Hired Gun Ch. 02

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Slipping into jeans and a t-shirt, I decided to call Michael Whittaker in Washington to arrange a pay-off for my takedown on Thaddeus Combs. His secretary informed me he was tied up in a conference meeting but she’d have him call when he finished.

Having the phone in my hand, I called Trace’s cell phone. Hoping to hear his voice, all I heard was ringing, then recorded instructions to leave a message on his voice mail. I figured he was probably busy, castrating some poor dog or neutering a cat!

“Great!” I thought. “Nobody wants to talk to me!”

Pouring myself a cup of coffee, I sat down at the diningroom table looking over the notes Trace and I had put together. Owning horses was a lot more involved than I thought but I was growing more adamant than ever. With Trace’s help, I felt confident I could care for them.

Booting up my computer, I searched for horse trailers, knowing I’d probably need one. What I didn’t expect were so many websites and so many different makes and models. Not sure of what would best suit my needs, I thought it best to wait and see what Trace had in mind.

Hearing my phone ring jolted my thoughts. Hoping it was Trace, I had a feeling it wasn’t.

“Looking for your money?” Whittaker inquired without so much as saying hello. “Pick a time and a place….and don’t say right now either!”

“How about the parking lot at St. Louis International Airport?” I suggested. “Section E, third from the last parking space in Row Seven sometime after midnight tonight?”

“Let me write that down.” Michael grumbled. “I’ll never remember all that.”

“You know my car.” I stated. “Just have the shuttle drop you off.”

“Ok.” Michael agreed. “You can take me out for an early breakfast somewhere. I need to cover your next transaction with you in person.

“I was thinking about taking some time off.” I asserted. “Maybe a few weeks….or a month.”

“Can’t wait that long!” Whittaker countered. “I need this one taken care of right away. The sooner the better!”

“I’ll throw in an extra ten grand just to make it interesting!” Michael affirmed with a snicker. “That’ll get your ass in gear!”

“Make it fifteen and I’ll throw in a kiss.” I laughed, considering his offer was too good to refuse.

“Five grand for a kiss!” Whittaker exclaimed. “For that kind of money you better damn well put some tongue into it!”

Disconnecting the call, I wondered what the big rush was. Seldom, if ever, was I pressured into making a hit within a certain time limit. It had to be big and that usually meant extremely dangerous. Still, a fifteen grand bonus was too much of an enticement to worry about it.

Shaking off the thoughts, I phoned Trace one more time. Again, I got his voice mail instead of an answer. I decided to wait and call again later, rather than leave a message.

With nothing else much to do, I decided to put on my shorts and sneakers for a jog down to the highway and back. The exercise not only made me feel a lot better, it helped clear out my lungs from all the smoking I did.

Returning home, I tried calling Trace for the third time. Again it rang until it switched over to his voice mail. Getting exasperated, I decided to leave a message.

“Hey! This is Amanda. I’ve been trying to call you but all I get is your voice mail.” I stated. “I’m leaving for St. Louis around 6:00. Not sure what time I’ll get back tomorrow. Call me if you get time….that is if you want to.”

I threw in that last comment beginning to wonder if Trace was purposely avoiding my calls. If he was, there had to be a reason. Whatever it was, it better be a damn good one!

I waited until a few minutes after 6:00pm, hoping Trace would call at the last minute but he didn’t.

The drive northeast to St. Louis was a good five hours. I wanted to be there on time, not wanting Michael Whittaker to have to stand in the airport parking lot with fifty-thousand dollars in cash on him. Flying on a commercial carrier, I knew he wouldn’t be carrying a firearm. That’s the one reason I never flew.

I’d been on the road for less than an hour when my cell phone rang. Checking the caller I.D. I saw it was Trace.

“What’d you mean by -if I wanted to call you-?” Trace grumbled. “Was that supposed to mean something?”

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to call me or not.” I responded. “When I woke up this morning, you were already gone and then you never called during the day.”

“I called several times but all I got was your voice mail.” I continued, venting my anger. “So there!”

I wasn’t sure if Trace had hung up on me or not. I wasn’t getting a dial tone so I assumed he was still online.

“What’s with the wedding ring?” He muttered. “I didn’t notice it until this morning.”

“I’m married. I’ll admit to that.” I replied. “My husband and I haven’t seen each other for several years. I’m not even sure where he is.”

Again, the phone conversation fell silent. I didn’t say a word and neither did Trace. Finally, I disconnected the call, stuffing bursa escort the cell phone into my purse.

