(Author's note: More Helium.com inspired flash fiction. The prompt this time was "Black Coffee.")
The cold November winds whipped through the narrow streets of the Marais district of Paris like angry hornets bent on revenge. A fitting analogy Duncan Archer thought as he sat alone at a small table outside the Café Charlot nursing a cup of black American style coffee. From his carefully chosen spot Duncan quietly watched the throngs of native Parisians and tourists stroll up and down the Rue de Bretagne lost in the wonder of being in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. A small part of Duncan’s mind wished that he could be one of those oblivious masses enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
His purpose for being in the City of Light had nothing to do with pleasure or joy, for Duncan was the purest form of predator patiently waiting for his quarry to stray within his range. Outwardly relaxed, Duncan nonetheless sat coiled, ready to strike like a snake with his right hand inside his coat pocket comfortably gripping his pistol. For Duncan this occasion held a grim satisfaction for all the years he spent in pursuit of a man responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent people, his team, and the only woman he ever loved.
The toll for his single minded pursuit of one man had cost Duncan his professional career, his family back home in the States, and more importantly, his soul. Staring down at his cup he caught a reflection of himself in the dark liquid and almost didn’t recognize the face looking back at him.
For a month Duncan had watched the man he sought to terminate casually stroll within inches of his current spot acting as if he was just a common human being. There was even a day when as Duncan followed his target too closely the jostle of the hectic crowds walking down the street caused the two to bump into each other and make eye contact. Years of careful detective work could have evaporated in that moment alerting his long time foe that he was being stalked.
Somehow his enemy did not recognize him and went about his usual affairs, it was enough to send chills down Duncan’s spine and cause him for a short time to reevaluate everything he believed about what he was doing. Something about the situation just did not add up, had his quarry become so engrossed in his civilian life that he could ignore his surroundings and past? Or, Duncan thought, had he sacrificed so much of himself that not even his enemy could recognized him now.
Once Duncan understood his enemy would not run he spent the rest of his time in Paris carefully honing all the elements of the equation that would allow him to successfully kill his target without harming anyone else. With everything in place the long awaited day arrived, for the first time in all the years of searching some small surviving part of Duncan’s soul understood everything would finally end one way or the other. Sitting at that small table all that was left was for his prey to come to him.
“Is this seat taken?” Someone asked in a strangely familiar female voice.
Duncan looked up to see a ghost take the empty seat across from him. “Hello Victoria,” he said realizing every part of his reality and existence now meant nothing. “You look as beautiful as the day you supposedly died.”
“Duncan you need to understand this quickly,” she said, “I cannot allow you to kill Sergei, I turned him to our side years ago and he is the most vital deep cover asset we have. My team spotted you the first day you setup your position here. I was hoping someone at Langley would come and force you home but I was disappointed when I finally got word you had gone rogue. Russian Federal Security cannot for an instant believe Sergei is anything but a valuable operative, far too much is at stake.”
“Victoria,” that bastard killed my team, I saw the video of him shooting Anthony, Mary, and Daniel in the back of their heads. Dammit, I thought he killed you!”
The two former lovers looked at each other across a gulf of time and circumstance that was impossible to bridge.
“Duncan,” she whispered, “I never wanted this but we both made a commitment when we joined the Agency. Please, go home, or find an island someplace and rebuild your life.”
“You know I can’t let this go.” Duncan said actually surprised that this day would end not in bloody satisfaction but in a totally unexpected impasse with the love of his life he thought long dead.
Victoria always had remarkable reflexes and he barely felt the needle she held enter his leg. The poison was relentless but Duncan was able to stay upright in the chair. When Sergei finally came into view Duncan saw no lingering animosity from his ancient foe or glee in his impending death. As his vision faded he did notice the look of love Victoria and Sergei exchanged with each other, it was enough to make Duncan chuckle before everything went blacker than the coffee he had been drinking.