Murder Incorporated

I never planned on killing people for a living, things just worked out that way. For many years killing was my business, and business was good. I did it – in the beginning – because that’s what I was trained to do. Later I did it for the money. There was a time when I was one of the most sought after professionals in the world. I’m retired now. Sort of. 

My goal in sharing this story is not to romanticize the life of a hired killer. Far from it. I want to get this weight off my shoulders; tell the story from the monster’s side. For those of you who think my story is meant to entertain, you miss the point and likely need more help than I do. Understand, if I could go back and do things different I would, but there are no do overs in life. I simply am what I am.

Growing up, the other kids in my neighbourhood played football, soccer, baseball and every other sport you can name. These activities were foreign to me. I was never what you’d call athletic. I did try out for the little-league baseball squad one year. I was a skinny kid with a ridge-line of acne across my bony face. I was nervous and riddled with self-doubt. I wanted to be on the baseball team so bad. I wanted to be like the other kids, confident and good at something.

I stood out in that soggy field with the rest of the hopefuls, my new glove on; shaking in my sneakers as a cool breeze carried the marshy smell of spring up and into my nostrils. The coach, an older man in his thirties (thirty seemed old to a thirteen year-old kid) started tapping pop-fly’s into gloves. When it was my turn, coach snapped a bullet in my direction. 

As the scarred leather ball bore down on me, I panicked and moved out of its path. It landed in the wet grass with a thud and rolled into a small pool of water. A few of the other boys laughed and teased me for being afraid of the ball. One kid, Darren Lincoln, pulled my glove off and yelled, “no wonder he’s scared of the ball, his mommy bought him a plastic glove.” 

He was right, my mother, bless her heart, had bought me a toy glove. She didn’t know anything about sports or baseball or the kind of gear a boy would need. She picked up a glove at Zimmerman’s Hardware for five bucks not knowing that a good glove would cost far more. That was the end of my baseball career, and the end of my interest in sports. 

The plastic glove experience would repeat itself throughout my childhood. It seemed no matter what I set out to do, I failed. As my inferiority complex grew, so did my shyness. I avoided any activity that might cause embarrassment– school plays, solo spots in choral, silly little games like charades. The teachers thought I was lazy or anti-social, but it was self-preservation plain and simple. I built an emotional cocoon.

I started smoking weed in the eighth grade. Not long after, I added alcohol to the mix. Bottles of cough syrup with codeine worked just as well when I couldn’t acquire any beer or liquor. My tastes turned to vodka and amphetamines in high school. Somehow, I managed to squeak through and graduate. When it was all over I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I joined the military.

My joining the military had nothing to do with me wanting to be all that I could be or any of that bullshit, I just didn’t want to be nothing. That and the fact that I was in a boatload of trouble. I’d slipped into a local watering hole one night a couple years after graduation. Darren Lincoln was standing at the bar. To say I hated this guy would be an understatement. It wasn’t just the fact he exposed my plastic glove years earlier, it was the fact that he exposed everybody’s plastic glove – every little flaw was fair game to him. I busted his nose, popped his left eye from its socket and split his head open. 

The judge suggested I needed some direction in my life and gave me two choices: head on down to the recruitment office in Burton or do three years long in a cage. The choice was simple. I did my basic training in Douglas and then shipped off to the Base in Kirby. That’s when things changed for me, I wasn’t wandering aimlessly anymore.

I’ve been asked if I fantasized about killing people, if I ever dreamed about putting a slug into some prick’s skull for no reason? People who do such things are mentally ill. I may have laid awake a few nights in my senior year and run short films in my head where I pounded the royal shit out of a few of the muscle-heads who liked to flaunt their cheerleader sluts around and make fun of the weaker guys in front of their friends, but I never dreamed about killing them.

When I started eliminating ‘problems’ for the government, It was a job, nothing more. A plumber doesn’t get a hard-on over clogged drains and a hit man doesn’t get aroused by a contract, unless of course he’s a sociopath. I’ll be the first to admit I could use a lot of time on a psychiatrist’s couch, but as far as I know, I’m not a sociopath. I guess what I’m trying to say is that killing was never a fantasy, it was always just a job.

I won’t lie and say that some of the men I worked and trained with didn’t have murder on their minds. That’s why a lot of them signed up for duty, they wanted to know what it felt like to stick a knife into another person’s chest, to twist and slowly watch the life drain from another human being. I don’t suffer from that form of madness. I did the job I was given and forgot about it. For awhile.

