Chapter two – Target Zero
Rami sat in the terminal, a paper in hand. By natural instinct, he’d almost unconsciously scanned the vicinity, looking for threats and escape routes, ambush points and hiding spots. He knew if there was trouble he won’t run to the left, where there’s a lot of guards and cops. Service areas. Yes that’d do.
He wondered about what Niko had said. Why did the Serbian have doubts? Rami wondered who had the right mentality. Was it him, with his objective eye, seeing everything in an operational way? Or Niko, with his morals so prevalent. Sure, Rami’s detached attitude made him one of the best operators around, but did that mean he wasn’t able to identify the bad guys? Did he care?
He briefly thought of his son and his ex wife. Sure he cared about them, but one couldn’t afford to have that on your mind while working could they?
Rami caught himself. As soon as he’d left his home, he’d been ‘on-mission’. That meant his mind had to be on the job.
He set the newspaper on his leg and folded it.
He saw the movement out of the corner of his eye. A figure approached. Rami saw himself leaping up, grabbing his carry-case and using it as a weapon. He’d stun the man and, with an elbow to the solar plexus, duck behind the man where he could kick out his knees, grab his head/neck and –
“Niko.” Rami said as soon as he made him. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Niko sat next to Rami. “Well I am.”
“Evidently.” Rami checked his watch. “Cutting it fine though.”
“You want a coffee?” The Israeli stood and gestured to the terminal’s food court.
Niko nodded “A muffin would be good.”
Rami nodded and walked off toward the food court, careful to hide his smile from Niko.
“I hope you didn’t take offense to my comments yesterday.” Rami said as he sat back down, handing Niko his apparent breakfast. Niko took the muffin, having only had a couple of slices of toasted rye and a coffee. Niko sipped at the coffee, which was terrible. The muffin was alright though, if a little dry.
“No. I understood your point.”
“I think my biggest advantage is my ability to detach myself when we’re working. I think I expect that from everyone else.”
“No one’s perfect.”
“No that’s right. I got myself arrested once.” Niko nodded. He knew that, but not why. “I was twenty three. I’d signed up for the military when I was underage – somehow I got in.” A shrug. “I supposed it happens – World War Two for example. I’d joined Shin Bet and we were pursuing a Palestinian who we believe had something to do with Munich in ’72. I was ten when that happened.” Rami shook his head. “Things went wrong, and I was witnessed eliminating our target. I ended up being charged for it, but later I was released and,” Rami chuckled nasally “deported.”
“You said you were Mossad didn’t you?”
“Yeah, that was after. That didn’t last long. Funny really. They taught me everything I needed.” Niko didn’t know when Rami had left Mossad – or why. He’d never asked.
A moment later their flight was called, and it was time to board. Their conversations on the flight avoided their histories and missions.
Niko was struck by the weather. Flying was not something he did often, and this journey threw him off slightly. He’d woken and gone out in the cool, crisp air, with the sky darkened despite the dawn and threatened rain, and now he walked around the airport, glad he’d chosen a cream linen suit with a white shirt. He’d stepped out of the cold, into a metal container, and then out into almost tropical weather. He felt slightly discombobulated by the transition, despite the several hours spent in the stale air of the plane.
“Hurricane season.” Rami said beside him. Niko turned and raised an eyebrow. “They’re common down here. Up in Liberty we get rain and sometimes storms, but down here, the weather turns angry. Los Santos gets earthquakes, the mid-country gets tornados...” Rami shook his head. “Nature must be pissed with this country.”
Niko chuckled. “How long have we got?”
Rami checked his watch. “Hours yet.” When they had stepped off the plane, Rami had a message waiting on his phone – as had Niko. The target’s flight was on its way.
“Want some lunch?”
Rami cocked a shoulder. “May as well. We’ve got a time. I could go for a good Jambalaya.”
“You think we’ve got time to head into the city for it?”
“We’ve got to pick up our car anyway.” Rami looked at his watch. “Yeah.”
The man walked out of the dingy bar, allowing himself to cast an appreciative glance at the parked choppers. He walked to his car – an old Clover, which wore a patchwork of replaced bodywork and a slightly twisted rear fender, framed with rust. He got in, greeted by the familiar reluctant creak of the door closing. Even the seat creaked. He keyed the ignition, the car spluttering to life after two attempts. It usually took three. He leant over and fumbled with the radio, getting nothing but static.
“Guess you’re not feeling like working today, huh.” The man growled. He sighed and put the car in gear.
