Every once in a while I get the urge to write some actual, not-related-to-anything fiction. That would be this. Incidentally, for reasons that should be obvious, this is completely imaginary, and has no relation to any actual persons living or dead.
And, incidentally, the idea for this came to me while I was playing that Olsen Twins game…
To whom it may concern:
I apologize in advance for the contents of this letter, but I feel you are owed an explanation. Yes, I realize it is uncouth to apologize for a document that is, in essence, an apology, but I have always had a tendency to meander, and I feel this will be no different.
First, I want to dispel the Hollywood myth about us guys. I realize this digression may seem heartless, but, please, bear with me, it will shed a certain light on your situation. See, when we all get together, we talk quite a bit. This may surprise you, as I’m sure you’re under the impression we’re all a bunch of loner troglodytes that skulk around abandoned warehouses or something, but, in all honesty (and, believe me, I’m trying to be as honest as possible), it’s very hard for guys like us to find a release, or just someone that understands the ins and outs. Can’t exactly go to a shrink, right? Anyway, yeah, you’re probably picturing exactly what does happen, namely, we have a tendency to have a few beers, play some games (Xbox or cards, depending on the median age of the crowd), and sometimes we watch some television or a movie.
That TV causes problems sometimes, though. We’re all professionals, and I’m sure the same thing happens with any other group of people good at their jobs. Doctors watch House and point out all the ways the star would get arrested over the course of an episode, lawyers watch Law & Order and gab about how a real case would take four more years and seventeen more witnesses, and I’m sure even computer nerds watch Bones and complain about those glowy hologram things. It comes with the territory, right? You know more than some Hollywood muckdemuck, and it’s inevitable you’re going to notice the little details.
So, ya know, guys like us, we give a lot of allowances to those writers. Like, sure, it’d be cool if everything on TV was real and 100% accurate, but whatever side of the aisle is being examined in any given show, it’s kind of important that the show isn’t accurate. Like all those law shows? They’re gonna have an episode or two where a guy gets away with murder, so the writing can’t be flawless all the time, right? Because otherwise then everyone would be able to copy the show, and, whoops, everybody is killing everybody. That’d be terrible for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain to you at all. Nobody would win, so, yeah, fiction has got to be fiction, and call it a day.
But, while it might be clear any director doesn’t have a clue how a damn silencer works, the guys and I do take note of how we’re portrayed. And, yeah, I know this is all for drama or humor or whatever, and it’s not like you’d ever meet a “real” Horatio at a crime scene any more than you’d meet a real Disney Princess if you visited Europe; but it’s hard not to take it personally when your entire profession is portrayed as a bunch of thugs. And then when they try to add some characterization or “heart”? It gets appalling.
One of my (our, really) favorite tropes is the whole “get together and talk about your first time” thing. This probably comes up a lot because it so closely mirrors our own immediate circumstances, but you know the drill, right? Bunch of guys sitting around a table, smoking cigars, drinking vodka or something, and playing poker. Why is it always poker? Is that just tough guy shorthand? Would Mario Kart kill your credibility? Okay, I can see how that happens, but, whatever, that’s the staging. You’ve got the guys sitting around, bullshitting or whatever, and then it’s time to pluck the heartstrings, so they start discussing their “first time”.
Let me set the record straight on this one: nobody remembers their first time. Okay, actually, that’s a lie, but it’s not like… how do I put this? You divorce yourself from the act well before you’ve done it. You… have you ever been in a fight? Like a real, fist to face fight? People lose teeth and all that? Now, was it a boxing match, or some bar brawl? If it’s a… what’s the phrase… officially sanctioned fight, you know it’s coming, you’ve trained, and, like, it’s on your calendar, you’re prepped and ready. If it’s a bar fight? Those have a tendency to just kinda happen, and, win or lose, you’ll be wondering for the next ten years how it even got to that point. My point is that what we do is planned, rather meticulously, I might add, so by the time you’re “throwing the first punch”, you’ve had probably weeks to brace for it. And when you’re ready for it, the emotional impact is more than a little dulled. You’ve done the job, you collect your pay, and, unless you’re Scrooge McDuck, you’re not hanging your first paycheck on the wall, you’re cashing it and, in five years or so, you’re trying to remember when you first started. Was it May or June? I remember it was warm…
Point is, “your first time” is some lame ass writer’s excuse for what we think about. If you want a “real” first time, what we really talk about and think on, you don’t look at when we’re perfect. You look at the mistakes.
One of my buddies, I’ll call him Mick the Mechanic (not his real name, obviously, I just like how that sounds), is a genius with cars. Absolute genius. Probably sucks to be him, because, while we’re all a bunch of smart guys, when a car breaks down, we don’t have a damn clue what to do. Like, I can change a tire or whatever, but a carburetor goes? I got nothing. So, we get together, and someone’s got a car issue, you just know they’re gonna sidle up to Mick, and “subtly” mention that there’s this noise, and blah blah blah, Mick is spending his “night off” covered in grease. I sorta feel bad for the guy, but I swear he likes it, and he never seems to say no to anybody.
