The Hitman’s Faith by Elizabeth McGarty-Wood
The Hitman’s Faith
It was precisely 14:30 on a mid-September day when Adam Riker strode over the red-tiled pavement and through the doors of the Huntington Hotel. The elegant Georgian style building sat at the summit of the historic Nob Hill area of San Francisco. Today was blisteringly hot, a phenomenon the locals called earthquake weather. Adam hoped that this was not a premonition of the day’s events. Just days before the whole area had been shrouded in a blanket of gloomy, insidious fog which would have made his task impossible, no scratch that difficult.
Adam was confident in his abilities and his cause; his plan was methodically thought out, and all the preparations had been successful. Conditions were perfect, dry without a breath of wind, he wryly thought that even Mother Nature was smiling on him. Adam had been a hitman for hire for a long time, and although he hated the cliché, this one was indeed personal.
As the door sucked shut behind him, cancelling out the rattling of the passing trolley car, Adam stood for a moment, taking in his surroundings. The temperature in the hotel lobby was decidedly icy as the air conditioning was blasting out frosty air rather too vigorously. While he conceded this was to combat the unaccustomed heat of the day, it made his shirt cling uncomfortably to the clammy skin on his back and made him shiver.
The lobby was virtually empty, aside from the receptionist and two middle-aged ladies sat hunched on elegant straight-backed chairs, heads together, scanning a map on the table beside them. Their conversation bouncing energetically back and forward like a tennis match as they enthused about the trip they had planned for tomorrow.
In motion again, Adam approached the desk and smiled at the petite, polished blonde behind it.
“Can I help you, sir? she enquired.
“I need to check out early,” said Adam “I was in Room 319 and have already cleared out my luggage.” He pushed the card key towards her over the polished mahogany.
“Certainly sir,” she said, starting to clack on her keyboard “I hope there wasn’t a problem with your room.”
“No problems at all,” he said, “I have to catch a flight at eight tonight as I need to get back for a business meeting. The office booked me on the red-eye” he grimaced.
The receptionist smiled and nodded sympathetically.
“That is no problem at all,” she said glancing at her screen “you have no extras to pay for Mr Osbourne, I hope you decide to revisit us soon.”
“Thanks,” said Adam “as I have a couple of hours to kill, I’ll grab a bite to eat in the bar.”
“Have a safe trip,” she said her eyes drifting away from him and back to her paperwork.
That was the thing about him, Adam thought, people rarely remembered him or took a second glance. Out of sight, out of mind. He was 5 feet 11, medium build, mousey brown hair, with hazel eyes, he was nondescript. Normal, average, boring. He wasn’t good looking, and he wasn’t John Merrick either, he had an average face and an ordinary unaccented voice. His clothes were selected to be comfortable, classic and muted; he blended into most crowds with ease. While some people seek recognition, he had dampened his personality down so that he faded away. It didn’t matter which of his identities he was using; they were all grey to the external viewer. Adam smiled; little did they know.
As he walked away from the receptionist and towards the bar, he diverted and slid into a seat, slightly away from the chattering ladies, but with a view of the door. He had seen a taxi pull up, and his opportunity was coming sooner than anticipated. A carcophony of sound abruptly violated the hushed lobby. A harsh mix of street noise, Texan twangs, shrieking and the pounding of feet flowed in, as a harassed man and woman were pushed into the room by the doorman, on a tide of luggage and children. They approached the reception desk and while the blonde was busy, Adam stood and swiftly walked towards the stairs. No-one noticed.
He moved assuredly over the slick floor and up the staircase, only once encountering a uniformed housekeeper who nodded and entered the room she was servicing, Adam already forgotten. Reaching the twelfth floor, he sauntered the length of the corridor to the locked roof access door. Hugging the wall, he slipped on his gloves, which were now so soft and supple they felt like a second skin. Within moments the lock was picked, and he slipped inside the stairwell, closing and locking the door. This operation had been planned for weeks, he knew it backwards and forwards and nothing had been left to chance.
Stepping onto the roof, Adam was hit by a wall of heat, that almost took his breath away. Standing flat against the smooth wall he glanced around, acclimatising to the close, dry air and listening for anything unexpected. The building was L shaped with a mixture of red pitched tiles and grey flat concrete. The central part of the roof housed the white-painted steel framework that cradled the iconic Huntington sign. Adam slid to his left following the wall round to a weathered upright ventilation stack. Taking out the multi-tool, he carried in his pocket, he selected the screwdriver and released the front panel.
Returning the tool to his pocket he mused that his father would be proud, “Always be prepared,” he had espoused, he was such a boy scout. Although Pops may not be so keen on how far his son was prepared to go in this instance. Reaching into the dark apparently empty void, he groped for the bag and finding it pulled it, with a rasp, from the stack.
