2nd Place – April 2021

No Escape

By Gary Christenson

I twisted the key in the lock and entered my spacious Florida home. Mozart played on the stereo which had been off when I left. I sniffed “Eternity” by Calvin Klein. Danger!
Danielle smiled from a recliner in my living room as she drank red wine. Her chocolate-colored skin shimmered in the afternoon light. My heart skipped a beat.
“Danielle, what a surprise.”
“Johnathan, your taste in wine is excellent. This is a good Merlot. Yes, it’s good to see you.” Her eyes flashed icy intelligence, not warmth.
I asked, “So what do your agency controllers want from me this time? And how did you get into my house? I installed a deadbolt to prevent your access.”
Danielle shook her head. “Johnathan, you have learned little in the three years we’ve worked together. Your locks suck. If I want to sample your wine and listen to music, I will.”
“Another example of your creepy training? Never mind. I’ll pour while you explain why you’re here.”
“Patience, Johnathan, all things come to those who wait. Yes, please refill my glass.” The sociopathic killer smiled at me.
I topped off our glasses and sat. The music transported me to a higher consciousness where I could ignore the deadly agency handler in my home.
After the music finished, Danielle turned her feline eyes upon me and said, “We want you to kill another person.”
“Maybe I’m not interested in killing that person.” I stared back at her, knowing I couldn’t win this contest.
“Either you complete this job, or we’ll deliver incriminating evidence documenting three of your kills to a friendly District Attorney. He’ll prosecute. You might only get life in prison. Besides, you’ve worked for us before, we pay well, and offer political protection if you follow orders. There is no escape from our agency.”
“Who’s the target?”
“A general in the Marines. He’s pushing for nuclear war with China, which doesn’t fit our agenda. We want him silenced.” Her eyes sparkled with dangerous intent.
I’m proud of my former career as a decorated Marine sniper. I have no problem killing people. Most people fear me, but I fear Danielle. I’ve seen what she and her three-letter agency do to people. But I didn’t want to kill a fellow Marine.
I sipped wine and said, “If you want him dead, you have people who can take him out. You don’t need me.”
She said, “We can terminate him, but we want to make his death into a statement. When you slam a bullet into his brain from a long distance, people take notice. That action will discourage other nuclear warmongers more effectively than a less dramatic death. We can’t do your sniper thing. You can.”
It seemed simple, but it’s never easy. “What’s the target’s name?”
“General Alfred Joyner. I believe you know him.”
That name brought back two-decade old memories. I respected General Joyner. “I don’t want to kill him. He used to be one of the best among the Marine brass.”
Danielle stated with no emotion, “Then the DA will indict you within a few weeks, or you’ll suffer a fatal heart attack. It’s your choice, but I suggest you stay alive, take out the general, and accept our payment of $100,000 in gold, cash, or digital dollars.” She stared at me and sipped wine, looking patient.
A simple choice. Kill a Marine that I owed from years ago. Or die.
I poured wine, contemplating this false choice. I remembered Joyner as a good guy, even though he was a warmonger.
Danielle placed her wine glass on the table, leaned forward, and stared into my eyes. “You will accept this job. You’ve done it before, the general is dangerous to the United States, and you want the money. There is no escape. Say yes.”
I hesitated before bowing to the inevitable. “Yes.”
She smiled, a predator about to eat her prey. “I’ll leave a folder that describes his habits, history, vulnerabilities, and family. He’s not the patriotic general he claims to be. Joyner is a corrupt politician who sold out years ago. A man of your talents could terminate him in any of several locations during the next two months, and that’s your time limit.”
I nodded.
“I left a phone number. After you’ve finished the job, tell me how you want to be paid and I’ll arrange it. Agree?”
I nodded. There is no escape.
She stood, smoothed her skirt, looking like a late thirties executive who could stroll the streets of Manhattan while appearing to be an attractive career woman, not an agency predator.
“Ta ta. Thanks for the wine.” Danielle walked to my front door, turned, and flashed a smile.
I didn’t want to kill a Marine, but I enjoyed living. I finished the bottle as I read the dossier. He made several pro-military speeches each month. He and his family vacationed at a second home in Arkansas. His two daughters exhibited severe behavior problems. Sharon, his wife, had three prescriptions for mood-altering drugs. The General was circumstantially connected with a ring of child predators. He liked single malt Scotch and ordered it by the case. The agency expected Joyner would take a highly paid job with a military contractor after retiring from the Marines.
Two weeks later, I had scouted three locations for his upcoming speeches. I found no good access for a sniper. I could attempt a shot from 1,300 yards, but too much could go wrong at that distance.
Another location had a shorter range, but security forces might kill me trying to escape.
Danielle had given me two months. I called her and asked for intel on his Arkansas vacation plans. She lied and said she was happy to hear from me. “He’ll be there beginning a week from Friday for ten days. Good shooting.” She disconnected.
I had little to do but wait, so I took a vacation to the Florida beaches, watched young women in bikinis, and relaxed on warm sand. On day two, Danielle laid a towel beside me. Her bright red bikini attracted male attention, she posed like a Hollywood celebrity, and flashed a laser whitened smile. “Just checking on you.”
I told her, “I’m avoiding you.” A whiff of “Eternity” mixed with sunscreen drifted my way.
She flashed her predator eyes and said, “Liar! You know there is no escape from me.”
Danielle soaked up rays for two hours and then pranced back to her hotel. I left the beach and drove home. She had spoiled my vacation mood.
My next stop was a small town in Arkansas where I checked into a motel under a different ID and snooped on Joyner’s vacation home. I found a spot that offered a shot from less than 700 yards.
I settled in, watched the house with a spotting scope, and trusted he and his family would arrive soon. The next day I brought my rifle, bipod, sound suppressor, food, and water.
General Joyner, Sharon, and their two troubled girls arrived the following day. I watched them, learned their rhythms, and relaxed. He liked to drink Scotch on the porch as he waited for the sunset.
Joyner was a Marine, but I had no escape. I would do what I had to do.
The next day he and his family settled into deck chairs, while he sucked down Scotch. His wife drank white wine, fidgeted, and drummed her fingers. The girls sat, frowning and sullen while they played on their phones.
I centered the crosshairs on his chest, relaxed into the zone, and squeezed the trigger. The General slumped, and his body fell to the floor like a rag doll. He flopped onto his back, immobile, legs spread. A dark stain spread across his shirt.
Sharon stood, walked to her downed husband, and placed two fingers on his throat. Moments later, she shook her head and spoke to her girls. The younger one marched to her father and kicked him in his crotch. The older sister spit on him. They did high-fives, smiled, hugged each other, and then burst into tears.
General Joyner was a degenerate politician, not a Marine.
Sharon stood and stared into the distance toward me. She raised her hand in a military salute. Then she held up both hands and flashed ten fingers at me three times.
I had thirty minutes before she would report his death, which gave me time to vanish. We both knew I would not shoot her.
Two days later Danielle called and said, “Good job. The publicity is tremendous. Maybe our corrupt leaders will resist a nuclear war for several years.” She paused before saying, “How do you want to be paid for this job? And by the way, there will be a next time.”
There is no escape.

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