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The Ultimate Hit Contract Conclusion-Part V: It's Hidden Between the Lines By B. B. Riefner
Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2010
Last edited: Friday, May 18, 2012
This short story is rated "R" by the Author.
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Cliff meets his "mark." His mystical revelation presents itself through the rifle scope. The dilemma becomes an unsolvable paradox.
The Ultimate Hit Contract
Part Five:Hidden Between the Lines
There was a serviceable road from Ayacucho to Cusco, which made it even more dangerous than if it had been a barren track. Five minutes out and his truck overtook the first of endless truck convoys, plodding both up and down inclines. The only difference was going up the diesel fumes almost demanded he use a gas mask, and going down the screeching of bare breaks tore at his ear drums.
It was almost impossible to find a stretch where he could pass because the traffic in the opposite direction was just as heavy. So the trip took almost three full days. Actually it took a pretty good chunk of his ego and cynicism. That all invaded Cliff’s conscious at the only gasoline station he had encountered, in the middle of his second plodding, constant gear shifting day.
There were forty one trucks in a line at least a kilometer long, but the gasoline pump was a lonely sentinel. It just took almost an hour to ease his way past the truck line and reach it. There was a small fruit stand on both sides of the station. His bladder needed discharging, and he had no intention of trying to use the evil stinking men’s room, so he headed for the one with the best looking mangos after he used the shallow ditch out back.
He was selecting a dozen ripe ones when his ears picked up the conversation to his left. Since it was in Spanish and not the local Indian language he let his brain dial in.
“He was dead. I swear it,” a plump shawl bedecked woman announced to three truckers. Cliff was amused by their facial doubts. No matter how deeply etched, the doubt lines did not persuade her to drop her topic. “The priest even said he was gone. Gone for over an hour. He fell from a ladder onto the stones. One of them said she saw where his head was pushed in. He said it looked like a dent in a melon,” she claimed. “I did not see that. But I did see …”
“You been eating a little San Pedro Cactus Momma? You sound like you are very star filled.” Cliff was well aware of the strong hallucinogenic qualities of San Pedro, a local cactus .Saint Pete was so strong that ingested it made LSD seem like aspirin.
“I am not poor enough to seek insanity.” Her tone was very indigent. “I came when the one who was did was sitting on a bench, head in his hands. His wife and children all about him and everyone telling wild tales about this strange looking man who some claimed they saw float in the air, come out of nowhere and …”
“Maybe too much Chee Chee?” another driver offered. But Cliff saw the intentness etched on each of their faces.
“This is when many said he knelt, took the man in his arms, kissed the wound, then the dent, and held him for a few minutes. And then he lowered him and walked away. Everyone there agreed to one thing. He just folded into the sun. Vanished like …”
“Senora pardon, I am on a journey to meet this man you speak of. Can you tell me how far away this was and how many days?” She let her eyes run over Cliff as if he were some fruit or vegetable she was appraising before beginning to bargain. He forced his entire posture to relax, assume a trusting aurora.
“Two nights ago in Agua Fria del Alta.” When Cliff asked where this was she told him the next path on his right which had a barbed wire fence running along it. Then she added, “It is not possible to take your truck or car there. And it is a three hour walk. All up Señor.” Her tone was quietly laced with doubts he could manage.
Cliff thanked her as he gave her a few Soles and headed out. It took the remainder of the daylight to reach the turn off. He pulled off the road, and began assembling his gear. The sound of singing coming from up the track stopped him.
He climbed up in the bed and carefully got into a good sitting position as he started opening his gun case. Before he really began assembling it, the small crowd appeared around a sharp bend and descended to the road side and he relaxed once he appraised it as just another group of dirt poor Indian male porters with a sprinkling of Derby hats worn by heavy breasted women. He didn’t have to ask if his target was still in the high country.
After a few curious stares and huddles two males came over and asked if he would take some of them to Cusco and if so how much would he charge. “I’ll take all the women and kids, and there’s no charge.”
