This story is by Marka Ormsby and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Kwan Lee looked through the site of his JS 7.62 sniper rifle, a North Korean weapon supplied by the Chinese. He steadied his breathing, his heartbeat. It all came down to this shot. Two years of planning, infiltration into the North Korean Army, to this place thirty stories above the Pyongyang Plaza where Kim Jong-un prepared to address his nation. Temperatures hovered in the high thirties, and the overcast lay over the city like a blanket of despair.
Kwan took three steady breaths, got the rhythm of his heartbeat, and prepared to fire. As he squeezed the trigger, fate stepped in, as it has done throughout history. Kim Jong-un sneezed, moving to his right, and the high-speed bullet whizzed past his head. Kim’s bodyguards pushed him to the ground and covered him protecting him from further assault. Kwan dropped the rifle and began his escape.
Jack Bennett sat camouflaged in the trees next to a dirt road in the hills two kilometers east of Onchon. He’d infiltrated North Korean territory the night before from a fishing trawler anchored offshore. Now he’d wait as he’d waited so many times before. Today was cold but not frigid, so he’d be relatively comfortable biding his time, thinking. He thought about Kwan Lee, a second-generation Korean-American, plucked from Princeton after his parents were killed in an auto accident. He thought about his own life after joining the CIA fifteen years ago. He’d been young, idealistic, just as Kwan was now. Kwan would learn soon enough his destiny rested in the hands of his CIA superiors, just as Jack’s had ten years ago when a tire had blown on his target’s car in Yemen. He missed the shot. It was a low stakes mission, and Jack had lived to fight another day. Others would not be so lucky, at least not without intervention. Jack smiled for a moment. His satellite phone buzzed, and he returned to business.
“Kwan’s burned. Make sure the North Koreans find his body.”
“Affirmative,” he said and put the phone away. They’d meet at the rendezvous location, if Kwan made it that far. The mission failed, and Kim Jong-un was alive. Although they’d blame the Americans, they’d find a North Korean army soldier named Kwan Lee, dead, killed while making his escape. Kwan’s cover as a North Korean soldier was foolproof.
Kwan Lee left the building and joined North Korean soldiers sweeping the streets and pushing citizens away from the scene. Soldiers swarmed the buildings overlooking the Plaza searching for the shooter. Kwan’s plan was the same whether he’d succeeded or not. As a North Korean Army sergeant, he weaved through the chaos toward the southern section of Pyongyang where he’d hidden a car in an old warehouse. He’d need to cover the fifty kilometers to the rendezvous point in the next two hours or be left behind. He figured his chances were fifty-fifty if he made it to the car. They’d increase with each kilometer he drove away from Pyongyang. Before he left, Kwan Lee needed one more thing.
Holding his service weapon as he weaved his way toward the warehouse, he joined other soldiers combing the streets.
“Corporal,” Kwan yelled to a soldier running behind his compatriots.
The soldier turned to see Kwan. “Yes, Sergeant?”
Kwan waved to him, “Come with me. I’ve been ordered to check the warehouses. Our units will join us there.”
Without questioning Kwan’s authority, the corporal followed his superior. They ran through the streets checking civilians for weapons and ordering them to their homes.
As they neared the warehouse, Kwan turned to the corporal and pointed to the warehouse door. “Did you hear something in there?”
Kwan crept forward motioning the corporal to follow. He pushed the door open carefully and looked inside. As they entered, Kwan turned, put a gun to the corporal’s head, and fired.
Jack heard helicopters thumping overhead as they scoured the roads and countryside around him. The overcast had lowered closer to the ground obscuring the view from the air. It had been two hours and no Kwan. He could wait another hour before returning to the trawler. After thirty minutes more, he saw a car, not a military vehicle, but car tires crunching on the gravel road to a copse of trees. It was Kwan. As he exited the car, Jack walked up behind him and put a gun to his head. “You’re burned, you know that, right?”
“Figured as much,” said Kwan without turning and raising his hands. “Thought it might be a one-way trip if I didn’t make the shot.”
“You figured correctly.”
“We need a dead North Korean soldier, right?” said Kwan. “Check the back seat,” he said, lowering his hands halfway and pointing to the rear of the car.
Jack smiled appreciating Kwan’s initiative and holstered his pistol. They pulled the body from the car, dressed him in Kwan’s uniform, put Kwan’s ID in the corpse’s pocket, then placed him behind the wheel. Jack set the timer for the explosives to blow in two hours, long after they were gone. Jack felt Kwan’s eyes staring at him, questioning what would happen next.
“Now, I need to take care of you,” said Jack as he drew his weapon, pointed it at Kwan, and fired. Kwan fell to the ground unconscious.
Kwan Lee awoke on a bed in a bungalow near the sea. Disoriented, he heard waves breaking on the beach outside the open doors to his room and warm ocean breezes blowing the curtains inside. He sat up and felt the welt on his neck where the tranquilizer dart hit him.
“Bennett? What the fuck?” He noticed a smartphone lying beside him with a screen flashing, “Welcome to Antigua.” There was a voice mail waiting.
“Enjoy your retirement from the CIA,” said the digital voice. “All the information you need is in the envelope on the dresser. You’ll hear from me again.”