The Rabbit’s Last Stand SIDEQUEST – The Short Career of Doug McDuff (Part Two)

PART ONE and PART THREE are available! Why start in the middle?

Doug lay on his stomach on the roof, empty Chinese food paper boxes laying around him. His binoculars were down and he was reading a manual on using a sniper rifle. But his mind wasn’t engaged on that.

He was thinking about last night’s disaster.

He went bar hopping, trying to forget the sock monkeys staring at him. There was no way his target was aware of him, he was certain of that. But for some reason, those pinprick black sock monkey eyes stuck in his head. So he figured the best way to forget about it was by hitting the bars and picking up some floozy.

It did not go as planned.

He did all of the right tricks. He negged them, he peacocked. He even told them that he was an assassin. Sure, he didn’t give the right details. He certainly wasn’t going to tell everyone that his target was some bitch on crutches. He said his target was a secret Chinese spy. But nothing worked. Every woman he talked to was stuck up and probably a lesbo.

Then he got a phone call and the computerized voice yelled at him for telling everybody what he was doing in all of the neighborhood bars.

He didn’t see what the big deal was. What’s the point of being an assassin if no one knows about it? All he knew was the sooner he could kill this woman, the better.

All in all, it was a rough night and was promising to be a rougher day.

He sighed. His back felt like it was baking. Perhaps he should bring a pup tent out to the roof next time, he thought. He picked up his binoculars again.

There, in the window, was a large, green patchwork sock monkey. It was holding a sign. He zoomed in his binoculars and racked focus.

The sign read, “Mrs. Bangles says ‘BANG!’”

Doug frowned and put down his binoculars. He muttered to himself, “Mrs. Bangles says…”

The brick edge of the building next to his head suddenly exploded as the bullet that nearly entered his brain ricocheted past him. He screamed.

He rolled over and looked around him. He couldn’t see where the shot came from. He looked down at Darlene’s window. The sock monkey was still there, holding up that infuriating sign. The window could not be opened and it was still intact.

She wasn’t shooting from there, meaning she could be shooting from anywhere.

A high ping of a ricochet echoed around him as another bullet almost hit his feet.

He jumped up and ran for the door to the building. Another bullet embedded itself in the brick next to the door. If he could just make it…

He swung open the door and darted down the stairs. His left foot caught on something and he flew down the half flight of concrete stairs. He hit the side of his head on the painted brick wall and everything went black.

He had no idea how much time had passed. His knees were aching and the room was still spinning. He was in the stairwell, crumpled against the wall. He rolled over.

There was a handwritten sign in beautiful calligraphy hung on the wall right next to his face. It was the same writing as the placard the sock monkeys was holding. It read, “You Should Probably Stop Now, Honey.”

Doug sat up and ripped the placard off of the wall. The tore it up angrily, then looked up. There was a concrete colored tripwire hovering barely over the third stair from the top. She drove him in that direction.

He decided then that he wouldn’t snipe her. He would kill her up close and personal.

“We’re really thinking you’re not the right person for the job,” the computerized voice said. “Honestly, we are having some doubts.”

“Well if you just told me more about this Darlene person…”

“We’ve told you all we know. She is a retiree of some kind, lives with two men who both work during the day, which is when she most vulnerable. We gave you her location, her general habits…”

“You didn’t say anything about sock monkeys!”

There was silence on the line, and then “this is why we are having our doubts. Sock monkeys should have no bearing into this job. And we’ve noticed you’re still on the roof. You aren’t seriously considering sniping, are you?”

“Look,” Doug said, “I am never going on that goddamn roof again.”

“Well, at least there’s that. We just think you may be outclassed here. Perhaps there is something our client is not telling us about her. He assured us she is harmless and wants her dead for personal reasons.”

Doug said, “Well, I want to kill her now more than ever.”

“We’re just not sure that it is such a great idea. She knows you’re here. She knows she’s a target. And she knows what you look like. Hell, you even told all those women your real name when you were bragging you’re an assassin.”

“Yeah, and if I could do it all over I would. But it’s not too late. I can get her.”

“No,” the computerized voice said. “We’ll find something different for you.”

“Oh? Like what?”

The silence on the phone was telling. “We will get back to you.”

“Goddamn it,” Doug yelled. “I KNEW it! You’re blowing me off! I’ll tell you what, asshole. I am going to complete this job. And then you’re going to pay me! Then you’ll see how good I can be at this!” Doug hung up.

He ignored the next three rings.

She didn’t leave her apartment much, Doug noted. Perhaps because she was aware of his stalking her. But she didn’t seem to be afraid of him.

She would be, he would make damned certain of that.

That afternoon, he waited in the lobby of her building. It was an opulent entryway with marble floors and a huge glass front. There was a concierge sitting behind a marble desk. After asking Doug who he was waiting for getting an answer, he steadily read his newspaper.

Doug reminded himself of what Darlene looked like. He remembered the picture stapled inside the dossier. Pretty redhead, tending towards chubby. Slightly crooked smile. Huge boobies. Easy enough to pick up in a crowd.

Once 5:45pm hit, a flood of people came pouring through the doors. It was all he could do to stay in one place. The crowd buffeted him back and forth so violently that he had a hard time keeping his hand on the gun in his coat pocket.

He was pushed forwards violently into the oncoming crowd, a searing pain stabbing into his back. He cried out and fell into a grey-haired woman who effortlessly pushed him out of the way while yelling, “watch it, asshole!”

Worrying that he was shot or knifed, he ran out of the crowd to the side of the entryway, in the corner where the open glass face of the complex and the inner wall met. Tears streamed down his eyes.

He quickly removed his coat and his gun tumbled out of the pocket. He thanked god that there wasn’t a bullet chambered and quickly threw his coat over the gun. As he did so, he saw a piece of paper stapled to the back of his coat.

He pulled out the staple. It was obviously what was stabbed into his back. The staple was long – longer than a standard staple but just short of being as long as a small nail. His back was stinging and he swore he felt the cool sensation of blood flowing down his back.

He picked up the piece of paper. It was a high quality calligraphy-class parchment. On the face was a large, delicately drawn heart made of multiple hot pink and black lines. In the middle, in the exquisite handwriting, were the words “Darling… Are You SURE You Want To Do This? I Hope So, Because I Am Bored. XOXO ‘Leen”

He looked around but couldn’t see any telltale red hair in the crowd.