In Pretty Deadly by Albert Kanach, Malcolm, a sniper/hitman, tracks his target to a trailer park but the young guy won’t show himself.
The girl was young, maybe nineteen, the prettiest, most innocent-looking assassin he’d ever seen.
Malcolm adjusted the sights on his rifle and dialed in on the young girl. She was pretty in a clean-cut, all-American way. Long, flowing red hair, breezy summer clothes, spirited bounce in her walk. It crossed his mind that she was young enough to be his daughter, but he pushed the thought aside as quickly as it had appeared. If it came time to put a bullet in her, he couldn’t hesitate. She wouldn’t if he was in her sights.
The way she dressed was guaranteed to attract attention, shorts cutoff as short as possible, shirt tied to show off a shapely midriff, designer shades giving an air of mystery. All designed to display the kind of busty, firm young body that will make any red-blooded American male drop his guard and go brain dead just for a chance to jump her. She pulled into the visitor parking in a beat-up, rusted Toyota that would have looked right at home in front of the dilapidated trailer the boy was living in. More natural than the fancy wheels that he had parked there. The door of the trailer opened and there he was in the doorway; tall, lean and twenty-something, the man Malcolm was being paid to kill.
Malcolm stole a glance at the picture tacked to the cover of his open rifle case. It matched the face in the doorway. Malcolm moved the crosshairs to the center of the kid’s forehead. He started estimating distances and wind speeds out of habit. He had time. As long as she was walking towards him, he wasn’t going to move. Lust trumps caution every time. He knows he’s a target, he’s been on the run for a month now, but that’s why he’s probably so horny he’ll risk anything to get laid. And here’s a piece of ass to die for. Literally.
Malcolm stole a glance at the picture tacked to the cover of his open rifle case. It matched the face in the doorway.
The kid looked around. A small shred of survival instinct had him worried that it might be a trap. The big head was saying that she made some tempting bait, but the little head was arguing that he could just be getting lucky. One hand was on the door, but the other was just out of sight. Malcolm didn’t have to be a genius to guess what he was holding. The girl had to be seeing it too; the fact that she got this job means she wasn’t dumb. The people who hired Malcolm only hire the best.
So far everything was going according to plan. After the boy ran, they sent Malcolm to track him down. It didn’t take long to get his phone number and get a fix on where his phone was. Problem with the info was that the phone was all over the map. Movement patterns that didn’t make any sense. Malcolm tracked down the address where it had spent the most time before it died, a well-maintained, nondescript house in a blue-collar neighborhood with a well-maintained, nondescript Camry sitting in the drive. First time he followed the Camry he knew he was looking at an Uber cab. He booked the cab, felt around under the seat cushions and came up with the phone. Clever idea but, in the end, really dumb.
Malcolm’s employers were tied into hackers who sucked the boy’s life story out of the phone. Malcolm looked through what they found and came up with an idea. Take advantage of his fondness for arranging hookups online. Malcolm’s employers liked the idea and came up with the girl.
She was smart. She didn’t go after him—at least not directly. The hackers found his page and gave her a list of the girls he responded to. She created a page that was guaranteed to hook him. Within two days she had his address. She said he was easy. He had a thing for redheads.
If anyone needed proof that crime didn’t pay, this boy could be the poster boy. He was hiding in a decaying trailer park across from the county landfill. The place probably got really ripe on hot days when the wind was blowing the right way. It was the kind of place nobody would choose if they had a choice. Malcolm had a clear vantage point from a hill next to the landfill. It wasn’t perfect, but it was private. No one with a nose ever came up here.
Watching from behind, he liked the way she walked, sort of a breezy sashay that just radiated sex. The boy was watching her intently and probably thinking the same thing as Malcolm, where could she possibly have a weapon in that outfit? There wasn’t an extra square inch of material where she could hide anything. Maybe her thing was poison. That was a possibility.
Malcolm had his shot. After she located the trailer, he practically lived on that hill, but the boy never showed his face. It was definitely his car. A fairly new Beemer ragtop that was worth more than the rusted can he was living in. A nice set of wheels that never moved. All Malcolm could report was shadows moving across a window. Even the food delivery boys never saw a face. Always an envelope of cash telling them to push it through the doggie door. The people paying for the job wouldn’t pay for hitting a possible no matter how probable it was. They wanted to confirm that they were getting their money’s worth. So they sent in the girl.
It was tempting. Malcolm had the boy in his sights. Squeeze the trigger and it’s over. But they said to give her a first shot. And they’re paying for the job. Malcolm had to admit that she was getting farther faster than he did. For two weeks Malcolm watched the dilapidated trailer, watching and waiting for the boy to show his face but getting nothing. For two weeks the target wouldn’t even come to the window, but for a hot-looking woman, he’s out in the open. The kid was such an amateur.
