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A Perfect Score


Just a story about espionage, love, romance… silly stuff like that.

A PERFECT SCORE

“I’d kill for you” I whispered, still breathless and perspiring.”Would you?” She said. “Would you really?”
Her name was Shona, and I’d never met anyone like her. Never will again and that’s for sure. She had black hair, olive skin. Isreali army reserve. She was a gymnast and physical education instructor. In great shape.
My name’s Mike just by the way. Michael Laing. If you follow sport, especially the paralympics, chances are you’ve heard of me. Pistol shoot. Archery…even play a pretty mean game of darts. Get around pretty well in a wheelchair.Been in it a long time now. Workout everyday. All the crucial bits still work ok, and I’ve never let a little disability slow me down.
I’ve seen people play on being crippled for sympathy. Not me. And can’t see the facination of able-bodied busy bodies who seem to be fascinated and challenged by how disabled people ‘DO IT’. Just like everyone else for crying out loud! Frankly, it’s not an issue.
Shona was neither sympathetic, nor fascinated about ‘that’. I’m certain of that.
“Have you ever been in love? REALLY in love?” She asked, gently stroking a wisp of wet hair out of my eyes. I thought about it for a moment before answering. “I guess…not until recently…no, no I haven’t. You?”
She touched her lips to mine…a butterfly kiss. She had black eyes, and gazing into them was a journey into bliss. She thought for a moment too, before answering. “Not until recently, no. It’s a little bit confusing. It’s so hard to know how to deal with it.”

That was October. By the end of November we seemed to be dealing with it pretty well. It might just be MY experience, but I think all performance improves when you’re happy and in love. At the range I was perfect scoring almost all the time. And the afternoons in each other’s arms eclipsed even the definition of perfect. At 2.30pm every afternoon she would dump her Adidas bag on the doorstep and ring the bell. She never showered at the gym. We showered together. If I close my eyes I can still see her smooth brown skin highlighted agains pure white soapsuds. And then she would sit naked at my useless feet and I would dry and brush her impossibly long hair.

She refused her own key, though it was offered several times. She always left at precisely 7.30pm and I don’t know where she went after that. It didn’t matter. I was deleriously happy, and from the way Shona’s eyes and face shone I’d say that she was at least half as happy again. Call me romantic, but I couldn’t help myself. I took to presenting her with a single red rose, neatly placed on the fresh white sheets every day. Everything was perfect.

“Would you really kill for me?”
I must have laughed or something, because the playfulness went out of her eyes.She kissed me several times. Those butterfly kisses. As usual she was stetched out on top of me, breasts mashed against my chest. It felt good. Aside from the wetness of our bodies, and the smell of spent passion drifting up in waves, the weight of her eased the contant ache. It’s always worse after making love… but worth every nagging minute.
I kept it light in spite of the odd little thump of worry. “So who would I have to kill?” I smiled, but it felt a bit pasty. “After all, I’m not exactly a quick-escape artist you know.”
“My husband.”

I searched those beautiful black eyes for a long time. Hoping to find something mischievous there. Nothing. Nothing resembling amusement anyway. She meant it. “I didn’t even know you were married! You never told me that!”
“It was a matter of convenience” She interupted before I could indulge in a tirade. “There are things you don’t know…can’t know. Do you believe I love you?” She took my face in her hands, forcing me to look into her eyes. Then she let go and quickly rolled off me with a little cry of frustration. “Damn! It wasn’t supposed to be like this!” Had it not been for the sudden tears that sprang from her eyes and rolled pitifully down her cheeks, I could be more cynical about it today. She turned her back on me quickly, wiping away her embarrassment. Shona was not a crier.

I watched her lithe naked body as she paced the room deciding what to do. Then she made a decision. She took two photographs from her Adidas bag and walked over to the bed. Though her hand was on my bare arm, patting it and stroking tenderly without being aware of the fact, her voice was all business. “Raphael Molokai…known only as Raith. My husband. Trained by Isreali Intelligence. An assasin, though no longer for the Isrealis. He’s freelance.” “He’s very handsome.” I said. “He’s BEAUTIFUL” she replied quickly, “but as evil as he is beautiful.”
“Did you ever..”
“NO!” Again she cut me off. “I told you. The marriage was a convenience. A REQUEST.” I understood that to mean an order.

