Mist has fallen onto the city, but it cannot hide. Illuminated towers climb into the darkness, forming pillars of golden light. Sirens and alarms wail, unveiling cloaked activity. The shroud has swallowed the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, causing the traffic to thin. Vehicles navigate in a delicate fashion, at a steady pace, at a measured distance. Save one. A black Mercedes weaves through traffic with total disregard. It’s a frantic effort to stitch together lost fragments of night. Agitated drivers blare their disapproval through horns and flashing lights. The efforts propel the Mercedes-Benz faster.
Inside the car, electric blue light, like faded neon, brings life to the black suits worn by the dangerous men inside. Highly paid and highly skilled, the two men up front are professional security. Focused, their eyes cut left, then right, searching for threats not yet observed. Their suits, tailored to be loose, still bulge in accessible places. Marco Rossi, sole occupant of the backseat, knows they’re worth the excess cost. Marco’s a godfather in the New York City Mafia. He’s aware this ride into Queens from his home in Connecticut will be expensive. It’s nothing. The cost of a bespoke suit, or a new watch. Safety is paramount. Survival is everything.
The coarse man relaxes into the supple leather, listening to his iPhone playlist. Taillights cut through the tinted glass in red contrails, and Marco stares, amused by passing the vehicles. Catching his reflection in the glass, his features sunken, his terrible scowl permanently etched, Marco looks away. For some time the sight has been unpleasant. A new melody is needed. Seizing his iPhone, he attempts to scroll through his list, but it’s frozen. He closes the app and tries to reset the program. The previous choice maddeningly reappears. He sighs and deposits the phone back on his center console.
As Rossi struggles with the music, the driver struggles with traffic. The speeding sedan is approaching another group of sluggish cars. A way through is needed. The driver flips on his blinker, signaling his intentions toward the right lane.
“Clear right,” says the bodyguard in the passenger seat.
Knuckles clasped tight on the wheel, the driver attempts to switch lanes. The steering wheel is locked. He looks down and mumbles, “What the fuck …?”
The second guard looks over and asks, “What is it?”
“The steering wheel’s locked. I can’t turn it,” he replies.
“Stop the vehicle immediately.”
The brake pedal collapses with a thump. The red needle on the speedometer stays pegged at fifty-five. Thump thump thump. Three more attempts. Three more failures. Attempting to stay calm, and think through the problem, the driver depresses the Mercedes-Benz’s ignition. Fifty-five. No options remain.
Noticing the problem, Rossi leans forward, asking, “What’s going on?”
“We’ve lost control of the vehicle, sir.”
No further explanation is necessary. Rossi reaches for his door handle and rips the plastic lever upward. The handle is sheared in two. A tiny red light flashes on the sill of the door, reminding Marco Rossi of his captivity. Marco’s gaze returns to the front in time to watch the speedometer’s needle edge forward: sixty … sixty-five … seventy …
“What the fuck are you two idiots doing?! There’s a wall of cars up ahead,” screams Rossi.
The Mercedes issues an unexpected reply, “Warning: traction control system disabled.”
“What the fuck are you two idiots doing?! There’s a wall of cars up ahead,” echoes Rossi’s voice from a speaker at the center of a wooden table.
“Let’s go ahead and take the cue. Harrison, drop the TCS,” says Jen Yates, the leader of tonight’s operation, and the founder of a clandestine, highly specialized technical access group. Educated far from the Ivy Leagues, and raised in the underbelly of America’s intelligence apparatus, Jen founded her independent group of hackers on both experience and common sense. As she sits behind her computer, the one hundred and ten pound, blonde haired, green-eyed fire storm tracks the Mercedes-Benz’s telemetries in real time. GPS location. Speed. Direction. It’s all up for control, or soon will be.
“TCS is off,” replies Harrison Lowe. Clean cut, with sharp eyes hidden behind tortoise glasses, Harrison learned computers at the modern-day tech mecca of Stanford. Gentle and wise, he’s the Group’s idealist and the newest recruit. Excelling, he’s been considered a wise choice by his boss, Jen.
“Our window is closing. How do our sensors look, Marcus?” asks Jen.
“Blind spots are open, boss lady. And the airbags are off,” says Marcus Keen, a born hustler and graduate of Harvard’s Computer Engineering Program. Raised by his grandmother in north Philadelphia, he beat the odds. A partnership interwoven with trust and loyalty, Jen and Marcus have spent the past several years plying their trade.
“Call the NYPD! Or the fire department! I don’t care, just get me the fuck outta here!” screams Marco.
It’s a shrill invasion of a peaceful cabin. Populated only by subdued voices and the crackle of burning firewood, Jen’s base in the remote Montana wilds is unaccustomed to these intrusions.
Jen is forced to shout over the screams as her captives try to escape, “Harrison, flip me control of the wheel!”
