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Bones in the Forest

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Chapter 1 - Death of a hit man

Billy Benson sat on an upturned milk crate. He unconsciously twiddled his thumbs. He contemplated the situation.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Constant tick, tick, tick.

This was the final morning he would have to watch and wait and be patient. There had been too many delays, whether planned or unexpected that had left him with a limited number of days in which to put an end to the job. His schedule buffer, based on the premise that there is always enough time to do it right, had been exhausted. So in effect the task needed to be finalised that morning. It was time to move on. It was the morning he was to do it. His instincts had settled and he was ready.

He gazed around the basic one bedroom apartment as a way to maintain the calm and concentration his task would require. Without the comfort of furniture and personal belongings, the apartment was devoid of homeliness. The living room was a dim area regardless of the amount of natural light available. Lit only by the spill of city lights through the sliding glass balcony door the room was cast with long eerie shadows. The air was always chilly and humid. The walls throughout needed a coat of paint, the floor new carpet and the bathroom was in grave need of renovation, but he didn’t care. He picked up his coffee cup from the floor and took a sip of it to check its temperature.

Arrrhhh, it was good.

He slurped a mouthful through the hole in the lid and savoured the rich blend of beans. Like most people he too needed a stimulant every day to wake him up. Coffee did it for him. He also needed steady hands. One cup of coffee was good. Two would be too much.
Benson checked his watch.

Still too early. With a glance at the windows he saw it was also predawn. Not quite there. But time was fast approaching for him to prepare.

Billy cast a quiet gaze down his attire. He was dressed as in black cotton hoodie and jeans and work boots. Nondescript clothing because he needed to be able to slip discreetly into the background to escape the scene unnoticed. Any witnesses who would speak to the police wouldn’t mention him as he would be hidden in the shadows. The invisible man was his ideal.

He reached to and picked up his cell phone that was receiving any audio the surveillance bugs transmitted was on the floor between his feet not picking up much. The apartment across the road had audio bugs installed in every room. Presently the smart phone was only receiving the intermittent sounds of two people sleeping. One of them occasionally snored. Benson knew it wasn’t the visitor who snored.

It was time to prepare.

Benson rose effortlessly from the milk crate, left his phone on it and stepped closer to the open sliding glass door to study the apartment across the way. It was still in darkness. If all went according to plan, in another few minutes the bedroom light in the apartment would come on. Like every other morning, Billy would hear his target rise out of bed to face another day. He would use the bathroom as he mumbled whatever thoughts came into his mind. After two months of listening and observing, Billy knew this guy inside out. The audio bugs planted throughout the apartment had been more than enough for Billy to familiarise himself about how this man ticked. Following him about had taught him a lot more. He had his evidence, his justification for the taking the man’s life.

While he waited Billy mentally stepped through the procedures he planned to follow from the moment he stepped out on to the balcony to the second he would use the rifle to terminate the target. The second portion of the plan was to retreat inside the apartment, disassemble the rifle into its nondescript case and walk from the apartment for the final time. It was a simple assignment that had taken surveillance, planning, patience and time. It would all be over in a matter of minutes and once it was over, he could commence the new stage of his life.

As he drank the coffee, and right on schedule, the bedroom light came on.

The target was awake.

A smirk spread over Benson’s face in partial amusement at the predictability and timeliness of the occupant. In exactly eight minutes the mark would be on his treadmill for his daily run. Benson had been timed and jotted down the habits of this man on numerous occasions.
He waited.

Minutes later, Benson tipped what was left of the coffee down his throat in gulps then did away with the empty take out cup by tossing it into the duffel bag that he would take with him with he left the apartment. He listened to the target move about the apartment and get ready to exercise. Benson felt a light buzz of anticipation inside his gut. He welcomed than feeling. It was almost time.

Benson stepped over to the kitchen counter carrying the duffel bag that he placed beside a carry case that had been left open. Closed, there was no clue the case stored a weapon. He removed the blue latex gloves form his hands. He habitually wore gloves while he moved about the apartment but disliked wearing them when he assembled the weapon. He tucked the used gloves inside the main compartment of the duffel bag and pulled out a fresh pair from a box. He dropped them on the counter ready to put on in a minute.
He ran the zipper around it, folded it back to lie flat, and proceeded to move smoothly through the assembly and loading of the weapon with practised certainty. Thirty seconds later he had the rifle assembled, function checked, loaded, and ready for action. He left the case in place on the table so he could reverse the process just as quickly when he was done with the weapon.

Benson once again talked himself through the steps like a chorus of a song. Over and over in his head. He had to successfully evacuate the apartment before the police showed up. Leave nothing behind. The decibel level of the two shots he planned to use would be enough to wake most of the local residents with a jumpy start to their day. Once they realised what had occurred he would be dissembling the weapon. By the time the cops arrived, Billy knew he would be walking back to the hotel room to pack up and drive out of the city.

He glanced at his watch then looked across the street. It was time to undertake his job. Through the window he could just see a light come on in the adjacent room that had been converted to a small gym. The man that Billy had been following, watching and spying on for the past two months entered the room right on schedule.
From a side pocket of his duffel bag, Billy brought out a worn photograph of a beautiful young brunette woman in her early twenties. He stared at it for several seconds. “This one is for you baby girl. I will find you,” he whispered and returned the photo to the pocket.

