Sanzabar gave a snappy salute and turned on his heel. There was not a moment to waste.
The countdown had begun.
He hurried away, clutching the precious assignment as if it would turn to dust and trickle through his fingers. The mission represented an opportunity that, if lost, might never come again. He had been waiting for a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his superiors. His last mission had been a disaster.
Much was at stake.
But they had put him on a time limit-only twenty-four hours. He quickly gathered supplies and at the last minute, decided his self-confidence needed a boost. His ego had taken a huge hit after the previous debacle and as he shapeshifted into his favorite form, he laughed at his silliness. Appearance made no difference, since his quarry could neither see nor sense his presence, but brute strength was heady stuff.
It couldn't hurt.
Transformation complete, Sanzabar padded along, tail twitching in anticipation. With a toss of reddish mane, a rumble began deep within, culminating in a ground-shaking roar.
Hopefully, the enemy would take note of the fact that he was a force to be reckoned with.
It's no wonder the lion is called 'King of the Jungle', he though wryly as he began his prowl. No one from the adversary's camp would dare mess with him in his current form.
He wandered, evaluating potential opportunities, and dismissed each one as inadequate. It was imperative that he not allow the deadline to dictate his choice; however, the clock was ticking. But still, impressing his superiors was as important as the completion of the mission.
On the edge of panic, a whisper of possibility perked his ears.
Ah, yes. That would do very nicely.
"Come on, Jane. Surely you've noticed."
Jane stared at her coffee cup, hoping to avoid the discussion. "And you know we shouldn't be talking about this, Tracy."
Tracy snickered and with a flick of manicured nails, motioned the waitress to refill their cups. "Lighten up, will ya? Everyone's talking about how she's been hanging all over Rob. And I've heard his marriage is on the rocks. Of course, it's not his fault his wife's a kook."
"Hey, that's not fair," Jane exclaimed, "Brenda's had an awful lot of issues but that doesn't make her a kook. Why do you have to be so mean?"
"Since when did you become 'Sweet Polly Pure Bread?" Tracy huffed.
Jane stared in disbelief. "Did you even listen during Sunday School this morning? We just talked about the power of words and how Satan is attracted to what comes out of the mouth. Doesn't that make you just a little nervous?" Jane shuddered at the thought of sending up a red flag that might beckon the enemy.
Tracy prattled on, never missing a beat.
Sanzabar hovered near, salivating. At last he had found victims worthy of his quest.
Tracy would be easy. She wouldn't even need intervention since she had already placed the noose-all he had to do was tighten it up. And "Mousy Jane?" She was a pushover. This was better than a BOGO sale at Payless.
He glanced at his watch as impatience and frayed nerves caused sweat to pour off him.
Time was running out.
Jane slammed her coffee cup on the table. "That's it. I'm done. I will not sit here and listen to you gossip about things that may not be true. How would you like it if someone did that to you?"
Tracy smirked and idly stirred her coffee. "Oh, honey, you need to get your head out of the sand and come live in the real world. You're no better than anyone else, ya know." Her eyes went cold, sending a shiver through Jane.
Jane gathered her coat and purse. "Sinking to the same level as the rest of the world is something I try to avoid. Aren't we supposed to be different?"
Sanzabar screamed in frustration as Jane left, taking part of his victory with her. At least he still had Tracy. That should satisfy his superiors. At least he wouldn't fail.
He was so intent on the target; the flutter of heavenly wings went unnoticed. As did the arrow aimed at him...until it pierced his heart.
And as he took his final breath, a message was delivered from the "enemy":
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