About Us

We are a group of several aspiring writers, who thought it would be fun to get together and challenge each other on a monthly basis. Judging is done by adding the total number of stars up and dividing by the total number of votes, so having the most stars or most votes doesn't necessarily mean you win, it's the overall average. Whoever wins gets to pick the subject matter for the next session's short stories. Please read each story and vote them all appropriately. The voting boxes are to the left of the page and are marked by story title. If you would like to leave a comment simply click on the story title above each entry, but please keep them constructive. Again, thanks for reading and I hope that everyone can get as much enjoyment out of this as I have.

User Directions

TO WHOEVER VISITS THE SITE WITH AN INTENT TO HELP, WE WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU VOTE ON ALL STORIES RATHER THAN JUST THE ONE YOU LIKE MOST. RATE ALL STORIES BASED ON HOW MUCH YOU LIKED THEM EACH. IN THIS WAY WE CAN GET A MORE ACCURATE TALLY FOR JUDGING THE WINNER. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR TIME AND VOTES, WE APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH.

Contest Subjects

December's subject was chosen by myself and is... "A large stone was found in the middle of a field in Iowa."

The first subject for January was chosen by Sgt. Hubbard and is... "A locked box is left to you in a will."

The second subject for January was chosen by myself and is... "A person is found in the desert with amnesia."

The first subject for February was chosen by Stan Weiss and is... "The baby sitter is snooping and finds your many passports, each with a different name."

The second subject for February was chosen by T.J. Reed and is... "Rewrite a classic monster, ghost, horror story in a modern way and include the story as the title so we know what you have rewritten."


