A Christmas Story
A snow flake drifted down in front of his face. It was cold up on Samuel’s perch and he was high enough for the wind to blast him unabated. Misery was a normal part of the job so he wasn’t going to complain. If there was anything to cause Samuel to bitch and moan it was the frost on his scope. How was a man supposed to get a good bead on his target if he couldn’t see him?
Samuel was a meticulous planner. He had come prepared for the inevitability of winter’s kiss on his optics. The one minor detail he had missed prevented him from using the defrosting spray. The hiss of the aerosol can discharging would echo through the glass and steel urban canyon. He was forced to breathe his warm breath on the lens and wipe it with his shirt cuff. It wasn’t a good plan at all.
The door he’d kept his gun trained on opened. Two men in black suits and dark glasses lumbered out. They looked up and down the street. From where he was, Samuel could see thick veins protruding from their exposed necks. They made gorillas look petite. None of their combined six-hundred-or-so pounds of muscle would save them from his lead. Fortunately for them, he was there for other game.
The meat heads ushered out a man in a thick tan coat. Time slowed. He released his breath and allowed the natural pause of his exhalation to linger longer than normal. His finger tightened on the trigger and gently squeezed it back until it reached the point of no return. The riffle rammed back into his shoulder. Samuel held it steady, acting as if the recoil was nonexistent. He released the trigger and, completing the task, drew a new breath.
This was the best part; when men came from the woodwork, and orderly confusion filled the void left by the calm that had permeated the air moments ago. Men darter about seeking the attacker. The first two men Samuel had set his sights on grabbed the body and set it into the limo. The car sped off, leaving black streaks on the slate Grey cement. In the old days, when Samuel worked for Uncle Sam, he would take advantage of the situation and go for targets of opportunity. Body count was a military snipers bread and butter. Being an independent contractor suited him well. He worked for the same people more or less but with a large pay hike. Surgical precision kept him employed these days.
While he enjoyed the show, Samuel broke down his fifty caliber rifle. He knew there was at least an hour’s worth of weapon maintenance in his future, and he was okay with that. Keeping his rifle in optimal condition remained the most important part of his job. The last kill defined his skill. A well-oiled weapon allowed his skills to shine.
The brownstone stood seven stories tall. The fifth floor provided stone gargoyles which proved to be excellent vantage points. The tenants of the apartment in question had won a trip to the Keys for the holidays. Samuel’s employer had unlimited resource. Once he told them the apartment number they set it all into motion.
The window caught half way down. Samuel spent a little more time than he would have liked unjamming the frame, but it was imperative that the tenants found everything to be just the way they left it.
Slinging the guitar case containing the rifle over his shoulder, he scooped up the brief case that awaited him in the apartment. The usual amount, plus the additional holiday pay, would be inside.
Screams from the hallway assaulted his ears when Samuel opened the door. A man and woman shouted loud enough to be heard through their own door. Samuel maintained a strict No Intervention policy. Other people’s business stayed their own. Not even the interruption of the meaty, flesh-on-flesh soundtrack would make him violate that policy.
As he neared the apartment where the cacophony emanated, the door burst open. The sound of the knob cracking dry wall echoed through the hall. A little boy fell out of the apartment, landing on his hind quarters and sliding into the wall.
The boy couldn’t have been more than five. He didn’t let out a sound sitting where he landed with his shoulders shaking and tears streaming down his red cheeks. The kid was strong, Samuel could appreciate that. Unfortunately for the young tike it spoke of a hard life. Samuel was a strong kid as well. He never talked about his childhood.
As Samuel passed the open apartment, he saw a tall round man with his hands balled into massive fists facing a petite fair-skinned woman. The woman stood on her toes and pointed the tip of a kitchen knife at the man’s face. The woman screamed out in pain. “Point a fucking knife at me, bitch?”
“No—” Her scream was cut short.
Samuel kept walking, the elevator just a few feet away.
“You better live long enough to watch me gut your bastard son, bitch.”
Samuel stopped. The woman was dead or dying and he, was fine with that. She made the decisions that put her in that apartment at that fated moment. It was all on her, and he felt no guilt over ignoring the situation. There was a line, however, that Samuel wouldn’t cross. If he got on the elevator now, he would have to look at himself in the mirror everyday, knowing that he did nothing. He might as well butcher the kid himself.
Samuel spun around on his heels just as the fat-ass stormed into the hall. He looked from Samuel down to the kid cowering against the wall. Blood dripped from the knife onto the boy’s face and still the kid didn’t cry out. A twinge of empathy spiked Samuel’s heart. To witness the death of his mother then sit quietly and wait for his own death.
“You better turn around and get the fuck out of here if you know what’s good for you.” Tubby said without looking up.
“I’ve got a better idea. Turn around and walk back into the apartment. Close the door and lock it. Or take the elevator down and run. Whatever you do, do not touch the kid.”
The big jelly filled guy turned away from the boy and squared off to Samuel. Goliath held the knife out. He had been a fighter at some point in his life, Samuel could tell by his stance.
Samuel said, “I guess this is when I’m supposed to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way, and warn you that this is going to hurt. Instead, I think I’ll just kill you.”
The round man’s face twisted with rage. He charged. Sprinting forward Samuel slid the guitar case off his shoulder. He smashed the giant’s knife hand with the metal brief. With a grunt, the guy dropped his knife to the floor. Tons-o-fun swung his free arm around, fist first. Samuel ducked and stepped in closer.
A less experienced fighter would stay clear of the man. He fat, but there was a good sized chunk of muscle underneath. If he managed to wrap Samuel up in his arms it was game over. Samuel slammed his knee into the man’s groin. The briefcase came up again, slamming into the underside of tubby’s chin snapping his head back. . Samuel pulled back the briefcase and swung it in a wide arc. A haymaker it was called. The edge of the case slammed into the man’s throat, crushing his wind pipe. Samuel followed through, ensuring that was indeed what happened.
The big abusive bastard rolled on the floor, grabbing at his neck. He looked up at Samuel, the anger gone, replaced by a look of desperation and pleading. He would find no sympathy or help. Samuel watched until the man stopped moving, until his chest no longer rose and fell, trying to draw air into his lungs.
Satisfied that the man was dead, Samuel turned and strolled back toward the elevator, bending to scoop up the guitar case along the way. A dinging sound accompanied the button press, which called the elevator to the fifth floor.
As Samuel waited, something pulled at his leg. He looked down to find the kid standing there, puffy red eyes peered up at him.
“What do I do now?” the kid asked.
The kid was alone now, Samuel realized. He was too young to go off on his own, but there was no way in hell Samuel could take him with.
The doors to the elevator slid open.
Samuel let out a long sigh. Time was up. He pressed the metal briefcase to the kid’s chest. The boy didn’t move.
“Take it, kid. Go live a long, happy life, and don’t grow up to be anything like that fucker on the floor.”
The kid clutched the case like a child snuggling a teddy bear. Samuel walked onto the elevator and turned to face out into the hall.
“This is where you say, ‘God bless us, every one.’” Samuel said. “Merry Christmas, kid.”
He watched the little boy remain motionless until the doors blocked his view. The elevator descended and Samuel went home.