Can you believe it’s just over a week until Christmas? Today I bring tidings in the form of a snow-filled spy fic courtesy of the wonderful Jolene Haley. Jolene’s home-genres include YA horror and action/adventure, so she was out of her depth with this one, but she nailed it like a Chinese throwing star.
Oh Come All Ye Assassins
by Jolene Haley
Merry Christmas you heartless bastard, thought special agent Mason Blackwell.
He could have been home, in Oregon with his family and his high school sweetheart (who always seemed to linger), drinking eggnog from porcelain cups.
Instead he was in some New York hotel, thirty-nine floors up, utterly alone and loading a sniper rifle.
If he got the hit done quickly, Mason could be on a plane in a few hours, to be home before the snow melted on the ground. He only went home once a year, always at Christmas, which is why he was particularly peeved at his assignment.
An assignment on Christmas wasn’t normal for him. And if there was one thing Mason hated the most, it was a change of plans. It was a bad pet peeve for a secret agent.
Mason Blackwell was born a happy bouncing baby with brown hair and crystal blue eyes. He smiled often and visitors of the child would often comment on his good looks and cleverness. In thirty years, not much had changed except for the fact that now Mason (also known as Agent 99) rarely smiled and well, now he murdered people for a living.
Most people didn’t know Mason. He was a shadow in the night. A lone figure on a building top. A figure disappearing into the darkness of an alley.
Mason glanced at the clock.
The message with his target always came in at 11:01 on the dot. Anything else meant that the mission was compromised. He watched the clock, inching closer to the phone.
Exactly at 11:01 am the phone rang.
“Yes?” Mason said.
A robotic voice was on the other end. Mason knew from experience that it was a text based computer program that read type.
“99, this evening is the mayor’s ball. Wouldn’t it be nice for a dance?”
The line went dead.
He rolled his eyes. Sometimes the company was so dramatic.
Mason hated when an assassination wasn’t just a quick shot. He much preferred the calls that detailed only a name, a place, and a time. It was easy and quick, for him and his target. Instead, giving Mason only a location meant that there were more details to come and he’d likely have to take someone out at a close range. He hated that.
Seeing the light drain out of someone’s eyes was never something to get used to.
Mason much preferred intelligence-based missions over contract killing. He could extract information from any person with ease. It was a natural born talent. Sadly, those missions were few and far between.
Tonight, he’d probably have to strangle someone or inject a poison into some poor bastard. But this was just another hazard of being an agent at the Intelligence Rescue and Observation Network, or IRON for short.
Of course they couldn’t make it easy on him for Christmas. This whole thing was just plain wrong.
Mason was already dressed to a T, with an expensive black fitted suit and shoes the color of coal. His brown hair was gelled in place and his white teeth were dazzling. He’d be the last person anyone would expect of foul play. Mason always said that any person who said being good looking was not an advantage was either lying to themselves or just plain ugly.
At six o’clock, Mason walked into a ballroom filled with hundreds of people. The floors were covered in a rich, scarlet carpet and the walls were gold with crimson trim. The rest of the attendees were as put together as the décor.
And now the part that bugged him… the wait. Until next contact, he had no choice but to observe, mingle, and meet people. Since he spoke ten different languages fluently, he could easily move between them. One minute he would be Pierre Le Fonsec De Plume, foreign royalty, and the next he’d be Barry Barnes, powerful and rich investor. People were way too trusting with the information you told them.
Mason felt a hand clutch his bicep.
Sometimes it was hard to balance his training with the real world. Normally anyone that touched him would be taken out with a swift thrust to the face. But here, in a crowded ballroom made of magnificent columns and velvet curtains, shedding a stranger’s blood wasn’t an option. He’d have to at least wait to get them in a janitor’s closet..
He unclenched his jaw, and turned with a smile.
In front of him stood a woman with golden brown hair and the face of an angel. Her dress was long, made of black lace, and hung just right on every curve of her body. Those types of girls were the most dangerous. She could be a spy—just like him, sent to distract him from his mission. She could be a fellow agent at IRON. Hell, she could be his mark.
“Yes, madam?” Mason took her hand in his, bent over in a bow, and kissed it while making eye contact.
She gave a slight smile before replying, “I saw you across the room and I had to meet you. I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Victoria Queen..”
Of course they haven’t met. It was one of Mason’s first times in New York.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Mason said, grinning.
She didn’t move. She wanted to make small talk. Mason did not mind chitchat, but not while he was waiting for a sign.
Just keep walking lady,
Mason thought. But no luck. She stood her ground.
“Are you from New York?” he asked to be polite, but made a point to look around as if he was looking for someone. You know, the way people with manners say, “fuck off.”
She didn’t answer his question. Instead, Victoria Queen held out her arm. “Would you like to dance?”
A smile spread across his face and Mason was torn between feelings of flattery and annoyance. Women. They could never resist him in a suit. Too bad Victoria wasn’t finding him at an airport bar or something. He’d dance alright, horizontally, until the early morning. But they weren’t at some dive bar and Mason was on official IRON business. Now wasn’t the time for distractions.
“Thank you for the offer, but I’m waiting for someone. A date.” He gave her a fake grin and spun away to keep looking around.
She leaned in, placing her hand back on his arm. “Don’t be a fucking liar, 99. It’s the mayor’s ball. Wouldn’t it be nice for a dance?”
It didn’t really matter who Victoria Queen was before that moment. But once those exact words left her mouth, she was much more. She was now a sexy walking and talking information database that knew about him and his mission. He needed to find out more about her.
Mason’s left brow rose. “I’d love to dance.”