Monday, February 20, 2012

Trinity

Trinity

 Trinity was beaming with excitement and joy as Geoffrey walked her to the door and kissed her good night. His kiss was soft and passionate like a gentle breeze she thought. It was the first date she had been on in just over two years. She hadn’t been on a date since before the twins were born and Geoffrey was everything she could have dreamed of. He was striking, tall but not too tall. He was very articulate, intelligent and a real romantic. He was also a very successful self employed , self published romance novelist. He owned his own home and had a investment portfolio. He was almost too good to be true like a figment of her imagination or something. Trinity giggled to herself  as she opened the door and stepped inside. She realized she hadn’t been this happy since……..well she couldn’t remember ever being this happy. She paused as she closed and latched the door trying to savor the moment for as long as possible. She had never known much happiness. Her life had been long and hard at least what she could remember of it. It got even worse when she became pregnant with the twins, but thankfully her friends found her and took pity on her taking her in. 
  Finally the baby sitter shattered the blissful flash with “the kids are asleep and I should be going, see ya later”. Trinity was shocked as Georgia the baby sitter tried to brush past her and get to the door. Trinity grasped her arm and said “hey I still have to pay you, why don’t you fix us a quick cup of tea and I will go and get your money”.  Georgia seemed nervous and reluctant but Trinity was adamant about the tea and pay so Georgia finally went off to the kitchen to make the tea. Trinity was stunned by Georgia’s behavior and wondered if something had happened to the girls while she was out. She doubted that but Georgia always stayed for awhile and had a cup of tea with her after sitting. Why was she acting so peculiar now? So she stuck her head in the girls room anyway only to see them hugging each other as they slept. She began to think that maybe she was just being paranoid until she opened her money cabinet and noticed a few things out of place. Someone had went through it but why? Then she remembered she told Georgia that she had some medicine for the twins cold in the cabinet in her room. ‘Shit” she thought, she had been referring to the hanging medicine cabinet by the mirror not her jewelry cabinet. Georgia had found the multiple cell phones, id’s and passports all with different names. 
  Trinity laid back on the bed and tried to think of what to do but was so scared. Her roommates would know what to do so she text them Georgia’s little discovered secret and closed her eyes hoping when she next opened them this would all have gone away. 
   Gemini was awoken by her cell phone chirping so she went over to the cabinet and got it out. She quickly scanned it and smiled to herself. Trinity was always so damned needful and never able to deal with anything on her own. The solution was simple, Georgia had to go. Gemini started to think about how to make it look like an accident. It wasn’t like she hadn’t done it before. It came with the course. The job was what it was. The glamorous term was international spy but she was really just a underpaid assassin for the government. However, she couldn’t just tell sweet little ole Georgia that now could she. She looked at herself in the mirror and laughed at that silly party dress she was wearing. Gemini started singing “Georgia on my mind” as she got undressed and headed for the shower. It helped her to clear her mind as she plotted how to dispose of that baby sitter witch. 
  Solitaire just couldn’t seem to figure out why the song “Georgia on my mind” was stuck in her head as she got out of the shower and got dressed. Then she checked her phone and saw Trinity’s message. “Oh jeez” she thought she better act before Gemini did or it would be bad. She loved Gemini and all for the things she had done for her. If not for Gemini her husband would surely have killed her with all those beatings. Thankfully however Gemini had come along and sent him to meet his maker. Randy was a real piece of work but even the devil had a maker so she guessed Randy did do. Officially it was an accident and his insurance policy sure helped her start a new amazing life. It also enabled her to reach out to Trinity when she got pregnant by some loser during a one night stand. However Georgia was not like her husband and deserved better so she got dressed and went out to have a cup of tea with her.
