Washington D.C., July 4th 2002; 5:30 am
The city was packed from one end to the other. There were a number of festivities and big celebrations planned for the nations birthday. Senators, governors, and a vast number of other prize statesmen had converged on the capital for a chance to press flesh with the wealthy and influential drawn to the country’s center for power. But the real prize was Congressman Wilmer Van Hansen of South Carolina. The Carolina’s being one of the most important territories the districts majority was rumored to be courted by many wealthy organizations. Although quietly, there were rumors circulating that this family man of impeachable character was the current front runner for the Republican nominee. But sadly this information had not been kept quiet enough for him not to end up on HYDRA’s list for early retirement. Granted as a senior member of the Senate’s Regulation of Arms committee Van Hansen had been useful in securing some of HYDRA’s prive holdings. Ensuring they remained private over the years had not come cheap. And HYDRA wasn’t one to shy from pinching pennies when deemed necessary. Van Hansen had become a liability. An expensive one that had begun drawing too much unwanted attention. And with the whispers of a Presidential bid on the wind Van Hansen had signed his own death warrant.
There were reasons they were known as deadly sins.
Van Hansen like many D.C. regulars held residence about fifteen miles from the capital. An old brick two story colonial that he had at great expense restored and updated to its current glory. It was in the Historic Homes Registry and several publications in and around D.C. had done write ups gushing over the homes old world charm. One or two included detailed walk throughs with photographs of each room and its ornate furnishings. One included a top to bottom blueprint of the historic home itself.
That had taken a lot of smooth dealing and greasing some very particular palms to pull off. But between the two puff pieces Bucky had managed to plan his strategy quite easily. A clean sweep was ordered.
Mr. and Mrs. Van Hansen, as well as their nineteen year old son, Thomas; all together for the weekend. None of them even slightly aware that it would be their last. It would be the standard tactical incursion. A floor by floor sweep clearing each room as they went, being careful to stage the cover story scene as they followed the layout of the house until it had been completely sanitized. The tragic story of a faulty gas line would ensure that no evidence would be left behind….or at least none that led back to HYDRA. The house sat about two acres back from the main road leading off towards the highway ten blocks down so being noticed wouldn’t be an issue. But once the match was lit the resulting fireball would be seen for almost a mile.
It was almost time now. The weight of the grenade launcher affixed under his M4 rifle in his hand brought a thrill to his blood as the anticipation built up to almost a frenzy point. The four man team settled in around him as they prepared to take up their positions.
Almost time now.
The timing had to be perfect.
Murder was an art, every detail, every moment had to be perfect in its execution.
“Go. Keep your movements tight and stand by for the Assets instructions. Retrieve all HYDRA files or intel possible. Destroy the rest.”
“Roger that. Kill order confirmed. Asset has a green light to move on the target.”
A look around at the small group of men that would cover his extraction. Time to go to work.
He hated waiting, but the team had their mission. And he had his. It was imperative that he completed it. There were no second chances with HYDRA. Forgiveness wasn’t in their vocabulary.
Carefully they entered the back door leading through the showroom style kitchen just off the dining room which turning left brought you to the foyer and the grand staircase. The four men splintered off from Bucky each beginning their sweep of the lower level. The old black walnut staircase gave easy with each careful step, but reaching the first landing the tell tale signs of age announced themselves with a loud creak.
A few more seconds slip past and nothing, so aware now he continued up the remaining steps. Two doors down past the library and the Congressman’s private office was the first of the bedrooms. One of the tact team members appeared at his six o’clock as he clears the stairs. Motioning to the left the shadow crosses towards the library. A second follows close behind heading into the office. The room Bucky wanted was the third on the left, Guest Bedroom One.
Mr. and Mrs. Van Hansen were threedown on the right hand side of the hallway. The shadows of the old Spanish Oak trees outside filtered in illuminating the hall sending pale moonlight in broken strands across the long soft carpet runner. It was partially cracked, propped open to create a cross breeze through the room where one of the two large windows had been left open. There surrounded by childhood snapshots and momentos of accomplishments past lay the four post mahogany bed and its sole occupant, one Thomas Van Hansen.
Mark Number One.
Allowing the rifle to fall quietly to the side Bucky made his entry careful not to stir up the ghosts attached to the bones of the old house. He didn’t know then the irony of what he was about to enact, but the house had during the Revolutionary War 1775 been used as a field hospital. And now after hundreds of years…there would be new blood seeping into the decrepit thirsty floorboards, and another innocent soul joining those already bound to its fate. Across from the bed anchored into the plaster wall hung a gigantic flatscreen. The soft glow flickered with the images of passing channels as Bucky crept closer. The handle of the knife slid smoothly in his palm as he turned its edge almost relishing the way it would cleanly sever the two major arteries. Death was an art…and HYDRA painted in only one color…RED. Stepping off to the side to avoid the inevitable artillery spray as the serrated blade did its work Bucky took hold of a handful of black hair wrenching the prone sleeping figure upright and into the proper position. The cold metal kissed the warm soft flesh and the muffled confused whisperings of the MARK changed into wet choking gurgles.
