The Gun Club

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 19, 2018

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Submitted: June 19, 2018

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The Gun Club

By

Bill Bungeroth

 

 

“They say of a sniper’s bullet that if you hear it, then you are safe, because it will already have passed safely by. It is the ones that you don’t hear that do for you”

 

 ---Sohni

 

 

In the shaded surface he looked at the dial on his Breitling Navitimer, closed the cap on it, and settled in for the wait. He was a former shadow man who had been living comfortably in the sunshine, but now, right now, he was back where he belonged amongst the partial darkness. Funny, he thought as he waited; he was at peace with himself. This was the way it always had been for him when he was on a mission, sitting, waiting, and in some perverse way enjoying the surroundings. A calmness permeating his entire being though he knew the adrenaline rush would come, but only after the target was neutralized and he was executing his escape plan.

Each Op had its own specific sine qua non depending upon the target, location, time of year and weapon of choice. In the movies the assassin was often portrayed as clothed in black, from head to toe with both his face and hands darkened. In reality the true professional dressed to blend into his surroundings and if necessary had an alternative change of clothing for his preplanned exit. It had been a while since he had altered his appearance, too long he thought to himself as his outer camouflage gave him the access that he needed to complete his mission. He had volunteered for this assignment, only after a lengthy debate inside his head; rationalizing to himself why he had to complete it. His only regret, it wasn’t for God and Country. That and the fact that he couldn't share the kill with his fellow soldiers. Shrugging his shoulders, he shifted his body position and thought to himself, “At least he was back in the game!”

 

Six Months Prior

 

“Chris you sure you don’t want me to drive you,” Sally asked, as she looked around at the chaotic scene playing out in front of her on the kitchen floor; the two twin toddlers, the cause of the chaos, were teasing the family dog, a flat haired black retriever affectionately nicknamed ‘Treaver.’

Chris watching another twins train wreck, responded by laughing, "I’ve already called an Uber and its on its way.”

“Where are you flying out of, O’Hare or Midway,” as Sally made her move to free the family pet from the twins grip?

“O’Hare,” Chris replied, quickly glancing at his watch. Gotta go.” As he kissed Sally on the cheek and waved goodbye to the twins, Treaver having escaped from his tormentors clutches followed him to the door. Grabbing his briefcase and a suitor bag, Chris smiled at the only other male member of the family and said, “I wont be long, boy. Guard Sally and the girls while I’m gone,” and with that he closed the front door of his brownstone and headed down the steps towards the waiting car.

The flight to Vegas was on time and although first class was filled, the ride in coach wasn’t bad. He had a window seat and his Mac, which was all he needed to shorten the flight. The reason for the trip was to meet a potential client whose current ad agency was under review. They were interested in Chris’ firm’s non conventional approach to moving product and building brand awareness especially in the digital space. An award winning shop that Chris started from scratch had garnered the reputation of being one of the most creative agencies in consumer products goods. And now this midsized Midwestern ad agency, if successful, was about to enter the big time. That is if he could convince the prospective client CEO and their CMO on his ability to scale up, while not losing their creative excellence. The payoff, a 565 million dollar domestic advertising budget. His agency team had already made their RFP presentation and delivered their creative suggestions to the client. Now it was down to three choices, two major ad agencies, one in New York, the current agency of record, and the other a powerhouse international agency out of Los Angeles. Two whales against a shark and this shark could smell blood in the water.  

Tomorrow’s strategic meeting with the CEO and CMO was scheduled for first thing in the morning. Chris had hoped that his meeting would be the last of the individual gatherings, but in deference to the current agency, the challengers were requested to give their presentations first. Since the LA agency had previously done some outsourced work for the client, it was decided that Chris’ firm would have the first meeting with the decision makers. The reality was that all of the contenders had successful and proven track records. Chris knew from previous experience that in the end it would come down to personal chemistry. Which of the three presenters could establish a connection with the decision makers in their allotted time frame and come away with the prize. In the arena of one on one business interactions, Chris felt he had the edge. 

His competitive juices flowing Chris called for room service and spent the next two hours reviewing his game plan. Both the CEO and Chris were entrepreneurs and against great odds had built their companies out of whole cloth. That was the connection.  At 9pm there was no further prep to be done; Chris decided he was ready for the confab. Confident and prepared, he left his room and headed for one of the ten bars in the hotel casino. Exiting the elevator he asked the concierge where he could find the quietest bar in the establishment. As he walked towards his destination past the 'lucky players,' a rueful smile appeared on his face as he watched the house and its gambling algorithms outwit those chance takers who were ready to give up their hard earned money for one big payday. He actually considered himself a gambler, but one that played a higher stakes game then was available at the gaming tables. He played the game of business in which he occasionally had bet his entire net worth in order to build a successful and sustainable business.

To his surprise, the bar he entered wasn't garish at all, especially for Vegas standards. His eyes swept around the space, a habit that he had developed for survival in a previous life, which resulted in five people, not including the bartender, seated throughout the room. Picking the farthest stool at the end of the bar where he could still see the entrance and two exits, he plopped himself down and waited to order a drink.

“A break from the action," the lonely bartender offered? What’ll it be?”

“Let me have your best Oregon Pinot,” Chris responded, not wanting to review a list of wines that would require him to make a decision.

Before the bartender could acknowledge the request, a booming question shattered the quietude. “Wine, I thought you were a Bud man.”

Spinning around on his stool, he instantly recognized the voice, as a massive figure headed towards him.

“Staff Sargent Jablonski reporting to duty,” as his beefy hand engulfed Chris’s own paw before both engaged in a man hug.

