I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I’m a former assassin for various agencies of our government. I was cut from the program in my mid 40’s when I developed diabetes and bursitis in my right shoulder. Ever try to throw a knife or fire a high powered rifle with bursitis? It’s no fun, let me tell you. Being an aging assassin is worse than being an aging football player. And we don’t get paid to do any endorsements. Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan would really take on a different meaning for us.

Many of you have seen Kill Bill and the Bourne movies where they show assassins trying to get out of the business being hunted down by other assassins. Not accurate at all. Think about it. If that got around, who’d want to be an assassin? “What’s your retirement program like?” “Um. We kill you.” Here’s what really happens. You’ve heard of the witness protection program? Where criminals who agree to testify against other criminals are given a new identity and relocated? It’s a similar program. The Former Assassins Reintegration Program (FARP). We get some plastic surgery, maybe get some vocational training, get relocated and set up in a business, etc. And then we live a normal life. The agencies we used to work for are behind the misinformation you get from the previously mentioned movies and spy novels. It’s easier to let you think they’re all killed than to think they might be your neighbor or coworker. Or the cook fixing your dinner. That kind of thing makes people nervous.

One guy I used to work with got set up in an exterminating business. We all got a good laugh over that one. The motto on his truck said: “I’ll kill ’em for you.” He figured it had been a good motto for the last 23 years, why not keep it?

Occasionally things go wrong. Like the guy in a southwestern suburb who got tired of his neighbor’s loud music and assassinated him–three bullets to the head, point blank. Very effective. After that they added a psychological dimension to FARP–Conflict Management Without Elimination. It’s always a very interesting class, especially the role playing portion.

As former assassins get older they sometimes have some special needs beyond those of normal senior citizens. To help, there are special nursing homes for them, although to be honest, they don’t live very long there. A lot of them are crotchety, set in their ways, suffering from various levels of senile dementia, and they keep killing each other.

You’re probably thinking I could get in trouble for telling you all this. Well, that’s true–if they caught me. But with all the cut-backs there’s currently only one guy monitoring the media for any leaks on this program, and he spends most of his time reading movie reviews and examining Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. He’s pretty sure some day there’ll be a security leak there and he wants to be ready. So I’m relatively safe. Plus I owe him money, so he’s not going to take me out of the picture any time soon. Besides, most of the people who could make trouble for us are afraid of us–who wants to anger a professional killer? I don’t mind angering my accountant or the receptionist at my doctor’s office, but I think twice before I get a former coworker mad. I don’t need one more reason to be looking over my shoulder (which is getting more difficult, thanks to the bursitis).

Speaking of my doctor, that’s always a touchy area for us old assassins. I mean, I’ve got a jagged knife scar on my left shoulder, a bullet scar on my ribcage, and a long, white scar on my right calf that came from a pen (Bic, I think, but that’s a long story). Those things make a doctor curious, and we’ve got to come up with reasonable explanations for all them. This French assassin I knew was bitten by a guy on his forearm years ago and had a very noticeable scar. His doctor asked him about it and he said a dog bit him. The doctor said, but those are human teeth marks. Oh-oh. Trapped. He finally just said, “Oh. I could’ve sworn that was a dog.” And left it at that.

I thought that was a pretty good answer.

 

Thanks to the aging of the baby boomers, we’re also seeing an increase in the amount of retired government-employed hit men entering the Former Assassins Relocation Program.  So it was inevitable I’d run into an old coworker at some point. 

Which I did last Sunday afternoon.  He’s now a greeter at Walmart (I can’t tell you which one, but don’t make any sudden suspicious moves around those greeters, just in case).  Our eyes met, then he did the classic double take.  He gave me the old signal so I wandered over to the discounted chips and stared at Doritos for awhile until he walked by.  Then I followed him casually into Health and Beauty until he stopped to look at mouthwash (which he always needed, as I recall).  I picked up some toothpaste and read the instructions (I didn’t know there WERE instructions on toothpaste; have you ever met anyone who was stumped about how to brush their teeth?).

While holding some Scope up to the light he said, “Are you here to eliminate me?”

“No,” I said, “I’m here for deodorant.”

He turned and looked at me.  “Really?”

