AN/ Updated a polished and improved version of the story on Nov. 22nd. No major plot changes, just filling in some of the holes and cleaning up loose ends. Hope you enjoy!
Somewhere in Florida, the long peal of a phone reverberated around a richly furnished room several times before a bored voice bothered to answer. The importance of the call was made clear in a few succinct words and the uninterested tone instantly vanished, replaced by a barrage of precisely articulated questions.
The man had clearly dealt with these kinds of calls before; even seemed to expect them on a regular basis. He handled a substantial amount of sensitive information that, more often than not, simply required delicate tweaking to plans conceived and set in motion long ago.
This call fell into the latter category, meaning a dangerous knot had developed somewhere in the game and it was his job to straighten it back out. Careful fine-tuning was out of the question – the operation would have to be gutted and restructured from its very foundation in a matter of hours.
"Five-thirty then. We will be in touch." The man pushed a button to quit the connection and reset the security encryption, then cradled his head in his palms. He sat completely still for five solid minutes before moving a finger to invoke a speed dial. The line picked up in a matter of seconds.
The man summarized his new plan to the dedicated young manager on the receiving end, and then went over his specific role in greater detail. "Jackson," he warned before hanging up, "we need to act fast."
"Christ. I'm on it."
The silver Beamer was parked opposite her dad's house, just as Jackson had promised it would be only hours ago on the plane. Lisa edged her foot forward on the accelerator and the stolen SUV crawled past the rear of the car. Her eyes were locked on its driver's side window, her entire body clenched tightly with stress. The SUV slid forward agonizingly slow, until the front seat was in view.
No one was inside. That meant—oh God…
She whipped her head around to check out the front door, only to find an ancient tree blocked the exact angle she needed. She heavily exhaled stale air and her car crept forward several more feet, slowly revealing the lawn. She impatiently strained forward in her seat, but at the same time dreaded what she saw.
A spooky man dressed in a gray suit stood in the front lawn. He regarded her and came to a grim conclusion as he reached inside his jacket. Before Lisa had time to reconsider she threw the accelerator flat against the floor and blew her tires over the curb directly toward him. The assassin reacted far too quickly – seconds later two bullets had shattered her windshield and his careful aim wouldn't miss with the third. The front wheels struck the stone lining of the sidewalk and the entire car leapt forward, carrying the man and his unfired bullet straight through the thick front door in a spectacular spray of wood and glass. Lisa scrambled out of the stolen vehicle just as the engine died from the direct impact.
"DAD!" She vaulted over the bloody corpse and rapidly toured the entire first floor of the house. His favorite chair in the living room was vacant and the fabric cold. The TV was muted on an infomercial. "Dad! Dad – where are you!?" Lisa screamed repeatedly. She dodged around the island in the empty kitchen as a thick knot of fear began to tighten in her stomach. She had been too late – the assassin had already broken into the house and coldly murdered her father, his body now lay upstairs in a huge pool of thickening blood – NO! She shook her head to clear the disastrous thoughts from taking root. No, her father was alive and completely unaware that anything was wrong—
"What the hell!?" her dad yelled from the foyer. So much for unaware.
"Dad! Are you alright?" she shrieked in relief, running through the kitchen doorway toward his voice. He stood at the base of the stairs, one hand braced against the banister and the other gesturing helplessly at the space where the front door had recently hung. Her heels skidded on pieces of glass as she ran to envelope her father in a choking hug.
"Lisa, what on earth—" he began in a bewildered tone. He lovingly returned her hug and switched the focus of his gestures towards the body lying on his floor.
"I can explain–that man is an assassin–you're okay–I thought you'd been killed!" Lisa confessed in a rushed sob.
"Assassin?" His eyes widened in alarm, heavy eyebrows drawn together in utter confusion. "Lisa, what—"
She drew out of his embrace and headed for the telephone in the den. "Dad," she began more calmly, "I need to call the hotel. Stay here; don't go anywhere." She lifted the receiver and began to dial.
Her father shook his head a few times and tried once more to demand an explanation from her. The line was ringing and she simply held up a finger. "Please, just hold on," she requested in a managerial tone that was too professional to argue with. He exhaled in frustration and muttered something about getting a first aid kit and towels as he left the room.
"Lux Atlantic Resort," Cynthia answered faintly. The receptionist's voice was tiny and nearly overwhelmed by yelling in the background.
"Cynthia, are you okay?" Lisa demanded.
"Is everyone else okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure, we're all ok, I think." She paused to confirm a question asked by a distinctly pissed off official voice on the other end. "Look, you better get over here. I have no idea how I'm gonna explain this to Keefe's guys."
"Okay, don't worry, I'm on my way." She quickly replaced the receiver. "Dad, I need your keys!" She hurried out into the foyer and found herself looking right at Jackson, who stood casually by the front door. Lisa couldn't contain her gasp of surprise and stopped short.
"Hi," he breathed heavily, a smug grin gracing the corners of his mouth. His disheveled hair and hoarse breathing did nothing to make him seem any less frightening. He pressed two fingers to his throat, the pen wound now cleverly concealed by a dark red scarf. His other hand held the dead assassins' gun.
"Dad!" she yelled in warning, trying to alert him to this new threat. She spotted a putty knife on the hall table but Jackson swiped it away from her onto the floor. He moved closer, eyes narrowed, gun ready, and in a flash of panic Lisa realized that the public safety of the plane and the airport terminal was now far away. "Dad!" she yelled again, hating the weak tremor in her voice.
Jackson looked toward the hallway at the sound of her father's approaching footsteps. She glanced at the gun, and back to Jackson, who had a strangely expectant look on his face…
"Lisa, what's going on now…" her father began for the last time as he entered the front hall. He stopped short at the imposing sight of Jackson, and Lisa felt completely helpless when she saw the stunned look on his face. She was an idiot – why had she expected her dad to know how to handle a wheezing, gun-wielding maniac fuming in the middle of his entry foyer?
"Dad, this, uh—"
But apparently Joe was fed up with the entire situation, and he bellowed in the most enraged tone she had ever heard him use in her life. "JACKSON, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?"
Lisa instantly choked on her breath of air. "Wait—dad—what!?" she yelped in utter astonishment. He ignored her. His seething glare was directed at Jackson, who merely shrugged in the closest exhibition of embarrassment Lisa imagined he could ever display. His fingers were still pressed firmly against the scarf, although they were tensely playing with the crimson fabric.
"Why the hell are you here? What's wrong with your throat?" Joe demanded. His arms were crossed and he suddenly seemed as much a stranger to her as Jackson was.
Jackson slowly tipped his head towards Lisa. "I don't think your daughter likes me too much," he wheezed, "not to mention our line of work."
"What the hell happened to my part of the deal?" Joe exclaimed in sheer frustration. He tossed his hands chaotically through the air, like some sort of bizarre juggler who had just lost control of his act. "I was never supposed to be involved like this!"
Lisa dropped her jaw in disbelief. "Dad.. what..?" She trailed off weakly. The pieces had already been put together but she couldn't accept the reality they implied. There was no conceivable way…
Jackson snickered and glanced in her direction. His chilling blue eyes held her own as he uttered words that changed her life forever.
"C'mon, Leese. Can't you figure this out? Your dad used to be my boss."