"Hiding in the open," Jack whispers, putting out a cigarette. He looks out at the courtyard below him, and shakes his head in disbelief.
The edifice he stands atop on, Pellegrino Hall, was erected in honor of a philanthropist. What many do not know, is that that same philanthropist is responsible forspreading heroin through the streets of downtown New York City, as well as through the veins of adults and children alike.
Jack sits carelessly on the rooftop, flirting with death as he aims his gun at the vestibule of the student center. His target: Mr. Pellegrino himself.
"I don't really hate you," Jack mumbles, preparing his mosin nagant. He cleans the barrel one last time, loads it, and seconds afterwards, hears footsteps.
"It wasn't the light, boy; no, it was the smell," a raspy voice calls out. Stepping out of the shadows, to Jack's surprise, is a bald man. At least six feet, three inches tall and 250 pounds, with fingers the size of knives.
Jack remains quiet.
"Relax, child," the man laughs. He pauses for a moment, and Jack remains silent. "In precisely 60 seconds, your target will appear," the man explains. "The university is dead, and not many walk these streets at night. The students’ attention is diverted towards their ball. Your escape is planned. It seems all is well. Can you shoot him?"
Jack remains unbroken.
"Can you shoot him! Damn it, can you shoot him!" The man cries. "25 seconds. Aim." Jack aims his gun, and then feels a pistol throbbing against his neck. "You will shoot him. 10 seconds," whispers the bald man.
The wind: gentle and quiet.
"Five, four, three, two," the man laughs. Jack, surprised, hears a silenced gunshot. He remains unsure if he was shot, or if he pulled the trigger.
Time slows to a crawl for Jack; the wind gently, yet coldly caresses him, and the smell of cigarette smoke intrudes his lungs.
But it is not only his lungs that are on fire. Soon the sky is lit with flames as the building behind Mr. Pellegrino, the university admissions center, crumbles to the ground. Before Jack can assess the situation, the man kicks his mosin nagant off of the roof, and lunges at Jack with the intent of dragging him to the opposite end of the flat rooftop.
Jack instinctively reaches for his pistol, but the man lets go of Jack, and shoots him in the leg before he can retaliate. Jack remains quiet, and turns to look at the flames behind him, his gun now in the hands of his enemy.
The bald man punches Jack with a hook to the chin and an uppercut to his stomach, and then tosses him over his shoulder, strolls across the rooftop, and utters the words, "watch." Jack listens, and with no other options, looks at the Deschamps Ballroom, where partying college students panic as they try to escape from the second floor.
Silent as ever, Jack actually appears surprised when he sees armored trucks approaching the building. A sense of trepidation overcomes him. The bald man places pressure on his wound and chuckles, cauterizing it with a cigar. Jack squirms in agony, but refuses to speak. "Now watch. You signaled this, so stick around and enjoy," the man explains.
"What do you mean?" Jack asks, genuinely confused. The bald man nods, offering Jack a cigarette.
"Who sent you to kill Pellegrino?" Jack's captor asks monotonously, seemingly knowing the answer beforehand. "I didn't expect you to answer," whispers the man. "Now look." Jack peers curiously over the rooftops as men with myriad weapons disembark the armored vehicle caravan and began massacring the escaping students, blissfully unaware of what is happening as their bodies collapse gently to the ground.
"Take a look at that window," the man murmurs, pulling binoculars out of his side pack and then aiming them at a second floor window towards the center of the building. He then hands them over to Jack, who submits and looks at the window, "A girl, scared for her life," Jack observes. He looks at his enemy and the wind pushes his long hair up, revealing a small scar on his left cheek. His eyes remain indecipherable, in their permanently gray state.
"Not just any girl," the bald man replies. "Madison Deschamps. They call her Macie. Take another look. You have all the time in the world. They're instructed to get her alive."
"Who the hell are you?" Jack asks.
"For now, a friend. You're alive, aren't you? I only shot you because you tried to shoot me. Granted, I was the first to disarm you, but out of security for myself."
“Yes, because equality of rights leads to equality of violating rights,” Jack mumbles.
Jack examines Madison once more, and notices how, though panicking, she is searching for someone. Her demeanor remains determined, and her dark blue eyes search frantically. She seems like a clever twenty-something-year-old, but her thoughts are absent in the uproar. Her chestnut-colored hair remains untouched and her natural curls retain their shape. Her silk gown matches her eyes, and enhances her already perfect features. Jack feels compelled to keep looking, but remembers he is here on business.
"Who is after her?" Jack demands, almost screaming.
The bald man remains silent, only nods his head downward, towards the assailants, still shooting relentlessly at the unarmed students. The sidewalks are paved with blood, and the sky reflects the scenario with its crimson color. No policemen are even nearby, and this is when Jack notices there is not even a siren approaching; this entire thing was deliberately planned and it was likely every police officer in the area was murdered, or at least distracted elsewhere with some pseudo catastrophe.
"That's what I'm trying to find out. And look at that student, making a run for it." Jack follows the trail of that survivor only to see him meet a bullet in the head, clean and quick. Jack shakes his head, attempting to discern what separates the assassination he just committed from this bloody massacre occurring in front of him.
"Somebody in there is in on it," the bald man murmurs. "As in one of the students. Pass me the binoculars." Jack does so, curiously. Then the shooting stops, and all but one of the vehicles drives away.
"And there he is now. He's going for Macie!" The bald man exclaims, a hint of emotion in his voice. Jack attempts to stand, as if to go after her, but immediately his leg causes him grief, and he replaces his hand on the wound.
"Aren't you going to do anything?" Jack cries.
"They'd kill her."
"Who the hell are you?"
"Pellegrino and I were once partners. We smuggled many substances into the United States. Our operations were conducted with some other business partners in Turkey. But that is not important now. What's important is that I am Deschamps, Madison's father."
© Copyright 2017 Riuku. All rights reserved.
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