“Yeah.  I didn’t know you were here.  Remember, our locations are supposed to be kept secret.”

“But ALSO remember that it’s the US government who promised us they’d keep that secret.”

He had a good point.  I seemed to recall a few other promises from the government that weren’t kept.  A couple of years ago a former assassin known as seven-double-0 (because he always got things backwards) had an apparent heart attack in a movie theater.  Upon closer examination he was also found to have a bullet in his head (for those of you who have no medical background, that is not common for a heart attack).  The general feeling was that the government had decided he was too risky to have around.

But be that as it may, it seemed to be nothing but a genuine coincidence that me and the Walmart greeter wound up in the same town.  We talked for a few minutes and he pointed out a few lazy employees he said he’d like to remove (in the strongest sense of the word), but since we really weren’t supposed to communicate I picked up my deodorant and headed out.

A minute later I circled back in and walked up to him.

“You’re not really thinking of doing anything to those employees, are you?”  I asked.

He smiled.  “Are you kidding?” he said.  “And spoil this set up?”

We old assassins still have a sense of humor.

It was dark.  In the distance a train whistle made its mournful cry.  A man stood on a bridge looking down into the water.  A Burger King bag floated by underneath him.  The taste of a Whopper filled his mouth. 

Another man slowly walked towards him and stopped about about 6 feet away.  “Are you Rico?” he asked.

The man continued staring into the water.  “Who’s asking?” he replied.

“I’m a friend of Sean’s.”

He turned and looked at the newcomer.  “Yeah,” he said, “I’m Rico.”

Sean’s friend leaned on the railing next to Rico.  “Sean explained what I’m looking for?” he asked.

Rico nodded.

“The target is a guy named Walter Kurl.  He works for the Glass Paper Company.  He’s–”

“Glass paper?”

“It’s not paper made of glass, Glass is the name of the family that owns the company.”

“Huh.  They should’ve gone into the glass business.”

“Yeah.  We get that all the time.  Anyway, Walter Kurl is a supervisor there.”

“We?  You work there too?”

“Yeah.  Kurl is my boss.”

“Pretty sick of him, huh?”

“You have no idea.  He’s got this coming, and then some.”

“Okay.  Where’s the place located?”

“At a deserted warehouse on the edge of town.  Kurl  works late every night, then he walks–alone–through the parking ramp to his car.”

“What kind of car does he drive?”

“A ’68 Rambler.  Maroon and white.”

“Really?  What kind of engine?”

“I don’t know.  Never looked under the hood.”

“Hmm.  I suppose I’ll be in too much of a hurry to take a look.  Oh well.”

“Anyway, I figure you can hide somewhere in the ramp and get him when he comes out.”

Rico nodded.  “I’ll push him down for you.”

“Hard.” said Sean’s friend.  “I want him pushed down real hard.”

Rico turned and looked at him.  “You must really hate this guy.  Get a bad performance review or something?”

“Never mind why.  Just push him down for me.”

“You bring the money?”

Sean’s friend nodded and reached into his pocket.  “$17.50, right?”

Rico nodded.

“Here’s a twenty.  Keep the change.”

Rico crumpled the bill into his pocket.  “You got a picture of Kurl?”

A photograph appeared from a pocket.  “That’s him on the left.  The guy with the bow tie.”

Rico stared at it.  “I didn’t know handlebar moustaches were coming back.”

Sean’s friend sighed.  “They’re not.”

At 5:40 the next evening, Rico stood in the shadows in the parking ramp.  The ’68 Rambler was about 20 yards away.  No one was in sight.  An owl hooted.  Rico chewed gum, and waited.

At 6:12 he heard hard shoes on concrete, echoing in the ramp, slowly clop-clopping towards him.  He spit his gum out.  His body tensed.

A shape came into view.  As it passed under a light, Rico saw the handlebar moustache.  He silently moved into a course to intercept him just before the Rambler.

Walter Kurl approached his car and reached into his pocket for his keys.  A voice spoke behind him.

“Mr. Kurl?”

Walter Kurl turned.  Rico used the palms of both hands and pushed Kurl hard in the chest.  He went down on the concrete, his keys sliding away.  Rico chuckled, then turned and ran.

