The Witness

The Witness (A Short Story by Tyler Scott Hess)

The hair is perfect. The shades fit right. The beard is fine. I can do this.

I pull my jacket over my shirt and adjust the collars to look like the man they expect me to be. Eighteen months of training comes down to this. Time to go.

My hands don’t sweat like they did when I first started at the academy. I used to get nervous, I’d clam up, and I would shake every time I held my weapon. Only my commanding officer knows how close I was to being dismissed.

Everything changed that first time I was in combat training. The rush made everything so real to me. My senses heightened and my focus was like a laser. I no longer knew fear, only adrenaline, urgency, and the ever present sense of kill or be killed. Then training ended and I was left to wait for real action.

They sent me up north to a satellite house overlooking the city. Six long months I’ve been perched up on the mountain, waiting for my number to be called. Today I see if my training was worth the investment they made in me.

I step outside the cabin and smell the fresh morning air. Things feel different when they are more likely to be the last time you do them. No one knows when their day and hour will come, but agents know when they’re in for a long day followed by a short fight for life.

I don’t take a car or motorcycle into town. I do nothing that can leave a trace of my existence on this planet. No one will know my name. I will be seen, but no one will think anything of me until the event. Then everyone will be looking for me and no one will find me.

It’s a cool day in October. There aren’t many like it, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Perfect day to commit a crime. Everyone else will be too busy enjoying life to bother with the intentions of the evil minded.

When I enter the city I realize how different things look from the outside. It’s the details that stand out. Yellow leaves litter the streets while grime flows into the sewers. This town is rank with critters that belong in the wild. The people have a look that gives them away. They’re aware of their condition, yet find no way to overcome it by themselves. They are a town of villains with no heroes. It’s perfect.

The noon hour approaches and the people find their way out of their businesses and homes for lunch. Most criminals avoid places where there’s too many people to see them in the act. That’s why most criminals get caught. They don’t understand how people work. Crime demands distraction.

Now is the time to find my target. I pull out my tracking device and signal back to headquarters. They need to know if I’m able to carry out my mission. I won’t let them down. I’m not going to be a waste of their time.

I end communication and trace the steps I need to make to reach my destination, ignoring the smell of this wretched city, and locate the target. It’s an old bank, not yet closed down, but running low on importance in a town with so few economic advantages. The brick exterior is covered in soot from last year’s fire season. Repairs were deemed impractical. Damage left security breaches that only a select few could possibly know about and understand how to take advantage of the situation. I’m one of those few.

I see a young woman standing in the doorway, her long thin body draped by a shimmering yellow dress, ideal for the situation. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she will be my partner in today’s transaction.

I walk up to the doorway and whisper into her ear. She nods her approval and makes her way to the teller. She slips him a piece of paper without a word and waits for him to make his move. Another woman approaches me as I stand idly by the doorway. I can tell she senses something is wrong when I dismiss her, saying I’m waiting for someone.

My partner turns around to wink at me. She knows the deal. This isn’t her first time. The teller returns with a large duffle bag. It’s full and the weight is a burden on his shoulder. He motions to his supervisor to unlock the door that safeguards him behind bulletproof glass. She walks over with the key, but hesitates when she sees a crowd rush into the bank.

“I can’t with so many people here,” she tells the teller. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Just do it, Catherine,” he barks. “We’ve come too far to stop now.”

My partner reaches for her purse. I reach behind my belt. The supervisor jiggles her keys into the doorknob. The teller brushes her back and runs past her toward the exit. I knock him flat on his back while my partner pulls out her gun.

“Stay on the ground!” I shout with my foot tightening its grip around his throat. “This is your only warning.”

“Take it, take it, it’s all yours. Just let me go.”

I motion for my partner, who snags a pair of cuffs and wraps them around his wrists behind his back.

“It doesn’t work like that,” I tell him. “Take him away, captain.”

“You got it, partner,” she tells me. “Nice job with the take down. They trained you well. I’ll keep that in mind next time we have a job for you.”

My partner slips me a piece of paper before hauling off the rogue teller. My next assignment. I thank the supervisor for her work as the other agents clean up the mess. Now I’ll be headed to the next town where no one will know my name. Just the way it ought to be.

The End

The photo for this cover is a derivative of “surprised man” by Flickr user Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography, used under CC BY.

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