The Rabbit’s Last Stand SIDEQUEST – The Short Career of Doug McDuff (Part One)

Let’s call this story “The Rabbit’s Last Stand”-adjacent. It pertains to the world, but maybe not the story. So here is my little digression while I get the longer story together. PART TWO and PART THREE are available too!

Once Doug finished disassembling his Nemesis rifle and packing it into his case, he sat down on the rough fabric chair in his hotel room. His back was already hurting.

He’d scored well enough on the ranges, spent years practicing. It was finally time to enter his new career. He’d always wanted to be an assassin. It was something he’d dreamt of since he was a child. He’d never had any problems hurting things.

It started with a back-of-the-skull itch that nagged at him in quiet moments at the garage. Then he bought all of the weapons that the dark web and the good anonymous people at RonHub suggested. He took karate lessons. He had his longtime subscription to “Soldier of Fortune” and “Guns and Ammo,” pestered all of the right people at the gun shows, made frequent posts about his exploits on the right forums… severely exaggerated to be sure, but fake it till you make it, right?

So here we was at last! He won a contract on RonHub. The contract was generous and paid for his flight. The hotel room he was put in was a beautiful room at a Hampton Inn. They even rented him a mid-sized sedan. Whoever his target was, his client wanted that person dead and were willing to pay for it.

“I know this is your first time out,” the heavily digitized voice said over the phone. The deep, digital voice was disturbing. So was the fact that his phone said that the source of the call was his mom’s phone. “Don’t go in there guns blazing. Scope the place out. Get an idea as to what her movements are. The secret to being a success in your new chosen profession is patience. Don’t strike until the moment is perfect.”

Doug took all of this in and smiled. He wanted to please. He was only days into his first contract and if he played his cards right he could could build a clientele. Jobs in all of the great capitals of the world! Travel, benefits, and as his friend Terry put it, “all the greatest tang in the world.”

Sheeee-it that sounded like a good idea! The James Bond life! Not bad for a guy from Muskogee! He just knew all he had to do was shed another fifty pounds down his high school weight and he’d be good to go for all of the above.

None of this was promised, of course, but he was sure that if he could just show these anonymous people what he was capable of then the sky was the limit.

Later that day, he lay on his stomach on top of an apartment building. His sniper rifle was unpacked and set up. He was looking through the scope into his target’s apartment.

He was not prepared for how uncomfortable laying stomach-down on a hot roof in the middle of the afternoon could be. All he’d ever seen was . They must know something.

Whoever she was, she was a unique person. It looked like two large bird cages took up a corner of the room. There were crafting supplies everywhere. In the other corner… crutches?

Doug smirked. “Killing a cripple,” he muttered. “Easy. Perhaps I’ll let her get a running head start first.” He started giggling.

The phone rang.

“You’re go for Doug,” he said.

“What in the hell are you doing?” A deep digitalized voice asked.

“Errrr… trailing the subject.”

“Then why is your rifle set up?”

Doug sat up and looked around. “You can see me?!”

“Of course we can see you,” the voice said. “This is your first time out. We want to see how you do. Do you at least have a towel laid down on the roof you can lay on?”


“No towel. Okay. You have your rifle set up. Are you actually going to take a shot? Have you calibrated your weapon? Collapsible rifles have problems with their accuracy when they’re unpacked. And are you a sniper? Have you had training?”

“Err….” Doug said, “No to all answers?”

The silence was telling.

“Look, you’re new. It’s okay. You’re drawing attention to yourself with a rifle out. Why even TAKE the rifle out? Pull out the scope and keep the weapon in the case. Or buy yourself some binoculars and pretend that you’re a pigeon fancier. And if you’re not a trained sniper, don’t. You don’t know how to account for wind shear, heat from the sides of the buildings, time of day, etcetera, etcetera. Keep it close, tough guy. We gave you an easy one to test you out.”

Doug swallowed nervously. “I’m sorry… I didn’t know…”

“It’s fine,” the voice said. “We knew what we were getting into when you accepted our contract. You’re on the ground floor. Not literally. You’re on a roof. But you’re just beginning. Just use your head, Doug. Don’t try to look like a cool assassin. Look like a real assassin.”

“Well, what do they look like?”

“They don’t look like anything at all,” the voice said, then hung up.

Doug sighed, packed up his rifle, and headed downstairs to look for a towel.

That evening, Doug sat on a towel in the same spot as before. He was wearing a black jacket to keep himself warm and hopefully blend in. He kept his binoculars trained on the window where his target lived. An open dossier was in front of him.

The lady’s name was Darlene. Some kind of early retiree. Lived in a nice place. Hot woman, if a little older. Late 40s. Sold jewelry. Blah blah blah.

“She’s got a good body,” Doug murmured. “Not normally my type, but… hey, thousands more like her though. Pity I can’t have a go at her first.” A thought pecked at the back of his mind but he shrugged it off. There were things even he wouldn’t do. Not for free, anyway.

He peeked through his binoculars again.

“What the actual f**k,” he mumbled, seeing Darlene sitting in her living room through her window. “She’s playing with actual goddamn sock monkeys!”

There she was, a sock monkey in each hand. One was a green dragon with iridescent scales. The other was a white bear. She was talking to them in what seemed to be an intense conversation.

Doug shook his head. “Putting her out of her misery…” he muttered. He looked back down at the dossier. Nothing in the paperwork suggested she was looney tunes. He smiled. “Maybe I can ask for more money,” the thought. “Prettiest bitches are always the craziest.” He shook his head and looked back at the windows.

The two sock monkeys were in the window staring back at him. Darlene was nowhere to be seen.

Doug gasped and ducked down, then shook his head. “The sock monkeys are staring at me,” he laughed. “Jesus, I need to get a grip.” He sat back up.

The sock monkeys were gone.