Boston, Mass.
The first explosive was so perfectly timed with the opening volley from the 1812 Overture that Scott Murphy thought that the cannons were merely louder than usual. He didn’t even look up from his latest edition of The Anarchist’s Cookbook as he sat out on his hotel balcony at the other end of the park from the Pops’ bandstand.
When the orchestra stand blew up, that caught his attention. The giant fireball erupted from the top of the orchestra shell, illuminating half the park as well as most of the people who were jammed into the park like fish in a barrel.
Damn it, Scott thought, I liked the Boston Pops.
Scott dropped his book and picked up his binoculars. As other parts of the park started to explode, Scott realized a few things at once. One, it was incoming mortar fire. Two, it was not only timed with the opening volley of the cannon, but with the rest of the fireworks.
Scott took a moment to assess the situation as more hell rained down upon those gathered to listen to the Boston Pops play their Fourth of July concert in the park. He watched the destruction through his binoculars. The goal was clear: blow up the orchestra so it was caught on camera. Then blow up the police trucks that had encircled the event. The next step would be to bomb the exits, killing whoever tried to run, and making the crowd cluster.
I can’t even take a vacation, can I?
Scott growled, grabbed the bungee cord he had already had wrapped around the balcony in case he needed a quick getaway, attached it to his belt, and used it to jump off the second-story balcony of his hotel room.
And people tell me I’m paranoid, Scott thought as his feet dangled off the ground. He detached the cord before he could be snapped back, and hit the ground running. Okay, I am paranoid, but I thought I would be using that cord for running away from emergencies, not running towards them.

If anyone in the surrounding area had been looking away from the explosions, they would have seen Scott–a pale, almost anemic man–running away from the hotel. That would have been the only thing they could have said about him. If he had a superpower, it was that he looked so damn ordinary.
Instead of doing something stupid, like running straight for the explosions and getting himself blown up, he went towards the water. More importantly, he ran towards the fireworks control center.
Scott knew from the many specials about fireworks that had played on television the previous week that fireworks were coordinated by computer.
If the mortars were falling in time with the explosions, that meant the mortars had to be coordinated by computer as well. In fact, if they weren’t tied into the same computer system, Scott would have been surprised. And the fire control center, like everything else around the fireworks, would be near the water.
First time I take a vacation in years, just so I can go home for a lousy weekend, this happens.
Scott had eyes on the trailer in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, he was so focused on the trailer that he crashed into someone else on the sidewalk. Both went down in a tangle of arms and legs. When they came to a stop, Scott was on top. He was about to apologize when he saw that the man he was entangled with was armed with an AK-47 and didn’t necessarily look like he was a Boston local. In fact, the gunman looked more like an adversary that Scott had left back in Afghanistan buried up to his neck in sand and covered in honey.
I hope he’s not a relative, Scott thought as the man grunted and swung for Scott with the butt of his gun.
Scott pushed off of the gunman’s chest, like a marine pushup, missing the swing. He let gravity bring him straight down, and he let his elbow lead the way, driving it into the gunman’s face. His elbow crunched into the gunman’s nose, and the gunman went limp.
Scott took several deep breaths, and hoped the gunman–Oh, be honest, Scott, just call him a terrorist, would you?–would stay down.
"No," Scott panted, "you had to do this on my day off." Scott pushed himself into a sitting position. The terrorist was out cold. He grabbed the man by the shoulder and flipped him over, tying his hands behind his back with his own belt. "Had to come to my hometown, too, huh? Why don’t you blow up New York, like everybody else on the planet?" He pulled on the belt to make sure it was tight. "Maybe LA, like 24. But no, you had to come here." Scott reached into his back pocket and grabbed a pair of metal mesh gloves, slipping them on. "Maybe you saw too many David E. Kelly shows. In which case–" He grunted as he pushed off the terrorist’s head, getting to his feet. "–I can probably forgive that. I’d want to blow up Boston, too." He reached down, picked up the AK-47, and stomped down on the gunman’s head once more for good measure. He gave a little nod, and looked around.
