Sal must do something he's never done before— an almost impossible task. Can he do it?
Sal removed a cancer stick from the blue box and tapped the filter end on the desktop. Usually, twice was sufficient, but this time he doubled that count. He looked at the filter end to make sure the paper and the filter were even. Sal never tapped the opposite end to pack the tobacco. Other smokers claimed it made the cigarette smoke slower, but Sal didn't want to suck on the cigarette like it was a straw in a frozen milkshake. He just wanted to enjoy it without having to work at it. When smokers would bang cigarette packs in the palms of their hands, Sal would become so annoyed he just wanted to jump up and scream, "ENOUGH, already!" But he didn't. He grit his teeth and bore it out.
In front of him was a 9" x 12" manila envelope with some sort of documents inside. He sat and stared at it for what seemed to be—well, too long, anyway. He sighed deeply and thought, "This isn't my schtick. I don't do this. I just collect weekly protection payments. Why is this envelope here in front of me on my desk?" Finally, Sal held the Bic lighter's flame to the cigarette and sucked gently. The end glowed and smoke rose wistfully in the air. He took a long drag and felt the nicotine satisfy his body's hunger for it.
"Okay," he said aloud. "Let's see what this is all about." He turned the envelope over and bent the metal clasp up perpendicular to the flap allowing him to open the flap and access the documents. The first page had one line of text right smack dab in the middle of the page. It read:
Now from when? Now from now? From yesterday? When did "NOW" start? Now? Sal felt a cold chill run down his spine. "Now," he whispered. "Now." Slowly, he removed the cover sheet. That cold chill now turned to ice.
"No. No, it can't be. There's no way," Sal said. His hands started shaking. "I can't do this. Are they crazy?" He knew if he didn't do "it" now, he would become "it". And he didn't know how much time was left before "now" became "too late".
He didn't have to review the accompanying documents. He already knew the target's profile. He knew it too well. Sal replaced the cover sheet and took another long drag on the cigarette. "Shit," he said as he exhaled. "Why me?" He lowered his head and massaged the back of his neck, then sighed deeply.
Leaning back in his desk chair, Sal continued to puff on the cigarette, but it had lost its therapeutic effect. Now, it was just another annoyance, so he crushed it out in the ashtray.
"Well," he thought. "Guess I better get off my ass and do this." His heart was heavy and it seemed the weight of the world was on his shoulders. "I've never done anything like this. I've never been in trouble with the organization. So, why did they give this to me? Other than I know the target better than anyone else." The answer he was seeking would not materialize. Might as well just stop crying about it and get it done or I will be the target, he thought.
In the master bedroom walk-in closet was a hidden panel. He twisted the clothes rod and the panel moved aside.
"Well, what should it be? The .38? The .45? No. Too personal. Something impersonal will make it easier." He grabbed the sniper rifle firmly and pulled it out of the secret compartment. It was heavy. He always kept his weapons loaded to save time.
Once he had broken it down and placed it with a sense of reverence into the metal case, he left his apartment for the parking lot. He knew where he was going and how long it would take to get there. Sal kept shaking his head. "This isn't my schtick," he repeated.
As he drove he was planning how to complete this most unfair job. "I can't do it up close. I just can't. I have to find a place to do it from a distance." Slowly, a plan became clear. He looked at his watch and wondered, "When did 'now' start?"
It was fortunate the target's residence was not in a suburb, but on its own three acres with a wooded and hilly area to the East of the house. "I can find a good place to set up there," Sal thought.
He approached the East side of the wooded area from further East so the mark would not see him coming. He parked behind some large shrubbery, which effectively concealed his car. Grabbing the metal case, he exited the car and crouching, he slowly made his way to the edge of the wooded area before lying down behind another shrub and set up a small tripod. "All I have to do now is wait," he whispered.
It was around 5:40 p.m. when the mark's car turned off the road and onto the driveway. Sal brought the scope's eyepiece to his face. A click for windage and another for drop. Should be about right, Sal thought.
The mark stepped out of his car and moved toward the garage door. Why he stopped puzzled Sal, but it gave Sal the time he needed to center the scope on the mark's head. Then, almost as if he knew—he knew—the mark looked in Sal's direction. Sal began a steady pull on the trigger. This is too easy, he thought.
"Forgive me, brother," Sal whispered.