The woman entered Hotel Latvija from busy Brīvības iela, took the glass-walled viewing elevator twenty-six floors, all of Rīga in summer bloom stretching out before her during the climb. In her arms she carried a bundle of carmine-red-colored bunting, the rolled cloth heavier than it should be, a weighty secret within its folds.
When she reached the top, the woman stepped off the elevator into an empty, low-ceilinged room. Nearby was the entrance to the Skyline Lounge, the tourist-friendly discotheque closed at this hour of mid-morning. She used a stolen passkey to unlock an access door and followed the stairs up past the Event Room level to the hotel’s roof.
Not a soul in sight.
Under blazing sunlight and gentle June winds, she proceeded to the roof’s southwestern side, overlooking the Freedom Monument, Esplanāde Park with its winding canal and beyond to the spires and gabled roofs of Rīga’s Old Town. Catty-corner across wide Brīvības was the Palace of Justice, trapezoidal in circumference, four stories high, its inner courtyard in view from the towering hotel top.
The woman set her bundle down against the safety rail and hiked up the cloth’s edges to make sure her weapon remained concealed. She checked the time on her mobile. 10:23.
Three stories below in Room 2401, Artem Melnikov used a specialized glass-cutting saw to open a hole in his hotel suite window. When the extracted piece came free, he pulled it inside with affixed suction cup grips and set the glass on the carpeted floor, allowing no shard to fall to pavement so far below.
He lowered himself into a sniper’s position and pointed his DXL-5 Ravager rifle into the opening he’d created, focusing his telescopic sight on the gathering inside the Palace of Justice’s courtyard, where Supreme Court Chief Justice Samuels Lediņš would speak precisely at 10:30 A.M. The press was already present, filling in the seats before the podium, only one chair empty.
Latvia’s Supreme Court had ruled. Lediņš was to announce the impending destruction of the monolithic Soviet Victory Monument across the river, a symbol in the Latvian people’s eyes of fifty years of Soviet occupation, of mass murders and mass deportations, and a still-looming threat from their neighbor to the east.
The foreign government behind Artem wanted their Soviet monuments to stand forever. And to make a point about “little country” defiance.
So, Lediņš must die. As an example.
About time. Artem had heard rumors this was an open contract, other assassins vying to earn that bounty on Lediņš. Well, nobody beats Artem to a kill.
He focused his sights. The moment Lediņš entered the courtyard…
Someone knocked on Artem’s hotel door.
At 10:28 the woman unrolled her streamer bunting along the rooftop edge, careful to keep her rifle hidden beneath the cloth. If her tip was correct, Melnikov was three floors below, gunning for Justice Lediņš.
She wouldn’t allow him the kill.
She had her own living to earn.
“Security! Open up!” repeated hotel detective Oskars Tauriņš, pounding on door 2401 for nearly three minutes.
Troubling, thought Oskars. They received two separate alerts within seconds. The security cameras caught a woman on the roof, preparing to spread some banner or streamer down the building’s side. Likely a political protest meant for the Justice Ministry across the street. Almost a daily occurrence in these troubled times. They would soon escort the protester off the premises to the nearest police station.
But the more immediate concern was this room. Situated on the side facing the Justice Ministry’s offices, hotel sensors went off whenever anyone broke the window glass. Those panes were sealed at this level and almost impossible to damage accidentally. It must be deliberate vandalism, a suicide attempt, or something much worse: a national security issue. The woman protesting from the roof would have to wait.
Oskars swiped his passkey, went inside.
A tall, thin man stepped out of the bathroom. An automatic pistol-with-silencer in his hand.
Oskars felt the impact of two slugs hitting his chest, saw the eruption of blood as they penetrated his sternum.
The last sights of Oskars Tauriņš’s life.
Artem pulled the dead man’s body into the bathroom, then pushed the couch in front of the hallway door. He pocketed his pistol, returned to his rifle at the window. Lediņš was already in the courtyard, stepping to the podium. Artem set his finger on the trigger.
A red shroud lowered over his window.
It was some sort of streaming red bunting dropped from above. Either the discotheque or the roof. He tried to push it away with the rifle muzzle, but the cloth was too heavy and enveloping to clear. He fled to another window. No, the wrong angle. And no time to cut the glass. Security would be here when their man didn’t call.
Artem pulled the key from the dead guard’s hand, shoved aside the couch, and sped out into the hall, rifle in his hands. He should flee this hotel. But five million euros and professional pride egged him on. He swiped the key card, vaulted up the stairs to the roof.
When Artem Melnikov burst through the rooftop door, the woman shot him in the head. The rubber bullet bounced off his cranium hard enough that it sent him tumbling back down the stairs to the next landing.
She cautiously followed. Found him stunned, a little broken but living. She picked up his rifle, pulled the pistol from his pocket, and retreated up the steps to a safe distance. Then she called the hotel lobby on her mobile.
“Front desk? This is Santa Ezeriņa, journalist. I’ve interrupted an assassination attempt from the roof. Yes, I’m serious. Call the Palace of Justice, the police and send someone up.” She texted her editor. What a headline tomorrow “Justice Lives!”
Santa watched Melnikov stirring. Pity if she had to shoot him again. The assassin’s had a bad day.
About the author:
William Burton McCormick is an Edgar-nominated writer of thriller and mystery fiction set mainly in Eastern Europe. He presently lives in Latvia, the setting of "Assassin's Bad Day" and his award-winning novel KGB BANKER.
Free flash fiction on the first and third weeks of the month.