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The Game

A hunter is outsmarted by his prey

By Alex SorrellsPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 8 min read
Photo from Pexels by Sam Jean

Daniel Harcrow awoke on his couch, the leather sticking to his sweaty back as he slowly sat up, joints aching and several pops coming from his spine. The initial adrenaline rush from the incident a few days prior had passed, and he felt sore in places he didn't know existed. The moment his mind fully emerged from the fog of sleep, he again played through the past few days' events.

Until a few days ago, Daniel was at the top of his game. He was what he called a "cleaner." He took care of problems, whether those problems were people or situations. If you had an issue, he fixed it without asking questions; he just got it done.

The last job had been no different. He'd been hired to track down a notorious hacker and bring him in alive for interrogation. The client had asked to remain anonymous, and nothing was out of the ordinary about the job. He'd certainly done more demanding gigs. He'd sorted through the information provided by the client and tracked the target down.

But it had all been a trap. The job was just to bait Daniel in. The target was fake; it was just an innocent man chosen as a decoy target. Daniel had been too foolish, too eager to complete the job and get the money to realize it was all a setup by a man he thought was dead, Sam Hightower.

Daniel had sworn revenge to kill Sam Hightower, but that rage and adrenaline carried him for only a few days. Now, that rage and motivation had been overcome with shame. Daniel now just sat on his couch, in pain and hungover. He was angry and embarrassed. But most of all, he was sure he would never take another job again. He'd made too many mistakes. He'd never trust his instincts again, and trusting your instincts is essential in this line of work.

Daniel stood up slowly, feeling every ache from the explosion that had rocked him a few days prior. Walking over to the marble countertop of the island in his kitchen, he flicked the switches and turned the knobs that brought his espresso machine to life. After several moments of bean grinding, milk frothing, and brewing, he had a cappuccino in a small glass.

He stood there in his kitchen enjoying it, the caffeine of the double-shot espresso working quickly. He was still determining what he'd do with the energy, he'd laid around the house for days now, but he had plenty of time to figure it out. He was unemployed now by choice.

Then, he heard it. It started as a low mechanical buzzing in the distance. Daniel wrote it off as maybe a helicopter in the distance, but it began to get louder. It was now a steady hum, getting closer. He still thought it could be a distant helicopter, but as the sound came nearer, it was clear that the object was smaller than a helicopter. It also was not passing overhead; it was hovering. Daniel threw back the remainder of his espresso, deciding it was time to investigate.

He slowly opened his front door, stepping out onto the front steps. The sound was moving closer, and he could now immediately identify the sound. It was a drone.

He stood there, bracing for when the drone became visible. He ran through the possibilities of who might be trying to assassinate him via drone. Several names came to mind, but he decided he was okay with it. He had already accepted that his career was over. Execution via drone seemed a great way to go out, rather than ex-special operations turned hitman now having to live the rest of his life in disgrace.

But his dream of a blaze of glory faded when the drone finally came into view, coming down directly in front of him, only a few feet from the front steps of his house where he stood. Below the drone, dangling from a small chain, was a small box wrapped in brown paper. It was the size of a shoebox, and twine was wrapped around it.

The drone, now hovering in place, began slowly lowering the chain attached to the box. It reached a few feet above the ground, and a mechanism detached the chain and fell to the ground. The moment the box was released, the drone's motor whirred loudly, began its ascent, and was gone from view in only a few seconds.

The box sat on the walkway leading to his front steps. Daniel stared at it for a moment, taking in the initial shock of a drone delivering this box to him in the middle of nowhere. Doing the type of work he did, it did not bode well for him to live amongst neighbors. He had a parcel of land in the country, miles away from the nearest neighbor. Someone knew precisely where he lived and knew that a drone delivery could be carried out without arousing suspicion.

He decided that since moments ago he had thought he was about to be gunned down or incinerated, he figured whatever the box contained couldn't be much worse than that. He stepped out onto the walkway, slowly approaching the box.

It had no writing or indications of who it was intended for. Just brown paper and twine. He slowly crouched over the box and picked it up. It wasn't very heavy, and no sound emitted from it at all.

Moments later, the box sat on the kitchen's marble countertop. He still hesitated to open it, even though if it was going to detonate, it likely would have already. However, it would be triggered by him opening it.

Finally, he decided to accept the risk and began to untie the twine and unwrap the brown paper, uncovering a wooden box with a golden latch on the front. There was nothing special about the exterior; this looked like any wooden box from a craft store. It looked like the box was meant to be painted or stained; it looked unfinished.

He opened the latch and slowly raised the top of the box. Inside, a pile of documents was bound in twine string, with a folded piece of paper on top of it, with Mr. Harcrow written on it. He picked it out of the box, sat back on a kitchen stool, and unfolded it, beginning to read it.

Mr. Harcrow, I hope you're recovering well from our last encounter. I'm sure you're a little battered and bruised and perhaps confused. Why would I flaunt my ability to lure you in, bring you so close to death, yet leave you alive to chase me?

Daniel paused for a moment, realizing this as he read. In the chaos of everything that had happened, in the shame and embarrassment of being outwitted, he hadn't even thought of why someone would plan to humiliate him yet leave him alive to possibly retaliate.

I must say, the actual reasons for this are purely selfish. I want the chase. I like the thrill of being several steps ahead of you, Daniel. I always have been, and I continue to be. Until a few days ago, you thought I was dead. You felt that bullet you put in me years ago had one me in. You were so confident that you walked away, leaving me wounded and left for dead. What a fool you are, Dan. That was the first time I saw that you could be beaten. You left a man alive with a desire for revenge and the motivation to survive.

And survive, I did, Dan. It was a while before I was myself again; you wounded me badly. But, eventually I was ready. Now here we are, prepared for the chase once again. I hope you are as excited as I am.

In this box is an invitation of sorts. I have plans for the future, plans that you, with your black-and-white, justice for all view of the world won't like at all. I'm inviting you to try and interfere with these plans, Dan. Like I said, I love the chase. I love the game. It's boring to play a game with no opponent.

Now, I haven't made it easy for you. The documents in this box will take some study and some effort to be able to decipher. But get it right, and you just may have a chance. Maybe you can even compensate for all the pain you've caused people with your ignorance, Dan.

Sincerely, Sam Hightower.

Daniel read the letter over, again and again, in disbelief. He couldn't believe what he was reading. Sam Hightower, an old foe he had thought long since vanquished, had not only shown back up and ruined his career but was not finished yet. He wasn't going to leave him alone to wallow in his sorrow. He was going to treat him like a lab rat in a science experiment, leading him into what was sure to be another trap.

He finally stood from the stool in the kitchen and paced the floor, deep in thought. What was he going to do? Was Sam actually going to do anything? How did he know that this mystery box full of "clues" wasn't just a big box full of false information meant to lead him astray, more bait to further bring Daniel down? He would probably walk right into another trap, exactly where Sam wanted him again.

He stopped pacing, picked up the box, and held it in his hands. It wasn't a trap; it couldn't be.

I'm falling for his trap right now, he thought. He knows I'd think this was a trick. He's telling me to hunt him so that I won't. He embarrassed me before, out in the open, so I'd stay away next time.

Daniel sat on the kitchen stool, placing the box down. He dumped the twine-bound documents from the box and tugged at it with so much force that the twine snapped, and the documents were strewn across the countertop. It was time for a study session.

It was time for Sam Hightower to die.

Short Story

About the Creator

Alex Sorrells

I write stories that I love first and foremost, and hopefully someone will enjoy them as well.

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