The clock in Lucky’s head ticked silently and in rhythm with a rapid heartbeat. Each second that passed was a moment closer to the kill. Two hundred yards through the rifle’s scope made the mark seem across the street. Knowing the opportune condition would present itself and make the job easier with the chaos left behind was reason enough to wait.
This time, what happened in Vegas, wouldn’t stay in Vegas.
The view through the scope showed Conrad Andersen pulling a hooker over his lap and playfully spanking her ass. The middle-aged woman with highlighted dirty blonde hair and flawless makeup laughed and kicked her legs in false protest. When her skin turned pink, Andersen kissed the small of her back and fell to the bed. She twisted against him, gave him an exaggerated kiss and then vanished into the bathroom.
Keeping Andersen in the crosshairs through a small crack between the floor length curtains was difficult. Only a portion of the bed was in view. The probability of a clean hit was limited.
After he wiped his mouth, traces of the hooker’s lipstick smeared across his face. He frowned, got up and moved out of sight.
Now was a good time to do a bit of stretching. First, the sniper stretched and twisted sideways, popping a few vertebrae to ease the tension. Then flexed both hands and lifted each leg, rotating both ankles. Lucky wondered for a moment if the military did similar exercises when they’d been watching a target. Doubt any of them had to watch a two-hour Viagra-induced sexcapade.
Lucky eased back into position just as Andersen appeared in the scope again. He was dressed in his best Sunday suit, blue pinstriped with a white shirt. A decent looking older man, but knowing what he’d done made him ugly enough to eliminate.
The hooker reappeared and shared a tender kiss with the john before gathering her belongings off the nightstand. When the lights in the room dimmed, the sniper began slow deep breaths and eased into a final position.
Lucky directed the scope three feet to the right and targeted ten inches from the top of the doorframe. The shot window was about five seconds; the wind factor, distance and bullet drop was already part of the equation. As the door opened, Lucky let out one last breath and counted.
One: the hooker emerged first, laughing and turned her head back nodding. Two: Andersen appeared and threw his arm around the woman’s shoulder. Three: the hooker glanced up at him as the reticle of the scope targeted Andersen’s head. Four: he leaned down and kissed her. Five: he lifted his head and turned as if looking for his car.
He probably didn’t locate it. In the sixth second, the bullet penetrated his skull. His brain splattered back on the door. Andersen’s body slumped against the frame. The hooker screamed. Other rooms instantly sprang to life with activity. A dog barked in the distance. What was left of his face stared back into the scope. Kill confirmed.
Burn in hell, bastard.
Lucky removed the silencer then quickly packed up the Heckler and Koch MSG90 rifle in the trombone shaped case.
With the casing secure in the brass catcher, she rolled up her blanket, quickly surveyed the roof for other trace evidence then slipped down the side of the house. The occupants and their neighbors could be home any moment and she had to move.
Weaving her way through the backyard, she hopped over the fence of the adjoining property and emerged on Margo Drive. She walked the length of the street listening for any sign of the police behind her.
Two minutes later, she found her rental car around the corner on Pacyna Street. Streetlights sparkled, waiting for the last of the sunlight to vanish from the horizon. She’d get back in time for the free hotel happy hour.
Lucky popped the trunk, secured the case and slipped into the car. Then she sighed. Her boss was forcing her to get rid of the gun despite pleas to keep the weapon for sentimental value. She knew he was right, still, it was a good gun and she hated to melt it down.
She drove to S. Nellis Blvd just as sirens reverberate in the distance. She took it south toward E. Tropicana Ave, and picked up her cell phone when she turned south on Paradise Road.
“It’s done,” she said while checking the rearview mirror. “Our boy had a thing for hookers, apparently.”
“Leave the package where I told you, he’ll take care of it for us. I’ll see you when you land, okay?”
“Sure, Phen. Tell Bet she owes me dinner.”
“She does? Why?” Phen asked with a huff. “Don’t tell me you two are wagering over your jobs.”
“No, she owes me because I told her you’d make me get rid of Heckle today.”
“Don’t be sore, you still have the other.”
“Yeah, yeah. Talk to ya.” Lucky clicked off the phone and went to drop off her weapon to the butcher.
In a seat near the back of the plane, Lucky Fascino ordered a gin and tonic from the flight attendant and thanked him with a smile. She’d been fortunate enough to get a window seat, with only one row mate. The pink-skinned gray haired man to her left had a strange expression etched on his face. She ignored it, sipped the drink and turned back to the window.
