I: Walking the Dog
Adam was walking his dog on a cold winter day. There hadn’t been any significant snow fall, and for that much he was thankful. Still, the dog was stubborn and his hands were cold. He wanted to head back, but the dog kept sniffing. When he insisted, the dog planted himself and refused to budge. Fine, Adam thought, just a little further then.
They walked down a side street. It was narrow with no sidewalk and it made Adam more nervous. His dog had a tendency of walking in the middle of the road and his stubbornness made it difficult to get him out of the way of cars. The dog also had the annoying tendency of randomly lunging at cars, which, in this tight space, made Adam have to keep him on an extra short leash.
The dog didn’t mind. He just went about his normal sniffing and dribbling on things, marking his property and sniffing out the message boards, oblivious to the frustration of his master. It was about half way down the street that Adam finally had enough.
“Let’s go. All done,” he said in an attempt at authoritative tone, but which really only sounded whinny.
The dog planted himself, stubborn and unyielding. Adam moved around the dog and nudged him with his knees in an attempt to herd him. The dog moved a little then tried to circle back. Adam lost ground. He repeated this process several times with little progress, then the dog caught the scent of something interesting and pulled in its direction. Adam relented and let the dog go, it was almost in the direction he had wanted to go anyway, so why not?
It was a brown paper bag the dog was interested in. Adam tried to keep him away from it once he realized what was happening, but the dog was quick and grabbed at it and managed to get hold of it. The explosive charge in the bag ignited killing Adam and his dog instantly. The explosion shattered the windows of nearby houses and cars, blew apart a nearby fence and set a shed on fire.
II: The Assassin
He heard the explosion and knew something was wrong. The bomb shouldn’t have gone off for another hour.
He looked at his watch.
How could this have happened? The timer was set. The routine was flawless. The explosives well concealed.
He looked at his watch again.
Time, something that he thought his kind had mastered seemed to defy him now. He had seen the routine, seen this day. He had seen his target pass by the spot where he laid the explosives. He had watched a hundred times, until he was sure, precisely, of what needed to be done.
Sirens were sounding now, somewhere in the distance, growing louder.
The assassin stood from the bench he’d been sitting on and walked calmly to his car. He opened the door, got in and started the engine. Back to the drawing board, he thought as he shifted the car into gear. He drove away. As he left he passed a parade of flashing lights as the police and fire department sped by. He smiled and turned left, away from the scene of the crime.
III: The Crime Scene
It was the most horrific scene the chief had ever seen in his 30 years on the force. The small town didn’t get this kind of action and the staties were en route to take charge. All he wanted to do was secure the scene and pass it off on them. The pieces of charred remains made him queasy and watching his officers take turns throwing up wasn’t helping his iron stomach any.
The fire guys were the lucky ones, they were told to stay away from the street and were more than happy to oblige. They contained the fire quickly, there wasn’t much to contain thank God, and were already pulling out.
Being in a small town a good distance away from anything resembling a city, the news crews were delayed in their arrival too. Right now, all the chief had to do was talk to the locals, take their stories and try to calm their nerves. He was a babysitter, a custodian, let the big shots from the state and feds deal with the terrorist angles and analysis. That shit wasn’t his bag.
It didn’t take the state police long to get there, their barracks and training site were only a couple of towns away. A black sedan pulled up behind the chief’s car and two men dressed in suits got out.
“Chief Pastel?” The one on the right asked.
“Yep, that’s me,” the chief said looking at them with diminished relief.
In truth, now that they had arrived there was a certain disappointment mixing in. He knew this particular situation was beyond his small town capabilities, but still he wanted to get whatever bastard had done this to his community.
“I’m detective Avid,” he said, pronouncing his name like David without the ‘D,’ “and this is detective O’Connor.”
“Well I never thought I’d say it, but I’m glad to see you guys,” the chief said as he shook their hands.
