This week’s prompt is RISK. Warning, the title might be misleading.
His right eye was wide and focused and his left shut tight. Sweat dripped into it but he didn’t flinch. He couldn’t – not now. His entire body was unmoved. The world around him didn’t exist – he lived in a small village 1,200 meters east of here through the forty-millimeter scope of an M24 sniper rifle. American, it had belonged to his stepfather. The hot Middle Eastern sun bore down on his scalp with determination and the sand underneath him slowly baked his skin. None of it mattered. He would die here anyway – or somewhere close by. His target was Richard Estev, a white bloke who had come here to take advantage of the turmoil the US had caused and had been moving information and weapons between different fractions of resistance and military agencies. His pale skin was easily identified in contrast to the tan skin of the residents; it was a wonder nobody had found him yet. Estev moved between buildings without concern. He didn’t fear for his safety or his life – and yet here Special Agent Harris was seconds away from putting a bullet through his skull.
“For Sandoval.” Harris whispered into the sand. His lips were dry and cracked. His throat parched. It didn’t exist.
What did exist was the blood that splattered on the wall behind Estev as a bullet drilled through his skull and a wide-eyed look of horror became the civilians surrounding him. In this world, nothing had sound. The screams and the shuffles of feet as people struggled to escape the scene were a silent film. Even in the 21st century a bullet to the head is magic. Nobody understands it – an abrupt end to the jabs of a cardiac dependency. Every civilian there worried for their life, like an angel of death might put a bullet through their skull too for masturbating that morning or exposing their knees to a man who wasn’t their husband. Don’t worry, civilians, Estev was much worse. Harris pulled back from his scope and wiped his brow. His right eye burned but the sensation was distracting and kept him absentminded from his fate. He had a thousand discomforts he could tend to but he only tended to his rifle, slowly dismantling the weapon so he could return it to its case.
Harris arrived in Tehran by nightfall, and the bustling city helped him pretend he was back in London and on his way to Megan’s apartment. He wasn’t, unfortunately, and if the wary looks every Iranian on the street gave him weren’t indicators enough, the hotel room he stayed in sure was. This shit room had more cockroaches living in it than oxygen, and each one of these little guys was the size of a rat. When he entered the room he could spot three right away, but unlike proper western cockroaches these fuckers didn’t move or run to hide. No, years of harsh terrain had evolved these cockroaches to become cold-hearted killers and Harris imagined they might strangle him in his sleep and then feed off his body for the next three weeks. They probably ran this entire hotel. Some freak cockroach family business. With grim acceptance, Harris ignored them and walked to the restroom. The water was already hot the moment he pulled the knob in the shower and he undressed quickly. His dirty black suit jacket and bloodied white button-up. His wrinkly black slacks and worn black shoes. Perfect tailoring had been disguised by three weeks of non-stop conflict. Harris considered and determined it was probably time to say good-bye to the suit and steal some civilian clothes from a thrift store somewhere. What kind of secret agent wears flip-flops and a “welcome to Tehran” shirt? As the water salved over his dry skin he acknowledged that he was no longer a secret agent. The Queen had disowned him. Forgotten him in all the blood of his deceased partners. In the shower Harris couldn’t distinguish water from tears, but by the time he exited his face was stone cold and emotionless. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw the man he used to be, now overgrown with a beard and sun spotted skin. If he couldn’t be the man he used to be, it was time to become the man everybody feared he’d become.