“Jabbo, what are you doing here, Chris asked?

"Reporting for duty Cappy," Jabbo responded. 

No one had called Chris, Cappy, in a long time. It was his earned Army nickname that was bestowed on him during one of his tours of duty in Afghanistan. 

“Dam Sarg, you look great. What are you doing in Sin City,” Chris inquired again.

“Business,” Jabbo replied before calling out to the bartender, “Two Buds, no glasses.” Then grabbing the stool next to Chris, he said, “Buds for old times stake. “How longs it been?”

Chris thought for a second, “Seven no eight years. We left Kandahar on the same flight. You ever marry Rachel,” as the wallet size picture of the two lovers flashed before his eyes.

“Yep, married and divorced. Took me a little while to get my head straight after I got out. Found myself in our family business, heating and air conditioning. And you, did you ever find that perfect girl? One that would put up with that ornery personality of yours.” He delivered the line with a booming laugh.

Chris had forgotten how infectious Jabbo’s laugh could be as he couldn’t help but chuckle at the ornery personality statement. Waiting til the beers were now in front of them, he picked his up and proposed a toast. “Here’s to getting out alive.

“I’ll drink to that,” as Jabbo downed his beer in one swig with his right hand while putting up two fingers for the bartender with his left.

“Easy big fellow,” Chris quipped, “You planning to go through a case in one sitting as he threw back his own Budweiser. Then pausing, ‘You remember that girl outside of Chicago that I met just before our last tour.

“Sally?” Jabbo asked as he tried to recall a mental picture of the chick that Chris corresponded with during their last Afghanistan assignment.

“The same one. Dated her for about two years while I decompressed and then we upped and eloped. Got two twin girls, heartbreakers, a dog, a house, a business, and one wife.

“Cappy I always knew you would land on your feet. No doubt about it.”

And there they sat reminiscing, about their youth, the Army and their lives.

“I’ve basically lost track of the guys. You know what happened to Suarez and Washington. I think they both had another four months to go when we left.”

“Unfortunately I do,” Jabbo stated. “Suarez reupped and was killed on leave in a suspicious hit and run in his old East LA neighborhood. Washington had a nervous breakdown and supposedly committed suicide. I guess you and I were the lucky ones.”

Without saying a word Chris reached for his Bud and clicked bottles with Jabbo. The former staff sergeant then looked around the bar before continuing. “I stayed in touch with Washington and he told me he used to get nightmares about what happened that day in the valley. The faces of the innocent lying all over the village. I wish I could say that it bothered me as much as it did Washington, but truth be told, as soon as the next mission popped up, I forgot about it.  Or I guess you could say I compartmentalized it in ‘shrink speak’.”

Chris, waited for Jabbo to finish his soul searching statement, then looking at his Sargent in the same way he did eight years prior he said almost the exact same thing, “An Op gone bad, that’s all there is to say. I interpreted the intelligence and I gave the order to attack the town, me not you. It just happened to be the wrong village, and the onus in the end is on me for not questioning the order in the first place. There’s no doubt that I’ll have to answer for our actions, most likely to a higher authority…if you believe in that sort of stuff. Look we did a lot of good things during our tours that was the one fuck up.”

Jabbo looked at the beer in his hand and finally said, “We were imperfect human beings that they asked to fight in an imperfect war. Then he raised his beer to his lips and took another swig before saying, “Besides life is for the living. No regrets. Lets drink our beer and put it to rest”  

Chris nodded his head and signaled to the bartender for two more cold ones, before finishing off his Bud and saying, “No regrets.”

They then spent the next 50 minutes catching up on each others lives. As it turned out they were both successful businessmen, driven to succeed, but had also reached a point in their lives where what they’d been seeking they had achieved. It was now a question of how big they wanted their individual enterprises to grow.

As the conversation started to wind down Jabbo asked Chris a question. “Do you ever miss it Cappy…the juice, the adrenaline rush, you know the sheer joy of accomplishing your mission in a professional way?” Jabbo phrased his question in an attempt to elicit a response as he watched for the slightest change in Chris’ demeanor.

Signaling to the bartender that he had enough, Chris pulled out  a bill from his wallet and laid it on the bar. “On me,” then he took his time before answering Jabbo’s question. Finally, when he was ready, he leaned towards his former sergeant and looked him straight in the eye. “Dam right I miss it. Life and death in one breath. It can be relived but it can’t be recreated. We both know that.”

“But what if it could….Are you interested?”

Hesitating for a split second, Chris replied, “Maybe,” then getting off his stool, he shook Jabbo’s hand, “Great seeing you again, let’s stay in touch.” Then releasing his grip he nodded his head and explained, “Got to call it a night, Sarg, major meeting tomorrow.”  

“Understood. I’ll be in touch. Great to see you again Cappy. Like old times.” And with that last statement he swung his stool back towards the bar and put up one finger in the direction of the bartender. He was coming down from his latest mission.

***

The agency had been on pins and needles ever since Chris got back from Vegas. The decision was supposed to be imminent, but a week later no announcement had been made.

“I’m going to head to the gym and workout for an hour. Want a non fat latte on my way back,” Chris asked.

His assistant, Holly, was on the phone and put up her hand signaling Chris to stop. “Yes sir, he’s in the office. Let me put you on hold while I track him down. It should only take a minute.” Then Holly turned to Chris, crossed her fingers and said, “Showtime, good luck!”

Chris retreated to his office, closing the door behind him, and took the call from the CEO of Akers Products. He was on the phone for a long 20 minutes as the buzz spread around the agency that a decision finally had come.

