He never considered killing people a sin. Because his job demanded it. Because if you don’t do, then you die.
He was proud of his precision. With a custom made German Heckler & Koch PSG1A1 fitted with a Schmidt & Bender scope, he was lethal. Though his teacher had taught him in his early life that beauty was something that lay at the hands of the beholder, he considered his “job” as a work of art. As a work of craft.
A person of Spanish origin, he was popular throughout Western Europe as an “emerging player” in this “competitive world”. With a count of 23 under his belt, 9 of which were political assassinations, he was making an indelible mark.
He was in Espana. The southern port city of Mallorca. His latest assignment brought him to his homeland. To this city of wonders, hardly an hour from his native village. To the city which fascinated him from childhood-with its glitz, pace and diversity, all of which were absent in the sleepy village of his. It had been the city of dreams for him as a child. As a youth. He insisted on doing graduation from a college in Mallorca not because of his zeal for knowledge. But because of Mallorca.
He didn’t want to go to his native village. Because he didn’t have anything worth remembering there. Or at least, he liked to believe so. He despised villages. And continued to do so.
He seldom read newspapers. He preferred this modus operandi because he believed that knowing more about a person makes it more difficult to pull the trigger with a gun pointed at him. In fact, he insisted that he never be told the names of the persons to be eliminated in an assignment. And his clientele were in general too happy to oblige.
And hence, the Mayor of Mallorca was unknown to him. His new target. A revolutionary Left Conservative, the latter was making waves across Spain. His efforts to bring Mallorca on par with Barcelona and Madrid made him very popular among the people of Spain in general and Mallorca in particular. And in a country that was [ill]reputed for assassinations, it was only a matter of time before his political enemies got together in a cabal.
The meeting between the conspirators’ representative and Acilino’ happened in Sao Paulo, almost 6 weeks back. There were no negotiations. A black and white photo changed hands. 2 million dollars cabled to his account in Switzerland. And the deal was fixed.
October the 12th. Spanish national day. As per convention, there would be a grand parade at the Republican Square, presided over by the Mayor. The grand Republican Square was the trademark of Mallorca. With tall Gothic structures surrounding, the square was the symbol of Mallorca. And this is where the parade has been held all these years. This year being no exception. And that, hence, was THE occasion.
He had managed to get into one of the unused apartments overlooking the square. With the amount of political backing he had, that part of the work was more easily done than said. He waited there for two days, preparing himself for the attempt.
The D-day dawned. Acilino’ was fully prepared. He knew the entire schedule of the function by-heart. The ripe time, he decided, would be when the Mayor would be distributing the Gallantry Awards to the personnel of the police forces. He went about checking his automatic and its accessories and one last time, he checked the view through his gun viewfinder. At last, pulling a chair to himself, he sat behind the window, opening out to the square.
9 O Clock. Half an hour to go before the Mayor arrived. He loaded his Heckler & Koch with 5 bullets. His lucky number. Like almost every other professional sniper, Acilino’ had his own mannerisms. One among them stemmed from his childhood affinity for Diet Coke. He preferred to wait for his victim almost always with a can of Diet Coke in his hands. He took out the penultimate canister of Diet Coke he had in his bag. Sipping his drink, he eased onto the chair beside the window. This was when Acilino’s attention was caught by a distant banner. One that highlighted the achievements of Mayor Marcos.
Marcos. A name impinged in his heart. He immediately remembered a young, naive and bearded Jose Manuel Marcos. A senior at college. Someone who was inspired by Che Guvera and someone who managed to inspire a lot of others by his ideological theses. At a time when revolution was the buzzword around the world, Marcos propounded revolutionary thoughts in the college. And had inspired a lot of students as well. Acilino’ sighed. How he was inspired by speeches of Jose Marcos. To change Spain. To revolutionise the world. As in a flashback, his mind went back to his college days. To those deeds he did to usher in revolution. It all seemed like a look through the kaleidoscope.
And one distinctive feature. Of Jose' Manuel Marcos. That famous Winston Churchill type double chin.
An announcement stirred him back to reality. The PA system announced the arrival of the Mayor, which was accompanied by a roar from the crowd so enormous that Acilino’ was almost shaken. Grimacing, he got up. He was irritated to find that his Diet Coke was only half finished. He had dreamt a little too much, he reflected.
The cavalcade, he could see, was approaching from a distance. It came till the crossroads next to the Civic Corporation statuette before it stopped. The Mayor and his wife alighted from the car and moved towards the podium. The stage was set. For the celebration of independence. For maybe something else.
As per the itinerary, the program began with the Spanish national anthem followed by the parade of the police forces. The award distribution would follow the parade. Acilino’ adjusted the telescopic lens one final time and took a sip from the half full can of Diet Coke. With his left index finger inserted into the trigger cabinet, he let out a tough breath of air.
He was ready.
Through the view finder, he narrowed in on the Mayor, who after inspecting the Guard of Honour, was on the podium overseeing the parade. He could see only half the face, but knew very well that half was lethal enough.
Suddenly he caught the Mayor turning to his side. He noticed, through the narrow confines of the telescopic lens that something in that person intrigued him. He didn’t want to search for the answer.
Until he noticed the double chin.
He was taken aback. No!! It couldn’t be Jose’. He zoomed further. Looking for that mole on his nose. There it was. No doubt. It was Jose’. Jose’ Manuel Marcos.
He took his left hand away from the trigger. He knew he had to shoot. But he knew equally well he couldn’t shoot.
After a gap of years, he found himself muttering the name of God.
He sat back onto the chair. He didn’t like it but his mind was on a flashback. He made attempts to drag it back, but all futile. He tried to weigh his options. Kill his childhood idol? Or abort the assignment at the last moment? He knew the latter option was impossible. Because that was treachery and his clientele would make him pay for it with his life. Then??
Somewhere in the distance, a clock struck ten. Ten melancholic beats drowned in the hubbub of the jostling crowd. He felt light. He had made up his mind.
He went back to his position. The award distribution ceremony had just begun. Now he could see only the back of the Mayor. He wished he had seen him only like this. The third name was called for the award when he took aim.
Muttering the sermon of God under his breath, he fired.
He was sure his count had incremented to 24.
Then with a placid expression, he knelt on the ground, with the automatic by his side. He was thankful that there was a picture of Holy Mary in the room he was in. He stood, as if in a trance, for over five minutes.
Possibly the five longest minutes of his life.
He got up. Went to the wash basin and washed his hands. He wondered if he was doing it on his own or was it more like some external irresistable power was making him do so. This was no Pilate act, he knew.
Picking up the automatic, he went to the chair. The chair which had possibly been the sole witness of the assassination.
The image of the falling idol of him was the last thing that flashed across his eyes as he pulled the trigger of the automatic with the barrel pointing against his temple.