This story is by Kenneth Harvey and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Nikolai inhaled the sultry Congolese air. Sweat pooled in the small of his back. A mosquito buzzed near his ear. A weak breeze stirred up the dust on the floor. None of this mattered. He was no longer Nikolai. He was an angel – The Angel of Death.
The muzzle of his Russian-made Vintorez sniper rifle followed the visiting Angolan president’s every move. Soon Nikolai would unleash Death upon the man. He felt no hatred for his victim, nor did he feel remorse. It was his job to take lives. He liked his job. He was good at his job.
The president stepped onto the platform and approached the podium with members of his staff nearby. Nikolai exhaled slowly and repositioned himself on the second floor of the abandoned building. He closed his eyes for a moment before taking one last look at the man who would soon be dead.
Nikolai’s shots tore through the Angolan press secretary’s rib cage – piercing the unsuspecting man’s lungs and heart. The assassin cursed quietly. Nikolai scanned the chaos. The president stumbled into the arms of his bodyguards. Blood ran freely down his white shirt. The president should be dead. Instead, his press secretary lay in a pool of blood.
Nikolai broke down his gun and placed it in the leather briefcase on the table. He brushed the dust from his suit and walked to the stairwell at the end of the hallway.
He needed to talk to Dulles.
Nikolai entered the courtyard of the Green Garden. He did not care that it served the best Indian food in Kinshasa. The Russian ex-pat needed answers. He ordered the masala dosa and pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket. When the voice-mail message answered, he ended the call. The briefcase sat near him on the table.
Twenty minutes later, Nikolai saw the man enter the gate into the courtyard. The white suit was obviously tailor-made to fit his over-sized frame. The man in white walked to where Nikolai waited.
“You failed,” he said. He sat down to Nikolai’ right.
“I never fail Dulles,” Nikolai responded in his thick Russian accent as he pushed the empty plate away. “I was set up. There was other shooter.”
The man in white perused the evening crowd. “We do not accept failure, my Russian friend.”
Nikolai laughed. He noted exactly where Dulles scanned the diners.
“Is failing so funny to you? Do you not understand the gravity of this situation?”
“I did not fail. I was set up.” Nikolai leaned close. “Someone else took shot and deliberately winged him. My shots were on target. I did what you paid me to do, no? You could have called me off and didn’t. Why?”
“Nikolai, we have worked together for many years now. You know things get, well, they get complicated.” The man in white patted his head with a handkerchief. “The situation here is, how shall I say – fluid. Those that decide such things determined that a wounded, angry president is better than a dead president.”
Nikolai reached for his briefcase. Several men in the courtyard stood and reached into their jackets. “Be easy, friend. Is only kind gesture,” Nikolai said pulling his hands back. He noted three other men he missed in the crowd. “I was just going to give you information you will find…, you will find interesting.”
“Nikolai, we are past that point.” The man shifted in his chair. “Someone has to be accountable. The CIA got the angry president and the rogue Russian shooter.” The man in white’s gaze hardened. “Two birds with one stone. I am sorry, Nikolai. We need a sacrificial lamb. Political expediency. You understand.”
Nikolai smiled. “You seriously think these boys can kill me?” he asked nodding to the men. “I do not think you know me as well as you should.”
The man in white smiled. “I am sorry.”
Nikolai watched as the customers rushed out and the gate locked. The eight-foot concrete walls blocked any view from the street.
“It’s alright, Dulles. It had to end at some time.”
Before the man in white could respond, Nikolai dove to his left. He retrieved the Vintorez he had taped under the table and began firing. Shell casings pinged on the stone. He emptied his first twenty-round magazine. The titanium-tipped rounds penetrated the light body armor worn by the men. Fourteen went down in the first volley. He dove behind a short wall separating sections of the courtyard.
The return fire was overwhelming. Brick and concrete showered down on the Russian. Nikolai ejected the magazine and inserted a new one. He rolled out of the relative safety of the wall; firing as he went. Six more men died. The man in white sat in the chair and watched the carnage. Nikolai stopped behind him, using him as a shield.
The firing ceased.
He assessed the damage. He was hit in three places, but none were life-threatening. Nikolai reached into his jacket and drew his twin Sig Sauer P-320 X-Fives. He aimed both of them at Dulles’ head.
“Nikolai. Nikolai. Nikolai,” the man chided. “It was not supposed to end this way. Now I have a lot of paperwork.” He rose and faced the courtyard. “Gentlemen,” he said, “we are done here.”
The man in white grabbed the briefcase and sauntered to the gate. The three surviving men met him. Nikolai stood. His pistols never wavered.
“I am sorry Nikolai. I wish you well. I hope this information is good.”
With that, the men opened the gate and left.
Nikolai sat down and reached for his beer. Dead men filled the courtyard. He pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed. A few seconds later, he heard the explosion as the briefcase detonated. Nikolai took one last drink from the bottle and placed it on the table. The Russian put the Vintorez under his jacket and disappeared into the Kinshasan night.