Holly watched out of the corner of her eye as Chris hung up. Grabbing his gym bag he headed towards his office door. Opening it he dropped the bag and asked to anyone within earshot. “You know where we can get some great champagne?”

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god,” were the only words that Holly could articulate as the entire agency gathered in jubilation around Chris’ office. When an agency picks up a major account, and Akers Products was beyond major, the impact on the staff was enormous and they all knew it. Besides staffing up, those in current positions could see both advancement and monetary compensation, let alone the fact that they were now working for one of the hottest ad agencies on the planet.

About an hour into the celebration Chris slipped away and returned to his desk. He wanted a few moments to himself as he texted the good news to his wife and parents. The enormity of what he had accomplished was now sinking in. He had started the ad agency with the simple goal of being creatively different and he had achieved it by creating the type of ad campaigns that were too risky for the established firms to present to their clients. As owner and creative director of the agency his bold approach to digital and traditional advertising is what made his firm stand out. And now he was a  whale. Kicking back he reclined in his chair with both feet on the top of his desk. “Dam,” he thought to himself,” What a ride.” It was while reflecting on the agency’s business trajectory that he noticed the envelope on his desk. It was an invitation shaped like a Glock 17 with his name in silver lettering on a black background. Hand delivered, since there was no stamp on the front, he held it in both hands, curious as to its content. Then looking outward through his glass window at the non stop agency celebration; he decided to open it. In this day and age of gun ownership and assault weapon controversy he knew it was not an invitation to a charity event. Simple and clean with a font that was appropriate for the invite, was the announcement of a “Save the Date” black tie open house at “The Gun Club.” The address was in River North near some of the tony athletic clubs. Chicago apparently was to be their latest repository for exotic weapons, the other three being New York, LA and Dallas. Leaning forward in his chair he studied the invitation. He hadn’t fired a weapon in at least six years though he still was a member of the NRA and had been one since junior high when his dad took him hunting.

“Now how did they get my name," he wondered, but before he could figure it out, he heard Holly’s voice in the doorway interrupting his thoughts.

“Chris…no work today. I insist. Everybody wants to thank you. It’s yours and the agency’s day to shine.”

Chris smiled back at Holly and waved his arm to signal to her that he was coming. As he left his desk he placed the invite, with an RSVP date, in the upper right hand drawer. Walking towards the festivities it was then that he heard a booming laugh from one of the agency’s young account executives, which in turn activated his human memory tumblers. Finally, the combination clicked into place. The invite was through Jabbo.

***

Normally any invitation that he received he would share with his wife. But this announcement was neither for business nor charity. Looking into the mirror he adjusted his black bow tie to his satisfaction, which completed his formal Armani look. Two weeks had passed since he had received the “Save the Date” Gun Club correspondence, now it was time to check it out. The formal wear was one of many changes of clothing Chris kept on the premises as he closed his office door behind him and headed for the elevators. At this hour the executive floor of the ad agency was deserted, which was fine with Chris not wanting to explain where he was headed. He felt a little guilty about the excuse he had given his wife (a dinner meeting with a prospective client), because he knew she would disapprove of him firing a weapon again, even if it was for recreational use.  

 Arriving at the ‘Save the Date’ address on Kingsbury Street, the modern steel and glass destination was not emblazoned with the ‘The Gun Club.’ instead the only visible sign that he was at the right address, art deco silver numerals on a black plaque. Entering the lobby Chris was immediately checked in and encouraged to take the escalator to the second floor where there were multiple bars, canapés for the guests, and a rock and roll legends band supplying energy to the room. Not sure what to expect, the exquisitely decorated gathering room was close to near capacity and the crowd was younger than he anticipated, 20’s to 30’s, with an equal mix of male to female. After he grabbed a drink, a leggy woman in a black cocktail dress came up to him and asked, “Would you like a tour of the facilities, Chris,” as she looked at his name tag.”

“That would be great."

Extending her hand, “Suzy…I’m one of the staff, specializing in weapons instruction. Shall we start with the two bars and restaurants, then move on to the Members Only area with locker and shower facilities…and from there to our weapons display showroom, where you can buy or rent almost any weapon of your choosing…and then, finally, to our piece de resistance our shooting gallery.”

“I’m sure the amenities are excellent, but if you wouldn’t mind, I’d liked to focus on your weapons display and shooting gallery.”

“By all means. Are you an experienced shooter or are you new to the world of firearms,” Suzy asked as she used her key card to take them into the recreational armory.

“Experienced,” Chris answered with a hardened voice that left no doubt as to his level of expertise. As he entered the arsenal he was suddenly taken aback. Not unlike an exotic automotive dealership, that displayed some of the most valuable vehicles in the world like Bentley, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bugatti and Rolls Royce, here he found its equivalency in weaponry.

Suzy smugly observed Chris’ reaction, it was the same for everyone that entered this area of “The Gun Club for the first time. “Impressive,” she said.

Chris nodded his head as his eyes quickly downloaded the Colt Paterson first repeating revolver then the rare AMC auto mag alongside the 45 caliber and 1911 style Kimber handguns. To his right was the McMillan TAC 50 long distance sniper rifle, and next to that the M4OA3. These and other unique firearm choices Chris realized were apparently available for members to train on and fire.

Reading Chris' facial expression, Suzy said, “The firearms are all available for either rental or purchase or if you prefer you could use your own weapon and store it with us in a secure area. In the end The Gun Club is not a collectibles museum; it is a club dedicated to shooting and becoming proficient in your weapon or weapons of preference.”

