Continuation of John's adventures as a Broker. John has been assigned to assassinate a CEO
|I hate doing reports. At least I’m inside with air conditioning, while outside was the middle of summer in Seattle. It’s in the upper 80s and my shirt sticks to my skin. I hate it even more when my shirt sticks to my skin. I know other regions have a harsher summer, but I just don’t like the heat.
“Carrio, in my office.” Called my supervisor, Mr. Coleman.
Finally, a break from the paperwork. I spun around in my chair and jumped up. Marching into Coleman’s office I noticed a woman standing in the far corner with her arms folded across her chest. She was wearing a typical business suit, but the jacket was looser than it should be which meant there was a handgun holstered at her waist. She was a broker, but I didn’t know her.
Just inside the door, my manager introduced me to his guest. “This is Mara McBride. She’s from Section Nine.”
Section Nine primarily handled international affairs, such as spying on other corporations. The mixing of the sections was almost unheard of. What was she doing here?
“Ms. McBride is looking for temporary assistance with a case,” continued Mr. Coleman. “She needs brokers that aren’t very well known to the other corporations. I’ll let her explain the rest.”
McBride took a step forward and slung her hands down to her waist. “Have you heard of Brian Walton?”
If this was a test, it was a stupid one. Everyone knew who Walton was. “Yeah, he’s the Walmart CEO. One of the few remaining Waltons left to inherit the corporation. He’s been making headlines lately, because he wants to create some kind of assembly for the corporations to meet and work together.”
“Very good. We’ve been ordered to assassinate him.”
Coleman jumped in. “That’s none of your concern.”
“It’s alright,” retorted McBride. “One of the biggest concerns with this corporation assembly is someone would be put in charge of it, in effect making them a world leader. It’s believed Walton wants this position for himself.”
“Makes sense. So, we’re going to stop a would be despot?” I asked.
“Yep. You’re on the team as our gunman. If things go sideways and we get into a fire fight, we’ll be counting on you to get us out of there.”
“How many are on the team?” I asked.
“There will be four of us, including you.”
“Who are the others?”
“You’ll meet them tomorrow at the Regent Hotel. Room 346.”
The Regent was an elite hotel where kings and dignitaries stayed while in Seattle. It’s also notorious as ground zero for spying, however, there never was much violence. I think it was an unspoken rule that the peace would be kept at the Regent between the different visiting corporations and countries. If the peace was broken, there would be unwanted attention brought to the secretive activities. Then the spying would go elsewhere.
I knocked on the door to room 346. I then gave two more raps on the door, as instructed to let them know it was me. The door unlatched, but did not open. I slipped through the door and locked it behind me.
Turning around I found a very well lived in room. There was a pile of food containers around the small trash can, the beds were a rumpled mess, and a young woman sat cross-legged on the end of one of two queen size beds. Her hawkish stare over the monitoring equipment told me she had been at her post for several hours, if not days.
“Get comfy. The show is about to start.” Came the female voice from the corner behind me.
I turned to see McBride at the small desk. She barely looked up from her holographic display that shined up from her tablet as it rested on the desktop. It looked to be the same video feeds that the young woman was monitoring.
The bathroom door swung open and in walked a man in a Regent Hotel servant uniform. He held out his hand to me. “Hi, I’m Matt. I hear you’re our gunman.”
His open and unguarded manner told me he was a new broker. I gripped Matt’s hand. “Hi,” I returned.
Mara McBride chimed in, “The one perched on the bed over there is Dawn.”
I turned back to Dawn and nodded. She waved her hand and gave me a big smile. Dawn’s mannerisms also told me she was a tech that had little experience in the field.
I took a seat in the big comfy chair opposite Dawn and began to stare at the holographic projections of the camera feeds from around the hotel. The one camera feed that caught my attention was of two men in suits standing outside of a double door suite. This must be where the target was staying. I scanned the other feeds to see there were no images from inside the suite. “No cameras inside?” I inquired.
“No,” replied Mara. “There are guards inside and out of the suite 24/7. Haven’t had the chance to drop a camera in there.”
“Matt has been in a few times as a servant and we’ve had a camera on him.” Added Dawn.
“So, what’s the plan?” I asked.
“Matt is going on duty as a servant in a few minutes,” explained Mara. “When Walton calls for his lunch, Matt will intercept it and take it up to the suite. Matt has a poisonous palm needle he’ll tap Walton with. It’ll look like a heart attack.”
I shrugged. “Seems easy enough.”
Matt tugged on his maroon lapels. “Wish me luck.” He grinned and was out the door.
