The snow was cold and wet as Hannah trudged through, ankle deep. She wasn’t used to snow at Christmas time. Russia was a far cry from her Australian home. Sleigh bells sounded and the faint Christmas music from the nearby strip of shops was getting softer as they moved further away.
Beside her, Stephanie nudged her in the ribs and raised her eyebrows.
“What?” Hannah asked, trying to remember what Stephanie had been saying a moment ago. Steph rolled her eyes and smiled,
“I asked you what was happening with Ian. Are you guys still doing the break up thing or what?”
Hannah sighed and shook her left leg, trying in vain to disperse some of the water collecting on her pants.
“I told you, I just don’t feel a connection anymore.” Hannah pulled out a pair of binoculars from her pack and Stephanie turned to face her, walking backwards.
“What does that matter? Just have some fun.”
Hannah rolled her eyes and scoffed.
“I’m not that kind of person. I want something meaningful.” She looked behind Stephanie and nodded towards their target’s meeting spot. Steph turned and Hannah handed her the binoculars.
The two sat at the observation station and Stephanie pulled the binoculars to her eyes, following the target on the ski slope below.
The Russian Politician was selling secrets detrimental to Australia’s National Security and Hannah and Stephanie were reporting on a transaction with an unknown buyer.
Hannah pulled out another pair of binoculars and tried to focus on the target. They sat and watched silently, waiting for the buyer to appear.
“Is it just me, or is this the most boring assignment ever?” Stephanie asked, exhaling loudly. Hannah chuckled,
“Steph, this is our first assignment unsupervised.” She heard Stephanie snorting next to her and she smiled behind the binoculars. The target sat and drank a cup of coffee and Hannah took a deep breath, feeling the cold.
“It’s cause we’re girls isn’t it?” Stephanie asked. Hannah laughed,
“I think it’s because we’re green, not girls.”
“Just you wait. At least one of us will be running CGT in ten years’ time.” Stephanie said, shifting in her spot. Hannah started to reply when she saw the Politician stand.
“Here we go,” she said. They watched as the buyer shook the targets hand and Hannah lowered her binoculars, pulling out their known buyer’s photo list. She scanned through their options before she came across a man listed simply as ‘The Mercenary’.
“Got him,” she said. Stephanie lowered her binoculars for a moment and glanced at the photo. She nodded then raised them again.
“They’re sitting down but the target hasn’t pulled out the papers yet.” Stephanie said as Hannah pulled out her encrypted phone. She dialled their agency contact and waited for verification to go through.
“Carmichael, give me good news.” Their supervisor, John, barked down the phone line at Hannah and she rolled her eyes.
“Eyes on the target, the buyer just arrived. Confirmed by both agents that the buyer is ‘The Mercenary’.” She said, using her right hand to raise her binoculars and watch the two targets talking below.
“Have they made the exchange?” John asked. Hannah waited a moment and watched as the target pulled out a large yellow envelope and placed it onto the table.
“In the process now.” She said, hearing the urgency in her voice. Silence on the other end of the line added to her panic and she lowered her binoculars, looking over to Stephanie.
“New orders coming through Agent Carmichael.” John said finally. She straightened,
“Take out both the target and buyer in the interest of National Security.” John’s voice was cold, with no emotion. Hannah was new at compartmentalizing, but something felt odd about his instructions. She tapped Stephanie on the shoulder and she lowered her binoculars.
“What?” Steph asked, shaking her head. “They’re doing the exchange now, what is it?”
Hannah swallowed the lump in her throat and lowered her voice.
“Orders to take them both out.” She said, feeling her words stumbling. Stephanie’s eyes widened and they sat silently for a moment.
“Carmichael!?” The sound of John yelling through the phone snapped Hannah back to focus and she cleared her throat.
“Affirmative. Instructions received, stand by for confirmation.” She put the phone on mute and turned back to Stephanie.
“I can’t..” her voice trailed off and she took a deep breath. “I didn’t realize it would be a…” With her sentences fragmented, Stephanie gave her a soft, sympathetic smile. She quietly reached into her pack and started to unload a long range rifle.
“When did you pack that?” Hannah asked, looking back through her binoculars at their targets, the exchange almost complete.
“They told me to add it into my pack just in case.” Stephanie said, finishing setting up the shot and the angle.
“What about wind direction, or, or..” Hannah stopped talking as she spotted the small flag three feet from their target. They had already set it up. This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.
Hannah felt her breathing slow as she watched their targets, waiting for Stephanie to pull the trigger. A teenage boy appeared next to the Politician and Hannah ripped the binoculars away, facing Stephanie.
Before she could say anything, two shots echoed through the white fields. The sound drowned out the nearby Christmas bells as Hannah felt the world slow down. Turning back to the scene below, Hannah raised the binoculars and watched as the teenage boy hovered over the Politician, tears streaming down his face.
They had killed the boy’s Father.
Stephanie reached for the phone in Hannah’s hand as she kept watching the chaos below.
“The target and buyer have been eliminated.” Stephanie’s voice next to Hannah felt a million miles away. After a moment of silence, Stephanie took a sharp breath.
The sound of her name sent her heart slamming into her chest. Stephanie had just confirmed that Hannah had been the one to take the shot. Hannah lowered the binoculars and stared at Stephanie. She was frowning and listening for further instructions then nodded in the direction of their car.
Hannah felt numb as she pulled herself away from the scene below and moved quickly to their vehicle. They told her the first one would be difficult, but she didn’t feel prepared. She didn’t think she would ever be prepared for her first real kill.