“Hey!” yelled Walter Kurl.  But it was too late.

I’ve got a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine.  Each issue has a short contest they call “Your Story,”  in which they give you an open-ended prompt and you write a short story from it (750 words or less). 

The last one I entered came from the prompt: “You receive a box that contains a pirate’s eye patch and a note.”  So I wrote the following story.  (Which didn’t win the contest, by the way.  I try to avoid winning contests or getting published because I believe success would spoil my art)

 

I’ve Got My Eye On You

By Michael Anderson

 

I knew it was going to be one of those days when I woke up to the sound of a bullhorn-enhanced voice yelling from my front yard, “Sean Carter, you are surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”

I’d really have been worried if my name was  Sean Carter. But let me go back to the beginning, which was yesterday…

It was on my front steps when I got home: a small box wrapped in brown paper, an uncomfortably-shaped egg, laid and abandoned by some strange bird. It was addressed to me, no return address. I don’t get many deliveries so I was eager to open it. I was sure I’d won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I would open it up at my kitchen table and ten million dollars would spring out and then float back down on me like large confetti. A band would appear, and a smiling person would shove a microphone in my face.

I was close. Inside was a pirate’s eye patch and a note that said, “I’ve got my eye on you.” It was signed, “L.”

I’ve never been good at pondering, but this got pondered real good for at least six or seven minutes. Then my wife came home.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Pondering,” I replied.

“You’ve never been very good at pondering,” she helpfully pointed out.

“I’m getting better.”

She leaned over my shoulder and looked in the box. “Why did you order a pirate’s eye patch?”

“I didn‘t,” I said.

“And who’s L?”

“I don’t know anyone named L.”

She went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. “Well their name  wouldn’t be L, it must stand for something.”

“Like Lucy?”

She stuck her head out of the fridge and frowned at me. “Who’s Lucy?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. It starts with L.”

“You don’t know anyone named Lucy?”

I shook my head.

“Then why did you say Lucy?”

I shrugged again. “It starts with L.”

She put her head back in the fridge. “Lots of names start with L. My  name starts with L.”

“Did you send this to me?”

She took out yesterday’s tuna casserole and put it on the table. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t send you something; I’d just give it to you. Here, move this box so we can eat.”

She picked it up, then glanced at the label. “They spelled your name wrong.”

“They did?” I leaned forward, embarrassed. In all my pondering I had missed that.

“They put Sean  Carter, but you spell it Shawn.  Whoever it’s from doesn’t know you very well.”

The phone rang. If I’d known, I would never have answered it.

“Hello,” I said.

A male voice said, “Good evening, Mr. Carter.”

“I’m really not interested in–”

“Did you get my package?”

I put two and two together. “Is this L?” I asked, and my wife’s head snapped up from the tuna casserole.

The voice chuckled cruelly. “How very astute of you, Mr. Carter. Yes, this is L, and I think you know why I’m calling.”

“No, actually, I don’t. Why did you send me a pirate’s eye patch? Both of my eyes work fine.”

The cruel chuckle again. I was already tired of it. “You’re very good at acting dumb.”

“I’m not acting,” I protested.

My wife whispered, “Maybe they didn’t spell your name wrong; maybe they’re looking for Sean Carter instead of Shawn Carter.”

I covered the phone and whispered back, “That’s the same name.”

“But different spellings!” she yell-whispered.

I saw her point.

“You know, L,” I said back into the phone, “I think there might be some mistake here. This package was addressed to Sean  Carter, but I’m Shawn  Carter.”

“That’s the same name,” said L.

I explained the spelling difference to him but he wasn’t convinced. “Listen Carter,” he said, “you know what I want, and what will happen if I don’t get it. How would you like it if I made a phone call to the police?”

“Actually, that might be a good idea,” I said.

“We’ll see if you think so in the morning! If you change your mind, you know how to reach me.”

“Actually I–” Click.

Fortunately my wife went to work early the next morning, so she was spared the embarrassment of seeing me in the front yard in my pajamas with my hands up.

“You’re looking for Sean  Carter and I’m Shawn  Carter,” I said to the policeman.

“That’s the same name,” he replied.

 

 

Michael Anderson

 

Copyright October 2008