Shona stilled any questions I might have had by continuing on in a clipped authoritative monotone. I felt that I was being briefed. The second photograph I recognised instantly. “Adnan Khan” I muttered. I had seen him often in the society pages. Rich, handsome. Of Arabic-Indian origin. “Adnan Khan,” she said as if I had not heard the first time. “His father was an arms dealer. He invested heavily in the west. A man of little integrity, he sold his services to the highest bidder.
“Hang on a minute. I’m confused. WHO are we talking about now.?” “The father. Anwar.”
“And Adnan?” I asked a little hesitantly. “What’s be besides being a rich playboy?”
“Be quiet!” Shona slapped my arm. Not a playful or affectionate slap either. I shut up and listened.
“Raith is here to assinate Adnan.”
I felt as if I was being wrapped up in a work of fiction. It was all just too impossible! I needed to take this a bit more slowly. “Shona…I’m… not an aggressive man.” I tried to sound tough, but it still sounded whimpy to me. “Look,” I said. “Tell me about Adnan. Who he is, what he is. What in God’s name is this all about Shona?”
She was silent for perhaps a minute. Considering what to say and how to say it. At last she took a deep breath, letting the air out through her nose. “The Kahan Corporation is dedicated to the establishment of small, specialized hospitals. They make and distribute artificial limbs in many places…In Cambodia, Vietnam, in India, and Europe, in Africa. Kahan provides the money for organizations that help victims of landmines. He funds high quality burns units, provides reconstructive surgery and doctors to help people who have been left with nothing…Worse than nothing.” Almost cruelly she added. “YOU should know about that.”
“So he is a saint as well as a playboy.” I couldn’t help the cynicism. It was unnecessary and I regretted it even before she gave me the look that contained both judgement and pity.
“He is also a thorn in the side of the governments. He calls for the banning of landmines, cluster bombs, napalm, biological weapons. Did you know that Britain and the US still use cluster bombs Micheal? Do you know what cluster bombs do? Bombs within bombs that explode above the ground and shred to pieces anything within hundreds of yards. Ten percent of them don’t detonate. They look like little shiny balls until a child or an innocent picks them up…” She stopped, a look of intense disgust on her face, before starting up again. “Adnan has created power through the empowerment of the poor and the suffering.”
“Forgive me for asking,” I said, “But just who would want to kill this man? Why?”
“All of them.” She said quickly. “Adnan threatens economic power. He has the love, and the loyalty of millions of disaffeced people, and that in turn gives him unquestionable power. Power that money cannot buy.”
“I don’t understand.” I said, scratching my head. ” I just don’t understand all this international intrigue. And I’m not even sure if I believe it.”
Shona gave me another of those looks. “Have I lied to you Michael?” “I don’t know.” I ventured honestly. But the look on her face, and her stance turned my heart inside out. The anguish lurking, but not readily expressed.
Then suddenly I was crying without knowing why. Shona took my face again between the palms of her hands, and began to kiss away the flood of tears. And then the woman who rarely cried was crying too. “But you understand LOVE” She said wretchedly. “I know you understand love.”

We held each other for a long time. And then we made love again as if there was to be no tomorrow.

Shona left late that night. It was after ten o’clock. Before she went out of the door I had to ask one last question. “Where do YOU fit into all this?” And it’s only now, recently that I understand her answer. “I… I am INVOLVED.” Was all she would say.

She did say one more thing, quietly from the doorway before she left. It was “I would die for you.” Before I had time to reply she was halfway down the path.

I really was not prepared for the intensity of feeling. To have fallen in love so quickly, and so briefly so late in life was a pain so pure that it transended anything that had gone before. I was 34 years old. Lost, and utterly alone. I neither washed nor shaved. The house remained dark with the drapes closed. Each day at 2.30 hope flowered, and faded. But never died.

In my bedroom drawer I kept a little attache case. It held my competition pistols. Once I even put the slim barrel of one of them into my open mouth. I don’t know how many days I sat there in my wheelchair, staring at the weapons which had never been fired in anger.