There would be more than just this one guard, Scott thought. If they’re here guarding the fire control station, they’ve probably taken it over.
Scott looked around, and smiled. He ejected the magazine from the gun, ejected the cartridge from the chamber, and let the gun dangle. The bullets might come in handy, but he wasn’t even going to try firing off a gun he’d never handled before. Tonight wasn’t a good night to try out a new firearm.
Instead, Scott looked around at the vehicles at hand, and smiled.
Scott strolled a little farther up the street to the first vehicle and used the butt of the rifle to smash the window in. Scott climbed on board and reached inside to grab the lock. He swept the seat clean of glass with the rifle, and sat upside down in the seat, his legs hooked around the headrest as he dove into the dashboard wiring–hotwire the engine, disable the alarm. When the engine started running, Scott sat up, pulled the vehicle out of the parking space, and drove it a few feet, just enough to point it in the correct direction. He used the seatbelt to brace the wheel in the direction of the fire control center. He slid partway out, his right foot on the brake, his left on the running board.
Scott jammed the rifle down on the gas pedal and hopped out of the vehicle and into the street.
It helped that the vehicle was a big rig.
Only three terrorists saw the truck coming as it barreled down the street, quickly picking up speed. They stood between the truck and fire control, trying to empty rounds into the truck’s cabin and engine block. They emptied their magazines in seconds, most of the rounds not even hitting the truck since they fired on full automatic.
None of them were fast enough to get out of the way as the truck ran them over.
The truck hit the door of the trailer holding the fire control center. The trailer crumpled like tissue paper, wrapping around the cab as the truck’s momentum shoved it into the lake.
Scott waited off to the side for the next explosion. Aside from the screams of those in pain, the night was relatively quiet. Even for Boston.
Scott took out his meerschaum pipe and his Zippo lighter. He tucked the ammo magazine in his left armpit as he lit his pipe with his right hand. He got a nice head of steam going when he turned right into a punch.
The blow sent Scott sprawling onto the street, lighter going one way, pipe shattering on the sidewalk. Scott landed on his right side, absorbing most of the impact with the fleshy part of his forearm. His left arm stayed tucked in, keeping the magazine from falling.
"Who the hell are you?" roared a dark form that Scott couldn’t even see through the stars. Still reeling from the first attack, Scott was unprepared for the follow-up kick to the stomach. "Do you know how long it’s taken to plan this night?"
Scott would have answered, but he was busy having the hell kicked out of him.
The attacker straddled Scott’s stomach and grabbed him by his shirtfront, rattling him. "Answer me, infidel!"
Scott blinked hard, his eyes trying to focus. He could smell the smoke and gunpowder on the air, he could see the bright white garb of the man in front of him–He’s dressed like an Imam? Really? I guess that’s one way to be shielded, thanks to the PC police–and the gun on his hip, and Scott knew he was screwed.
He also felt the magazine still under his arm.
As the terrorist shook him, Scott dropped his left hand, and surreptitiously let the magazine fall into it. He tossed his hand back, throwing the magazine to one side, and trying to slap the terrorist holding him.
The terrorist brushed off Scott’s attempt at a slap, reached into the small of his back, and pulled out a bowie knife. At this range, it looked like a small sword. He held the blade before Scott’s face, making certain that the smaller man saw it. "Answer me before I gut you for this."
Scott gave a small, dazed smile. Between the running around, the shaking, and being punched, he was lucky he could see straight…okay, maybe his current attacker was a little wobbly in his vision. "I’m just a guy who wanted to go on vacation and finish a book. That so much to ask?"
The terrorist snarled, "I am Nazish Khan, you miserable little worm. And now I will beat you to death while the rest of my men finish the job of slaughtering every last one of your stupid countrymen. Then, if there is anything left of you by that time, my men will take you and we will finish you off."
