Firenze — That Night

Dreyfus Sinclair was invisible.  In the bright light of day, he would have looked foolish, lying in the dirt, but on the edge of the murky half-light night, as long as he didn’t move, no one could see him.  Twenty minutes earlier, he had casually walked through the chain link gate (a distressed motorist looking for a telephone) of the warehouse yard he’d watched the night before.  He found a spot on the open ground where the shadows were deepest and simply melted down into the darkness.  Now, he waited.

He slowly moved his feet to dig through the gravel so he wouldn’t slip when he jumped forward, but aside from that, he was motionless.  He’d learned long ago that most of what he did was hours of inactivity, slowly coiling the muscles for a sudden explosion of deadly action.  He’d once had a short correspondence with a Canadian military sniper who called it “planned impatience,” and that explanation suited him.  He had no illusions about the Zen of anticipation or the fear that was gathering in his armpits.  He wanted to move, wanted to rush forward, wanted to get it over with, wanted to walk away, sick with adrenaline — but he didn’t.  He waited, suspended in the darkness, unable to determine time until time began again.

There was a crack of light.  The warehouse doors opened, and the light widened as if two huge electric hands were parting the darkness.  Dreyfus could see two men.  They paused and disappeared back into the light of the building.  He felt his legs and arms tighten.  There was the noise of a truck that slowly rolled into the light and stopped.  A man got out of the passenger door and started walking to the back of the truck.  Dreyfus waited – one, two, three.  He steadied himself with one hand and pushed with his feet, springing into the air.  The sudden movement caught the man by surprise, and he flinched for the microsecond Dreyfus needed to shoot him twice.  Both bullets caught the man in the chest, and he dropped– not quite dead from the fatal wounds.  Dreyfus ignored him and ran to the back of the truck.  He went around it and dropped to one knee, shooting blindly into the dark silhouette of the walking driver.  The first bullet ricocheted harmlessly off the truck, but the second caught the man in the stomach and he folded forward.  Dreyfus put a third bullet into his slumping shadow.

Then he turned and sprayed the rest of the clip — waist-high — through the open warehouse door.  That would keep anyone who might be inside from getting brave and give Dreyfus the few seconds he needed to stuff a long futbol scarf into the truck’s fuel tank.  He pushed it down until he could smell the fuel; then he replaced the clip in the Beretta, turned, and emptied it into the open door.   He replaced the clip again, and with the other hand, snapped a cheap plastic lighter and held the flame to the scarf.  It didn’t catch, and Dreyfus moved it away before it ignited the fumes.  There was the sound of shots coming from inside the warehouse, but no distinctive whiz, so they weren’t close – yet.  He snapped the lighter again, and even though it gave away his position, he held it high and carefully lowered it to the fabric.  (Semtex would have worked so much better!)  The lighter was getting warm, but he held it steady to the tassels of the scarf.  There was a metallic crack, a tinny ting, and before he heard the whiz, a razor sting across the meaty part of his forearm.  Son of a bitch!  But the tassels were burning, and one … two … three — for God sake, c’mon! … seconds later, there was a jolt of flame, and Dreyfus released his thumb and pushed the hot lighter down into the fuel tank.  He waved the Beretta back at the warehouse door, fired several shots, turned and ran for the gate.  There was a gush of heat behind him as the fire hit the fuel, and the night sky lit up in front of him.  (Vehicles don’t actually explode when they catch fire, but they do burn vigorously.)

 It didn’t matter, Dreyfus knew the truck and everything in it was gone, and he was already through the gate, across the road and into the high weeds before he stopped and looked back.  He wasn’t the only one in a hurry to get out of there.  Three cars were already moving as the flames soared into the sky.  He touched the sting on his arm and his fingers came away wet.  It didn’t hurt – but it would.  He turned and walked, deep-breathing to settle his heart and lungs, down to the car waiting on the highway.  He got in, and as they drove away, Dreyfus reached for his telephone.  He tapped at it.

“Ms. Miller.”

“Dreyfus, it’s the middle of the night!”

“Come meet me for a drink at the hotel, and bring a needle and thread,” he said, giddy with adrenaline.

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