I was napping, hoping never to wake from what I can only describe as ‘beautiful nightmares’. It was a state of semi-consiousness in which the real and the unreal overlap and fold one into the other. When the doorbell rang and my head snapped up, it was seconds before reality kicked in. Only the second insistent ring jolted me from the reverie. I was facing the big solid Grandmother clock, it’s long slow metronomic pendulum gently counting away my life. It was half past two.
“Shona!” I hit the chair’s push-rims so hard that the pistol case almost leapt off my knee. “Shona! Hang on! Shona I’m coming!” Ridiculous! I was saying her name over and over like tome kind of mantra.
I threw open the door and something hit me like a battering ram sending the wheelchair skittering and spinning crazily backward slamming me into the wall. My head whiplashed and struck something hard. Then the chair flipped, and I was looking dazedly as spinning wheels going tick, tick, tick, unaware at first what they were. One useless leg was folded back underneath me so that my shoe pressed painfully against the soft spot under my left shoulder blade. The other leg was splayed out at an impossible angle and something else, hard and with sharp edges drove itself into the muscle under my right shoulder.

Shona was right. He was BEAUTIFUL. Coming from a heterosexual guy you better believe it. His photograph hardly did him justice. A lick of black hair fell across his brow. His teeth were perfect and white, and his smile friendly and deceptively gentle. His lips, full and almost feminine. The tip of his patent leather shoues kicked at the attache. It flicked end over end and stopped where it slapped, still closed agains the far wall. Spotting the pistol not five inches from my outstretched hand, Raith strode over and swept it away. In his right hand, a Glock 9mm automatic. It’s a beautiful weapon, believe me. Anyone who knows guns would know that the Glock is a very heavy handgun indeed.
Raith stood over me, feet apart, straddling my twisted body. When he spoke it was with quiet amazement in a perfectly soft and highly educated voice. “So she sends me a cripple. A cripple!”
Without warning a vicious kick took me in the ribs, and I felt a crack. His fine shoes were tipped with steel. He turned and moved back three or four feet before turning to face me again. He stood for a second, feet apart, arms straight down by his side. His gun arm began to rise slowly. Straight, like a long lever.
“Raith!”
His smile broadened in recognition. Shona stood in the doorway, a little behind me, and to the right. Her hands were empty, palms turned out and and her sides. She was unarmed. “Do it.” She said quietly. Raith hardly missed a beat. The arm-lever continued in heart-stopping slow motion, moving a little to my right. And then the shot rang out.
Raith moved the weapon to the left, and down, a beatific crazy smile painted on his handsome face. And then he fell. I marvelled at how little blood trickled from the tiny hole in the exact centre of his forehead. Had Raith not broken my rib, I might never have realised that the hard angular thing under my right shoulder blade was one of the little competition .22’s

To this day I don’t know If I could have gone out and cold-bloodedly killed for Shona. What I do know for certain is that she really WOULD have died for me.

I still see her in the magazines and newspapers that fill my mail box. ‘La Monde’ ‘Time’ ‘Newsweek’ ‘Vanity Fair’ ‘Paris Match’ and the rest. Wherever Adnan Kahan is photographed by the paparazzi. A face in the crowd. In insignificant bystander. A nondescript figure walking beside him, or behind him, or holding open a door to the long black limo while Kahan ducks to enter.

Every day at 2.30 a young man arrives bearing a single red rose. There is no address, no card. But we share a common cause. There are bonuses. I have a rich sponsorship from the Kahan Corporation, and a high profile that allows me to travel and lecture on the need to ban weapons left behind in paddy fields, and on tracks, on the mountains of Afghanistan, and the deserts of Iraq, and around the places where thousands of innocent people are stripped of their limbs every minute of every day of every year.

I have had as you can imagine a lot of time to sit, or lie pondering the thousand questions I’m sure you would like to ask me now. But there is only one thing that means anything at all and I can give you the answer to that. Shona followed Raith to my house, and she faced him unarmed. She had no way of knowing about the pistol under my shoulder, and no way of knowing if I could have, or would have used it. Shona was prepared to die FOR me, and WITH me. I don’t need to know anything else. It’s enough. She understood LOVE.
I miss her with an ache that never ends.
But I’d never let a little disability slow me down.

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