Matt was on shift for almost three hours before the call came in for the Walmart CEO’s lunch. Luck was on Matt’s side. He happened to be in the kitchen when the call came in. He volunteered to take the food up, with no objections from the other actual servers. The class separation between one of these servers and a CEO, with half a dozen guards, can be daunting. Of course, none of the other workers wanted to go near Walton.
McBride hovered on the edge of the bed with Dawn to watch the holographic feed from the pin camera in Matt’s lapel. I watched intently from the same cushy chair I had been sitting in. The image didn’t give us a very wide view, but it did the job.
In the holographic feed, Matt was stopped at the double doors of the suite, by the two guards. One checked over the cart with food, using a sniffer. He waved it over the contents as it would detect foreign bacteria or harmful biological agents, while the other guard patted down Matt.
Dawn and Mara tensed up as the guard’s hands passed the hip pockets. The palm needle must have been in one of those pockets. I found myself tensing in reaction to the other two.
“You know,” started Matt. “You keep touching me like this every time I think we should go out for drinks and get to know each other better.”
“We’re not allowed to drink while on assignment,” replied the guard.
Matt was cleared and the guard opened the door to the suite. The agent entered into a short hallway. The first entry way he passed on his right, was a large living area. He flashed his lapel camera in that direction, just long enough to make out several staff members working. Continuing down the hallway Matt stopped at a closed door, he rapped on it. After a short pause the door swung open and Matt was face to face with a large grumpy guard. The view of the camera was overshadowed by the massive ebony man with a goatee. “How ya doin’, Frank?” Matt rang.
The guard grunted with a smirk and moved to the side allowing the agent to enter. Matt must have built a rapport with the guards. This made me feel better about the situation, but I could not relax as I leaned forward on the edge of my comfy chair.
Matt rolled the food cart into the room to a man in his late 60s. The man was pouring over what looked like reports on tablets he held in each hand. He had a belly, but looked to be a hard man. From what I had heard he kept busy with a horse ranch.
I cannot imagine a wide-open field with several horses running about. I don’t care how rich this guy is I do not know how he can afford to take care of such a rare animal.
Matt stopped the cart in front of Brian Walton and stepped to the man’s side where he lifted off the silver lids to the lunch. The agent then leaned over closer to the CEO.
“Thank you, Matthew.” Walton said.
Matt reached out his flat hand to pat the CEO on the shoulder when he was yanked up straight by the grumpy guard, Frank.
“What the hell?!” Matt yelled at the guard.
Frank twisted the agent’s arm down and in front of him. “No one touches Mr. Walton.”
It was then I noticed the same thing Frank had noticed. Matt was trying really hard to keep his hand flat and fingers tight together. It was obvious he was holding something. Frank slammed Matt’s hand into his chest. Matt crumpled to the ground. The view of the camera fell still staring at the ceiling. Frank crouched down looking over our dead agent. Behind Frank, the CEO looked down on the scene.
Dawn and Mara remained motionless on the edge of the bed. I jumped up, mind racing. “What floor is Walton staying on?” I barked at the two ladies.
A dumbfounded Mara looked up at me. “He’s on the 12th floor.”
“We’ve got about four minutes before those guards hit this floor. Get moving!”
Mara sprung from the bed and grabbed her bag next to the desk. Dawn started yanking cords out of her large tablet. Once she had securely in hand, I tipped over the small table holding the monitoring equipment. From the back of my belt, under my suit coat, I pulled a large vial sprinkling the contents over the smashed gear. I struck the lid against the metal vial creating a spark that dropped off onto the mangled equipment. Bright white flames lurched up from the gear.
Dawn rolled back from the heat. “What was that?”
“Magnesium. It burns hot and fast. It’ll melt your equipment so no one can go through the hard drives or memory.” I answered dragging Dawn off the bed and towards the door. On the way to the door, she stooped picking up a bag to stuff her tablet in.
I cracked open the door to see a couple strolling up the hall hand in hand. I walked out the door, motioning the other two to follow me. A few feet down the hallway, I looked back to see Dawn clutching her bag to her chest and Mara with her gun at the ready. “Will you two relax,” I hissed. “You’ll give us away. Put the gun away. And you, sling your bag over your shoulder.”
At a fast pace, I passed the elevators, heading to the stairs. Mara stopped me. “The elevators will be quicker.”
“They’ll also be a death trap if the guards find us in there. Keep moving.”
The stairwell was quiet. I rushed down the three flights of stairs to the main lobby. Dawn and Mara were right behind me. We exited the stairs into the busy lobby.