It was obvious that he had his brain between his legs, but what about the girl? Would she do it right away? Would she bang him first? If he rocks her world, would she have second thoughts? Malcolm was guessing that he was the insurance policy. What he couldn’t guess was what their employer had told her. Did she even know he was there?
Malcolm had to give the kid credit, he knew how to strike a pose. Leaning against the doorjamb, tight jeans, tousled hair, shirt unbuttoned to show off the kind of abs that a little girl like her would love to press up against. Both of them giving off sexual sparks, getting each other excited before they’ve even said hello. Both of them bringing the kind of body that guarantees that the lights will stay on.
Malcolm dialed in, but the boy was smiling. The hand that had been out of sight moved behind his back, under the shirt. Whatever was in his hand moved to the small of his back. She walked in and went past him. His eyes moved up and down her body, cleavage to butt and back again. She had him hooked. Now how was she going to play him?
The door closed and Malcolm adjusted his scope to a wide view. He scanned the windows. Would he offer her a drink? Did she have a weapon? Would she do the job? Malcolm felt like he was watching a porno that didn’t have a guaranteed ending. They were in the living room. His scope zoomed in. The window was small and dirty, but the curtains were open and the screen was lying on the ground. He could see enough.
She was smiling, talking, flirting. He was being cool, moving close but not grabbing. Malcolm watched them circling each other, playing the game, flirting, teasing. Then she moved in a little closer and they kissed. Malcolm couldn’t take his eyes off them. They went right in for the deep tongue action and followed up with a lot of body contact and touching the parts that make you feel good. As his hands were going to her breasts she pushed him back. Whatever she said made him smile, but untying her top made him smile more. She pointed to the sofa and he seemed to agree and sat while she turned her back for him to unhook her bra.
Malcolm watched as the bra fell loose. She held it up but in a way that didn’t seem natural. Her right hand went inside the left cup as she began to turn. He lost sight of her hand as she spun. His eyes went first to her breasts but saw the gun as the bra dropped. It was one of those little plastic ones that weigh next to nothing but cost a lot. The boy saw it too but too late. His hands were in front of him. After he unsnapped her bra, he held them up in anticipation of hitting the jackpot. His gun was at his back. He didn’t have a chance.
The gun was a small caliber but at close range it was enough. Malcolm could see the gun flash and the boy fall back. Three, four flashes. Then she stepped up and gave him one more point-blank. She stood over him for several seconds, not looking nervous or pumped on adrenaline. Standing there topless, she calmly ejected the clip, swapped it with one from the other cup and began picking up the ejected shells. Very professional. Maybe he had misjudged her. That bra was certainly a custom job.
For about five minutes he lost sight of her, occasionally seeing her passing the window, she seemed to be searching the place. Had their employers told her to look for something, or was she going rogue? Then she was out. She closed the door and locked it. Her top was on but the bra was in her hand, swinging like a purse, showing more weight than a bra should. There was a bounce to her step and a smile on her face. Happy with a job well done. Then she threw him a curve.
Her hand came up and the Beemer’s lights flashed. She walked to the boy’s car, hopped in and put the top down. She was a scavenger, collecting whatever booty she could. Malcolm wondered if she was freelancing or following orders. She flipped down the visor to check herself out in the mirror, pulled her hair back, put on a ball cap and slipped on her shades. She looked good, and the car looked good on her. She was ready to roll when everything went to shit.
The young cop didn’t seem to be looking for anything in particular, probably just cruising through the scummy side of town, making sure the troublemakers stayed away from the people who covered his paycheck. He was looking for anything that looked out of place. You don’t need twenty years on the force to know a hot chick in high-class wheels doesn’t hang out in the county’s armpit unless she’s looking for trouble. He pulled up behind her.
The girl played it cool, brushing her hair, checking the mirror, taking her time. When she started the car, he got out. From up high Malcolm could see her pull her shirt to show a little more cleavage, shove the gun next to the seat and push her bra under the seat. She waited as the cop approached.
Malcolm adjusted his scope for a wider view. He scanned the cop car and zoomed in on the dash. The dash cam was there. They had the car and plate. He shifted to the cop as he reached the girl and started to talk. He seemed relaxed and nonthreatening, but it was there. On his left shoulder was a body cam and it was pointed right at the girl. She was done, she was compromised.
There was one other option. Malcolm set the crosshairs of his scope on the cam. One clean shot and there would be no video, nothing to identify her. The shot wouldn’t kill the cop; it was too high on his shoulder. If he took it, the cop would fall behind the car. Could he trust the girl to finish the job? She might panic. He started estimating distances and drop rates. He checked some nearby leaves, looking for signs of wind.
Malcolm adjusted his scope for a wider view. He scanned the cop car and zoomed in on the dash. The dash cam was there.
They spoke, and then the cop started walking back to his car. Maybe she talked her way out of it, but it wouldn’t matter. When they found the boy’s body, they’d check the body cam and have her. She would lead them to Malcolm’s employers and, possibly, to him. Someone had to die. Either the cop now or the girl later. It was Malcolm’s decision. Which would it be?
