Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Bait and Prey

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Bait and Prey
Word Count: 596

Any asshole with three hundred dollars can have someone killed, but it will be done without panache, without poetry. But if you want to send a message, if you want to make a statement, that’s when you bring in someone like me.

I’m an assassin. The target is an assassin. You might think I’d have an aversion to killing another assassin because of some professional courtesy or something, but you’d be wrong. I just follow the money. We all do.

I take up my position on a rooftop. I assemble my rifle. I look down the scope and identify my target. I lay down for maximum stability. The target is in the cross hairs. I wait for the clean shot.

The target is in the middle of a crowd. He has three bodyguards. In a moment, he’s going to receive a phone call. Then a bullet is going to split his forehead and he is going to drop like a sack of wet cement while two hundred bystanders look on in horror. That’s a message. That’s a statement.

I pull a drop phone out of my pocket and call the number. The target reaches into his own pocket and answers. He’s a hundred yards away, but we’re going to have a little conversation, because that’s what the man who hired me wanted. That’s a statement.

“Hello?” he says.

“Now you know what it’s like to be hunted,” I say. It’s a prepared line. A little cheesy, I know.

The target is not panicking. Good for him. He begins to look around for me. It takes him all of five seconds. “That’s a good roof to set up on. It’s not the one I would have chosen.”

“Which would you have chosen?” I ask.

“Something less vulnerable,” he says. “The difference between bait and prey is very subtle.”

I smile.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to negotiate.” The target is staring right at me as he speaks. I do not let this unnerve me. “I could make it worth your while.”

“That wouldn’t be very professional,” I say. “Would you have ever entertained a counter-offer?”

“It would depend on who I was working for,” says the target.

“I don’t discriminate,” I say.

“You should,” says the target. “I don’t suppose I could tempt you to grant me some sort of professional courtesy.”

“You’re joking.”

“Call me old-fashioned,” says the target. “It would seem that this is goodbye, then.”

“It is,” I say.

I feel the first shot before I hear it. My knee explodes. It’s a good thing I’m already laying down.

Someone is screaming. Me, possibly.

“Hello? Hello?”

I look at the phone where I’ve dropped it. The man on the phone is trying to get my attention.

“Hello?”

I punch the button for speaker. “Hello,” I croak.

“Oh, there you are,” he says. “I wanted to offer you some advice, on the chance that you survive and wish to continue in this line of work.”

I don’t say anything.

“But then, I guess I’ve already told you. First, make sure your position isn’t vulnerable. Next, pay attention to whom you’re working for. This is good advice, don’t you think?”

I don’t say anything.

“Tongue-tied? That’s understandable.”

I grunt an agreement. I glance down at my leg. The kneecap is shattered, and there’s a lot of blood.

“And finally, and this is perhaps the most important,” he says. “Always remember: It’s a subtle difference between bait and prey.”

I watch him drop his phone into a trash can and walk away.

Edited by Carolyn "My Brain Is Trying To See It And Failing" Abram.

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