Three guards were milling through the pockets of people. I hadn’t planned on guards in the lobby. This was a bad mistake, I should have accounted for guards in the lobby. I took a deep breath and motioned for the other two to stay close. As casual as possible we walked across the open floor weaving between the people.
Unfortunately, it did not take long for one of the guards to block our path. “Excuse me. There has been an incident. Are you staying in the hotel?” asked the guard.
“Yeah. We’re up on the second floor.” I lied.
“Why were you using the stairs, instead of the elevator?”
“The stairs were quicker from one floor up.” I answered matter-of-factly.
The guard paused to examine the three of us. “Where are you going?”
“We thought we would go have a meal at the Space Needle.”
He paused again. “Let me see your identifications.”
Mara butted in. “Are you AGU security?”
“Then you have no authority to see our papers.”
The guard took Mara by the arm. “The three of you are going to have to come with me.”
Mara looked down at the floor then over at me. She said under her breath, “We’re screwed.”
I straightened up and reached under my suit jacket. “I had this under control.”
“No you didn’t.” retorted Mara.
“Yes, I did and I still do.” I knocked the guards hand off of Mara. Whipping my hand out from my jacket, I jabbed my stunner into the guard’s stomach just under his ribs and pulled the trigger. With the stunner against his skin, there was no blue arc of electricity to be seen.
The guard stiffened and lurched backwards. I grabbed the guard’s body as he went limp steering him to a couch. Plopping him down into the cushion, I looked over at the elderly lady sitting next to the placed unconscious guard. She stared incredulously at me. “I’m sorry, ma’am. My friend had a little too much. He just needs to rest for a few minutes.” I straightened up and walked away hoping my two companions were following me out the main doors.
I rolled open the door to my loft allowing Dawn and Mara to enter first. I then pulled the door closed. Flipping open a panel next to the door I placed my palm on the clear plastic face. The system beeped as a red light flashed, indicating it was armed as a bolt was heard sliding into place, securing the door to my loft.
I turned to my two guests. “We should be safe here, until we can think of what to do.”
Dawn looked around the loft. “Nice place, even though it’s a bit cramped.”
My loft was smaller than the hotel room we had been hiding in. I could have afforded a bigger place, but I was saving up in the hopes I could eventually get a mortgage. Owning your own place is almost impossible for most people. The generational mortgage loans are up to 200 years now. Heck, most people can’t even afford the license to have a kid. Despite all of that, I was banking on all of it; marriage, a kid, and my own place.
I stepped into the kitchen area and opened the fridge. Finding a couple of bottles of fruit flavored water, I tossed one to each of the women.
Mara plopped down on my couch and gave a big sigh as she cracked open the cap to the water. She took a big swig and studied my loft. “You know this looks a lot like a dorm room.”
I scanned the room as well, she was right. I had a desk under a raised up full size bed. At the head of my bed was my dresser. To the side of the dresser was the ladder up to my bed; Kitty corner hung the television. Under it was my gaming visor and a small ivy plant. The couch was a few feet from the kitchen counter, which had a couple of stools under it. I shrugged, “It’s home.”
I pointed to my desk under my raised bed. “Dawn, you can tap the web over there.” Turning to Mara, I asked, “What are the protocols?”
She sighed heavily. “This was off the books. Which meant the AGU wanted credible deniability, so there would be no help.” she continued. “If we don’t succeed, We go back. I just don’t know how I’m going to explain Matt’s death. You guys will probably be fine, but I’m sure to be retired.”
I failed miserably at giving her a reassuring smile. “We’ll figure something out.”
After about an hour of reviewing her plans and intel on the assassination we gave up. We couldn’t think of anything.
That’s when Dawn pipped up. “We’ve got another shot!”
We both looked over at the computer tech. She was bouncing on her toes with an ear to ear grin. “Walton hasn’t left yet.”
“What good is that going to do us?” Mara asked annoyed.
Dawn fell flat on her feet. “I don’t know, but he isn’t gone. He flies out this evening. We could still do something.”
Plans started forming in my head. “He’s leaving the hotel by car and heading to the airport, isn’t he?”
“Yeah.” Dawn confirmed.
“Can you hack a vehicle’s controls between the hotel and the airport?” I asked.
Dawn’s large smile returned. “Hacking’s how I got this job.”
“I think I got a plan.” I grabbed Dawn’s large tablet and placed it on the floor pulling up a holographic drawing board and I began scribbling on it.
“OK, John, He’s pulled out of the hotel’s parking garage.” Came Mara’s voice over my earpiece. “He’s in a black SUV.”