“Understood,” Chris replied and what is the profile of those members taking up arms, if I might ask.?”

Suzy had answered this question before, and depending upon who was asking it, tailored it to suit the individual. “Successful people that want a greater sense of security when they are out and about. These are turbulent times and our membership reflects the society in which we live; though in our case the more affluent side. Shall we tour the shooting gallery, as she walked towards one of three elevators situated on the far side of the room.

Chris had a couple of fraternity brothers who had become FBI agents and they had conveyed to him the training they went through and of course the legendary Hogan’s Alley tactical shooting range. Arriving on the basement floor he found himself taking in a ‘shooting gallery’ that was a cross between old school and Sci-Fi.

“A totally unique experience,” Suzy said as the elevators closed behind them.

“I’ll say,” Chris responded.

"It’s designed for both the recreational and the professional shooter." Extending out her right arm in a sweeping gesture, Suzy continued, “With the software we utilize, we can put a member in any situation he chooses, from target practice in its simplest form, to a recreation of history like the Old West, to surviving a virtual rebel attack in Mogadishu. The choices are endless."

“I’ll say,” as Chris repeated himself. “It’s a video game with live ammo.”

Two hours later Chris was outside ‘The Gun Club’ waiting for his ride back to the office. As he reached into his tux pocket to check for his keys, his fingers felt a discreetly placed note that had been folded in half. Opening it, he immediately recognized the scribble “One step closer to the action---Jabbo.”

***

The following day Chris joined ‘The Gun Club,’ though he kept his membership to himself. It was like joining a rather expensive country club, where most of the members couldn’t break 80. At ‘The Gun Club’ there were very few low handicap shooters. He didn’t tell Sally or Holly about his firearm activity, opting instead to use the facility at various times during the day in the same way he used his fitness center. Shooting, like golf, was addictive; how low could you score in golf compared to how close a shot grouping could you achieve with the weapon in hand. The great equalizer’s: for golf…the course rating, the elements and your opponent; for shooting...your surroundings, time frame to be executed, and the opponent and his defenses. The difference was that with Golf, Chris played on a real course against real opponents. At ‘The Gun Club,’ he fired his various weapons against digitized targets.

After about a month and a half Chris checked in his M4OA3 at the armory window and headed for the lockers. It felt great to fire a weapon again, even if it wasn’t in defensive of his country. After he showered and started to change into his street clothes he noticed a note inside his locker on the top shelve. Curious as to its contents, he opened it and read the following. “Target practice is fine for others, but if you would like to step up the stakes call this number for further instructions.” His immediate thoughts ran to Jabbo and his prophetic comment in Vegas “But what if it could….Are you interested,” in reference to missing the juice, the adrenaline rush.

He left the note in his locker for close to two weeks before taking it out and finding a secure spot to make the call. The voice on the other end at first appeared detached.

“Chris Young?”

“Yes.”

“Just a moment,”

A new voice took control of the conversation. “Mr. Young I was expecting your call. I propose we meet at a place where we can talk. I’ll be in touch,” and then the line went dead. 

Which is how Chris now found himself at Winston’s, a favorite of restaurant obsessives. It was located in the newly renovated section of the South Loop and at this hour of the day the place was closed. Instructed that the side door would be left open, he quickly entered. Looking around the room it was empty, but next to the far right wall there was a table for two, a bottle of JD and a glass with three cubes in it. Sitting in one of the chairs that gave him a command of the room Chris poured the Jack over the rocks and sipped his favorite drink while he waited.  

Five minutes later, from the kitchen, came a man with a bottle of Perfusion Pinot Noir in his left hand and a wine glass in his right. He was the same height as Chris, a little over six feet, but about 15 pounds heavier than the 175 lbs. that Chris carried. Balding, he had a cherubic face and a neatly cropped beard. Moving the chair back with his right foot he placed the objects in his hands on the table while gracefully sitting across from Chris.

Chris was the first to speak. “You own this place?”

Pouring the small vineyard wine into his glass, he swirled it then sipped it. Smiling satisfactorily he answered. “Silent partner,” as he put his glass down and leaned forward in his chair.

Not wanting to mince words, Chris put the folded note on the table, opened it and didn’t say a word.

Nodding his head at Chris, “I’ll get right to the point, for shooters like you we have another level at the clubs. One in which you get to experience a thrill like no other, unless of course you’ve served, and then it’s the opportunity to feel that exhilaration again. There is a modest initiation fee and there are substantial cash prizes that are distributed for the best prep and shot throughout the year.”

HIs eyes were fixated on the speaker as Chris raised his glass and took a long pull of the Tennessee sour mash. Slowly putting his glass back down on the table, he said four words, “You have my attention.”

“I thought that would be the case. The “Shooters Unit” is recruited from those members of ‘The Gun Club’ who we feel could benefit from a more stimulating experience.”

“Who’s we,” Chris asked.

Smiling back at Chris he ignored the question and continued talking. “Each candidate for the “Shooters Unit,” is carefully selected, invitations are by recommendation only and performance is rewarded. Assignments are doled out to the ‘Shooters Unit’ and they are graded on their target preparation and execution. The assigned targets are determined by a group of individuals who you will never meet. All, and I mean all of the targets, have been vetted and deemed unworthy to breathe the air that they currently pollute.”

Chris intrigued by what he heard, slowly formed the words in his mouth before stating, “Your ‘Shooters Unit’ is an assassination circle?”

