This story is by Robert De Lauter and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Time stopped, as it always does moments before Kelly takes the shot. He could hear and feel everything seconds ago. Blood pumping in his ears, his pulse in his eyelid, but as he takes a deep breath and begins to squeeze the trigger, he hears nothing, sees only his target.
He exhales and squeezes the trigger, the rifle tight to his body. He is relaxed but braced for the recoil. Only there is no recoil. His rifle did not fire. His target is still drinking his coffee and stuffing his face with those French pastries that Kelly also enjoys.
“Why did the rifle not fire? I checked it yesterday, all worked great.” Kelly said to himself.
Suddenly, the realization hit him like a truck. Cold sweat soaked his shirt. There was only one explanation. His French contact, Sophie. She provided the rifle and ammo. Kelly had checked the rifle over last night, even dry firing it. But with no place to actually fire it, he was forced to trust Sophie the ammunition would work.
Kelly’s pulse drummed in his ears, his breath came faster, and a sure sign time had started moving again. He knew he needed to relax, allow his training to take over, but the thought of his long-term lover Sophie betraying him was distracting.
If Sophie had betrayed him, his cover was blown. The police were coming for him. For a CIA agent to assassinate a Head of State on foreign soil is a big no no. Even if the target is a known terrorist and the foreign soil is an ally.
On pure muscle memory, he broke his rifle down and slid it into his backpack. The original plan was to take the south stairwell to the roof and then across to the north stairs. Now he needed a different escape route.
“Think Kelly, use your training.”
Sirens were approaching. He needed to move, needed to find an escape route, but his mind was flooded with betrayal. Why had Sophie done this? He was retiring after this job. They were getting married!
Kelly held his breath and stepped into the hallway. Silence! He released his breath and took another step. The sound of heavy boots, the clink of equipment against body armor, the heaving breathing of the police force moving towards him filled his ears.
The north stairs would be his only option. He raced to the stairwell, opened the door, and listened. All quiet. He took the stairs two at a time. It took all his self-control not to move faster, not to take the entire half flight in a single leap. But with the heavy backpack on, he could twist his ankle.
Kelly dropped to the last landing and removed his sidearm. He ignored the ‘ALARM WILL SOUND IF DOOR OPENED’ sign and pushed open the emergency exit door. Hearing no alarm, he smiled to himself. Those alarms never work. He stepped through the door, scanned right, all clear. Looking left his heart skipped a beat. Not more than 20 feet away are two uniformed police officers moving towards him.
“Stop!” One officer yelled in French. “Don’t move!”
Kelly’s mind went into overdrive. Run from them, or towards them. He realized they are both young, not old enough to shave. Towards them, he decided. They would not expect that.
He bent forward and lowered his center of gravity as he slid his sidearm back into its holster. Like a linebacker, he charged straight at the officer with his weapon drawn. He covered the now 15 feet in three quick strides driving his shoulder into the chest of the officer; both of them went hard to the concrete sidewalk.
He turned his head to the right and saw the confusion on the second officer’s face. Not wasting any time, Kelly executed a leg sweep spilling him to the ground. Both officers were stunned, the outcome Kelly had needed.
He jumped up and jogged to the corner of the building. With a quick glance down the alleyway, he noticed a car and moved towards it.
Wasting no time, he broke the passenger side window and unlocked the car. He dropped his backpack onto the floor, quickly moved to the driver’s side and slid in. With his M9 knife, he broke the ignition lock and started the car.
Sitting in the stolen car a familiar thought crept in, a nagging at his soul. He had no problem killing someone who endangered his beloved USA. But stealing a car from a civilian compromised his morals. However, today he needed to save his own life. He would find a way to pay it forward if he survived. He corrected himself; when he survives.
He forced his heart and breathing to slow down, checked the street for traffic, and pulled out.
As he merged onto the highway, the sound of sirens filled his ears, lights approached in the rear view mirror. Then the roar of rotor wash, a helicopter, and his heart stopped. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to find an escape route.
As his mind raced to find a solution, he heard his name. Softly at first, then louder, he felt a hand on his arm, shaking him. His eyes jerked open.
The sheets sticking to him soaked in his cold sweat. Sitting up he scanned the room.
“Kelly, you are having a nightmare. Wake up, you’re safe,” Sophie said.
Kelly’s eyes adjusted to the sunlight streaming in through the French doors, leading to their private patio and pool entrance. As the warm breeze began to dry his skin, his mind cleared and his pulse slowed. He was retired and next to him was his new bride.
Kelly closed his eyes and allowed the joy rush over him.