Carlo pulled back on the bolt and heard the bullet click into place. His sniper rifle rested perfectly against his shoulder. A natural extension of his body. Peering through the scope, his target moved right into the crosshairs. It was easy. Well, should have been easy.
Six months ago, Carlo was on a routine assassination. But on the flight home, he was seated next to the most enchanting woman he had ever met. Julia–Jules– as he would soon call her. Despite the little voice in Carlo’s head, telling him his lifestyle was not conducive to romantic relationships, he couldn’t stay away. Jules had a way of bringing out the good in him; good he never knew he was capable of.
After two months he told her what he did for a living. And to his surprise, she did not run away. In the sixth month Carlo was ready to quit and leave with her.
However, even men like him had to answer to someone, and he was not as enthusiastic.
“Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” Carlo asked.
“There is one last target. If you complete this hit, you’re free to go.”
The next day, the all-too-familiar chime on his phone signaled an incoming target. Carlo had been sent the name and picture of the person he was demanded to kill. Carlo’s hands shook for the first time since he took up this occupation. The picture was of his precious Jules. The phone rang shrilly and he answered it with a hoarse voice.
“Hello, Carlo. I trust you received your next target. Don’t get any crazy ideas about running away together. There is nowhere on this earth out of my reach. Her death in that instance would be much more painful than a bullet from your rifle. Am I understood?”
“Yes,” Carlo said.
“You have twenty four hours.”
That brought him here, to this rooftop with his Jules in the crosshairs of his gun.
The bluetooth set in his ear beeped. He pressed the button and the same dreaded voice filled his head.
“Don’t get cold feet, now. I am watching, and if you back out, I’ll finish her… and you.”
Helicopter blades thundered, and a moment later a chopper rose from behind him with a gunman sitting inside the open door.
“You have ten seconds.”
Ten seconds. That was all she had left.
Nine. Could he really kill her?
Eight seconds left. He was in way over his head.
Seven. Maybe he could get to her in time.
There was a storm drain running down the side of the building that he could slide down.
Three. He was on the ground and running to her.
Two. “Jules, run!”
She saw him, but a moment too late.
The shot came from above his head, and she dropped to the ground before his eyes.
He had lost her.
Everyone involved in her death would pay.
Carlo now had a new target.
Carlo refused to cry. The love of his life was dead and he would not mourn until her killer was brought to justice. He clenched his fists and rose from his knelt position over Jules’ grave.
“Carlo Capelletti, may I have a moment of your time?” A stranger said.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“No, but I have a proposition for you.” The man was in his late forties; aviator sunglasses hid his eyes.
“I don’t have time for this.” Carlo swore in Italian, his native language, as he did often. Who did this guy this guy think he was talking to? Obviously Carlo’s bulky, muscular appearance, slick black hair, and sharp jaw line didn’t intimidate him as it did every other sane human being.
“I think you’ll want to hear what I have to say. It’s about Julia.”
“She’s dead, or could you not tell by the grave?” Carlo pointed to the fresh mound of dirt.
The man nodded once as if Carlo’s words were not news.
“If you’re interested in what I have to say, come to this address tomorrow night.”
The man handed Carlo a scrap of paper with messy handwriting then started to walk away.
“I don’t even know your name.”
“You may call me G.”
He had no intentions of going. G—what kind of name was that anyway?
Carlo was not a man given to curiosity, but something about the whole situation wouldn’t let him walk away. He had to know if the guy was legit or just full of it. He had to know what he knew.
So Carlo went to the address, but not without certain precautions: a pistol on his hip, a knife in his boot, and a sniper rifle hidden in his black Buick.
Rottweilers barked viciously as he approached the enormous house. G seemed like the type who took crap from no one. The house was surrounded by security cameras, fences, and guards who escorted him across the premises. What did the man do that required all this?
A knotted firmly planted itself in Carlo’s stomach. He also wasn’t a man given to superstitions. But something didn’t sit well with him, and somehow he knew that things would end badly for him. But still, he had to know.
Once inside, Carlo was instructed to wait in the “living room” which was twice the size of any normal one.
A moment later, G emerged and sat down.
“I’ll get right to the point Mr. Cappelletti. I would like you to come work for me. I’m in need of a certain set of… skills.”
“You’re offering me a job?”
“Do you even know who was actually behind Julia’s murder? The man at the top?”
The question caught Carlo off guard. Something that didn’t happen often. There was no need to answer; G knew he had no idea.
“The fact is, I do know who is responsible, and I can put you in a prime position to take him out.”
I wasn’t always like this—the stone cold assassin I am today.
I used to smile, used to love, used to live.
She was the one who kept me on track; the one who saw the good in me when no one else could.
