The Orca has the darkest smile. That’s what they said in Guatemala City, and in Guatemala City one listened to such gossip. The city was, like so many places in Central America, struck with the double blow of gang violence and the success of the war on drugs. The USA had eviscerated the cocaine trade, but had done very little against the dealers and the traffickers. And Guatemala had remained one of the most dangerous cities on earth, where gangs fought for the scraps of their former riches. Poverty does not mesh well with brutality.


Quinlan Valery was looking for the Orca, the name taken by the assassin once known as The Top Predator, and before that Wave Killer. The Orca was supposedly now some high up in the Mara 18, the gang that operated out of Zone 18. Valery himself was part of the covert operations unit of the National Security Agency, an agency which now had a large number of field operatives despite ostensibly being a signals intelligence agency. The intelligence community had expanded greatly under President Smythe, and now the rather less prominent agents of the NSA, who relied on the CIA to keep foreign counter-espionage distracted, had been tasked with a critical mission. Operation Stille Nacht demanded that every unreliable connection with US Intelligence was purged. The Top Predator had been useful at killing foreign assassins and spycatchers, and when that work had mostly dried up, he had broadened the contracts he was willing to take. Valery was led to believe that the Orca had infiltrated Mara 18 as a sicario, a hired blade who would kill gang members. But what had become unclear was whether he had decided to stick with the rape, murder and extortion now he was inside, or whether he was playing a long game that might gut Mara 18 entirely. Quinlan didn’t really care. He wanted to find him. Guatemala had its own problems – but the Orca staying alive to incriminate or attack the USA was what worried him.


He supposed that it was a typical Heart of Darkness situation, the usual affair of a member of the prevailing empire losing his way, that was the thing. Marlow didn’t do what he should have, and that was put Kurtz down. Gotten there sooner.


In what in safer parts would be called a bar, he asked, with the incentive of a spot of cash, the various gang fringers about what they knew of the Orca. The best source, who accepted money and drinks, was garrulous, at least by comparison to most of the other denizens. Valery wasn’t afraid of word getting out about him. The Orca wasn’t the sort to go to ground if a single man was after him. And Valery fancied his chances. This fellow had the facial 18 tattoo that marked a true member of one of the gangs, and Quinlan was somewhat surprised that he was willing to co-operate.


“This man, this killer you want to find, why do you want to find him?” he asked, in an accent far stronger than the usually clear Guatemalan Spanish. Probably Highlands, based on his research. The NSA principle was to research everything. Meticulousness was their watchword, and they knew it was why the President valued both them and the more intuitive CIA.

“Does it matter?” Valery responded. The gang member shrugged.

“Maybe not. But turning over anyone from the eighteen to an American, a gabacho, that has consequences.”

“Who is going to know that you told? And who is going to blame you? You’re saying this like I want to kill him. I just want to meet the guy, discuss a little business.”

“Look, I appreciate the money, and I know you wouldn’t even come near here if you weren’t serious. You’ve got that… look about you. Most middle-class white Americans like you would be perfect for extortion, but I know it and the other guys around here know it, you are too dangerous for that.”

“Think whatever you will. Where is the Orca? Just the Colonia will do.”

“Okay, for five hundred American.”

“See, there we go. Businessman to businessman. Here’s two-fifty.”

“Okay, he’s in Colonia las Illusiones.”


It struck him as unlikely. Las Illusiones was an avenue with few houses. He thought that the Orca would be smarter than that. Surround himself with civilians, get right in somewhere dense. He talked to some street kids, a couple of whom were aspirants in Mara 18. He asked them who the big players were, lots of names like The Butcher, The Chopper, nicknames to that effect. They asked about the Orca. The kids went quiet. The Butcher and the others scared them, sure, but there was fear and there was the glint as they pictured what they’d heard: The Orca has the darkest smile. They said that he had been here, had killed a man, then had gone back to his hideout. They reckoned it was south, somewhere.


Outdated information. Always a problem. He called up the monitoring, see if satellite telemetry and that sort of data had anything useful. As he had expected, the Orca still acted like an international assassin. He’d have to try another tack.