“If I may continue, each shooter will receive a dossier on their potential target and will submit a plan as to how they are going to execute the kill. The plan will be approved and a date and time will be determined. Once the kill shot is made, a digital photo will be transmitted via the dark web in order to confirm the kill.. The weapon you will use is called an Earp. It’s a cross between a Barrett 50 and M4OA3 built on the Remington 700 platform and can easily be broken down and assembled. The sensation of shooting the Earp, will be the same as if a real bullet rifled its way down the barrel; a retort and a loud sound will undoubtedly be heard by the target and in some cases his bodyguards. As always extricating yourself, so as not to get caught, will be the final hurdle. The Earp records a digital photo at the precise date and time agreed too and transmits the image via the net. It is a step above The Gun Club’s digital shooting gallery.”

“So the assassinations are not really assassinations?”

A sly grin crossed the speakers mouth as he casually looked at his Rolex watch. “Not entirely. There is always a round chambered in the Earp and though the digital shot is what you are taking there have been a few, and I emphasize a few instances where there has been a misfire and the projectile has left the Earp and hit the target.” The speaker delivered the practiced line matter-of-factly then continued. "The Earp is not perfect and there are occasional live fires, but to be honest they are rare occurrences. Besides the targets are reprehensible human beings as you will discover from their dossiers.” 

“I see,” Chris said in a noncommittal voice. Shaking his head slowly up and down he repeated himself, “I see.” Quickly ascertaining that the target selectors also controlled who got the photo or the bullet, he carefully looked around the room to make sure no one was within earshot then jokingly asked, “Any chance in participating in the target acquisition? I know a few morally corrupt politicians I wouldn’t mind eliminating.”

The speaker conspiratorially smiled back, but didn’t acknowledge Chris’ question. “Here is a burner phone. If the answer is ‘Yes,’ call the single number in contacts. If not, throw the phone away.” And with that the meeting was over as the host got up from his chair. “I’ll let you see yourself out, Mr. Young," as he turned and headed towards the kitchen.

Chris threw down the rest of his Jack and made his way towards the exit, already having started a vigorous debate inside his head about the moral pros and cons of participating in the “Shooters Unit.”  He was about to once again go down a rabbit hole, both by his own choosing, and even the pull of his family and business could not stop him from falling.

***

Chris executed the ‘Yes’ call the same week he had a major meeting with the CEO of Akers Products. HIs agency was on schedule to scale up for the newly acquired CPG account. And Chris was knee deep in balancing the firm’s productivity of their existing accounts (the ones that made the agency) with the flood of inquiries that were coming in for their services, since they became a whale.

Tuesday’s and Thursday’s were Chris’ ‘Gun Club’ days and after a vigorous shooting workout using both a Glock 17 and a Barrett 50 in the Mogadishu virtual gun range he felt good about his firearms proficiency and where his company was headed point in time. Opening his locker he quickly spotted the manila folder and rather than checking its contents there, he threw it in his leather satchel and headed back to the agency. It wasn’t til most of the staff had left the office, including his personal assistant Holly, that he retrieved the manila envelope from his locked desk drawer. Opening the folder, he pulled out another disposable phone and what looked to be an extensive file containing detailed records and movements of one C.W. Forrester, a media mogul with various global business enterprises. He was aware of the name by reputation, at least what his PR department had crafted for public consumption, but he also knew him from personal encounters. The question was where, as he thumbed through the dossier. Then he remembered, Sally knew his third wife. Both served on the same charity organization and he had sat at the same table with the Forrester’s multiple times when Sally was active with The Art Institute. Racking his brain, he remembered that C.W. was pleasant, not garrulous by any means, and self centered. He also recalled that he came out of nowhere to be one of the wealthiest men in Chicago. The question was how he got there. The dossier revealed it was not by hard work. After an hour he closed his eyes and continued to listen to classical music that had been playing in the background courtesy of WFMT, 98.7. The file to say the least was deeply disturbing: from money laundering, to sex trafficking to the elimination of honest business rivals through any means available. If it was illegal, Forrester’s fingerprints were on it, and his alleged associates bio’s were almost worse than his. Looking at the target's photos spread across his desk, it was the social ones, taken of him attending various charity gala’s, which really bothered Chris the most; a phony pretending to be something he wasn’t. The more the photos captured the man the easier it was for Chris to commit to the digital assignment. In all there were about 100 photographs to review. However as he started to assemble his plan there was one photograph that caught his attention. It was taken at a lakeside resort where Forrester had both a summer home and luxury boat and where Chris had vacationed when he was single…Saugatuck, Michigan. Unlike Chicago, Forrester's security detail was cut in half while visiting his summer retreat. Putting his elbows on the top of the desk and his hands in a way that mimicked praying, he pressed his lips against them and started to conceive a plan that if timed properly just might work.

***

“Chris, what possessed you to rent a house in Saugatuck. You know I always wanted to go there since I was a little girl,” Sally exclaimed with delight.

Chris had just steered their SUV onto I-94. From their house he had jumped on the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90) and headed eastward towards the ‘Skyway Bridge leaving Illinois behind as he entered the Hoosier state. With a heavy foot he estimated that in today’s traffic, it would take them under two and a quarter hours to reach their vacation destination. “I don’t know, since I’ve been working non stop after winning the Akers account, I thought that we could all use a little break and reconnect.” Glancing backwards as he finished explaining his reasoning for the trip, he noticed that the three passengers in the back seat were already sound asleep with Treaver wedged in between the two car seats restraining the twins.

Sally, giddy like a little girl, started to reel off the places her friends had told her about, but never experienced. “Once we get checked in, we’ll put our bathing suits on and head to Oval beach, then afterwards we can grab a drink and a snack at the Mermaid. The restaurant looks out on the Kalamazoo river. Then while I hit the stores you can take the twins for ice cream at Kilwin’s. Okay?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Chris responded.

