There went four hours of his life. Read a book, page through a magazine, nap, do whatever necessary to occupy himself in one of those times where there was nothing else to do but wait. Charles carried his overnight bag down the length of the bus and climbed down the steps. The driver was busy removing luggage from the undercarriage hold and several passengers waited patiently for their bags. Travelling light had its rewards and Charles walked away having everything he needed. The smell of diesel was everywhere and it would be nice to exit the terminal and breathe air with a few less fumes.
But first, a quick stop at the lockers. Charles fished a key out of his pocket and looked at the number on it; number fourteen. He looked at the tags of several doors before he located the locker and inserted the key. Inside he found a little bag like a shaving kit. Charles unzipped the bag and took out a piece of paper with the address of a hotel and a room number and a plastic access card. Putting both items in his pocket, he zipped up the kit and put it into his overnight bag. Now where was the hotel? A map of the area was mounted on a wall in the waiting room and a quick look showed it to be merely a block away.
Charles walked out the front door of the terminal and turned right. Ah, that air was certainly welcome after all those exhaust fumes. Taking a couple of deep breaths, Charles looked around. There were a fair number of people walking around; the traffic was certainly thick and there was the general din of honking horns, conversations and other assorted noises of the big city. He smiled slightly thinking that the city always had a certain energy to it. Unfortunately he was only staying overnight for a business trip so he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of his visit to see very much of the city. Maybe next time. Charles headed off down the sidewalk towards his hotel.
There was a small grocery store in the middle of the block. Out front a couple of tables displayed a variety of fruits and vegetables. Charles stopped and looked down at the apples. He saw the word Macintosh and examined the fruit under the small hand-written sign. He selected one and stepped into the store. Holding onto his bag and the apple with one hand, he dug around his pocket and pulled out a bill. The older woman behind the counter took the bill and made change. Charles put the change in his pocket then unzipped the bag and put the apple in it. He walked out of the store. Just another of a million transactions which happen each day in the city.
When Charles walked into the hotel, he only took a moment to look around and spotting the elevators off to one side, he immediately walked to them and punched one of the buttons. He rode up to the fourth floor as per the instructions and used his plastic pass card to gain entrance to room number 434. It was clean and fresh. Not fancy but it certainly gave a sense of cleanliness. Charles took off his shoes and left them at the door. He put his bag on a small table beside the television set meant for luggage then went into the bathroom to wash his hands. He took a hand towel from a stack of clean linen. Hesitating a moment, he splashed a little cold water on his face with one hand and wiped it with the towel. He carefully hooked the towel over the linen bar.
Going back into the room, Charles looked at the clock. It was ten forty-five. He could catch the news at eleven. He opened his overnight bag and hung up the clean shirt and pants he had brought for tomorrow. He stripped off his clothes and also hung them up.
Charles took a pillow from the bed. The heating unit at the window looked like it would do the trick so Charles put the pillow on the floor then lay down. He positioned his rear end on the pillow and hooked his feet under the edge of the heating unit. He did thirty sit-ups then paused looking up at the ceiling. Charles rolled over and did twenty-five push-ups. He stood up and did some stretching exercises. He touched his toes and then bent left and right at the waist. He alternated these two movements several times. Then he got down on the pillow and did another set of thirty sit-ups, rolled over and did another twenty-five push-ups. Charles stood up. He touched his toes again then bent over at the waist to stretch his lower back.
All in all, it wasn’t much but Charles had found over the years that a daily regime of these few exercises meant he avoided any back problems. He thought of a recent newspaper article extolling the virtues of doing a few exercises labelling most people’s lives in these modern times as sedentary. Charles smiled. Even if what he did wasn’t much, it probably still put him ahead of the majority of people but just because they did nothing at all.
Charles went to the bathroom and showered. The hotel offered a bathrobe and slippers so he took advantage of this little luxury. He went back to the main room and turned on the television set. He dug his apple out of his bag and washed it in the bathroom. Moving a pillow to the headboard, he propped himself up in bed then with the channel changer hunted for the eleven o’clock news. He bit into his apple with one hand as he clicked the remote with the other.
After ten minutes of headlines and international news, the show turned to local news. Charles turned off the television set and got up. He threw the apple core into the waste basket then proceeded to fish through his bag until he found a pair of latex gloves. He put them on before pulling out the kit he had picked up in the locker at the bus station. Sitting at the writing desk, he unzipped the kit bag and laid out its contents: a Beretta M92, a suppressor, a cell phone, a pile of bills clipped together, two subway tokens and a piece of paper with a telephone number. The gun would be untraceable. The cell phone would be a temporary purchase. And the phone number would be recently set up under a false name to another temporary cell phone. It was only to be used in case of emergency but there would be no emergency. Once the operation was over, the gun, the phones and the numbers would all be thrown away. The hotel room had been rented by somebody else. After Charles left, somebody else would check out of the room.
