Jessica set up her easel along the trail at the top of Goat Rock. She knew Chad hiked past this very spot every Saturday morning. It was oddly incompetent of any reputable operative to have such a predictable schedule. She always, always staggered her errands and habits so that no one could hunt her.
She mushed the brush against the canvas, trying her hand at abstract art. It was a mess, but hopefully no one else would figure that out. Just then, she noticed Chad, and his strong thighs, as he came up the trail from the beach. His blue eyes nearly pierced her. It was then Jessica realized Chad’s predictability may have meant that he wanted to be found – and he was expecting her…
Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.
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7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Switched Opportunity”
Chad studied the vibrant explosion on the canvas. “You’ll never make it in this biz.” He slid the paintbrush from her hand to blend an errant splash of red into the rainbow of colors.
“I thought I pulled off the artist disguise quite well.” Jessica chastised herself for letting disappointment creep into her voice.
He handed the paintbrush back to her, leaning in for a quick peck on the cheek. “You’re too gullible, love.”
“And you’re too predictable, dear.” Jessica twisted her paintbrush, sending a plume of powder into Chad’s face, causing him to cough. “Sorry. Just business.”
“But you love me,” Chad said between coughs. He doubled over as spasms wracked his body.
Jessica smiled like a blushing bride. “All part of the job.” She sighed. She’d miss his kisses. He could make her toes curls with those kisses.
Chad straightened, his coughs morphing into chuckles. “Looks like we both had the same assignment.”
Jessica scowled at the poison-laden paintbrush still in her hand.
“Yeah, I discovered your stash.” He bounced lightly on his toes, like a schoolboy trying to keep a secret. He leaned in to whisper, “It’s in the paint.”
Horrified, Jessica stared at the yellow, orange, and purple splotches covering her hands and arms. The poison would be burning into her skin like acid.
“Cheer up, love.” Chad cupped her chin. “Your art will have some value now.”
Jessica sunk to the ground as Chad carried the canvas back down the trail. Damn those kisses.
Anticipation tingled through her body. His presence did that and so much more to her.
“Is that supposed to be the ocean?” he asked while scuffing a towel across his hair. Droplets of ocean water flung onto the canvas. “Sorry.”
She brushed through the water, merging the acrylics and improving what was abysmal at best. “It’s abstract, just a dream in paint.”
Chad slid his finger across the palette in her hand, collecting a rainbow of colors. His body closed in quickly. Her assignment could be completed in only a few methodical moves, but she was frozen in his gaze.
His finger blended colors from one of her collarbones to the other. “You’re a dream in paint.” His touch circulated an ache through her body. His lips brushed the outside curve of her ear. “I know why you’re here, but this isn’t the way to solve our troubles.”
“And I’ve heard you’re an expert at all kinds of trouble.” She nuzzled against his cheek.
“Make love, not war, baby.” He closed his mouth over hers, his lips as proficient as his mercenary skills.
She opened her eyes just in time to watch as the long switchblade from under her palette entered his body. The slim blade sharpened to a fine point sluiced through an aorta. Her last moment of appreciation to his devoted service was a quick death.
She backed from his collapsing body. “You’re wrong. War is so much more fun.”
Jessica threw paint onto the canvas waiting for Chad to show, replaying the events of their last meeting in her mind. It was a painful time and knowing now what she didn’t back than she would have handled it much differently. Tears sprang to her eyes. In anger she sprayed a brush full of red paint onto the beach scene she had decidedly coined ‘Angry Waves’.
“Whoa! Hey why’d you do that?” Came a voice a few steps below her vantage point on Goat Rock.
“Oh Chad! I’m so sorry!” Jessica pleaded.
A blood red slash of paint stained the front of his t-shirt. “Jessica, since when do you paint?”
“I don’t, as you can see. I’ll replace the shirt I promise.”
“Don’t worry about the shirt.” Chad looked around uneasily.
Jessica quickly blurted, “I came here to warn you. I knew you would be here as you are every Saturday.”
“It’s the Bureau. They’ve set you up. I didn’t know when I broke it off, I thought you were on the take with the drug cartel.”
“I knew you were a ploy and I was biding my time before getting out. You see, I came here to find you too. Will you trust me Jessica?”
“Always!” Jessica took the hand Chad offered.
Cresting the dunes rotors of a helicopter began to spin spraying up sand.
She looked at Chad with a questioning smile as he invited her onboard.
“Buenos Aries, here we come!” Chad enlightened her.
“Enjoying the view?” Chad calls, so overtly flirtatious that Jessica thinks maybe it really was his arrogance that made him so easy to follow.
