Published by Anthony Ivins @ Shakespir
Copyright © 2017 Anthony Ivins
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of very brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The plane jerked to the side as its wheels touched the ground. All the passengers lurched forward and were then thrown backwards as the plane suddenly braked, sending a trail of smoke high into the air behind it. The plane slowed down and taxied normally across the runway to its parking place.
Robert could hear the huge sighs of relief from the passengers around him as the seatbelt light went out, and they were allowed to stand and gather their belongings stored in the overhead compartments. The usual speech from the air hostess was blurting out of the PA system as Robert opened the compartment above him and removed his rucksack, placing it over his left shoulder.
He took his mobile phone out of his pocket and switched it on, seeing the little white apple on the screen before it powered up. He entered his eight-digit passcode and waited for the phone to register on the network. After a few seconds the phone successfully registered on AT&T and almost at once the first message notification came through the Wickr app.
There was no name, just a number. Robert opened the message and read the contents:
“Hotel 72, Room 710.”
He deleted the message at once and put the phone back into his pocket. By this stage, the people in front of him were starting to disembark and Robert joined the queue. It was a lengthy walk from their stop to the carousel where he waited to collect his luggage. He looked at his watch. It was 5-05pm.
Robert waited patiently as his bag was the last to come out. He was sure that the airlines had a personal vendetta against him as his luggage always seemed to come out last. He shrugged it off, picked up his bag and walked towards the exit. The rain was pouring down and Robert lifted his collar around his neck as he stepped outside, looking for a cab. Normally he would take an Uber but he was on business and did not want to leave any tracks.
Before he hailed a cab he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, taking a few deep breaths. The nicotine boost calmed him down. He took a few more deep puffs before flicking the butt into a large puddle and holding up his hand for a taxi. It took a few seconds for a cab to pull up and he opened the back door and jumped inside.
“Where to?” asked the cab driver.
“Hotel 72,” replied Robert, “Do you know it?”
“Yes Sir,” said the cab driver.
“Okay good, let’s go,” said Robert, and he leaned back in his seat and looked out as they drove out of the airport, raindrops streaking the side of the window. He noticed a large sign as they drove past, “Don’t mess with Texas”, and he had a silent laugh to himself.
The ride from the airport to the hotel was uneventful and took just over twenty minutes. As the cab pulled up outside the hotel the darkness had settled in.
“Here we go mister, Hotel 72,” said the cab driver.
Robert looked at the meter and saw the fare was $27-37, he pulled a twenty and a ten dollar note out of his wallet and handed it over to the driver, “Keep the change,” he said as he opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk.
The driver sped off, wheels spinning on the wet tarmac. Robert placed his bag down on the ground, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He looked up at the hotel which was as plain as they come. Then hotel was built like a large rectangle with rows of windows up and down. At the top of the building was a large blue neon sign that flashed “Hotel 72”. Even from the ground Robert could hear the buzz of the electricity as it pulsed through the glass tubes.
Robert had a look around him. He was trained to notice every little detail and remember it. Robert saw the convention centre opposite, the Starbucks across the street and a beggar sitting against a lamp pole with his head resting on his knees. He opened his wallet, took out a ten dollar note and walked over to the beggar. As he was standing over him the beggar looked up and Robert handed him the note, “Get yourself something warm to eat and drink,” he said and then turned around and waked into the lobby of the hotel.
He scanned the area as he walked inside. The lobby was small and stuffy. A large sofa and two wingback chairs were squashed in a corner with a coffee table placed in the middle. There was a small doorway which Robert identified as the entrance to the hotel bar, with a small sign above the doorway, “The Tipsy Cow,”
“What kind of name is that?” he thought to himself as he continued to look around, taking mental notes of everything he saw. He saw that the receptionist behind the check-in counter was staring so he walked over to him.
“Good evening Sir, welcome to Hotel 72, how can I help you?” chirped the receptionist cheerfully.
“I believe you have a reservation for me. Name is Anderson. Robert Anderson,” he replied.
The receptionist started punching away on his keyboard, looking up at the screen every few seconds.
“Anderson, mm, can’t see it on my arrivals list. Do you have a reservation number sir?” asked the receptionist.
“Do I look like a fucking Travel Agent,” replied Robert, “look at your system again. I am booked into room 710.”
A small bead of perspiration ran down the side of the receptionist’s face as he started to hack away at the keyboard.
“Ah, here we go sir, my apologies. They had your last name as Robert instead of Anderson which is why I didn’t pick it up on my system.”
The receptionist tapped away a few more times on the keyboard before a piece of paper spat out of the printer. At the same time he cut a key card and placed both items on the counter in front of Robert.
“Here is your room key sir. Please sign the bottom of the registration card. At the back are all of our terms and conditions,” said the receptionist.
The receptionist looked at the screen and piped up, “Ah, you have a package Mr Anderson” he said with an enquiring tone.
“Are you asking me or telling me?” replied Robert sarcastically.
The receptionist kept his head down and pulled out a large book from behind the counter and started paging through it. When he reached the right page, he used his finger to scan down one of the columns before writing down a number on a piece of paper.
“Here we go, it’s in the back room. Please give me a minute,” he said.
Robert stood waiting at the reception desk for a few minutes while he heard the receptionist rummaging in the back office for his package. He continued to add mental notes of the lobby area, seeing who was coming and going and mapping the layout in his head.
After a few minutes the receptionist arrived back with his parcel, “Here we go Mr. Anderson,” he said as he handed the parcel over the counter to Robert.
Robert inspected the package, making sure it had not been tampered with. When he was satisfied that it hadn’t, he picked up the Keycard off the counter and turned and walked towards the elevator.
“Sir, you forgot to sign the registration card,” came the receptionist’s voice from behind.
Robert stopped and paused, then carried on walking. The receptionist knew that asking a second time would be trouble. He put his head down and processed Robert’s check-in on the system.
Robert got into the elevator and pushed the 7th Floor button. The doors closed and the elevator started its journey upwards. Robert looked at his watch when he stepped inside the elevator and then looked at it again when the elevator stopped on his floor. It had taken 24 seconds. He stepped out onto the carpet and looked along the long and narrow passage.
The first thing that caught his eye were the two CCTV cameras positioned above the elevators. One was looking straight down the passage and the other pointing to the entrance of the elevator. He walked slowly down the passage, counting his steps until he reached his room door. Robert slid the key card into the lock of the door and the small LED flashed green. He pulled the card out again and heard a small click as the door unlocked and he pulled down the handle and went inside the room.
Robert looked around the room for anything that looked out of place but everything seemed to fit. It looked just like any other hotel room. The bed was a queen with a large wooden headboard with two side tables, one on either side. Opposite the bed was a wooden cabinet with a television on top. Close to the large single window was a lounger chair and a coffee table. To the right of the TV stand was a small wooden desk with a kettle and some coffee and tea sachets stuffed into a cup.
Robert switched on the bathroom light and went inside. There wasn’t a shower, only a bath that had a separate shower attachment. It wasn’t quite the Trump Towers, but it was liveable. Robert went back into the room and threw his suitcase onto the bed and opened it up. He removed some clothes and hung them up in the wardrobe.
He took his phone out of his pocket and opened up Wickr. There was only one number on the phone. He opened up a new message and typed in the box “In the room” and tapped the send button. He didn’t have to wait long for a reply: “Mirror, Bathroom”. Robert threw the phone on the bed and walked back to the bathroom. He looked at the mirror but nothing seemed out of place. He looked at the corners of the mirror and noticed there were small silver balls.
Robert looked at one of the silver balls and put his fingers around it and tried to turn it. At first it was quite tight but once it gave way it screwed off easily. As he unscrewed the silver ball he saw that there was a screw underneath that fastened the mirror to the wall. The silver ball was only there as a decoration, to hide the screw.