In the shade of the building, he swiftly unpacked his grey over-clothing, rifle and ammunition. Everything was present and correct. Slipping on the grey camouflage, he glanced at his watch, 15:09 precisely. Twenty-one minutes to wait. He lay flat and crawled across the dusty surface, away from the shade of the building, towards the wall that fronted California Street. Reaching the parapet of the roof, Adam rose into a press-up position moving his right leg underneath him, pushing up he planted his left foot flat and his left elbow on his knee. Lifting the rifle, he rested it on the wall, the sight at eye level and the barrel cradled in a notch, he had already formed in his dry run. The position was not quite as stable as lying prone, but it was comfortable and Adam felt, despite the heat, he could kneel here and wait all day. Not that the wait was going to be that long, he thought.
Centring himself, he glanced out over the lip of the roof to the lush green rectangle that was Huntington Park opposite, his line of sight tracking left, to the steps of the Grace Cathedral, which dominated the corner of Taylor Street. Traffic was slow-moving, and the smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes bloomed and drifted upwards, mingled with the noise of car engines and disjointed voices.
Adam’s thoughts drifted to his sister. Amy had been a good kid and her death had been preventable. She had died six months previously in a fire started by Samuel Turner, a local philanthropist with a penchant for shady deals and even shadier practices. He had not physically started the fire, but his goons had, and in time they would also pay. They had been trying to smoke out another of the tenants in her building, for bad debt, and had not checked if anyone else had been home. By the time anyone realised it was too late and Amy was dead. For that Mr Turner would have to pay, and Adam was a believer in an eye for an eye when it came to his family.
The Cathedral was hosting a fundraiser in the nave, and Mr Turner was in attendance. The service was due to finish at 15:30 and he was scheduled for a photo session with the Governor and other local dignitaries. They were due to be positioned outside, at the top of the sweeping, graceful stone steps. The picture framed by the Cathedral’s beautiful gothic-inspired doors of paradise. An involuntary grin spread over Adam’s face; this opportunity was almost heaven-sent.
He started to slowly and methodically breathe in and out, dropping his heart rate, his body becoming still and calm, with his sights firmly set on the cathedral door.
Breathe in……breathe out.
15:27, people were starting to filter out of the building and pooled on the steps. Adam continued his rhythmic breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out, all the time filtering out the background noise. He was focused, sharp and deadly.
Samuel Turner stepped from the darkened cathedral doorway and squinted up into the sun. He wished this was all over and he could get home, especially as he had something stimulating waiting for him. Part of his business interests involved trafficking girls and women into the USA, from eastern bloc countries and he liked to sample the merchandise on occasion. Today was one of those days, all strictly over the age of eighteen though for him, after all he wasn’t a pervert. The thought of the fun to come shot a warming heat through his body, making him flush with excitement. Internally he smiled, his deliberations were less than holy at the moment, and he was sure the Deacon and his cohorts would not approve.
“Hello, Mr Turner, this way, please,” said the Verger who had suddenly appeared at his elbow, “we need everyone here at the top of the steps.”
Samuel muttered, “Okay, okay, keep your cassock on,” and followed the Verger.
Kneeling poised and ready on the rooftop, Adam saw the crowd shuffled into position, and Samuel Turner settle into his place.
He took his aim; the time was right, and the shot was perfectly lined up.
At just that moment, Faith Oliver, who was positioned to the right of Samuel Turner was pushed by the wife of another dignitary, who was trying to muscle her way to the front. As Faith collided with Mr Turner, she felt a momentary excruciating pain in her head, and the world went black.
Adam stared in disbelief as the plume of pink mist floated from the head of the woman who now occupied the space, vacated milliseconds before by his target. He shuffled backwards and stood up listening to the screams of the congregation and passers-by, mingled with the sounds of cars swerving and honking as people panicked en masse. He knew he had to get out of there quickly, regroup and rethink the plan; he did not mean to kill the lady; she could only be considered collateral damage at this point.
He slipped off his over-clothes and stuffed everything back into the bag. Making his way swiftly down the stairs and escaping the hotel by an emergency exit at the back. By now the police would be arriving, and he needed to get out of there fast, his car was parked ten blocks over. Strolling out of the alley and away from the Grace Cathedral, Adam blended into the crowd and disappeared.
At 23:15, Adam entered his remote safe house and dumped the duffle bag. He had got away undetected, but the whole thing had been a disaster. His shoulders slumped as he allowed himself to feel the horrors of the day in his safe space.
“What happened? How did everything go so wrong?” he chided, pounding his fist against his head, “Fuck,” he cursed.
Striding over to the sideboard, he poured himself a whisky and threw himself into a yielding leather armchair. The whisky burned as it hit his stomach, the burn matching the building rage he was feeling for his ineptitude. Failure was not an option and the loss of an unintended target did not sit well. After all, wasn’t he trying to avenge the loss of an innocent? He did not kill indiscriminately; those days were over.
Weariness and the whisky suddenly overcame him, and he slumped back in the chair, oblivion engulfing him. He awoke four hours later with a jolt, to the sound of a female voice screaming expletives into his ear. Jumping to his feet, he stared in disbelief at the vaguely translucent woman, standing in front of him. On the right side of her forehead, oozing and glistening slightly was a small jagged circular hole.
Unable to speak, he continued to gape into her face which was contorted with rage as she screamed: “You killed me, you bastard. You shot me! Why did you shoot me?”