The girl made the decision for him. As the cop was walking away she opened the door, spun in his direction, pulled the hat down and took three long strides to come up behind him. The cop sensed the movement and turned. Even if he saw the gun, she didn’t give him time to react. Three shots and another up close. Again Malcolm saw the muzzle flashes, but this time he could hear them. Not loud, but he was far away. The neighbors would hear them. Some would look out and see her. Some would call 911. The cops would be coming fast, and they wouldn’t give up. That quickly the girl went from asset to liability. He was the insurance policy, though this probably isn’t what his employers had in mind. Decision time.
The girl was back in the car and slamming it into gear. Dirt flew and the car lurched forward. Too far for a moving target, especially one going that fast. Malcolm grabbed a cell phone from his case and hit the one number on speed dial. The car was almost at the curve that would take her in front of the landfill. He hesitated for a moment.
One of the skills Malcolm had honed in Iraq was how to make an IED. Before you can disarm them, you have to know how they’re put together, and he paid close attention. His backup plan for the boy was an IED under the driver’s seat with a cell phone detonator. He never got a shot and the boy never drove the car, but now it gave him a viable option. He made his decision and hit send.
The explosion rocked the car just as it reached the curve. Instead of turning, it took a straight shot through the fence and into the landfill. Momentum carried it through weeds and ruts and sent it down a steep embankment. Malcolm lost sight of it as he zoomed out but focused as it landed on top of several steel drums. Whatever was in the drums turned the flaming car into a nasty bonfire.
Malcolm took off but came back, mixing with the rubberneckers taking cell phone videos to impress their relatives. The cops had to evacuate the trailer park, and the fire department was still hosing it down the next morning. When it cooled down they sent workers to pick through the wreckage, but there were rumors that most of the workers refused to risk the chemicals and conducted their search from about twenty feet away. They never found the girl’s body.
Malcolm was very meticulous. Even though he didn’t use his rifle, he carefully disassembled it, cleaned and inspected each piece. Combat taught him to appreciate his weapon and care for it. He believed that if you treated you rifle with respect it would never let you down. He set a soft rubber mat on his kitchen table, oils to one side, cloth to the other, his rifle in the middle. He never hurried; it was a ritual of love. His table sat in front of a picture window facing his yard. He loved the view of the grass sloping down to the lake where his boat was tied. He was the only one who lived here year-round, so, this early in the season, he would have the lake to himself. Here he was safe. Here he was at peace. Later he would do some fishing and, if he was lucky, catch his dinner. Malcolm was content. His life was good.
Rachel watched Malcolm as he started his cleaning ritual from some bushes next to his shed, the only high ground with cover and a clear view of this side of his house. She knew his routine. It would take him thirty minutes start to finish. She had lots of time. She carefully adjusted the scope of her rifle, estimating the distance, rechecking for the wind that wasn’t there, centering the crosshairs on the left side of his chest. Following her plan.
She controlled the emotions that seeing him through the scope stirred up along with memories of that last job. The explosion that suddenly engulfed her in flames. The searing pain as she struggled with her seat belt. The eerie sensation of flying as she launched herself from the burning car going over the cliff. The rolling through piles of trash. The puddle of mud and garbage and chemicals she landed in.
But she also felt the fierce determination that carried her through that night. The determination that pulled her through the muck and crap until she was under the landfill’s office trailer. She remembered the rats scurrying across her legs as she lay there, waiting for darkness. Waiting for the police and firemen to get tired as they beat the blazing fire down to a small glow. Waiting for a chance to crawl through the hole in the fence that she saw while casing the trailer, planning possible escape routes before she went in.
She remembered how long it took her to work her way through the woods around the landfill and back to the trailer park where her old Toyota was still waiting, just past the crime scene tape. The cops hadn’t connected it to the shooting. Besides, they were too busy getting their buddy to the hospital. As if punching holes in his arms and legs was going to kill him. She knew her business. They probably thought the one that took out the body cam was just a lucky shot.
A small smile turned her mouth at her dumb luck, having spotted the guy’s car while she was casing the trailer. Not sure why she took a picture, but having a license to trace made this job easy. The people who hired her told her he might be there, don’t worry, he’d be her backup. Just in case. Some backup. Dumb bastard used his own car on a job. That was going to cost him.
She took off her hat and rubbed the short blond fuzz that was coming in to replace the hair that was singed before she could pull the burning red wig off. Singed bad enough that she finally just shaved it off. One more thing he would have to pay for.
Rachel adjusted the sights on her rifle and dialed in on the old man. The crew cut made him look like the clean-cut, all-American type, probably ex-military. He reminded her of her father, but she pushed the thought aside as quickly as it had appeared. When she was in his sights, he didn’t hesitate. They were both professionals and knew the score. She exhaled and squeezed the trigger.