“How big is Saugatuck?” Sally asked.

Now in Michigan, Chris was just exiting I-94 for I-96, which hugged Lake Michigan’s Eastern Shore. Accelerating as he merged on to the final highway leg, he responded. “Saugatuck has 1,000 residents year round and north of 3,000 vacationers in the summer. Saugatuck’s sister town is Douglas and they are minutes apart on opposite sides of the Kalamazoo River, though the shops in Douglas are limited compared to Saugatuck. Holland, which is north of Saugatuck and has its own beaches is ‘the big city,’ and it’s where you do your grocery shopping and go for emergency care. It also has a nice downtown for shopping and eating.”

“You sound like a native.” Then looking our her window Sally said, “First shopping stop for me will be the Santa Fe, a cute women’s store.” She clapped her hands together with glee in anticipation of the trip. Then while Chris listened, she proceeded to list stores and restaurants she planned to visit during their stay. Taking a breath, she asked, “I see you brought your clubs Is there a course nearby?”

“Clearbrook Golf Club, its five minutes away from where we’re staying.” You know I can’t sit on the beach all day and do nothing, so I figured that while you and the girls were sunning, I’d play some golf.

“As long as you drop us off at Oval and don’t forget us, I’m good with that,” as she returned to her Saugatuck tourism link on her cell phone and looked for other places to explore.

Chris’ eyes glanced over at Sally and then back on the road before he softly said, “It will be a fun trip and a chance to relax.” Though the relaxation part was strictly for Sally’s benefit. He was on a mission, his plan having been approved by those who sent him C.W. Forrester's dossier. Both the speed of the vehicle and his mind were racing as he continued to go over the details of his plan and his options. The Earp was now concealed in a special case Chris had made that fit out of sight under the SUV.

***

Chris as usual got up before everyone else and walked Treaver. Their rental home secured through Airbnb (thank you Holly) was located on Holland Street in the Saugatuck Historic District. As was the case each morning, he grabbed his keys and let his canine companion sit in the back seat of the SUV while he headed for ‘Uncommon Grounds,’ the coffee shop on Hoffman Street in downtown Saugatuck. It was always packed, even at this hour, but to his trained eye there were more people than usual as he pulled up to the entrance. As he climbed the steps four muscle bound gentlemen in summer attire started to give him the once over. Chris immediately recognized them as C.W. Forrester’s security detail. Breezing past them he entered the store. And there he was standing right in front of him ‘The Target,’ waiting like everyone else for his cup of java.

“Next,” came the command from one of two baristas’ manning the cash registers.

With a swagger Forrester walked up to the counter and placed his order. “Two large non fat lattes one with sugar and one without. He was at least six foot three and twenty pounds over weight. He wore a tan straw fedora, a white Ralph Lauren linen shirt, tan RL shorts and Teva sandals. To his right, positioned inconspicuously, was the fifth body guard, the head of the detail. Like his associates on the front porch he wore a Tommy Bahama Camp shirt over his white summer trousers. Chris’ guess was that his weapon was concealed in the small of his back, since the front of his shirt hung loosely over his pants. He had the look of ex military as his gaze quickly fell upon Chris. Determining Chris not to be a threat, he shifted his focus towards the front door, always wary of the next coffee aficionado to enter the store.

Chris after placing his order, found himself standing side by side with Forrester. The two were brought together by destiny and their shared morning addiction. It was then that Chris saw in the flesh what he had failed to notice in the photos of the recently destroyed dossier...Forrester’s cruel smile. 

C.W. aware of the positioning of his PPD (Personal Protection Detail), looked at Chris then looked away. Something must have clicked because while the barista was calling out his name for his order, he looked over at Chris and said, “I know you, right?

Chris surprised, took a moment to respond. “Yes, our wives worked on the same charity event.

Nodding his head, he looked like the cat that swallowed the canary, before saying, “Ex wife…Yeah, you own a successful ad agency in Chicago. “Chris right?” Not waiting for an answer, he turned to get his coffees before saying over his shoulder “Never forget a face.” Then nodding at the head of his security detail Forrester double fisted his coffees and headed towards the exit.  

As Chris received his own order, he heard the roar of two armored black SUV’s pull up in front of 'Uncommon Grounds,' stop, then accelerate as they made their getaway. Not sure if it was his imagination, but the coffee shop seemed to take a collective sigh of relief at Forrester’s departure. Evil, Chris knew was a force and it had definitely been in their midst.

 

***

For the next two days everything went as planned that is the Saugatuck vacation plan that Sally had outlined. Today, however, was Chris’s day to golf.

“What time are you going to play,” Sally asked?

“Around 1pm,” was Chris’ nonchalant response. “I thought I would take the three of you to Oval Beach around Noon and then pick you up between four and five. If that works? Not sure I’ll play a full 18.”

Looking at her Apple watch, Sally said, “Let me get some food into the girls and we should be ready to go around 11:45am.”

“Okay. I’ll take Treaver on a long walk before we head out,” as they both swung into action.

The drive to Oval took about ten minutes as they circumnavigated Kalamazoo Bay to get on Perry Street. Securing their day pass Chris dressed in his golf attire parked the car and walked with the family on to the beach and set them up on the sand. The weather was is the high 70’s and the water was calm and 73. Another great beach day on Oval. Kissing Sally and the girls goodbye, he made his way back to the SUV and headed for Clearbrook. Upon arrival the golf club parking lot was packed.

