Time for a Change of Target
Time for a Change of Target
Olena lay prone on a dining table, staring out the window through the scope of her SVD-63. She was in a small apartment on the second floor, dark because it was necessary for her job, but also because the apartment wasn’t occupied and the electric was off.
Through her scope she looked at the red brick building across the street, and watched a pair of small girls drawing chalk animals on the sidewalk below. It was already sunset, and, possibly due to the lack of light, the animals they drew were growing stranger, or the girls might have been growing bored.
In the hands of an average soldier her weapon might have felt natural, but it had been ruined. Her commanders, or the engineers under them, had taken a perfect tool and maimed it, transforming a beautiful rifle into primitive blow gun. Though, rather than some organically derived toxin, the dart she was meant to fire was tipped with semi-fixed polonium.
It made her feel like a wife planning to poison her husband, and she wasn’t even married. And, if she was married, to a husband who needed killing, she would put a bullet in his brain.
Olena just didn’t understand why she couldn’t kill him normally. She could make it look like a stray, throwing up a few local gang tags in her borrowed apartment as breadcrumbs. A gunshot wound would just look like a gunshot wound, but if anyone found polonium in his system they wouldn’t have to guess who’d killed him.
That might have been it, she thought, watching the smaller of the two girls, pigtailed and wearing a pink dress, drawing what might have been an owl in violet chalk. John, those girls’ father, had betrayed them, selling secrets that were believable fiction.
Her comrades might have died as a result, Olena hadn’t been informed. This was, of course, about revenge, but also, she thought now, about a message.
His disappearance, the new name he’d acquired and the larger apartment where he now lived, was more than a normal man, a simple secretary in a CIA field office, could manage on his own. They had turned him against them, or he might have been a plant from the beginning. This was a message to his superiors, but Olena hadn’t been trained as a messenger.
The door across the street opened, and John walked out, stopping on the bottom step of the stoop. She knew she was supposed to fire then.
He was saying something, she imagined, as she was too far for his voice to carry, mother has made kopytka, they will grow cold. But it was probably meatloaf, or noodles with tomato sauce.
Olena heard a noise behind her, dry wood creaking under the linoleum floor. She had picked the lock to this apartment’s door and locked it again upon entering.
John was holding the door for his daughters as they gathered their chalk. The small one held a worn bunny to her chest made of purple plush.
Olena realized the purple owl was a purple bunny, but the ears were very small.
“That’s enough of that,” a woman said, her voice coming from almost six feet above the creaking floor.
John walked back inside taking his daughters’ hands in his.
Olena rolled off the table carrying her rifle with her, and landed on the floor in a crouch.
There was a lone woman standing there, not as tall as she’d expected, but wearing shiny black boots with six inch heels. Olena’s eyes tracked up, shiny red pants, leather, or vinyl, as tight as a wet suit, and a jacket of the same over a tight black sweater.
The woman’s face was painted. Camouflage, Olena thought first, but only fit for fading into a church window, panels of red, green, and blue with rigid black borders.
“Would you mind lowering that?” she asked, and Olena aimed her rifle at the floor. This woman seemed threatening, but the baton in her milk-chocolate hand appeared to be her only weapon.
Olena’s mother had taken The Workers’ Party as her religion and allowed the will of the people to guide her actions. Olena had followed her same path, though with less enthusiasm, but her grandmother had never given up the church.
Olena remembered the small photo her grandmother had kept in her pocket, near her heart. It was a photo of one of the icons with long noses and small eyes, Mary, weeping for her dead son. It was this woman’s face that had reminded her.
“You have two choices,” the woman said. “You can hand me that, and take a comfortable ride to the cop-shop….”
Olena had never understood her grandmother’s obsession. She’d always been a kind woman, so Olena had never seen her need for religion, but she understood now.
“Option two. We have it out, and I play rough-”
“Is it true…?” Olena said. “You will speak to God on my behalf?”
“I have not been baptized… but my grandmother told me, you do not care about things like this.”
“Are you…? That isn’t funny.”
Olena felt her eyes burning, but her eyes hadn’t even tingled in the dry air of Afghanistan. Her hands were shaking, and her hands never shook. “I am finished with this…” she said, placing her rifle on the linoleum. “Will you please forgive me?”
The woman watched her for a moment, and then crept forward, holding the baton over her head, ready to strike. She knelt down, taking the barrel of the rifle in her hand before creeping back.
Olena was sure forgiveness wouldn’t be that easy, she knew she would have to work for it, and as the woman slowly backed away she still seemed suspicious.
The woman left then, and the apartment felt very cold. Olena turned back to the window, and stared out at the apartment across the street, the windows now glowing warmly in the blue dusk light.
John would pay for what he’d done, but it would be someone else who killed him. Olena had chosen a new target.