He left the bathroom and went back to his suitcase, pulling out the Leatherman that was stashed in one of the inside compartments. Robert opened the Leatherman and chose the star screwdriver tool and moved it out. He went to the mirror and started loosening the screw. The screw came out almost as easily as the silver ball had so he knew that somebody had done the same thing recently.
The remaining three screws were taken out in a matter of minutes and Robert moved his hand gently down the edge of the mirror, feeling for any holes he could use to pry it loose. He was almost at the bottom when he detected the smallest of gaps. He gripped the mirror tightly and used his fingers to pull it away from the wall. Robert pulled the mirror off slowly, being careful not to break it.
As the mirror came loose at the bottom, a small brown envelope fell to the ground. Robert put the mirror gently against the wall and then bent over and picked up the envelope. He examined it thoroughly at first, looking for marks. Something caught the corner of his eye and he looked back at the wall, seeing a small brown box lodged in between two bricks. He reached over, took the box out of the wall and opened it.
Inside were five 7.62mm bullets, designed specifically for his rifle. He picked one up and held it between his thumb and forefinger, examining every minute detail. It was assembled almost exactly to the letter on his instructions. He smiled to himself and carefully placed the bullet back in the box.
He turned his attention back to the envelope and with the fingernail on his thumb he sliced the top of the envelope open. On the inside was a black-and-white photo of a man with dark, long curly hair, standing tall and pointing. Robert knew that this was a surveillance photo. He turned the photo around and on the back was written, “Marcus Wahlberg, 31st October, 19h00, Convention Centre”. Robert memorized the picture and the writing and went to the bathroom.
He took the cigarette lighter out of his pocket and lit the bottom of the photograph. It caught fire quickly, and he held it over the toilet so the ashes could fall into the water. He kept having to swop hands so he didn’t burn himself. As the flames engulfed the last visible piece of the photograph Robert let go and the remaining small piece fell into the bowl. Robert pulled the chain and watched as the ashes were flushed away. He decided to wait a few extra seconds to ensure that nothing remained. Nothing did.
He picked up the mirror and put it back on the wall, putting all the screws back with their silver balls on top. Robert examined the counter top, making sure that no evidence remained that he had removed the mirror. He took a step back and double checked, making sure everything was in order.
Robert walked back to the bedroom and looked at the parcel lying on the bed. He walked back to the door and placed the chain on the lock, “Better safe than sorry,” he thought to himself.
He went back to the parcel and, using his Leatherman, he sliced open the side of it. Robert could see the side of the briefcase. Robert removed the rest of the packaging and removed the briefcase, holding it up and inspecting it. He looked at the combination lock and knew at once it was military grade. Robert was sure there would also be a tamper proof switch that would trigger an explosion if the case was opened without the correct combination.
He picked up his phone again and was about to open the Wickr app when a message alert came through. He opened the message and read it: “1496”.
Robert looked around the room nervously, wondering if he was being watched. He walked over to the brief case and moved the dials around until he had entered 1496 as the combination. He pushed the button next to the lock and heard a loud ‘click’ as the latch sprang open. Robert moved onto the lock on the other end of the briefcase and entered the same code, luckily with the same result. He lifted the lid of the briefcase slowly and instantly recognised the pieces of metal and plastic that were packed between layers of foam packaging.
He took out the pieces one by one, examining each one carefully for any damage. After he had removed them all and was satisfied with their condition he started to assemble the pieces. Through years of practice he was able to assemble the rifle in fifteen seconds. He took a bit longer to place the telescopic sight on the top and then held the rifle up and looked through the sight, aiming at a picture on the wall.
The knock from the door nearly startled him to death, and he looked around for a place to hide the rifle. He lifted the comforter off the bed and threw the rifle under it.
“Who is it?” He asked out loud.
“Housekeeping,” came the reply.
Robert walked to the door and opened it slightly, keeping the chain in place.
“What do you want?” asked Robert rudely through the door to the housekeeping lady.
“We didn’t put any cream for your coffee in your room.” replied the housekeeper, looking nervous.
“I drink my coffee black,” replied Robert as he slammed the door closed.
He looked through the peephole as the housekeeper stared at the door for a few seconds and then walked back down the passage. Robert knew that the best way to ensure his privacy was to be rude. Nobody messed with a rude person.
He went back to the bed and took the rifle out from under the comforter and started to take it apart. Once he had dismantled it, he opened his suitcase and removed everything inside. He moved his hand to the corner of the suitcase and felt for a small button. He pushed the button twice in quick succession and heard a faint click as the bottom of the suitcase came loose. Robert lifted out the bottom of the suitcase, placed all the pieces of the rifle inside then returned the bottom back into the suitcase and pushed it down hard until he heard another faint click.
Robert packed some of his clothes back into the suitcase and placed it next to the desk. He looked at his watch, and saw that it was 7-30pm – almost time for dinner. He walked over to the window and pulled the curtains open. He had a full view of the convention centre which was in complete darkness, “No conferences at the moment,” he thought to himself.
Robert got changed into some more casual attire – he was after all, a mobile phone salesman, so he had to look the part. He chose a worn pair of jeans and a t-shirt with the slogan, “FBI – Female Body Inspector”. Robert loved this disguise and had used it on many previous jobs. He was so good at playing this character that nobody doubted it for a second.
He went down the elevator, timing the trip again and memorising it. The elevator doors opened in the lobby and the sound of Karaoke filled the air.
“Please not this crap.” Robert thought to himself, he hated Karaoke with a passion.
He walked into the bar and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light. In the corner of the room a small makeshift stage had been setup with an old television in front of it. On the stage was an old man, close to seventy years of age, with the microphone in his hand, butchering the old Tom Jones classic Green Green Grass of Home. Robert winced as his voice blasted out of the two speakers on either side of the stage, the extra bass causing the windows to shake and rattle.
Robert made his way to the bar, trying to sit as far away from the noise as possible. There were quite a few barstools open and Robert chose one that was in the darkest corner of the bar. As he sat down the bar tender walked over to him, “What will it be?” he asked.
“Double Jack on the rocks,” replied Robert, and he turned round to see if the old man had managed to get off the stage safely.
He was pleasantly surprised to see that a younger girl had taken his place. He was hoping that her voice would be as good as her looks, but when she started singing his hopes were dashed and he turned around just as the barman placed his drink on a coaster in front of him.
“That will be fourteen dollars please,” said the barman.
Robert reached into his back pocket and pulled out a roll of bills, peeled off two hundred-dollar bills and placed them on the counter, “Keep them coming,” he said to the barman.
“No problem,” replied the barman, and he took the money opening the cash register.
Robert was quick to see that he barman didn’t ring up the Jack Daniels on the cash register. Instead, he placed the cash on the side of the register, making it look as if he had put it inside.
“So where you from?” asked the barman.
“Dallas,” replied Robert, “Down here on some business.”
“Well I’ll be damned, I’m also from Dallas. Which area you from?” continued the barman.
“Carrollton,” replied Robert, sticking to his tried and tested cover.
“We might as well be neighbours then. I am from Farmers Branch,” said the barman, and he leant over the bar counter and shook Robert’s hand, “Wade Michaels is the name.” he said, introducing himself.
“Robert Anderson,” replied Robert, knowing he had just made an instant friend; exactly what he was hoping to do.
“What brings you down south?” continued Wade.
“I’m a sales rep for Sprint,” replied Robert, “Trying to close a few deals here.”
“So you work for Sprint?” asked Wade, suddenly sounding a lot more interested.
“Well yes and no,” said Robert, “I work on commission for every dealer I sign up, but they don’t employ me. I work for myself. Never have been a corporate man.”
Part of Robert’s cover was to make sure that he was untraceable. If somebody phoned Sprint and found out he didn’t work there his cover would be blown. This way, there was nobody to verify who he was.
“What can a guy do for fun around here?” asked Robert.
“What type of fun you looking for, the clean or the dirty kind?” replied Wade.
