The following excerpt is copyrighted and the property of Mark Wilson and is extracted from the upcoming novel Nae’body’s Hero:
Kim took a breath, found the calmness in her that always rose in these situations and looked down the sights. She forced her voice to show the calm that had begun to creep from her centre and out along to her outstretched gun hand. The small shake in the hand disappeared. “Let her go!” she almost whispered to the man. All she got in response was a short and very descriptive obscenity.
The man, who had been using a fifteen year old school girl as a shield, pulled her closer still by tightening the arm slung over her shoulder and across her chest, bringing her closer to himself. He’d been doing a damn good job of shielding himself. “I like this one. She’s just my type. I think I’ll keep her.”
Kim continued to move with him as he tried to back away and pivot out of range. She had to step over two other bodies. His earlier victims were classmates of his current playmate. There was a perimeter of tactical agents with sniper-rifles set up but Kim had ordered them to stand down. This guy was too good and far too committed to his cause, whatever the hell he thought that was. The first scope he saw glinting at him and he’d execute the girl. He’d come there to die and to take as many bystanders as he could with him.
Kim’s team had done their research and followed the intelligence all the way from a little outhouse on a farm in Michigan to an attempt to detonate a bomb in a government office building in New York City. After they’d discovered the device this guy had sprang out shot two kids who were still being evacuated and grabbed a hostage. He was threatening to blow himself up.
Kim watched him from behind her sights, circling, moving, and always keeping six feet from him. He was young, maybe twenty, not too bright, but dangerous. The bodies on the hot tarmac attested to that. The kid (and he really was a kid to Kim’s eyes) was instinctively using his human shield to perfection. Kim scanned him. His body, what she could see; his face, his gun. He was getting scared. He’d made his choices. He’d shoot soon.
“Just let the pretty girl go, son. There’s still a way out of this for you.”
More obscenities and pretty inventive ones at that.
Kim breathed out slowly and whispered silently to herself. “Suit yourself.”
Focusing through her sites, she watched a small area around the size of a silver dollar bob rhythmically in and out from the cover of the young shield’s left shoulder. Female agents in her organisation rarely achieved Kim’s rank. They had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to be taken half as seriously in the role. As a result, the women in her agency were often twice as effective, and much more dangerous, than the men. This was true of female terrorists also.
Few agents would take the shot Kim was being presented with. The angle and elevation were all wrong and the kid was just too good at using his shield. Most agents, male or female, just wouldn’t take this shot. Thanks to obsessively long and painful hours on the shooting range, Kim was more confident in her shooting skills than most agents. She waited, caught the rhythm and squeezed. Headshot.
But only just.
Kim moved straight to the screaming girl, wrapped an arm around her, in a fashion not dissimilar to the gunman, and kept her gun-hand pointed at the downed kid. She kicked the pistol free of his hand and lifted and rolled him over with her foot. “Clear.”
Kim left with her arms around the kid….the one she hadn’t shot and killed, as her team flooded the area.
“Good work, Boss.” Foley offered as Kim and the girl passed him.
“Yeah..Brilliant.” Kim offered without looking at him.
A week passed during which time Kim travelled to her family home in Ann Arbor. The CTA demanded that all agents take two weeks leave and attend therapy sessions after a killing in the field. Kim hadn’t exactly had a relaxing break so far, choosing instead to dredge through a forest worth of reports on The Demon’s activities in Afghanistan over the last few years. It seemed that he had continued to set up and run training camps throughout the region. He’d been very effective in recruiting disenfranchised, angry and radicalised Muslims into his training camps. The endgame was unclear; no one had yet to find any proof of what the purpose of the camps graduates would be, or their target. There was no choice but to wait.
The US government was distracted at present by domestic acts like the one Kim had ended the previous week, and that was the right thing, but Kim kept a close watch on The Demon knowing that eventually her government’s priorities would be forced to shift and she’d have her chance to hunt him. Kim’s world was very black and white. You hurt people and my job is to stop you. She didn’t appreciate weeks like this one and the shades of grey it had brought.
Kim had been drinking scotch for the last hour or so, from her dad’s supply which still lay in the basement and trying to erase the kid’s face from her mind’s eye. The boy (and he was just a boy) she’d killed. The strong taste was as much a punishment as a pleasure to her unaccustomed palate but she kept drinking as he shifted her focus from The Demon to last week’s incident. The kid, Joey Scoggins, had been part of a group who believed that the US government were diminishing their rights to bear arms and invading their privacy. It seemed crazy to Kim that groups like these had started to spring up throughout the States, but that disbelief didn’t dilute the danger that they presented. Quite how they were protecting American’s rights by killing Americans (government workers or otherwise) was beyond Kim’s understanding, but she didn’t really need to understand their motives to catch them, just their methods. As ever, the weak and the young were the most common conscripts into these makeshift armies.
She drank some more, thinking of the nineteen year-old Joey, who would be eternally nineteen as her Scott was eternally an infant. He had been as much a victim as a perpetrator; as much prey as predator, but Kim knew better than most that sometimes, even those who it would be easy to pity needed to be stopped.