Next to Lucky, any Caucasian looked pale. Naturally bronzed, due in part to an unknown mixed heredity, gave her an all year color most women would kill to have. Her curly honey brown hair and slight almond shaped amber eyes, now considered exotic, hid behind a jet-black wig and brown contacts.
Today, the fake ID had her name as Lucille Summers from Baltimore, Maryland. She made up a whole history and itinerary ready for Lucille, just incase. It was one part of the job she enjoyed doing.
In truth, she’d been in Vegas for nine days. She watched the target; learned his habits, hangouts, and daily rituals. In the last five days, she’d seen him with three hookers in two different motels. Gotta love Vegas.
Lucky was grateful he hadn’t gone to the Bunny Ranch. It was too isolated for the job, and she didn’t want to expose the cable celebrities to murder.
Pinky tried to make conversation while she nursed her drink. He annoyed her until she finally engaged him during her second. It was only natural for most normal people to want some type of contact to ease the mundane flight. She didn’t seem to have a choice. He wouldn’t shut up.
“So, what do you do for a living?” he asked after the exchange of names and destinations.
I kill people, like you. “I’m the Senior Accountant for an international furniture company.” Lucky watched the man’s eyes glaze over. Accountants never impressed anyone. Actually, she didn’t really kill people like him, unless of course he had some seedy history of crime. Unlike Andersen, who used his corporate success to embezzle, commit fraud, and blackmail, Pinky seemed like just another guy. Then again, she appeared normal too.
“Sounds lucrative.” He rubbed the side of his face as he covertly tried to ogle her legs. “In Vegas for business or pleasure?” The way he enunciated the latter made her skin crawl. She wouldn’t give him the time of day if he were the last man on the planet who could donate sperm to keep the species alive.
“Business, you know how it goes, meetings, meetings, meetings. Have to get those fiscal reports in order for the CFO,” she responded, smiling, mostly to suppress the gag reflex.
He laughed and continued to eyeball her as he talked about his trip. Apparently, he was a builder checking out places for the new housing developments. It didn’t interest her in the least, but she politely nodded and uh-huh’d him as he spoke. The trite conversation continued until the plane began its descent.
As the plane taxied off the runway, Lucky slowly collected her things. Leon, her row mate, was already out of his seat and searching for his carry on. When the door at the front of the plane opened, he glanced down and grinned.
“Take care, Lucille,” he said, handing her a card. “If you ever need a carpenter give me a call.” He winked and merged with the other passengers.
She cleaned down the area with a handi-wipe, put the card in her jacket pocket and waited until the crowd thinned before deplaning. Having no checked luggage was a godsend because the conveyer belt was broken and the people from the flight had to wait another fifteen minutes for their stuff. Lucky walked right by and smirked. Her best friend, Elizabeth, was standing with the chauffer drivers near the exit.
“What the hell are you doing, you nut?” They hugged and Lucky handed over the garment bag. “Here, make yourself useful.”
“How was the trip?” Bet asked with a grin.
“Ya know, same shit different method, location and target.” Lucky shrugged and secured her canvas bag against her hip. She towered over her friend by half a foot, but no one commanded attention like Bet. With sparkling green eyes, brown skin, and short bleached hair, she looked like a curvy punk-rock version of Halle Berry. The product of a white father and black mother, Bet knew how cruel some were when faced with people that didn’t fit the norm. Lucky suffered the same fate as an adoptive mutt with no known heritage. “Did your dad send you as a way of apologizing?”
“Well, he told me I owed you dinner so I figured we could grab something in town before we went home.”
“Sure, I could eat. Want to go to South Street?”
“As long as you get rid of that stupid wig.”
Lucky and Bet shared a nice meal and a few laughs in the heart of Philly’s tourist trap. By the time they got back to West Chester, it was dark out and the jet lag was setting in. Lucky had to meet with Phen then she’d call it a night.
After Bet unlocked the gate and pulled up the drive, Lucky picked up her belongings and headed for the den. The smell of burning wood and cinnamon tickled the foyer. She peeked in and Phen put down his paper.
“Welcome home, Felicia.” He glanced up at her over his thick-rimmed glasses and gave her a huge smile.
Lucky rolled her eyes. “Thanks, Uncle Phen.”
He stood up, crossed the room and pulled her into a hug. She’d known Stephen Chambers most of her life. He was the reason she and Bet were best friends. The reason she had the career she did, more or less.
Phen released her and motioned to the couch near the fireplace, which was roaring with warmth. Lucky tossed in Leon’s card then sat nearby, letting her body absorb the heat. It was the one thing she hated about traveling, the change in temperature. However, it was always nice to come home. He poured two drinks and carried them to the sitting area. She arched a brow and studied him. Something was up; he never gave her a drink after an assignment, he knew better.