“The clean type,” replied Robert, “Have a wife and two kids waiting at home.”
“Well Robert, the best way to stay out of trouble is to stay right here,” said Wade.
“Cheers to that,” replied Robert, and he raised his glass and downed the golden-brown liquid. He banged the empty glass on the bar counter and motioned for the barman to pour him another one.
“When are you going to get some decent entertainment?” asked Robert, “This one sounds like a cat on a hot tin roof.”
“The more you drink the better they sound,” replied the barman as he handed Robert a full glass.
After downing three more drinks, Robert made his way to the bathroom. His head was starting to spin and he tried hard not to bump into some tables on his way. He managed to make his way into the bathroom without incident and rushed into one of the stalls and closed the door. He opened the lid of the toilet and stuck his finger down his throat. The contents of his stomach, including all the Jack Daniels, came out instantly in one gigantic ball of vomit.
The spit was dangling from his mouth, almost reaching the toilet bowl. He pulled of some toilet paper from the roll and wiped his mouth. His eyes were watering, so he pulled off a few more sheets of toilet paper and wiped them too. He took a few deep breaths of air and stood up, making sure he could focus. He flushed the toilet, opened the cubicle and went to the wash basin.
Robert opened the cold tap and, using both his hands, he threw some water on his face. He put his mouth to the tap and gulped down a few mouthfuls of water. He then stood up and looked into the mirror, making sure that he was able to focus. Robert opened the bathroom door and started walking back to the bar. He noticed he was walking too straight. He had to look drunk, so he exaggerated his stagger, bumping into a few tables as he made his way back to the bar.
Robert sat down heavily on the bar stool and put his arm on the counter.
“Whoooo, another one please Wade,” he ordered, slurring slightly and holding up his empty glass, his hand wobbling.
“You sure?” asked Wade, who had seen Robert stumble back to the bar, “Looks like you have had enough for tonight.”
“Yesh I’m fine,” replied Robert.
“Okay, you’re the boss,” said Wade, shaking his head as he poured Robert another double Jack.
Robert had another four double Jacks before looking at his watch, it was 10-30pm, time to get back to his room. He stood up from his bar stool and almost fell over, just managing to keep his balance.
“Woah, easy there. Do you need some help?” asked Wade.
“I’ll be fine,” replied Robert, “How do I get out of here?”
“Through that door over there,” replied Wade, pointing to the doorway that Robert had arrived through.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” said Robert as he saluted the barman, his hand shaking as he held it at an awkward angle above his brow.
Robert stumbled and bumped his way through the bar, briefly resting against a pillar on his way out. He made sure that most of the bar was watching him. As he stumbled through the doorway he tripped on the step and fell flat on his face. He used the palm of his hand to slap the ground as he fell, letting it sound like he had fallen hard.
As he lay on the ground he held up one arm, “I’m alright,” he said.
He lifted himself carefully off the ground and back to his feet. He stumbled forwards, using the wall to guide him to the elevator. Robert had to wait a few seconds for the elevator to come. He leant against the wall, his head bent forwards. Out of the corner of his eye he looked at the CCTV camera which was staring directly at him. He wasn’t sure if they were monitored full time so he had to assume that they were.
As the elevator opened Robert fell inside, almost knocking over a couple that were getting out. The man pushed Robert against the side of the elevator, “Watch where you’re going,” he said aggressively.
“Sorry mister.” replied Robert, “Had a bit too much to drink.”
“Yes, I can see that,” replied the man, “best you go and sleep it off.”
“That’s where I am headed,” said Robert, “Apologies again.”
The man took his wife by the arm and walked her down the passage towards the reception desk.
Robert pushed the seventh floor and set the timer on his watch. When he arrived at the seventh floor and the elevator opened he looked down at the timer again. It registered 26 seconds. He carried on with his charade, stumbling down the passage towards his room. When he reached the door he fumbled with his key card, dropping it on the floor twice before opening the door.
As Robert stepped inside his room he went to the bathroom and put his finger down his throat, vomiting up all the Jack Daniels into the toilet bowl. He leaned across to the bath and opened up the cold tap, pulling on the lever to close the plug. Robert took off his clothes and stepped into the bath, letting it fill up with cold water. He waited until his body was fully covered in water before turning off the tap. He then gently let his head down underneath the water, holding his breath and letting his mind relax.
After a minute, he lifted his face out of the water and used his hands to wipe the water away. He got out of the bath and toweled himself dry, taking a moment to stare at himself in the mirror. Then he walked into the bedroom, towel around his waist and sat down on the edge of the bed. He opened his rucksack, took out his second phone and switched it on.
Robert waited for the phone to boot it up before he saw the familiar picture of his wife and two kids light up the screen. When the menu to come up he opened his Wi-Fi settings and scanned for available networks. He picked up the hotel wireless connection and connected to it. As he connected a secure web page popped up asking him to register with his last name and room number. He entered the details and clicked the connect button. The hour glass flipped over a few times before connecting him to the internet.
Robert opened up his email client and downloaded some emails. He scanned through them, looking for any urgent emails but didn’t find any. He threw the phone onto the bed and flopped backwards against the bed, his hands behind his head. So far everything was going according to plan.
The sun streamed through a small crack in the window and straight into Robert’s eyes. He used his one hand to try to shield himself, hoping for a few more minutes’ sleep. He suddenly remembered where he was and shot out of bed. He walked into the bathroom and had a long pee, his bladder full from the night before. When he finished, he looked at himself in the mirror, “Not looking too bad,” he thought to himself.
Robert put some water in the basin and took out his toiletry bag, removing his razor blade and shaving cream. He liked to shave in warm water as it seemed to make his beard softer and stopped any rashes from the blade. Robert didn’t waste any time and was finished quickly. He rinsed his face and applied some Nivea cream, making sure he kept his skin hydrated. Although not overly concerned about appearances Robert like to at least look presentable.
He slapped on a small dose of after shave, rubbing some in behind the ears. Then he went to the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of brown Chino trousers and a blue long sleeve shirt. He liked to wear blue shirts, it made him feel that people trusted him more- anything that would help his disguise. After Robert dressed he made his way downstairs for breakfast, making sure he timed the elevator again. This time it was 22 seconds.
He stepped out of the elevator and walked towards the breakfast room which was on the far side of the hotel lobby. Robert walked past the entrance to the bar and had a sly peek inside, a small grin on his face. He entered the breakfast room and waited to be seated. A small and petite waitress saw him waiting and walked up to him.
“Good morning sir, how you doing this today?” she asked, a large fake smile filling her face.
“I’m doing just fine,” replied Robert.
“Table for one?” she asked.
“Yes please, close to that couple over there,” replied Robert, pointing to the couple he had accidentally bumped into in the elevator the night before.
“Sure sir, please come this way,” she said, picking up a menu and leading him to the table next to the couple.
Robert sat down and the waitress placed the menu in front of him, “Some tea or coffee for you sir?” she asked.
“Coffee, black please,” replied Robert, and he started studying the menu. When he decided what he wanted to eat he put his menu down and looked across towards the couple. He placed his napkin on the table and turned towards them.
“Sorry to trouble you again,” he said to the couple, “I just want to apologise for my behaviour last night. It was unprofessional of me.”
“That’s alright,” replied the man, “no harm was done.”
“Robert Anderson,” said Robert, holding out his hand to introduce himself.
The man took Robert’s hand and shook it, “James Jackson, and this here is my wife Judy,” he replied.
Robert looked across at the woman, “Pleased to meet you Mam,” he said.
“Where are y’all from?” asked Robert, thickening his Texas accent.
“We’re from New Orleans,” replied Judy.
“Ah the Big Easy,” said Robert, “I just love that part of the world, the home of poker.”
“Best state in the US of A,” replied James, looking proud, “Where do you hail from?”
“I’m from Dallas, Texas,” replied Robert, “Born and bred.”