When Kim was a kid, around ten, her dad had been having a problem with the small chicken coop he’d kept out back. For three consecutive mornings he’d arrived at the caged henhouse bucket in hand to feed the little group. Each morning he’d found another hen missing and a trail of blood leading to different holes dug under the fence. On the third night, the old man had sat on the back porch the whole evening guarding the coop. inevitably for a man as hard-working as Jesse had been; her dad had dozed off in his rocking chair in the early hours. Waking too late to stop another chicken being taken her dad did witness the butt of a familiar dog leave their yard.
The next morning with Kim riding shotgun Jesse had driven the short journey to a little house with an oak tree ten blocks away.
“Stay here sweetie” he’d told her as he left and headed for the little house. Kim switched on the radio and relaxed back into her seat, tapping her toes against the dash in time to the music and waited for her dad. Elvis was singing “Hound Dog, much to Kim’s delight.
Ten minutes later Kim heard raised voices coming her way. She moved across the large single unit front seat of the car and pressed he face up to the driver’s side window, cranking it down an inch to listen in.
“I can’t trust that you’ll keep that dog locked up. You told me it wouldn’t happen again after last time, Henry. The dog has to go.”
“I know Jesse.” The other man admitted. “I know that once they start killing they’ve got to be……dealt with, but he was Annie’s dog, y’know?”
Jesse Baker reached out and placed a hand on Henry’s shoulder. “I know that buddy but what if it’d been Kim or another kid? The dog’s got a taste for blood now.”
Henry hung his head a little then looked up again at Jesse. “I can’t Jesse.”
“It’s ok Henry, I’ll do it. Go on inside.”
Jesse returned to his car to find a freshly planted Kim back in her own seat pretending to listen to the radio. He slid into the driver’s seat.
“Kim, I need to do something for Henry here. I want you to stay in the car, turn the radio real loud and wait for me, ok?”
“Sure daddy, but…..”
“No buts honey. Stay here.”
Jesse turned the volume way up on the radio, forcing more crackles than music through the old radio. He kissed Kim on the forehead and got his shotgun from the trunk. Heading around the back yard of Henry’s house, Jesse disappeared behind an old oak. Kim thought for around three second then followed after him hoping that the music from the car’s radio would cover any sound she made crunching down Henry’s driveway.
Giggling at her own cleverness, Kim peeked around the corner of Henry’s house into his back yard, just in time to see her father raise his shotgun, point it towards a large German Alsatian tied to a fence post and blow its head off.
Three hours later Kim was still sobbing but had calmed down significantly since she’d seen the dog shot. Sitting in bed with her knees bent and arms wrapped around her shins she heard her father approach the door.
“Is it ok if I come in darlin’?”
Kim blew her nose before answering. “Yes daddy.”
Jesse stuck his head in through the door and had a quick glance at his daughter before fully entering the room. Taking a seat beside her on the little pink bed Jesse took Kim’s hand.
“I’m sorry daddy.”
“You’ve nothing to apologise for darlin’. It’s daddy’s fault. I shoulda’ taken you home first.”
Kim’s face saddened a little. “But….Why did you have to shoot that dog at all daddy? It was only a few chickens.”
Jesse stroked his stubbled chin and considered his response.
“Kim, when an animal kills, it gets to like it and it’ll keep right on killing until somebody stops it.”
“But they were just chickens daddy.”
Jesse used a finger to tuck some stray hair behind Kim’s ear, and then cupped her cheek with his hand. “They always move onto other animals darlin’ and sometimes even begin to attack people. They become predators. I couldn’t have an animal like that visiting our yard.”
Kim’s lip quivered a little but her father could see acceptance beginning to show on her tear-stained face.
“Ok daddy……..but what about people?”
Jesse tilted his head quizzically to the side as if to listen better. “People who hurt other people you mean?”
Jesse didn’t really want to answer but he’d sworn to always treat his children with respect and to be honest with them.
“Yeah, honey…..Sometimes bad people need to be taken care of too; but only the really bad ones and only to stop them hurting others. It’s flat-out wrong to kill other people but sometimes, when they become predatory like that dog, there’s no other way of preventing more hurt.”
Jesse kissed his daughter goodnight, tucked her tightly into her little bed and re-joined his wife downstairs.
“How’s she doing Jesse?”
“She seems fine….I expect we’ll see her in the night.”
“I can’t see how she wouldn’t have, baby. If she wakes up, she can sleep in our bed for the rest of the night.
Jesse had been wrong about that. Kim didn’t stir once that night as a result of the day’s events, or any other night. She slept peacefully, safe in the knowledge that bad people got punished for hurting good people and that her daddy was a good man.
Kim finished the last of the Scotch in her glass and raised her glass to Jesses photograph above the fireplace. “Thanks dad.”
Like most nights she slept very little that night, there were just too many people who needed to be stopped from hurting others; too many predators. It was her job to balance the scales and she was god at it but when the predator was a kid like Joey Scoggins her neat black and white world became a little less monochrome and a little too grey.
END OF EXCERPT
Mark Wilson’s debut novel Bobby’s Boy is available on Amazon.