She was a beautiful woman.
In the crosshairs of the 10-40×50 rifle scope her jet black hair waved like some erotic siren in the morning breeze. She stood, facing two men, in a black dress that revealed long, sculptured legs. And white heels. The heels lifted her and sculptured the legs even more.
Lips, even from this distance and through the scope, glistened with a kind of sensual invitation. Around a shockingly narrow waist she wore a white leather belt. White on black—with just a touch of bright red—completed the picture. In the scope she looked like fantasy. Something unattainable. A vision any man would lust for.
Lifting a hand up he adjusted the scope to compensate for the slight cross wind blowing from his right to left. A little over 900 yards. So far away the bullet would arrive before the crack of the gunshot. Removing his hand from the scope he gently clasped the plastic grip of the .408 caliber sniper’s rifle and settled himself in comfortably. Gently, like a lover caressing his latest conquest, the right index finger extended and barely touched the wide trigger.
Too bad someone had to die today. Too bad she got herself involved with the wrong people. Too bad there was no other way to bring this dirty little mess to any other conclusion. Too bad.
Through the scope he watched her. Saw her laughing at someone’s joke. Saw the casual, relaxed way she moved among the two men. Saw the heavy briefcase she gripped casually in her right hand.
He had to compensate for the slow roll of the large fishing boat he was using as a shooting platform 900 yards out in the bay. But the waves gently rocking the expensive craft were constant and could be anticipated. This far out on the blue waters of the bay he was far removed from the normal boaters coming into or exiting the cove where the wharf she stood, jutted out into the water.
Softly the tip of his index finger on the trigger began to apply a little pressure. The ugly machine in his hands . . . custom designed and built by a friend . . . was accurate out to 1,300 yards. Just the blue steel of a bull barrel, a finely machined firing bolt, a built-in shooting bipod, the plastic shoulder pad with its built-in shock absorbing system. And the big scope.
When the gun in his arms belched fire and thunder he hardly felt a thing. Not waiting to see if his bullet hit the target he slipped off the top of the fishing boat’s cabin and stepped into the cabin and started the boat’s powerful Chrysler engines. Slowly turning the wheel to one side he got the boat moving. Not too fast to draw attention. Not too slow.
Behind him, far away, he thought he heard the wail of sirens.
Too bad. Just too bad . . .
” . . . it has to be done, Smitty. She has to be the leak. She’s the only one who knows where all the skeletons are hidden. No one else does. Take her out and we seal the leak. We seal the leak and we stay out of prison. Simple as that.”
Simple as that.
Standing at the desk, in an office large enough to be some abdicated dictator’s throne room, he stood holding the color 8×10 photo of a beautiful raven haired woman dressed in a very skimpy bikini at the prow of a very expensive yacht. Hair blowing in the wind. A hand up to a cheek in an effort to move a sliver of raven hair from his eyes. Beautiful. Long limbed. Stunningly attractive legs. A figure that would make a eunuch grown in regret.
Dropping the picture onto the desk, eyes as black as the soul of the living dead looked up at the man sitting in the high backed leather chair on the other side. He was holding a very expensive cigar to his lips. Lips that were molded into an irritating little smirk. Dressed in a three piece Egyptian cotton suit, he looked like a very successful corporate lawyer. Which in fact the was. The lawyer part. But one who worked for a crime boss by the name of Jesus Galanti.
“Galanti wants this done?”
The man with the black eyes spoke in a soft whisper. But a whisper that could send chills down a spine. Or even make a criminal confess to the cops voluntarily the moment he heard the dark eyed man’s name was interested in him.
“He wants the leak plugged, Smitty. A grand jury is breathing down his neck and the Feds have two task forces assigned to try and bring him down. Someone is leaking information to the Feds. Information only two or three people in the organization would know. She’s Galanti’s accountant. She’s got her finger in every money stream our employer is involved in. It has to be her.”
Howard Hensley was not a corporate lawyer. He was a well known criminal lawyer who had a reputation of taking on the more photogenic, therefore the most newsworthy, cases. Everyone knew he liked defending the really big mob bosses in cases that might involve a six o’clock news sound bite.
“When?” Smitty asked quietly, looking down at the photo of the woman again.
“As soon as you can,” Hensley grinned, pushing himself forward and reaching for an envelope on his well manicured desk. “Here’s some money for expenses. But don’t take too long. The grand jury convenes bright and early this coming Monday. If she’s their star witness and she isn’t around to testify the Feds will have nothing on Galanti. So it’s imperative she’s removed from the scene no later than Sunday night.”