Inside he paid for his green fees for 18 holes and then asked how long the wait was.

“About thirty minutes at least,” came the brusque reply from the man behind the counter.

Walking outside he gave his ticket to the Starter, who ripped it in half, and said, “Lots of foursomes in front and behind you. I could sneak you out as a single if you’d like.”

“Perfect,” Chris replied as he slipped him a twenty and headed for the first tee with his minimalist Sunday walking bag.

Once he completed the par 4, 389 yard first hole, Chris looked around on the green and made certain he wasn’t being observed then took off for the nearby woods. He had walked the forest trail three weeks before on his last trip to Saugatuck. It led back to the parking lot where he knew he could quickly emerge from the tree line, and throw his clubs into the car. Pulling out of the lot, he started down Clearbrook Drive before he turned right onto a side road. Putting the SUV in park, he changed into a service outfit with grey slacks and a light blue shirt that now had his new name above the breast pocket, “Fred.” Opening the driver’s door he grabbed two stick on decals hidden in the back of the SUV. Moving quickly he put one decal on the driver’s side, under the window, and the other on the passenger’s side. Both read ‘Fred’s Handyman Service.’ Underneath the faux business name was a bogus phone number tied to a throw a way phone. Ready for his departure, he pulled a dark blue ball cap from under the front seat and placed it low on his head. HIs disguise complete, he then shifted the SUV into drive and pulled back onto Clearbrook Drive. Fortunately there was no one else on the road, so he headed to Blue Star Highway where he turned left.

It took Chris less than ten minutes to get on the other side of Kalamazoo Bay and onto Park Street. As soon as he passed Saugatuck Yacht Club, he started to slow down to look at odd address numbers. In less than a minute he had reached his destination; a rental home that looked across Kalamazoo Bay and faced downtown Saugatuck. Driving down the tree lined gravel road he was certain that no one was there. He parked the SUV behind the free standing garage and then walking up to the front door he took the key from under the mat. He then turned the key to the left and pushed the door open. "Fred's Handyman Service," he called out as his voice echoed through the empty house. “Good,” he said to himself. He had rented the home for the entire week, having used a disposable phone to communicate with the owner. It was late in the season and a prepaid cash payment left in the mailbox the previous week was enough of an inducement for the landlord (who didn’t have to record the transaction) to rent the house without proof of ID or a more formal payment process. “Who said cash isn’t King,” Chris thought as he walked towards the back of the house and looked towards ‘The Butler’ through the sliding glass doors in the kitchen. The rental was three stories high and with his workman’s gloves on Chris made his way up the stairs into the master bedroom. There he opened another glass sliding door and looked out over the deck onto a magnificent view of Kalamazoo Bay. Confident that his shooting sightline was perfect, Chris started to close the slider before he looked up at the sky; it was starting to cloud over though the sun was still shinning through.

Chris then retraced his steps and went back to the garage where he reached under his SUV and released the container carrying the Earp. Opening it up he looked long and hard at the digital rifle. Then leaving the Earp in its case, his hand reached for and pulled out a second weapon, a Barrett M99 single shot bullpup long-range precision rifle where the action and the magazine are far behind the trigger group.

Reentering the house he once again headed for the third floor landing and upon arriving reopened the glass door. Cautiously he entered the deck. In the shaded surface he looked at the dial on his Navitimer, closed the cap on it, and settled in for the wait. He was a former shadow man who had been living comfortably in the sunshine, but now, right now, he was back where he belonged amongst the partial darkness. Funny, he thought as he waited; he was at peace with himself. This was the way it always had been for him when he was on a mission, sitting, waiting, and in some perverse way enjoying the surroundings. A calmness permeating his entire being though he knew the adrenaline rush would come, but only after the target was neutralized and he was executing his escape plan. Forrester would be arriving at his slip across Kalamazoo Bay in approximately twenty minutes. For this leg of his trip, travelling from Lake Michigan down the Kalamazoo River, C.W would have his Captain navigate the waters. The Skipper would then pull into the Singapore Yacht Club's double slip with the boat's stern facing Chris' lair. Once settled in the crew would order food from ‘The Butler’ while the yachting party continued dockside. Four black SUV’s and their armed drivers were now strategically parked in front of the berth waiting for their master to arrive.

 C.W.'s magnificent home in Saugatuck, off of Lakeshore Drive, overlooked Lake Michigan. It was an impenetrable fortress, guarded by PPD personnel, a sophisticated electronic security system and four Doberman Pinchers. Gaining access to it was impossible. Instead Chris used various elements of the dossier to construct a plan and then followed it up with two visits to Saugatuck about three weeks apart. Going into the office on weekends to work on the Akers account was his excuse to Sally and the girls while he followed Forrester’s every move. It came down to Yachting and Forrester’s love of Lake Michigan. It was his only security weakness and although his PPD had been trained to walk in and out of potential shooter sight lines they couldn’t possibly erect a human shield to protect him on water.

On Lake Michigan from Memorial Day to Labor Day, every Wed through Sunday is how Forrester enjoyed the spoils of his criminal enterprise. Utilizing his hand held binoculars Chris looked northward up the Kalamazoo River for the outline of Forrester’s 30 meter super-luxury yacht, a Benetti Delphino 95. Rotating his field glasses he caught a flash of light from across Kalamazoo Bay, "What the fuck" he said to himself as he pulled back and retreated further into the shadows. Cautiously he refocused his binocs on where the reflective light occurred, but nothing stood out. Glancing at his Navitimeter he swung his binoculars up the river towards Mt Baldhead Park where the meandering Kalamazoo River began its straight shot into the bay. And there she was keeping a low wake, so as not to create waves. Forrester’s Captain was navigating the river as his guests started to emerge from below deck. Forrester, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Able to stay focused, Chris didn’t think once of Sally and the girls, his business or his current life. He was now in the hunt and his heartbeat remained normal as he crawled back towards the front of the deck this time with his M99 in tow. He then opened up the bipod to stabilize the weapon and got into a prone position, so that the majority of his body was obscured, though a portion could be seen from a higher vantage point. Realizing that there was nothing he could do about it, he accepted the risk.