Home for him was a static trailer in a trailer park. His closest neighbor – whose trailer was fifteen feet from his own – was, ironically, a man named Billy. He was a decent guy though. A bit of a hillbilly, Billy-Bob was a mechanic with a taste for whiskey and moonshine. He fitted in strangely well. He hadn’t bothered shaving much since he got here, so he’d grown a casual beard. Sometimes he didn’t even recognize himself in the mirror – which was good, he thought; it meant no one else would either.
The man locked his car – the old fashioned way – and went into his trailer. He switched on the light, which wasn’t quite bright enough, tossed his jacket onto a small table, and slumped down on his chair, switching on the TV, which sat on the wooden core of a cable reel.
He spent a few minutes channel surfing before standing up and moving to the refrigerator. After sticking his head inside, he pulled out, sighing, then moving to a cupboard. Inside sat four bottles of Pisswasser.
“Nothing worse than warm beer.” He mumbled to himself, his voice hoarse from years of alcohol abuse – more so recently. While he was up there he had a search for some late dinner, and found nothing other than a box of pop-tarts – a day past their use by date. He examined them for a moment then shrugged, popping them in the toaster. A minute passed and the toaster clunked
. He grabbed the pop-tarts and slumped back in the chair.
The TV was crap. He didn’t have satellite – no digital TV for him – and the reception was poor. Three times the picture faded in blizzard of static and, by the time he’d finished his meal, he’d had enough. The signal went completely by the time he got up. He dropped his plate on the floor, tossing the empty bottle next to it. He walked to the trailer’s door and opened it to a wall of rainfall. The sky flashed a bright white then, a second later, the sky rumbled with fury. The man shook his head and lit a cigarette. He didn’t used to smoke but he’d taken it up a couple of years ago. He turned back to his jacket and dug for his wallet. Opening it to no money he sighed. He’d half-entertained hiring a hooker but he couldn’t cover it. Whatever. He turned to the table and pushed a newspaper off, revealing a nudie magazine. A second later he threw it back.
He returned to the door via the cupboard and with another bottle of beer he sat and watched the rain.
Rami had, in fact, ordered the Jambalaya, and a non-alcoholic cocktail.
“So you’re ok with our mission then? Both today and overall.”
Niko nodded. “Yeah. I spoke to my cousin about it...”
“Is he your moral compass?”
“No, but he helped me look at it objectively.”
could have done that.”
Niko shrugged. But you didn't,
he didn't say. Isntead he waved his fork about as he spoke. “Either way there’s going to be guns on the streets. Legal or illegal. It doesn’t matter. If they’re legalized, why would you buy from a back-street dealer?”
“In a rush?” Rami took a sip from his glass. “Short of cash?”
“For the most part though. Mostly it’ll eliminate poor quality guns, prevent jams, and them exploding like what happened to that kid.”
“Three people died from that. They were probably gangbangers anyway, but they may not have been. It could have been anyone else.” It could have been Roman, defending his infant child against a house intruder
he managed to not say.
“And it’s more money in the city’s pocket – not the gangsters.”
“Exactly, Niko. Either way, I’m getting paid.” A shrug and a mouthful of Jambalaya. What you make of Vice?” Rami pointed his fork out of the window.
“It’s hot. Maybe I should retire here.”
“There’s as much crime here – drugs mostly. In fact there’s probably more drug crime in Vice then in any crime in Liberty. I came here once with Mossad, to see the battle against the drug runners. Massive operations, those guys were running. Smart people. Made it very hard for the authorities to do anything. Lots of nightlife here too. That means a lot of high-end crimes. A sh*t load of money to be made or lost... Kind of makes me want to go to Venturas.”
“Looking for a well paying mob boss like Petrovic then?”
Rami turned and looked out of the window. “I was thinking more of a tan. I think though, when this is over, I may head out to 'Santos. Change of scenery, I feel like working in the sun.”
The two men stood in the large, exquisitely decorated lobby. Hoards of men and woman flocked to and from the trains, and the door to the city streets flapped almost constantly. It had started to rain outside, so umbrellas were on show, being opened and closed.
The larger man leant in and said something to the other man. Both glanced toward the nearest door, where a cop stood, talking in to his radio. The two men shared another word, then returned to watching the crowds.
Five minutes later the smaller man back-handed his partner’s arm. He nodded at a man walking through a break in the crowd, towing a small case behind him. The larger man brought his phone up and looked at a photo on it. Then he nodded and the two moved to follow.
