“The food there’s alright, but I’d hardly consider it worth the price,” Smith said.

“You would probably think differently if you weren’t on a government salary,” Anderson replied. “I know I would.”

“You got a point there.”

Anderson and Smith rounded the next corner before one of them directed their voice towards an unseen target.

“He’s in there,” Anderson said. “From what we could see, he’s sitting alone, as expected.”

“Could you make out any bodyguards?”

“We suspect two, maybe three. One guy sat at a nearby table, but he was seated with some woman who doesn’t appear to be aware of what’s going down. She was completely jovial, far too jolly. The guy kept looking over at our man, and he looked tense, but he may just be too nosey for his own good.

“There are two guys in the back who were more obvious. They’re both sitting alone at tables with a couple rows between them.”

“Did you catch all of that Cooper?”

“I did,” Cooper responded, adjusting her sunglasses and checking her hair in the rear view mirror before stepping out of her car. “Let’s get the ball rolling.”

“Stay alert, agents. She’s going in.”

Cooper made her way out of the parking garage and strolled down the crowded cobblestone street, watching as families darted in and out of high-end shops that went on for half a mile. The target had chosen to meet at this particular restaurant precisely because it was located right in the middle of an upscale shopping district where, if anything went down, there would be plenty of innocent victims, the kind wealthy enough to hold the media’s interest and cause real problems for the FBI. This would make it difficult for them to take him down, but it also meant that there was a decent change of getting out this situation without any shots fired from either side.

“Anderson and I are in position,” Smith said, standing near the restaurant’s side entrance. They found a bench and pulled out a map, hunching over it like tourists.

“I’m going in,” Cooper said. In a few steps, she pressed her hand against the door and a pleasant charm signaled her entrance.

“I’m meeting someone,” she said to the person up front before looking around as though she didn’t already know where her target was. He lifted his hand in a friendly wave to catch her attention. “Ah, there he is. Excuse me.”

“Hello, Ms. Kent,” the target said, rising to shake her hand. “Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you,” she said, sitting. “I -”

“Welcome,” a waiter said, having approached the table. “May I get you two something to drink?”

Cooper looked across the table. The target smiled.

“I’ll have a coke,” he said.

“Water for me, thanks,” Cooper said. As the waiter walked away, she continued. “Mr. Fletcher, I understand you’re under a tight schedule today, so I don’t want to occupy too much of your time.”

She reached into her handbag to pull out a folder, moving slowly so as to not make anyone antsy.

“I have three properties here that may be of interest of you,” she said. “Normally I would have sent this to prospective clients via email, but it’s my pleasure to meet with you today to do this in person. It reminds me of the old days, in a way.”

“You don’t look old enough to have seen the old days,” Fletcher said.

Cooper smiled, “No, perhaps not. But I did start out before people had fully transitioned.”

“Well, thanks for taking the time to accommodate me. I don’t yet trust email. You can never be sure who else is reading them, you know?”

“I can understand that. Now before we get started, tell me again about your business.”

“Sure, sure. We make shoes.”

“We?”

“My family, yes. And not just any shoes, we make good ones. Charge a pretty penny for them too, I’m not ashamed to say.”

“And you’re looking for a place to set up shop?”

“Correct. My brother says to consider a place here, but the atmosphere here isn’t quite to my tastes.”

“So you want someplace quieter?”

“No, no. I need people around to make money. I just prefer a place that’s more, uh, down to earth.”

Cooper handed him two of the three properties she had to show, pretending that one was no longer a good match. Fletcher looked over them carefully, then nodded.

“This one, by the shore.”

“Why this one?”

“It reminds me of the place my mother used to run the shop out of.”

That’s confirmation, Cooper thought. Fletcher came from a long line of smugglers, and though he had expanded the family businesses into other areas, evidence was building up that he had made his way back into the illegal shipping business his family was known for. They had been unable to pin anything on the guy, but in their desperate effort to build a case, this was the closest thing they had achieved to a confession.

“That’s great,” Cooper said, taking both pictures back and sliding them into her folder. “I’ll take these back to the office and get back to you with more information on this property. I supposed you would like to arrange another meeting.”

“No, that won’t be necessary.”

“What, why?”

“Who are you, really?”

“What do you mean?”

“I may not use email, but I know I how to fire up a search engine. Funny, I couldn’t find any information on you, Ms. Kent. It’s like you don’t exist.”

“We’re going in,” Anderson said, hopping up from their bench outside the restaurant. Before they could get to the door, the sound of gunshots cracked through the air.

***

Out front, pedestrians cried out in panic. Two of them, though, weren’t caught by surprise and pulled out their sidearms. The one closest to the building, Agent Malone, saw as Cooper fell to the ground. He couldn’t tell if or where she’d been hit.

***

Anderson popped into the side of the restaurant and fired shots into both of the bodyguards spotted earlier. To his surprise, there was a third man who sprayed bullets back in his direction. Anderson managed to fall to the floor in time, but Smith, who entered just behind him, took several shots to the chest.

***

Malone pointed his gun straight at Fletcher. Before he could get a word out, the man fired back in his direction, shattering the large pane of glass between them. The bullet forced Malone onto his back.

***

Anderson fired multiple shots into the unexpected assailant, with one piercing the side of his head. Unaware that Smith was down, he rushed deeper into the restaurant, gesturing for fear-struck diners to stay low as he tried to fix his sights on Fletcher and his backup.

***

As Malone hit the ground, the agent behind him, Patterson, fired at the bodyguard standing by Fletcher’s side. Before he could let off another round, the leader had flipped over his table and turned to flee out the back.

***

“Drop it!” Anderson yelled as he caught Fletcher by surprise. Again, the man wasted no time aiming his firearm at a federal agent. But before Fletcher could pull the trigger, Anderson planted a round into his thigh.

“Target’s down,” Anderson said as he kicked away Fletcher’s gun.

***

After the gunshots stopped, most of the remaining bodies rushed out of the restaurant. Six didn’t move at all.

Smith was dead. Cooper had a pulse, but she was non-responsive. Malone determined this as he knelt by her side with blood spilling from his wounded shoulder.

Patterson rushed to help Anderson with Fletcher. The target no longer put up a fight, but the operation was still a failure. They had Fletcher, but he would be out of prison years before Cooper woke up from her coma.

But when she did, there was a shop by the shore that she would visit.

Creative Commons License
“Target Acquired” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.