May 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm (The Job)

He wasn’t going to make it. He’d tried, dammit. He’d done his fucking best, but he could feel the bastard breathing down his neck. He’d been cocky. He’d made assumptions. They were going to kill him. That wasn’t an assumption, it was fact.

He should have taken the customary precautions. On any other job, he would have. This wasn’t like any other job. It was bigger. It was supposed to be his jump to the big leagues. It was supposed to put his name on the international map. He’d have been able to write his own ticket. He wouldn’t have needed the agency as much as they needed him. Now he would be dead and the job would be incomplete. They’d have to get someone else in to finish it.

He couldn’t feel his legs from the knees down.

He wasn’t entirely certain he had anything left from the knees down. He didn’t know what had hit him. He hadn’t heard a sound. One second he’d been running, feeling as though he’d made good his escape and the next thing he knew he was kissing the ground. The pain had been excruciating and then everything had gone to blessed numbness.

He’d cracked his head against the cement. He didn’t think he’d blacked out. A trickle of blood flowed over his left eye, obscuring his vision. He couldn’t move his arms. He thought that was strange, since he’d been hit in the legs. His brain was sluggish. It took him precious few seconds to process the fact that his entire body was no longer under his command.

They’d drugged him. Whatever had hit him in the legs had contained some sort of fast acting tranquilizer. He couldn’t feel from the knees down because that’s where the drug had been concentrated. Perhaps his legs were still intact. He couldn’t move them to find out.

The scrape of a shoe on cement quieted his thoughts. They were approaching. He knew there were two of them. He could hear two distinct types of breathing. One was deep and even, the other was less controlled.

“Hello, Jacob,” said the man with the less controlled breathing. His heart was racing faster than he cared for. He hadn’t thought his accomplice would be able to get the job done. He shouldn’t have doubted him.

“Who’s there?” Jacob demanded, the slack muscles of his face causing the words to slur together. He still couldn’t turn his head, could barely move his eyes enough to blink.

Footsteps echoed on the cement. One man came closer, walking around Jacob’s body and stood staring down at him. His shoes were a foot in front of the top of Jacob’s head. “What’s the matter, Jacob, having a little trouble focusing?”

He could focus quite clearly on the cement directly in front of his eyes, but he didn’t think that’s what the guy meant. Focus was a very large part of the job. From the moment a contract was accepted to the second he knew he’d successfully completed it and gotten away clean, everything he did took crystal clear focus. Without it, he’d still be one of the bottom feeders, doing the shit jobs. He’d killed dozens of unwanted wives, business partners, and heavily-insured parents to last a lifetime. He would never go back to those jobs. He’d worked hard to move up the ranks and earn the respect of the upper echelon.

He just had to keep his wits about him and maybe he’d be able to turn this situation around.

“Roll him over,” the mild voice demanded.

Jacob tried to make his arms work. He tried to shift on his own, to see his attackers, but his body still refused to cooperate. He felt a hand on his left arm. A swift, jolting pull rolled him onto his back. The darkness surrounding him made it difficult to see his attackers. A light appeared, strong and sharp, cutting through his head like a lance. The beam from the flashlight illuminated the area around him.  The halo of light filtered upward, pushing back a few of the shadows surrounding the men’s faces.

He could clearly see the man who had rolled him over. The face was not known to him. Still, it was a face he recognized. He knew the look of the man. He’d seen it in the mirror for the last decade. His was the face of a man who hunted people for a living. Whatever had been done to him, it had been done by this man. Angling his eyes upward, Jacob tried to focus on the man still standing above him.

Squinting as much as his frozen body would allow him to, Jacob brought the features into sharp relief. Jacob’s eyes widened slightly. His pupils dilated. He knew this man. Knew his face; knew his name. “Ingram?”

“Yes, Jacob, it’s me.”

“What are you doing here?” The words didn’t sound distinct to his ears, but Ingram must have gotten the gist.

“Cleaning up a mess I made. Why couldn’t you just get the job done, like you’d agreed?”

Jacob processed his question, but couldn’t form an answer. He knew with intense certainty that any half-formed plan to extricate himself from the situation had died the second he’d recognized Ingram. If Ingram was on-scene to clean up a mess, that meant the hitter had fucked up and needed to be terminated. Ingram was one of the agency’s best cleaners.

There wouldn’t be a single trace of him once Ingram was finished his job.

“It’s not right,” Jacob mumbled. The drugs were making it tougher for him to get the words out. It felt like his throat was closing over. “The hit. It’s not real.”

Ingram pulled his Glock from beneath his jacket and aimed it at Jacob’s head. “It’s very real,” he murmured before pulling the trigger.

The bullet struck Jacob between the eyes, shattering through the front of his skull and getting lost in a mess of brain matter. Ingram put his gun back into the holster tucked under his left arm. He studied the body a moment, mentally calculating the necessary arrangements for disposing of it. Jacob had been struck with strong enough tranquilizers to drop a rhino. Ingram hadn’t made the shot. He wasn’t good at distance work.

That’s what they paid Seth for.

One of their best hitters, Seth had been hunting Jacob since the day he’d taken the job. Initially, he’d been there to keep an eye on the job, to make sure it got done the way the agency needed it to. Once he’d recognized that Jacob had changed his loyalties, Seth had been tracking him and, ultimately, herding him to this final confrontation.

It took skill to track a man and not ever let him know you were there. It took cunning and ruthlessness to push and prod him exactly where you wanted him to be and then to shoot him just as he’s thinking he would get away. Ingram had started to believe that Jacob would get away. He’d started to sweat over that. He’d urged Seth to take the shot more than once, but Seth hadn’t wanted to rush it. Ingram knew better than to complain.

Ingram might be an accomplished cleaner and could handle himself with any close-in confrontations, but Seth could wait him out and pick him off at a distance. It wasn’t wise to anger a man like him. Besides, Ingram needed him. They’d have to find someone else to do the job and Seth would have to keep an eye on that person. And Ingram would have to be ready to clean up another mess, if he chose unwisely a second time.

He needed someone a little lower down on the food chain. He wanted someone who didn’t have as much experience, but still had enough skill to see the job done. Too much experience in this business made you cocky. Jacob had been cocky and that had gotten him killed. It had squeezed the agency’s schedule to the point of breaking, giving them almost no room for error.

If Ingram didn’t pick well this time, he’d be the one running from Seth’s masterful hunting skills. He didn’t put his chances of survival any higher than Jacob’s had been. Ingram had one last chance to see this job to its final outcome.

Thankfully, he knew just the person to finish it.


1 Comment

  1. runsfromclowns said,

    I love this. Great pacing! I don’t know about the prologue length either, it seems to vary a hell of a lot. Fantasy novels seem more liberal with length though… 😀

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