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One shot, a single shot, and I’d make $30 million. No questions asked. Michael, my employer, promised me his men could even buy me a plot of land anywhere I wanted. Anyway, I remember that night. It was a night of death, the worst of my life, my weakest moment. It took less than a minute.
I remember that night clearly, almost as though it was yesterday. The year was 2009. It was a cold night in mid-February, if memory serves. Michael said the man, a candid politician named John, had no family. No wife, children, aunts, uncles, or any other relatives. It was just this man all alone in his monolithic thirty room mansion. It was a very windy night, as I recall.
I was kneeling on the roof of a building, approximately 500 yards away from John’s mansion. The only clear shot I had was into his bathroom. Fantastic. I had to wait for him to use the bathroom. It felt wrong. I mean, how could I kill a person sitting on the can? I felt if I did, I’d be violating some type of sacred law. In fact, at the time, I thought it should be a part of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill, especially not when thy target is going to the bathroom.” However, I didn’t have much of a choice. I couldn’t find a better vantage point and, if I entered the house, the man would call the cops. So, like I said before, I waited. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait very long.
I knelt on that roof for perhaps ten seconds, and then he appeared. He walked into his bathroom and closed the door. I took aim. The gun was loaded with a single bullet. If I fired and missed, I wouldn't get another chance. The cross hairs were aimed at his head. He finished washing his hands and walked toward the door. He was perhaps five steps away from the knob. I couldn't let him leave. I put my finger on the trigger. He took another step toward the door. My finger tightened around the trigger. I fired the shot, and as the bullet left the gun, time appeared to decelerate.
As the bullet traveled in slow motion, the door in John's bathroom flew open, but he hadn't even reached the door yet. Immediately I knew something was wrong. The projectile cut a straight path of sheer destruction through the howling, angry wind and smashed through the window. Glass flew outward, toward the man and.... woman? Oh, no. Michael lied to me, or at least I thought he had. The bullet traveled so, so slowly through the bathroom. All I could think of was, "Why did nobody tell me there was a woman in the house?" It was too late as the slug zipped through the bathroom, moving closer and closer to my target.... and the mysterious woman in front of him.
The bodies fell to the ground silently. I looked through my scope at the pools of blood forming around their bodies. Then, just to make sure everything was in order, I tilted the scope upward so I could see past the door. To this day, I regret doing it. I really shouldn't have looked up, because what I saw made me very, very sad and a bit confused.
When I looked up, I first saw a plain white wall with what looked like a painting of Venice attached to it. I glanced down through the scope and observed a small child, a girl no more than four years of age. She was looking down at the two bodies on the bathroom floor and clutching a teddy bear close to her chest. It didn't take a genius to put two and two together, but I needed to be sure. To do that, I had to go inside John's home. I prayed my inkling was wrong. As I made my may out of the building and ran toward my target's home, I prayed more times than you could imagine. If I was wrong, I could live with myself, but if I was right in my assumption... well, I didn't want to think about it.
I sprinted toward the mansion, my gun forgotten, left behind to rot like two fresh, bloody corpses. When I finally reached the house, I opened the front door and was amazed to hear no alarms go off. I walked up the stairs slowly, as if in a daze. I stopped dead in my tracks as I heard a girl's young voice- "Mommy, daddy, are you okay?" I froze-that sentence turned my blood cold. I sauntered closer to the bathroom, sweating profusely, but thankfully not through my shirt. Up ahead, I glimpsed a doorway to the left and made my way toward it. I approached it and looked down at the floor. The girl turned around, but didn't appear to be in shock over my presence. Then, to my horror and shame, she spoke.
"What happened to mommy and daddy?" she asked, pointing at the two bodies lying on the blood-soaked floor.
I didn't have an answer. My mouth was dry and even though I'd been on a roof in 30° weather, my face felt hot. I felt like I was going to pass out. There was only one thing for me to do- answer her question with one of my own.
"What's your name?" I asked as politely as I could, considering what had just transpired.
"Sophie," the little girl replied, smiling up at me. "I'm gonna be four in a month."
"Four? You're going to be a big girl soon."
"What's wrong with mommy and daddy?"
"What do you do when you're really tired?" I replied.
"Well.... my mommy takes me to my room for nap-time." I had my answer, even though it killed me to say it.
"Sophie, your parents are napping, just like you do when you're tired."
"But why are they in the bathroom?" she asked, confused.
"They were probably so tired that they couldn't make it to their room to go to sleep. So, they fell asleep on the floor," I lied. I felt awful. There was something inhumane about lying to a three year old concerning the death of her parents, but I didn't know what else to do. If you were in my position, what would you have done?
"Oh. When are they gonna wake up?" Sophie inquired.
"They'll be up in a couple of hours." Sophie knelt down next to her father and put her hand over his heart. I checked her mother for a pulse. This was my only hope. I prayed they were still alive, that the bullet that had split their brains in half hadn't killed them, that they'd get up and smile with joy at their young, innocent child. But they'd lost so much blood and more flowed out every minute. My heart sank as I felt her pulse.
"I don't feel anything," Sophie exclaimed.
"Me neither," I whispered, but I wasn't talking about her pulse. I felt empty, as though someone had ripped out my emotions and replaced them with a cold, dark abyss. I thought, just for a few seconds, of ending all of my pain. No more emptiness. There would just be light at the end of a tunnel. No more worries, fears, or sadness. It would be so simple. But then I remembered Sophie. If I ended my pain, hers would increase tenfold. I couldn't let that happen. I recalled what I had done earlier that night and I looked over at Sophie and cried. The hot, salty tears poured down my cheeks as I released my emptiness into the universe. I knew I would make it, but first I had to help a girl whose problems were only just beginning.
"Sophie," I asked, blinking the tears from my eyes. "I have to make a call. Some people will knock on your door in a few minutes, and when they do, you need to let them in, okay?"
"Sure," Sophie replied happily. "Can I show them my room?"
"Definitely, they'll love to see your room," I told her. "I have to leave after I make the call." It tore me apart to openly lie to her about such a serious matter, but I had to make sure she wouldn't be afraid. "Don't worry about a thing," I lied. "Your parents will be fine."
"So they'll wake up from nap-time?" Sophie asked hopefully, still clutching her teddy bear.
"Yes," I croaked, my eyes flooding with fresh tears. I turned away, walked into the kitchen, grabbed the phone, and dialed 9-1-1. I immediately hung up and staggered toward the door, blinded by the tears in my eyes. As I threw open the door, I looked in Sophie's direction and whispered, "I'm sorry."