My name is Theodore and I’ve been a Hitman for Hire for four decades now. I’ve been training my eldest son to take over from me, just as my father did with me, and as his father… well, let’s just say it’s been a family business for generations back. It’s not always handed down to the eldest son – I’m a youngest son myself – but my elder brother don’t have the requisite skill.
He’s got no aversion to killing, it’s just he’s not able to see our clients. But there’s still room for him in the business. You see, I pride myself on doing a job clean and quick, whereas my brother is a downright messy killer. I save him for those jobs when a client wants the hit to suffer. In truth, those jobs offend my sensibility, so I make good and sure that the hit really deserves it before I take the contract.
After my folks died, I lived a solitary life as a result of my line of work, for I only wanted a wife who would be understanding of what I did. I had to move around lots, for each time I shared my secret with my sweetheart, her reaction meant I’d be attracting the wrong sort of attention. But, if the family business was to continue, I had to keep trying.
I was in my forties when I met Dorothea. She was younger than me but had a calm practical way about her. I could see she was shocked when I first told her, but she gave me the time to explain instead of screaming right off. When I’d finished saying my piece, she nodded, then asked a few questions to satisfy herself before expressing her agreement that I was providing a valuable service. We were married a month later. I’d agreed we’d let our boys attend college and not talk about the family business until after they’d graduated. I gave my word there was to be pressure – for I know this must be a choice freely taken. But both our boys displayed they had the requisite skill from quite an early age, so that marked them out as separate from other folks anyhow.
My eldest boy attends all client meetings with me and he’s a real natural with them. He’s been shadowing me on the hits too, just to see how I go about it. I’m not rushing it, he’ll let me know when he’s ready to make the step up. The youngest boy is champing at the bit to join us. He refused to go away to college but is attending classes locally. He’s promised his mother he’ll graduate before he joins his older brother and me, so she allows him to help out with the research on potential hits, so long as his college work is up to date. He’s a real flair for it, and I believe my boys are going to make a great team when I retire.
Twice a month, we go up to the cottage to do our practical training. Dorothea packs up the truck for us with hearty stews, big steaks, lots of fresh veggies and salad, plus plenty of home-baked bread and pies. There’s always the fixings for good hearty breakfasts, and she never forgets to include some pancake batter together with a big old jar of maple syrup. We drink cowboy coffee while we’re up there, but no beer. We enjoy our time together, but it’s work and not play. We take beer with us when we go fishing – those are the weekends just for fun.
My brother hasn’t been quite so lucky in a wife, but has three fine sons. Like him, none have the requisite skill to see clients, but they get on well with my boys, and who knows – maybe there’ll be a place for them in the family business should they want to join.
The current hit we’re working on has a real sad backstory. Our client is a real nice lady, very gentle and genteel. She’d no idea her charming boyfriend was going to turn into a wife-beater after the wedding, but that’s what happened. Not just an ordinary one either, but a real nasty piece of work. She’s one that wants him to suffer, and she showed us photos and her physical scars in support of that. From our research, he looks to be – what’s the word now – grooming, that’s it. He looks to be grooming a young gal who’s the spitting image of our client. He’s such a piece of work that I’ll be happy to set my brother on him.
We have the meetings with our client in the church graveyard. She always waits for us seated on her family crypt. She was an only child and is the last of her line, for she’s had no children. We slip in once the minister goes home, and some nights it’s a long wait if he’s struggling with his sermon. But she’s always there, waiting for us. She says she’s looking forward to going, to be with the rest of her family. She’s tried to join them many a time, but the pain always drew her back. She saw us meeting with another client one evening and decided we might be what she needed to get free. I sure do hope it works for her. Sometimes it does, but other times it doesn’t – and it’s real sad when we find our ex-clients still here after we’ve completed our contract.
Maybe only the minister could help them… if only he could see them. I’ve suggested it once before to a minister, but we had to leave town real sharpish that time, and Dorothea made me promise not to do it again. She realises I’ve a soft heart and feel for my old clients, but I’ve given my word and she knows to rely on it.