Their car – a grey Washington – was parked opposite the station, in a parking bay on Columbus Avenue. The larger man glanced at the building to the west, where they’d sat and received their orders. Then he turned his attention to the car and got in, nodding at his partner who headed to a motorbike.
They’d made a good guess, they saw a moment later. Their target had flagged down a cab from the street-side shelter and, after getting in, the cab headed toward them, turning west just before reaching the parking bay.
The Washington and bike followed.
He was heading for the tunnel - an obvious observation. The Washington moved to overtake.
A block from the tunnel they made their move. The Washington cut up the cab, causing it to stop abruptly. The man got out and immediately drew his gun – a shotgun. The smaller man had dismounted his bike and was also approaching, a submachine gun in his hand.
The cab driver looked up, his face pale and frozen. Then, as the men brought their guns up, the driver reacted, throwing his car in reverse.
The shotgun protested the move, firing into the cab’s hood. The engine coughed, but the cab still moved. The cab driver put the car back in gear...
That’s when the smaller guy opened fire. He emptied a clip in two seconds and reloaded quickly. The windshield ate the bullets, spider-webbing as the glass broke. The side window shattered, revealing hurried movement from within.
The shotgun fired again, tearing half of the windshield down. The driver’s door opened and a man – the target – fell out. He stumbled to his feet and the shotgun fired again. The door took most of the buckshot, but the man’s leg flinched, obviously hit.
The target lunged forward and, with a limp, ran into a nearby alley. The smaller gunman moved toward the cab and slid over the hood, his gun coming up as he reached the alleyway.
The larger man followed.
The man had collapsed into a heap, and was trying to crawl away. The smaller hitman entered the alleyway and reloaded his gun. Then he had a change of mind, and pulled out a small revolver. He twirled it round in his hand like a cowboy and approached the crippled man, a sinister grin on his face.
He planned to say something clever, and turned to deliver his farewell.
The smaller hitman didn’t expect the man to position his one good leg bent in front of him. He threw all his strength into his leg, springing up with remarkable explosive power. One hand slapped at the revolver, which clattered to the floor. The other hand wrapped around the hitman’s slender body. The hitman stumbled backward until his back hit a wall. Then the man, dodging the swing from the now gun-less hand, grabbed the attacker’s head and slammed it against the wall. The attacker went limp.
The larger man was near now, and bringing his gun up. A single shot sounded but missed, the target dropping to the floor and grabbing the revolver. He didn’t think twice and fired two shots straight away. Then he noticed the submachine gun poking out of the unconscious man’s body. He did a quick swap.
The large hitman had taken cover behind a dumpster. He waited a second then came out, only to see the muzzle of the submachine gun in his face.
“Drop the gun.” The 'target' said weakly. The hitman obeyed, knowing that if the man was unarmed, or even only had a knife, he could take him.
For a moment there was a standoff, the injured man moving round slowly and awkwardly. A minute later the target stood between the large hitman and the alley’s entrance. He began to backtrack.
A few seconds later the distance between them was enough that the large man felt it safe to go for his gun.
The injured man fired, causing the hitman to hide behind the other side of the dumpster. He poked his head out to fire but the injured man’s gunfire made him think twice. He’d got one shot off but it had missed.
A second later he poked his head out again, to see the man had disappeared. He went to run after him when he heard an engine gun. Half a second later he saw the Washington drive past.
“sh*t.” He growled.
They’d picked up the car – a black and chrome Admiral – and driven back to the airport. On the way Niko had gotten a glimpse of the city. It was certainly different to Liberty.
Niko stayed with the car, waiting outside. Rami went into the airport and, just over fifteen minutes later, returned. He walked toward Niko’s car, not once looking directly at the target, who Niko had noticed as Rami had exited the terminal.
“See him?” Rami asked, closing the door. The israeli's demeanor was calm but his eyes were determined, his mind likely focused.
“Yes.” Niko replied as the man got in a Marbelle. He started the engine.
They followed the Marbelle away from the airport and onto the freeway. A couple of turn-offs later they followed onto the surface roads.
“Easy here Niko.” Rami warned as they approached a red light. A minivan sat between them and the target which did a good job of concealing them. The Marbelle turned left and, with a stroke of luck, the Minivan followed. Only once did they get too close to the Marbelle, with Rami warning Niko who eased up on the accelerator. Rami was, rather smartly Niko thought, holding a map up. If the target looked back he’d see two men in a car looking at a map, probably lost. Neither man was worried they’d be identified.