“Don’t worry chief, we’re all friends, but, I have to warn you, the feds are going to be cracking down on this. I’m not sure how long we are going to hold the reins on this one,” detective O’Connor said.
“As long as it’s not my ass in the hot seat for this, they can have it. We got the place pretty well concordant off, most of the neighbors have been spoken with. Everyone around here is pretty shaken up. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen around here,” the chief said.
“Well the Calvary will be here soon to take it off your hands, but you’ve done good work getting a handle on the situation-” detective Avid broke off as one of the local officers brushed by him to vomit in the bushes.
The chief looked a little embarrassed.
“Like I was saying, we aren’t used to this level of violence around here. Let me show you around,” the chief said and beckoned them to follow him.
Over the next several hours the coroner, the feds and more state police showed up. Photos and samples were taken into evidence. A tow truck came to haul away a damaged vehicle. And by midnight much of the area was cleaned and ready to continue in the morning.
The detectives were right, the feds took control and brought in a special unit that immediately closed the roads and began interviewing everyone. The chief had expected this to be taken seriously, but he never thought they’d quarantine the whole damn town.
“Domestic terrorists,” one of the feds called it, the chief couldn’t remember which one. They were sure that it was a local getting their feet wet and planning something bigger. The chief resented the idea, but his authority was relegated to fetching coffee and donuts for the new brass in town. Still, he didn’t buy it, the thought of some local blowing up some poor bastard just out walking his dog? No, it didn’t feel right to him.
IV: Not Getting Out of Dodge
The assassin had considered leaving immediately, but then reconsidered it. His target was still alive and that just wouldn’t do. Still, now there were cops and feds everywhere and every street leaving the town was blocked with checkpoints. This made a quiet escape infinitely harder by far and also complicated the original job.
Instead, he just drove around the town, thinking. Sooner or later this pattern might draw questions, especially with everyone in the town looking out for anything “suspicious.” He laughed at this. To these people, in their current state, everything was suspicious, which, of course, didn’t bode well for him either, but it also meant there was a lot of resources being used tracking down little bits of nothing.
It was then the idea struck him. They’re all suspicious right now, all of them, and the feds are stirring up shit making them think it was one of their own. A plan began to hatch in his mind. He turned his car around and headed towards the target.
V: The Target
Carroll Molly was an unassuming young woman who aspired to be a writer. Currently she worked at the local diner and made enough in tips to make ends meet. It wasn’t a job she particularly liked, all day, everyday, fending off the sexist jokes and unwanted advances. Couldn’t they see she was working? She had to smile and be sweet as pie, her tips depended on it. Apparently though, being sweet as pie meant that she was somehow interested in every guy to walk through the door, at least in their eyes, but what else could she do. Grin and bare it was what she told herself and hopefully sooner than later she would be out of here.
None of that mattered now though, she was too busy to even notice. Since the feds came to town the diner was hopping and since leaving town that much more a hassle, the locals were eating locally more often. It was great for her tips, but not so great for her writing, which these past few nights she was too tired to even attempt.
It all started almost a week ago when she was on her way home from work. The road she’d normally walk down was closed and she had to walk the long way around. She hadn’t gotten close to the explosion, but from what she heard it happened an hour before she got there. The thought that it could have been her had been ever present in her mind, but that was just paranoia. Whoever set off a bomb in town was just some asshole trying to hurt people. What else could it be? No terrorists had taken responsibility, yet, and there was no one of importance in town. The person who was killed was just a local working a factory job. None of it added up to anything more than just some sick jerk harming others because they could.
Carroll saw the clock on the wall and realized it was time to close up. The diner still had a few people lingering around, two locals and some stranger, but that was fine. Kicking them out would only hurt her tips, so she went to the door and turned the sign. She did this in an obvious way to catch the eye of anyone who might be paying attention. It was a not so subtle hint to start finishing up, without making it personal.