It was quick.
The draw closed his eyes and left the head board weeping crimson tears. Dropping the corpse back into position on the bed the last stutterings and gurgles as the body struggled to expel the onslaught of life draining from its lips. It finally fell silent.
“MARK 1 is down. Confirmed kill. ASSET moving to main objective.”
Wiping the knife on the pillowcase Bucky began toward the door. But before he could clear the room the tv flickers catching his attention. The body was laying on the remote causing the channels to flash by in a smearing of rapid blurs.
The headline scrolling along the bottom of the screen catches his eye.
A weathered and aged photograph pulled from some WWII military archives.
A white star.
Captain Steven G. Rogers.
Brooklyn, New York.
Patriotic music playing…voices singing…a piano…
The smell of cordite in the cold snowy air.
Bright white lights.
Then a voice comes over his shoulder.
“Acknowledge?! Soldier? What is your mission? Acknowledge!”
Jerking himself awake Bucky wipes the beads of sweat off his face. Unknowingly smearing streaks of dark blood across his night vision goggles as he does so.
His hand is shaking as he pulls the mask away.
“Mission. Eliminate Congressman Wilmer Van Hansen. Amelia Van Hansen. Thomas Van Hansen. No witnesses. No survivors. Confirmed target 1 eliminated. Moving onto main objectives….targets 2 & 3.”
Methodically, Bucky turns pushing past the team leader who hesitantly lowers his weapon and moves to cover his exit.
The room is dark.
The faint aromas of lilac perfume, heavy bourbon, and cheap cigars fills Bucky’s nose as he breaks the seal on the room. The first slight figure, Mrs. Van Hansen is laying on her left side facing the sleeping form of her husband. The second, Mr. Van Hansen, is laying on his back one arm above his head snoring broken wheezing breaths. The four members of the TACT team plus the team leader break off. The four go to search the remaining rooms while the team leader remains to cover the ASSET. Moving closer Bucky feels a weight pulling him down inside. His gear all has become so heavy. So much so he’s having difficulty holding his rifle upright. He approaches the left hand side of the bed first. His breathing is rushed and heavy, the air tastes foul as he pulls shallow breathes in trying to stay focused. The white light shining in breaking its beams across both sleeping bodies. As his shadow falls across her face she winces and shudders before pulling the quilt over her bare shoulder. Like a child would sensing the darkness creeping closer. Instinctively, she pulls closer to her husband believing the chill to only be a whisper of night air. And not the icy breath of death come to call. Lowering his rilfe Bucky reaches to his left hip pulling his M9 Barretta sidearm out of its holster. Cocking the slide and releasing the safety slowly trying to quiet the noise in the back of his mind. He steps closer taking in every detail of her face. He watches as she smiles as her hand finds a place to rest on her husbands chest. The bright gold bands on her hand catching the light glimmer like the stars overhead.
Somewhere the image breaks on something.
Or perhaps it was someone?
He’d forgotten which, but something was familiar to him in their seeming peace. Team leader at the door moves further into the room becoming disquieted by the behavior Bucky is beginning to display. Just as he reaches the foot of the bed Bucky raises the gun level again.
Somewhere nearby an explosion of colors break across the pitch black sky. The sound rocks Bucky back, the gun falls from his hand and he falls shaking into the shadows of the window sill. Rapid successions following with deafening retreats. His eyes go wild, it seems that the whole world is spinning, and he can only feel himself sink deeper into the floor. The first to stir was Amelia. Shaken awake by the thump of the pistol and Buckys weight hitting the wooden floor. Amelia’s scream barely crossed her lips when Wilmer jerked himself awake reaching for his wife. His hand never made it before the first shot fell silent. Amelia Van Hansen fell draped across the bed. Her brown eyes widened by their last moments of terror were frozen open. The moonlight caught in their reflection and the dark arterial blood oozing into a pool around the hollow of her collarbone.
They never tell you how blood looks in the dark, but looking on Bucky wasn’t alarmed at the realization that he already knew. Slumped in the corner Bucky looks into those brown eyes and they look back at him.
“No! What? Amelia?! Ami…baby? Who are you?! What the hell do you want?! Do you have any idea who I am?!”
In a furious rage Wilmer Van Hansen, now the ripe old age of 58 was a bull of a man, and he was seeing red. As the shouting echoed throughout the house the other team members burst into the room. Team Leader pulled the cotton sleeve away from his mouth and began towards Bucky. He stopped short to retrieve the abandoned pistol then to take in the view of Amelia.
“Secure the ASSET. Shut him up and finish clearing this scene! I’ve got to contact base about this. Is everything secure?”
Two other members flew into action while a third came and knelt next to Bucky. There was a tornado of action as the two shooters knelt Van Hansen down and shot him point blank in the head. After setting the crime scene and staging the shocking narrative they returned to Thomas to stage further details. Fire was good and would make the story plausible. But the presence of ballistic evidence required further dialogue. Head office wouldn’t be pleased. But with some money put into the right hands and pressure in the right places the story would stick.