A motel appeared and the Marbelle turned off. Niko carried on, passing the motel and, once out of sight, pulled a quick U-turn. He then pulled over opposite the motel’s entrance, seeing the Marbelle stop outside the reception office. A man stepped out and disappeared into the office, coming back a minute later with keys in his hand. The Marbelle moved forward and the passengers entered a motel room.
“Six.” Rami said, looking through an magnifying eyeglass.
“Shall we get a couple of rooms?”
Rami shrugged. “May as well. No idea how long they’ll be here for. I’ll go in and get it sorted. Keep an eye on the car.”
The tracking device was smaller than Niko had imagined. He sat on the edge of his bed, examining it. Rami had, for some reason, brought his own bed sheets, and set them on both beds. Niko thought it was a little excessive, but Rami insisted that it was important to not leave a trail. Niko shrugged, unsure whether it was actually necessary.
“Best get that on the car.”
Niko nodded and stood, stepping out into the dark. He walked towards the Marbelle, and took cover behind a blue Merit. Then he crept toward the Marbelle and slid underneath. He affixed the tracking device on the underside of the car, securing it in place. Once done, he snuck toward the road and looped round, returning to his and Rami’s room.
“All done.” Niko said once he’d shut the door. Rami, holding the tracker fumbled with a switch. He held it up.
Niko slumped on the bed. “I need some rest.”
Predictably, the target stayed the entire night. The tracker would beep loudly if the tracker began to move. Rami had set an alarm for half five, aiming to be up and ready for the day before their target.
Rami and Niko took a walk across the street to a cafe, where they had breakfast. The target, and his two bodyguards, evidently had the same idea as they walked in shortly after Niko and Rami had begun to eat their breakfast – waffles and pancakes respectively.
“It’s a shame we don’t have time to visit the beach.” Niko said, his cup of coffee in his hand. He sipped it as Rami spoke with a shrug.
“Distractions. We need our minds focused.”
Niko nodded. “I was just saying.”
Rami cocked his shoulder. “How's your cousin?”
“He’s doing great. I never thought he’d be the family man. Nice house in the suburbs, wife, child, a successful business. Things couldn’t be better.”
“But what about you? All very well everything being perfect for him, but you?”
Niko sighed. “I had a conversation with Roman before. I asked him what was I good at. The answer is this.” Niko waved at the cafe table, with a point at the motel. “At first it was because that was all that was open to me. I was not a builder, or a carpenter. I was none of those things. The only option I had was....” Niko frowned, searching for the words.
“Mercenary work.” Rami offered. Niko nodded. Rami took a sip of his orange juice then spoke again. “Did you have any dreams as a kid?”
Niko laughed. “An Astronaut.” Rami couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not. “There wasn’t many options for me following the war.” Niko sighed. “War...”
“...It changes people.” Rami said, finishing the sentiment.
“You never saw warfare?”
“Not the same as you, but we went on operations, secret missions to eliminate someone or a faction or to recover something. I’ve seen my share of combat, it wasn't open conflict and it was hidden from the public eye...” Rami’s eyes went distant for a moment, as though remembering a past trauma. “But we move on. I suppose in some ways we’re still fighting a war.” Rami flicked his thumb toward the motel, referring to the target, who now sat a few tables behind Niko.
There was a short refrain, broken by Niko. “Any ides who this guy’s meeting?”
“No and it would be harmful to speculate to as such. This is a classic assignment style; follow and observe. When we identify the contact we will have to split up, or commit to follow one. With the tracker we can, theoretically, eliminate the contact then backtrack to the target.”
“Do we not run the risk of losing the commander if we do that?”
Rami shrugged. “No more so then we run the risk of being broadsided by an eighteen-wheeler. It could
happen, but it’s unlikely, and we cannot plan for such. Unless the tracker is discovered, or the target switches cars – which he has no reason, nor do i anticipate him to – then we should have no problem tracking him down.”
Niko nodded. “I’m thinking it may be better to split up.”
“Perhaps. So far we have seen zero counter surveillance effort from the target. He’ll be relying on anonymity.”
“So we go for one after the other?”
Rami chewed on that for a moment. “You don’t agree?”
“I’m thinking of – how you put it? – the X factor. What if he goes straight to the airport and boards a flight before we get back to him? Or jumps on a train?”