Benson pulled on the second pair of blue latex gloves and with his rifle held low in his right hand he walked to the balcony. He fully slid open the balcony doorway and stepped out. After a quick survey of the street and other apartments to be sure he wasn't being watched or seen he stepped to his right to the railing. For several seconds he stared at the man in the apartment. For a brief moment he felt pity for the man who had woken that morning for the last time. It was only brief moment. The target had been completely dehumanized for Benson a long while ago. He deserved to be put down with an absence of any emotional response that would normally occur after the loss of a life.

Benson inhaled deeply, quietened his mind, refocussed. He made every effort to slow his respiration and heart rate. All thoughts were purged from his consciousness but for the mission he was committed to. He adhered to the procedures he'd been trained to do that would place him in the zone, the perfect state of arousal that heightened his physical and mental awareness. Nothing else mattered right now.

There was one problem, one challenge that was threatening job he was about to do. He took another step to the right closer to the balcony railing. Two days earlier Billy’s target had upgraded his treadmill and the guys who had installed it had moved his gym equipment about a quarter of a metre to their right. It was only when Billy had attempted to take out his target yesterday morning that he had discovered the problem. The vital target zone on his target on the new treadmill was further concealed by a main branch of the damn tree between the two apartments. Billy had heard his target declare he was extremely happy with his new purchase, unbeknown to him it had given him another day of life. He was better protected by the tree right outside the apartment Billy stood in. From Billy’s perspective there was only one way around the problem.

Antonio Perri limbered up and stretched his muscles in preparation for his predawn run on the treadmill. He would run for thirty minutes. He had no idea that he was being watched as he shook out his limbs and stretched his sleepy muscles. In fact he was oblivious to the fact that for the past eight weeks he had been followed nearly every day and night. Keen to put some more miles on his state of the art running machine, he stepped on it. He paused a moment to familiarise himself with the console. It was quite nifty. It had a standard monitor he could use as a TV or computer, he could plug his MP3 player into it and upload songs to it or could rest a book or tablet on it if he wished. He commenced to fiddle with the console by hitting the large green start button, a little excited about playing and running. The screen installed on the console sparked to life. He smiled. He liked to watch the morning program before he went to work so he thought he would go with that.
The treadmill commenced at a walking pace that Tony soon increased to a jog.

Shielded by the early morning predawn darkness, Billy swung his right leg over the railing of the balcony to get a better angle to the apartment to his left. He no longer heard what was going on in the apartment because the phone was inside. He now only relied on his sight.

He observed the target who was at a slow jog and would be running inside five minutes. Personally, Billy didn’t understand Perri’s fetish for running so early. If Billy was in Perri’s shoes he’d be in bed still tapping the girlfriend, not playing on a treadmill. But he couldn’t understand most of his sick fetishes. The man was pure evil and so was the woman he slept with.

He reminded himself to not lose his concentration. He knew he had approximately 28 minutes to hit the target and he needed to get the job done before it was light, before people were out of bed which reduced his time to about eight minutes. Dawn was breaking. That meant time was of the essence.

Once he made the kill shot, he needed those valuable seconds it took for people to wake, to realise what had happened and to run to windows, for him to be able to retreat inside the apartment without being seen. The first few minutes after the shots sounded in the morning air and echoed of the buildings there would be chaos in every apartment. That would result in occupants phoning police and trying to see the action. He felt a little impatience creep into him that the tree prevented an easy and clear shot at his target. As a sniper he needed to have a shot to the heart and that wasn’t going to be easy to do.

Billy fiddled with his shoes on the railing to ensure his footing was secure. The cold mornings had left mildew on the railing. Footing good he turned his attention to the weapon.
He set the selector lever semiautomatic. He lifted the M4 carbine to his right shoulder to the place it felt snug. There were ten rounds in the rifle. He needed to use a maximum of two in order to achieve his goal: one round, the one in the chamber to break the glass, the second round to expand and destroy Perri’s heart. One more direct check at Perri to ensure he was still in a steady jog on the treadmill.

The rifle was poised and Billy was ready, but the angle of the shot was compromised by the large branch more than it had been the day before. Benson had decided weeks ago to wait for the fall, for deciduous leaves to die and drop from the tree. That would enable him to obtain the best view but it wasn’t a satisfactory position he was in. Billy had made the compromises to work through the challenges.

He had been hired for a new job and needed to start on that lucrative contract within the next three days across the country. Finances were low and needed to be topped up fast. He lowered the rifle and wriggled closer to the corner of the balcony. He courageously leaned right over the bar. With his body balanced precariously over the edge of the balcony, the rifle was lifted back up to position against his shoulder. He aimed at the target. Billy Benson had Antonio Perri in his cross hairs, his finger lightly on the trigger. He slowly, deeply inhaled and exhaled to slow his heart. He kept his hand steady, his balance perfect. He needed to just lean out a little farther.
Billy stretched that little bit more. As he re-adjusted his aim on his target’s chest, Benson’s right boot slipped on the railing. He over corrected. The sole of his shoe completely lost its grip. He fought to regain his footing but used too much strength. His body swayed outward. His arms flailed, flinging the rifle forward and to his left toward the tree.
Unable to regain his balance, Billy Benson fell three floors flailing to his death when his head met the concrete sidewalk with a loud pop.