“Copy.” I replied standing on a corner along what should be the route, Walton’s vehicle would take. This was where they had to make a left turn and I was going to get hit. Hopefully I didn’t end up in the hospital.
Moments later Mara sounded in my ear again. “He should be coming into view now.”
I glanced down the street. They were just barely visible over the traffic, I watched as they approached. Their turn signal was flashing sure enough the SUV was turning at my corner. As they pulled up to the corner, I jumped to the edge of the sidewalk and started waving my hand in the air. “Melanie, over here!” I called, gesturing to the other side of the street.
The CEO’s vehicle rolled forward to turn and I ran out in front of it. I thought I would have to play act and bounce myself off the front of the SUV, but I didn’t have to. The driver nailed me. I hit the ground a couple of feet from the grill with a grunt and a pop in my chest. Acting quick, I rolled back under the front of the vehicle. It took a couple of seconds, but I found the black box that was the vehicle’s computer brain. I slapped a transponder on the bottom of the box just as I was dragged out. I looked up to see the familiar guard, Frank, towering over my body.
Frank bent down grabbing me by my jacket. He yanked me up off the ground and off my feet. “Who are you?” he snarled in my face.
I found myself gasping for air. “My name is John,” I gasped again. “Where’s my fiancée? I was trying to get to her.”
Frank hefted me and I flew out of the street landing on the sidewalk on my shoulder. Before I could roll away, Frank walked over to me, in perfect stride and kicked me in the stomach. I watched from the fetal position as the guard climbed back into the SUV.
The vehicle tires screeched as they lurched around the corner. A burgundy sedan pulled up right behind the CEO, Dawn flung open the back door. I crawled in and slouched down in the seat holding my side.
Mara glanced over the front seat at me. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I think I broke some ribs.”
Dawn piped up. “The transponder is working and I’m tracking them. They’re getting on the highway now.”
“You know this would’ve been a lot easier on me if you had just hacked the car through the Internet in the SUV.”
Without looking away from her screen, Dawn slowly shook her head. “It would’ve taken too long to get access that way. A hard line into the black box was the only way.”
“Can you hack into the vehicle’s system?” asked Mara.
“I’m already in.”
Mara sped through traffic weaving in and out between the cars. The highway was a raceway with the other cars. Luckily, the CEO’s vehicle was holding to the speed limit and in a few minutes, we caught up to them. The black SUV was in the middle lane, while Mara pulled up behind them in the right lane.
“Lock the brakes and crank the steering wheel,” I ordered. “Do it now!”
With a couple taps on her tablet and a smear of her thumb in a circular motion, the SUV lost control. Smoked billowed up from all four tires. The front end pitched to the right and the vehicle flipped over on its roof. Rolling completely over one more time the CEO’s vehicle ended upright on its tires.
Mara locked up the brakes of the sedan we were in. The car slid to a stop behind the steaming black SUV. The sedan’s on-board computer announced, “An accident has occurred, shall I contact emergency services?”
“No!” ordered Mara. “One of the other vehicles will report it.” Mara jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran to the CEO’s vehicle.
I climbed out of the back seat and jogged to the opposite side of the SUV from Mara. Walton would be in the back seat. I flung open the second door. The occupant was the security guard, Frank, who had thrown me out of the way and kicked me. He was dazed. Looking past the bodyguard, I could see Brian Walton. He was unconscious and Mara was checking on him.
A steely grip wrapped around my throat. I grabbed at the arm holding me. The limb led to Frank, whose deadly stare was puzzling out who I was. The realization then hit him. “You’re the one we hit with the car.”
Frank had to go. I reached into the inside pocket of my jacket. I pulled out the palm needle I was carrying and slapped it into Frank’s arm. The needle bent sideways in my hand. With my other hand, I grabbed a handful of sleeve and yanked. The guard’s suit jacket sleeve tore away to reveal a shiny metallic arm. The cybernetic arm was a stark contrast to his ebony skin. That explained how Frank was able to throw me so far and why I could feel my windpipe crushing inward.
I tried one more desperate thrust at his chest. The needle slipped sideways under the skin. Immediately the color washed out of Frank’s face. His eyes closed as if he had fallen asleep and his head flopped forward. The cybernetic grip on my throat relaxed just enough for me to pry the hand away.
An autopsy would show the bodyguard had a heart attack. That was no good, he was too young and in excellent shape. I reached up and grabbed the man’s jaw and back of his head. With a fast hard twist, Frank’s neck snapped. Now his cause of death will show broken neck.