He sat down, took a sip and placed his glasses on the coffee table. Her “uncle” was a chiseled Nordic man with blue eyes. At fifty-eight, he looked like a man in his early forties despite his white hair. Bet walked in a moment later, kissed her father’s cheek and noticed the drinks on the table because she excused herself immediately.
“You know, I think you can call me Lucky. It was my nickname first and it has been five years,” she said to break the silent tension in the room.
“You’ll always be Felicia to me, sweetie…I can’t bring myself to do it,” he replied, sighed and downed the contents of his glass in one gulp.
“Phen, what’s wrong?” She put down her drink and leaned forward.
“It’s time for me to pack it in.” He held up a hand stopping her immediate attempt at interrupting. “You know I’ve been doing this a long time, but what you don’t know is I’ve been training my replacement this past year.”
“But what about—”
“Felicia, let me finish,” he interjected, got up and poured another drink. “I’m not about to abandon you. I’ll be here for support and back up. And I’ll continue to search for leads, but we haven’t found anything new, the outlook hasn’t been good. If we want to get anywhere, I need to devote more attention…”
Lucky frowned and finished her drink. Phen moved over and she lifted the glass for another cognac. She didn’t like where this was going.
“Don’t be sore, sweetie. Maybe I can find something useful. It’s just as important to me as it is to you.” Phen put the bottle back then took his seat across from her.
The colonial décor of the den normally soothed her. Now it only agitated her as reminders of the past hung all over the room. She glanced at the portrait above the fireplace. Lucky was eight, Bet was nine, and their parents were alive and well. Luciano and Molly Fascino, Stephen and Kiya Chambers smiled proudly out into the room. Bet was missing a tooth and Lucky’s smile was anything but genuine. She remembered posing for that picture. For some reason, it was a bad day—the cause escaped her at the moment. Phen commissioned the painting a year later as a gift for their mothers. “I’ll stay on board for a few more months while I introduce Elizabeth to the network and the rest of my contacts, but after that, I’ll step into the background.”
“She’s taking over for me,” he replied, picked up his glasses and put them back on. “You didn’t think I’d leave you with a complete stranger did you?”
“Well, uh, no, I guess. But…Bet? Phen, do you really want to expose her to this? I mean I know she knows what we do but I’ve never told her the details.”
“And you’ll never have to, unless you want.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Believe me, I’ve thought about this for a while. In this business, everyone needs to be on top of his game and my head’s not in it like it used to be. The last thing I want is to put you in danger, and I’m afraid I will.”
“Are you sick?” she asked and rose from the chair. He shook his head and Lucky began pacing. “Then what is it?”
“I’m just getting old, Felicia. I’m almost sixty. I’m tired.”
Lucky nodded and walked the length of the Oriental rug on the floor. She passed the bookshelves that held everything from Chaucer to the US Army’s Survival guide. Each one read by both her and Bet.
It was starting to make sense. Bet was picking her up after jobs, making flight arrangements. When Lucky decided to step into her father’s shoes one condition was telling her friend the truth. She and Phen told her together. Bet took the news well. She even mentioned suspecting her father was into something shady. The surprising truth was hard to bear, but eventually she accepted it. Besides, she had said, they were family. Most families handed down a farm or at the least a tax preparation business, but contract killing was way out in left field. Still, family doesn’t turn their backs on each other.
“There’s not going to be any trouble is there? I mean do people retire from this business and really live to talk about it?” She glanced over at him. It was rare a contract killer made it to retirement. Either the cops found you, someone else killed you, or like her father, it wore you down and diseased your body. Handlers had a certain amount of anonymity and better survival rate, but they were still at risk.
“A decent number, if they’re good. And I’m one of the best—we’re one of the best. The people I work with know I’ve been around and won’t be surprised. Some have suggested retirement because of the marks I’m turning down.” He pressed his lips together in a tight smile.
“Hey, don’t give me shit; you know how I feel those board type jobs.” Lucky ran her finger along the edge of the shelf and turned back to the fire. “I’ve kept the name alive, and I’ve made us a lot of money.”
“I know, Luke was the same way.” He patted the spot beside him and wrapped his arm around her shoulder when she sat down. “You have enough saved to call it quits too.”
“No. You know I can’t,” Lucky replied and rested her head on his shoulder. “When I find out who killed her, I’ll stop. Until then, Lucky lives.”