The Final Countdown

Today, Malmö

Michael lay back on his firm hotel bed and stared up at the ceiling, making random patterns in the cracks of the paintwork. It had been a straight forward job for his first attempt, going much more smoothly than he had anticipated. It would not be too long before the body was found, but he should be making his way back home to Edinburgh before then.

He had flown to Copenhagen ten days ago and undertook all the tourist activities expected of a week in the Danish capital. He then took the bus over the bridge into Sweden, choosing Malmö as his base. His contact agreed to meet in Ystad, providing the full details, weapon and deposit. Full payment would be made upon completion and confirmation of the job.

Michael stood up from the bed and wandered over to the window. The sky was clear, with only a few clouds in the warm July sky. In the distance he could see the impressive construction which was Malmö’s Turning Torso. His own gut was starting to feel a twisted pain as the memory of the previous day absorbed in his head.

Yesterday, Ystad

He had taken an early train to the small town of Ystad, keen to get a feel for the place before his midday meeting. He crossed over the railway tracks and headed for the tourist information centre. He collected a map of the town, but passed on the offer of joining the Wallander tour, stating that he wanted to walk round and see the sites at his own pace. The café where the meeting was taking place was right next to the tourist information centre, a public place for a very private discussion.

He had two hours to kill, so made his way through the main shopping street. There was a market in the square where he stopped to buy some fruit to help settle his stomach, having foolishly skipped breakfast at the hotel. As he sat to eat his fruit, Michael started to mentally plan the kill. He was proficient in most firearms, strong physically and most importantly he was smart and street wise. His one concern was he was far from the comfort of his home city of Edinburgh, where he knew every street and each escape route in times of trouble.

The information that he had been provided had been kept to a minimum, however, he knew the area of Ystad where the event was to take place. Michael decided it was worth the risk to get familiar with the streets before he knew which particular house he would have to enter in the evening. He wouldn’t be able to finalise his plans until he knew the exact house, but it was worth investigating potential areas to hide or escape from.

The neighbourhood showed some obvious wealth, large houses with high walls and gates. These posed little barriers to Micheal who was trained in scaling walls much higher than these. There were few people around, just some locals going around their daily business blissfully unaware that an assassin was walking past them. A small group of German tourists were following a tour of locations around the famous local television show that had proven popular in their own country.

Satisfied that he had learned a sufficient knowledge to assist with his work, Michael headed back towards the cafe and his meeting. The sun was out in full and the temperature had reached the mid twenties. His contact would be wearing a baseball cap with a small Swedish football team’s logo on it. Michael spotted him inside the cafe reading a local newspaper.

Michael ordered a coffee and sat across from his contact. He smiled ironically as he watched the contact eat a blue ‘Polis’ cake which was the cafe’s speciality. He barely acknowledged Michael, his focus on his cake and his newspaper. Finally, he finished the last mouthful of cake, drained his coffee cup and folded the newspaper. He reached under the table and passed over a backpack to Michael.

‘Everything you need is in there’, he began. ‘There’s a mobile phone in the bag. If you send the confirmation, the rest of the cash will be waiting for you at the train station within 10 minutes of your message.’

With that, the contact stood up and left the cafe. Michael finished his coffee, replaced his sunglasses and headed out. He noted that the staff took no notice of him or the contact. Michael knew the contact had wealthy employers and suspected that some of the money must have reached Ystad.

Michael walked along one of the main shopping streets of the town and found his way out of the centre. He wandered along to a quieter district and found a small square with a few empty benches. He sat down at one, confirmed that no one was nearby and opened the backpack.

He removed the mobile phone, checking the contacts section which had one presaved number. Satisfied, Michael placed it into his pocket. He opened an envelope without removing it from the backpack and calculated that it contained 20% of his fee. Michael removed a smaller envelope and opened it. The address was typed with a simple instruction ‘between 17:00 and 18:15’. A single photograph of an adult male was also enclosed, Michael memorising the subject’s features before returning it to the bag. Finally the backpack contained a gun, loaded with silencer attached. It was the same model that he had completed his training with, a weapon he knew inside out and was completely comfortable with.

Michael stood up from the bench, again noting that no one was around. Most citizens were browsing the shops or sitting in the restaurants of the town, leaving Michael to walk around undisturbed. He looked at his watch, it was now approaching two o’clock in the afternoon, he had a minimum of three hours to kill.

He decided that it was best to return to his disguise of tourist and made the twenty minute walk out to the Film Museum on the outskirts of the town centre. The museum was small but he managed to waste an hour and a half round the exhibits and watching some of the filmed programmes in the mini cinema. Michael made sure he took plenty of photographs to blend in with the other visitors, in which there were few during his time there. The museum was getting ready to close when Michael made his exit.

Michael headed back to the town and stopped at a cafe near his assignments location. It was a small cafe that only had two other people in it, whom were in deep debate over something or other. Michael took his coffee to the rear of the cafe where he could prepare in peace.

