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In the spirit of getting back to writing and preparing for NaNoWriMo, I decided to ask Chloe to give me a prompt to work with. She gave me one. I worked with it a bit, while toying with the characters I intend to use in my NaNo novel. Not that this is a part of my novel, just… an experiment? Oh well. Whatever you call it, this is what I came up with. Tell me what you think? D:

The prompt: “A minor villain suddenly dies!

Fusil à Répétition Modèle F2

It was exactly what one would expect from a run-down motel in a Chinatown: dim, flickering lights, narrow corridors, broken elevator, carpet that had seen better days. It was mid-summer. No air conditioner, just exhaust fans rattling around dry, spare wind.  Rhys kept his head down. He had given a generic name and paid in cash. Soon he would be out of here and they would not even know where to find him, but habit was habit.

Room 402. The key was old-school style, an actual metal key instead of the plain cards newer hotels use. Something bumped his shoulder and he turned around, key clutched in his fist ready to claw. Instead of a fight, he instead got an eyeful of a gigantic gig bag and the petite girl hoisting it.

“Oof. Sorry,” she said, slightly out of breath—as one would after carrying a string instrument the size of a small person up four flights of stairs—and her mouth quirked up, flashing him a small grin.

He blinked. “Um, it’s okay.”

The girl crouched—properly, like nice little girls did, legs pressed together and skirt held with one hand to prevent it from slipping—to pick up something she dropped. He followed her movements, stole a glance at the fallen object now in her hand. A key similar to his, tagged with number 404. Why someone like her stayed in the dingy motel was a mystery—one he itched to uncover, but he restrained himself from asking any questions.

She looked at him, then at her key. “Parents kicked me out for choosing a music school.”

There was a long silence in which he struggled to find an appropriate response to that, one that did not involve him scooping her up like a stray kitten. In the end, he opted for an eloquent “oh”.

She shrugged, unconcerned.  “What about you? Low-budget vacation?”

“Low-budget business trip.”

“Huh.” Her door clicked open. “Well, I’d wish you a nice stay, but that would be giving you false expectations.” And with that, she closed the conversation—or what passed for it, at least—and left him alone in the corridor.

Calling what Rhys was doing in the motel “low-budget business trip” was technically correct. He was there on business. The business required him to rent this cheap, borderline unhygienic room. The pay was not even that big; a couple of grand, enough to cover the meager expenses and a bit more. Low-budget sounded pretty apt to describe this business.

Not that he was complaining. It was an easy job: the typical check in, set up perch, wait, and shoot kind of hit. He adjusted the sight. A quick reading of the reticle of his VKS sniper rifle scope confirmed his initial estimation of the range.

Just under one hundred and fifty meters, straight and nice across the market to the mark’s balcony. Easy-peasy.

Sniper rifle set, he waited. This was the boring part. Rhys took the dossier folder and flipped through it out of neurotic habit. Most of what was in there, he already knew. The mark was a small-time dealer, his stash disguised as yet another herbal store at the edge of the market square. Apparently, he pissed of a lot of people when he refused to pay off his sources. Compulsive liar. Forty two, unmarried. A string of lovers—most of whom were immigrant prostitutes, if the exotic names meant anything. Heavy smoker. There were several photographs of the mark, all of them clear and not at all grainy. The setting was different in each picture—one photograph was of him in a party, a woman under each arm. Another was of him and the client, from long before the relationship turned south. A couple of candid photographs. And the last, a mug shot. The black eye hinted a drunken brawl or something of the sort.

Fiction often depicted assassination as exciting, high-risk jobs with a lot of opportunity to hook up with blondes. The mark would be an attractive, charismatic mafia boss or world leader. When it was done, dramatic music played in the background as the assassin walked away, sheathing the bloody katana or whatever hip weapon was in style when the movie was made.

So far, the only accurate part about that depiction was the slowly rising tones of a string instrument next door. A classical, dramatic piece, played with heavy strokes. Cello? Contra bass? Whatever the instrument was, the girl was good.

The music ended. The pitter-patter of tiny feet, the sound of running water. Then the music started again. It was already dark outside, red lanterns dotting the marketplace square, neon lights glowing from underneath stall canopies.

And then, finally, the windows of the mark’s second floor lit up. He just got home, closed up shop. From the vague shadows behind the curtain, he was not alone.

Twenty something minutes later, the door to the balcony opened. Rhys pressed his eye on the scope, waiting, aiming. The mark walked out to the balcony with a lit cigarette and a buxom girl on his tail. The girl was probably not even legal drinking age. Or maybe not. It was hard to tell. She curled herself around the dealer’s left arm.

Another misconception made by movies and novels was that snipers were detached from their kills. It couldn’t be further from the truth. A sniper was present through their scope. A good enough scope was all it took for a sniper of Rhys’ caliber to make out every expression that flashed through the target’s face, mere split-seconds before their death.  The flutter of their eyelashes, the glow of the tip of their cigarette, the disgusting smile aimed at the mistress hanging from his arm.

The scope made it personal. Made every death not a quick one among many in a battle, but a singular event observed and memorized.

Rhys inhaled. Held his breath. Aimed the crosshairs at the mark’s head. He felt pity for the girl’s soon to be scarred psyche, but then, she would probably be better off without him. He counted. One, two, in time with the tempo of the crescendo coming from 404.

Finger poised on the trigger, Rhys exhaled.

The mark’s head exploded into a bloody mist.

He hadn’t squeezed his trigger.

The music went on next door; the buxom mistress screamed; and under it all, through the thin wall between 402 and 404, Rhys heard the click-click of a sniper rifle’s hasty disassembly.

The door to 404 clicked open, then closed, and hasty footsteps hit the threadbare carpet of the corridor, then down the floor. Rhys waited two full minutes—long, excruciating one hundred and twenty seconds—until he was positive that she had left the building. She would clear out. Wouldn’t she? In around fifteen minutes the police would secure the dead dealer’s house. Another five minutes, less if they sent the good ones, and they would have determined that it was a sniper. The bullet left somewhere in the balcony would soon confirm the angle, narrowing the sniper’s location to this exact motel. In total, half an hour, maybe less, until the cops swarmed little Lucky Fish motel.

He walked down the stairs as calmly as possible. Asked the people in the lobby what the commotion was about, a la the typical scared tourist. Then he left the motel, blending in with the market crowd.

Rhys walked through the crowd, but merely skirting the edges where it was less thick. He got close enough to the balcony—fifty meters or so—until the crowd was so dense he couldn’t go further. Safe to say they were all too occupied with the carnage to even notice one more disaster tourist. He heard faint sirens coming closer, so he turned left, away from the heart of the market, away from people.

Then he saw her—or rather, the silhouette of her hulk of an instrument case—and he froze, momentarily.

She was crying, lashes glinting with tears under the neon lights. Her face was puffy and red, and a middle-aged woman—one of the stall owners, perhaps—was patting her shoulder in a comforting manner. They made a typical picture of girl in shock after seeing a local murder and her auntie, only two people in hundreds.

If Rhys had not heard her packing not an hour ago, he would never have thought…

How did a girl that tiny handle something as heavy as a sniper rifle, anyway?

And just like before in the corridor when she sensed his curiosity, the girl looked up at him with wet baleful eyes. Then, so thin he might have imagined it, her lips press into a small smirk before she pressed a handkerchief to her lower face.

He felt her eyes on his retreating back, even long after the marketplace was long out of sight.

References for the prompt: