Allan McCarville woke to the touch of a hand on his shoulder. There was a tall, light-haired man dressed all in black standing next to his bed, holding a snubnose gun.
McCarville fought down a burst of panic, held onto control. He hadn’t innovated his way to the top of the personal electronics industry without learning to hold his emotions in check when they were inconvenient.
He glared up at the intruder. “Who the hell are you?”
“Your assassin. Mind if I sit?”
Confused but unwilling to show it, McCarville waved the intruder over to a chair and switched on the lamp on the bedside table. In the light, he noticed his large window was open just a crack. Had the intruder come in that way? Interesting. McCarville lived in a penthouse…the intruder would have had to scale the side of the building to reach the rooftop outside the window.
“Thanks.” Spells took out a cigarette with his free hand, put it in his mouth, and then reached for a lighter. “Want a smoke?”
McCarville shook his head.
“Well, anyway, I want one. Gotta confess, I’m a little nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. Talk to my victim, I mean.”
“Aren’t you being a little presumptuous calling me a victim?” McCarville’s palms were starting to sweat. He surreptitiously rubbed them on the bedsheets.
The intruder looked at him evenly. “Mr. McCarville, I woke you up, sir. If I’d wanted you dead before I had a chance to talk with you, don’t you think I could have done it?”
Hard to argue, under the circumstances. McCarville nodded.
“I should be straight with you. There’s another reason you’re not dead right now. The person who hired me doesn’t want it to happen until at least 3 pm tomorrow.”
“3 pm?” Then McCarville realized. “You mean, during tomorrow’s board meeting.”
“My orders are, you enter that boardroom on your feet, and you leave it in a body bag.”
“Thanks for telling me,” McCarville said. “That makes it easy to be somewhere else. Maybe I’ll call my assistant first thing tomorrow morning, have her book that vacation I’ve been meaning to take for the past twelve years.”
“You’re assuming, of course,” returned the intruder, “that she’s not the one who hired me.”
McCarville had no good answer to that.
“I guess you won’t understand this,” said the intruder, “but I felt like I had to meet you. To let you know how good I am, how good a job I’ve done. You’re a smart guy, you know what it takes to be the best, to do a job well. So I figured maybe you’d get me in a way. I get hired to take out people who are hard to take out. Trust fund babies, they aren’t really my thing. I’m into CEOs, ambassadors, politicians. You know, the hard ones. Nothing ever personal, strictly business. It takes work, and talent.” He smiled ruefully. “But none of you has ever been around long enough to appreciate my efforts.”
“Maybe if you didn’t do such a good job eliminating your audience,” McCarville said.
The intruder laughed. “Well, if I didn’t, I’d be out of a job, huh?”
“So you came over to my place, and you broke in at—“ McCarville snuck a glance at the clock next to the lamp. “—twelve past three in the morning to let me know that you’re going to kill me and I’m in deep trouble. Because you want some sort of validation. Well, you’ve got a gun in your hand, I guess I’m going to listen to you. So tell me…”
“Tell me, Eric, just how well and truly screwed I am.”
And so Eric told McCarville everything. He knew the layout of the boardroom, the entrances and the exits, the view from the windows and what positions in the buildings across the street would be most advantageous for a shot from a sniper rifle. He knew who was catering the meeting, and informed McCarville of eight easy ways to kill him utilizing knowledge of just that one fact. He knew how to plant a bomb in the boardroom to make it look intentional, or just the right amount of incendiary material if he wanted the assassination to look like a smoking accident. He knew which board members were coming from where, and how to arrange for them to be the instrument of McCarville’s demise. “And the method I’ve selected,” said Eric, “it isn’t even any of those. I’ve set them all aside as backups, and I’ll use one if I have to… but I want something special for you.”
McCarville nodded slowly. “Yes, I see it now. You’ve made sure I have absolutely no chance.”
A few minutes later, Eric left by the window. As he stepped outside, he waved the gun in McCarville’s direction and said, “Don’t do anything stupid like call the police. It won’t help.”
“I don’t waste my time on futile gestures,” said McCarville.
Another smile, and then Eric was gone.
McCarville immediately picked up his bedroom phone and made two calls. The first was to his office, telling his secretary to book him a vacation to Hawaii, to begin ASAP. The second was to a shady acquaintance of his, who knew how to do questionable jobs while asking no questions.
“Tallish guy, blond hair, no distinguishing features, reasonably handsome,” McCarville said. “Had a Detective Special on him. Probably a skilled assassin. Might be named Eric, or might simply use that as an alias. Given some things he said, I’d bet it’s the former. Do you know who I’m talking about, or can you find out?”
“I know the guy,” came the reply.
“Fine,” McCarville said. “Do whatever you have to do, money no object, but I want him taken care of by tomorrow morning, understand?”
McCarville hung up the phone and went back to bed. Sorry, Eric, he thought. Strictly business.
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