“What would you being willing to kill and innocent person for?”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #109 — The picture above
Word of the Day Challenge — Free
Pensitivity’s three things challenge – Displeasure – Laugh – Wish
The problem with having certain talents and skills is you become a coveted commodity. Sergeant Howard Mellinger had one such skill. Over the last twenty years, he’d been a SAS sniper. He could hit a target at a thousand feet for fun. Today that sniper training would bring him a lot of displeasure.
Keller, his daughter had not returned home from school. Instead, Howard’s phone rang in a recorded message. It began with Keller screaming then a man spoke, ‘Howard Mellinger, you will head for the city clocktower. You will find a SAS L96 sniper rifle waiting for you. At precisely 5:30 PM a limousine will stop outside the City Hall. The Prime Minister will disembark and head inside. You will shoot him before he disappears. If he lives your daughter will die. If he dies Keller will go free and unharmed’
Howard replayed the message over and over until the veins bulged in his temples. It was quite clear somebody within the SAS was trying to manipulate him into murdering the Prime Minister. Whoever he was, he’d just signed his death sentence instead. Howard pulled his sniper gloves over the tattoo of a Wolf on his wrist and left to complete his mission.
4:15 PM. Howard stood in the shadow of the big brass bell. He was relieved to see the bell couldn’t chime. A note showed mechanics had to renovate the mechanics in the coming days. In complete silence, he scanned the marketplace. A person could buy anything from fresh vegetables, meat products, and pastries to tools, flowers, clothing and accessories, and much more besides beneath those colourful awnings. Directly below the Clocktower was a café. Twenty-two of its twenty-four outside tables were hidden beneath blue-and-white spiral-patterned parasol umbrellas. The effect was dizzying from twelve storeys up.
The left and right sides of the square were dominated by shops and banks all behind the Victorian façades of the historic square. Beyond the market was the 1930s redbrick City Hall. An ugly building where uglier deals were made daily. As a SAS soldier, Howard new dirty money changed hands regularly to ensure rich people got what they didn’t deserve. The Prime Minister’s limousine would pull up between the two lion statues and allow the country’s leader to walk up the marble steps in little over an hour.
4:35 PM Howard gazed upon people going about their days. They were oblivious to the events about to unfold. He watched a woman clutching her pushchair and controlling and two other school-children. It was all he could do to stop himself shouting and telling her to get them to safety. The fear wasn’t that he’d miss and hit them, it came from not knowing what would happen if he failed to shoot the Prime Minister.
5 PM the sniper felt himself growing ever tense in the bell tower. The number of people milling about had decreased to a safer level. Howard looked at his hands; they were shaking. Something they never did before he wielded the long barrel of the sniper rifle on a battlefield. The grey weapon had been set upon a small tripod, aiming at the City Hall doors. The clip contained just two bullets. Not much room for error.
5:10 PM, twenty minutes to go. Howard played his eyes over the square. His attention was grabbed by the window above an electronics store. Not lingering, he focused on a contingent of police officers fanning out to prepare for the Prime Minister’s arrival. This was no civic event so crowds weren’t expected. Still, in the age of terrorism, no chance would be taken.
5:20 PM ten minutes to go. Howard walked around the bell and crouched behind the rifle. He adjusted his gloves over his angel tattoo and gazed down the scope of the deadly weapon.
5:25 PM five minutes to go. The phone rang in his pocket causing him to flinch. “Howard speaking.”
‘I see you in the tower. Make the shot in five minutes or Keller dies.’ The man let out a vindictive laugh.
“No matter the outcome, your death wish gets you killed today!” Howard hung up took a deep breath and began to focus, readying himself to murder an innocent man for the first time in his life.
5:28 PM showtime. The limousine rolled sedately into the square with a police escort. It’s black and bullet-proof windows revealing nothing of those inside. Howard followed its progress, waiting for the moment it would come to a stop.
5:29 PM Feathering the trigger, with his eye glued to the scope. The sniper watched the limousine’s brake lights come on. It stopped exactly in front of the steps. The chauffeur emerged decked out in his grey suit and cap. With a white-gloved hand, he opened the rear door with a regal bow. There he was. Unfolding himself from the luxury car was the Prime Minister. His woolly white hair unmistakable even from seven-hundred feet away.
5:30 PM Howard hit the redial button on his phone.
‘This is no time to call me. Kill him now,’ said Keller’s abductor.
“Watch your arse!” Howard said before hanging up.
The abductor spun with shock twisting his features.
“Hello, Brindle you son of bitch!” Howard was stood in the doorway of the bedsit above the electronics store. Raising two fingers, he leapt off the bed and crashed into the man stood at the window. “Assassination over — you lose!”
Brindle felt his back break the window as he recoiled and caught Howard with an elbow. “But you’re still in the tower, how?”
Howard felt his lip split but barely reacted as he landed punches to Brindle’s stomach and jaw. “Welcome to my world of illusion!” Seizing the man by the head, he hurled him into the wardrobe; dismantling the doors with a vicious crunch. “See — those doors just disappeared.”
Brindle crawled from the wardrobe only to find Howard’s boot pressing down on his neck.
“Where’s Keller?” he demanded to know.
“Dad! I’m in here!”
“Hello, sweetheart. You’re safe now. Can you come to me?” Howard saw a flash of silver and leapt off Brindle’s neck. He brought his foot crashing down on the man’s right hand. A knife skittered away under the bed as his knuckles cracked under the pressure.
“No, I’m tied up and my feet are tingling,” Keller replied tearfully.
“Argh! Daddy won’t save you. He failed me and got you kill—”
Howard lashed out with the boot kicking the man into unconsciousness. Wasting no time, he used multiple zip ties to bind his arms and legs. Moving into the bathroom he discovered Keller tied to the toilet. “I’m so sorry, Keller. Let’s get you out of here,” he said as he began cutting away her binds. At the same time, police officers burst in through the door.
“Sergeant Mellinger is everything okay?” said the first brandishing a Taser.
“The scumbag in charge of the assassination is on the floor. He’s Commander Malik Brindle. I had the displeasure of him being my old superior. I always knew he had a dark heart; I just never knew how dark,” Howard explained having returned to the main room with Keller in his arms.
“Miss Keller, it’s a relief to see you alive and well,” said the officer. “Your daddy did a remarkable thing in not shooting the Prime Minister today and catching your abductor in the process.”
“That’s because my dad is a hero.” Keller gave a watery smile as she hugged him.
“Your dad’s a traitorous coward, he always has been!” seethed Brindle from the floor. “How did you get here while still in the tower? How did you fool me?”
Howard grinned. “I walked around the bell you, pillock,” was all he said before leaving the building.
“What did you mean, dad?” Keller asked as they emerged into the square and walked beneath the blue-and-white spiral umbrellas.
“I was supposed to shoot the Prime Minister from up there.” Howard indicated the Clocktower and gave a salute.
“Ha-ha! Mission accomplished, partner!” yelled a man in the belltower. He stood dressed exactly as Howard had been. “Pleasure to see you, Miss Keller!” he added with a salute of his own.
“Missing complete, Graves. Thank you, my friend, I owe you. Any time you need help, just call.” Howard walked on through the square. “You see, when I walked around the bell, Graves took my position at the rifle. Meanwhile, I slipped down to free you. Now, let’s go get a pizza, I’m starving!”
Have a great day!