There was a click and a bright flash, white like the snow so far behind him now. He advanced the tiny, credit card-thin camera to the next blank frame, then he put it to his eye, framed the document, and there was another click. The shutter on the camera pulled open, giving the blank, receptive film a path to the light. In the next split second, the flash went off, the image of the plans on the table were instantly burned into the film. Permanently. Not unlike the shadows of the Hiroshima victims, he thought.
Four pictures; no more, no less. If he had done his job well, four frames were all that were necessary. He tucked the camera away in his right jacket pocket. With his other hand he produced a worn pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He tapped out a cigarette, put the pack away, and bent his head to light the cigarette.
“There he is!” There came a shout, and he swore, ducking. Someone from the hallway to his left had spotted him. Two security men began to fire at him. Bullets flew around him, whistling around him. Partially thanks to the complete cover of dark, and partiallyl thanks to his sudden appearance, the would-be assasins had no yet realized that he had ducked down. Pieces of wall broke apart and became nearly as dangerous as the bullets themselves. Suddenly the only window in the office, the one he had been standing in front of, burst into glass and showered around him.
“It’s now or never,” he told himself. Still low to the ground, the firing still continuing, he pulled grappling hook and rope from pants cargo pocket. Securing it around a foot of a desk, he tied the rope around his waist. “Alright! I’m coming out!” The firing ended. He stood slowly, with his hands up in the air, but he backed slowly towards the open window.
“Hey, wait a minute! Stop!” Grasping the rope in his hands, he lept backwards out of the window. But not soon enough. One final slug tore through his left shoulder causing his arm to go numb. Suddenly, the rope pulled taught, and he swung down in an arc back towards the building. His feet hit hard against the metal and glass exterior of the building. He was about five floors up.
There was a burst of static in his ear. Then an unfamiliar voice said, “We know where you are, Agent 9.” He panicked. This mission had gotten extremely out of hand. He fumbled with his right hand, trying very desperately to undo the knot around his waist. There was only one way out now.
With a sudden jerk, the rope was loose. He dropped straight down. To his benefit, there was a spattering of shrub plant life below him. While this didn’t provide much to break his fall (with a painfully physical or painfully audible snap, his leg broke), it kept him alive. He had to get moving.
He ran, as best he could with one leg and one arm, in the only direction that he could – forward. He had landed on grass, but not ten feet from building he had just fallen from was desert clay. He tried his best not to drag his feet or otherwise kick up dust. He carried on until he felt safe, then he collapsed against a tree. He was surrounded by dust, by death. He was a long distance from home, from the snow-capped ski slopes, from hot chocolate and a roaring fire, from a family that depended on him. He remembered the day he enlisted, almost bitter now. His children would have no father; his wife no husband. The winter was always the hardest on them.
“No,” he said. He narrowed his eyes and decided that no one was going to benefit from his sacrifice. He reached into his pocket, took out the camera, and considered it in his open palm. He could see the starlight reflecting off of it. If he leaned close enough to the lens, he even saw his own reflection, stretched and contorted across the spherical glass surface. Then he heaved it, sending the instrument as far as he could. If there was anything he could do before he lost his life, it would be to make sure no one would benefit by his sacrifice.
To the desert, he appeared to be standing there contemplating something, but he was tonguing a patch loose on the inside of his mouth. “God. Please forgive me for this. I know that taking my own life is a sin, but I’m sure you could let this one by. After all, you’re third on the list.” He chuckled and looked up at the heavens. “Please take care of them while I’m gone. I know you will.” Then he bit down on a tiny capsule that he had worked out in his mouth. He felt his muscles spasm and weaken.
He closed his eyes. He wanted to be surprised.