Finding the designated parking space in the parking lot at St. Louis International, I reclined my seat back, prepared for a lengthy wait. I must have drifted off, startled awake by the sounds of rapping on my windshield.

Tapping the electric door locking switch, I motioned Michael to the passenger side of the car.

“Sixty-five grand.” Whittaker stated, patting the briefcase. “Fifty for the Combs’ hit and the fifteen grand bonus for the next one.”

Reaching over, I put my hand to the back of his head, pulling him towards me. I pressed my lips softly to his, gradually exerting more pressure until I was grinding hard. Slithering my tongue between his lips, I snaked it over his tongue, almost gagging him. Pulling my lips from his, I saw his face was blush red.

“Was it worth five grand?” I asked with a grin.

“I’ve had better!” Michael responded, obviously lying.

“Bullshit!” I laughed, staring the engine. “You’ve never had better and you know it!”

Leaving the airport, I drove onto Interstate 70 heading west towards a twenty-four hour restaurant I’d spotted coming in. At 3:00 in the morning, we pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves.

“What’s so important about this next gig?” I asked after we placed our order.

“It’s a Pakistani National. Name’s Sardar Iqbal.” Michael replied. “He’s got a bad habit of tossing hookers off his hotel balcony. The Pakistan Embassy in Washington’s denying the charges but the FBI’s pressing for a full investigation.”

“So he hasn’t been brought to trial yet.” I assumed.

“He’ll never be brought to trial!” Whittaker proclaimed. “The Pakistan Embassy will put his ass on a private jet if they get wind the FBI is going to investigate the matter. That’s why it’s important we get to him first.”

“Suppose he’s innocent?” I questioned. “Maybe someone else threw those women off the balcony?”

“There were several eyewitnesses but they seemed to have clammed up now after getting phone calls from the Embassy in Washington.” Michael stated. “We’ve confiscated their signed statements. That’s all the proof we need.”

“Hey! You know the difference between a streetwalker and a high-class call girl?” Whittaker laughed.

“Yeah. Better agents.” I replied.

“Guess you heard that one.” Michael grumbled.

After eating and paying the bill, we returned to my car. Michael gave me a manila envelope with all the information I’d need. Sardar was staying in a suite at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City. His luxury suite was on the south side of the hotel. The Taj Mahal on Virginia Avenue was a block away.

“I’ve already booked you a suite on the north side of the Taj Mahal under a bogus name.” Whittaker disclosed, giving me a packet with a phony driver’s license and credit cards. “I hope you can take him out from a block away.”

“You’ll only get one chance.” Michael added. “If you miss, he’ll know someone’s out to get him.”

“I’m not worried about knocking him off.” I affirmed. “I’m worried about getting out of Atlantic City without getting caught.”

“That’s your problem, not mine.” Whitaker mumbled with a grin.

“You’re all heart Michael.” I jested. “That’s what I like about you.”

Returning to the airport, I dropped Whittaker off at the main terminal. As he walked through the entrance I wondered if I’d ever see him again….with another fifty grand in cash!

During the drive back to Stoneridge I started putting a plan together. I wasn’t worried about making the long distance shot from my hotel room to Iqbal’s suite. If I made it at night, the cover of darkness would help conceal my position. The lighting in Sardar’s suite would illuminate my target, allowing me to pick him off.

Getting out of Atlantic City was my only fear. I’d had to plan my escape carefully or risk being caught.

Arriving back at the farm, I grabbed my purse and the briefcase from the passenger seat. I had a headache so I tossed down a couple of aspirins before stepping into the shower. I hoped after a few hours of sleep, I’d wake up feeling better.

More tired than I thought, I awoke to the sound of someone pounding on the front door. Checking my watch, I saw it was almost 6:30pm. Finding a robe, I slipped it on before running downstairs to answer the door.

“I brought dinner.” Trace asserted, carrying a large pizza. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“Yeah. Sure. Come on in.” I mumbled, still half asleep.

“How was your trip to St. Louis?” Trace inquired, heading towards the kitchen.

“Fine.” I muttered, wiping the sleep from my eyes. “How was your day?”

“Boring! But that’s pretty typical.” He replied, setting the pizza on the kitchen counter.

“I was looking at horse trailers on the internet yesterday morning but I wasn’t sure what we needed.” I stated, trying to keep up my end of the conversation.

