by Ben Coes
118 PARTRIDGE LANE, N.W.
Rob Tacoma sped the Italian sports car across downtown Washington, D.C. It was a balmy evening in early Spring, cooler than usual and the sky was filled with stars and the occasional roar of a jet overhead, descending into Reagan National Airport. The lights of the capital city this Friday evening were like diamonds, glittering from every direction. Tacoma had the roof of the Huracan Spyder down and the wind blew his long dirty-blonde hair back and tousled it. The engine revved loud enough for pedestrians along Wisconsin Avenue to turn their heads, though it was a tempered, frustrated growl by the 630 H.P. engine, for Tacoma stayed within ten miles per hour of the speed limit. He crossed through the campus of Georgetown University, where female students watched the sleek vehicle, and its driver, as they purred down one of the cobblestone alleys on campus. He took a side route down to Canal Road, along the Potomac, and opened it up a little, finding 100 MPH while at the same time keeping in check and not creating any risk for the cars he was weaving by on the busy road. He took a right on Arizona and found his way to a residential street, an address north of Georgetown, a neighborhood of simple, Colonial-style homes, in a part of Washington called Palisades.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Hector Calibrisi, had given Tacoma the address. He was to meet a man named Billy Cosgrove – an operator just back from the Middle East. Like Tacoma, an ex-Navy SEAL, but Cosgrove had stayed in government, and was now JSOC’s top exfoliation man in the thousand-square mile territory bordering the Khyber Pass, where Pakistan met Afghanistan. He ran all kill teams in theater. He liked two-man teams. Occasionally, if the target required an extra layer of manpower, Cosgrove went along.
Or at least he did. The CIA had recruited Cosgrove for a different job. Tacoma too. They would be working together. a two-man team. It would be their first meeting.
Tacoma parked the car in the driveway, next to a maroon Chevy Silverado pick-up. He walked to the front door and rang the doorbell. Tacoma waited, listening for footsteps, but he heard nothing. After a few moments, he rang it again.
Tacoma reached for the doorbell a third time, then stopped before pressing the button. He remained silent and still for a dozen seconds. He smelled the faintest trace of chemicals, a smoky aroma of petrolate. He glanced at Cosgrove’s pick-up. Tacoma removed a pick-gun from his pocket and put it against the lock and pressed the button. A small alloy pin extended from the device and found its way into the keyhole. A few seconds later, the lock clicked open. Tacoma opened the door and slowly pushed the door in.
He said nothing as he stepped inside the house.
The entrance hallway was empty except for a few cardboard boxes stacked against a bare wall. He walked into Cosgrove’s home. He shut the door gently and looked around. The entrance hallway was dark and it was hard to see anything. He looked into a room off the hallway. There was enough light from outside to illuminate the room. He saw several large cardboard boxes stacked up, a leather chair, and a rolled up carpet. Cosgrove was a man who had never unpacked.
The house was a picture of divorce, the result of trying to build a family inside the life of an operator. The fruits of Cosgrove’s sacrifice to his country.
Though all was still, the scene had the sense of prior chaos.
After a few moments, Tacoma became aware of a light flickering at the end of the hallway. He walked towards it and came to a set of stairs. But what he thought was the flickering of a light was something altogether different.
There were lights on upstairs. The flickering was caused by something twirling slowly in the air at the bottom of the stairs, causing the light to undulate, light then dark, as it spun slowly around in a makeshift hanging ground.
He looked up. Strung up from the ceiling, by a rope around the neck, was Cosgrove.
Cosgrove’s face was beet red, his eyes were shut and badly bruised, his face caked in dried blood. A long iron railroad spike was nailed completely through his chest. His shirt and everything below was drenched in red.
Tacoma looked up at Cosgrove with a feeling of utter horror, a feeling, even, of fear. He had killed many men and he’d seen many men die, but he felt, in that moment, as if he was looking into the eyes of the Devil himself.
Tacoma removed his cell and dialed Hector Calibrisi, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. As he pressed the button for speed dial, he forced himself to look up at Cosgrove’s face. It was badly beaten. There had been a fight.
The floor felt sticky beneath his shoes. He looked down and registered a wet, glassy sheen of liquid. A pool of blood covered the floor and Tacoma suddenly realized he was standing in the middle of it.
He studied the growing pool of crimson. He felt paralyzed. For several seconds, he had a hard time breathing. He remained still and, as he waited for Calibrisi to answer, checked his weapons.
Tacoma knew Cosgrove’s wife was re-married and lived with their two young children in Atlanta. Tacoma would never wish divorce on anyone, but as he looked up at Cosgrove’s badly beaten face, he was glad he was the one – and not his wife or children – who found him.
“What is it?” said Calibrisi.
“Cosgrove is dead,” said Tacoma as he stared at the steel spike that was stabbed into the center of Cosgrove’s chest.
“Billy Cosgrove, the guy you sent me to meet. I’m at his house.”
There was a long pause. Through the phone, Tacoma could hear the din of conversation at a restaurant in the background.
“Say that again, Rob,” Calibrisi whispered.
“He’s hanging by a rope,” said Tacoma. “They hung him by the rafters and stabbed him with a spike.”
“Don’t touch him,” said Calibrisi. “And for chrissakes, get out of the goddam house right now!”
Tacoma saw movement. He looked up past Cosgrove’s dangling corpse to the stairwell that ran up straight to the second floor. He hung up the cell and pocketed it, then stepped behind Cosgrove to the base of the stairs. It was just a patch of light – or darkness – a flutter in his periphery vision.
Tacoma knelt. He removed a gun from beneath his armpit, P226R, a custom-made, snubnose alloy suppressor screwed into the muzzle. Tacoma moved to the stairs, stepping around the dangling corpse, which continued to slowly turn and create a prism of patterns across the wall, and across Tacoma’s face as he moved up the dark stairwell.