The rifleman watched the Jeep tumble after he'd taken out one of the tires. Gun still raised to his shoulder and poised to shoot again, he followed along the tree line. The vehicle skidded to a stop on the driver's side. The rifleman trained his weapon at the topside door, then at the disabled 4x4's back end, which was obscured by a heavy cloud of dust kicked up by the roll and crash. He thought he saw movement but he just didn't know for sure. The sounds of escape would have been covered by the idling engine as well, making his job a little tougher. He hastened along the tall grass in an effort to change the angle of his shot, but disturbed a wasp in the process, and it stung his chin before flying off into the thick, humid jungle.
He put a hand to his face to squelch the burn and cursed inwardly. He hated the jungle -- the oppressive humidity, the prehistoric bugs, losing three pounds of sweat every day. There was a part of him that wanted nothing more than to simply turn and open fire into the trees in hopes of nailing that little bastard who had stung him.
But that would have been wildly unprofessional in light of the money he'd been paid to take out Dr. Kleiber and the grad student accompanying him. The people who'd hired him last night via his standard web protocols had nearly doubled his normal fee if certain criteria be met: The kill must be done today, the bodies must never be discovered, and a leather satchel must be retrieved from Dr. Kleiber's person. A dark smile touched the shooter's lips as he wiped sweat from his eyes with his shoulders. Hiding the bodies would be easy; he could leave them here by the Jeep and they would almost certainly go undiscovered -- or get eaten before the next passerby.
The sun beat down on the man's forehead and he was forced to wipe his face against his upper sleeve again. Goddamn jungle, he thought.
He rounded the corner so that he had an optimal view of the front of the mangled Jeep. The dust had settled somewhat, but fluid had splashed on the hot engine during the vehicle's tumble, and great clouds of steam billowed from beneath the hood and into the sky. Another curse punched through the shooter's head. It would be just his luck that someone could see that thick column of steam from miles away and find the desire to come investigate. Damn, he'd have to be quick.
He picked up his pace as he continued to circle the crippled Jeep. There were no bodies on the ground and he was unable to properly see inside. This left him with no other option but to leave the relative cover of the tall weeds and get a closer look. In his head he saw the two marks stunned and wounded, possibly crawling from the wreck. It would be easy enough to walk up behind them and put a bullet in each's head. He shouldered the rifle and pulled out a pistol, crouched and duck-walked into the road. The Jeep was only eighty feet away and the money seemed that much closer. He could almost taste it.
A sharp clap of thunder coincided with another wasp sting at his cheek. His bewildered mind knew there were no thunderheads nearby; how had there been a lightning strike so close by? He put his hand to his face again, angered by these Godforsaken bugs in this part of the world, and pulled away a massive amount of bright red blood.
What the hell?
But his mind needn't an explanation, he already knew.
He'd been shot.