“Depends. Depends on how much you wanna spend and how many bursa escort bayan horses you’re planning on hauling.” Trace affirmed. “What’re you gonna pull it with?”

“Do you always ask so many questions?” I retorted, getting a couple of soft drinks from the refrigerator. “Don’t you ever answer any?”

“Big truck, big trailer.” Trace responded, laughing. “There….I answered two questions.”

“Sounds expensive.” I remarked. “What kind of money are we talking about.”

“Oh….probably fifty-thousand for each.” He estimated, waiting for my reaction. “That’s just a ballpark figure.”

“Does it really bother you that I’m married?” I asked out of the blue.

“Yeah….it does.” Trace stammered, staring at me. “Did you think it wouldn’t?”

“I’ll ask the questions.” I proclaimed in a stern voice. “You just supply the answers.”

“What if I told you I had no intentions of seeking a divorce?” I questioned. “What then?”

“That’s up to you.” Trace answered without hesitating. “Personally, I think it’s stupid.”

“Why’s it stupid?” I asked, looking directly into his eyes. “Because it makes you feel guilty having sex with a married woman or is it something else?”

“I don’t feel guilty! Not a damn bit guilty!” Trace exclaimed, rising to his feet. “If anyone should feel guilty, it’s you!”

“Guilt isn’t something I ever feel.” I muttered, looking away from him. “I’m too coldhearted.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it.” He declared. “Nobody who loves horses is coldhearted.”

I almost laughed out loud at his statement but I didn’t. Instead, I just sat there, staring at the uneaten pizza and wondering what to say next.

“I’m gonna cut out!” Trace declared, breaking the eerie silence. “If you want to see me again, lose the ring and lose that husband of yours once and for all!”

I wasn’t about to do either but I wasn’t going to continue arguing. It was a no-win situation for both of us. I thought it best to let it go….best to let Trace go.

The following morning, after packing my clothes and firearms, I left for Atlantic City. All I had on my mind was getting there, getting the job done and getting the hell out without getting caught.

According to my computer program, it was twelve-hundred miles from Stoneridge to Atlantic City. I planned on driving straight through, arriving the following morning in the East Coast’s infamous gambling mecca.

I planned on parking my car at the Trump Plaza, then taking a cab from there to the Taj Mahal. Cab drivers in Atlantic City were notorious for their driving abilities. Not having my car seen at the hotel I was staying at would be a plus in my favor. The Trump Plaza was at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway. After taking out Sardar Iqbal, I’d grab a cab back to my car, then make my escape. It sounded plausible if everything went according to plan.

Arriving at the Trump Plaza, I pulled into the parking garage, finding a space available in a well-lit area. Backing in, I grabbed my luggage and purse, heading for the main level. Hailing a cab wasn’t a problem. They were everywhere, vying for business.

Within minutes, the cab screeched to a halt at the Taj Mahal’s main entrance. Paying the fair and tossing in a twenty dollar tip, I headed for the front desk. There were throngs of people in the casino as I passed by, mostly senior citizens who’d been bussed in from Philadelphia and New York. No doubt many were gambling with their Social Security and pension checks, hoping to hit it big.

Safely in my room on the twelfth floor, I stepped out on the balcony to get my bearings. Looking down at the street below, I realized how much of a drop it was. Looking across at the Showboat Casino, a block away on Maryland Avenue, I counted off the balconies, pinpointing Iqbal’s twelfth floor suite. Most of the drapes were closed on the rooms but that was to be expected during the daytime.

Grabbing a shower, I slipped into bed to catch up on my sleep. I’d made the twenty-four drive from Stoneridge stopping only for gas and food.

Waking around 7:00pm, I dressed and went downstairs to one of the hotel’s restaurants. The Stage Deli of New York was the least busy so I ate dinner there. I hated eating in crowded restaurants, preferring quiet and solitude.

Afterwards, I sauntered through the casino, trying my luck at the slot machines. I wasn’t much of a gambler but it was too early to return to my room and get things set up. After dropping several rolls of quarters into the slop machines and winning nothing, I rode one of the elevators back to my room.

Hoping to make the hit on Iqbal my first night, it wasn’t to be. The lights in his suite never came on, leading me to believe he was probably out for the night. Still, I waited until the sun started to rise before packing my stuff up.

I pretty much followed the same routine for the next two days. Sleeping during the day, tossing quarters in slot machines during the evening and keeping a close eye on Sardar’s suite all night long. escort bursa I wondered if Michael Whittaker in Washington was getting as anxious as I was to take out the Pakistani National. I hoped the Pakistan Embassy in D.C. hadn’t gotten wind of the FBI’s pending investigation.

