“I hate when it rains. Reduces visibility.” That was my uninformed, upstart of a partner running his mouth again, not knowing a damn thing about anything that mattered.
“You talk too fuckin’ much,” I said gruffly. Stakeout tête-à-tête made the time go by, but it was only when that conversation wasn’t for the sake of creating carbon dioxide. “What’d I tell you about that?”
He sighed like a frustrated little brat that’d been relegated to the nearest corner when all he wanted to do was play.
“Rain is a good thing,” I informed him. “Reduced visibility makes it harder for witnesses to make out detail…and it washes away evidence, too. Lemme see your piece.”
I didn’t particularly like breaking in the new guys, tagging along so they didn’t make the stupid mistakes not covered in class. However, it was us older cats—me being one of the most ancient still able to work in the field—that pulled the coattails of the irreverent ranks.
He unholstered his firearm—a huge, gaudy monstrosity that would make a movie action hero soil himself with delight. He was trying to overcompensate and impress me. The organization already knew he had the basic skills to do the job; it was left to me to get the tyke fine-tuned.
“.50 cal, huh?”
He nodded proudly, big stupid grin extending upward to his rosy cheeks.
“We ain’t huntin’ buffalo, kid.”
His smile faded a shade and his brow creased ever-so-slightly. To him, I was a crotchety old relic that should’ve retired around the time his daddy refused to pull out the kid’s whore of a mother. I could’ve said something to the beat of the best part of him went running down Mama’s thighs and gummed up the sheets, but I didn’t. This was a learning opportunity for the youngster. I reached into my belt and pulled out my primary: an easily concealable, smaller caliber wheel gun.
“Whatcha gonna do with that, Pops,” the kid demanded to know. He was determined to let me know he had the cajones, smarts, and speed to get the job done. It was yet another teaching moment, of which the night seemed to have no shortage. “Rob stagecoaches?”
To that, he guffawed, still gripping the butt of his hand cannon. I smirked, since I could appreciate a good sense of humor. Besides, it would take more than remarks about my age or tools of the trade to get me seeing red.
“You’re funny, son. I like that.” A silence settled between us and I didn’t blink. “How many rounds does that thing carry?”
“Twelve,” he said with a defiant nod. “Twice as many as your old peacemaker.”
“Twice as likely to get your hopes up and twice as likely to get you killed, too. I have exactly six chances to get the job done right. That means I take my time and aim, remembering my fundamentals. I breathe, apply even pressure on the trigger, and pull it smoothly to the rear. Each round counts.”
“Takes too long,” he exclaimed dismissively. “By the time you fire your second shot, I’d already have emptied the clip and begun my reload.”
“You’re right. And there would be empty shell casings all over for the cops to find and accidentally wounded bystanders for them to question.” I leaned back a bit, squaring him up. “I’ll bet you even shoot sideways, like you’re in some in-the-‘hood gangster flick.”
His smartass expression said, Yeah and so what, old man?! It was his blatantly disrespectful attitude that made me decide just how to capitalize on the moment. After all, lion cubs had to be groomed to one day lead the pride.
“Let me tell you a story,” I began, much to his chagrin. He stifled the breath he wanted to huff, thinking better of it. “I was probably about your age…”
“Back in the days when they invented the wheel and Moses rode the ark, right?”
I shot him a glare, not bothering to correct him on the fact that it was Noah. But Sunday School was a class I hadn’t been paid to teach.
“Mind if I finish?”
He nodded. “Please…by all means, carry on.”
“I was arrogant like you when I was your age. I was fresh out of Force Recon when I was recruited by the organization. Had done a good share of wet-works by then, too.”
The kid exhaled, his eyes bugging as if to say, Is this gonna be a long story? I got shit to do, man!”
However, the only shit he had to do was whatever I told him. And, regardless of his insolence, I had to issue the story as a preamble. It was only right to give him a chance.
I continued: “My field training officer seemed more ancient then than I am now. Had a buzz cut of white needles framing his leathery face. Never smiled. Growled a lot, though…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! And, as he lay dying in your arms, he passed on some sort of profound knowledge concerning this job. That’s it, right?! You don’t hafta go describing the type of aftershave he wore or the repressed homosexual urges you all shared. Just get to the fuckin’ point, man!”
I chuckled, looking through the windshield at the rain coming down in sheets. “Why don’t you step outta the car, youngster?”
To that, he exploded. “Ya know what, Gramps? I ain’t yer son, I ain’t a kid, and I ain’t here to listen to some tired old windbag relive his friggin’ glory days!”
I calmed myself, slowing my heart rate, taking time to breathe. This is what I did before engaging a target with a weapon or in hand-to-hand. Though I could easily leave the kid with a knife through his windpipe or a smoking hole in his temple, I still wanted to give the kid a chance. I liked him. “Step out,” I repeated, unbuttoning my jacket and opening the door.
Five minutes later, he was huffing and puffing, the fingers of his right hand broken to resemble a windmill. I’d hung that miniaturized missile launcher off his trigger finger, which he couldn’t bend. I’d told him not to reach for it, as I just wanted to knock him around a bit to prove a point. He didn’t believe fat meat was greasy and had to find out the hard way.
“M-may I please have a cigarette,” he begged. He was dripping wet from the rain, cradling his useless arm with his left. I didn’t break his elbow as much as I’d given it a nice hyperextension to reinforce some respect for his elders.
“No smoking when you’re with me. Cigarette butts leave a trail like breadcrumbs.”
“I-I-I’m sorry,” he said through bruised gums and clenched teeth. Though tempted to knock them out and leave them on the pavement like candy-coated tablets of chewing gum, I didn’t. The organization had an excellent dental plan, but he’d already be exercising the medical benefits that night.
“I know,” I said coolly, looking at his humbled countenance from the driver’s seat. “Now, may I please continue on with my story?”
His swollen lips drooled blood and saliva onto his dark shirt. The white of one eye was discolored from a nice blow to the temple. A little harder and I could’ve made his eye pop out altogether. Hell, I’d done it before.
He nodded. “Please do, sir. Please do.”
I cleared my throat, watching the rain, which had muffled his screams, washing any remnants of blood into the gutter. “As I was saying, I was also arrogant at your age, until I ran afoul of my mentor.”
The kid’s eyes blinked and he sat up straight, giving me his rapt attention.
I displayed my right hand, opening and closing the fist. “In fact, my arthritis flares up whenever it rains.”
The whippersnapper frowned at his own hand, the tips of each finger snapped to point leftward. His thumb, which I’d broken inward on itself, remained balled up against the palm. It was the same type of learning moment that’d enlightened me over 20 years before. It was a lesson that, if he was lucky, the kid would one day pass on to another aspiring assassin that’d been left in his care.
© Don Miskel, 2014.
Image courtesy of kellieelmore.com