“I understand that, Mayor, but I have an 11:00 I cannot miss.”
Commissioner Jackson Saunders’ phone was tucked between his broad shoulder and his barrel neck as he rolled his eyes at the voice on the other end. He’d barely had a chance to finish his morning coffee and the mayor was already on his ass. About what, he couldn’t tell. Closure rates in the city were improving. Public opinion had… well, improved wasn’t the right word, but at least the locals weren’t taking to the streets en masse for one reason or another anymore. The vigilante had even kept a low profile in recent weeks, and as much as Saunders wanted her behind bars, he had his reasons for leaving that alone.
Reasons the mayor didn’t need to know.
Leaving the Bishop L. Robinson Sr. Police Administration Building, known in some circles simply as The Bishop, and hanging a left on the sidewalk, Saunders approached a black SUV idling at the curb. His 11:00 was on the other end of downtown, and traffic was more of a mess than usual thanks to blocks of road work and construction. The end product was touted as a way to further revitalize downtown Baltimore, but in the meantime, it meant hassle and traffic jams for everyone.
Even important people like the police commissioner.
“Fine. I’ll call you when I’m finished.”
Saunders hung up without another word, cutting the mayor off and stuffing the phone into his coat pocket. He ignored the greeting the man in the three-piece suit whose name he forgot gave him, sliding into the back seat and slamming the door shut himself. Saunders hated being chauffeured around like he was a damn king. Last Saunders checked, he could still drive his own pickup truck, and he was still capable of opening and closing doors himself.
The security detail he understood, useless though they sometimes were, but the rest of it? Needless crap. Crap that never would’ve flown in the Army. At least, not back in the Vietnam days.
“Use the siren,” he ordered as the SUV rolled into traffic. “Don’t have time to waste on this damn traffic.”
Something cold and metal poked against the side of Saunders’ neck and he froze. The window separating the front of the SUV from the back lowered with a low-pitched whirr, and Saunders glanced into the rearview mirror — only to be greeted by the sight of a pair of green eyes staring back at him.
His driver did not have green eyes.
Other than the man’s eyes, the rest of his head was covered in a black mask. Saunders shifted his gaze to his right, finding another black mask and military fatigues. A handgun Saunders didn’t recognize pointed in his direction, the silencer digging into his neck.
“What the –?”
“Silence.” The masked man’s voice was distorted, probably digitally altered. It sent a chill down the commissioner’s spine, and his hands went up on pure instinct. The man with the gun chuckled and his shoulders relaxed, but he didn’t lower the weapon. “You’re a smart man, Jackson. More than you get credit for.”
A thousand retorts flew through Saunders’ head, but he kept his mouth shut. Whoever these men were, something told him they wouldn’t take kindly to sarcasm. He stole a glance at the front again. The driver was focused on the road ahead, and the SUV swerved to the left. Saunders looked out the window in that direction, his arms slowly returning to his sides. Wherever they were going, it wasn’t where his 11:00 would be waiting.
He hoped kidnapping was a good excuse for not showing up.
“Ah-ah.” The masked man with the gun shook his head. “Push that button and I pull the trigger. I’d hate to ruin these fine leather seats.”
“Fair enough.” Saunders pursed his lips and stared out the window, his left hand inching away from the red panic button on the side of his seat. “Don’t suppose you got a name?”
“Not one you get to know.”
Saunders shook his head. “Where I come from, if someone’s gonna kill you, you at least deserve to know who’s doin’ it.”
“Who we are isn’t important.” The masked man waved the gun around before the silencer jabbed itself into the commissioner’s neck again. “All that matters is the mission. The message.”
“This wasn’t part of the deal.” Saunders arched a brow but kept his gaze straight ahead. Given recent events, he had expected one of his long-held associations to come home to roost. Not all of his friends over the years had been on the up-and-up, and considering one of his captains knew of his ties to both the Russians and the Ukrainians, Saunders would’ve been naive to think one of them wouldn’t come calling sooner rather than later. After all, he was technically a loose end.
But if these people were to come for Saunders, then there was no telling what was in store. These masked men, they were going out of their way to keep their identities secret. Somehow, Saunders would’ve rather the Ukrainians had gotten him.
“The message,” he finally repeated once it was clear he wouldn’t get a response. “You ever try throwing a bottle into the ocean?”
In one swift motion, the masked man flipped the gun in his hand and smashed the butt end of it against the commissioner’s temple. Saunders grunted in pain, his head snapping back and bouncing off the window. He slumped forward, unconscious, both temples bloody.
The driver glanced at the rearview mirror as the SUV merged onto Interstate 83. “Shall I get the studio ready?”
“Yes.” The other masked man wiped the blood from his gun before returning it to its holster. “But not for Saunders. We have other guests to attend to first.”
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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.
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