Smitty took the heavy envelope and slid it into an inside pocket of his dark gray sport coat. Eyeing the lawyer for a moment he nodded then slipped the photo off the desk and pocketed it as well.
“The problem will be resolved by Sunday night. Tell Galanti he can sleep soundly tonight.”
Hensley painted that irritating smirk on his gray lips and nodded before reaching for the fat Cuban cigar. For his part the dark eyed hit man said nothing but turned and walked out of the large office. Taking the elevator down to the ground floor he slipped the photo of the woman out and gazed at her intently.
Two hours later he was knocking on the door of a large condo. Dressed in the coveralls of an electrician and gripping a large metal took box in one hand he waited for the woman’s maid to open it. But when the door opened it wasn’t the Hispanic maid. Eyes dropping down Smitty looked into the smiling face of a seven year old, raven haired little boy.
“Hi!” the boy said, smiling wide, green eyes bright as he looked up at the dark eyed man. “You’ve come to fix the lights?”
“Madre de dios! Robbie, Robbie! You shouldn’t do that! Open the door to strangers like that!” the short, squat woman of indeterminate age cackled like an angry hen as she hurried to the boy, stepped in front of him and bodily moved him to stand directly behind her. “Pardon, senor. But the boy has no fear of strangers whatsoever. None! He drives his mother to tears and gives me high blood pressure every time he does this! But, how can I help you?”
Smitty, with blue contact lenses hiding his eyes and a body suit on underneath the overalls to give the appearance of a man fifty pounds heavier and definitely out of shape, smiled and shrugged.
“Got two boys of my own, lady. They drive me crazy as well. But I hope they never change. The super called and said you were having trouble with the electricity?”
“Trouble?” the maid said, her face melting into a simple puzzle. “The only trouble we’re having is the switch in the kitchen. Sometimes it doesn’t work.”
“That might be the problem,” the disguised man said, nodding firmly. “The super said you were having a problem with something and asked me to stop by and check it out. Doing this on my lunch hour, lady. Helping a friend out. Can I come in and check it out?”
“Sure!” the boy chirped, head sticking from and grinning as he looked up at Smitty. “Can I watch you fix it? Please?”
“Well,” the maid hesitated, looking indecisive, but then shrugging and shaking her head in confusion. “I should call the senorita first. But if you can fix the kitchen light she will be very pleased. So come in, come in! Let us close the door before someone else comes!”
Smitty, disguised, smiled and half turned to briefly glance at the condo’s security camera high on the wall of the hallway. He wanted to make sure whoever was watching. . . if anyone was watching . . . got a clear look at his altered face and physique.
If the Feds were tapping into the security cameras he wanted them to chase ghosts. If someone else was watching . . .
He didn’t know about the faulty kitchen light switch. But he believed in serendipity. Walking straight to the kitchen, the dark haired boy following on his heels, he sat the took box down on a kitchen counter top and opened it.
Forty-five minutes. That’s all it took. Forty-five minutes to electronically sweep the apartment. Forty-five minutes to discover the place was heavily bugged. Electronic bugs in the kitchen, the living room, the master bedroom. High tech wireless bugs the Feds favored. Smiling, the boy at his side talking his head off and watching everything he did, Smitty didn’t touch the bugs. But he did plant a couple of his own. Sent the boy back to the kitchen to get him a glass of water each time he sat one. One in the woman’s bedroom. One in the little office just off her bedroom.
He even found the problem with the kitchen light switch. One of the wires was hanging by a strand or two of bare copper wire. With the quick efficiency of a man who knew what he was doing he cut the damaged piece off, peeled the plastic covering off another section of the wiring, and rewired the switch.
Both the boy and the maid cheered and clapped when he flipped the switch on and the light came on bright and clear. Saying his goodbyes he walked to the door and left. The boy with the green eyes and raven black hair following him out of the condo and all the way down the carpeted hall to the elevator. Constantly talking.
When the elevator doors closed and the boy said goodbye, Smitty stared at himself in the polished chrome steel of the elevator walls. On the face he couldn’t recognize himself was a quiet, almost forlorn mask. There had once been a time he had a wife. Once, a long time ago, they talked about having kids. But the wife was gone. And there was no thought about kids. Until now.
Three blocks away from the woman’s condo he handed the uniform and electric repairman’s truck back to an acquaintance he knew and climbed into his black Caddy CTS-V. Driving away, watching in the rear view mirror the real electrician staring down at the five brand new one hundred dollar bills in his right hand in surprise, he smiled and turned at a corner and disappeared from view. Glancing at the Rolex on his wrist, he thought he’d make the next stop in time. But he had to hurry.