Scott blinked hard, still dazed. He flapped his hands against his shirt, and in a completely unthreatening way he patted his shirt pocket, clumsily feeling for something. "Pipe tool."
Khan furrowed his brows. "What?"
Scott slipped it out of his pocket. It was a three-inch long device that looked like a Swiss-army knife without the distinctive coloring. He fumbled with it, one-handed, unfolding a small metal stick from it. Any thinner, it would have been a wire.
"Yes? And?"
"Fun fact. Did you know that you can’t blow out Zippo lighters? You have to close the lid to suffocate the flame?"
Then, finally, Scott’s impromptu bomb went off. The magazine he had tossed away had landed next to the open flame of the Zippo lighter.
None of the bullets–shrapnel, really–came close to hitting either one of them. It was enough for Khan to look up for the source of the explosion.
And that was enough for Scott to slap aside the knife and jam the pipe tool into Khan’s left eye.
The sound the terrorist made was akin to the high-pitched cry Godzilla would make. Khan flailed and struck the air, batting Scott’s arm away. He looked down at Scott with his good eye. "I will kill you slowly for that."
Scott blinked at Khan as he inched his hand forward in Khan’s blind side. "You want to know who I am? I’ll tell you. I’m a spy. I’m an Israeli spy."
Khan spat in his face. "Jew!" He raised the knife.
Scott grabbed the gun in Khan’s hip holster. "No. Catholic. From Boston." Scott jammed the muzzle of Khan’s own gun into the terrorist’s ribs, pulled the trigger, and kept pulling it until the slide locked back. The bullets rocked Khan’s body, throwing him to one side.
Khan fell off of Scott, and Scott gasped, panting for breath. "Boston"–he paused to pant for air–"strong, mutha… ugh."
Scott pushed the terrorist off of him and dropped the gun, thankful that he still had his gloves on. He didn’t want his fingerprints all over the place–it might confuse law enforcement later on. He pushed himself to his feet, looked in the direction of the park, and remembered Khan’s last threat before Scott put his eye out. "Damn it. More of them."
He stared off into the distance a moment, wondering when the terrorist onslaught would begin anew. He then looked back to what was left of the fireworks display.
"You want… to play?" he said to himself, still out of breath, as he picked up his miraculously intact Zippo. We can play.
Scott half-staggered, half-ran to his destination. I need to get in shape. He reached into his other pocket and pulled out a small, heavily used roll of duct tape.
He headed toward the fireworks setup had been. Time to see if there are any extra fireworks lying around.
Scott found the boxes he was looking for, still open. He reached inside, and did most of the grabbing and tying at the same time, his hands moving more on autopilot. This is what he was good at–not the running, jumping, shooting and being used as a punching bag.
He could barely see through the trees at this point, but it wasn’t too hard to see a dozen men calmly at the edge of the park, when the rest of the park was in utter chaos.
When he caught up to the terrorists, they were already moving into position. They were a flying wedge, moving into the crowd. The first one was already sighting down his barrel–which made him the first terrorist in Scott’s experience to actually use the sights on the top of the gun.
Scott dropped–fell, really–to one knee. He then grabbed his first bundle, lit the tied-together fuse, and hurled with all of his might.
The first package landed too far to the right. It exploded, sending dirt into the air, and making an impressive flash. The terrorists all jumped, and looked at it as though it were an alien occurrence. By the time it occurred to them to look further, a second package slapped against one of them. It was a simple device–merely a cluster of fireworks duct taped together.
The explosion of magnesium balls of fire nearly blinded all of the terrorists, and set the closest two on fire. The third package was hot on the heels of the second, and the fourth and fifth were simultaneous.
They screamed, they cried, they wept. There were shouts of "Allahu akbar!" The explosions didn’t do much more than blind, deafen, and slightly burn them. However, the explosions also lit them up like a Christmas tree in the middle of June, drawing the attention of the remaining police officers.