Although we’ve done our best for them, the boys and I always greet our old clients when we see them still here, and we spend a bit of extra time with each one when we can. It’s a lonely life when you’re stuck between this world and the next, and I’d hope someone would be kind enough to do the same for me.
© Debra Carey, 2021
Pete looked at the magnificent silver-back gorilla through telescopic sights. Although he was hundred of metres away, the gorilla appeared to right in front of him. Only his professionalism kept him from shuddering. He really wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with the creature. The gorilla was sat like an untidy sack of mail in a small clearing across the valley from the hide that Pete had created. The intel was good, and today would be the day. He’d set up his forward base a week ago, settling in with a patience borne of years of training and experience. Not much longer now and he would swiftly retreat, leaving not a sign that he had ever been here.
Taking a couple of calming breaths, Pete exhaled, focussed and let off the first shot. A poacher fell to the ground; another had barely enough time to register his comrade’s demise before searing agony spread out from his chest. One by one, the small group of hunters were picked off, the suppressor on the rifle ensuring that they never heard the shot that killed them, nor realised where the sniper’s nest was located.
Pete didn’t really like the suppressor as it changed the whole feel of the rifle, but it was good for this relatively close work in the jungles, where lines of sight were much more limited. He keyed the short-wave radio’s speak-button and listened to the static become interrupted as he toggled the button on and off. Dash-dot-dot-dash. He waited a moment and there was an answering dot-dash. Pete policed his brass and then any other gash that he hadn’t already dealt with over the last few days. As he did so he took frequent glances to where the fallen poaches were already starting to attract flies. His mucker Slade appeared from the nowhere he’d hidden himself on the same side of the valley as the gorillas and checked that the poachers really were all dead. Pete had just finished stowing his gear when the radio hissed out another staccato message. Dot-dash-dot, pause, dot-dot-dot-dash, pause, dot-dash-dot, dot-dot-dash. Pete grinned. He’d been through a lot with Slade, one way and another, and still his mate could find a way to make him laugh – a race to the RV, yeah, right…
Three hours later, and Pete was back at the land rover. Bob was providing security whilst Jag was stowing the last of their gear and ensuring that the vehicle was in tip-top condition – or at least as tip-top as could be achieved in the middle of nowhere. In a matter of minutes Slade joined them.
“Looks like the beers are on you, old son” Pete drawled, attempting to make it look like he’s been back at the rendezvous for a lot longer than a couple of minutes.
Jag picked up the handset of a bigger radio than the little short-wave jobs that they used for local comms.
“Stanley calling Attenborough. Stanley calling Attenborough. Livingstone and Tarzan secure repeat Livingstone and Tarzan secure out.”
Pete and Slade slung their packs into the back of the Landrover, climbed in themselves and were just seated when Jag tore off down the dirt track. Not for the first time, Pete wondered what the real Attenborough would think of what they were doing here. Not an awful lot, Pete suspected. Was this a case of two wrongs not making a right? Would there always be others to take the place of the men who’d died today, trying to set traps for creatures that should be left alone to live their lives in peace? Still, from Pete’s perspective, there were wore ways to make a living, and with the skill set he’d developed over the years there weren’t exactly a lot of career options.
“Attenborough calling Stanley, come in, over.” The radio crackled to life. Bob picked up the handset while Jag continued to weave his way down the mountain track at speed.
“This is Stanley, receiving you loud and clear Attenborough, over.”
“Congratulations on successful mission, Stanley. We have reports of poachers heading towards a herd of elephants. It’s on your exit route. We can provide you with an alternate route, or provide intel for engagement. Over.” Bob looked around and collected nods.
“Understood Attenborough. We will engage, but we will need a re-supply on route. Over.”
“Affirmative Stanley. Standby for co-ordinates for resupply by drone. Out.”
“Looks like those beers will have to wait”, Slade grinned.
“Reckon so. And a shower if it comes to that.”
“I’ll miss the beers more.”
Pete and Slade settled down into the watchful doze of the trained professional who doesn’t know what the future held. Yeah, Pete thought as he drifted off, there are worse ways to make a living.
© David Jesson, 2021