Turning back to Bucky the med officer on the team stepped aside as the team leader took charge once again. Bucky was miles away. Beads of sweat rolling down his neck and arms, collecting drops of blood along the way, and creating a trail as they disappeared beneath his cold hand as it reached to wipe them away.
The strong arm of the team leader swung fast and the solid metal butt of the Barretta brought blood with the first strike.
“He’s out of it, boss. Gone blackout….guess we kept him active too long this go around. Best to just shut it down and get back let the Colonel’s guys take over.”
Frustration rang in every syllable of team leaders tone. On the outside Bucky was all locked up, an animal backing into a cage he couldn’t escape, but on the inside he was only waiting for the right moment. Because as his handlers, who had become complacent and lazy in their dealings with him had forgotten…
A caged animal is the most dangerous right before you close the door on it. They’re unpredictable…and just when you think you’ve broken them and they have no will left to escape….that’s when they show you what they are really capable of.
“Alright, get up.”
Bucky could hear the footsteps of the other members returning upstairs.
“I said get up!”
This was going to hurt…a lot.
Luckily, this time it wasn’t going to be him doing the bleeding though. Mistakes….we all make them, but fatal errors those are kind of “one of” type things. And unluckily for the team leader….he’d just made a bige one. The metal arm shot forward catching the bent wrist in midst of its swing wrenching it to the side Bucky’s free hand wrapped smoothly around the pistol grip. Digging his shoulder into the midsection of the man standing guard Bucky knocked him off balance firing two shots as the body fell to the ground. Swinging round he ducked in time to out maneuver the man as he fought to raise his own weapon. The other two TACT members were almost at the door. Bucky fired one shot barely clipping the first man through before he back peddled out of the line of fire. The anger rising inside him helped focus him to the new mission.
“One at a time…just focus on one at a time.”
As he rose team leader advanced now brandishing a long jagged black kabar. Even with one hand Bucky knew he wasn’t going down easy. Squaring his body to make the target available smaller Bucky studied his adversary. Lunging forward kabar squelched as it tore through the black kevlar weave on Bucky’s combat jacket. He took this window and using his shield arm took the recoil landing an inside knee to the gut driving TACT leader back again. But this time he didn’t wait…closing the distance driving hit after hit with powerful over hand punches. TACT leader fell hard against the wall cracking and splintering the fragile plaster, and upending some of Amelia’s articles from the small bedside table. Finally the cold grip tightened around the neck of his opponent.
“Go ahead…do it…kill me! You think this makes you better than me? You are nothing. Just a pathetic bundle of broken pieces…we made you…that’s all you are! Ha, ha…there is no escaping that…anyone that you’ve known or loved will die…you know that, right? You run…and we’ll hunt you down….but not before we slowly, painfully take away everything you ever loved. So go on…take your revenge….we will never stop. There is no where you can go. You know….its sad really….pathetic that you believe you could still have a place among them. You will only bring them one thing in the end….”
Confused and anger welling up inside him, wincing back the words the team leader was hissing at him. It wasn’t until eye narrowing he leaned in close enough for Bucky to smell the acrid odor of his dry breath on his face.
“Death. That’s what you are…Dea…”
The body slides down the wall crumpling in on itself. Bucky stands his eyes staring down at his hands with the words of his former captor circling in his head, and then his eyes fall on the still form.
The dead girl with the brown eyes.
The crackling of the chorus of fireworks bursting overhead and the far away colors bleeding in across his face. And her laying there in his shadow.
“Stand down, soldier!”
Quietly the two other men had begun advancing on him while he was distracted trying to piece himself back together. Now the muzzle of TACT 3’s rifle was pressed into the back of his head. He could feel the fear in the trembling tone in his voice as he repeated the order.
“Stand down! You will comply.”
Taking in a long deep breath Bucky readied himself for what was to come next.
Ducking around right Bucky dove through the thin pane glass window preparing for the unfriendly welcome the ground below would offer. The two men swung moving towards the window firing wildly…they didn’t even notice the soft rolling sound of the grenades as they shot missing Bucky by several feet. The shock of firm ground as he landed drove every inch of air out of him, but still he managed to recover quickly enough to make the distant break in the treeline. Stepping through and into the waiting SUV Bucky could feel the change in the wind as the concussive blast drew the warm air inward sweeping the blaze higher.
For the first time since he could remember the breaths he took felt like they were full and the haze was starting to clear. Now with his will under his own control there was only one place he wanted to go.
The sound of the engine as it accelerated pulling past the last by street onto the highway lead on lifted his spirits a little. And for the first time in about 60 years Bucky smiled. But he still couldn’t understand why after everything he still felt like he was forgetting something.
Shrugging the thought off Bucky turned the car onto the Beltway amid the swarms of holiday traffic. The world was coming alive, waking up to a new day, and so was he.