There too he found the office heavily bugged with the Feds wireless technology. This time he momentarily forced the security cameras of Smith & Dane’s Accounting office to experience a momentary glitch. Enough of a glitch for him to slip through a ground floor window and enter the woman’s private office unobserved. It took just three minutes to find the bugs and to install his own.
One other place he had to go before his surveillance routine was completed. It took even less time than it took installing the bugs in the woman’s office. Driving away from the wharf he reached to his right and inserted the ear plug into his left ear and then on the little black box setting in the passenger’s seat he selected a number on a small dial.
And began listening.
It didn’t take him long. Thanks to the pleasant but lengthy conversation with the woman’s son he had an idea where to look. All it took was forty eight hours. And then he took the shot . . .
. . . three hours after his target went down.
Standing in front of the door of the woman’s condo with a large bouquet of red roses cradled in one arm. The moment his finger removed from the doorbell she opened the door and looked straight into his eyes.
Raven black hair. Green olive colored eyes. Now red rimmed from her two hours of grieving.
“Yes?” she said, tissue in one hand and her voice shaky.
“Mommy, who is it?”
The boy’s voice. Still bright and fearless. Still so constantly curious. A smile played across his thin lips. To be that way again. Constantly curious. Bright. Fearless. Instead he was . . .. What?
“Mrs. Dane, a friend of ours asked me to drop by and bring you these.”
For a moment the woman’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch in a sharp pang of fear. Glancing at the roses and then up into the plain, ordinary face of the man standing in the doorway dressed in a sport coat and slacks, she made herself relax and stepped out into the hall.
Smitty handed the roses to her and glanced past her at the boy. His hand reached inside the left pocket of his sport coat. Fingers wrapped around a small black box as his thumb pushed in a small button in the middle of the device.
No one noticed it except those who were eavesdropping. Suddenly their microphones erupted in a screeching noise so loud people wearing ear phones and listening in had to throw them off violently in an effort to save their eardrums. The condo building’s security cameras became a sea of white fuzz so thick nothing could be discerned clearly.
The electronic counter-measures would last only a couple of minutes. Enough time for him to get his message across to the beautiful woman.
“Mrs. Dane, my name is Smitty. I am a professional hitman. Two days ago Howard Hensley paid me a lot of money to kill you. He wanted to convince his boss and your employer, Jesus Galanti, that you were the one who was leaking information to the FBI. By killing you he thought all suspicions would be thrown off of him.”
Color drained from her face. Tears filled beautiful olive green eyes and began streaking down her cheeks. But she turned silently, pushed her son back into living room of the condo, and closed the door firmly before turning to look at the man standing in the hall with her.
“You killed Howard?”
“We do not have time for questions and answers, Mrs. Dane. Not if you and your son want to live. As I see, right now you have two very serious problems. The FBI has your condo and your office bugged. They’re trying to wrap you up into their little web of deceit just like they did with Hensley. Problem number two is Galanti. He’s furious his number two man was gunned down. He thinks another mob boss ordered the hit. I think I can eventually convince Galanti it was your boyfriend who was the leak. But it will take time. Right now it is imperative you and your son leave town.”
One of Smitty’s hands came up. Between index finger and thumb was a plain white 3×5 lined card. On it was a name followed by the number five. Reflexively the beautiful woman took the card from his hand and glanced down at it.
“That’s the name of a wharf across town. The slip number is on it. Be there in one hour, Mrs. Dane. The two of you. I can get you out of town to a place that is safe for you and your son. You can stay there until all this blows over. But you must decide now. I can do no more.”
Glancing up to the security camera Smitty turned and walked away. Leaving the beautiful woman standing in the silence of the condo’s hall . . .
. . . Howard Hensley shouldn’t have given him the photo of the woman in the skimpy bikini standing on the prow of a beautiful yacht. His yacht. He shouldn’t have dismissed his lieutenant’s pleas not to use a cell phone . . . even if it was a cheap over the counter throwaway . . . and talk to the Feds while on the boat. For all his flash and show time photogenic showmanship he wasn’t a very smart man. It didn’t take long for the dark eyed man to figure it out. The Feds had come calling on Howard Hensley. They had a noose around his neck but didn’t want to corral him just yet. They wanted to play him and hope they could eventually hang Jesus Galanti.
The bullet hit Hensley in the back of the head. Mrs. Dane and the other man she was with were twenty yards away when Hensley went down. And as he had predicted, the bullet hit the target before the faint crack of a rifle going off somewhere came to their ears.
No one thought about looking out into the bay at the large fishing boat slowly trawling the waters a mile away, half a dozen big ocean-going fishing poles rising up expectantly hoping for a big catch.