Dear Reader: The following is my contribution to the The Great Substack Story Challenge Part 2. This is an event organized by Fictionistas volunteers and written by ten members of the community. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s contributions and I hope you’ll appreciate my entry! When you’re finished, be sure to go back through and read the other entries for some fantastic backstory.
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I get up from the park bench and walk toward two women who I know intimately from my research at The Agency. Kate and her friend Lauren are talking. Kate is the CFO of a nearby bank, and they are a stone’s throw from her place of work on the day it will be robbed. Kate’s son, Drew, took advantage of her position, and is using insider knowledge to lead his gang of cohorts into the biggest mistake of their lives.
Over the course of months, I followed the trail of yen, deutschmarks and dollars to the park near the bank where a withdrawal of sorts is going to take place. The money will be stolen from the coffers of corporate fat cats, make its way into canvas bags and then be laundered a hundred times over, eventually financing the war machine.
The tracking app on the untraceable phone in my pocket indicates the location of hundreds of hidden bugs I placed throughout the city, and on anyone related to Drew. I take out the phone, select the bug that doubles as Kate’s earring, put in my earbuds and listen to the conversation as I walk in their direction.
Lauren updates Kate on her relationship with her boyfriend and the two banter about Kate’s resolution to consider the silver lining in all situations. Her newly discovered optimism makes her sloppy. She used to question everything with sharp wit and pessimism, which devolved into vague platitudes that now cloud her judgment — the same judgment she should have used to uncover her son’s felonious activities.
As I’m about to pass the women, Lauren’s dog yelps and darts in front of me, twisting the leash between my legs. I trip into Kate, who slams into Lauren, knocking her purse contents out onto the sidewalk.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” I say.
The ladies eye me with suspicion. I’m not concerned about being recognized. The Agency would disavow my existence, but my height and gait are peculiar, identifiable features that still leave me disadvantaged in the field. My colleagues call me Lurch, although never to my face. I’m a tall, imposing figure, with the same waxy, dead complexion and soulless eyes as the butler from The Addams Family. I’m the kind of man who takes exception to unflattering nicknames, the kind of man who is dangerous.
My assignment started with a low-level group, petty criminals who think they’re masterminds, but are nothing more than pawns in a four-dimensional game of interplanetary chess. They will use cold hard cash to purchase weapons with extraordinarily destructive capability — the kind that aren’t invented on planet Earth. My job is to stop that from happening.
The robbery will take place, but likely executed with careless disregard given what I know of all the players. I will let the event transpire, follow the culprits to their hideout, then terminate all but one, an alien who has taken the form of a man and gained Drew’s trust.
The alien is the primary target, the golden ticket, who’s star-hopping adventure I mean to bring to a very deliberate end. Drew thinks of him as a confidant, not part of an interstellar network of arms dealers. It’s funny how money drives the free market of the entire solar system.
I sit at a table outside an ice cream parlor and watch from a distance as Kate’s husband and Lauren’s boyfriend join them. A vehicle is parked close by that I will use to follow Drew’s getaway car to the hideout, this being a street on their escape route. I have another thirty minutes to prepare if the thieves stick to their plan. They don’t. The exact same make and model car I’m supposed to follow careens around the corner at a high speed, screeches its tires and flips over, wheels up, useless in a mess of shattered glass and crumpled metal.
Gawkers are frozen in place. A few ignore the chaos and run to the aid of the passengers. They reconsider as four masked gunmen crawl out of the windows. Some enterprising individuals chase hundred-dollar bills floating down the street. A security guard from the bank runs around the corner yelling. The unmistakable sounds of gunfire are followed by the ricochet of bullets and screams as he shoots three of the thieves. The last thief, Drew, sneaks up from behind the other side of the overturned car and the guard dies a hero.
Kate watches, stunned, and only reacts when Drew takes off his mask, revealing her son’s deception. He says a few words to her and runs in the opposite direction. The man-alien is not really dead, for which I’m thankful, although the bullet holes in his stomach and leg should slow him down. My bosses would not be happy if he ended up in the custody of local law enforcement, dead or alive. He gets up, injects a serum into his leg and lumbers down the street. I follow him on foot.
After a few blocks he steps into a deli. I wait outside. It’s not the right time for an abduction. I lean against the wall and pretend like I’m listening to music on my phone, scrolling mindlessly, blending into the crowd of people walking around, heads down, distracted from a universe of mayhem happening right under their noses.
After fifteen minutes he leaves the deli, presumably self-medicated and walks down the sidewalk. I’m the only one watching his movement, which I continue to do as he turns into an alleyway. It’s a dead end — the perfect opportunity. I hang back and watch as he gets to a dumpster behind a Chinese buffet. He pulls back the edge of the large, rusted container and slips behind it out of sight. It’s a poor hiding spot.
I run back and pull out my 9mm, expecting to point the muzzle at his forehead. Instead, I’m met with a brick wall and the smell of Kung Pao Chicken. The alien is gone. My phone rings. The Agency is calling, and I realize a mistake like this one is only made once. I gag as I get a whiff of what I think is tainted Beef Lo Mein. Why is the food on this planet so terrible? I may never find out.
Honestly, the dog and tall man POVs were the two I was hoping to read the most!
I'm so pleased.