“Why don’t you join us?” asked Judy.
“Don’t mind if I do Mam,” replied Robert, and he swopped chairs, joining them at their table, “Being on the road is a lonely time – probably why I had a little too much to drink last night,”
“Yes, I know what you mean,” said James, “I travelled a bit when I was a youngster too.”
“What line of business are you in?” asked Robert.
“I am retired,” replied James, “Was in law enforcement for 42 years.”
Robert’s heart skipped a beat, his mind racing, what should he do? One thing Robert could always count on was that he remained calm under pressure, showing no visible signs of his predicament, “What line were you in?” asked Robert, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible.
“The FBI,” replied James, “Can’t say too much though, top secret.”
Robert’s heart skipped another beat. He knew this man would be well trained so he had to be careful. Despite trying his best to remain calm, a small bead of sweat ran down the side of his forehead.
“Where were you based?” asked Robert.
“Washington D.C. for most of my career before being transferred to run the New Orleans office,” replied James.
“Shit,” thought Robert to himself, “He must have been high up to run the New Orleans office.”
“How long have you been retired?” asked Robert.
“About five years now. Can’t remember a dang thing of what they taught me,” he replied, tapping his forehead with his index finger.
Robert breathed a small sigh of relief, “Maybe he isn’t so sharp after all,” he thought to himself and relaxed slightly.
They continued to chat for another hour, discussing what sights there were to see in Austin.
“Why don’t you join us on the day tour? We are leaving in twenty minutes?” asked Judy.
“That sounds really nice but I have some dealers I need to visit and hopefully sign some deals. I need to pay for this trip,” replied Robert.
“Sure thing, we will be sure to take some photos for you,” said James as he stood up, “Come on Judy let’s get the show on the road. It’s going to be a busy day.”
Robert waited for them to leave before he summoned the waitress, indicating for her to bring the check. The waitress walked up to him, “Sir, the other gentleman has already paid for you,” she said.
“Oh ok, thanks,” replied Robert, looking slightly confused. He hadn’t seen James pay or even talk to the waitress.
He got up and left the restaurant and as he stepped outside he removed a cigarette from the box in his pocket and lit it up. Robert hated smoking, but it gave him a chance to stand in one place and observe the surroundings without drawing any attention to himself. He took a deep puff and then exhaled, sending a large ball of smoke into the air.
Robert scanned the conference centre, looking at all the entrance doors, the fire hydrants, anything that could be of interest and memorizing it. He flicked his half-finished cigarette into the gutter on the side of the road and ambled across, stepping over the tram tracks that split the road in half. Robert stepped onto the sidewalk and looked at the entrance doors, they were all locked.
He walked around the building, checking all the doors, hoping that one would be open but they were all shut tight. Robert walked back to the main entrance and peered through the window, trying to get a look inside. He was looking around when a voice boomed behind him, “Can I help you sir.”
Robert whirled around and saw a security guard staring at him, his hand resting on his nightstick.
“Whew officer, you gave me a fright” said Robert, holding his hand over heart.
“I am not a police officer,” replied the guard, “Just here to protect the centre sir. Sorry I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“No problem,” said Robert.
“Can I help you with anything?” asked the guard.
“Do you know that time they open?” asked Robert politely.
“They are closed today sir, no conferences,” replied the guard, “Only open tomorrow for that environmental talk.”
“Environmental talk?” asked Robert.
“Yea, some bunny hugger giving a talk about nuclear energy and the environment. He is apparently quite a famous bloke,” replied the guard.
“Do you know his name?” continued Robert.
“It’s Marcus something or other. I can’t remember his last name,” said the guard.
“Sounds like a blast,” said Robert sarcastically.
“Not exactly down my alley either,” said the guard laughing.
“How long you been on the job here?” asked Robert, fishing for as much information as possible.
“Going on seven years now,” replied the guard.
“Seen any action here?” Robert continued.
“Nothing much. We did have a shooting a few years ago and then last month a fire broke out in the elevator room,” he replied.
“Anybody get hurt?” asked Robert
“Nah, they evacuated the centre in time,” replied the guard.
“Good, the police must have been here quickly,” said Robert.
“Not the fastest I have ever seen. The fire truck was here just before them. They were probably out getting some doughnuts and coffee,” continued the guard.
“Why didn’t you join the force and shake them up? You look like you would make a fine policeman,” said Robert, trying to flatter the guard.
“My knee,” replied the guard, leaning down and touching his kneecap, “Busted it in high school playing football. Ruined my career.”
“I know how it feels,” said Robert, “All State baseball before I popped my shoulder and killed my career.”
“Well I guess that’s life,” said the guard.
“I see this glass is mighty thick,” said Robert, placing his fingers on the glass, “I am looking at getting some for my mobile phone shop back in Dallas. I have been robbed three times in the last six months and they always bust the glass to get in.”
“That’s special glass,” replied the guard, “A couple of years ago we had Obama giving a talk here and they decided to replace all the glass with this special glass. It’s bulletproof. I saw them testing it with all kinds of rifles and nothing came close to going through it.”
“I can see why. This is some serious protection,” said Robert, “Anyways, I had better get moving along, still lots to do today. Thanks for your help. It’s much appreciated.”
“My pleasure mister. Have a good day,” replied the guard.
Robert turned around and walked back to the hotel. He sat in the lobby on a comfortable chair and ordered a cup of coffee from the waiter. He sat with a newspaper in front of him, pretending to read. He was watching the convention centre, making notes of the guards’ patrols and their routines.
It was almost 11-00am when Robert pulled out a mobile phone from his jacket pocket. He switched it on and waited a few seconds for it to power up. He looked at the newspaper until he found the number he was looking for and started typing a text message. It took him a few seconds to type before he entered the number and pressed the send button.
He switched the phone off at once and slipped it back into his pocket. He set the timer on his watch and buried his head in the newspaper, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. It took four minutes for the wail of sirens to be heard in the distance, closing in fast. Robert kept his head in the newspaper and when the first cop burst through the doors he stopped the timer on his watch, it was four minutes and forty-five seconds.
“Everybody please make your way outside. Exit through the doors in an orderly fashion. Please do not panic,” came the bellowing voice of the police man.
Robert stood up and walked towards the exit, trying to blend in with the surrounding people. He joined the stream of people exiting and when he got to the pavement he pulled the phone out of his pocket, removed a thin layer of plastic that covered the keypad and put it inside a dustbin that was attached to a lamp pole. He looked around, making sure that nobody saw him and then moved a few yards away, standing behind a crowd of people.
A fire truck and an ambulance pulled up outside the hotel at almost exactly the same time. The fireman in the front of the fire truck jumped out as they stopped and ran inside the hotel. A few more police cars arrived, bringing the total to eight. Two of the police officers were stationed on the pavement, keeping the people at bay.
“What’s going on?” asked one of the crowd.
“There has been a bomb threat,” replied the police officer.
“Is it a real bomb?” asked an elderly lady.
The police man turned and stared at her for a few seconds before shaking his head and walking off. They waited in the street for close to an hour before an unmarked white van pulled up. Robert could hear the barking of dogs and knew that the sniffer dogs were about to earn their next meal.
The handler opened up the back doors of the van and out jumped one of the best animal specimens Robert had ever seen. He was a Malinois, the same type of dog used to guard the grounds of the White House. His coat was mahogany in color with black markings, matching the color of his nose and ears. His ears were pointed and stood upright, giving him an almost demonic appearance.
The dog gave one look around and then bounded up the stairs and into the hotel, his handler close behind him. Robert continued to watch as the second dog was brought out of the van. This one was a Beagle and not a very intimidating sight. He was small and compact and looked as if he was there to have some fun. He looked up at his handler and wagged his tail, as if he was waiting for a treat. The handler bent down and patted him on the head before leading him up the stairs and into the hotel.