But they asked for it when they took her from me.
Because when you cut off the medicine, the deadly force comes back with a vengeance.
Carlo crept into the dark bedroom of his New York apartment, lit only by the glow of the moon coming through the open window.
Someone was there—he could feel their presence, thick and palpable.
He saw her scarlet lips first, then the rest of her silhouette stepped into the moonlight.
“I love you, Carlo,” Jules said, “sleep now…”
Carlo awoke the next morning alone, accompanied solely by his unrelenting question: Was it a dream, or could she really be alive?
Dear My Sweet Jules,
I don’t know if you will ever be able to read this letter. But I need to write it, regardless.
I saw you last night, here, in my house. It could have been my imagination, and maybe I was dreaming… but I don’t think so. You were here, I know it.
How it was possible, I have no idea. I watched you die with my own eyes. Murdered mercilessly, while I was helpless to stop it. I held your limp body in my arms.
I broke that day.
You are why I am even alive. Before you found me, I was lost. I was a ruthless killer with no reason to behave otherwise. But you gave me that reason—a light to a man with a pitch black heart. You saved me.
So how am I supposed to move on, if you are not alive? I would have run away with you. Would have left behind this life of misery and death, and given you everything you could ever need. I would have stood by you, comforted you, protected you.
Protect? I guess I failed you there. And for that, my love, I am so terribly sorry.
Like I said, if indeed you are gone, how could I live with myself if I did not make sure your murderer was brought to justice. All my leads have run dry. The man I thought had the answers…I don’t know if he’s telling the truth. The man I thought was responsible for your death…he seems to be innocent. I don’t know who to trust anymore. I am running out of options, and I don’t know what to do next.
But… and this is the key…
What if you are alive? What if I only thought you were dead, or your death was faked? That would be an incredible light in my, once again, dark world.
I will never stop hoping. Never stop looking.
I love you… Even death cannot change that.
So come back to me.
Carlo laid his fountain pen on his mahogany desk, folded the letter, and wrote Jules’ name on the front. Propping the letter on his night stand, he turned off the lights and laid down in his half-empty bed.
Carlo slept soundly, and woke the next morning with a peace he had not felt since Jules was still with him.
On his night stand, the letter sat open with his fountain pen laying next to it.
At the bottom of the page, the words “I love you too,” were written in Jules’ perfect handwriting.
Julia sat on the windowsill in Carlo’s bedroom, gazing at the sparkling night skyline of New York City.
Carlo was asleep in his bed, unaware that she was there, or even alive.
He had fallen for the same rouse his former boss had. But that was the whole point, wasn’t it? Make them think she was dead, Carlo gets free from his life as an assassin, and everyone goes their merry way.
She had help from a man known as G. G had a professional interest in Carlo, and Julia needed G’s help. She assured G that Carlo would do anything to get revenge once she was “gone,” and G would have no problem recruiting him. And so their little alliance was formed. G supplied the drugs to slow her heart, the bullet proof vest, even fake blood to make it look like she had been shot. G could not understand why she would risk them shooting her in the head instead if the chest. But that’s love; sometimes you have to risk everything for that one person who becomes your entire world.
G paid off the coroner to lie on her death certificate, and then gathered her unconscious body before they buried her casket. As long as no one dug up her empty grave, everything would be fine.
Julia had to wait until she knew it was safe before confronting Carlo. She couldn’t do it yet because her “killers” might still be watching him. But she could not bear to see him in pain any longer. She had to at least let him know she was alive. That was why she visited him the other night, and why she was here now.
But the moon was high in the sky and she would need to leave soon. The thought sunk daggers in her chest. Reluctantly rising from her post by the window, she walked to his bed and watched her love sleeping peacefully. She desperately longed to hold him again–if just for a moment.
“Soon,” she quietly promised him–and herself.
Julia turned to his nightstand and re-read the letter he had so eloquently penned.
“I love you too,” she whispered as she wrote those eternal words at the bottom of the page.
Carlo pulled in a long gulp of his black Italian coffee and feigned interest in the newspaper that hid his face from view—all but his eyes, which were simultaneously aware of the cafe’s entrance and his mark seated two tables away.
His person of interest had ordered his usual, a breakfast blend coffee and toasted bagel, but something was wrong.
Carlo had been doing this long enough to know when he’d been made.
The man abruptly rose from his seat, coffee still steaming and bagel untouched, and nearly tripped in his haste to reach the exit.
If Carlo was going to make his move, it had better be now… time for breakfast.
“Talk to me!” Carlo yelled, spit flying in the man’s face. He was a nameless assassin, not too unlike Carlo not too long ago. Carlo had the man tied in a chair with his arms behind his back.
