THE .50 SOLUTION Lee Child Most times I assess the client and then the target and only afterward do I set the price. It's about common sense and variables. If the client is rich, I ask for more. If the target is tough, I ask for more. If there are major expenses involved, I ask for more. So if I'm working overseas on behalf of a billionaire against a guy in a remote hideout with a competent protection team on his side, I'm going to ask for maybe a hundred times what I would want from some local chick looking to solve her marital problems in a quick and messy manner. Variables, and common sense. But this time the negotiation started differently. The guy who came to see me was rich. That was clear. His wealth was pore-deep. Not just his clothes. Not just his car. This was a guy who had been rich forever. Maybe for generations. He was tall and gray and silvery and self-assured. He was a patrician. It was all right there in the way he held himself, the way he spoke, the way he took charge. First thing he talked about was the choice of weapon. He said, "I hear you've used a Barrett Model Ninety on more than one occasion." I said, "You hear right." "You like that piece?" "It's a fine rifle." "So you'll use it for me." "I choose the weapon," I said. "Based on what?" "Need." "You'll need it." I asked, "Why? Long range?" "Maybe two hundred yards." "I don't need a Barrett Ninety for two hundred yards." "It's what I want." "Will the target be wearing body armor?" "No." "Inside a vehicle?" "Open air." "Then I'll use a three-oh-eight. Or something European." "I want that fifty-caliber shell." "A three-oh-eight or a NATO round will get him just as dead from two hundred yards." "Maybe not." Looking at him I was pretty sure this was a guy who had never fired a .50 Barrett in his life. Or a .308 Remington. Or an M16, or an FN, or an H&K. Or any kind of a rifle. He had probably never fired anything at all, except maybe a BB gun as a kid and workers as a adult. I said, "The Barrett is an awkward weapon. It's four feet long and it doesn't break down. It weighs twenty-two pounds. It's got bipod legs, for Christ's sake. It's like an artillery piece. Hard to conceal. And it's very loud. Maybe the loudest rifle in the history of the world." He said, "I like that fifty-caliber shell." "I'll give you one," I said. "You can plate it with gold and put it on a chain and wear it around your neck." "I want you to use it." Then I started thinking maybe this guy was some kind of a sadist. A caliber of .50 is a decimal fraction, just another way of saying half an inch. A lead bullet a half inch across is a big thing. It weighs about two ounces, and any kind of a decent load fires it close to two thousand miles an hour. It could catch a supersonic jet fighter and bring it down. Against a person two hundred yards away, it's going to cut him in two. Like making the guy swallow a bomb, and then setting it off. I said, "You want a spectacle, I could do it close with a knife. You know, if you want to send a message." He said, "That's not the issue. This is not about a message. This is about the result." "Can't be," I said. "From two hundred yards I can get a result with anything. Something short with a folding stock, I can walk away afterward with it under my coat. Or I could throw a rock." "I want you to use the Barrett." "Expensive,&qEstep, Maggie is the author of 'Bloodlines A Horse Racing Anthology', published 2006 under ISBN 9781400096954 and ISBN 1400096952.