  Solitaire sat down with Georgia for tea. “Sorry to keep you waiting dear but I just had to get out of that dress and shower, I really feel so much better now.” She smiled at Georgia and said “sweetie did I ever tell you the story of what brought me to the lovely town of Jonesboro?” Georgia just shook her head no. Still a little nervous she was afraid to say much of anything. “Well let me start at the beginning” Solitaire said as she licked her lips and sipped some tea. “It’s a hard story to follow, but I came here after my third husband Randy died. I knew I needed a fresh start so I blindfolded myself and threw a dart at a map of the world. It just happened to hit Jonesboro of all the places in the world. So here I am. Imagine having to go through another name change because I was trying to leave my old life behind. I didn’t want any reminders of my life with Randy. The memories were too much to bare. So I had to get a new id, a new passport I mean it’s a real pain in the ass. Plus it’s not like I had to get just a new US passport. You see my papa was German and mamma was Italian. However the tale gets even more interesting. I was born in the US Embassy in Rio. So add all that up and you see the need and aggravation in updating passports. It is nice being a citizen of multiple countries. Now some time when we have a little more time I will tell you about the saga of why I was born in Rio’s US Embassy but for now you should get home before it gets too late. I gave you a little extra for taking such good care of the girls. We sure do appreciate all you do for them.” She smiled at Georgia and walked her to the door. As she closed the door she let out a sigh and wondered if they should just get a new sitter or move again. 
  As the door closed behind her Georgia let out a deep breath and thanked God. For a little while she really thought she was going to die. She always found Ms. DiDie a little eccentric but not like tonight. She always talked about roommates that where never there and now Georgia thought she understood. She also decided Ms. DiDie needed to find a new sitter. She didn’t really buy that outlandish story about multiple marriages, names and citizenship's. All the same she also figured she didn’t want to know the truth. Best to forget she ever heard or knew of Ms. DiDie. That was one mystery she did not want to solve. 
  Trinity tried to wrap herself up in her covers as she heard Gemini and Solitaire arguing about the sitter. Gemini had wanted to provide her an accident just like she had on Solitaire’s husband and the twins dad. That way no one would find out about what they had done in the past and what Gemini did for a living. Of course Solitaire argued Georgia was not deserving as such since she had been directed to the cabinet by Trinity. It’s not like Georgia betrayed them by nosing around where she didn’t belong like the last sitter. Secretly Trinity knew they both blamed her and she wrapped her covers more tightly around her hoping they wouldn’t come to the conclusion she was not needed anymore. After all Geoffrey awaited and so did happily ever after.                     

Secret Agent Man


Secret Agent Man

The evening had been perfect so far and was about to get even better as my wife and I pulled into the drive way after the ROSL fund raiser. I had been thinking about how Sharon was filling out that little black dress all night and couldn't wait to get her and that dress home so we could be alone. I had already planned the fastest way to get the baby sitter paid and out the front door so we could get comfortable. I opened Sharon’s car door and up the stairs and into the house we went; we were holding hands like two teenagers on their first date. I put my key in the lock and turned it as I shoved it gently inward and stepped across the threshold after Sharon. The front room was dark so I called out for Susie, the girl who had been watching the kids but got no answer. “What was going on”, I thought, as I flipped the light switch up and the sound of several men’s voices filled the room and our ears before the light could fill the darkness. Within seconds we were both on our faces on the living room floor with over a dozen police officers and Homeland security agents hovering over us screaming out orders and questions. Sharon was terrified and crying but I was remaining calm, well as calm as a man can with a gun pointed in his face and a knee in his back. Within a minute I knew exactly what was going on; the baby sitter had went through my closet and found my work bag and while snooping also found my passports. She had called her parents and they had called the police; it was going to be a long night.

