Curved Space

He had been poised looking through the scope of the rifle for 10 minutes. He had barely moved during that time, waiting on something outside to happen; his lack of attention or motion making it clear that he wasn’t at all concerned with what happened in the room behind him.

Souhi waited in a chair nearby, looking at the same window he was looking at, though with a much wider view since she wasn’t seeing it through a rifle scope. She had, unfortunately, finished her coffee.

The Hotel Le Progrés was not the most luxurious hotel in Fécamp. By French standards it was suitable only for tourists and those down on their luck, though Souhi held off deciding if either of those states applied to either her or her silent companion right now.

What the Hotel Le Progrés did have was an outstanding view of the docks where an assortment of expensive yachts were tied up; one of those being the particular object of the rifleman’s attention.

After half an hour Souhi noticed the smaller spotting scope near the sniper’s position. It was too far away to be useful to him, like it had been set up for another person who wasn’t here. Bored, she gambled in a bit of conversation.

“Shouldn’t you have a spotter?” she asked, guessing at English for a shared language.

“Oui, je le devrais. Il n’a pas montré.” He caught himself and repeated “Yes, I should, but he did not show.” A trace of a French accent crept into his English.

“Would you like me to help?”

“Do not you need to be ready to do your job?” he said, shifting his weight slightly.

“I’m the driver. My job doesn’t exist in this room. Hopefully I’m not needed at all. I am, however, familiar with the spotter’s job.”

He exhaled. “Très bien. Target photo is beside the scope. He is on the fifth boat on the outer side of the dock.”

Souhi got up and walked over to where the shooter lay. She lay down on the floor beside him looking the spotter’s scope over. After a moment she sighted it in, focused, and began looking.

“The Rubaiyat?” she asked after a moment.

“Oui. Horrible pun, if that’s what he had in mind.” He replied with a trace of mirth.

Souhi nodded and glanced at the picture in front of her. “He appears to be sitting on the deck in a chair. Should you not take him now while he is still?”

The sniper shook his head. “No, the instructions are to take no action against him unless he tries to step on French soil.”

“And then?” Souhi asked.

“C’est tout. Orders are to kill him the moment his foot hits the ground.”

“The dock, then?”

“No, I count it as le béton..ah the concrete at the end of the dock. It is as close to ‘soil’ as he could get for a few hundred meters, and I do not think they want him that loose.”

“Probably not, no.” Souhi agreed. “How long has he been sitting there?”

“Several hours. There is somebody else on the boat, but I have not seen who it is, just shadows in windows.”

They were both silent as they watched the man.   He was large, bearded, and wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat. To all appearances he was simply a rich man on a vacation.

“Are all your assignments like this? Waiting to kill somebody under very specific circumstances?” Souhi finally asked.

“Non. This one is…unusual. I am usually employed as sniper-contre, to take out others like myself. Other times, it is a simply killing.”

“Have you always done this kind of work?”

“Oui, in some ways. My grand-père taught me to shoot, mostly birds for the pot. I worked for the military for some time, but I didn’t care of shooting somebody who was just trying to do his job.”

“Or possibly getting killed for the same reason?”

“That as well, yes.”

“But this is better? Not knowing why you have a target at all?”

He nodded slightly. “It is.   I may not know what he did, but he had to do something, or they would not have gone to the effort to possibly kill him. I have watched him for many hours, and something about him is…sinistre”

“A fair observation. I guess…” Souhi interrupted herself. “Movement. Car at the end of the dock with four men getting out. Dark suits. Very out of place here.” Souhi swiveled the spotter’s scope back to the boat. “He’s getting up too.”

“Oui.” The sniper replied, slowly tracking him with the scope.   “These men, are they moving onto the dock?”

“No, they’re standing just off of it.”

“They may get a show then.” He said grimly.

“If so, you had better be ready to get out of here in a hurry.”

Souhi took a moment to scan the nearby rooftops, aware of the sniper’s comment about counter-snipers. She didn’t see anything, but as this was France, the buildings nearby presented a multitude of good hiding places…much like the one she was in now.

The sniper had switched to slow measured breaths as he followed the target walking down the dock towards the land. At the halfway point he reached over and removed the safety.

Souhi swept the spotter’s scope to follow the target as well, zooming out until she was able to see both the target and the men at the end of the dock.

“Light wind from the west. I make the distance to be 175 meters.” She said, checking the reticules in the spotter’s scope.

“Entendu” he muttered.

“Target not slowing. He plans to touch soil without stopping it seems.”

The sniper held his breath as they both watched, and Souhi winced at the suppressed sound of the rifle firing as the target’s foot landed on the concrete of the pier.

“Chest shot. Likely mortal but not immediate.” Souhi said, watching the man fall over.

“Orders. Frangible round. He is pâté inside.” The sniper answered, quickly rising and beginning to put the rifle into the case beside him.

The men from the car quickly drew their weapons as the target fell. Three of them took cover and began to scan the area, though the suppression on the shot would make its source very hard to locate. One of them dashed over to the target and turned him over. Souhi estimated the amount of blood on his shirt and face and concluded that if he was still alive he would not be so for long.