Charles carefully examined the gun. It had been recently cleaned; a professional had made sure it was in good working order. He looked at the silencer and was satisfied everything matched his specs. He wiped the hotel access card on his robe then put everything back in the little zipped bag and slipped it in his overnight bag along with the latex gloves. Picking up the menu card, he read over the breakfast selection for room service then filled out the card for coffee and cereal plus milk with a delivery time of 6:30am. He got up and went and hung the card on the outside door handle of his room. He played with the radio clock and set the alarm on it for 6:20am. Just to be sure, he phoned down and asked for a wake-up call for the same time. When you have an important appointment, it pays to be sure you are not going to be late.
Charles brushed his teeth and urinated. He knew he would probably have to get up at least once during the night but hopefully this would delay him having to get out of bed too soon because of a full bladder. He checked the thermostat then turned out the lights and climbed into bed. He stared at the ceiling in the semi-darkness listening to the muted din of the city. It was late but there was still the occasional car horn. Despite the silence, he could detect this dull background roar, the constant noise of the city with its millions of inhabitants all living their lives, doing stuff, talking and making noise which added up to that constant buzz.
The phone rang. Charles picked up the receiver then immediately put it back in its cradle. He pulled back the covers and rolled over to sit on the side of the bed. He paused a moment letting the cobwebs of sleep dissipate a bit. He punched the off button for the radio clock; he didn’t need it after all. The time read 6:22am.
Charles got up and put on his robe and slippers. He got out a five dollar bill and put it on the corner of the writing desk. He picked up his overnight bag and took it into the bathroom. Coming back out, he glanced at the clock. It said 6:25am. Room service would be here any moment. He pulled the door handle to release the lock then left the door propped open on its lock. He went back to the bathroom leaving the door open just a crack and went to fiddle with the shower. With the water running, he stood at the sink so he could better hear somebody knock. He brushed his teeth.
The knock was quite audible even over the sound of the running water. Going to the crack in the door, Charles spoke loudly, “Come on in.” Charles heard some muffled response.
“Leave the tray on the desk, please. There’s a tip for you,” said Charles.
Charles heard a voice say, “Thank you sir.” He kept his ear to the crack listening as the waiter walked to the writing desk then came back, went out the door and shut it. Once Charles heard the click of the lock, he shut off the water then came out to get his breakfast. He put his overnight bag back on the luggage table.
The tray held a little pot of coffee, probably enough for two or three cups. Charles poured a little milk into the cup then filled it up with coffee. He sat there enjoying the moment, his first cup of coffee of the day. Just relax, move slowly, and let the caffeine slowly work its miracle of waking up the old noggin and getting those neurons firing again.
Charles poured a second cup noting that the cup like most hotel room service cups was small so would one consider it more of a half cup? He stood up and walked to the window. Pulling back the drapes a bit, he looked out onto the roof of the low building next door. The hotel was 10 stories high but it seemed many of the buildings in this neighbourhood were only two or three stories. It made for an odd contrast.
Charles took his time. He discovered the waiter had also left a newspaper so he ate a bowl of cereal hunched over the writing desk reading the front page. He had placed the bowl on the paper itself and shifted its position as he worked his way through the various articles. There wasn’t anything specific which caught his eye. The world was a big place and there was a lot going on. Anybody would find it difficult trying to keep up with everything.
Charles had a third cup of coffee while looking at the editorial page of the newspaper. He ofttimes found some good opinion pieces which analyzed what was happening behind the scenes in some of the bigger stories. Finding out the backstory to a major event could be very interesting.
Charles finished his coffee and like clockwork, had to take care of his daily business. A couple of cups of coffee and a bowl of cereal and he was primed to go. Sometimes Charles joked about this by saying that he wasn’t a fancy guy, no; he was just a regular guy. Okay, not a rip snorter but it usually elicited a smile. Heck, can everybody be as funny as a professional comedian?
Afterwards, Charles shaved and got dressed. He took out a fresh change of underwear and socks then put on the extra shirt and pants he had brought. Carefully he folded up his used clothing and put it in the overnight bag. The time was seven thirty.
Charles poured another cup of coffee. He lifted the lid on the pot and looked at what remained. Hmmm, he could get four cups out of this. Standing at the window again, Charles sipped his coffee and stared at the urban landscape idly thinking about the rest of his day.