Mara had pulled Walton from the SUV and was pumping rhythmically on his chest. What no one knew, was McBride slapped the CEO in the shoulder with a poisonous palm needle as she pulled him out. He was dead before she laid him on the ground.
I checked the driver. His air bag had inflated and saved him, but he was unconscious. There was no one in the seat next to him. This left me wondering. There were about a dozen guards at the hotel, but there were only two in the vehicle. Where were the others? “Mara! We’ve got to go. The other guards are still out there!”
Mara looked up at me. “We can’t leave the scene of an accident now!”
A gust of downward wind blew me sideways. I looked up to see the EMS hovercraft just above the wreckage. Two Emergency Service Technicians dropped out of the hovercraft down to the ground. They rushed over to the fallen CEO, pushing Mara out of the way and they went to work on the man.
I turned to see four security officers weaving through the dead traffic on motorcycles. Once on the scene, they set up a perimeter with their bikes along the edge of the wreckage. Two of the security officers started directing the traffic through the small opening they had created.
One of the security officers began questioning Mara. I made my way back to our sedan and slumped down on the hood of the car. The pain I had pushed to the back of my mind, so I could do my job, now came rushing back demanding my attention. I could feel a crick in my ribs as I breathed in and out. Gingerly, I felt the tenderness of my throat. It was then, I felt the bruising on my stomach. I wondered if Frank also had had cybernetic legs.
A screech of tires filled the air. I looked up in the direction of the noise to see another black SUV slide to a stop on the other side of the highway divider. More of Brian Walton’s bodyguards filed out of the vehicle to stand along the divider.
One of the CEO’s guards pointed and yelled at Mara. I could not make him out, but it must have been the guard I stunned back at the hotel when we escaped. The guard then spotted me and began to crawl over the divider.
The security officer interviewing Mara and another security officer ran up pushing the bodyguard back over the divider. The Walton’s guards and the officers were too involved in their yelling match to notice Mara slinked off back to our car. I followed Mara’s lead and crawled into the front seat.
The rest of the bodyguards came up over the divider. This time, they overpowered the two security officers. Mara pushed the nose of our sedan into the line of cars trying to get past the wreckage.
Two of the guards rushed towards our car. One of the security officers directing traffic pulled his stunner and a blue arc of light reached across the pavement and threw one of the bodyguards to the ground. The other guard ran up to the security officer with the stunner and slammed his fist into the officer’s face. This prompted the other security officer directing traffic to pull his stunner and fire at the bodyguard.
A hole opened up around the wreckage of the CEO’s vehicle. Our sedan shot through the hole and away from the chaotic scene.
“You’re lucky you only fractured those three ribs.”
I sat on the examination table with my hands interlaced behind my head, so the nurse practitioner had clear access to my chest. “Yeah, I feel real lucky.”
“You don’t want to know what it would take to set a rib.” she said as she applied purple stretchy tape to my side. “This orthopedic sports tape will help keep the ribs in place and support the muscles as you breathe.”
In through the door slipped Mara McBride. She stood at the entrance with her hands clasped behind her back smiling at me.
Without taking her eyes off her taping job the nurse practitioner asked, “Can I help you?”
“I’m just here to see how John is doing.” Mara replied.
The provider backed away from her work to examine the job. “He’s fine. I’m recommending desk duty until the ribs heal and the bruising is gone from around his larynx.” She reached up and ran a couple of fingers lightly across the deep bruising on my neck. The nurse practitioner turned to Mara. “Are you the one who did this to him during a training session?” she asked tersely.
Mara shot a glance at me. Ever so subtly I nodded to her. This was the office’s med clinic. They are used to brokers being injured on the job and understand the need for confidentiality due to the sensitivity of the missions, but our mission was off the books. I thought it was best to keep the nature of my injuries off the books as well.
Mara nodded to the nurse. “Well, I had help. It was supposed to be a two on one training session and John here didn’t…”
“Whatever.” she interrupted Mara. “The desk duty request will be in your file. Make sure to show it to your supervisor.” With that she marched off to her desk.
I slowly slipped on my dress shirt and buttoned it. “So, what’s happened?”
“Well,” started McBride. “The bodyguards caused such a ruckus out on the highway that they were all arrested and are being detained until the Walmart Corporation wants them back.”
“No one’s asking questions?”
“No one wants to.”
I grabbed my leather jacket and walked out into the hallway with Mara in tow. “So, how did your manager react?” I asked.
“Quite well,” replied Mara. “As a matter of fact, we were both recommended for commendations.”
“Yeah. The commendations were put in the black ops file for this mission and sealed.”
Typical. The mission didn’t exist so our work never happened.
Appox: 4900 words