Robert waited patiently with the rest of the people while the dogs were hard at work, sniffing for explosives. Robert knew they would not find any as he was the one that sent the message of the bomb. He wanted to see what the reaction time of the police would be and now he knew.
After another two hours of standing on the pavement, the dogs exited the hotel and were bundled into the back of the van. The two handlers climbed in, waved at the police officers and drove off. One of the police officers walked up to them, “Okay folks, you can go back inside. It seems somebody was having some fun.”
“Are you sure it is safe?” asked the old lady.
“Yes Mam,” replied the police officer, “the dogs have covered every square inch of the hotel and if there was anything they would have found it.”
“Great thank you officer,” she replied and started hobbling back to the hotel.
Robert waited until most of the people had made their way back before he joined the line. As he walked into the entrance he saw that one of the police officers was staring at him. He put his head down and walked straight ahead, trying to blend in. As he went behind a pillar he changed direction and walked hastily to the elevator.
As usual he timed the trip up to the seventh floor. This time it was 24 seconds. When the elevator doors opened, he kept his head away from the CCTV cameras and walked to his room, opening the door and slipping inside. Robert was worried about the police officer that was staring at him. It had happened before that he had bumped into one of his old school friends whilst on a job and in disguise, almost being caught out. He had to silence the friend, permanently.
As much as he tried to remember, the face of the police officer did not ring any bells so he dismissed it from his mind, “No use worrying about it, he is probably long gone by now,” he thought to himself. Robert looked at his watch, it was 3-00pm. He went to his rucksack and pulled out a small laptop and switched it on.
He logged in with an extremely long password. Robert always liked using a phrase as a password, it was easy to remember and almost impossible to be hacked. He opened up his Wi-Fi settings and connected to the hotel network, entering his details as he had done the day before. Robert opened up his Chrome browser and typed “Marcus Wahlberg” into the search box. He hit the search button and within milliseconds the search returned over one thousand hits.
Robert looked at the first one, it was a headline from the USA Today from three months ago, “Activists Block Entrance to French Nuclear Plant.” He clicked on the link and read the full article. Marcus and some fellow activists were demanding the closure of the aging Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant in France. The Plant was located in a densely-populated part of France and close to the borders of Germany and Switzerland. A Nuclear fallout from this plant, as had been seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima, would have devastating consequences.
Robert continued looking at the results of the search, going into different articles and finding out more about his mark. He saw a picture of Marcus tied to an enormous Redwood tree with a large bulldozer standing in front of him. The caption beneath that photograph read, “Save the Redwoods.” Robert was becoming intrigued with Marcus who had travelled all over the world, being a part of many protests. He would appear in a photograph saving the Amazon Forest and then a few months later would appear in another photograph standing on a small boat with his hands high in the air right in the path of a gigantic Japanese whaler.
One link though stood out for Robert, and he was intrigued by the title, “Rainbow Warrior Sunk by French Spies.” Robert had heard about this event years ago and clicked on the link. He browsed through the overview and then started reading the detail. Marcus was a passenger on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it was sunk in Auckland harbour by two French foreign intelligence operatives as part of Operation Satanique. Marcus was sleeping on the ship at that time and had only just managed to escape, unlike one of his colleagues who perished.
Two French divers had placed limpet mines onto the hull of the ship. The first mine detonated and blew a hole the size of a car in the hull of the ship. Ten minutes later a second blast went off which threw Marcus into the water, where he was dragged to safety by his colleagues. Four minutes after the second blast, the ship sank.
Robert’s mind was imagining what it must have been like on that ship. He felt a small pang of regret ripple through his body. It would be a pity to kill this man, especially after reading all these stories. It seemed that Marcus was a noble man who fought hard for many just causes. “Oh well, he must have pissed somebody off,” he thought to himself.
He went onto Facebook and searched for Marcus, finding him right at the top of the list. He had close to four thousand friends. Robert looked at his profile picture which was of Marcus, a woman and two children. They were sitting on a wooden fence with what looked like Mount Everest in the background. He read a few of his posts and looked at his photos, which were all of his family.
They seemed to live a happy life if the photographs were to be believed. Marcus took his family with him wherever he went. There were photos of them in the snow, lying on desolate beaches, flying kites and just about anything else you could imagine. Robert looked at the two children, they were close to the same age as his two. He suddenly felt a yearning for home and he closed down his browser and opened up his Skype application.
Robert had only one contact; home. He double clicked on the name and it started calling his home. It only rang three times before he heard that familiar voice on the other end, “Daddy,” it was his daughter Zoe. It took a few seconds for her face to appear in the video window. She was smiling from ear to ear.
“How are you honey?” he asked.
“We’re fine daddy, when are you coming home?” asked Zoe, “We miss you.”
“In a couple of days’ time honey,” he replied, “I am just finishing up some deals here. How is school going?”
“It’s going fine. Lots of homework,” she said.
“Well make sure you finish it all before I get back so we can go and see that movie you been nagging me about,” said Robert.
“Twilight?” asked Zoe excitedly, “Can I bring a friend? Please.”
“Yes, but only one. Not seven like last time,” said Robert, laughing.
“Oh that’s great, thanks Dad, you’re the best,” said Zoe as she leant over and gave the camera a kiss.
“Is your mother around?” asked Robert.
“Yes she is in the kitchen getting dinner ready. Must I call her for you?” she asked.
“Yes please,” he replied.
Zoe left the room and Robert could hear her shouting for her mother down the passage. It took a few seconds before his wife’s face filled the screen.
“Hello Baby,” he said when she sat down.
“Hi Honey, how is the trip going?” she replied.
“It’s going well. I signed up two dealers today and I have another three appointments tomorrow,” he replied.
“Wow that’s great news,” she said, “When are you coming home?”
“On Thursday,” replied Robert, “I am coming in on the red eye.”
“Okay great so you will be here by eight then?” she asked.
“Yes why?” asked Robert.
“Ben has a soccer match, and he really wants you to be there. You’ve missed the last three,” she said.
“Yeah I know,” said Robert biting his lip, “Tell him I will definitely be there. Where is he now?”
“He is in the bath,” she replied.
“Okay don’t bother him then. I will see him on Thursday,” said Robert, “You know Baby I’ve been thinking about all this travelling. I was thinking that this might be my last trip. I need to spend more time with you and the kids.”
“Really? Are you serious?” replied his wife Lisa, her face a picture of disbelief, “That would be fantastic!”
“Yes I am dead serious. I am tired of travelling, really tired,” said Robert.
“That is good news honey,” said Lisa, tears starting to well up in her eyes.
“Well, I’d better go. I have another meeting in ten minutes,” said Robert, having to clear his throat to get the words out, “Love you lots and see you soon. Send my love to the kids.”
“I will. I love you too Honey. Come home safely,” she replied and blew him a kiss.
Robert ended the call and sat there for a moment in silence on the end of the bed. He placed his hands behind his head and flopped backwards onto the bed. “I really have had enough,” he thought to himself, “this is my last job. After this I am retiring.”
The fee for this hit was one and a half million dollars. A substantial amount more than his usual one hundred thousand dollar price tag. This was part of his motivation for retiring, he would now have enough money to support his family for many years ahead. He wondered who, or rather why, would anybody pay one and half million dollars to kill an environmentalist?
With that thought in his head he glanced at his watch and jumped off the bed. He had a dinner date with the Jacksons in fifteen minutes. Robert rushed into the bathroom, ripped his clothes off and jumped into the shower. He washed his hair and lathered his body in a thick layer of soap. He stood under the shower spout letting the water run down his body, rinsing off the soap suds.
Robert got out of the shower and combed his hair into place, sprayed on some deodorant and got dressed into a pair of stonewashed jeans and a white Polo golf shirt. He checked himself in the mirror before opening the door and heading towards the elevator. He timed the elevator again, this time it took 25 seconds. He ran a calculation in his head to work out the average time it took from the seventh floor to the ground floor. It was an average of 24 seconds.
