Sorry.”  I hopped in the passenger seat and stared up at Gregor’s apartment building.  I couldn’t see his window from the street, but it was nice of him to leave the light on for me anyway.  “Frank?”
“Yes, dear?”
“How do you say ‘international super assassin’ in German?”
He gave me a stern look and started the car.  “Are you expecting me to say your name?”
“You know it, baby.”
Frank rolled his eyes.  Ich habe ein Monster geschaffen.”