Incident at a Belfast Snooker Hall by Nigel Parry-Williams

It had been arranged for Jimmy to meet his Intelligence Corps contact  in the snooker hall that evening at 21:00 hours.

The bastard was late.

Jimmy had another look at his watch and decided to go in rather than wait outside in this sodding awful rain.

It was almost as dark and dreary inside as it was on the pavement. The Side Pocket on Silvertown Road was new to Jimmy. During The Troubles the British Army switched venues regularly as the Boyos had an almost telepathic ability to know what was going down, where and when.

“Christ, what a dump!” thought Jimmy, as his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom and he took in six full-sized snooker tables stretching away down the long, narrow hall.

He walked towards the flimsy bar at the far end where a middle-aged man was reading Sporting Life and sipping a glass of stout. The manager looked up without much interest and returned his attention to the runners and riders at The Curragh tomorrow.

Apart from the two of them, The Side Pocket seemed deserted and silent.  Jimmy stopped alongside Table Three when his attention was grabbed by the sound of an avalanche of coins, and an accompanying yelp of delight. 

Then Jimmy saw for the first time a figure with his back to the room, playing the slots beside the bar and dancing a little jig of delight at his windfall.

At first Jimmy assumed this must be his contact until he realised with a start that Corporal Evans had  soundlessly materialised at his side.

“What the fuck!” said Jimmy. “You scared the bejaysus out of me! Where’d you come from?”

Evans grinned. “Outside, you berk. Come on, Jimmy, rack ’em up. Let’s look busy.” 

Accepted protocol was for informant and contact to spend time creating the impression they were old mates before they got down to business. They chatted a bit and Jimmy was about to cue off when the two men entered the Side Pocket.

The sudden blast of cold, damp air which accompanied their arrival made Evans glance round. When he turned back, Jimmy saw the pure terror in his eyes.

It said that he and Jimmy were dead men.

The newcomers  advanced silently up the hall, identically dressed in shabby leather coats, pulling on black balaclavas. The taller of the two swung an AK 47 from under his coat and there was the unmistakable gritty, metal-on-metal scrape of the gun being cocked.

Without taking his dull, lifeless eyes off Jimmy’s, he peeled off and stopped six paces away and raised the rifle to his shoulder.

Jimmy tried to make the sign of the cross but his arm wouldn’t obey and hung limply by his side.  He was vaguely aware of Evans whimpering as the other gunman made his was towards the bar, screwing a silencer onto a Browning 9mm.

He came to a stop behind the lucky gambler, still absorbed in counting his winning, and shot him four times in the back. Then he turned on his heel and without looking to left or right, retraced his steps towards the exit.

He hadn’t got far before the downed  man started to moan, so the gunman went back and shot him until the Browning’s magazine was expended.

“Now it’s us,” thought Jimmy and prepared himself for a burst of 7.62 full metal jacket. “Come on then. Get it over with,” he said.

Lizard-Eyes was still giving Jimmy the evils and there was a sadistic pleasure in the way he gently eased off the safety.

Jimmy saw his nicotine-stained index finger with its chewed nail gently squeezing the trigger.

As time stood still, Jimmy was aware of a sardonic grin showing through the hole in the balaclava, although the eyes remained as dead and implacable as ever.

“Bang!” said the gunman as he pulled the trigger on an empty chamber, and nonchalantly strolled out into a rain-drenched Stewartstown Road.

“I think I might have pissed my pants,” admitted Jimmy.

“Well, that’s nothing,” said Corporal Evans. “I know for sure I’ve shit myself.”

Flawed by Nigel Parry-Williams

It was the Brit’s first US assignment,

He’d killed for money on five continents, but never before had been asked to eliminate a target in North America.

When the call came the Target was nothing special: a businessman in the Mason Building near Wall Street.

He’d checked out the architectural plans and knew the specification of the corner office window and extrapolated the weight of the bullet needed to shatter it. Not puncture it but demolish it, so he’d get a clear shot at the Target’s head.

The Savage Model 26 he’d chosen was an over-and-under: 12 gauge lower and 30-30 upper, with a Zeiss optic.  He’d bought a box of Sierra .223 in self- discarding sabots and one of 12 gauge slugs.

The Savage would fold into a sports bag, with – a cheeky touch – a brace of racket handles in the barrels, sticking out of the end.

He’d found the ideal firing position in a suite closed for remodelling, overlooking the Target’s office 132 yards away.  He zeroed the piece in the Connecticut woods and went back to NYC.

The Target was in his office until at least seven o’clock and the redecorating crew snuck off early for the weekend, so the coming Friday was The Day.

 

The Brit stood in the street outside the Mason Building reading a paper, checking once again the position of the Target’s office, remembering the Yankee habit of calling the Ground Floor the First Floor.

Then he collected his sports bag from the locker in the subway hall and at 5.15 pm and walked up the fire stairs to his firing point.

He pulled a heavy desk into the centre of the room, opened the window a touch to give him an unobstructed shot, set up his lightweight bipod and settled behind the Savage.

One hundred and thirty yards away the Target sat in his high-backed chair looking out over the financial district puffing on a large cigar.

The Brit loaded the Savage and got himself comfortable, steadying his breathing and reducing his heart rate.

Then the door to the Target’s office opened and his secretary walked in. The Brit exhaled gently and relaxed.

Less than a minute later she walked out again, but the Target didn’t swivel back into view.

The Brit watched the smoke wafting up and considered a shot through the chair back, but knew even he needed a clear shot.

Eventually, the smoke went out as the target finished his cigar and pivoted back into sight. The Brit went through his highly disciplined routine and once his breathing, pulse and vision conjoined in perfect harmony, the 12 gauge slug was on it’s way.

The huge corner window of the Target’s office disintegrated inwards and the man hardly had time to look surprised before the .223 bullet hit him.

 

It ripped into his left eye and out of his disintegrating skull before passing through two walls and lodging in the solid oak cocktail cabinet of a VP two offices away.

Ten minutes later the Brit was lost in the rush hour crowds on his way to the East River where he got rid of the sports bag and its contents.

That evening the channels were full of news that a prominent businessman had been assassinated by sniper. At noon next day, the Brit rang his client.

“Job done.”

There was a long pause.

“The job is not done.”

“What are you talking about? It’s on the news!”

This time the pause was even longer.

“The job is not done. You shot the wrong guy.”

“Now, wait a minute!” He never made mistakes. “You  must have given me the wrong information. Mason Tower, corner office, facing the intersection of Wall Street and  East 6th. Fifteenth Floor. Correct? ”

“Yeah, but you killed the guy on the floor below. The Fourteenth.”

“That’s impossible. I counted the floors up from street level. Twice!”

This time the pause was almost interminable.

“You dumb limey bastard. Office blocks don’t have 13th floors. Some people think it’s bad luck.”

And the line went dead.