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TROUBLESHOOTER

 

by Malcolm Ferrier

 

Prologue

 

Things like this didnít happen in Canada.

This statement may not hold true tomorrow, but it would work for today.† The man had been repeating it like a mantra.† In fact, he was counting on it for both accomplishing his goal and executing his retreat.

He shifted his body slightly.† He was relatively comfortable where he was, lying prone on the wooded hilltop.† He had stayed in a similar position for much longer while waiting for a skittish elk to move within range.† In some ways, it was the same exercise today.† But his prey was far less wary, secure in his belief that today would be very much like yesterday.

He looked through the scope again.† He could see the garage door, part of the winding driveway, and a piece of the gate that connected with the stone wall that surrounded the estate.† He thought again of the events that had led him here and felt his resolve waver.† Taking a life was no small thing, no matter how just, and he had never killed for pleasure.† But again he felt the anger in his core that formed the impetus for this entire operation.† And underneath was the old pain, throbbing like a pulse.† These people had taken away the rights of others and by doing so had taken away rights from themselves.† Things could not continue as they had or a much greater price than this manís blood would be paid.

He waited.

 

Richard Deck was tired.† As he drove across the Lionís Gate Bridge, he thought of the events of the day.† Things were moving along, but much too slowly.† They only had so much time before the opportunity they had been given passed them by, and they still had plenty of work to do.† The Province was in terrible shape and they were meeting with severe resistance.† Didnít these people understand?† If we all worked together weíd get there.† There may be some hard pills to swallow, but like most medicine it tasted bad then healed the organism.† Some weak cells may suffer, but it was for the good of the whole.

He continued his musings as he directed his Lexus off the bridge into congested traffic.† He spotted a gap and slid into it without signalling.† An angry horn blasted behind him.† He kept his eyes straight forward, apparently oblivious to the sound.

He had stopped using turning signals some time ago.† If required to explain why, he would have said it was always obvious where he was going.† The listener would be left to discern the unspoken assumption that the obvious was only unclear to an idiot.† It would be unlikely that he would further articulate his conviction that it was unfair that he had to share the roads with the rest of the population.† With all his hard-won power and affluence, that he had to sit in rush hour traffic with labourers and teenagers was almost intolerable.† If he could take a helicopter to his office, he would.† Unfortunately, heíd never get away with it here.† Maybe in the States.† They knew how to treat their leaders right.† Clearing the roads, jets, helicopters, and a world-class secret service insulating them from the masses.

His train of thought rolled on as he proceeded home.

 

The man on the hilltop was also thinking about the secret service.† He was glad that Canada was a safe place to be a politician.† For now.† That would change after todayís work and his job would become tougher, but he would deal with problems as they arose.† The plan was solid.

He deeply regretted that this operation was necessary.† Similar actions were taken in Quebec during the FLQ crisis, but those had been badly bungled by both sides.† He hoped that events would not escalate in a similar fashion, but he was prepared for the worst.† Justice required the will to fight, and that he had in abundance.

 

As Richard drove through West Vancouver he began to have a strange feeling.† It wasnít fear, exactly, just a sense ofÖ inevitability.† As though destiny was touching him on the shoulder.† He shook it off.† He was tired, that was all.† He had been working hard and it showed.† He looked forward to the weekend and a break.† As he turned into his neighbourhood, the sun moved below the horizon.† Dusk was here.

 

Traffic along the street was light at twilight and the sound of an expensive engine carried easily through the night air.† The hunter heard the vehicle approaching and checked his rifle once more.† All was ready.

 

The Lexus glided up the exclusive thoroughfare and stopped before the wrought-iron gate.† Richard triggered a remote control and a radio signal passed from the car to the gate.† The entrance slid open.

 

The rifleman settled his body into the grass on the hilltop.† He began to count his breaths.

 

Richard stopped the car on the driveway in front of the garage door and activated the remote.† Nothing.† He pressed the button again with the same result.† What the hell was wrong with the thing?† He shook it and tried again.† The door remained closed.† The battery must be dead.† Damn.

He stepped out of the vehicle.† Once more he felt the sensation that something crucial was about to happen.† Again he shrugged it off.† He needed a drink.