“I’ve told you everything I know. It’s not my fault you can’t comprehend English.”
“The intel I saw was undeniable. Dathan Castero was the one who ordered the hit on my girlfriend, and you were the one to carry it out.”
Jules. Maybe if he had just left instead of thinking he could negotiate with the type of people who employ hitmen, maybe he’d be lying on some tropical beach off in the middle of no where with the love of his life instead of here, alone. He should have talked to her about what he was sooner. Should have been honest from the start. If only they’d had more time…
But that was irrelevant now.
“What intel would that be?”
“Photos, bank accounts, recorded phone conversations. It was all there.”
“All where? Conveniently gift wrapped and delivered to you in order to illicit exactly this response. Tell me, did the one who gave it to you want something in return?”
Yes, Carlo thought. He no longer knew who to trust or what to believe.
“It wasn’t me, man. I don’t know how to prove it to you, but I do know where Dathan will be tomorrow night.”
“Do your worst, you have no power over me,” my long-time enemy said in a serene voice after taking a gun-butt to the face.
“It was always you, Dathan… this vindictive nightmare was all orchestrated by you,” I said.
“Carlo, let’s be reasonable.”
“Don’t speak; your sly words will not get you off the hook this time.”
“You say I’m the vindictive one, but which of us is holding the gun? You don’t want to do this; you don’t want to kill me,”
I pressed the gun barrel harder against his temple, and said, “After what you did to Julia, you would dare to tell me what I do or don’t want?”
“I’m offering you an olive branch here — I know my word means little, and you would just as well end me, but she is indeed alive.”
I wanted to doubt him, to repay to him all the agony he was due, after quenching the only light in this dark and undeserving man’s life.
Yet that little voice in my head whispered unceasingly, “What if…”
My first instinct was isolation. After a hit as big as this one, anonymity was essential to survival. I found a perch, as I always do, and continuously scanned the blacktop below for any sign of pursuit. My lookout was an abandoned terminal, the vast windows of its bridge overlooked the runways and airplanes waiting for takeoff. The terminal was dark and blocked off by security, which wasn’t a problem for me, obviously, but would prove inconvenient for any pursuers. I could also see the travelers crossing the fully-functioning bridge in the terminal across from mine. Though without knowing what to look for, they would never spot me. The perfect perch.
My hands twitched in their barrenness. They were incomplete without my rifle. I felt vulnerable without it and the comfort the scope brought to my ever scanning eyes. I would have make do watching the old-fashioned way.
My plane from DC to New York was already boarding. The last thing I needed while being hunted by Detective Foster was to be confined to a cramped plane with no easy exit while people were pouring in. No, I would stay hidden and board at the last possible moment.
Movement on the bridge parallel to mine caught my eye. Foster. He was here quicker than anticipated. Frantic, he zig-zagged in and out of passengers.
I stood stone still. Waiting. Barely breathing.
Foster stopped mid-stride.
“What are you doing, Foster?” I said in a whisper.
He turned toward the window with his hands cupping his eyes to better his vision and stared across the way, directly at where I was perched. We each held our gazes for a second, like counterparts on opposing fence-lines. Even from this distance, I could register the realization on his face.
My feet took off before my conscious mind decided to run, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him do the same, direct mirrors of each other.
I was out the door in five strides and was deposited into a stream of passengers. Security was alarmed at the sudden outburst, but I was lost in the crowd before they could pursue. I dodged businessmen on cellphones, families on vacation, suitcases, children, and the little motorized carts. People jumped out of the way as I passed, some yelled profanities, while others just stood gawking. This game of dodge-the-crowd was taking much longer than I could afford.
“Carlo!” Foster shouted from behind. He was gaining on me, but my gate was just ahead. They were already starting to close the ramp. I fished my boarding pass from my pocket while I ran.
“Hold the door!” I yelled as I neared the gate.
The attendant scanned my pass and I slipped through, sneaking a glance behind me as it closed. Detective Foster’s face filled my view before the doors sealed me inside.
I could hear his muffled voice on the other side of the closed door.“I’m a detective and that’s my suspect. Let me pass.”
No doubt he flashed them his shiny badge.
“I’m sorry sir…” was all I needed to hear of the attendant’s response. Foster was a little too late, once again.
On this joy-filled day, in the midst of all the chaos surrounding us, the day our lives eternally join, maybe just this once, we could let the rest of the world fade away, with all of its problems and concerns, its twisted violence and corruption. Just for today, let’s just be us. Perhaps the corporation hunting you, the people trying to kill me, the war and politics of it all, will give us this one dance, one moment, one breath, to be eternally each other’s. And if they don’t, I vow I will still be here by your side, to run, or fight, or face the world.
Together. Forever. Yours.
Love now and always,