A Higher Aim
by Dave Weaver
It was bright and chilly, almost mid-day as I crouched amongst the packing cases and stared down the wide crowd-lined avenue. There was a buzz of expectation, every now and then a whoop of excitement as someone caught a glimpse of sun reflected off metal in the distance followed by an anti-climatic sigh of disappointment. As the pigeons clucked and stalked about on the windowsill in front of me my thoughts turned to a few months previously.
"You're just the man for the job," they told me when I'd initially protested. "The Committee to Re-elect will show their considerable gratitude, long as they can't trace it back."
"What about the CIA?" I'd asked.
"Whadda you care? Leave the CIA to us!"
I'd shrugged. "OK, OK... but what if I miss?"
"You won't miss! You've had weeks of training in the desert, we must have run that old Caddy past you a thousand times and you hit that dummy every damn one. You're ready."
"But the President's wife, I mean, Jeez... What if she makes a sudden movement or something? What if I don't just clip her? Anything can happen with a moving target, and that's quite a distance for that kind of accuracy."
The guy had put his hand on my shoulder and given me a steady look. "You're a top shot, ain't you? Ex-marine an' all that? If you do happen to take out the tight-arsed bitch so much the better. Don't worry, we'll clean it all up just like we did with Marilyn. A First Lady wounded by a commie rifle will get the President the Right's sympathy vote, but a dead one will damn well get him re-elected for sure. We can't rely on just the Blacks and the Liberals this time; we need to aim higher. What you do in Dallas is going to be the clincher."
The fluttering of the birds brought me back to right now. A big one stepped delicately over the rifle barrel and I shooed it away. With an angry squawk it scuttled along the metal frame pushing its fellow scavengers out of the way. It sat there in the corner, a filthy bundle of feathers pecking at its claws while it cawed belligerently at me.
Something was happening below. There was a hesitant hush across Dealey Plaza, then a hopeful cheer that turned into prolonged clapping and excited shouts. I trained the telescopic sight on the entrance to the Plaza four hundred yards away and saw a line of long black limos swing lazily around the corner and proceed along Houston. In a few moments time they'd turn into Elm then pass directly below me as they headed out towards the Stemmons Freeway and Love Field. I had until they reached the underpass to make my move.
I centred the cross-hatch on the pink dress in the back seat. I saw the President move his hand to her knee as she turned to smile at him, holding back a stray hair caught in the breeze. They could have been any young anonymous couple on a tour bus; laughing and enjoying the ride, still very much in love.
The limo began moving briskly away from me and I focused on her left arm, as far away from him as I could. I reckoned on five clear seconds to make the shot, more than enough time to be sure. I steadied, squeezing the trigger like I was making love to my wife; slowly, slowly, ever so slowly...
Suddenly the bird was in my face, its wings flicking at my eyes, claws scratching my cheek. The gun recoiled as I flung up an arm to ward it off. There was silence outside broken by a woman's screams. I looked out down Elm.
The head limo had sped off away from the others. The First Lady was trying to climb off the back of it, the pink dress now spattered with red as a security guy crawled after her.
And the President lay slumped forward in his seat with half his head blown away.
The guy from the Committee to Re-elect and some of his goons had been waiting outside to spirit me away. Now they burst into the room as I dropped the gun.
"What the hell have you just done, you stupid bastard?"
"You don't understand... this fucking bird..."
He hustled me out of the building. As we left he had a walkie-talkie glued to his ear. He was talking about some guy called Jack.
© 2012 Dave Weaver
Bio: Dave Weaver is a graphic designer living in St Albans. He is a member of the Verulam Writer's Circle. Dave's 'Finding Uncle' short story was published in Hert's University's 'Visions' anthology. His most recent Aphelion appearance was Here Be Dragon (February 2013).
E-mail: Dave Weaver
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