The dreams came eventually, but they weren’t dreams of killing some asshole who’d cut me off in traffic. They were nightmares about the people I’d been contracted to kill over the years. Imagine being reminded every time you close your eyes of every bad thing you’ve ever done. Now magnify that a million times. That’s what a hired killer – at least one who’s firing on all cylinders – lives with when the bill comes due. And the bill always comes due, eventually.

Some days are better than others. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve woken up screaming; heart pounding like a bass drum in my chest. Lately, I’ve come to terms with my past, but there was a time, right after I was discharged from the service, when I needed pills to sleep. Lots of pills. There was really no other way to deal with all the killing, all the bad and evil my eyeballs recorded, and still keep some semblance of sanity.

In the military I was trained to kill – not like other combat soldiers – I was part of an elite group. If I told you the name and the manner in which this elite group operated, you’d say I was full of shit. We cleaned up other peoples messes and did our country’s dirty work for them. We assassinated government officials, leaders of radical rights groups, tyrannical dictators, you name it, we did it.

Eventually, when you’ve seen and done too much shit and they think you might be teetering on the edge of becoming a liability, you get pensioned off and told to go live a normal life. Imagine that, you’re fifty years old, you’ve spent more than 20 years doing professional hits for the government, and they cut the cord and tell you it’s time to pursue a normal life.

Like the others in my group, I got a small payout once a month to help assimilate back into society. I got a pat on the back from the Secretary of Defence and some piece of shit medal from the President. I guess we all should have been thankful we got anything. Hell, a lot of guys fought for this country and got jack-shit when they came home; not a thank you, nothing but a polite “don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass on the way out” and a scrambled-egg brain.

I tried the straight-and-narrow for about a year and half, but I always screwed up somehow. I couldn’t hold a steady job. It’s hard to find work when you have no people skills, other than killing them. I couldn’t keep a steady girlfriend. The waking up at night screaming, covered in sweat part always scared them off. 

The other guys in my unit ended up in the same sinking boat I did; strung out on something, squeaking by on a paltry government pension, trying to make sense out of a life and world that didn’t make sense. How else could we live with the all the things we’d seen and done? You can only block the shit out for so long. When the dam bursts – and it always does – it makes Niagara Falls look like a mud puddle on a slanted driveway.

Charlie, the lead man in our operation, put a bullet in his skull less than a year after we were discharged. Not long after that, Daniel, the funny man of the group, was shot and killed while robbing a liquor store in California. Pete, our weapons expert, married a sweet little number he’d met while in rehab. As far as I know, he went back to school and is now teaching social studies in Alaska.

Tommy, the guy we called ‘Mr. Fix-it’, he married too, but his story doesn’t have a happy ending like Pete’s. He went crazy and murdered his wife one night in a blind rage. He’s on the row in San Quentin and scheduled to die by lethal injection. Skeet, my righthand man in the group, didn’t fair much better.

Six guys in a unit, who were tight back in the day, and only one managed to come out of it half okay. At least it seems like one of us made it. For all anyone knows, Pete could be a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any minute. Nobody can snuff out as many lives as we did and come away unscathed.

When I was approached to perform my first private hit, I was skeptical and cautious. You don’t live too long in my line of work by being careless. The first hit I did outside of the military was a rich oil tycoon. The man’s wife tracked me down at The Roxy in New York, a hole in the wall where an army pension bought a room with a bed, a television set; a fridge and a hotplate and enough drinks to curb the voices. She said she’d gotten my name from an associates of Skeet’s.

I didn’t believe the woman at first. Skeet was in prison for doing what she was asking me to do. He decided he would continue sniping people for a living, freelancing, even though the government frowns upon that kind of behaviour. It’s okay to kill for Uncle Sam, but Uncle doesn’t like you killing for money (unless that money is going to him). Skeet got sloppy, and he got caught.

The woman, dressed in Park Avenue clothing, wearing way too much make-up and a ridiculous amount of jewelry, handed me a thick envelope. “There’s a plane ticket and fifty grand in there,” she said casually, as if she’d just asked me to scrape gum off the bottom of her shoe and not kill her husband. She lit a cigarette, sucked a mouthful of poison into her lungs and exhaled in an exaggerated way. “I’ll give you another fifty when the job is done.”

“What makes you think I want to kill your husband?”

Her thin lips turned up into a siamese grin. “Something tells me you don’t want to spend the rest of your life living in this shit-hole, eating macaroni and cheese and getting drunk on cheap beer every night.”

I took the money, packed up the few things I had and caught a plane to Dallas. I never asked the lady why she wanted her husband dead. I didn’t really care, it was just business.

Before I left New York I went out to Rikers Island and talked to Skeet. If I was going to work the barrel again, I would need to be careful or could find myself in a cage like him, or dead. Dead sounded better.

