It was raining hard. Cats and dogs. He could see the huge droplets smashing
against the etched glass, trying their hardest to break it.
He was wearing a mackintosh over his suit, and he was dripping copious amounts
of water all over the aisle down to the altar. It felt like the church he was in, St.
Sebastian Church, had an aisle almost a mile long as he squished his sodden
gumboots all the way to the confession box.
He tried to admire the wooden lattice-work on the door but found that he
couldn’t focus clearly on any one single pattern. Maybe it was the foggy glasses
he wore. He took off his glasses and wiped them on his silk tie.
It felt sacrilegious to be wearing boots and all inside, but he wasn’t here to pray.
He didn’t even believe in the existence of an Almighty God. He was here to do a
job, and that was it. He opened the door, and slipped inside. There was a single
stool there with a leather seat cushion. Under the stool base, was strapped a
Glock 9mm as he had been told when he had received his explicit instructions.
He felt around for it, and pulled it free of the scotch tape adhesive. There was a
silencer hidden somewhere, he knew. He sat on the cushioned seat, but it felt a
bit wobbly. The right side rear leg was a bit off, so he picked it up and turned it
over. Under the leg was screwed on the silencer, fully camouflaged in a grained
woody color. He slowly screwed it on, all the while looking out through the small
window, at the emptiness of the church hall.
And then he waited for his prey to arrive.
It felt like the vapour had formed into an image, as he looked at the door. One
moment there was rain, and suddenly there was a man. It was one of those classic
noir movie scenes, a handsome man wearing a hat and a coat draped over his
arm, arriving from the rain into shelter, in a church, looking around with a
strangely pale expression on his face. All it needed was an alto voice, and an
orchestra to provide the background music.
The stained glass etchings seemed to know him, as they followed his every step,
their blue and green eyes on his steel gray suit, waiting for something to happen.
The man stopped three rows from the back and stepped into one of the rows of seats on the right, eyes locked onto the marble statue of Mother Mary cradling Jesus. He knelt, his shoes coming off, and began to pray wordlessly with eyes closed, lips moving silently.
All this while, the assassin had his eyes locked onto his prey. He wondered if he would need to leave the safety of the box, or would the range of the Glock make it necessary for him to be at close quarters to finish the job. No matter, his prey would come into the box, he was told. And he had faith in the person who had told him this.
A few minutes passed. The man rose, picked up his coat and walked to the altar.
He dropped a note into the donation box, as he eyed the painting of St. Sebastian on the right hand side of the altar. Perhaps the patron saint of sharpshooters would aid him tonight. The crossbow now hidden in his coat felt like the right weapon to carry under the circumstances. The Cyanide tipped arrows didn’t make him feel any worse about using a medieval weapon.
The assassin felt a huge sigh of relief as the other man walked into the other side of the confession box, and sat down to wait.
He quietly said, “Father, I have sinned. Absolve me of my sins!”
A single note of paper, creamy white and watermarked with the logo of his employer and filled with writing fluttered through the window. This was not his prey.
He had to wait some more.
He bent down to pick up the paper. Coincidence, or providence, he didn’t know which was it but at that same time an arrow thudded into the woodwork of the door. It was just where his head would have been.
He could hear the rain splatter down on the empty streets outside, and on the sloping walls of the church. He could hear his own heart, thrashing about, happy to have gotten few more hours in which to beat. He could hear every wracking
breath he took, and the quiet exhalation of his would be killer. “What the hell is going on?”he thought. “Am I here to kill someone, or is someone here to kill me?”
He wasn’t sure that a 9 mm pistol would do much good inside the wooden structure. He had to get his guy outside, and that meant exposing himself to arrows. “Where did the arrows come from?” he thought. “Who uses arrows anymore?”
All this had happened within the first few milliseconds of his being bent down.
He lashed out at the lowest panel with his leg, smashing it, creating splinters and a hole wide enough for a gun, but not wide enough for his hand to go through.
Staying away from the sight-line of the lattice window, he put in his gun upside down through the hole and shot once. A small whisper of a silenced shot came through. No sound of a body falling. He had missed.
“Now now, Peter! Really!” came the gravelly voice from the door which now stood ajar with an arrow sticking out awkwardly.
He looked amused, perhaps at the sight of the assassin splayed across the box, hands and feet spread, away from the lattice window. “You don’t want to kill someone who wants to recruit you, eh? You’re fast, I’ll give you that.”
The crossbow steadily grasped in his hand-made sure that the assassin didn’t get the time to raise his gun.
“Let’s take a walk outside, grab your coat. Let me get my shoes.” he said. “And don’t shoot me with blanks please! It’s very irritating…”
So that’s what felt wrong with the whole setup. The assassin got up slowly and awkwardly, stretching his muscles, as he got back his circulation running.
He was being tested.
The sound of the rain became amplified tenfold as soon as he stepped outside.
The brim of his hat dripped with ice-cold water as he walked and it was all he could do to keep it off his glasses. He felt an involuntary shiver that had nothing to do with the rain. There was something about a crossbow ready to shoot an arrow at you that made you feel that way.
“I kinda like you, Mr. Knight. You have a certain something I have been looking for in my employees. Consider yourself hired. Here’s the person you need to eliminate”, the short gravelly voice barked at him from behind. He was passed a brown envelope, waterproof, with a single photograph inside.
Peter Knight, assassin par excellence, crack shooter and World War II flying ace with the RAF, was being recruited for his latest job.
“I’d like to discuss the terms of our contract, if you don’t mind, Mr. Smith. Specifically, the payment I would require towards such business conducted.” he said with an impish grin now spreading across his face.
“How do you know my name?” was the surprised reply. Clearly, being caught off guard was not a regular thing for this person. He recovered fairly quickly to resume his professional façade.
“No matter, I will be transferring a quarter of a million pounds into your Royal Bank of Switzerland account #33880 tomorrow. You will receive the same amount after you have finished the job. Satisfied?”
“How can I trust you?”
“The British Government does not lie about such matters my friend…”
He slipped out the photograph from the envelope. It was his own smiling face from a year ago, when he looked vastly different. Simon Templar. The real life James Bond. Agent provocateur. Thief. Agent for hire. Assassin.
The rain sounded louder in his ears. As he looked up, his eyes met the now hopeful but aging eyes of Mr. Maurice Smith, head of MI6. British Intelligence, asking him to kill himself. This was funny.
He smiled. This was going to be easier than he thought. “Where is he?” he said.
“We don’t know. We haven’t a clue, my boy. It’s been a year since I’ve been tracking him, but he slips off. Always he makes off with something valuable and sells it to the highest bidder. We need him shut down, Mr. Knight, now. That’s what you need to do. You’re a good man for the job, so say the boys down at the Yard… So if you’ll…”
The rain got louder. And louder. He couldn’t focus on the next words. All he could see was the end of an arrow. As it grew larger. He saw it as it zoomed towards his face in the rain which fell down like a shower of sparks.
He woke up with a start. He was drooling on the paper pad on which he had fallen asleep. This was a different ending from the last time he had this memory in his dreams. His reality had begun to blur with his imagination. Perhaps he was getting too old. Perhaps it was the scotch he drank before going to sleep.
“What’s the matter Grandpa?” asked his little grandson Peter.
“Nothing son, it’s just a dream. Just a dream…” he said as he smiled. He could still hear the rain as it fell in torrents outside his house…