It was fun watching nine women and fourteen kids pack themselves into the six foot Toyota bed. It looked to be impossible, but The Alta Plano was a place where the impossible was a daily occurrence to be overcome. Once all were settled, Cliff pulled off. There was still enough light to make it to a cross roads. He spent the night in a primitive pull off, locked in the cab. His gear made sleep difficult for his six foot plus frame, but helping the women and kids seemed to ease his cramping after a few minutes so sleep came amid soft memories of .Melba’s scents and the softness of her hair touching his cheeks.
It only took fifteen minutes after he helped the ladies dismount from his truck as he handed each one a few coins before he was able to pinpoint Bernardo. A herb vendor just outside the central market building told him, “The Holy One has been speaking and performing miracles at Sacsahuaman. The police drove him from the Plaza Major almost as soon as the crowds got so large, the mayor thought there might be a riot.”
Cusco had been the religious as well as political heart of the Inca Empire when the Pizarro brothers arrived almost five hundred years ago. Inca religious rites centered about the central plaza which housed the Coricancha, temple of the sun. Sacsahuaman were the great walls protecting the city. Hewn stones, some over twenty feet square, fitted so tight a knife blade could not fit between them were a popular tourist stop and picnicking area for the locals. Cliff had been there many times before.
He parked the truck on the main road, avoiding the packed parking lot, gathered up his gear and set out circling to the east around the walls until he was no longer in sight of tourists. Then he swung back and climbed a steep embankment which over looked the main viewing area, where he was certain Bernardo was holding court.
Once he was close enough to not only hear the mutterings, but smell the crowd’s urine washed hair and un treated wool, he dropped to his belly and shimmy the last few feet to the crest. Nothing would have dulled his shock when his gaze confronted the mob’s size. It was jammed into the extensive court and spilling over on to the steep slopes on all three open sides. A thousand different colored ponchos shawls and blankets turned the grounds into a vivid weaving blanket of hues.
He dropped back a few yards and assembled his rifle. The M24 Remington’s bulk was almost an oxymoron opposed to the relative short distance to his target. Cliff estimated that Bernardo couldn’t be more than five hundred yards. This was almost point blank. He shrugged off the creepy coldness which seeped from the huge rock.
Once he had the scope and silencer fixed he reached into the side slot and let his fingers select a single .50 caliber bullet. It was an explosive charge. Strangely, somehow that didn’t seem right, so he dropped it back in the pouch and took one which was merely armor piercing. “No sense tearing his whole head off is there?” he silently questioned the telescopic sight. “This is enough to take just the top of it off. Good undertaker can fake the top of a guy’s head.”
He shook his head and whispered aloud, “You idiotic asshole! Stop listening to her God damn it! Melba, get the hell outta of my business.” That wasn’t working, so he rolled twice and laid out on the edge, keeping the weapon pressed against his left side below the ridge. Once he could view the panorama again, he decided his heart was beating too rapidly so waiting was not an option.
Positioning and fitting the rifle to his shoulder was so automatic, so routine, he hardly took his eyes off the target. Bernardo was sitting on a low stool pushed into natural niche he had selected. From about eight hundred yards from Cliff’s position Bernardo resembled a knick knack. Even so he was in full profile. Cliff assumed his target had picked the spot because it gave him a slight sense of separation from the crowd.
Even though he had decided to do this and get it over with, Cliff scanned the faces with his scope. They were almost all dark brown or deep red wrinkled dried up complexions.
There were almost a equal number of each sexes, and not as many children as Cliff thought there would be. Then he amended that for the children and the crippled, maybe even dead were grouped in small clusters about Bernardo’s stool. The kids were closet to Cliff. “That’s good,” he whispered into the weapon’s butt. “No chance of taking out one of ‘em.”
However, this still did not erase his apprehensions so Cliff erased the probing poignancy with a blink, and dropped his eye onto the sight’s rubber cushion. It took a slight probe to his left to bring Bernardo’s smiling face into the ring. The scope’s power was so great Cliff had to back it off slightly so he had more than just the top of his target’s head.
The face was too wide for its pedestal. In fact the head was too large, as if the brain … He dropped that thought and went on with his visual examination. Pale blue eyes so large it left Cliff with the impression that they were ready to bolt their sockets and explore the region. Bernardo had a very thin but longest nose. “You got ah nose that would make a Roman proud,” Cliff mused. “And cheek bones that looked like they were pushing right out of their skin covering.” Then a drop of perspiration falling on the stock was his period for any further scrutiny.
