School: Balwearie High School, Fife
The sky rumbled and a bolt of lightning temporarily lit up the sunless sky. The trench-coated man picked out a single white car making the treacherous journey towards the house at the centre of the ring of hills. His target. He primed the sniper rifle in his hands, drawing the bespoke laser sight to his eye. The next few minutes seemed to pass in a blur. At the end however, the woman lay dead on the ground. He was gone before her heart stopped beating.
At a NATO stronghold in the outskirts of Warsaw, a team of experts took in the scene before them. A blurred photo, taken by a concealed camera in the dead woman’s car, showed a shadowy figure crouching, far away, in the long grass at the top of a hill. "Hold on a second, I might be able to get an ID," exclaimed the head of the team. In no time at all a man's profile appeared on the large screen at the front of the room. "Vladimir Princip. He was arrested a decade ago for murder and been off the radar since the end of his sentence. Got bailed by an anonymous benefactor," he said. “I'll get a man on him now.”
His phone beeped. The 35-year-old picked it up. Damn. Another job. Ever since Hamburg, he’d despised solo missions. Oh well. Ivan Cherenovski was the best, he knew it. Apparently the man he was to tail had killed an arms dealer. This guy was in Pisa now. The message had a link to online flight tickets for midday. He glanced at the LED display on his bedside table. 11 o'clock. Shoot.
The villa was an ornate, red-brick building, sprawling elegantly over its allotted ground in the centre of Pisa. So, this was to be Princip’s base of operations until tonight, when he would go out into the surrounding countryside to catch his prey. From a door, half-hidden in the facade, a tanned man in his late thirties, wearing a black business suit stepped out.
"Mr Princip, Mr Williams will see you now," He said, with a slight bow, before moving aside to hold open the door. Princip snatched his violin cases and yanked the bike’s keys from the ignition. He stepped through the door, his lanky frame meaning he had to stoop slightly. The other man let the way along the lavish corridor, with huge paintings adorning the walls.
Suddenly, he stopped at a door, plainer than the rest.
Inside, it was like a different world to the renaissance mansion outside. It comprised of a grand oak desk, on which sat an expensive looking computer and a few random documents and books. The walls were lined with curved, elaborate bookshelves, overflowing with books. Behind the desk was a surprisingly young man. He had a wavy mop of brown hair, with hawkish blue eyes. He too was tanned and wore the same suit as the man now standing outside the door.
"Mr Princip." The man talked with a husky, slightly accented voice. "Welcome to my home. I believe this will be a temporary home for you too, until tonight. He told me to permit you." The man said ‘he’ like it was a secret. Fool!
Later that evening, Ivan stepped off the private the jet into an aromatic Mediterranean evening. It was already dark but the streetlamps and city lights gave plenty of light to see by. He stepped into the BMW sports car waiting for him. The key turned, stiffly, and the engine growled into life. The car sped from the airport, automatic gearbox sliding smoothly through the gears. The GPS screen on the dashboard showed Princip was making his way out of the city, close enough to intercept if Ivan moved fast. NATO had an important physicist living nearby, so this was presumed to be the target.
Ivan flicked the electric window down and leant out. The beautiful medley of smells hit him at once: sea salt, car upholstery and the fresh aroma of fresh bread mingled to become a breath-taking scent. It reminded Ivan about how, in the midst of this bloody vendetta, things like this could co-exist so wonderfully. There! Distracted by the evening’s beauty, Ivan barely noticed the black clad figure on a motorbike, racing along dangerously fast. In his hand Ivan had noticed a shining black gun. Any doubt in his mind was eliminated. He had to act. He accelerated, but the motorbike rider, noticing the car’s erratic behaviour, cut across the lanes and blocked him off. Ivan swore under his breath. There was a surprising amount of traffic for eleven o'clock at night. He tried again to overtake. The motorbike swerved through the traffic and swung wildly down a side road. The car behind crept up, just metres behind and gaining fast. But Ivan knew he couldn't run him down. NATO needed to know who he was working for, and they couldn’t discover that if he was dead.
The bike flew up a steep hill and re-joined the motorway. He spun the wheel and propelled himself into the lane furthest away from his adversary. He matched the bike’s speed and cut across the lanes. Ivan bore down on the assassin, forcing him to seek the undesirable refuge of the cypress trees on the verge of the road. Ten seconds passed, the assassin finding no means of escape through the dense foliage. The sports car’s wing mirror scraped against the bike’s handlebars. They span out of the white-knuckled fists of the assassin. The front wheel rolled crazily, before the whole bike smashed head-on to the outstretched arms of a thirty-foot pine. The entire vehicle went up in flames.
Ivan screeched the car to a stop and leaped out. He sprinted over to the crash site. There was no way anyone could have survived that. A second explosion, presumably from the fuel tank, threw a charred, blackened plastic case towards him. It landed at his feet with a soft ‘thump’. It had evidently once been a mobile phone. NATO could have used the contacts listed on that phone. He clenched his fists. How could he have failed? He had to be more careful. He wasn’t as good at this as he once had been. For the first time, he began to question his skills at the job he had once prided himself on being so good at. He had always been the finest in his field. He hated this feeling of hopelessness and failure.
At the lab where the phone’s remains were being examined, Ivan had been taken aside, and led into a smaller adjacent room. The scientist in charge of the investigation sat down opposite him at a cold, metal desk. He was a big, intimidating man, and spoke harshly. “Ivan. The phone of the man you killed, we have checked it through. There was only one number.” He slid the analysis across the desk. “It was yours.”