A QUICK SQUEEZE OF THE TRIGGER

What makes a man a killer?

Jake Valentine wasn’t sure he could rightly answer that, mainly because he didn’t really consider himself a killer. Mind you, the fact that at this very moment he was going to end the lives of two people was beside the point.

Turning from the window, Jake flipped open the catches on the large mahogany case lying on the bed. Lifting the lid, he paused a moment to admire the sleek lines of the BL4500 nestled snugly in the foam packing. In Jake’s opinion, the BL4500 was a work of art, firing a .270 uncased Magnum round at well over 2600 FPS. Easily enough to punch through windows, doors, body armor or the odd wall.

Drawing the stock free from the tight grip of the packing, Jake brushed a cloth across the action, wiping away nonexistent specks of dust. He was a stickler about keeping his tools clean, whether it be a rifle or the knife he kept tucked in his boot. Shifting the stock over, he then pulled the barrel free, sliding it home and screwing it tight.

A dozen years ago he could have only dreamed about owning such a weapon… but then, twelve years ago he still didn’t have a clue as to where he wanted to go with his life. He has some small talent with firearms, true, and he’d even won a few shooting competitions. He also had gotten himself involved in the martial arts, finding something soothing by learning how to reduce your opponent to a pile on the mat in a minimum effort.

The tripod was next, snapped easily into a notch under the barrel.

He had considered the military, but the idea of having to take orders, and shave and cut his hair, really didn’t appeal to him. Like a police officer, it was a nice idea on the surface, but there would be too many rules and regulation to cramp his desire for freedom of expression. Private detective? Too boring. Television detectives might get involved in blazing gunfights, high-speed chases and beautiful babes, but he knew better. Insurance scams and divorce cases were more likely his lot.

Now for the scope…mounted over the barrel, it would allow him to virtually stand in his target’s hip pocket, not to mention put a bullet behind his ear.

He’d ended up a repo man for a short time. That had been exciting, jacking cars, trucks, speeders and such. Hell, he’d even snagged a starship once. His skill with the gun had paid off in that mess, skill that had indirectly resulted in his new profession. Bounty hunting.

Now for the magazine…Ten rounds, slid in right behind the pistol grip. Uncased, therefore no empty shell casings to worry about.

Bounty hunting had finally been the niche Jake was looking for. It offered everything, travel, excitement, danger, gunplay. He spent a few years moving his way around New Jamestown and beyond, snagging bail jumpers for a tidy profit. And then, it had happened. His client didn’t want him to return with this skip-trace, he wanted the matter resolved in a more permanent fashion. He wanted Jake to kill a man.

Suppressor. Slid over the end of the barrel and screwed into place, it would eliminate almost all of the muzzle flash and report. It would also slow down the round slightly, but that was why he had a scope.

So, Jake had gone out, found his target and put a bullet though his head. It hadn’t been hard, although Jake had felt a touch disturbed at the lack of emotion he’d experienced. He’d taken a closer look at philosophy at that point, examining some of the ideas behind Zen and the emptiness of one’s mind. His martial training had helped as well, since it had stressed adaptation and evolution as the basis for success and perfection

Settling the tripod on the sill, Jake made himself comfortable. He had a few minutes before his target would arrive and he would need to be in the proper frame of mind.

And so it went. He brought most of his targets back, but occasionally, he would be asked to return alone. He had thought about this for a bit. Most people he chased after were pretty much the bottom of the barrel, the dregs of society. Getting rid of them was probably a benefit to everyone else. It certainly would be saving the taxpayers some money. So he did it. Oh, there were requests he turned down, Jake had decided early on that he would have to decide if the target really deserved it before saying ‘yes’.

A car pulled up outside, disgorging several men in suits. Jake shifted the rifle slightly, waiting, his breathing slow and regular.

Was he any better than his targets? Jake didn’t know. He thought about the question from time to time, and usually settled the matter by tending to the gravel bed of his rock garden until his mind was clear. It was amazing how arranging pebbles with a wooden rake could ease the soul.

Ah… there they were. Earlier, Jake had received a good 10G’s for bringing in the pair. But their high-priced lawyers had made a mockery out of the trial, and now, here they were, free again. Jake had felt more than a bit disgusted by that. So, when Maxwell Curry had offered him 20G’s each for a successful ‘retirement’, he’d jumped at the chance.

Raising his gun, Jake adjusted the scope. A man filled the crosshairs, so close that Jake felt he could reach out and touch him.

So he did.

20G’s.

“Goodbye, Mr. Cooper”, he whispered as he twisted slightly, bringing the second figure into view.

Ms. Murdock stood frozen, still not realizing that her lover and partner in crime was falling to the ground

Jake gently squeezed the trigger.

40G’s.

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