“We’re both more than capable, and our targets aren’t aware that they’re targets.”
Rami nodded. “Alright, let’s split up then. Who takes who?”
This time Niko shrugged. “Does that really matter?”
“We’ll have to get another car.”
“Easy.” Niko grinned.
“Until someone reports it and the cops pull you over.”
“We can’t plan for that remember.”
“Actually we can avoid it.”
Niko shook his head. “I’ll just take one.”
“What if there are none around?”
“You’re not going to rest until I concede are you?”
Rami smiled. “It’s a small detail, easily rectified, that could compromise the mission.”
Niko nodded with his own grin then, a moment later: “But when will we have time to get a second car?”
Rami stared for a moment then laughed. “Touché, Niko. We should have thought of this earlier.”
Niko chuckled. “What was that about planning things?”
Rami laughed but Niko could see the annoyance on his face. Rami knew they should have planned for this, and their failure to do aggravated him.
The two men finished their breakfast and left their money, walking out the door without looking at the target. They used their time advantage to clear out their motel room and check out.
“Promotion? sh*t, Dess, to what?”
“Your old job, head of security.” Dessie’s statement spawned a chuckle from his boss. “Think about it L. You’re running this place now, and you’re always saying you haven’t got time.”
Luis Fernando Lopez sighed and stared out at the newly renovated nightclub. “How about a trial run.”
Dessie smiled but it was interrupted by a crash that jolted the building.
“What the hell!?”
“Sounded like it came from the road.”
“I bet some drunk’s driven into the bus stop again.” Luis said, leading Dessie outside.
Both men frowned at the Washingon that sat mangled by the door.
“Damn. Guy musta driven right into the building.” Dessie moved to the car. “Hey there’s someone in there.”
Luis approached and had a look. Dessie spotted the wound first. “sh*t.”
“He’s been shot.” Luis added redundantly.
“I’ll go and call the cavalry.”
“NO!” A raspy call sounded as Dessie turned to the club.
“Wha’s that L?”
“Please.” The voice was quieter now. Luis leant in. “They’re trying to kill me.”
“What?” Dessie said through a frown.
“Who?” Luis asked.
“I don’t know.. I...” The man passed out. Luis stared.
“Dess, you think his neck and back are ok?”
“He was moving them weren’t he? Why?”
“Help me move him. Get him inside.”
“I don’t think so.”
“If they’re trying to kill him, you want him inside?”
“Good point bro.”
“Take him hospital or something, I’ll get this car moved. sh*t, might need to tow the f*cker.”
“Alright bro. Till I get back you’re in charge.”
Despite being exactly what he wanted, Dessie didn’t smile.
Luis was guiding his Tampa down the road, heading to the hospital when he heard a groan from the seat beside him.
“You awake bro?”
“Where you taking me?” The man’s voice was weak and coarse. Luis was troubled by the man’s wounds. If he had to guess, he’d say this guy had eaten a shotgun round.
“Hospital bro. You aint looking so good.”
“No, not hospital." The man seemed terrified. "J.... J...John.... Take me...” The man fell out of consciousness again.
The hospital was ahead and Luis slowed. But he didn’t turn. Something troubled him. The injured man was clearly in trouble and seemed sure that a hospital wouldn’t be safe. Luis couldn’t let this man perish. It surprised him that he gave a sh*t.
“I need to lay off Seventy Two.” Luis said, referring to the TV show he’d gotten hooked on the last few days. CNT had a series-long marathon the previous night, and Luis stayed up till 4 AM watching it. Right now he felt like a tired Judd Parker, caught up in some conspiracy.
Luis headed to the only place he could think of – his mothers.
He turned the corner and saw a man selling drugs. Not much changes up here
, he said to himself. Then he had a thought. He grabbed his phone.
“Hey L. How’s things?”
“Bad. Real bad. I need help. Where are you?”
“Do you know a doctor?”
“Not many doctors up this part of town.”
“I’m not talking a nine-to-five hospital doc.”
“sh*t, okay. Come pick me up, I’ll take you to him.”
“Get outside ready – I don’t think this guy’s got a lot of time.”
“sh*t, L, What you in to?”
“Just be ready.”
To Luis’s relief, Armando was ready, with Henrique unsurprisingly in tow. Luis followed Armando’s Cavalcade after realizing that they won’t all fit in his Tampa. Soon though, they were there, and the three carried the mysterious man in through a door that held no promises.