Skeet always greeted me with a smile. You’d never know he was doing three life sentences. “You’re looking good.”

“I’m going to be gone for awhile, Skeeter. On business. Wanted to see if there was anything you needed before I take off.”

Skeet held up the cartons of smokes I’d brought him. “This is all I need, brother.” He tapped his left temple and winked. “Play the game smart, Ace.”

Ace was the nickname Skeet gave me back in our working days. I always seemed to have it together when we were on a job. No matter what it was we were doing, or what kind of hell we were heading into, I never showed much emotion. I learned early on – probably after the glove incident – to never show weakness. 

If Skeet had only seen me after we’d been discharged, he wouldn’t call me Ace anymore. He might call me ‘cream-corn’ because that’s exactly what my brain resembled. I was a nervous wreck, a waste-case, getting piss-in-my-pants drunk every night just to shut out the constant pounding and voices in my head.

I killed that man in Dallas, the oil tycoon. You probably saw it on the news or read about it in the newspaper after it happened. I watched through the lens of my rifle as his head exploded all over the tenth green at the Sunnybrook Golf and Country Club. I took the money from the job, rented myself a condo off the coast of Mexico and for six months, until the next hit came up, drank the Texan’s exploding head out of mind.

When you’ve murdered for the President of the United States, finding work isn’t hard. Work finds you. You get visits in the middle of the night from men with bodyguards and sandpaper voices. You start having lunches with wealthy businessmen who devour their steak and lobster like wolves and in the same breath ask you to do away with the accountant that’s bilking them or the rat whose testimony is about to send them to the big house.

I’ve had dinner with rich housewives with fat bank accounts who drink wine with the nervousness of lab mice. They always want you to whack a cheating husband or boyfriend, sometimes both. Most had nothing better to do than have affairs and scheme. They came to me with the same old sob story – their life was hell and the only way out was for their mate to acquire a pair of cement shoes. I never liked cement. Too messy.

Some people may wonder how a hit man can kill without a second thought. In the military, we were trained to live on adrenalin, to remove ourselves from the situation. It was nothing personal, it was war, or the threat of war (or the catalyst). Allowing your emotions to run loose could get you and those around you killed. The same goes in freelance work, you never want to know anything about your target. The less the better. I always took the the money and did the job. If it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else.

Emotion and knowledge, that’s what got me in the end. I let myself get wrapped up in the life of the person I was hired to kill. Her name was Elizabeth Reed. She was a New York socialite, an elegant and attractive woman in her early forties, with dark hair, a slim and highly delectable figure and the most delicious lips I’d ever set eyes on. She was divorced, well educated and wealthy beyond imagination. I’m convinced her graceful smile and easy manner could have brought about world peace had she been given to pursue such a thing.

We met at a charity dinner. A twenty thousand dollar a plate affair; my place at the function secured by the man who hired me to kill her. His name was Arthur Donaldson. He was a rather deformed looking jag-off, with a bowling-ball sized head that showed early signs of male-pattern baldness and was propped up on a matchstick body. He was the younger brother of Miss Reed, and he offered me a million dollars to kill her.

Arthur’s plan was simple. I would attend the Children’s Trust Ball at the swanky Grande Hotel in New York. He would arrange an invitation and introduce me to his sister. I would be using the assumed name, Neil Parsons. “It’s the only way you’ll ever get close enough to her,” Arthur seethed at our first meeting. “Security around my sister, her home and office is tighter than security around the President.”

“We get you in close, you attend a few of the same functions, and when you find the right moment you complete the transaction. I’ll pay you your money, and the world – my world at least – will be a better place.” Arthur spoke without the slightest hint of regret and showed little emotion as he laid out his plan.

It sounded easy. It wasn’t.

Arthur understood it might take some time to do this particular hit. He could wait. After all, he’d waited his whole life. His parents died when their private jet crashed into a mountainside when Arthur was twelve, leaving an estate worth over 10 billion dollars. Unfortunately for Arthur the Will had been drawn up shortly before he was conceived. Considering the sixteen year gap between he and Elizabeth, and the fact that the Will was never changed, it’s safe to assume his arrival was unexpected and, most likely, unwanted.

Elizabeth controlled the family fortune, which meant all Arthur got was a condo overlooking Central Park and a paltry $250,000 a month allowance. Poor kid. He wanted more. Much more.

Arthur introduced me as a wealthy humanitarian interested in the environment, whales, and the one cause closest to his sister’s heart, sick children. I spent the entire evening watching Elizabeth, her mannerisms, the way she worked a crowd. She wasn’t putting on a show for the world, she really was interested in the Children’s Trust and their quest to raise money for a new cancer wing at the Lionel Went Hospital For Sick Kids. I managed a dance under the watchful eye of her bodyguard, Tank.

