Interlude - Pigeons
by D.C. Logan
Time slowed and his focus racked in on his target. As it always did. He shrugged into his jacket, a size small and perfectly secure across his shoulders. He tightened the straps at wrists, elbows, and across his torso. Pulling each closure one step beyond snug. Bondage of the best variety. He adjusted the amber glasses on his face—he'd cleaned them carefully before he worked his shooting jacket on. The baseball cap he'd stolen from Duo completed the ensemble, and he tugged it down to block out the extra light creeping in around his vison.
He picked up his partner for the next half hour. She was long, sleek, dangerous, and he'd spent hours customizing her to his precise needs. It was a subtle conceit of his—but he'd spent so many hours with his rifle that it had earned a name: Sedona. His tool. He stroked the sculpted stock with something approaching affection. He pulled on membrane-thin gloves and pulled the tips of the fingers to ease the tension there. After moving to the edge of the window frame, he used his small optic mirror to check the park. His target had been punctual to a fault over the past three days. He gave a mental toast to the gods of predictability.
He didn't know much about this week's paycheck. Some hits required legwork and background work, this one was simpler than most. Some middle-level politico who needed to take a long vacation so one of her subordinates could move up the food chain. Not his problem, he considered himself a solution—and was well paid for the service.
He checked his watch. It was a warm day, his window was open a spare handspan, and his sandbag was in place on the sill. It was birdseed instead of sand; just as stable and not as heavy. He lofted Sedona from her foam nest, and slid her scope neatly into place along the reverse ridge. He tightened it down with a small wrench retained specifically for that purpose—balancing the weight of the rifle on the shaft to apply the corect torque. Heero pulled her into his shoulder to verify that the adjustment was perfect. She settled into his face like a gentle lover—the composite stock pleasantly cool against his skin. He placed her on the chair and walked a circuit of the room; stretching his shoulders as far as the coat would allow; popping joints and tight cartilage in the process. His stride had a lift to it, and he coaxed his gait to settle and his bones to relax in preparation for his work. In ten minutes his work would be done. It beat the hell out of a desk job.
He pulled his ammunition from a shielded case. He had it custom made to his own specifications. The guy who made it for him had made a killing selling more of the same recipe to other enthusiasts. Heero smiled slightly at his unintentional pun. He slid a single round into the chamber after carefully inspecting it for any visible imperfections. And checked his target zone again. He could buy dinner with what that single round had cost him. It was a good thing that he didn't have to practice often to maintain his form.
He ran through his private meditation—and started his chest-deep slow breathing. It generally took him seven minutes to slow his heart rate down to where he could control it. His unique ability gave him an edge over many of the other professionals "working" on earth or in space. Control was, after all, everything. Especially in this profession.
He concentrated on anticipating the path his target would take, and, one knee on the floor, the other supporting his elbow; he rested the muzzle on the bag and eased the muzzle even with the exterior wall. His body slumped and his muscles relaxed, letting gravity take hold and give him stability. He found that point in the earth ten meters below him and mentally anchored into it—and felt his body relax further into the support of the coat and his body within it.
He listened to his heart. He'd always found the process of shooting incredibly relaxing. There was little room to process external stimuli. He focused instead on the internal. He concentrated on feeling the pulse of his blood through his body, watching the rhythmic changing pressure of the fluid in his wrist shift the crosshairs of his electronic scope up and down slightly in regular rhythm. He let his breath out in a long sigh, and held it—watching the crosshairs settle and still. All marksmen time their shots between heartbeats; with his control, he had the luxury of taking his shot whenever he chose.
He squeezed slowly; he liked a bit of take-up on his trigger and had adjusted it accordingly. The moment held and paused for him. And he relaxed his finger lest it develop a cramp. And watched and waited for his paycheck to arrive.
She entered the north-side park two minutes late, as reckoned by his internal clock (always accurate despite what Duo said). She was alone, and carrying a briefcase in one hand and a bag in the other. Lunch. It was Tuesday, so it would be from Hugo's. She was a creature of habit, and it would ultimately cause her downfall. Predictable actions made for easy targets. She would walk down the path without acknowledging anyone. She would sit on the edge of the second bench from the fountain. And she would be his.
He waited until she walked into his trap, and gently squeezed his finger towards his hand. His sharpened senses split the moment into distinct parts. He heard the firing pin impact the base of the cartridge and the muffled thrum of the round spinning through his custom silencer, and felt his shoulder absorb the recoil—lessened considerably by the customized absorbent stock he'd built.
He didn't need to keep his scope-augmented eye on the target to know he'd placed the shot perfectly. She would remain, slumped bonelessly against the park bench until an observant passer by would wonder why she didn't react. It might be a minute or two, or hours from now. She had worn her red suit today—a stroke of unexpected luck in his favor.
Leaving the window, he broke down Sedona with an economy of motion and an ease that bespoke a long familiarity with the difficult task. She slipped quietly away into her fitted case piece by deadly piece. The attache case secured with a soft click. Heero removed the shooting jacket, glasses, and gloves—exchanging them for a businessman's best. A business suit was the world's best passport—ordinary, expected—instant background. He rolled up the tools of his trade and stuffed them into the bottom of a local department store's bag. And then the crowning touch, he placed a brightly wrapped gift on the top of his tools where it would distract the eye down. No one would remember the businessman leaving to do shopping at lunch, and if they did, they'd remember a bag with a gift in it—not his face or features. Misdirection: the other useful tool.
He left the room—careful to leave it as he'd found it—and walked down the flight of stairs to the lobby. He looked at his watch and moved quickly out the front door and down the street towards the west-side park—obviously on his way to an important meeting. Or so anyone who noticed him would think.
He had a destination in mind.
He had birdseed in his bag.
It was time to feed the pigeons.