© 2010 - Stephen Book – All Rights Reserved
Cindy crouched with her back against the wall, gun drawn, listening for any sound that her mark might be around the corner. No use in being stupid. Sure, death was unavoidable, but there was no point in cashing out early.
She pulled a small compact from her pocket, opened it, and angled the mirror to peer around the corner. She saw an alley, a dumpster. Her mark was nowhere in sight.
She didn’t know the mark’s name for sure. Somebody told her it was Bartholomew Helschwitz. The Commander called him the Angel of Death, a hard core assassin from Yugoslavia. With a name like Bartholomew Helschwitz? Right.
With twenty-three certified kills, the sound of his name struck fear into people’s eyes. She saw how they held their breath, as if it might be their last. Not her though. Not Agent Gooblink. She had kills, too; and if this Angel character had the audacity to come gunning for her, then it was time to give him a royal butt kicking.
She tucked the compact away and stood up. Around the corner, Cindy saw five trouble-spots where the Angel could ambush her. The first was the garbage dumpster—in it or behind it. The next two were around both corners at the far end of the alley. The fourth and fifth were the corners she just left. More than once, she saw a rookie go down because he failed to cover the back door. She reached in her pocket and sprinkled a handful of crackle glass on the ground. Her own special mixture of Christmas light bulbs painted black, it looked like gravel, but snapped like bubble wrap when stepped on.
Her back door secured, Cindy inched down the alley, gun leveled at the ground ahead of her. Her eyes darted to the dumpster, to the far corners and back again. Her arms prickled as the winter air breezed across her skin, every hair buzzing like a frayed, hot wire.
Her ears stayed on high alert. In the distance, a tinkling of bells chimed out “Deck the Halls” and Cindy almost laughed at the absurdity of it. Christmas was only a week away, and she should have been home, enjoying the season. Yet, here she was, searching an alley, a giant bulls-eye painted on her back.
A scraping came from behind and Cindy whirled around, her gun raised. It was only a stiff oak leaf carried along by the swirling air. She took a deep breath, turned and resumed the search.
Come on, Angel. Stick your head out so Gooblink can take it off.
She once asked about the code name. Why not something cool, like Moon Goddess? Ever since she was a girl, she wanted to be a moon goddess. Growing up, watching shows like The Shazam/Isis Hour had its impact. However, only the Commander issued names. Like it or not, Moon Goddess was not an option. Cindy remembered shaking her head. Such was the cost of being a woman in a little man’s world.
She stopped about ten feet short of the dumpster. The lids were down; and to make matters worse, the clouded sky cast no shadows. If the Angel was behind the dumpster, she still couldn’t tell.
Taking out the Angel was not what Cindy had envisioned for herself. She had other plans. Like being a wife. And a mom. And certainly she was both, living out life as a toilet scrubber and a home-school teacher. Still, her life worked in her favor, didn’t it? Just as she knew the Angel was supposedly a model citizen, he had to know she was a suburban homemaker with two kids. Hopefully, he would overestimate her and make a mistake.
Cindy stepped to the right, pressed against the building, and aimed her weapon at the space between the wall and the back of the dumpster. Nothing. Only the other end of the alley. If the Angel had used the dumpster for cover, then he was smart enough not to expose himself.
She stood and slowly circled around the dumpster, her gun pointed at the blind spot on the other side. Nothing there either, which left her with the possibility that the Angel hid himself inside.
She reached up and touched a grenade on her vest. With only five seconds before detonation, she would have to time it just right. Pull the pin, count to three, and toss it under the lid. Even if the Angel realized his mistake, he couldn’t escape before the device would take him out.
She grabbed the grenade and pulled the pin.
One Mississippi, two—
Crackle-glass popped. Cindy jumped around the side of the dumpster, finding cover as the Angel’s shots exploded off the metal. Realizing she still had the grenade, she hooked it toward the front of the alley. More crackle glass popped as The Angel took cover around the corner; at least, Cindy hoped that to be the case.
She waited for the grenade’s explosion, and then rolled out. Her gun raised, she fired at the first sign of movement. The Angel’s chest exploded with a crimson splatter as he took her round in the center of his vest. He groaned, collapsed, and tumbled into the alley.
Slowly, Cindy stepped over to confirm the kill.
“Let that be a lesson,” she said. “Don’t mess with the Moon Goddess.”
The Angel opened his eyes. “Moon Goddess?”
Another voice came from around the corner. “Yeah!”
A young boy bounded down the alley, pumping his fist in the air. The Commander. Cindy lowered her weapon and walked off. Over her shoulder, she heard The Angel say, “Dude, I thought your mom was Agent Gooblink or something.”
In the parking lot, Cindy’s husband stood by the car. He looked amused.
“You have fun playing paint ball with the kids… Agent Gooblink?”
Cindy unfastened her helmet and vest. “Nothing but a bunch of amateurs.”
She tossed everything into the car. “And the name’s Moon Goddess.”
This story was originally published by Long Story Short in March 2010, where it was published as the Story of the Month.