Chris had struggled with taking an Earp digital shot versus eliminating the target. In the end Chris made his decision based on Forrester’s age, his cruelty, and all the years ahead of him if he wasn’t stopped. Clearly C.W. operated below law enforcements radar and whomever compiled his dossier knew things about him that no one else knew. Perhaps that’s why they picked Chris for the mission knowing that given the choice there was no choice at all.

Clearly the class of the waterway the Delphino's fiberglass hull and carbon fiber superstructure was majestically making its way down the river. The front portion of the hull was the first to cross Chris' sightline, the Delphino having a lower deck that slept 10 guests and five crew, and a main and upper deck that were playgrounds for drinking, dining and sunning. Watching the prow cut through the water, the Delphino, as a symbol of Forrester, radiated improbity. The crew was now positioned as the yacht headed into the mouth of Kalamazoo Bay. With his binocs, Chris followed the Delphino and watched with admiration as the crew worked as one docking her bow first. Forrester was obviously entertaining some business associates because each of his male guests had a scantily clad woman attached to their arm. Chris with the field glasses glued to his eyes looked one more time for that flash of light he thought he had seen earlier. Having carefully scanned the buildings from across the bay he came to the conclusion that it was nothing, "It must have been my imagination," he said to himself, pushing aside a nagging instinct and a sense of uneasiness at the corners of his mind. 

Refocusing his efforts back on the Delphino he took a shooting position behind the bullpup and looked through the NHS scope. Most of the adjustments he had made earlier during target practice with the M99, but as a professional he went through the procedure one more time as he sighted the scope on top of the bullpup for the kill shot. Having already taken the NHS scope caps off the front and the back of the scope, he eased his right eye behind the rifle scope as he started to adjust the magnification ring at the back of the scope. Satisfied he locked the mag ring down with his shooting hand before reaching for the top turret on the scope that controlled elevation. Several clicks later the adjustments were in place. Chris then dropped his hand from the top turret to the windage turret on the right side of the NHS and turned the knob several mils until he felt confident that what he was seeking was spot on. That only left the parallax adjustment, which he used for distance. He had preset it for 1500 yards. Now he slowly clicked it down to 1200 yards. The whole process took Chris less than three minutes. Different weapon than Afghanistan, but the same procedure. 

And there he waited. It was now 3:45 in the afternoon and the Delphino had been docked for 20 minutes. Food from 'The Butler' had arrived and the guests were drinking and laughing after a fun day of boating, sunning and below deck extracurricular activities. Yet, there was still no Forrester. Maybe he was ill or couldn't tear himself away from whatever was keeping him below deck, a woman or a business deal. By 4:15pm Chris wondered if Forrester was even on the boat. Although, he was in the shade there was sweat on his brow, Chris guessed correctly that the temperature had risen to the high eighties. At 4:30 pm he realized he had a ten minute window or he would have to scrub the mission and pick up Sally and the girls; although they were only 5 minutes away from where he was located. Barely audible above a whisper through clenched teeth he said, "Come on, Big Man, show yourself." Whether his command or his plea were acknowledged, it was precisely at that moment that C.W. Forrester emerged from below deck holding hands with his current trophy. By her facial features she looked Eastern European. C.W., like a king recognizing his subjects, mingled with his guests, a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, kidding, laughing, listening, and cajoling with each and everyone of them. The movement around him made it difficult for Chris to take a unhindered shot. The target wasn't being cooperative. It was now 4:40 pm and Chris still didn't have an opening. Then to Chris' amazement and to the consternation of his PPD, C.W. took some champagne from a guest and proceeded to stand up on an elevated deck sofa in order to propose a toast. Chris could see his lips move through the scope, but at that distance his words were inaudible. Slowly Chris let his breath out and squeezed the trigger of the bullpup, his right eye glued to the eyepiece. The Talon 50 ball struck Forrester in the head, right between the eyes, followed by a loud thunderclap that resonated across the bay. The party was crashed as C.W.'s security detail drew their guns and looked from their side of the bay to the other where the sound originated, waiting for another flash of light that was not forthcoming. 

Chris, as was his habit, smirked to himself as he confirmed the kill and said out loud, “Welcome to Hell,” before nodding his head and closing the bipod on his M99.  He was back in the game, and as he started to low crawl backwards towards the glass door into the open with his weapon nestled securely in the crooks of his arms, he instinctively looked towards the flash of light he had seen earlier. The elongated missile, a boat tail, hollow point projectile struck Chris Young just below the left eye killing him instantly.

"They say that of a sniper's bullet that if you hear it, then you are safe, because it will already have passed safely by. It is the ones that you don't hear that do for you," as the second small sonic boom of the day reverberated across Kalamazoo Bay.

 

 

***

Acknowledgements….I want to acknowledge a heartfelt debt of gratitude to David Allen, my armory advisor for his guidance in weapons selection and my first responder readers Tim & Billy Bungeroth and Ted Campdesuner for their support and insight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Bill Bungeroth. All rights reserved.

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