Speakeasy #134-Everybody Loses

She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. She exhaled slowly, building a rhythm, and opened her eyes. A hand flitted to the top of the scope, making adjustments ever so slight. The bedroom blurred for a moment before snapping into focus. An older woman, hair dyed jet-black, sat in front of a mirror, employing the artifices that hid her age.

Levi stirred from his perch. “He in there yet, Tina?”

“Not yet. Just the wife.” Levi stepped toward the window and Tina snapped, “Get back in position!”

Levi skulked back along the wall, sulking at his near screw-up. Tina frowned, but let it go. Sometimes the hard way served as the best way to learn.

The woman in the scope stood up and a voice crackled in her ear, “God, we’ve got movement. Subject heading upstairs.”

“Copy that.” Her gaze intensified. The woman opened the bedroom door and ushered in a middle-aged women with a tea set, complete with flowers and a card. The maid deposited her delivery on the bed and scurried back out of the room. A robust man with white fringe around a shiny pate ambled in soon after, sweeping the dark-haired woman into his embrace. He kissed her on the lips, grabbed her hand, and waltzed her around the room.

Tina couldn’t get a clean shot, but she fell back on the patience drilled into her. Her time would come.

A small figure darted into the room and collided with the dancing couple. The large man roared with laughter and lifted up a tiny moppet of a girl, spinning her around so her brown curls floated like a halo. A young boy walked in with a more sedate, but no less eager, stride. Tina could make out the word “Grandfather” being mouthed.

Grandfather pulled the boy to his side in a crushing hug. His bald head filled her scope. The voice crackled in her ear again. “God. Take the shot when ready.”

Tina grit her teeth. “Negative. I’ll wait until the civilians are clear.”

“We may not get another shot at this, God. Take the shot.”

“It’s my call, damn it! I’m waiting.”

Levi heard the exchange and glared at her. “You know who this guy is and what he’s done.”

Tina’s mind whirled back to the briefing. Her CO played tapes of survivors from General Serge Voskonovitch’s ethnic cleansing crew. Stories of soldiers murdering children and gang-raping women still chilled her blood. Every man and woman stared off into the distance, their voices mechanical, eyes haunted.

Voskonovitch’s head loomed large in her sights. Tina flashed on one interview in particular that caused her nightmares. A woman, once beautiful face scarred and burned, sat in front of the camera. Her dead voice still echoed in Tina’s ears. “My baby clutched my dress. ‘Mama! Mama!’ he cried. A soldier, one of Voskonovitch’s men, strolled over to my little Alexei and put his gun right to his head. Alexei screamed and the man fired. Then he and his friends…did things to me. They cut me and left me for dead. I wish they had made sure.”

Tina’s finger squeezed the trigger as one of the window panes in Voskonovitch’s room framed his head. The little girl dropped to the floor as red mist sprayed from Voskonovitch’s skull. “Target neutralized.” She broke down her rifle while Levi policed the room. They would leave no trace.

They walked out of the hotel, casual and acting like a newly wed couple. Sirens sounded in the distance, heading to the fallen General’s house. Levi smirked. “Well, he won’t be ordering anymore cleansings. Great shot.”

Tina said nothing as they met up with the rest of the team and slipped out of Sarajevo. On the flight home, she tried to sleep.

When she dreamed, the horrified looks etched on the faces of two children warred with a scarred woman singing with a dead voice to a ghost.

Speakeasy #134. The prompt, to be used as the first line of the story: She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath.

Also, the picture below needs to be referenced somehow somewhere.

Hotel Speakeasy

The rules:

  • your post must be dated November 3, 2013, or later
  • submissions must be 750 words or fewer
  • submissions must be fiction or poetry, including fictional accounts of true stories
  • your piece must include the following sentence as your FIRST line: “She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath.”
  • though your post is NOT about the media prompt above, you must make some reference to it
  • the speakeasy is designed for submissions written specifically for the grid. Please do not submit an entry if you intend to showcase it to another blog link-up. Such posts are deleted without notice.
  • please do not post explanations, qualifications or other stuff prior to the beginning of your post. If you need to clarify anything, feel free to do so briefly at the end.
  • the badge for your speakeasy #134 post is found in the sidebar. Be sure to add the code to the html view of your post before publishing. Come back on Tuesday and add your link!

Sorry for the lack of after-story banter. This one wiped me out. I hope you find it interesting.

J. Milburn

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18 thoughts on “Speakeasy #134-Everybody Loses

  1. When I got to the part of them calling her God, I figured you’d go on to say that even though she took the shot, she actually missed and got one of the innocents– you know, like how the evil ones never die?
    Nevertheless, I loved this. Great use of the prompt!

    • Thank you! I generally think snipers are trained enough to hit what they aim at, although I did toy with the idea of having her hit the little girl. Ultimately I decided against it because watching her grandfather, whom she only knows as this loving man, die effectively destroyed her innocence and the innocence of her brother. So in effect, she did “kill” them for they will never be the same.
      I’m glad you liked it and thanks for commenting!

  2. Wow. Imagining the children witnessing their grandfather’s death (and the memories they will have forever) and thinking of the atrocities the man committed leave me conflicted. While an evil man was killed, two more lives were destroyed in the process. Your title is perfect- Everybody Loses…

    • That conflicted feeling is what I was aiming for. At what point does ending evil become evil itself? Thanks for reading and commenting! I always look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and thanks for the follow!

  3. I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award! Don’t know if you’ve already been but here are the instructions on the nomination:
    http://naturallyblack.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/liebster-blog-award-nomination/
    Love your content! Keep Blogging! =)

  4. Ooof, I felt that like a kick to the stomach. I think you got that conflicted feeling just right. Levi’s callousness against the backdrop of all that conflicting emotion is really powerful, and makes you think. One small quibble, if you don’t mind: “crystal-clear clarity” is a little redundant. 🙂

    • I don’t mind at all! I changed it to the simpler “focus” because you’re absolutely right about it’s redundancy, not to mention being a bit cliche. Thank you for reading and your suggestion!

  5. Well that escalated quickly- the last line. The whole piece was really powerful and the story took me with it…great take on it.

  6. I enjoyed reading this. Great pace. Great conflict and a hot button issue. I, too, thought one of the little munckins was going to get it. I thought how could he be so loving and caring to his own children and order the murder of another child and believe me, I wanted him dead. I also like how you refer to Tina as God. At that moment she had the power to give or take life. Nicely done!

  7. This really resonates. I love how you played around with different layers of internal and external conflict.

  8. Wow, Jeremy. This is really intense. I love the way you slowly put the pieces together before she takes the shot. Nicely done!

  9. […] it’s a great first line because it can lead anywhere – to a farm (my piece), a sniper on a mission, a scorned woman plotting revenge (ha!), or a knight on a […]

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