He let off on the safety, drew down on an area just at Bernardo’s scalp line and suddenly his eyes refocused on the scope’s cross hairs. They were really in the shape of the cross the Romans really used to crucify. Not like the Christian cross with the lines extending to all four edges. Only his horizontal one did that. The vertical went from the bottom to the center of the horizontal and stopped. Instantly Cliff recalled a National Geographic magazine which featured an unearthed skeleton of a crucified male on this style cross. Its torso was twisted at the waist so its feet could be nailed to the bottom section and an arm extended in both directions.
Through the scope, Bernardo was staring directly at him For just less than a instant there was a flash and his vision was impaired. When it returned a rushing invisible force demanded it center on Bernardo’s lips. “Come. I love you.” Magically the words struck his ears.
Cliff shifted his torso. Blinked then refocused. He was stunned as Bernardo’s eyes and mouth flashed forth whole words which flew across the separation like undivided darts and lined up like the wooden kindergarten blocks and spoke to him in perfect English.
At last you are here. You cannot imagine how long I have borne the agony of waiting! I am HE. I am here only for you. The world waits for your benediction! For the end of the beginning!
“Son of a bitch,” Cliff snarled a whisper into the rifle’s butt. “You … Yeah, Melba’s right” He took an automatic breath, then released half.
Know that all of you have been waiting since the sun was created for this test, my so. Do not fail your brethren.
“Hi,” Melba said as soon as she turned to corner for the last few steps onto the patio of del Sol’s dining area. “You just get in?”
“About four this morning so I just crapped out on the sofa. I didn’t want to bother Don Manuel. He’s an old goat and needs his rest.”
“You should ah come up and …”
“Didn’t know if you were really going to be here and even if I did I didn’t know the room …
“I told you I’d be waiting.”
“Yeah sorry … That was all a crock of crap. I needed some time to get use to believing you really were gonna be staying in my life. And when you turned that corner I’m not only damn glad you are, I also know that for once I really am one lucky son of a bitch.” He took a deep breath and then gave her a wink and added, “How’s that?”
“Good.” Now she moved toward him and he took two steps before they hugged. “Come up stairs.”
“Okay, but. You’ve got ah pack. We’re catching a 10 AM flight out of here.”
“Can I ask where to?”
“Of course. Our first stop is Cape Town. That’s … “
“South Africa. I’m pretty good at geography. Is that it?”
“No. but from The Cape we can get some maps and decide from there. Your choice as long as…” The way she pressed her loins to him shouted she was no longer interested in travel plans.
“You promise to molest me while I’m packing?” Her head went his shoulder and she ran the tip of her tongue over the ridges of his ear.
“Bet your sweet butt,” he grinned, he released her and followed as she led him to her room. “Maybe there’s going to be enough time to …”
“I’m really a quick packer and I’m traveling light. One bag and most of my gear is already. There should be … there’s always gotta be plenty of time to … “They had reached the open door to her room as he spun her around and his fingers pushed her dressing gown down over her shoulders.
There were only three other passengers in the First Class section of the South African Airlines 747-300A. The take off was uneventful and so was the complimentary champagne. They both refused a second glass. Cliff snorted and faced her.
“When you going to ask me what I did?”
“Never, I decided at once after I walked out the door in Peru that I never want to know. And I’m not assuming you did or didn’t even though it looks like we’re on the run and … Never mind.”
“Okay.” He pushed a hand into hers and squeezed. Then he bent over and kissed her cheek. He sighed, his deeper inner voice , laced with internal consternation followedAfter a long since he leaned over and whispered, “Let’s leave it at this. I think … Nope … I hope like hell to all the deities I’ve never had any faith in, that we’re gonna have a better world.” He ignored how her eyes expressed deep regrets and disappointment.
Then he leaned back into his seat, gave a slight snort and added, “.But I’ll bet you a thousand bucks you can’t hold out for more than a month.”
“You can give me the grand right now.”
“Let’s wait the month.”
“Okay. No more talk. I haven’t had any sleep in two days.” And with that he turned to her, took her hand and placed it on his cheek and in less than three of her breaths he was gently snoring. And once he was, she could gently cry.