The soldier studies the target’s life through the scope of a rifle.
The vantage point is acceptable, tucked into the corner of a roof on a building that sits diagonally from the target’s home.
The soldier takes his position at 1400. Waits. Watches.
Children arrive first, at approximately 1600. He’s been briefed on the mission, knows them. Michael, sixteen. Angela, ten.
Angela, ten. Brown hair. Brown eyes.
A secret smile, just like hers.
The soldier shakes his head, blinks twice. The children are acceptable collateral damage. He prefers not to kill children. It has happened before.
It’s cold. Below freezing. The children do not linger, entering their home and disappearing from view. The boy - Michael, sixteen - is briefly visible in a front window.
The name is familiar.
The soldier waits.
The target’s spouse arrives home at 1800. He walks with a limp and a cane. Inefficient. American.
Daniel Sousa, forty-nine. An agent of SHIELD. Married to the target for seventeen years.
I hope he makes you happy, honey.
The soldier fumbles his weapon. Looks around for the source of the voice. Finds nothing. He is alone. The spouse is acceptable collateral damage.
The target arrives at 2130, stepping from the back of a black car. The soldier has never seen her before. She is achingly familiar.
He lines up the shot. Tracks the target as she opens the front door. He should shoot her now. He doesn’t.
He watches instead, as she enters the living room to greet her spouse. She kisses him, and the soldier touches his own mouth, reliving something long-forgotten. She pours herself a tumbler of amber-colored liquid. He knows her drink.
Classy, that one, she’s too much of a lady for you, pal.
The soldier fights with the ghosts in his head as the target settles in next to the man who isn’t blond enough or broad enough.
He doesn’t know this woman. He doesn’t know her smile, her grace, that she’s still as beautiful as she ever was, streaks of grey in her hair and laugh lines creasing the skin near her eyes. He has no memory of her falling apart under his touch, a third companion in their bed, the way they’d lie holding each other afterward, smoking contraband cigarettes and trading stories of their childhoods.
The soldier doesn’t have a childhood.
He has a mission. Margaret Carter, founder of SHIELD, enemy of his people. An underestimated threat. Too savvy, too canny, too Peggy.
The soldier takes the shot. The bullet ricochets off the bricks above the large front window.
He misses. He never misses. There are consequences for missing.
The noise startles the couple, the target up and pulling a gun from the holster on her hip before the soldier has time to line up another shot.
(Doesn’t want to line up another shot.)
There is panic within the home. The soldier leaves the roof. He wants to be closer. He doesn’t know why.
The soldier descends the fire escape. He drops to the alley silently and begins to creep closer. He can see the house now, the front window. The target has left her husband. She is standing on the stoop.
The target has a death wish.
Goddammit Carter, get your head down!
She surveils the rooftops. Smart. Still stupid. If he were on the roof, he’d have taken the shot the moment she stepped outside.
He would have.
He would have.
The soldier steps out of the shadows. The target turns at the noise and raises her gun.
Her eyes widen.
The soldier runs.