And there it was. There was always a troublemaker somewhere in 18, always a hard man who wanted a bit more. All Valery had to do was watch them. Eulogio Ortiz Lopez was not a subtle man. And the shadows hung long in Colonia el Paraiso I. Valery could skulk, watch him throw his weight around, break a few skulls, until the word came down that the Orca was coming. Eulogio proved himself to be not merely loud, but also a fool, not knowing what even the kids had known, that this was not going to end well for him. Ring the bell, shoot the dog.


It was important for the Orca to make such terminations face-to-face, so Valery lurked near Eulogio’s house, and waited for him to arrive. Although he seemed to appear out of nowhere, he walked in plain sight towards the house. Fear was a weapon, after all. As was the rifle he had trained on the entrance to the house. Had to confirm that it was indeed the Top Predator. Damn tech. The facial tattoos that he sported, since joining Mara 18, were making things difficult. Valery was pretty confident. But he didn’t especially want to write off the Orca as dead if he had just killed some similar looking enforcer. He, being a professional, wasn’t twitchy, but he certainly felt like it waiting for the confirm. The Orca was going into the house. This was bad. Valery approached, making sure he could see and hear what was going on. Last thing he wanted was for him to kill Ortiz Lopez and go out the back way. Still no confirm. First shots from inside the house. Noises that proved they weren’t killing shots. Well, at least the increase in sadism in the Orca, who used to be so efficient, would give the face recognition time to complete. It had sounded like knees. Wasteful, probably.


Eventually, the final blow was struck, and the Orca began to leave the house. Valery heard the sound in his earpiece, checked, and it was, indeed, the Top Predator. Raised the rifle. Prepared to shoot. The bullet whistled past the Orca’s ear. His instincts was as good as they always had been. He’d had some sense of being watched, being targeted. He ran. Valery sighed and took chase.


They passed through the dense streets, the Orca practically a blurred shadow, but Valery never let a target out of his sights, even if he didn’t always, as had just been evidenced, take them with the first shot. He knew he’d have to wait until the Orca was stationary, and he could only hope that he was heading to his hideout. There was the possibility that he’d have to fight his way through Mara 18 men but he was confident that that wouldn’t prove too troublesome. But the Orca surged in dark seas – this was his town now, and Valery was not the unstoppable predator he had seemed only moments ago. Now it was a clash between two capable dangerous men, each with varying advantages. The balance had swung towards the Orca. He couldn’t let him disappear. He was too much of a threat.


Fortunately, after passing through a twisted collection of streets, over rooftops, through alleyways, it seemed the Orca was slowing. He must be close to home, to base. Valery would have difficulty if he got there. The Orca would have all sorts of equipment and weaponry saved up for a circumstance such as this. He’d know every hiding place and line of sight. But Valery couldn’t see how he’d get a clear shot on him before that. What was plan B going to be?


They reached the dense heart of Colonia John F Kennedy, where the Orca had his outpost. He flung himself up the rickety stairs, and Valery gambled, trying for a couple of shots, but no good. They pinged easily off the metal. He had only a few moments before the Orca would turn the tables. He checked the map, marked the home base, and strayed to what he figured would be the effective range of the Orca’s weapons. He moved around the perimeter, firing off shots every so often to keep the Orca pinned in the house. Occasionally, a return shot would come back, but even the best of assassins couldn’t hope to land a killing blow with the cover and distance involved. Valery just wanted to keep him where he was, wear him down, wait… and he was succeeding. Time was ticking by.


The explosion consumed the Orca’s house and those next to it, but Valery could see the streak in the sky from the Predator Drone’s flight path. One location determined by the spotter, one Hellfire missile, one perfectly executed targeted killing. It wouldn’t be hard to tie it to the explosives stockpiled by the gang for their grenade attacks on buses and the like. Once the flames died down a little, he checked that the Orca was indeed dead, and his job was done. Another one off the list. Another success for Operation Stille Nacht, silencing every hidden threat against the States. Quinlan Valery smiled, a dark smile, a smile of deathly teeth and a deceptively pleasant appearance. The killer has the darkest smile.

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