It was my fourth night lying on the floor just inside the open balcony doors. With the lights in my room turned off and covered by a black cotton sheet, I checked my IDF SNR sniper rifle one last time.

Developed by the Israeli Defense Forces, the 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle cost me a cool fifteen grand. The twenty round magazine fed special projectile M-118 ammunition. All I had to do was aim and squeeze the trigger. A tripod supported the end of the rifle barrel; the six by forty telescopic scope with night vision capabilities assisted my aim. A quick-detach Brunson silencer added nine inches to the rifle’s length, making it look more like a bazooka. When I struck a target, it pretty much had the same effect. The special projectiles exploded on impact instead of boring a finger-size hole through its victim.

Lying there in the near pitch dark, listening to the traffic twelve floors below, I thought about Trace. I wondered if he was still dead-set on his ultimatum about my getting a divorce from my husband and taking the ring off my finger once and for all.

“Oh God, I could use a cigarette!” I thought. “This waiting is killing my ass!”

Just then the lights in Iqbal’s suite came on. The curtains across the windows leading out to his balcony were barely open. Not enough for me to get a shot off but open enough to see several figures milling about the room. It looked like two men and two, maybe three women. My heart rate doubled and my hands grew cold.

It seemed like forever but it was probably less than ten minutes before one of the men opened the drapes and stepped out onto the balcony. Sighting through the scope, I could see it wasn’t Sardar. Dressed in a dark suit, he didn’t quite look Pakistani but he still might be.

“Must be a bodyguard or something.” I thought, slipping my finger off the rifle’s trigger.

Two women, both partially naked, performed a lap dance for the other man in the suite. Sighting in on him, I saw it was Iqbal. Uglier than a camel’s cunt, he was dressed in traditional Pakistani garments. With the women gyrating around him, it was too risky taking a shot. I’d have to wait, hoping my target wouldn’t head for one of the bedrooms.

One of the women, looking to be in her early thirties and wearing a bright red thong stepped out onto the balcony. She put her arms around the man in the dark suit, giving him a kiss.

Sardar rose from the couch, angrily pushing the other woman aside. He turned, taking steps towards the balcony. Finally out in the open, I squeezed the trigger, feeling the gun’s muted recoil. The projectile found its target, decapitating Iqbal and splattering his blood all over the far wall of the suite.

Stunned, the man and woman on the balcony froze in position. The woman let out a scream but I couldn’t hear it from a block away. Reaching into his suit jacket the man pulled out what looked like a forty-five automatic.

“Yeah, that’s gonna scare me!” I laughed to myself, sighting in on him.

Squeezing the trigger once again, the projectile bored a hole in the man’s chest big enough for me to see through. His body fell through the broken window behind him, out of my sight. The two women screamed and ran around gathering up their clothes. Instead of heading for the door, they ran into one of the bedrooms. No doubt afraid they were going to be shot next.

Methodically and without rushing, I dismantled the rifle in the dark, putting everything in its carrying case. Stuffing the case into my luggage, I set it near the door. I got dressed, slipping into dress slacks and a blouse, then primped my hair before leaving.

At the main desk, I paid my bill and chatted with the desk clerk for a brief moment. Cabs were lined up at the entrance to the hotel so I didn’t have to flag one down.

“Trump Plaza!” I instructed the driver, handing him a fifty dollar bill.

Reaching inside my purse for a cigarette, I barely had it lit before the cab screeched to a stop at the hotel.

“Here you go!” The cab driver exclaimed. “Trump Plaza!”

Grabbing my purse and luggage, I walked casually towards the parking garage, careful not to draw attention to myself. Now wasn’t the time to panic and take off running.

Securing everything but my purse in the XLR’s trunk, I climbed in behind the wheel. Within minutes, I was on the Atlantic City Expressway heading east towards Philadelphia. Looking in my rearview mirror I expected to see flashing red and blue lights and hear sirens but I didn’t. I wondered if the two women were still sequestered in the bedroom, afraid to come out.

It was around 11:00am when I pulled off the interstate just east of Columbus, Ohio. Wheeling my car into a nearby restaurant, I thought I’d grab something to eat, then maybe look for a place to stay for the night. My eyes were weary, having been up for almost eighteen hours.

Sitting in a booth, I watched the CNN news on a television set elevated in one corner of the dining area.

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