The symphony of chaos is climaxing. There is no more room for reason. Panic has completed its invasion, all that’s left is meaningless struggle. Marco Rossi jams his well-heeled shoes into the rear door. Nothing. The bodyguards smash their fists into tempered glass. Useless pain. The three men feel the vehicle change direction. They stop and stare at the steering wheel, mesmerized.
Now unlocked, the wheel glides the sedan left, to the far side of the bridge. It’s followed by a hard right, careening the sedan toward the void at the edge of the guardrails. The sedan impacts, collapsing steel and flipping the vehicle over the rail. The driver’s face smashes into the steering wheel, cratering both. The two remaining survivors levitate in the cabin, weightless, waiting for the next collision to occur.
A watery mosaic paints the windshield as the sedan hits the river. Marco Rossi and his remaining bodyguard grasp for their bearings as they shake off the impact. Sinking into the East River, they know time is escaping with the cabin’s oxygen. The headlights are still on, illuminating the lime green water that has begun cresting against the sedan’s windows.
Marco wails, “Use ya gun!”
“Don’t fuckin’ argue with me! Use the gun!”
The guard draws his pistol and levels it towards the windshield. The safety flips off with a click, and he squeezes the trigger. A concussion ripples through the cabin. The bullet strikes the glass and ricochets back. Its path bores through the guard’s skull, hollowing its contents and projecting them back towards his boss. The bullet’s master work of red, pink, and white splatters onto Rossi.
Marco looks at the dead man in front of him, his mind reeling, attempting to make sense of this inexplicable event. Seeing the divot formed in the glass, he’s reminded of the decision to have the car armored. Bulletproof glass was included in the package. A good choice, until now.
Shock has prevented Marco from noticing a more insidious threat. Water has found a way into the Mercedes. Sinking deeper, the pressure rises, forcing water in faster. Marco notices the water’s stench first. Its chill second. The water begins to engulf Marco’s legs. He shivers, first gently, and as the water inches higher, the convulsions grow stronger. Rossi reaches under his shirt, retrieving a golden cross. He mutters a silent prayer with sporadic breaths, the freezing water destroying his ability to breathe properly. As he squeezes the cross tighter, water rises past his stomach and engulfs the closed fist surrounding the cross. Hyperventilation. Rossi’s consciousness is losing its grip. His brain is reduced to basic motor function, his body begins fighting on a primal level. The black glove wraps around Marco’s neck, preparing to cover his mouth. Struggling for a final few seconds, Marco raises his chin.
The typing has stopped. Jen, Harrison, and Marcus have gathered around the speaker, their lifeline to death. As they listen, the speaker echoes the last gasp of a dying man hundreds of miles away. Silence falls, breaths are held, and ears search for the next clue.
A waterlogged cough comes next. Rossi is fighting the desperate urge to respire against the unending patience of ice water. Jen leans forward at the cough, gripped by the moment. The success of this mission will be a turning point in all of their careers. The skill necessary to pull off an assassination at this level is extraordinary, and their names will be at the top of every list worth being on. Jen breathes deeply as Rossi is suffocated.
A gulp hums out from the speaker, followed by the sound of gurgling water. Rossi’s lungs are now filled with water. Cavitation. The bubbles from Marco Rossi’s last breath are struggling to exit the submerged Mercedes. Moments pass. The sound of a struggle fills the silence. Rossi’s body bangs against the sedan’s ceiling.
“What is that?” asks Harrison.
Marcus says, “Seizures, man.”
“Shh,” whispers Jen.
The air hangs suspended in the room. Even the fire abstains from popping for just a few moments. Jen announces, “I’m declaring mission success. Good job, gentlemen.”
Eager to break the tension, Harrison speaks up, “Nice leadership, Jen.”
“I couldn’t have done it without either of you.”
Marcus says, “You da woman.”
Jen smiles. “Well … I won’t hesitate to take that title. Not sure either of you would have much use for it. All right, guys, let’s get all of our data packaged, and sent back to the Feds. We’ll wait for their confirmation, hopefully by morning.”
Marcus says, “You think they’ll wire those big-ass paychecks by morning?”
“Bank usually holds those for a couple days,” replies Jen, who looks back to Harrison. “Congrats on your first successful elimination.”
Harrison nods, dazed. “Thanks …”
Marcus laughs, “Real talk. People need to turn their car’s bluetooth off.”
Jen reins them in. “All right, boys … data. Remember, be careful not to attach code or programs!”
They begin packaging data to be sent directly to their handlers at the FBI. Voice recordings, video recordings, anything that will confirm not only their actions but the death of Rossi.
The sedan’s headlights slash through the water as it sinks deeper. The three corpses wander aimlessly inside the submerged Mercedes. The armored vehicle has ushered them into the hereafter in both safety and luxury. Rossi’s body thumps against the windshield with the cross clutched in his hand, and terror in his eyes …