Alone, I could handle Tank, it was the other nine Schwarzenegger-sized men wearing earpieces and talking into the cuffs of their suit jackets that posed a real problem. I watched them all night. They had every inch of the ballroom covered; they never let Elizabeth out of their sight, not even for a second. They were good. When Arthur said his sister was well guarded, he wasn’t exaggerating.

To my surprise, Elizabeth rang my room at the Ritz the next afternoon. Arthur was kind enough to direct her there after telling her what great friends he and I were and how good her and I looked together when we danced at the Ball. She invited me to lunch at her estate. The next afternoon the two of us drank wine, laughed and talked about things out of my league. I’d done my homework, though; spent weeks before I ever met Elizabeth Reed learning everything there was to know about her and her causes.

Elizabeth and I grew fond of one another rather quickly. I convinced myself it was the only way I’d get close enough to seal the deal. We began seeing each other. It wasn’t long before I was spending a great deal of time at her estate. Arthur and I played the old chums routine when he’d drop by to beg for an advance on his allowance. At first he didn’t see what was going on, but after awhile he got the picture and became very agitated.

“What in God’s name are you waiting for?” He exploded at one of our meetings. “Have you fallen in love with my sister? I brought you into this for one reason and that was…” his voice fell to a whisper, “to kill the bitch.”

“It’s not what you think.”

“No, it appears that it is. If you can’t do the job, I’ll hire someone who can. And if you think you can double cross me, you’re sadly mistaken. Don’t forget who – what you are – and why you’re here. I may be under my sister’s thumb, but I’m still a powerful man. I found you, I can damn sure find another one just like you.”

“Listen to me, you little prick. We may have a deal, but that won’t stop me from breaking your fucking neck.” 

“You couldn’t get within ten feet of me.”

He was right, his sister may have kept the purse strings closed up tight, but she made sure little brother was well looked after. Like his sister, Arthur had an army of bodyguards looking out for him. “Ones he doesn’t even know are there,” Elizabeth told me one night. “He’s not a bad kid. I love him dearly, but he really needs guidance and someone to keep close tabs on him. Eventually he’ll get his share of our parents’ money.”

I wonder what big sister would have thought had she known the truth about little brother, that he was a twisted monster, just like the man she was dating. At our final meeting I gave Arthur a cock-and-bull story about the right moment not presenting itself. He didn’t buy it. He was running out of patience, and I was running out of time. “This is your last chance. If she’s not dead this week, I guarantee you both will be.”

Arthur’s tone told me he’d already looked into other means of disposing of his sister, and me. “I’ll do it.”

“You’d better.”

Bowling-ball headed Arthur didn’t concern me. Given the time, I could have squashed him like the bug he was, bodyguards or no bodyguards. There simply wasn’t enough time. His threats against me were real, he had the means to acquire another hit man, and likely already had. Hell, some guys would probably take the gig for 10 percent of what I was getting. Arthur was a snake in the grass, and I was right there slithering around on my belly with him.

I wanted to tell Elizabeth the truth. I’d fallen in love with her, but our love was based on a crumbling foundation of lies. I tried to convince myself there was a way out, that even though I wasn’t who she thought I was, I could explain how everything we had was real. In the end, reality dictates. I was a killer, she a rich socialite who thought I made money in foreign investments. The story wasn’t going to have a fairytale ending. There was no more time and only one thing left to do. My job.

I know what you’re thinking, where does it end. Violence begets violence and so and so forth. If you kill the one you love, how can you say you ever really loved that person? I suppose you can’t. But like I said, killing was my business. 

I killed, like countless times before. It was the last hit though, the last time I ever held a gun in my hand. I shot Arthur three times, not because I couldn’t have killed him with one shot, but because I wanted to make sure the first two bullets caused him a great deal of pain, the same amount of pain I would feel for the rest of my life and well into eternity. I wanted to make sure he suffered before I put that last slug in his giant head, and I assure you he did.

My snap decision to eliminate Arthur didn’t afford me the time to plan my escape. Three guards wrestled me to the ground moments after the third shot. They were even better than I’d thought. Of course had I only used one bullet, my chances of escape would have been much greater.

Skeet tapped his left temple and winked when he saw me in the yard at Rikers that first day. “I told you to play the game smart, Ace,” was all he said.

(January 2021)

Previous Short Stories:

Distant Thunder

Tommy Black

Royal Canadian Legion Branch #59