Phil had hardly slept the past two days.  He tried to sleep on the plane but spent a lot of that time reading the assignment and figuring out how he was going to get it done.  He had never been asked to do anything like it before and nearly everything he lived for was riding on it.

Phil had never been to Vienna before and did not want to seem like a tourist so as soon as he landed, he took a taxi to a hostel near the subway station.  He laid all of his things on the bed.  The room couldn’t have been bigger than two prison cells put together.  There were no decorations or vibrant colors other than the hints of burgundy in the comforter.  The assignment began at the subway station so he memorized the route on the map and walked the journey twice for practice.

By the time he was comfortable with the streets of Vienna, he still had a little time to spare before meeting with the Brown Recluse.  He lay down in the hardened straw bed at the hostel and almost fell asleep before he could set the alarm.  It seemed like he closed his eyes, took two deep breaths and the alarm was going off already.  He really needed a full night’s rest but the 45-minute nap gave him just what he needed to make it through this mission.

When he got to the subway station, a train had just arrived and passengers were streaming out of the narrow doors flooding onto the concrete platform.  Through the masses of people, all just heads and eyes, bags and suitcases, Phil saw her.  She was taller than the average woman, but much of that could be attributed to her high-heeled shoes.  Her chocolate-colored coat reached to just above her knees; below that her black skirt reached to just under her knee before her freshly shaved legs could be seen.  She walked in a circle, switching up directions every second or third rotation.  He didn’t want to startle her but did want to make himself known.

 “A wise man once said, ‘It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely,” Phil said to her.

“And a wise man Albert Einstein was,” the woman responded as she turned to face him.

Her face was ageless and vaguely familiar.  She didn’t wear much makeup - light eyeliner, some blush, and a dull pink lipstick.  Were it not for the emerging crow’s feet in the corners of her eyes, she could easily have passed for thirty years old.

“Albert Einstein is the man who said that,” she reinforced.

Phil stuttered, “Y-Y-Yes.  I’m sorry, yes.  Albert Einstein.”

“Are you okay?” she looked concerned.

“Yes, I’m fine.  Are you the Brown Recluse?” he asked.

      She confirmed that she was and he gave her the first half of the merchandise and informed her that they had to walk to another location to get the other half.  When they arrived at Donaupark, the Brown Recluse went into a nearby restaurant to use their restroom.  He waited on a nearby park bench for her return.  Numerous thoughts ran through Phil’s mind as he waited.  Instead, the next time he saw her, she was crouched in the restaurant window pointing a gun at him.  Phil became alert like never before as adrenaline pumped through his veins.  His heart was beating rapidly and there were moments when he lost his breath.  He thought, for sure, he would have a heart attack.

“What have I gotten myself into?” Phil whispered to himself.

 Phil knew that he was in a life or death situation.  Given the circumstances, and being in a foreign country, he never imagined he would be in this situation.  His life flashed before him as he rolled off the bench onto the ground, and then scurried behind a nearby tree.  As he rolled off the bench he heard glass shatter, and some of the glass hit him.  Bullets flew past him. 

He pulled a gun out of his pocket and a smoke grenade from the other.  The shooting paused for a few seconds but Phil could tell that she was still hiding in the restaurant.

With his right hand, he pulled the pin on the smoke grenade and tossed it perfectly into the window of the restaurant where the Brown Recluse was kneeling.  He couldn’t see her through the clouds of smoke but had a good view of the front door and she hadn’t wandered that way.  There were no other exits on that side of the building.  Then he saw something.  He wasn’t sure what it was - it could have been the Brown Recluse, it could have been a napkin, it could have been one of the overturned restaurant chairs falling to the ground - but he saw it and he started shooting.  He opened his first round in that direction and heard a grunt.  He had hit her.  He knew his shots were close so he aimed a few feet higher, a few feet lower and fired off three more rounds.

Everything was still.  There were no more gunshots and the smoke was starting to clear.  Phil snuck up to that restaurant window from the side with his gun still drawn.  As he peeked in, he saw her body lying still on the floor.  She had two bullet wounds in her - one in her chest and one in her shoulder.  He wiped off the gun, took off his trench coat, and threw them all in a trashcan before taking a picture of her dead body on his phone and disappearing into an alley.

 

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