He moved toward the garage side door.† Inside was the switch for the garage door opener.† He pulled out his keys.

 

A good hunter knows it is necessary to funnel the prey down an avenue of the predatorís choosing.† If the actions of the prey are made predictable, a trap can be set.† This was exactly what the man on the hilltop had done.

He had known from careful, painstaking observation over the past few weeks that this manís wife never took the SUV out of the garage after 4:30.† He had watched the electronic bonfire flashes of the television on the living room drapes and understood that she was occupied with the alternate reality of late afternoon programming.

A few short hours ago, he had climbed over the stone wall on the east side of the estate and carefully made his way under available cover to the garage window.† He looked into the garage and saw the Craftsman garage door opener attached to the ceiling.† All he had to do was keep the garage door from opening.† The sticker on the window had told him that he would be greeted by alarms if he were to force his way through the window or the door.† Opening either had not been an option.† It was also likely that motion detectors soaked the interior of the garage with their pervasive infrared.

He was prepared for this.† His gloved hands pulled a Hyde glasscutter from a pouch at his waist.† Before starting to cut the glass in the window, he unwrapped a cube of bubble gum and popped it in his mouth.† He carefully cut an almost complete circle in the glass and stuck the chewed gum within the circle.† He completed the cut and using the gum as a handle, silently removed the glass circle.

Pulling two coat hangers from his backpack, he twisted them together to make one long wire with a hook on the end.† Feeding this slowly through the hole in the glass, he directed it towards the garage door motor on the ceiling.† He snagged the motorís power cable with the hook and methodically worked the plug loose from the ceiling power outlet.† Slowly, so that any potential motion detectors would be deceived, he withdrew the hangers from the garage.† Folding the hangers into his backpack and placing the glass, gum and cutters into his pouch, he had made his way back over the wall.

As he focused the rifleís scope on the back of his targetís neck, the hunter reflected that a strange intimacy was created through a zoom lens.† It seemed as though he was only a few feet away from this man.† He felt as though he could whisper to him.

He stilled his breath and squeezed the trigger.

 

Richard felt like a baseball bat had been slammed into the back of his neck.† He dropped his keys and heard a single, loud shot as he crumpled to the ground.† He could feel his life force draining out of his body.† The world was becoming paler, insubstantial.† Suddenly, he felt much lighter, like an enormous weight had somehow been lifted.† He felt himself rising up and knew that everything would be all rightÖ

 

The shooter on the hilltop rose from the ground.† He picked up the rifle and the expended cartridge casing, and faded down the far side of the hill.

 

Hours later, not so far away, a phone rang in the Premierís home.† Wayne Stewart surfaced from a deep sleep and groaned.† What the hell?† What time is it?† His wife grunted and rolled over.† He glanced at the glowing numbers of the alarm clock on his bedside table.† 1:45 AM.† This had better be good.† He picked up the receiver.

"Stewart here."

"Wayne, itís Donald."† Donald Grant was his chief of security.† "Iím sorry to be calling late, but Iíve got some terrible news.† Richard is dead."

Richard Deck dead?† How could this happen?† Various scenarios flashed through Stewartís head.† Heart attack.† Hit and run.† Car accident, perhaps alcohol-related.† This was exactly what they didnít need.† Another scandal.

"How did this happen?"

"He was murdered.† A professional hit, as far as we can tell.† Right in front of his house.† His wife found him quite a while later.† She had heard a single shot earlier but thought it was a backfire.† She didnít hear his car arrive because the TV was on.† She was stepping out to walk their dog and found his body outside the garage.† She called the police and they only just called us."

"Could she have had anything to do with it?"

"Unlikely.† She doesnít seem the plotting type and she was hysterical.† Hard to fake."

This was impossible.† A senior government official killed outside of his home.† What could this mean?† Stewartís mind raced.

"Donald, weíve got to get to the bottom of this.† Cooperate fully with the police, but use every resource to find out whatís happening here."

"Understood."

"And Donald?"

"Yes?"

"I mean every resource."

Stewart replaced the receiver in its cradle.† He didnít know what to think.

Who would want to kill the Minister of Health?

 

 

 

Copyright © 2006 Malcolm Ferrier

 

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