The remaining firefight was strictly one way.
As the police officers secured the crime scene and the terrorists’ weapons, no one noticed Scott Murphy, face down in the dirt, utterly exhausted.
Two fistfights is two over my limit. I think I’m going to take a nap now.
"Hey. Buddy, you can’t sleep here. It’s not safe."
Scott felt himself being nudged by the toe of someone’s boot. He rolled a little. It was a cop. Scott sighed, pushed himself to his feet, and staggered away, keeping his face down and away from the police officer. The last thing he wanted to do was answer questions about his evening.
Scott staggered into the lobby of his Hilton, and crashed into one of the armchairs. He clashed with the marble floors and the leather upholstery. He just hoped he wasn’t bleeding onto it. They might charge him extra on his bill.
"Are you okay, sir?" one of the bellboys asked him.
"I just got a little trampled by the stampede out there," Scott lied easily and automatically.
The bellboy helped him to the elevator. Scott pressed on the elevator call button. "I just need to get to room 211," Scott said.
"Thank you," came another voice.
The bellboy was pistol-whipped and fell to the hallway floor. Scott was pulled around. It was the first terrorist he had (literally) run into. The one who had been right outside the hotel. All the bastard would have had to do was wake up at any point before Scott entered the front door. "Ah, nuts."
"Room 211, yes?" The elevator doors opened, and the terrorist pushed him in.
"Why aren’t you just killing me?" Scott asked tiredly. "Because let’s face it, if you killed me now, I’d at least be able to get some rest."
"I want something out of this. I need to do something properly…impressive…before I can be martyred."
The elevator hit the second floor. The terrorist pushed Scott ahead of him down the hallway. Scott stumbled down the hall. His captor shoved him face first into the room door. "Open it."
Scott fumbled for his key card, quickly opened it, and almost fell into the room, hopping past the bathroom on one side, and the closet on the other. The terrorist kept his eyes on Scott the entire way.
That’s why he didn’t notice the bear trap only one foot past the door’s swing. Scott reached just past the bathroom, and swung around with a baseball bat.
"I" —swing— "survived undercover"–crunch— "in West Bank"–squish–"for months…"–pant–"at a time." Scott leaned on the wall, trying to catch his breath. "You think I can do that…if I’m not paranoid?" Scott thought a moment, reconsidered what he had just said, and raised the bat again as the terrorist tried to move. "Then again, it’s not paranoia"–crunch–"if they really are out to get you."
When the terrorist was a beaten and bloody mass on the floor, Scott staggered away, falling down onto his bed. He glanced looked around his apartment, and chuckled. When he had set up this little box of mayhem, he figured, Hey, why not? If someone triggers the bear trap, I grab the bungee cord and jump out the window to escape. This was completely and totally backwards. He pulled out his cell phone from his pocket, speed-dialed one, and put it on speaker.
"Six-Star cleaning," came the voice on the phone.
"Cleanup at my location," Scott coughed out.
"Are you on file?" the Mossad representative asked.
"I filed. Check the number."
"Confirmed. How many?"
"Two. Me, plus one."
The operator paused, as though perking up at the sound of Scott being one of those needing to be cleaned up. "Urgency?"
"Soon would be good. Now would be better."
I am so going to get in trouble for not calling Mom tomorrow. "Pardon me while I slip into something more comfortable, like shock."
Remind me to take a vacation from my vacation, was his last thought before he passed out and took a well-earned rest.
*
Declan Finn is the author of The Pius Trilogy, which stars Scott Murphy and a cast of rogues as they taken on, well, the world. Finn is also the author of the science fiction espionage novel Codename: Winterborn, which involves a group of spies being burned by politicians during a mission to the Islamic Republic of France. Coming out September 1, 2015, is Finn’s latest book, Honor At Stake, which combined Christian philosophy and theology, a smidge of politics, and NO SPARKLING.
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