My first job strait out of college hadn't gone quite as well as I had hoped and after a slight incident with my supervisor I ended up in county jail for almost a year on assault charges. It was during that year that I learned the lessons and made the connections that got me into my six bedroom, three bath home in the suburbs of Chicago along with the vacation house in Florida and my small collection of muscle cars and other assorted toys. My first day down I was placed in a cell with an older man that everyone just called Boog who had made his living somewhere on the wrong side of the law most of his life and from what I was hearing from the deputies he was pretty good at what he did. In that year I soaked up every piece of information no matter how unimportant it seemed and stored it away in my mind until I could get out and try it for myself. When I was released Boog gave me a phone number and a piece of paper with his real name, Everett Bollinger on it and told me if I wanted to make it big to just make the call; I did. I remember my first assignment like it was yesterday.

The door exploded from the blast of my 870 twelve gauge as I rolled into the room like something out of a Rambo movie with buckshot ricocheting and bodies dropping under their impact. I was armed with just about everything I could carry and still be able to stand up under the weight of, including a flak jacket and a riot helmet with face mask. As I ejected the last spent shell case from my twelve gauge I tossed it to the side and at the same time pulled my AR15 up from across my chest where it had been hanging from its single point sling and put it into action on three round bursts. There were at least eight in the entry way area and I could hear others running my way as I ducked and weaved to avoid being hit head on from a monster of a man. The screams and the blood were almost more than I could handle but I just kept pulling the trigger until there was no movement anywhere inside the building. After I got finished throwing up I set fire to the building and watched it burning in my rear view mirror as I drove quickly away into the night. I received $25,000 for my first job and it only took me a little under an hour to complete from the time I pulled into the parking lot until the time I pulled back out. I was hooked and after a year or so I was good at my new found profession. The travel and the secrecy had me using different names and needing different IDs for every place I had to travel and there was no lack of areas needing my expertise.

I took my job as a sub-contractor very seriously and even after fifteen years of being on the road only those who I was working for knew what I did for a living, not even my wife knew. Who would have believed me anyway; everyone knows zombies are just in comic books and the movies? I was like a superhero in my mind but to the law I was a murderer and a criminal who needed to be put away. Most of my clients were the remains of a military experiment gone very wrong. While trying to build the perfect warrior with the help of mind and body altering drugs and even multiple types of brain surgeries many of these young men had become more of a brainless killing machine like a shark than an order taking, battle ready, Special Forces type that they had hoped for. Many of them seemed like a perfect example after they were put back into action but with no warning they would change over and become a liability, a very mean, nasty, murdering liability. I never knew where I would be headed or how many of these walking dead I would be dealing with until I got the call so I was always anticipating what lay ahead. The actual eradication could be pretty intense sometimes and other times it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Believe me the comics and movies do zombies no justice; they are fast, they are mean, and they don't die easily. I have put a thirty round magazine of 5.56 into a single zombie before dropping him and that is more than a little unnerving when there are over twenty of them in a target zone and they all want to kill and eat you. More than once I found myself broken and beaten down, wondering if I was going to be killed and eaten before I could get the last one put down and the evidence torched. Torching was the only way to avoid anyone in the public finding out what had happened and who it had happened to. We couldn't take the chance of anyone finding out that our military had created these monsters and having the panic take over when everyone knew these flesh eaters were out there?

