Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Jack shifted uncomfortably against the handcuffs, the straight back of the chair too wide against his shoulder-blades, the wood irritating through the thin fabric of his blazer.

“A little presumptuous thinking you could waltz in here and kill me,” the speaker’s voice high and feminine in stark contrast to the height and mass of his frame, “surely you don’t think me so stupid?”

Jack surveyed the room casually, gauging the distance between the pillars holding the glass ceiling aloft, to the hedgerow beyond, and to the fence line beyond that. He wasn’t cuffed to the chair, so if he tipped it forward, he could slip over and…

“Jack,” the man shook his head reproachfully, “there’s no point in plotting an escape. You can’t get out.” He smiled, running his carefully manicured fingers down the silk of his lapels. “Fitchburg and Sven designed this place themselves. Energy fields outside render me impervious to rockets, energy weapons,” he waved the Berretta he’d taken from Jack, “clumsy men with handguns. You could crash a heliocopter into the roof without causing serious damage,” he paused, his face pulling into a frown, “you’ll have to trust me on that one.”

From a vantage point more than a kilometer away, a third man opened a briefcase, assembling a long barreled rifle without looking, a ritual practiced to the point of reflex. Attaching a oversized scope to the rifle he took up position, located his target and waited.

“Mogilevich, you think you’re avtoritet – a leader, but you’re just a baklany, a punk. You think I’ll be the last one to come gunning for you? Maybe next time I’ll just lob a grenade through your front door.”

Mogilevich bristled at the open disrespect. “Your grenade would be detonated in your hand.”

From the hilltop far away, the rifleman smiled a half smile at the scene unfolding below. Jack was precisely where he gambled Jack would be. Several rounds of drinks were owed, as was the usual.

Mogilevich chuckled, turning his back on his prisoner and looking out into the darkness. “What to do with you, you tiresome thug.”

The rifleman judged the distance, the wind, accounted for the curvature of the landscape and the pull of gravity. A fourteen hundred meter shot would be a long one, but not unheard of. He’d shot farther, in heavier atmosphere. He laid the crosshairs on his target, adjusted, breathed out slowly and felt his heart beat slow. Beat, beat…, beat…, beat – squeeze. The sharp crack of the rifle still hung in the air as he began tearing the gun down again, returning it piece by piece to its case.

Mogilevich’s ears bristled at the sound, but stood amused as the air between he and the outer perimeter coalesced, the long brass bullet gradually slowing from its faster than sound entry velocity to come to a complete stop, suspended in mid air barely a foot in front of him.

Mogilevich chuckled, his chuckle turning to a deep belly laugh, his body shaking uncontrollably as tears streamed from his eyes.

“Two,” he gasped, pointing at Jack, “two failures out to kill me. This is an outrage.” His laughter settled into tentative chuckles as he plucked the stilled bullet from its flight path. “eight point six, seventy millimeter bullet? Lapua? American…”

He stopped speaking, his brain still processing thoughts, but no air moving through his voice-box with which to produce sound.

Jack leaned the chair forward until he could slide his hands up and over the back, then stepping through the cuffs to bring his hands in front of him he walked around so Mogilevich could see him.

“Cat got your tongue?” Jack was smiling now. “Contact poison, should keep you paralyzed for just long enough for you to asphyxiate.

Jack fished in the man’s pockets for keys with which he unlocked his cuffs and dropped them both back in his pocket.

“Love to hang around and chat, but you and me, this is razborka, we’re even. Now, dammit, I’ve got to go buy a man a drink.”



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