Charles snapped out of his reverie. The clock now showed seven forty. He went and brushed his teeth then picked up a towel and systematically went around the room and the bathroom wiping anything he may have touched: the TV remote, the breakfast menu card, the clock radio, the sink and taps, the furniture and finally the room service tray and its items. It was more than likely unnecessary but old habits die hard. He walked around making sure that he had not left anything which belonged to him. Satisfied that everything was in order, Charles picked up his bag and left.
Charles took the stairs down to the lobby but instead of going through the lobby, he exited through a side door. The less anybody saw him the better. Anonymity was the name of the game and with modern times and closed circuit television recordings, it didn’t hurt to avoid the main areas to not inadvertently leave one’s face behind for somebody else to find.
Charles turned right and walked a block to the subway. He used one of the tokens from the zipped kit and took the eastbound train. He rode three stops then got off. Before even coming to town, he had received complete instructions about the job including pictures and a map. He researched the geography on the Internet and memorized street names, the subway lines and looked at pictures of the various buildings. Even though he had never stayed in the hotel, he knew everything about it including its layout and its exits.
Walking up the stairs from the subway, Charles walked to the corner and crossed the street. He walked down four doors and arrived at a condo-apartment building. Number 2843; this was the place. Charles pulled open the door and walked into the foyer. Just at that moment, a woman was coming out pulling a little shopping cart. Charles turned away as if he was studying the list of names but just before the door was going to shut, he grabbed it and walked into the building.
The elevator was straight ahead but Charles went to the left to take the stairs. He walked up to the third floor and pulled open the door. He looked to the right and the left. The hallway was deserted. He let the door close then put down his bag. Reaching into it, Charles took out the latex gloves. He pulled them over each hand and stretched the ends over the cuffs of his shirt. He got out the gun and the suppressor and fixed the silencer into place. He took a last look at the gun to make sure it was ready then opened the door and strode down the hall to apartment 32. He knocked on the door while holding the gun out of sight. On the other side of the door, Charles heard a voice say, “Yes?”
Charles knocked again. He then heard the chain being removed. Charles brought the gun up and held it with both hands as he aimed. The door opened to reveal a woman in a bathrobe. Charles squeezed the trigger and there was a quiet pop. A dark red circle appeared in the middle of the woman’s forehead and she collapsed on the floor. Charles pushed the door open and stepped into the apartment. Somewhere there was a radio playing some soft music. He gently shut the door.
“Honey? Who’s at the door?” A man’s voice came from down the hall. Stepping softly, Charles went towards the voice. Just as Charles arrived at a bedroom, a man was coming to the door. “Who could be coming around at this hour?” The man’s voice became louder and more distinct as Charles got closer.
Charles had already raised his arms and was pointing the gun straight at the man. There was just once brief instant when the man saw Charles and realized Charles had a gun and was pointing it at him. “Oh,” said the man. It was almost as though he expected this. It was as if he knew exactly what this was all about and there was nothing surprising about finding a man with a gun in one’s apartment.
Charles squeezed the trigger and once again, there was a quiet pop. A dark red circle formed in the middle of the forehead then the man folded up in a heap on the floor. Charles went back to the door of the apartment. He stepped around the woman then shut the door listening for the telltale click of the lock. Walking deliberately back down the hall, he pulled open the door to the stairwell. He took the suppressor off the gun and put the pieces back in the kit bag. He stripped off the gloves and put them in with the gun then zipped up the kit and put it in his overnight bag.
Charles walked back down to the lobby and exited the condo-apartment building. He walked back the way he came, crossed the street and went into the underground to take the subway back downtown. Returning to the bus depot, he used his key to open the same locker and put the kit bag containing the gun and suppressor back. He used a tissue to wipe the kit bag including the zipper handle. Charles went to the waiting room and looked at the clock. It showed nine thirty. The bus left at ten so he went to the restaurant counter and ordered a coffee and a toasted bagel.
Charles found a vacant seat where somebody had left a copy of the morning newspaper. He crossed his legs and laid the paper out in his lap as he proceeded to eat his bagel and sip his coffee. This only worked so well. Newspapers were just so tough to deal with unless you had both hands free or spread it out on a large flat surface. He had seen some people able to neatly fold a large newspaper into these thin strips as if you could read one column of the people at a time. However Charles had never mastered such a technique and usually fumbled around with the paper. Of course, trying to eat a bagel and sip a coffee at the same time didn’t help.
The P.A. system announced his bus. He folded the paper and left it on the chair for somebody else. He picked up his bag and walked out to the bus. He pulled his return ticket from a side pocket and showed it to the driver. There weren’t too many people so he managed to find a seat towards the back where the place beside him was free. Good, he could leave his bag on the seat. That way he could get out his book if he wanted to read. But maybe he would nap. It was a four hour ride home and there was plenty of time to kill.
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