About five minutes after she turned the sign the locals got up to leave. Carroll smiled at them, she knew them both, regulars who came in every Thursday, and nodded a thank you. The stranger was still lingering though. She looked at the clock again and saw it was quarter past nine. Quarter past closed to put it more directly.
There was something odd about the stranger. He just didn’t seem to fit. His cloths just seemed wrong. For a start, he was dressed in a suit, but it was cut different somehow. Carroll wasn’t exactly a fashion expert, but there was something about it that looked, strange. It almost looked like something out of a sci fi movie, but not in an obnoxious sense, just a little futuresque, if that was a word.
At twenty past she decided to check on him. She went to the table and smiled. His eyes met hers and she felt a chill run through her. It was a kind of negative vibe that told her to watch out for this one. Her smile faltered a little.
“I’m sorry to bother you sir, but, umm, the diner is closing up now and I’m going to have to ask you to finish up,” she said in her best, I’m really sorry about this but please leave without killing me voice.
The stranger just smiled at her and nodded.
Carroll nodded back, and left. If he doesn’t find the door in five minutes I’m going to have Jack talk to him, she thought. Jack was the owner and cook. A big man at 250lbs, he knew how to get a point across and wouldn’t have any reservations about it with some stranger who they’d never see again. He was probably just some poor sucker who got delayed here with the investigation and checkpoints. Maybe he was hanging around because he didn’t want to deal with leaving town. Carroll stepped out back into the kitchen wondering about this.
VI: The Kill
As Carroll left the dining room, the assassin turned his head to watch her go from the corner of his eye. Closing time is right my dear, he thought, as he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his gloves.
He knew she would be watching him, keeping an eye out for him to finally leave, so he made like he was finishing up. The bathrooms were near the back by the kitchen door, not perfectly positioned for what he had in mind, but serviceable for his needs. He withdrew his wallet and put some money on the table. The money was fake, but it looked real enough.
Where he came from they didn’t use money any more, but technology could duplicate pretty much anything. He left three twenties for $18 meal, in case she was watching close. Then he got up and headed towards the kitchen. He saw her head vanish from the small window and smiled to himself. Good. Perfect.
He continued to walk straight towards the kitchen door before turning suddenly for the bathroom. If anyone was still watching him, they’d probably think he was drunk, but then anyone who might be watching him would be dead in a couple of minutes, so he didn’t really care. Walking this way afforded him the best view of what, or more specifically, who, was in the kitchen, and that was what he needed to know.
He entered the bathroom, not without appreciating the view it provided him of the other side of the kitchen. There was a big fella back there, but he didn’t see his mark. She was probably off on some chore to close the place up, it didn’t matter. He shut the door to the bathroom behind him and waited what he thought was the appropriate amount of time. He flushed the toilet and then turned the water on in the sink as if washing his hands. He turned it off again and opened the door. With a quick glance at the dining area he saw the money was still on the table. She’s still hiding out back, he thought. Perfect. The smile crept back onto his face. If everything goes right, they’ll blame it all on a disgruntled cook.
He stepped from the bathroom and took two quick steps towards the kitchen, then crouched down just below the window. He pulled what looked like a futuristic stun gun from his pocket and rushed into the kitchen.
The crushing blow from the fire extinguisher was enough to drop him to the floor. Carroll kicked the stun gun out of reach and then struck him again. His leg spasmed once then went still.
Jack came running, from the freezer, a look of astonishment and disbelief on his face.
“Are you alright Carroll?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just taking out the trash.” Carroll said.
“But, what? How?” Jack asked, shocked and incoherent.
“I didn’t, but with all the creeps I have to deal with day in and day out, something about this one just didn’t feel right. Something about him not leaving town sooner, I don’t know, I didn’t know, not for sure.” Carroll said, her arms were shaking while she still clutched the fire extinguisher.
Jack came closer and put an arm around her.
“Well, whatever tipped you off, you got ’em kid,” Jack said.