A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grand Finale

(Yes, another challenge)

Each year, the city held a Fourth of July fireworks display along the riverfront. At one time, local merchants paid for it. Nowadays, the fireworks were paid for by one of the local casinos. Maybe the local tribe wanted to buy some goodwill for the wave of petty crime and embezzlements that had been taking place since the casino opened. Maybe they wanted to mollify the families who had lost their savings and homes when one of the so-called adults had gambled them all away.

I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I had a job to do.

Ernest C. Wortherington III had been manager of a hedge fund. Hedge funds are a fancy way of gambling on financial matters. Wortherington had managed to run his fund in a way that he walked away with many billions of dollars, sometimes at least a billion a year. Most of his investors lost money. Some lost a shitload of money.

The SEC, the FBI and, for all I know, the Trilateral Commission had gone after Wortherington. Nobody had been able to unravel things in such a way that the fingers were pointing at Wortherington. He had enough disclaimers and statements in his prospectuses to scare off the public funds. Only private money was invested in his fund. He was sort of a half-Robin Hood: He robbed from the rich and kept it.

Some of them were not inclined to take that lying down. That’s where I came in.

Wortherington traveled on his own jet. I knew the registration number. All it took was money to find out where he went. He had a cutesy habit of using shell corporations with names from Hitchcock movies. A check of land records (all of that shit is on-line nowadays) showed that “Charlotte Newton, LLC” owned a third-floor luxury condominium right on the riverfront.

Wortherington was known to love fireworks and he was known to have come here before. His hedge fund had sponsored a few shows elsewhere. None of this was solid, he might not have come here this year. Playing a hunch, I got a short-term rental of an apartment on the other side of the river. It had a good view of where the fireworks were going to be set off from. It had a great view of Wortherington’s condo.

His Gulfstream-4 landed in town the afternoon before.

I set up that morning. A couple of neighbors thought that I was bringing in video equipment to film the fireworks. One geeky guy thought it was cool that a girl would do such work and he wanted to talk, when he wasn’t trying to ogle my chest. I gave him a big smile, told him that the video company paid me for discretion and batted my eyes at him. He went away, smiling.

What I had was a laser rangefinder, a tablet computer, a telescope, a heavy barreled rifle with a suppressor and the sort of telescopic sight that would make an Army special forces sniper drool.

Everything I needed was laid out on the floor. I determined the range during daylight, when nobody would notice a laser’s dot. 1,435 yards, a fair shot. Data for temperature and humidity came from an online weather station two blocks away from Wortherington’s condo. He was there, I could see him through the telescope.

I set up the rifle at dusk, well back from the open window with the lights off. Luck was with me, there was no wind. I’d cancel out if there was any wind. At this distance, an error of one mile per hour in figuring the wind would be a clean miss.

The nice thing about fireworks is that everybody has their windows open. Wortherington’s condo had a balcony. He was going in and out, a drink in his hand. A woman was with him. She was a pro, the only kind of woman who would be with him.

The fireworks began. From the sound, they must have been spectacular. Wortherington was on his balcony, watching. He was considerate; he didn’t turn off his living room lights. I had a clear view of him through the scope. I didn’t need to use any of the fancy night-vision features of the scope. Too bad, they cost enough.

The noise kept building. Wortherington was looking up at the fireworks his mouth partially open. I saw the colors of the fireworks reflected from his face. The explosive noise now was nonstop; maybe an artillery barrage on the Western Front a century ago was louder. Clouds of smoke was building up on the water. It was the grande finale. I fed in gentle pressure and kept the cross-hairs on target.

The rifle fired, the .375 kicked back hard. You can’t completely quiet a rifle like this, but between the suppressor and the explosions, you could have been in the next room and not noticed. The suppressor took care of the muzzle flash.

I got my scope back on Wortherington in time to see the bullet strike. Center of mass, he dropped to the balcony, out of my sight. I saw the whore come over and look at him. She pulled a small flashlight out of her purse and flashed a dim green light three times. Kill. She tossed the light from the balcony into the river and left the condo. A car was waiting for her.

I broke down the rifle, packed up my gear, waited for the fireworks to stop, waited five more minutes and then rolled all of my gear on a two-wheeled dolly to my van. I was stuck in some traffic, but thirty minutes later, I was on the highway, heading west. By daybreak, the rifle’s barrel and suppressor would be buried deep in a pile of steel scrap.

The papers next day reported a gang killing. Some shooters had used the sounds of the fireworks to cover up invading a rival drug operation and slaughtering everyone in the room. Four people were dead.

It took three days for someone to find Wortherington.

The following day, my bank account in the Caymans was considerably fatter.


Anonymous said...

You do the technical very well. It's nice to read a tough female protagonist. Almost makes me want to take up 'hit woman' as a career choice : )

Anonymous said...

Loving it. I don't like the wishy-washy female assassins a la Bridget Fonda - these cool and calculating women are more like it.

This was very well written, and paced out exactly as the character would have thought it. Calm, detached, to the point.

P.S. Nice job with the poncy name for the hedge fund chap. Guy makes me think of Ivan Boesky.

Lindsay Mawson, Thriller Writer said...

Good job. Love reading from the point of view of a hitman. Er... woman!