Friday, August 1, 2014

#FridayFlash - The Art of War

Micah liked the hotel room chilled down to a nice sixty-eight degrees. It calmed his nerves. It allowed him to quiet his mind, to feel at peace and in control. Facing the balcony door, Micah sat with his legs crossed, his eyes closed, his arms out at the four and eight o'clock positions.

A deep breath in, he told himself, followed by a slow exhale. Clear all thoughts. All except a stalk of wheat, swaying back and forth in a gentle breeze. With the turmoil this world laid at a person's doorstep, meditation was the broom that swept it all away. This he learned from Zen Master Sharma. Sit in peace to find it, as the Zen Master once said.

Micah liked the room dark, too, though not for calm or peace or to be control; for him, the darkness offered something more important. He picked up the field glasses next to his side and zoomed in on the apartment building. Sixteen stories tall, the silver monstrosity stood like a mutant cockroach with a reflective glass shell. On the top floor, Micah found the same windows he had looked at on and off for the last month. He reached down with his other hand and hit the speed dial on his cell phone.

Six hundred yards away, a man stepped out of a bedroom and walked into the dining room. Micah watched as the man picked up a phone and stared at it. After four rings, the phones finally made their connection. With the aid of technology, the voice jumped the distance and hopped from Micah's phone to the bluetooth headset pressed against his ears.


"I finished the job," Micah said.

"Yes, I saw it in the news." As always, his father's voice showed no emotion. "Your payment has already been transmitted."


In the field glasses, Micah watched as his father stepped around the dining room table and into the living room. He sat down on a couch.

"It's early to be calling at this hour, isn't it?"

Micah frowned. "No, I'm still in Brazil."

It was a strange question for his father to ask. Micah could have said Paris, Moscow, or Singapore, and it wouldn't have mattered. Whatever answer he gave, his father would know better. Never accept anything at face value, his father often said. In this line of work, the only truth you ever really know is that the answer you're given is more often than not a lie.

More troubling, however, the question told Micah that his father knew about the house in Melbourne. At two o'clock in the afternoon, New York time, it was four o'clock in the morning in Melbourne. Micah would have to sell the Australian getaway. If his father knew, then who else did?

"And you think that wise?" his father asked, playing along now about Micah being in Brazil.

Micah smirked. As always, even with the years of training—the constant drilling, the incessant commands to do it again—his father still questioned his every move, his every decision.

Micah closed his eyes and took another deep breath. Letting it out, he remembered another of Master Sharma's instructions: If you want to defeat the god of the past, be the god of the future. A simple quote, but powerfully liberating.

He started seeing the Hindu priest two years ago, at a time when life became more than he could bear. With all of the the killing, all the lies and deceit, life became nothing more than a shallow heartbeat of a dying man. While the next beat meant more time, it also meant more time to struggle, more time to dwell on the insignificance and lack of true meaning. Master Sharma changed everything with his kind face, his kind instructions. "To be self-conscious," he said, "is to not accept the self at all." Words like that helped Micah to wade out of his mire and embrace life as it existed.

"One way to avoid your enemy," Micah said, now quoting his father, "is to cloak yourself in plain sight." His father loved it when Micah repeated back the various mantras.

"Yes... yes, it is." Through the glasses, Micah watched his father nod. "Tell me, did he cry?"

"They always cry."

The mark this time was a staff member of a United States senator. He had been down in Rio for a week to negotiate with various dignitaries from Brazil. It seemed the United States government was ready to give up on the whole cotton industry as long as Brazil would be willing to scale back on corn, a crop far more important since the midwest grew it. And with the midwest, Ohio and Michigan especially, two states with significant electoral votes, the senator's party could maintain their control. That's the way it worked, a little here for a little there. In this case, it was one crop for another.

The senator's staff member, an ivy leaguer with a weasel face, had pleaded with Micah. He promised anything that Micah wanted. Just name the price. Micah had stared at him a moment, but then pulled the trigger. There was nothing the man could have said. His fate had been sealed with the contract Micah had accepted. Do the job, and don't ask questions—another of his father's mantras.

Six hundred yards away, his father stood and walked across the living room, back through the dining room and into the kitchen. He would make himself a vodka tonic, Micah knew.

"So, what's next?" his father asked.

Micah put down the field glasses and slid open the balcony door. He picked up the M40 rifle.

"I'll do what I always do," he said. Through the scope, he spotted his father in the kitchen. "Wait for the next contract."

In his head, Micah repeated the lyrics of Peter Gabriel: One doubt. One Voice. One war. One truth. One dream.

(to be continued...)


  1. Oh, a very nice piece of writing Stephen. I have wondered all through the reading if he was going to shoot his father too, then he slid the rifle out, and then... I guess I'll just have to wait until next week to find out, won't I? :-)

    1. Same Bat Channel... Same Bat Time...

  2. Love this! Brilliant writing, kept my attention fully.
    There's an intense vibe throughout this piece, suspense woven into the darkness and coming from their even darker relationship and line of work. I absolutely cannot wait for the continuance. I wonder if his father is predictable as Micah thinks right now with that M40 aimed at his high apartment..hmm.

    1. That is a lingering question, isn't it? I'm still working on the details and fleshing out the relationships. Thank you for the comments.

  3. OMG is he going to shoot his father? Very powerful writing Steve, dark and suspenseful!

  4. really taut, engaging, gripping storytelling. I commend you

  5. Cripes, what a way to make a living. This reminded me a bit of the Bourne stories. I hope a loud noise on the street doesn't happen and wreck the little subterfuge Micah has going. Which I guess means I hope the shooting is successful.

    1. We'll see how well it goes for our lead. :-)

  6. This piece is stuffed with suspense! Will go and read the conclusion now.