She reached down to pick up the spotter’s scope when she heard sirens. Free-handing the scope she saw several of the men talking into radios and pointing towards the row of buildings. Police cars appeared to be coming from every direction.

She indicated the door with her head and grabbed her empty coffee cup as she stepped out of the room and closed the door.

“Things are about to get very interesting.” She called out.

“Mais oui.” He replied, hurrying towards the stairs.

***

“You are kidding surely, mademoiselle.” He said, looking over the car she had led them to. “We are going to escape in a Peugeot deux zero huit?”

Souhi popped open the hatchback and motioned for him to place the rifle case into it. “It’s the GTi model, with a few modifications.”

“It is still hardly a sports car.” He replied with some distaste.

Souhi smiled. “You might be surprised, but regardless of its performance characteristics, it is utterly ubiquitous here, to the point of being nearly invisible.”

He stared at the car a moment unhappily.

“I don’t mean to push” Souhi said “but we should likely get moving.”

“Oui.” He responded, shutting the hatchback and getting into the car.

Souhi jumped in herself and started the engine. She quickly drove out of the alleyway in which the car had been parked.

As she emerged from the alley she frowned. The road leading away from the site of the shooting had been blocked by several police cars, and she could see their lights flashing in all directions.

“Ce n’est pas bon.” The sniper said, looking around. “Perhaps we should lay low for a while instead of leaving now?”

Souhi shook her head. “Given the speed of this response mon ami, I think we have stepped into something larger than either of us suspected. I think we should get out of here as quickly as possible.”

Souhi reached into her shirt and drew out a small pill bottle hanging on a chain around her neck. She unscrewed it and poured the six pills it contained into her hand. She selected two pale yellow pills that were egg shaped and poured the rest of the pills back into the bottle. She then popped the two pills into her mouth and crunched them between her teeth.

“C’est quoi ça?” He asked with some concern.

“Adderall, sixty milligrams. I have a feeling I’m about to need it.” Souhi responded, looking around to get a feel for the situation.

He raised an eyebrow. “Should you chew those?”

Souhi winked at him. “Only when I need to. Ready?”

He looked around and nodded. “Oui. Let us depart.”

Souhi turned the car to the right onto the empty road ahead. She drove in a leisurely way trying to avoid notice she was sure to get anyway. Behind her were enough police cars that she wondered if there were any more in the city.

A national policeman held up his hand to signal her to stop. She did so, rolling down her window and waiting with both hands on the steering wheel.

The policeman approached talking to her in French. “Madam, s’il vous plaît garer votre voiture et rester a l’intérieur.” The policeman said, pointing towards the curb.

“व्हाट अरे यू तल्किंग अबाउट?” Souhi replied in Hindi, resulting in a confused look from the policeman.

The policeman repeated his statement to the shooter, who simply shrugged and looked as if he also had no idea what was being said.

The policeman groaned and called back to his comrades near their own cars.

“It appears their orders are to not allow anybody to leave the area until they can be searched an interviewed.” The shooter said softly before listening again. “Ah, we are to be held for the gendarmerie.”

“Can’t have that.” Souhi whispered back.

“Non.” He responded.

The policeman returned to the window and began to talk slowly in French, figuring that one of the two passengers in the car must surely have some level of skill with that language.

Souhi quickly reached into the back of the car and grabbed several loose pages and held them out to the policeman, pointing at various points on them. The policeman briefly looked at the indecipherable Hindi script and tried to reply, with the result that the two of them began to talk over each other.

“Assez!” the policeman finally yelled. “Arrêter de parler et je vais vous montrer!”   He angrily walked around the front of the car and with hand motions indicated that Souhi should park the car where he indicated.

Souhi waved to feign that she finally understood. She turned to her passenger. “Are you strapped in?”

He looked over the policemen arrayed before them and nodded.

Souhi slowly turned the car to the indicated spot, approaching it badly and having to back up. The policeman backed away to avoid getting hit by someone who drove so badly as to be unable to park on an empty street.

As he turned back to signal the other nearby officers to help him Souhi revved the engine slightly to amateurishly inch the final distance into the parking space.

The police, believing her so bad a driver, were oblivious to the sounds of the tires sliding on the pavement for a moment. This gave Souhi time to slip the car into second gear at the same moment she pushed the floor switch for the nitrous oxide system.

The small Peugeot 208 hopped over the curb, slid deftly between a tree and a storefront and had reached over 60 kph before the policemen realized what had just happened.

Souhi slammed the wheel to the left, letting the rear of the car fishtail so she could drift around the corner and break line of sight with the policemen who were rushing to get into their own cars.

“This is your version of ‘interesting’, non?” the passenger said, holding on to the edges of his seat.

“It’s a start.” Souhi responded with a wink, shifting rapidly up the gear ratios and cutting the nitrous flow off to save the remaining gas for later.

***

Leave a Reply