The Shot

March 16, 2011
“City Square, 0100 hours,” said the message. He glanced at the picture of a girl's face, then deleted the message from his phone.

The man picked up his M-40 and put it into a black duffel bag along with some spray paint, a silenced pistol, some duct tape, and an earpiece. He silently headed for the door. Snow crunched underfoot as he made his way to his car; it was black, shiny, and obviously well cared for, but it was the kind of car you’d have trouble picking out of a crowd. It was perfect for the man who never seemed to exist.

Once, he was Walter H., a young soldier just out of college. Then, as he proved to be an adept spy, his identity was erased and replaced with “OCD.” It was said that he earned this name because every little thing on each of his missions had to be just so. If one person heard more than they were meant to, they had to be eliminated. If a piece of evidence could tell too much about him or his organization, OCD would burn it.

His assignment today was simple: Kill the one called Tess Lancer. She was this strange girl who went around playing music. “Music,” muttered OCD angrily. “Music was banned here because it caused so much violence and conflict, and here’s one little snippet that thinks she can do whatever she wants…”

He had heard music once. He was about six years old when his father found a disc that had people singing with such wobbly voices that he thought they were ill. He found out it was “Opera music” and that it was considered at one point to be “the epitome of classical music education.” As soon as he got the chance, he found that disc and crushed it into his trashcan. He’d never heard any music since.

He pulled his car out onto the bridge that connected the City Center Island to the mainland. It was 1100 hours. Two hours to set up.

“D*** traffic.” He honked his horn, trying to make the cars let him through. No luck; he was still sitting on the bridge thirty minutes later.

He finally made it to the City Center. He parked his car five blocks from the City Square, grabbed his duffel bag, and walked toward a set of warehouses that hemmed off the west side of the Square. The warehouses were empty. They used to hold crates of linens, but after a fire destroyed one of them, they were deemed unsafe. Positioned about 1100 meters from the City Square, they were the perfect nest for a sniper like OCD.

He mounted the stairs, heading up to the ninth floor. He found a window that overlooked the Square and put the bag down next to it. He removed the pistol from the bag and put it in his concealed holster, replacing the bag back by the window.

1200 hours. He had twenty minutes to walk around the Square, and he used that time to see which way the wind was blowing, where Tess might show up, and to review the description his superiors had given him.

“She’s about five foot five inches. Dark hair, shoulder length. She has pale skin, amber eyes. Pointed face, a small scar on her right cheekbone. She is constantly followed by two men, who are possibly bodyguards: One is black, six foot four inches, tattoo of a Gothic Cross on the left side of his neck. Brown eyes, well muscled. The other guy is white, six foot two inches, bald, seems to always have a cigar. Blue eyes, heavy build.

“Be watchful,” OCD’s superior had said. “Her music excites the crowds, makes them go wild. If, after you complete the mission, you are spotted by the crowd, they will beat you, torture you, and kill you. They’ll also be happy to brand you with some hot irons. Don’t get caught.”

1230 hours had come. It was time to get into position. 1250 hours. He was back in his hiding place. He pulled his M-40 out of the duffel bag. “Oh, Maria,” he breathed. “You are so beautiful today.” He pulled out his scope and attached it onto the gun. Maria was engraved on the stock.

After he had finished setting up his bipod, he grabbed a can of black spray paint from the duffel bag and carefully began shading the window black. Then, once the window was speckled all over, he covered up an area on the window in a patch of duct tape. Once he was done, he took the butt of his sniper rifle and smashed the window in the middle of the duct tape. There was a dull thud and a slight sound of glass breaking. OCD then carefully pulled the duct tape patch off of the window and revealed a little hole in the glass that would be perfect for putting the barrel of Maria through.

0100 hours. He quickly put in the earpiece his supervisor had left for him. It would let him listen in on Tess’ speech and know when he should fire the shot.

There she was. Dressed in a bright red jacket with big buttons, a blue scarf in her hair, guitar in hand, there she was. On her left was the bald white guy, cigar already lit, and on her right was the black guy, muscles making his shirtsleeves taut.

All of a sudden, out of the subtle chattering sounds in his earpiece came a loud TWANG! Of course, the guitar. It sounded so obnoxious that it must have been the guitar. The whispers in OCD’s ear grew as people in the square heard the guitar chord. “Did she just…?” “No, she couldn’t have.” “She’s a d*** fool!” The most prominent whisper was one of simply “What is she? What’s she doing?”

Another chord struck. A voice sang sweetly:“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”

OCD sat there a moment, savoring the music. The he sat up, startled. “Snap out of it, you idiot,” he snarled to himself. “Remember your mission!”

When Tess got to “I once was lost, but now am found,” OCD found himself trying to drown out the song with the words of past leaders: “Music was the cause of The Great War!” they exclaim. “Where you have music, you have irrationality, and where you have irrationality, you have dangerous behavior.”

“Was blind, but now I see.”

“Just shut up. Shut up, girl. Shut up!” OCD was angry at himself. Angry because he knew he shouldn’t like the music. Angry because he liked it anyway.

“’twas grace that taught my heart to fear…”

“JUST SHUT THE H*** UP!” screamed OCD out the window. He was crying. He, a grown man, a member of the most advanced spy team the government had, was crying. For what? For a stupid girl who didn’t know how to follow the rules. He was beside himself. His conscience was tearing, breaking apart. Was music worth all the pain and emotions it evoked or was it really a thing to be hated?

OCD sat up. He grabbed Maria, put the barrel through the window, sighted Tess, and fired. She collapsed backwards, a patch of red spreading across her chest. Her guitar fell to the ground and smashed.

OCD sighed wearily. The guitar had stopped twanging and the voice had stopped singing. Blessed silence reigned.

Then, as the crowd started screaming, OCD looked at his smoking gun.

“My god, what have I done?”

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