“So what’s going on, L?” Henrique asked in the dingy waiting room. It reminded Luis of a cheap car dealership. The paint was cracked and faded, the furniture worn. A radio played quietly, some country and western music. The magazines appeared old – one that Luis picked up was at least five years old...
Luis dropped the magazine on the table – which wobbled in protest – and turned to his friend.
“I dunno, bro. Was with Dessie, and someone crashed into the club. Went outside, found this guy. He seemed really opposed to a hospital. He said...” Luis looked around.
“You can talk here, L.”
“He said that they were trying to kill him.”
“I dunno A, but he wanted to avoid the hospital. What if there are powerful people after him?”
“You been watching too much Seventy Two, Luis.”
Luis chuckled and shrugged. “It’s a good show.”
“So who is he?” Henrique asked.
“I don’t know.”
A minute later the ‘doctor’ appeared.
“I think he’s gonna be okay. Shotgun wound to his torso wasn’t as bad as I thought The spread must have been large, and the shot wide; it's just a graze really. Small bullet wound to the leg and there’s some bruising and a nasty cut on his head which may or may not be serious.”
“So he’ll survive?”
The doctor shrugged. “Probably. I’ve done all I can. I only usually get small gunshot and knife wounds, maybe the odd broken bone. What the hell happened to this guy? You find him in the middle east or something?”
Luis held his hands out and the doc nodded. “Either way he’s down for the time being. It’ll be a few days before he can walk properly.” Then the doc laughed. “At least he’ll be able to tell you when a storm’s on the way.”
“Is he safe here?” Luis asked.
The doc nodded. “This is Lords turf. What you think?”
“He’s cool.” Armando clarified. The doctor coughed, holding his hand out.
Luis nodded with an unsurprised smile. “How much, bro?”
The doc spoke the amount and Luis winced.
“Just pay the man, rich boy.” Armando said.
The target led Rami and Niko to what was apparently the meeting place.
“The beach?” Niko laughed. Then: “When in Rome, I guess.”
Rami stared for a minute. “This is smart.”
“At a cafe you can listen in easy. But on a beach? They’ll be moving around, in open space. They’ll spot a tail like that.” Rami snapped his fingers. “Unless...”
“You got internet on your phone?”
Rami looked around for a moment. Then he pointed. “Internet Cafe.”
“What’s so important about the internet.”
“Do an Eyefind search and see where the nearest electronics store is.”
“To buy a directional microphone.”
“To listen in... I like it.”
“Only problem.” Rami pointed at the target car as it circled round the car park. “Gotta be quick.”
Niko nodded and jumped out of the car, sprinting across the street to the internet cafe.
Rami parked the car and kept the target in his sights.
Niko did his best to not appear in a rush. He paid the fee and sat at the nearest computer. A minute later he was typing frantically.
Rami had parked the car and walked casually toward the beach. The target had already reached the sand, and had sat on the wall that ran along the beach’s parameter.
Rami began to walk down the path beside the wall and stopped part way down, placing one foot on the wall. He had his phone out and began imitating a phone call. He watched the target with his trained peripheral vision.
Niko had located a store but it wasn’t that close. He left the store and spotted a motorcycle parked just down the road. He smiled and ran to it.
With a squeal of rubber, the bike wobbled and surged forward. A minute later Niko had reached the electronics store – he actually missed it on the first pass and had to back track – and ran inside.
Rami had noted the appearance of another man, wearing a cream-colored linen suit with a pale, open-necked shirt. The man had received a nod from their target and now approached him.
“Come on Niko.” Rami whispered.
Niko returned the bike to where he found it and sprinted across the road. A slow moving car, looking for a parking space, jolted to a stop, the driver leaning out of the window, shouting something at Niko, but the Serb had already reached the sidewalk.
It took a moment but Niko saw Rami. He had his hand on his cell phone, about to call the Israeli operator – to use Rami’s word. Niko forced himself to slow down – only to a rushed walk – and approached Rami.
Rami tore open the packaging and was glad to see Niko had bought batteries. Ten seconds later the microphone was powered up. Niko had thought enough to buy some headphones too, small, ear-bud type ones that would be hard to spot.
Rami took control of the mic, hiding it skillfully with his arm. He listened then nodded to Niko.
“This is our man. They’re talking about exposing the operations.... Liberty City... Some war... 'It’s not safe to talk here'.” Rami was, cleverly, sitting sideways on the wall, his arms folded, the mic hidden under one arm, pointing at the beach. Rami faced away from the target, and Niko sat too, facing Rami. They looked like two men talking. Rami kept watching the target out of the corner of his eye.