When we got downtown Sharon and I were separated and I was setting in an interrogation room somewhere in an FBI office. I was being grilled and questioned about everything from terrorist cells to radical church groups. They would get no answers from me and Sharon couldn't give them anything because she knew nothing. I figured they would hold us maybe twenty four hours and then would have to cut us loose, I was wrong. I sat cuffed to the same chair for four days soaked in my own urine and sweat. I hadn't had a drink of water or a bite of food since being brought in and I was close to falling out completely; the only thing keeping me up was the back of the chair and the constant screaming and questions. They were doing everything they could to break me and it was working. I was about ready to give in and tell them what they wanted when an explosion rocked the entire building. Within seconds there were gunshots just outside the door and the agents inside with me had weapons pulled and it was me in their sights. I was expecting the worst when the wall behind them exploded inward and we were all knocked to the ground from the pressure of the blast. Gunshots sounded and I was being lifted to my feet and the cuffs removed as I was drug through the now open door.

The five o’clock news cast stated a terrorist organization had bombed a federal building in Chicago and that all those involved had been killed during the assault; that was interesting. Sharon remembers only what I have told her. It seems after the injection she received in the van ride downtown she is blank; it did its job very well. As for me, I am on my way to Washington; see you soon.

Babysitting the Dead


Babysitting the Dead
            This is not the most glamorous job that I have ever held but it is the most meaningful. I have always wanted a job that when the end of the day came I would feel like I had made a difference; like I had really helped someone. Now I have this job. I’m a babysitter. This used to be a job designated for teenaged girls and older sisters but now it was a job that was not for the faint of heart. I babysit the dead of Crestview Falls; a small gated community nestled in the middle of suburbia. There are 20 homes under my charge with 13 occupants. All are now walkers, Z’s, Zak’s, maggot sacks, Zombies, whatever you prefer to call them. But, unlike the movies people did not just run around blasting their heads off their shoulders. No, people were a bit more compassionate you could say. Of course there were the cases of people “murdering” the infected. I did not look at it as murder, I looked at it as survival, but one day changed that. My brother and I had spent so much time fighting off the dead together, we became a well oil machine of dealing death to death. One day in a supermarket in Jamestown, Missouri he was bitten by one of the infected. I left him in that store, unable to bring myself to shoot my own brother, infected or not and then I watched as National Guards men, standing on line like a firing squad, shot him down in a hail of bullets. That is when my mind changed. That is when my eyes finally opened and seen the zombies for what they were. Mothers, Fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers…. They were all someone to someone. That is when I stumbled on this job. Babysitting the family members of Crestview Falls, to ensure that they do not leave their residences and that they are not harmed.
Today I would be spending the day with Mr. Anthony Bergman of 1123 Mason St. Before I entered the home I already knew where I would find Mr. Bergman. In the first bedroom on the right, behind a locked door, and tied to a chair. I found the appropriate key from my large key ring and opened the door. The air inside was stale and dry. Everything in the house was nicely put away; if it weren’t for the thick layer of dust that covered the things in the home, it would seem that the home was well kept. There were several framed degrees and awards hanging from the yellowing walls. Mr. Bergman seemed to be a pretty successful man. I found the key to open the bedroom and slid it into the lock. I could hear him rustling in the bedroom. It sounded like small movements so I knew that I was safe. Well as safe as a man could be in a home with a zombie tied to a chair.
Mr. Bergman was sitting with his back to the door, staring through the open window as if enjoying the sunset. He must have heard me enter the home because he was shaking himself back and forth in his chair, trying to free himself from his bonds that kept him to that wooden dining room chair. The room looked to be Mr. Bergman’s study. Each wall was lined with shelves full of books. The wall which held the window was the only wall without shelves but was instead covered with more awards, degrees, and certificates from different State agencies.
“Mr. Bergman? My name is Ernest Angel. I am your babysitter today.” I walked around to face Mr. Bergman. I have been doing this job for quite a while and there are not many sites that will turn my stomach. This was one of those times though. Mr. Bergman had no eyes, his teeth seemed to have been knocked from his jaws, and a large gapping gash spread deeply from each side of his neck. The wound looked to have been created by a rope. Most likely, Mr. Bergman had been hung or drug behind a vehicle. Like I said, in the beginning people were not too nice to the infected.
To keep my mind from dwelling on the site of Mr. Bergman, I began to shuffle through his drawers. There was a lot that could be learned about a person from the materials that lay in their drawers. Random keys to locks that would never be mated again, pens, pencils, paper clips, old batteries, and remotes for electronics that would never be turned on again. But the interesting things were in the second drawer that I skimmed through. Passports. Many different little folded pieces of papers from different countries: Mexico, Thailand, Australia, France, this list went on and on…..
Who were you Mr. Bergman?
            Behind me, Mr. Bergman seemed to struggle harder against his restraints. As if his mind was still trying to hide some secrets from a past life. The drawer under the one with the passports contained lock box. Need a key. I went back to the first drawer and sifted through the debris and found several keys that looked to be the same size as the one that may fit the lock. I tried each one until I found one that slid into the lock. Eureka! I twisted the key and the lid popped open; a small vile lay in the padded box with a small piece of folded paper. Mr. Bergman continued his fight against the ropes holding him to the chair.  I unfolded the paper. It looked to be some sort of medical report with the heading The University Medical Center Freiburg. A German university?
            I continued to read the report and could not believe the gold mine that I had just stumbled upon. There was a note attached to the report that said the following:
Mark,
Here is the vaccination. I hope that it works. I have seen the walkers that shambled the streets of Frankfurt. I will not allow my fellow Americans to share the same fate. I wish that I would not have had to retrieve it in the manner that I did, but all is fair in love and war. And that is exactly what we are doing Mark, we are at war with the living dead. Make sure this reaches the proper hands my friend and I will see you in Washington.
G.W.
Wow. Mr. Bergman was not Mr. Bergman. He was many people and was almost the savior of our nation. I put the vile back in its hard case, along with the note. Mr. Bergman was look not fighting the restraints anymore. Just staring at me through eyeless holes in his dried out skull.
“I will complete your mission sir. I am sorry it had to end this way for you. I will get this into the right hands.”
I finished my days watch of Mr. Bergman. The whole time wondering what other missions this man had completed. He seemed at peace the rest of the time I sat with him. Maybe there was a part of his brain that told him that his mission was going to be completed. No telling I guess. All I know is I have something new to babysit. Wonder what stories this job will hold for me.

