Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COFFEE BREAK / TEA BREAK (03/01/18)
- TITLE: In the Crosshairs
By Dennis Gallemore
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“Cates, you've been with the Firm for seven years. Before that, you spent six years in the military, the last two in special forces. Your record with them, and with us, has been exemplary.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Looking over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses, Massey cleared his throat. “One of our clients has need of your special talent.”
“You were one of the best snipers in the military. Our client has a threat to his business that needs to be eliminated.”
Dumbfounded, Cates stared at his boss. “I'm sorry, Sir; I'm afraid I don't understand.”
Massey leaned over his desk. “It's very simple, Cates. Our client needs a business rival eliminated. You are an expert sniper. You will carry out the wet work as ordered. Do you understand?”
Drawing in a deep breath, Cates slowly nodded. “Yes, Sir; I understand. What are the mission parameters?”
“Your final clearance to shoot will be 'coffee, break, tea, break.' The breaks will be exactly five seconds in length. When you hear that code, take the shot. Otherwise, hold until further orders.” Massey slid a flash drive across the desk, along with a thick envelope. “Everything you need to know is on the drive. Your airline tickets, etc. are in the envelope.” Sitting back, he stared hawkishly at Cates. “If you carry out this mission successfully, your career with our organization will soar. If not, well...”
Staring into Massey's cold dark eyes, Cates swallowed hard. “Yes, Sir.”
Sighting through the scope, Cates studied the platform as he baked in the Latin American heat. He watched the final two candidates to be the city's mayor as they sat waiting their turn at the lectern. The city's citizens thronged the streets, anxious to hear their choice for the upcoming election.
His target, one of two political rivals for city mayor, was also a business rival to the Firm's client. Elimination of the target at the political debate would, theoretically, cast the blame upon the target's rival political party in the highly charged political environment of the country. It was, Cates admitted to himself, a brilliant plan, for both the client and the Firm, but it was the worst possible plan for himself.
Fingering the cross hidden beneath his shirt, his thoughts drifted back in time. His days in the military had been honorable; he had defended his country many times, and with no regrets. Since he had taken a job with the Firm, a private security company, things hadn't been so clear. Seeking spiritual and moral direction, he had started attending a church near his apartment.
Releasing the metallic cross, he adjusted the scope one last time. Unbidden, the sixth commandment came to mind: “Thou shall not kill.” He shook his head. “I did kill though, didn't I? But I did so to defend my country! But this...” His earpiece crackled. “Coffee.” He counted off five seconds. “Tea.” Five seconds later, the earpiece went silent.
Staring through the scope, he watched as the target was introduced to the audience, his thoughts swirling. “This, this is murder.” He watched with troubled eyes as his target, accompanied by wild applause from the waiting crowd, stepped up to the podium. Shaking his head, he sighted through the scope and adjusted the aim slightly. Drawing in a deep breath, he held it. Slowly, he squeezed the trigger as cries of terror erupted from the courtyard below.
Sitting across the desk from Massey once more, Cates looked into the flashing eyes of his boss. “You thoroughly botched the job, Cates. You completely missed the target! How in the world could you have missed? Our client is furious, and, frankly, so am I! Needless to say, your future with our organization is in serious doubt.”
Cates rose from his chair, a wide grin on his face. Reaching inside his shirt, he pulled out the gleaming metallic cross, and placed it on the outside of his shirt. “No, Sir; it isn't. I quit.” Without a backward glance, he strode out of the office.
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