“Split up then?”
“I think it’s best.”
“Which one do you want?” Rami asked.
“I’ll leave the new guy to you.”
“Got you. Rendezvous?”
Niko glanced out at the sea, careful to not look at the target. “May as well say the airport?”
Rami nodded and stood up. He headed for his car.
Niko was sure he’d got the easier task. He had the bike from before, and he was armed. As soon as the target was on a relatively straight road, he’d take him.
The target didn’t appear to be worried much about a tail. Rami guessed they assumed that meeting so far away from Liberty would hide them. Not today.
Niko’s target was crossing the bridge that he hoped they’d take. The causeway was straight for about two miles. Long enough to do what was needed.
Niko resisted the temptation to open fire on the car. Thankfully though, things were going his way. Traffic was light, at least on his side of the road. There wasn’t another vehicle within fifty feet of them and traffic on the other side was moving too quick to notice.
Also the target wasn’t used to the heat down here. He had his windows open, most likely relishing the breeze on his face.
Niko gunned the engine on the bike, suddenly conscious of, and comforted by, the helmet he wore - for two reasons.
Rami’s target’s cab had pulled over and the man stepped out. Rami also pulled over and stepped out, aware of the dangers here. If the target hailed another cab – like he
would – he’d lose him.
The target was heading in to a shopping centre, and Rami was now feeling tense. He’d stay close and, if the target approached a cab, Rami would have to steal a car to follow, risking a chase.
Luckily though, the target handed Rami himself on a platter. He turned to the restrooms.
Niko pulled alongside the target’s car and turned his head. The target also turned, looking at this biker. Niko saw no concern on the man’s face.
Then he drew his gun.
Instantly the man’s face dropped and he shouted something. The car accelerated but so did Niko, anticipating it. He should have breaked
. Niko brought his gun up and fired a single shot, straight into the target’s forehead. The man’s head slumped back and Niko opened the throttle fully.
Rami followed the man in to the toilets, one eye keeping watch for security cameras. He saw none pointing anywhere near the restrooms. There was one other man in there, standing at a urinal. Rami followed the target to his urinal and stood at one behind him. He turned his head and saw he was clear. He turned, pulling out his supressed pistol. He brought it up and took practiced aim at the target.
A gentle squeeze on the trigger was all it took. He was careful to not stand too close to avoid any blood splatter and he used a small, lowe speed munition for this purpose. The target’s head jerked forward, bouncing back as his body began to fall before landing, face first, in the urinal.
The restroom’s other patrol turned round, his hands coming up in surprise.
“Sorry.” Rami shrugged before bringing the gun up and firing into the man’s forehead.
Rami moved to the door and opened it a crack, glancing out. There was no one near so Rami turned back, already donning a pair of gloves, and dragged the bodies into a cubical. He sat one on the seat, and the other on top, then locked the door before sliding under the door, thankful that the floor appeared to have been cleaned recently.
Niko had dumped the bike and taken public transport to the airport. One thing he liked about Liberty was the subway system. It made things much easier. Vice though? It had good weather, and a charm to it, but...
Niko sighed as he walked into the airport, curtousy of a bus. He sat at the agreed cafe – Niko had texted Rami to alert him to this – and ordered a coffee. He wanted to find a bar, but wasn’t sure if they still allow the sale of alcohol at airports. He would go to a bar back home.
Niko stared into the dark coffee. He had no concern for the targets they’ve eliminated. His conscience – as battered as it had been over the years – was not troubled by them. He thought about what Rami had said to him, what Roman’s words seemed to echo. Over-thinking
. Sometimes it worked in his favor; covering all the bases, hedging your bets or whatever saying applied. But sometimes it got in the way; doubts and second guesses. So far he was yet to dither while operating – Niko had begun to agree with Rami about the correct terminology for their work.
Rami sat down beside Niko.
“Took your time.” Niko complained lightly.
“I had to return the vehicle. Then catch a few cabs here.”
Niko nodded and downed the last, lukewarm mouthful of his coffee. Rami rapped Niko on the shoulder. “Now for the least fun bit.”
Niko stifled a small grin and a slight chuckle.Click Here to read the next chapter - The Mysterious Man. This post has been edited by Mokrie Dela on Friday, Mar 30 2012, 12:33