Subterfuge


Subterfuge

To say that Bartleby Jones had trust issues was an understatement.  It was far more natural, and in fact safer in his case, to assume that everyone was a potential threat.  He had managed to survive in the spy game for this long, not because of his skill in warfare, but because he was so very cautious.  So, it came as a great surprise to find out that it was someone within his own household that ended his career.  And to think, just a week or so ago, his life was finally starting to look normal.

A week (or so) earlier...

A mouse scurries across the floor and instantly Bart sits up, alert.  Seventeen years of training in the field, and he still woke up, gun in hand at the slightest hint of movement.  Bart's wife Malissa was so used to his little idiosyncrasies that she didn't even twitch at his movement.  He scanned the room, methodically lowered his heartbeat, and returned the nine millimeter to it's hiding place under the mattress.
Bart lay there for several moments, staring at the ceiling, but he was unable to fall back asleep.  So he slipped into his navy blue robe and headed downstairs to the kitchen, to have a nightcap.  Perhaps some bourbon would ease his mind.  Bart poured the smooth brown liquid and two cubes of ice, into a shiny, silver coffee cup.  The cup, a gift from his father-in-law, was engraved with the words “To Malissa and Bart, may your lives be long and peaceful.”  Words which now seem all too ironic.  
As he lifted the coffee cup to his lips, he caught his nearly perfect reflection.  A smooth jawline and strong chin, marked his more prominent features.  But something was off, an Indianesque red spot dotted his forehead.  His instincts exploded into action at the same time as the cup exploded into pieces,  and he flung himself to the floor.  Tiny fragments of silver metal and glass were all around, and more than a few of them had pierced his skin.  “But hey,” he thought, “that's better than a bullet!”
Seconds later, he heard glass breaking in the living room, as gas grenades came flying into the house.  He always kept a gun stashed in each room for just such an occasion, and he headed toward it.  Under the range hood was a derringer, and he cycled an armor-piercing round into the chamber.  No sooner had he cycled the round, then a black masked face appeared in the doorway.  Two rounds entered the figure before he could react.
Bart quickly put his training to work and outfitted himself with the fallen figure's body armor and weapons.  The enemy's surprise attack had failed and now they were going to pay dearly for it.  A fully outfitted and armed Bartleby Jones entered the smoke filled living room and made quick work out of the two black clad figures that had entered through the broken windows.
One by one Bart scanned the downstairs rooms, then once they were clear, he hustled upstairs to check on the rest of the family.  Although this was the first time they had been in such a situation, the other Joneses were far from unprepared.  Bart's children, Jake and Jenny, had immediately taken shelter under their beds upon hearing the gunshots downstairs.  Malissa had retrieved her husband's nine millimeter and was kneeling behind their upturned bed, using it as a makeshift bunker.
 She fired a wide shot into the doorway, just as Bart crossed the threshold.
“Whoa, honey, it's me!”
“Oops, sorry baby.  With all that on, you looked like one of them.”  She pointed to a black clad figure lying on the ground motionless.  Apparently not all the action was downstairs.
“Alright, you know the drill.  Gather up the kids and head out the back way.  Take the van and don't stop driving until you get to the cabin on the beach.”
“But why can't I take the SUV and why can't you come with me?”
“Listen honey, there's no time to debate.  I'd love to come with you but I've got to find out how they found us, and who they are.  Malissa, I love you honey, but if they found us here, they could know more than they should.  And if that is the case, then it'll be more than just our family in danger.  I'll see you around.  If I don't show within a week, fly the kids to Uncle Carl's in Alaska.  Goodbye.”
Bart gathered up all the weapons from the fallen assassins, and loaded them into the back of his SUV, and headed north toward Washington.  He had long since broken any contact from the secret organization which employed him, but that didn't mean that he was without his sources.  Perhaps his contact in Seattle knew more about his attackers.
The weather in the city was unusually warm for May, so Bart was cruising with his windows down as he rolled into Seattle.  His contact, Giovanni, was waiting for him in the Waffle House parking lot.  Bart had called him on the drive up.
“Well I hate to say you drove all this way for nothing... but you drove all this way for nothing.    I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love to help you out but I've exhausted all my resources.  In fact I've...  What's that smell?”
Bart smelled it too.  There was a strong smell coming from his car.  Maybe because he was driving with the windows down, he never noticed it until Giovanni mentioned something.  The two of them tracked the smell down to the back side of the trunk area.  When they opened it, flies buzzed around and a much stronger smell of decay wafted out.
Just inside the trunk was the body of Stacy Rabinowitz, the Jones' babysitter.  And then it all clicked.  That's how they found the house and why Malissa wanted to drive the SUV instead of the van!  Without a moments hesitation, Bart dumped the body out of the trunk, which he knew Giovanni would “take care of,” and jumped into the front seat.  His foot never left the floor as he sped southward toward their beach house.
Bart arrived on the scene, skidding to a halt just up the street, and made the rest of the trip on foot.  He held his assault rifle at the ready, and walked in short, crouched bursts.  He had known this area very well for many years, but so did she.  A quick glance around the corner revealed what he had feared the whole drive home.
Malissa was waiting for him out in the open, but she had both children on their knees, with a pistol pointed at each.  She knew it was only a matter of time before he discovered Stacy's body.  So instead of waiting for him to make the first move, she decided to weight the scales in her favor.  Bart came out into the open too, but kept his rifle at the ready.
“Stupid babysitter, just had to stick her nose where it didn't belong.  She found all my passports, Bart.  What was I supposed to do?  My cover was blown, and you of all people must know what happens after that.  Isn't that right Mr. Spy Guy?  I've got to tie up the loose ends.”
“Honey, I've known you for fifteen years, and I know you won't pull those triggers.  Besides, your mascara is running.”
“You didn't know that I was a counter spy, and you didn't know that I've been watching you since the day you became a spy.  Now, drop it or the children will suffer for your arrogance.”
Bart complied, but before the rifle could hit the ground, he yelled, “NOW!”  The two children dropped to the ground in opposite directions, at Bart's cue.  He drew a pistol and dove to the side, firing as he fell.  Malissa too began firing wildly in his general direction.
Before they knew it, the two of them had exhausted their ammo and were locked in mortal combat.  When they had fought for several minutes, Bart had gotten the upper hand.  He had Malissa in a choke hold and her arms were pinned.  But just when she was about to break loose, a green puff of smoke appeared around their heads and both of them passed out.
Standing over their limp bodies were Jake and Jenny.  Jenny pulled out her cell phone and dialed a coded number into the disposable phone.
“Operator.”
“Failsafe initiated.  Operation Burnt Bridges successful.”