She grabbed his arm and led him to the dance floor. His arm snaked around her waist, pulling her close. Mason led but only because Victoria let him.
Mason inhaled the scent of lavender that emanated off of Victoria’s body. She was mesmerizing to him in more ways than one.
“So?” Mason started, whispering into her ear, while keeping his eyes searching around the room. Sure he wanted to know what she was doing here, but Mason knew one thing: something felt off. IRON would never send an agent to him in person. He usually just received a sign of some sort or a coded message.
What exactly was Victoria Queen’s game?
“Listen very closely, 99. In a few moments a man in a red tie will walk past us while we dance. He will smile in your direction and then disappear up the stairwell. It’s not a chance encounter. Tonight, you’re his target. And I’ve been sent to save you.”
Mason blinked, trying to keep his feet moving while he wrapped his brain around Victoria’s words.
Ten years with IRON, and all of a sudden they want to take him out? Assuming it was true and Mason was a target, this Christmas could be his last. He shook his head to will away the idea of his family having Christmas day dinner without him.
Fuck that. Mason wasn’t going to die. He would save himself, just like he always had if an assignment went awry. Victoria seemed like she was there to help. But was she really? What if Victoria was full of shit? He needed to be careful. There were a million reasons not to trust her.
“Why would I be someone’s target?” Mason asked. “I haven’t compromised any information, I’ve followed every rule, and I’ve always done exactly what was asked of me. So what’s going on, Victoria? You’re doing to need to give me a little more information.”
Victoria’s skin glowed under the lights and her dazzling smile almost made him forget what a serious situation he was in. She took her time, but finally answered.
“That’s a great question, 99. Why would you be a target? Who exactly did you piss off?” Her expression changed from playful to dark in a moment. The smiling woman’s eyes had turned from playful to passion, treachery, and secrets.
Sure Mason had killed a lot of people with targeted hits, but they were controlled and calculated. Hell, those orders had come directly from the company! Was someone in his agency responsible for designing some type of sick game where the lion becomes the lamb?
Mason chewed his bottom lip as he tried to figure out Victoria. A color caught his attention.
A man with black hair walked past the dancing couple. He was wearing a red tie with his otherwise black ensemble. As he passed, he made direct eye contact with Mason, gave a smile and a wink, and headed up the stairs.
Victoria had seen the man too. “Believe me now?” Victoria said with a smirk.
“So, who exactly are you?” Mason asked. “Why would someone be after me? Why are you even here?”
Victoria shook her head. “Why are all the pretty ones, little idiots? Don’t you see? We’re on the same team, Mason. I’m here to save your ass. So excuse me when I say suck it up and let’s go pay a visit to the man in the red tie.”
Victoria broke away from Mason and he followed her up the winding grand staircase.
They worked quickly and methodically, both clearing each room for the other assassin. So far, all five rooms upstairs in the left wing were empty.
Mason stared down the hallway at the right wing. The man that would try to kill Mason would be discovered in the next five rooms. Mason swallowed hard and shook his head. He could not believe that something like this could happen to him.
Let’s get this over with.
Each room was cleared on the right wing, except for one; the men’s bathroom.
Mason reached into his jacket pocket for his small, trusty handgun, and slowly opened the door, his heart thrummed against his ribcage. Even though Mason had faith in his abilities, the fact that he was a target was unnerving him. He couldn’t make his pulse slow down. Nerves meant mistakes, and Mason wouldn’t have it.
Mason plowed through the door, startling the man he’d seen downstairs, who was washing his hands at the bathroom faucet. Mason had his gun raised. This man sure didn’t look like some contract killer. In fact, with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and hands raised in the air, he looked like he was anything but a secret agent.
Moments later a woman’s voice rang from behind Mason.
“Lower your weapon.”
Mason turned his head back to see Victoria standing behind him, gun aimed at his head.
What the fuck.
Mason had to decide. Who was the bigger threat? Mason swiveled his body around, aiming his gun at Victoria. The man in the red tie ran from the room, cowering and whimpering.
“You,” I whispered to Victoria.
She smiled and slowly nodded. “Silly boy. Don’t you know better than to trust a complete stranger? I mean, how easy were you trying to make it for me?”
“But what about the man? The red tie? The wink?”
Victoria shook her head. “It’s called intelligence and observation, 99. That man was the mayor’s brother. I got here early to meet him and noticed he was greeting and winking at all the guests. He was easy bait.”
“Why me?” Mason’s eyes were darting back and forth between Victoria and the room. There had to be a way out.
“99, there are so many reasons for this but we don’t have time to go into it. Since you pulled a gun on the mayor’s brother like a genius, I’m betting we only have about three minutes left before police storm in.”
There were no large windows in the bathroom and nothing nearby that Mason could knock over to startle Victoria. There was no clean escape route except to run directly over her. He needed a plan, and he needed it now.
“What do you want, Victoria?”
“You, Mason. Don’t you get it? You’re my mark.”
Mason shook his head in disbelief. “After everything I’ve done for IRON. I can’t believe this. Let me go, Victoria. For all you know, you could be next. If they can turn on me, they can turn on you.”
Mason needed to keep her talking and distracted. Sadly, Victoria, didn’t take the bait.
A troubled looked flashed across her face, if only for a moment.
“One,” She started.
Mason could shoot her and hope she didn’t have time to pull the trigger herself. That was a tough plan, because most agents were sharp shooters.
Assuming she was only counting to three, Mason didn’t have much time left. His eyes worked from side to side. Shit. Shit. Shit.
“Merry Christmas, you poor bastard,” Victoria said.
Mason lunged at Victoria as the sound of her gun pierced their ears.