When the elevator stopped on the ground floor he walked out and paused in the foyer, looking around to see if he recognised anybody. The only person he recognised was the old lady who had made those stupid comments to the police officer. He walked over to the entrance to the restaurant and looked inside. The Jacksons were already seated and were chatting away to each other, “Now that’s how I want to grow old,” thought Robert to himself and he made his way over to their table.
“Good evening Mr and Mrs Jackson,” said Robert as he reached the table.
“Ah Robert,” said James as he stood up and shook Robert’s hand, “Please have a seat.”
“How did your business go today?” asked Judy.
“It went extraordinarily well, managed to get ink on two deals,” replied Robert, “How was the sight-seeing? Did you see anything worthwhile?”
“We went to the Capital building which was magnificent and then to the History Museum. I don’t like museums much but James loves them. He is a history buff,” said Judy.
“Sounds like I missed out,” said Robert.
“From what I have been told there was some action here today,” said James, “Something about a bomb scare.”
“Oh yes, I heard about that,” said Robert, “Probably some college kids playing a prank.”
“Weren’t you here when it happened?” asked Judy.
“No mam,” replied Robert, “I was still on the road.”
“I am always terrified of these bomb scares. Do you know that I was only a few blocks away from the bomb that went off in Oklahoma? Every time I hear the word bomb I want to jump out of my skin,” said Judy.
“You must be really lucky to be alive,” said Robert.
“Every day I thank the Lord for saving me,” said Judy, pulling the gold cross out from around her neck and giving it a small kiss, “Do you know that James here helped with the case?”
“Now now Judy,” interrupted James, “You know you are not allowed to talk about what happened in the past. A lot of that stuff is still confidential. I can get arrested if any information gets leaked.”
“Sorry dear,” replied Judy, “You just did such a good job that I wanted to tell Robert.”
“So tell me Robert,” said James, changing the subject, “Who do you think is gonna take the Super Bowl this year?”
“Personally I don’t like the Panthers. I’m a Bronco’s man,” replied Robert. “There is no way the Panthers are going to get through Von Miller.”
“I’m not a Panthers fan either. Never have liked them,” said James.
“I assume you are a Saint’s fan?” said Robert.
“Hell yea. Saints all the way!” said James loudly, banging his fist on the table.
“Calm down dear,” said Judy, resting her hand on his arm and turning to Robert, “You know he can really get upset about football.”
“I always see that as a good thing in people,” replied Robert, “It means they are passionate.”
“I really like this man,” said James, and he raised his hand in the air and snapped his fingers to get the attention of the waiter, “Now let’s get ourselves something to drink.”
The waiter appeared out of nowhere and within an instant was at James’s side, “Yes sir, what can I get for you?” he asked politely.
“I’ll have another double scotch,” replied James, and then turned to Robert, “What will you have?”
“Double Jack on the rocks, lots of ice,” said Robert.
“A man after my own heart,” said James, “I like him even more now!”
They had a festive time, eating, drinking, talking and laughing. Any threat that Robert felt about James’s previous employment was long forgotten. The drinks kept on flowing and James and Robert were becoming best mates with Judy the only one that remained sober. As the night wore on the restaurant emptied out and it was only Robert and the Jackson’s left. The staff had switched off half the lights and the waiter was sitting down as a table on the far side playing on his mobile phone.
“James, I think it’s time for me to hit the sack,” said Robert as he stood up and wobbled slightly.
“Was a great evening Robert, thank you for the company,” replied James.
“Goodnight Judy,” said Robert as he turned to Judy, took her hand gently and kissed the back of it. He then turned back to James and shook his hand, “Good night James, sleep well.”
James and Judy watched as Robert made his way out of the restaurant, stumbling slightly as he walked.
Robert woke up in a pool of sweat. He glanced over at the time, it was 4am. The nightmares had started the night after his first hit and hadn’t stopped. It was always the same one. He shot and killed a man who changed into the devil and chased after him. Robert ran away, screaming, but the devil kept getting closer and closer. He always woke up just before it caught him. He always wondered if he would wake up if the devil finally did catch him.
Years of drinking to keep up his charade had taught Robert a few valuable lessons. He had studied the effects of alcohol in detail and knew exactly how to counteract them. If he was unable to stick his finger down his throat and bring the alcohol up he would take a couple of Dihydromyricetin tablets with a litre of water. The tablets were designed to block the Glutamine rebound that occurs when you sleep after a night of heavy drinking.
Robert had taken eight Dihydromyricetin tablets with two litres of water before he went to bed and woke up feeling like a normal person. He walked to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror before opening the tap, filling his hands with cold water and splashing it onto his face. He towelled his face dry and opened up his wardrobe taking out a pair of shorts, a t-shirt some socks and a pair of sneakers.
He knew he wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep, so he thought he would work out whatever alcohol remained in the Hotel gym. He grabbed his Keycard and opened the door and stepped out into the passage. There was an almost eerie silence at night. Robert looked up and down the passage and then made his way to the elevator. The gym was located on the top floor of the Hotel, overlooking the Austin skyline.
It was still dark outside when Robert began his workout. He started with a slow walk on the treadmill, increasing the pace gently until he reached a mild jog. After twenty minutes he felt he had warmed up his muscles and body enough and he switched to the indoor rowing machine. This was his main workout, and he set the machine goal to 6 miles and a time to beat of forty minutes. He had never broken forty minutes but had been close occasionally.
Robert started off at a medium pace, getting his body used to the rhythm. With each minute that passed he picked up the pace slightly. He kept his eye on the estimated distance, making sure he could give a final burst at the end to try to break that elusive forty minutes. The first twenty minutes were quite easy for Robert and he had hardly broken a sweat. He paused briefly however to have a drink of water and prepare himself for the final twenty minutes, which would be a lot more challenging.
The last twenty minutes seemed to take for ever and with two minutes remaining, he had just over 300 yards to go so it was going to be close. He put his head down and pulled as hard as he could, only looking up every few strokes to see if he was still on track. With a minute to go he was right on the edge and had to use all his strength to keep pulling as hard as he could, the sweat pouring down his face. Robert had to squint to see the display and as he pulled his last stroke he saw the clock stop at 39:59, he had made it by one second.
He sat on the rower for a few minutes to catch his breath. He felt good. It was a major milestone he had been trying to achieve for the last two years and he had finally done it. More than that though, for Robert this felt like a good omen, on a day when he needed good omens. He grabbed a towel from the rack and wiped the sweat of his body, throwing it in the laundry bin on his way out.
Robert caught the elevator and went back down to his room, jumping into the shower straight away. He kept the water luke-warm to keep his muscles fresh. He stepped out of the shower and dried himself before changing into some brown Chino trousers and a long sleeve black turtleneck top. Robert looked at his watch, it was 7am, “Time for breakfast,” he thought to himself.
He picked up his rucksack and made his way down to the breakfast room, which was still empty, and chose a table in the corner. Robert ordered some scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and mushrooms on the side. The waiter came around offering coffee which he gratefully accepted, the caffeine giving him a nice mental boost. He finished the first cup in one gulp and signalled for the waiter to bring him a refill which he did.
Robert glanced out of the window towards the convention centre and saw that one of the entrance doors was wide open. He had to get inside there and have a look around. He signed the account to his room and made his way outside, across the road towards the entrance to the convention centre.
As he entered the convention centre, he had a quick look around, seeing lots of people scampering around carrying boxes. Robert walked up to a large information board and looked at the program. Marcus was scheduled to give his lecture in the Plantation Room at 7-00pm. Robert looked at the map and saw that the Plantation room was on the third floor, directly in the middle.
He rode up the escalator to the third floor and then walked along the long and wide passage until he reached the room. There were three sets of large double doors that opened into a huge hall. The chairs were laid out in rows, all facing a raised podium. There were two large screens on either side of the podium that Robert assumed would be showing a video feed of the speaker.