Keeping a close watch on his surroundings, Michael checked the gun. The small clicks it made as he checked it over was covered by his fellow diners, whose debate had now reached an argumentative level. Fortunately for Michael, it was friendly going by the occasional laughter by each of the participants. Michael finally realised it was regarding rival football teams.

The next hour passed at an incredibly slow pace, but Michael remained focused on the job in hand. He reconfirmed the location of the house and started to check his escape plan. He had three routes available and had picked numerous locations where he could blend in should he need to lie low. He had already memorised the train times back to Malmö. Satisfied with his preparations, Michael set off.

Today, Malmö

Michael checked his luggage once more. His flight back to Edinburgh was not for another four days. He had decided that his flights in and out of Denmark had to be a suitable distance in time from the kill. He had decided that he would check out of the hotel today and move to a new location. Back to Copenhagen would be the obvious choice.

Michael went back to the window, alerted by the sound of police sirens. He glanced down from behind the curtain and spotted five police officers, four had came out from cars and the other stood by their motor cycle. They were all in conference and seemed to be indicated towards the hotel.

Decision made, Michael grabbed his luggage which consisted of a small carry on suitcase and a backpack which still contained the gun. He had purchased a new backpack, having cycled out into the Skåne countryside that morning and burnt the backpack, clothes, and envelope with instructions from the previous days activities.

Michael headed down the stairs and walked through the front lobby as the Swedish Police entered the hotel. He had a large digital SLR camera and he feigned checked photographs on the small screen as he walked passed the police officers. He immediately headed to the train station, checking train times as he entered. The next train leaving was heading for Lund and he decided to take that one. He would need to keep low for a day or so and plan his next move.

Yesterday, Ystad

Michael arrived at the location without incident. He wandered past the house and was glad to note that there was little security for him to navigate past. Despite the famous local crime drama, crime itself was low in these parts.

Michael prepared himself as he turned and headed back towards the house. He was around 100 metres away, plenty of time to get himself mentally to his ‘evil place’. He had made the decision that he would never know the reason behind the kill requests. He had learned that many clients were happy to share this information, but Michael chose to remain in the dark. In his mind, the target had committed crimes against children. It was his way of dealing with what he was going to do. He was confident that this strategy would work in reality, as well as it had worked during his training.

Michael placed the gun in the small of his back, under his t-shirt and entered the large garden. His instructions had confirmed that the target would be alone, which proved to be the case. He sat on a sofa in his living room, the television playing noisily in front of him. The noise proving cover as Michael entered the room.

Once aware of Michael’s presence, the man started to rise in horror. Michael’s first shot stopped him in his tracks. It had landed in the centre of his forehead, sending him backwards towards the sitting position he was just vacating. Michael emptied five further shots to the chest, even though he was satisfied that the job was completed with the first bullet.

Michael took three photos with the mobile phone and retreated from the house. He had been in for less than 90 seconds. His route back to the train station took him through the busier streets, arriving as the train pulled up to the platform. His contact approached him and handed him a small plastic bag with the rest of his fee cleverly disguised within a cake box. Within an hour, Michael was back in his hotel room in Malmö.

Today, Lund

‘This is getting too close’, Michael said out loud as he paced his hotel room. The hotel was a little out from the town centre, but his nervousness was on full power. He had given away too much information to the taxi driver, telling him without thinking he was over from Edinburgh. He tried to redeem himself by explaining he was travelling around Skåne on a photography tour, but he failed to sound convincing even to himself. Word would be around now of the dead body and no doubt taxi drivers were alerted to look out for suspicious behaviour.

Michael approached his window once more. It was now late in the evening and darkness had fallen. He kept both the television and the lights off, pacing around the room in complete darkness. The gun was again in the small of his back, he would have to dispose of it before he returned to Copenhagen.

Sirens in the distance once more startled him. The gun was causing discomfort, only surpassed by his mental torture he was feeling. The sirens were getting closer, they were on to him. Michael pulled the gun out and checked it over. It was reloaded and ready for use.

Michael moved away from the window into the darkness of the room once more. More sirens, getting louder. The first kill was always the toughest, the one that would remain in the memory. The second kill was easier, that’s what his training taught him.

He lifted the gun to his temple and placed a trembling finger on the trigger. He was about to squeeze when his phone vibrated. It was a message with a website link to a news story.

Michael placed the gun down and sat to read the article. It related to a successful businessman with connections in Africa. The story claimed that the businessman had been involved in the trafficking of children from Africa, via Sweden to Eastern Europe. No direct evidence could be found and the police had failed to investigate.

Michael could not be sure that the businessman was the same person he had taken out the day before, but it was close enough. He walked back to the window.

The police sirens had faded, his paranoia passed. He would keep moving until he could get back to Edinburgh.

Perhaps he was suited to the profession after all.

The End

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