Now, like I said, Mick is a genius with the vehicles (and I do mean “vehicle”, he’s claimed he’s worked on a helicopter or two, but I swear I don’t even know where he’d do that around here), and the guy is meticulous to a fault. He’s just one of those guys, you know? He knows how to make everything inside a car work together, and he expects the rest of the world to work that smoothly. But… nobody’s perfect. Not too long ago he was supposed to put the fix on… I’m trying to remember here… but I think he said it was one of those PT Cruisers? I know it was a car that had distinctive shape. Could have been a Kia for all I remember, but it was something you don’t mistake for another car. Anyway, he decides he’s going to get the job done at this parking lot, and, miracle of miracles, two Cruisers were parked right next to each other, same color and everything. Guess Mick didn’t think to write down a license plate number (or his handwriting was just crap… another side effect of this job, I’ve noticed), and he didn’t have much a window, so he made a judgment on which car he was supposed to “service”, and, as you can probably guess from this narrative, he chose wrong.
Now, on the job side, this is rectified later. You always give the client a wide window of “it’s gonna happen”, and, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Maybe the job doesn’t get done this month, but you go back, wait, give some time for everything to cool down, and, when you think you’ve got another opportunity, you go for it. End of the day, nobody, least of all your client, knows there was ever a mistake. Accidents happen all the time, right? Nothing to worry about.
But one person knows, and that’s you. In this case, “you” was Mick, and Mick was beside himself. Like I said, inside a car, Mick never makes a mistake, and I guess he expected the same of himself. And, seriously, never seen the guy like this. If you can picture some six foot tall blonde guy who would look right at home on a recruitment poster blubbering like a baby, you’ve got about the right of it. And, yeah, we all talked him down and told him these things happen, and, yes, a few weeks later he completed the assignment like a pro, but he still talks about it sometimes. I’m sure he thinks about it all the time. You never forget, right? That’s the saying.
And, yes, I’ll share my story.
The client was a guy named Logan (again, pseudonym that amuses me). Logan had a wife problem, which is probably the number one reason guys like us get hired. Logan really wanted to be with his mistress, but a divorce was out of the question. Too costly, too much would be lost, and who ever wants to talk to a lawyer? So now it’s my job to take care of wifey, and Logan and mistress can live in bliss until Logan inevitably gets bored again. Hey, I’m not complaining, I’m all about repeat business.
Logan’s wife, the literal target, was a redhead, and not some dye-job, either. Woman had a mop of hair that glowed like the friggen sun. You know the type. Sorry… wasn’t thinking there for a second. Anyway, I see Red coming out of Logan’s house, and I decide to tail her. Follow her around for a couple of days, get the hang of her routines and hangouts, and keep a special eye on locations where she might be more vulnerable than most. Look, I know everyone pictures these kind of things like grassy knoll, sniper on the hill events, but it’s a lot easier to just make it look like an accident in a “bad neighborhood.” Hell, take a bullet in the right place, and it gets filed under “unsolved” before you even hit the pavement.
So I follow Red to one of those previously mentioned bad neighborhoods, and… you know the rest, right? Would it help at all to outline the details? No, of course not. Point is that, yes, it looked like something that completely randomly happened, wrong place, wrong time, and, oh no, another innocent life lost. Oh the humanity. Ugh, I’m sorry if I sound glib, but you’re not the only one that has a right to be mad.
Turns out Logan had a thing for redheads. Turns out that, after the deed was done, Mrs. Logan was just fine. Then who the hell took that lead? Red wasn’t the wife, Red was the mistress. Here’s a tip, if you’re going to cheat on your wife and have her killed, maybe at least have the courtesy to mention that you’re banging her damn twin. Alright, yes, I know she wasn’t really her twin, but, seriously? I’ve heard of having a type, but this seemed downright incestuous.
It wasn’t hard to finish the job after that, but I know that’s not something you need to hear about. Logan was keeping Red pretty far back in the closet, so when the fuzz came sniffing around, no one made the connection that a jackass’s wife and mistress both died within a few weeks of each other. Logan wasn’t too happy, but he had even less resources to prove I had anything to do with Red, and, for whatever reason, he didn’t call off the job after Red’s death. Guess it wasn’t really about leaving wifey, after all. End of the day, Logan got at least part of what he wanted, and I got paid, so all’s well that ends well.
Except… obviously that wasn’t the case.
I still think about Red. I still think about her a lot. I get how Mick felt now, and, frankly, I’m never going to forget that woman. It’s easy to divorce yourself from your feelings in this profession, but mistakes… mistakes that kill “innocent” people… they still sting. It was stupid, it breaks all of my own rules, but I looked up Red’s name. It wasn’t hard, I knew the details of her death, looked up an obit from there, and just worked backwards. I found the life she lived, the life she had before I came along. I found her address. I found her family. And I decided to send this letter.
To be clear, I’m not asking for your forgiveness. I don’t think I’m blameless, it’s just that there’s no way I can live my life blaming myself for every body left along the way. I provide a service, and I’m something of a middle man for the real sinners. But, yeah, I feel bad about this whole thing, and I felt like you should know what happened. I know you won’t take this to the police, because, even if you do, it’s not like Staples puts serial numbers on their plain white paper. I’ve checked, and unless you’re a lot smarter than I am, I’m pretty sure you’ll never be able to find “Logan”, either. And, just to be sure, I did change a few details here and there, so good luck proving this letter is anything binding.
But… ugh… I’m sorry I got on that tangent. Look, I just want to say that what happened was terrible, and, even if it isn’t true of the person that hired me, I want to say that at least one person involved will always regret that this happened. I know that’s some small consolation, but… I will be more careful in the future.
Your mother was my first time, and I’ll never forget her.