But she’ll play her part. “I’ve seen better.”
He laughs as he reaches her side, shaking his head like a dog until she has to step closer to block the salt water from touching her paints. “Well, I’ve seen better painting. Is that – what is that?”
The light, teasing tone puts her back up. “It’s an abstract. Of Goat Rock.”
“Ah, I see it.” He’s behind her, close enough for her to feel his heat along her entire body.
A thought comes and Jessica takes a moment to consider it, looking at him side-eyed in a way she knows he’ll take as flirting; of course he will. She’s been sent to kill. Perhaps she can, instead, take him back for her superiors to get information from. His kind are always the best to interrogate. Insult their pride and they’ll spill all their secrets.
Making sure her tone is only slightly warmer than it had been – wouldn’t want to seem too eager – she says, “I’ve got a gallery showing soon. If you’d like to see more.” To snag him, she lets her face imply there’s more to that invitation if he wants it.
‘This is almost too easy,’ she thinks.
She hardly feels the stiletto slide into her kidney before she’s lowered to the ground.
“Tell them I decline the invitation.”
Chad had changed the routine. Instead of the run on the beach he normally took, this week he had gone snorkeling. He waved the spear gun in his right hand around non-committedly but Jessica took note that it passed in her direction quite often.
There was no time to debate her next action. She ducked behind her easel as she spun it between them. At the same time, she grabbed her Glock and clicked off the safety. Gun fire at the beach would draw a crowd but she needed time, time to break contact and get away.
She peered around the easel. Chad was gone. A ruse to draw her out, it must have been. She blew her cover and lost the target all in a matter of seconds. Jessica didn’t wait around, left her supplies where they lay and hightailed it back to the parking lot and her car.
She leaned against her car with a sigh of relief. She hadn’t been followed and she hadn’t caused a scene near the beach. The car’s security system chirped with the press of the button on her key fob and then she climbed into the car. That was when she noticed the passenger side door hadn’t been fully closed.
Chad held his pistol steady. A quick shot from the back seat would end her career.
“Took you long enough,” he said. “Tag, you’re it.”
In a flash of movement, he popped the passenger seat forward and jumped out of the car.
Jessica watched Chad over her paint smudged canvas as he hiked up the trail to Goat Rock. His muscular thighs pumped up and down, with the rhythm of the crashing waves below. Same time, same trail, again. Repetitious behavior was sloppy for someone in their line of work.
Hidden below the half squished tubes of cadmium red and viridian paint, lay her weapon. There was a clean shot, but something held her back. Chad looked more familiar than her month long surveillance allowed. His piercing blue eyes held her gaze. Tightness spread across her gut. Instead she picked up a paintbrush and splattered cobalt blue across the canvas. As fine art it sucked, but she wasn’t that kind of artist.
The tightness grew. Never let a hit get close, ever. It was drilled into her, yet she allowed him to walk up and look at the canvas. Her fingers ached to grab her weapon.
“I thought assassins were supposed to kill people, not art.”
Her mouth felt dry. “What do you want?”
“You always were direct. Do you know why they’re after me?”
“You reneged on a contract, and we’ve never met.”
Chad sighed. “Actually we have. They didn’t name the hit until after I agreed.”
“Not my concern.”
“It should be, little sister.” His hand brushed across her face. The familiar gesture caused images to flash through her mind. “They’ve messed with our memories enough. It’s time to stop playing their games and take back our lives.”
“I’m sorry?” Jessica looked up to see Chad standing in front of her, the sun reflecting off his gorgeously tanned body.
“Your painting. It’s awful.” He wiped the salty drops from his face and chest as he smiled at her with a glint in his blue eyes.
“Your knowledge of art is obviously nonexistent. This is abstract. It’s supposed to be different.”
“I didn’t say different. I said awful.”
Jessica grabbed her supplies and began stuffing them in her tote. Who did this guy think he was?
“Well thank you for your astute observation, but I’ll have to disagree with you.”
“Okay.” He wrapped the towel around his waist and Jessica couldn’t help but stare at his perfect abs. Her mind immediately wandered to what it would be like to caress them.
“You could paint me. I know you like what you see.”
Jessica’s cheeks burned with embarrassment, but her body burned with desire. He wasn’t wrong.
“I most certainly do not!” She moved at a faster pace, nearly knocking down her easel as she gathered her supplies.
“If you say so. I know you know I come here every day.”
Jessica froze in place. It was now or never. Run away like she always did or take a chance with the man she had thought was so predictable?
“Okay, but only if you agree to do it…nude.” There was no going back now. He’d either agree or run for the hills.
“My place or yours?”
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