This work would have not been possible without the great support of my wife and son. I would also like to thank Claude Dancourt, Ty Hutchinson and Kenneth Teicher for their helpful suggestions.
The shooter looked through the scope of his sniper rifle and focused on the windows of the building across the street. He could see a group of men in suits around an oval table in a large conference room. From the flat roof, he had an excellent vantage point. It provided him an unobstructed view of the headquarters of Russia’s internal security and counterintelligence service, the FSB, in Lubyanka Square.
He lifted his rifle and moved it slowly to the left, as he leaned on the three-foot-high protective wall. The sniper team on the roof of the FSB building, Alpha One, came into his crosshairs view. He nodded slightly at them, then tapped his throat mike. “Alpha Two, we’ve got visual contact.”
“Copy that,” replied the sniper team. “Alpha One confirms the same.”
The shooter dropped his gaze down to the street. Cars crawled in the heavy traffic. People leaving their offices at the end of the workday walked briskly in the light rain. The precipitation had just begun, but the tiny, cold drops prickled the shooter’s face. The temperature was close to freezing, and the rain could turn to snow at any moment. At this hour, the metro stations around the square were full of commuters waiting for their trains.
Four black Mercedes-Benz sedans sat parked by the side exit of the FSB building’s right wing. Russia’s Minister of Defense was one of the men present at this long-planned, high-level meeting with senior security officials. The two sniper teams, along with two others — Alpha Three and Alpha Four, stationed on top of other buildings around Lubyanka Square — were part of the security detail in charge of the Minister’s security.
The shooter pulled the zipper of his scope cover to protect the eyepiece lens from raindrops. They had turned heavy and pounded the roof with a rhythmic, drumming thud. He lifted the hood of his raincoat over his cap, then looked at the man lying next to him. He was his team partner — the spotter — who helped him to set up and carry out a successful shot on target.
“Anything to report?” the shooter asked.
The spotter kept his eye on his scope, a much more powerful version than the shooter’s. He covered the rooftops of adjacent buildings.
“All good,” the spotter replied. “Nothing unusual.”
The shooter glanced at his wristwatch. Five minutes until the end of the meeting, if the meeting ended on time. Handshakes, goodbyes, and the time to get downstairs, perhaps another three, four minutes. The security team outside the conference room would notify them when the Minister was on the move and also before he exited the building. It was a seven- or eight-second walk from the side door to the bulletproof Mercedes-Benz.
The Minister would have no protection during those seven or eight seconds. A short time frame for someone to make an assassination attempt against him. A difficult, but not an impossible mission. That’s why the shooter, the spotter, and the other sniper teams were placed in their positions. They were to intercept any hostile sniper and neutralize all threats.
The shooter tried to relax. This mission was supposed to be easy. At least that’s what he was told. But he knew there was no such thing as an easy mission. The sniper teams had eyes everywhere and covered all directions. The security staff on the ground watched over the activity on the street. A visible police presence surrounded the area. But no one could offer a hundred percent guarantee on the life of the protectee. He was not untouchable, even if he thought so. Many people wanted him dead. Some of those people had the means to carry out their threats, means that reached everywhere.
The shooter took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. He looked at the thin cloud of frost in front of his face and took another breath.
“There’s movement,” the spotter said. “The meeting’s over.”
The shooter focused back on the windows and peered through his scope. The Minister smiled and shook hands. A moment later, the Minister moved out of his sight.
“Target’s on the move. I repeat, target
It was Beta One, the security detail positioned outside the conference room.
“Copy that,” said Alpha One.
“Copy that,” said the shooter.
The other two sniper teams confirmed they had received the new intelligence.
“Two minutes to exit,” the same strong voice from Beta One informed them. “We’re on the move.”
The spotter slid his scope along the skyline and covered the nearest buildings to the FSB headquarters, their roofs, and their windows.
The shooter tightened his grip around the wet sniper rifle.
His true mission awaited him. It was time.
A large man stepped out of the second Mercedes-Benz and stood by its rear doors. One of the Minister’s bodyguards. The hard rain soaked him, yet he stood there stoically and waited to open the car door at the right time.
Another bodyguard stood ready with a large, black umbrella just outside the side door. Two uniformed police officers observed the area in front of the door, although it was within the cordoned-off parking lot. Another pair of plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Defense braved the rain outside their unmarked cars beyond the parking lot gate.
The shooter heard Beta One’s voice over his headset, “Sixty seconds.”
“Copy that,” he said.
He looked at the spotter, as he turned off his mike and his earpiece. The spotter was focused on his observation. The shooter tapped his partner on the shoulder as he moved slightly behind him. When the man turned his head, the shooter grabbed it with both hands. He slid his right arm under the spotter’s head, ripped the spotter’s throat mike from his neck, and put the man into a sleeper hold, as he lowered him behind the wall.
The spotter fought back, but the shooter kept his tight grip around the man’s neck. His fingers dug deep into the spotter’s skin. He pushed the spotter down, climbed on top of him, and rested all his body weight on the man’s back. The spotter tried to unlock the shooter’s strong fingers. The shooter increased the pressure on the spotter’s neck and throat. The man was slowly slipping into unconsciousness, but his survival instincts kept him in the fight. His hands reached for the shooter’s arms, then for his head. His grip was weak, and the shooter kept his hold on the dying man. The shooter pushed the spotter’s face down against the roof’s wall and tried to muffle any noise of their fight.
“What’s that scraping noise?” asked Beta One.
The shooter heard the voice through the spotter’s earpiece. He could not answer it, but also could not allow the spotter to do so. He moved his left hand over the spotter’s mouth to mute any calls for help. His right hand brushed away the throat mike, which had fallen by the spotter’s face.
“I repeat, what’s the noise?”
The other sniper teams came on air and reported they could hear a noise, but they were not sure of its source. The spotter tried to shout, but his voice came out as a weak rasp. He tried to bite the shooter’s hand cupped in front of his mouth, but the hand was just beyond the reach of his teeth.
Another voice said, “This is Alpha One, we’ve lost visual on Alpha Two.”
“Alpha Two, problems?” said Beta One.
The shooter squeezed out what little life still remained in his partner. He shoved the spotter’s body away, took a few seconds to slow down his breathing, then turned on his headset. “Negative. Slipped and fell. We’re good.”
He peered over the wall and nodded at Alpha One across the street. They nodded back at him.
“All right, everyone in position,” Beta One said.
“Alpha Two, where’s your spotter?” someone asked.
The shooter cursed under his breath. “He’s… he’s cleaning his gear. The rain…”
He hoped no one would ask to see the spotter.
“Thirty seconds,” Beta One said.
The shooter readied his rifle. He leaned over the wall and pointed it at the building to his left. He swept its roof and paused for a split second at the sniper nest of Alpha Three. Then he dropped his aim an inch or so and scanned the top-floor windows of the FSB building.
“Ten seconds,” said the same voice.
It was enough time.
He realigned his aim with the side door and waited for his target.
“Alpha Two, what are you doing?”
The voice had to be from Alpha One, the closest to his positio ...