Robert turned around and walked back to the window, looking across at his hotel. He discovered that his room was at the same level as the Plantation room. He looked back towards to the podium, it was an almost perfect line of site. Robert touched the glass, it was the same type of glass used on the ground floor, “Shit,” he thought to himself, “The same bulletproof glass as downstairs.”
There were two black leather sofa’s positioned against the glass a few yards away. Robert walked over and pushed them to where he was standing. He made sure that he was in the direct line of sight between his room and the podium before sitting down and opening his rucksack. He pulled out a small black box that had some putty on the side.
Robert placed the box against the window and pressed it firmly so the putty stuck. He reached down to a switch on the bottom and turned it on. He heard three small beeps as the device started up. On top of the device was a yellow warning sign with a picture of a rat on. People were always suspicious of packages lying around but if it looked like a rat rap it always passed scrutiny without any problems.
He took his mobile phone out of his pocket and opened an app that was hidden in a folder. Robert kept the app open for a few seconds, just long enough to check that the device was on and responding. He put his phone back in his pocket, closed his rucksack and stood up. As he turned around to walk back towards the escalator he bumped into the same guard he had spoken to the day before. The first thought that went through Robert’s mind was, how much did he see?
“Nice to see you again,” greeted the guard.
“Likewise,” replied Robert, extending his hand to the guard, “A lot busier than yesterday.”
“Yes everybody is getting ready for tonight’s talk,” said the guard.
“It’s at 7-00pm isn’t it?” asked Robert.
“Yes that’s right,” replied the guard.
“Do these things normally start on time?” Robert continued, “I am staying at Hotel 72 and thought I might walk across later and listen to what all the fuss is about.”
“Oh yes, they are usually strict about the starting time. In fact we have instructions to close the doors at exactly 7-10pm,” replied the guard.
“So I’d better be seated before then?” said Robert.
“If you want to listen I would recommend it,” said the guard.
“Ok great. What time are you knocking off?” asked Robert
“I am pulling a double shift, so only after the talk,” replied the guard.
“Then I might see you later?” said Robert.
“Yes possibly,” said the guard, “I will be posted on the west side.”
“Oh okay. Well let me get back to the hotel, I still have a few meetings lined up,” said Robert.
The guard watched as Robert walked down the passage towards the elevators. As Robert dropped out of sight he walked over to the sofa and looked around. He saw a small black box next to the window and walked over to it. He was about to bend down and get a closer look when he saw the yellow picture of the rat on top, “Damn Maintenance sticking their new gadgets all over the place,” he thought to himself, “I must have a word with them to let us know where they are putting them.”
Robert returned to his room and took a small notepad out of his rucksack and started scribbling down some notes. All the information that he had gathered over the last few days he was jotting down. He would erase a section and then add some more writing. He was finalising his plan for his last hit. With a theatrical wave of his hand he wrote down his last word and read through the notes. He had written down his whole plan, step by step with timings on each step. There was no room for error; one slip up and he would be caught.
He memorised the plan, ripped the pages out of the notebook and then went to the bathroom to set them on fire, letting the ashes fall into the toilet bowl. When all the paper was burned he flushed the bowl, washing away any evidence that might remain. Robert took his mobile phone out of his pocket and made sure that his device was still responding. He was worried about the guard after he had left but didn’t dare turn around in case it roused some suspicion.
Robert flopped back against the bed and closed his eyes. In his head he walked through his plan. Every action would need to be rehearsed mentally. He didn’t realise that he had fallen asleep and woke up with a jolt, looking instantly at his watch, it was 5-00pm. His plan needed to start now.
He jumped off the bed and went to the wardrobe and put on an old grey t-shirt. Robert kept on his blue jeans and took a deep breath before opening the door and walking into the passage. He walked towards the elevator, counting off the steps as he walked. As he climbed into the elevator he set the timer on his watch for the last time.
When the elevator stopped on the ground floor he checked the time, it was 24 seconds. Robert looked around the reception area, seeing if he could spot anything or anybody out of place. Everything looked normal. He walked to the entrance to the bar and went inside.
Wade recognised him instantly and as Robert walked up the bar counter he greeted him, “Good evening Mr Anderson, welcome back. A double Jack as usual?”
“Hello Wade. Yes that would be great. We have a celebration tonight,” he replied.
“What are we celebrating?” asked Wade as he poured the double Jack Daniels on the rocks and put it down in front of Robert.
“I signed two big deals today,” said Robert, raising his glass into the air.
“Cheers to that,” said Wade as he lifted his soft drink and touched it against Robert’s glass.
Robert downed his drink and ordered another, downing that one too. The bar was starting to fill up and already most of the tables had been taken. Wade was getting busy behind the counter, running up and down pouring drinks. Robert went to the bathroom and waited until he was alone before putting his finger down his throat and bringing up the Jack Daniels.
As he made his back to his seat he wobbled slightly on his feet, making sure he gently bumped a few people as he walked past. He sat down on his chair and raised his hand, signalling to Wade to pour him another drink. Robert looked at the time, it was 6-30pm. It was almost time. Robert nursed his drink, running through the plan in his head one more time.
“Wade, one more please,” said Robert, signalling to Wade across the bar.
“Double Jack coming up,” he replied.
As Wade poured the drink and placed it on the bar counter Robert pulled the phone out of pocket and answered it, “Hello Honey,” he said.
He put his hand over microphone and whispered to Wade, “It’s the wife, I better take this outside,” and he walked out of the bar pretending to talk on the phone. As he left the bar he glanced at his watch, it was 6-58pm. Robert walked to the elevator and pushed the button, the phone still placed against his ear as he was pretending to listen to somebody on the other side.
The elevator arrived and Robert jumped inside and pressed the seventh floor button. This time he didn’t start the timer on his watch but rather started counting the seconds until he arrived at his floor. He stepped out of the elevator and walked directly to his room, pausing briefly to insert the Keycard and open the door. As he stepped inside he went straight to work.
Robert first went to the bathroom and unscrewed the mirror, lifting it carefully from the wall and placing it against the bath. He quickly moved to the bedroom and picked up the chair, moving it to the window. He then moved back to the bed and lifted his suitcase onto it and, opening up the secret compartment he removed the pieces of the gun.
He glanced at his watch before he started assembling the pieces, it was 7-06pm, he had four minutes before they closed the doors and his shot would be blocked. Fifteen seconds later Robert had assembled his rifle and he moved over to the chair and placed his rifle against it. He switched off all the lights in the room and opened the curtains.
Robert normally prided himself on his attention to detail but he had not checked one important point – if he could open the window in his room. He reached across and opened the latch and pushed the sliding window. At first it didn’t move, and he had to put some more pressure before it gave in and squeaked open. Robert took his phone out of his pocket, opened up the app and placed it on the chair.
He picked up his rifle and looked at the telescopic sight. He adjusted a few knobs and dials until he was happy with the settings. He lifted the rifle up slowly and rested the barrel on top of the chair. He put his eye against the sight and looked through it. At first it was a blur and he had to adjust the top dial, turning it slowly until the picture came into focus.
The light was bad and Robert battled to make out any recognisable shapes that he could focus on. He glanced at his watch, it was 7-08pm. He had two minutes. A strobe light started to pulse and with every flash Robert could just make out a figure standing behind the podium. He aimed at the figure and with each pulse of light he turned the dial slowly, focusing inch by inch.
When Robert was happy he had a decent lock on his target he took his one hand off the rifle and picked up his mobile phone from the chair. He looked down at the app and touched a big green button which started a countdown timer of thirty seconds. He placed his hand back on the rifle and focused on the sight again, turning the dial slightly to make a few small adjustments.