Collateral Damage


Collateral Damage

It was obvious, the babysitter must die. What was not so obvious was how to accomplish this without compromising the mission. He could shoot her, of course, but that was messy. Cutting her throat was even worse. Strangulation, perhaps? Yes, he would have to strangle her. He shuddered at the thought, a delicate little shiver that belied his distaste for the act. He wasn’t even sure that he could do it. The last time that he had strangled someone it had not gone well. Of course that had been a full grown man who had fought back. He imagined that he could still feel the pain of the victim’s knee in his groin.

 He thought of himself as a secret soldier in the war on terror. Secret because there were things that must be done but that the public did not want to know. They wanted to be protected but they required plausible deniability to be able to sleep like the sheep they were. He was the wolf in sheep’s clothing, prowling the edges of the civilized world, keeping the God-fearing safe in their comfortable homes.

 Truth be told, he was an idiot, an idiot with delusions of grandeur. By day he worked in a tiny government cubicle shuffling meaningless papers. The job was endless, stamp a paper, pass it to the next drone and another paper appeared waiting for the red stamp. He had been bored, so he joined the Organization. He dreamed of being a hero to his people, the ultimate patriot, now this.

 He and his wife returned from an evening out and that is when he discovered that the babysitter had found his stash of passports. Various names and addresses all with his photo. He had been warned of this, security was imperative and he had become complacent. Now the babysitter must die.

 This would be his second kill, his first solo. The last time he had been in the company of his trainer. They had prowled the allies of the city until they found a homeless man lying beside a trash dumpster. His trainer urged him forward and he had knelt in the dark, gloved fingers sliding around the sleeping man’s throat. With the suddenness of a cobra the drunken derelict had become a thrashing beast fighting for his life. The man’s knee slammed into his groin with enough power to bring tears to his eyes. He lost his grip and rolled in the garbage. Had it not been for his trainer shooting the man in both knees he would have failed. As it was it took minutes for the man to stop struggling and go to meet his god.

 The babysitter should be easy; after all she was a mere woman. He would walk her home and do what must be done, his handlers need never know. He could do this. If only he had put the passports somewhere other than his briefcase. But then, it was her fault. Why had she been in the master suite closet anyway? Was she merely a snoop or was she, in fact, a spy? Paranoia aside the fact remained, she must die.

 She waited patiently in the foyer, a sturdy matronly looking woman, pleasant enough, but certainly not one to be trusted with secrets. Women gossiped. Of course she would tell others. He had no choice, she must die.

 They strolled down the sidewalk side by side. She chattered but he paid no attention. He was imagining what was to come, the feel of his fingers on her throat, his thumbs pressing into her larynx, cutting off any sound she might make. He was perspiring in the cool summer night.

 It was convenient for him that she chose to walk around the house and enter from the rear. The yard was enclosed by a privacy fence protecting him from the spying eyes of a sleepless neighbor. She stood on the tiny stoop, fumbling for her keys as he waited a step below; impatient for the door to open so that he could strike.

 As she began to open the door he lunged, hands reaching for her neck. He barely touched her as he tripped on the step. His hands slid down her back as she stepped inside, all thoughts of strangling her gone as he tried to catch himself. He failed. His chin hit the doorsill with a whack that clacked his teeth together biting the tip off his tongue. Blood spurted from his mouth. He lay stunned.

 At last he lifted his head and saw the woman leaning placidly against a counter, the ugly snout of a silenced pistol pointing at his head. He shook his head in confusion. That confusion multiplied as a man stepped into the kitchen from the hallway behind the woman. Understanding followed slowly as he recognized his handler. This had been nothing more than another field test, one he had failed miserably. He groaned at the thought of the training camp in the middle of the desert, none of the comforts of home, only the trainers and other candidates for company. Martyrdom did not come easy.

 He did not die a martyr. No bomb strapped to his body exploding in a shopping mall to propel his soul to paradise and the waiting virgins. No prayers carried his name to the Creator. He died with a bullet in the brain on a kitchen floor in suburbia, far from his beloved country, in a land of infidels. But he died with a final thought, the mission was secure. Allah be praised.