The app let out a loud beep and Robert knew it had 10 seconds to go. He took a deep breath and held his body steady, releasing the air slowly through his nose and focusing fully on his target. The app beeped loudly once more and an instant later Robert squeezed the trigger and felt the rifle recoil against his shoulder. The window of the convention centre was shattered by the explosion from the small black box and almost a split second later the bullet went through the hole, hitting Marcus squarely in the chest and killing him instantly.
Robert put the rifle down, reached over and closed the window before pulling the curtains closed. He picked up the chair and moved it back to the desk. He looked at the time, it was 7-09. He had four minutes before the police would arrive. Robert took the rifle apart and took the pieces into the bathroom. He shoved them into the holes in the wall and then picked up the mirror and placed it back on the wall, tightening all the screws before putting back the silver balls.
He opened the door and stepped into the passage and lifted his mobile phone to his ear, pretending to talk again. Robert walked casually down the passage to the elevator, pretending to be in deep conversation. As the elevator doors opened Robert looked at his watch, it was 7-13pm. He had one minute to get back to the bar. The elevator stopped at the ground floor and as Robert stepped out he could hear the wail of police sirens in the distance. He walked as fast as he could without running to the bar entrance.
Robert was still pretending to talk on the phone when he walked up to his bar stool, “Okay Honey, I will see you tomorrow. Love you lots,” he said, before taking the phone away from his ear and sitting down.
“Whew, that women can talk the ear off an elephant,” he said to Wade.
“Like most women,” said Wade smiling.
Robert picked up his drink and took a large sip. As he placed the glass on the counter two police men burst through the entrance, hands resting on their holstered guns and looking around frantically.
“Whoa, what’s happening,” asked Wade.
“Somebody was shot at the convention centre,” said one of the policemen.
“By who?” asked Wade.
“We don’t know. It looks like it was a hit that came from the hotel,” replied the police man.
The one police man started to walk around the bar, looking around. The other policeman walked up to Wade, “Do you have a moment?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” he replied.
“Good, let’s move a bit away,” he said and pulled Wade gently by his arm until they were a few yards away.
Robert looked up at the television behind the bar counter, pretending he was watching the football game. His ears were straining as hard as they could to try to pick up what Wade and the police man were saying.
“Did you notice anything strange here in the last thirty minutes?” asked the police man.
“Nothing sir,” replied Wade, “It has been a normal evening up until now.”
“Has anybody new come into the bar in the last few minutes?” continued the police man.
“No sir. All of these people have been here for at least an hour so,” he replied.
“What about this one?” asked the police man, pointing towards Robert.
“He’s a salesman,” replied Wade, “He’s been here a few days already, likes to unwind in the bar. He has been here the whole time. Came in at around 5 O’clock today and has been drinking like a fish ever since.”
Wade leant closer to the police man and whispered to him “He likes the bottle. A lot!”
Robert just managed to hear what Wade was saying and a small grin appeared on his face.
“Okay thanks. If you can think of anything let me know. We are going to be looking around for a while,” said the police man.
“Sure will,” replied Wade.
Wade made his back behind the bar counter and picked up the remote control.
“Don’t mind if I change channels, I want to see what’s happening next door,” he said to Robert.
“No problem,” replied Robert, sipping on his drink.
Wade flipped through the channels until he came across Fox 7 Austin. There was a breaking news banner on the bottom of the screen with bold text “Activist Shot at Convention Centre”. There was some amateur footage being replayed on the screen. It showed a man standing behind a podium, with a light pulsing. There is a muffled explosion sound and then the man behind the podium drops the ground and the video cuts out.
“Looks serious,” said Robert, his eyes fixed on the television.
“Yeah, not good for business,” replied Wade, “I hope they catch the bloke that did this.”
“Me too,” said Robert, “How about another drink.”
“Sure,” replied Wade, and he poured Robert another drink.
A few moments later a man dressed in a smart black suit entered the bar and walked up to Wade.
“Evening Mr Matthews,” said Wade as the man walked up to him.
“Hi Wade,” said the man, “I am sure you have heard what happened at the convention centre.”
“Yes,” replied Wade, “The police have already been here. We are watching it now on the news.”
“Good,” continued the man, “Listen the police are going to be searching all the rooms. They think the man was shot from one of our rooms.”
“Okay, how can I help?” asked Wade.
“If any guests come in here offer them a free drink. The police said they wanted to search the rooms alone so they can’t go back to their rooms until we say so,” continued the man.
“No problem Mr Matthews,” said Wade.
“Great. I will be back when they have finished,” said the man, and he walked back out of the bar.
“Jeepers,” said Wade to Robert, “The bloke that did this could be staying at this hotel. Hell, I could even have served him a drink!”
“You never know do you,” replied Robert, “Now how about another drink, and if I heard correctly it’s on the house?”
“It sure is” said Wade.
Robert had a few more drinks and watched the events unfolding on the television. A reporter had been despatched to the convention centre and was giving live updates. They would invite witnesses to give a first-hand account of what they saw. Each person seemed to have a different story and sequence of events which made Robert smile. The bar was filling up with disgruntled guests who were waiting for the police to finish their search.
It was three hours before the man in the black suit entered the bar again and walked up to Wade, “Okay the police have finished their search. All the guests can go back to their rooms,” he said.
“Did they find him?” asked Wade.
“No, they didn’t find anything,” replied the man, “They have called in the help of the Houston crime scene investigators but they will only be here tomorrow morning.”
“Damn, I was hoping they would catch him,” said Wade.
“I am sure they will,” said the man, “They always seem to get their man.”
Robert stood up from the bar stool and said to Wade, “Time for me to crash. I’m dog tired.”
“Good night Robert,” said Wade, “When are you checking out?”
“Only tomorrow afternoon,” replied Robert.
“Great I will see you tomorrow then?” said Wade.
“Yes, see you tomorrow,” said Robert, and he made his way out of the bar.
Robert caught the elevator back to the seventh floor, this time he didn’t time it all. He stepped out of the elevator and walked to his door, fumbling slightly with his key card. He put the Keycard in and opened the door, letting the door close by itself behind him. His room was pitch dark, the police had switched off all the lights when they had finished searching it.
Robert touched the wall, feeling for the light switch. The sound of a gun cocking caught Robert by surprise and he froze instantly, the hairs standing up on the back of his neck.
“Good evening Robert,” came a voice from the darkness, “You can put the light on,”
Robert moved his hand slowly up the wall until he felt the light switch and then flipped it on. Sitting in the chair with a gun pointing at him was James.
“James? I don’t understand?” said Robert.
“I think you do,” replied James, “Do you think I don’t know what you have been up to?”
Robert stared at James, his mind racing, thinking of a way to get out of this.
“I thought you were retired?” asked Robert.
“I will be soon,” replied James, and he squeezed the trigger, sending the bullet directly between Robert’s eyes, the silencer on the end of the barrel stifling the noise. Robert’s lifeless body seemed to float in the air before dropping to the ground.
James took out a handkerchief from his pocket and rubbed down the gun, removing all his fingerprints. He tossed the gun on the bed and stepped over Robert’s body. James opened the door, making sure he also wiped down the door handle and walked to the elevator. He went to the ground floor and as the elevator opened he saw his wife Judy waiting for him.
“All the bags packed?” asked James as he walked up to her.
“Yes dear,” replied Judy, “They are already in the cab waiting outside.”
“Good,” said James, “What time is our flight?”
“It’s at 12-30,” replied Judy, “Did you finish your work?”
“Yes, my dear,” replied James smiling, “That was my last job, I am now officially retired.”
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Robert Anderson has been a professional hitman his whole life. With his family believing he is a mobile phone salesman he travels around America carrying out his work. However, Robert is getting tired of all the killing and the travelling and wants to retire. He signs up for one last job with a large pay check, big enough to send him into retirement. He arrives in Austin, Texas and checks in to Hotel 72 where he receives all the information he needs to carry out his last hit. Enjoy this thrilling action adventure as Robert methodically plans and executes his last hit, covering every tiny detail, or does he miss something?