I am a killer. It took me some time after my first kill to come to that realization. In fact, it was only after several kills that it finally sank in that killing is all I really wanted to do for a living. It’s easy and pays fairly well. Totally independent, I don’t have regular hours and have no boss except from the time I am hired until the assignment is done and I am paid in full, usually in a matter of a few days.
Actually, I have never had honest employment. Growing up, I also never developed friends, but my parents tried to help me blossom from a childhood of aimlessness by sending me to college in spite of their limited income. Somehow, I earned a degree. Had the college been anything but a degree mill, that would not have happened because I had no capacity to work hard toward any goal. I remained totally lacking in ambition and a liberal arts degree qualified me for nothing but graduate school. It did make me somewhat more polished than a high school graduate.
It was at this point that my doting parents died in a car accident, leaving their only offspring with nothing. They had depleted all their savings and had gone deeply in debt to “get me educated,” as they would say. To continue my education, I would have to go to work in some menial job suitable for a student. I would also need to apply to some state subsidized college graduate school with low tuition fees. Even then, rely on a student loan to make ends meet. None of that appealed to me, so I did nothing until my limited funds ran out.
The first kill was contracted by accident. Broke and destitute, I was approached by a woman in a bar who was desperate to find someone to eliminate her abusive husband. She must have instinctively recognized my own desperation and guessed money would get me to do anything at that point. She had money and I set a price that I thought too high. She not only agreed to it, she paid me half on the spot.
After killing her husband with the gun she provided, I returned to collect the rest of my fee. She was so flakey, I feared she might confess to the police and name me at some point. Of course, she had to be eliminated; again using the gun she had provided. I supplemented my fee for killing her husband by taking the rest of the money from her purse. She wouldn’t need it.
My original intent was to use the money to tide me over until other work suitable for my talents became available; but, soon realized I liked having a little money to spend and certainly felt no remorse for those two kills. In fact, I don’t really know what remorse means. Not being burdened with it, my career path soon became clear.
My reputation is now a word of mouth thing among petty criminals. Occasionally one of them is asked to do away with someone; usually a spouse or a business partner. Then, they hire me as a subcontractor. Usually they take their cut up front and then have me work out the details with the customer. Once the fee and payment schedule is decided, I run the show. Normally, neither the referrer nor the customer wants to know exactly how I plan to do the hit. By living frugally, the money lasts until my next assignment is finished.
My biggest weakness is women. Relationships with the ladies don’t last long however, and I often end up having to kill them for free because they may have learned too much about me. The attraction seems to go both ways. Women love me. The image in my mirror has always told me I’m good-looking. I sometimes linger in admiration when washing my face, shaving, or drying myself after showering. I have blue eyes and regular features and could have been a movie star, I reckon. My wavy auburn hair is an especially valuable asset. Also, I have never felt the need to adorn myself with jewelry or tattoos. Such things are only needed by less handsome men and would work against one of my other goals; to be hard to describe if seen around a crime scene. T-shirts or sweat shirts, jeans, and comfortable shoes are my favorite wearing apparel. I need no expensive clothes to attract the ladies. (I almost forgot – I always wear baseball caps to hide my face when necessary. And, I vary the colors. The T-shirts, sweats and caps are always plain and have no writing or other adornments to identify me.)
The work takes me all over the country and I turn down more jobs than I accept. That’s because I am careful. So careful that I have never been caught; that is until recently. My fingerprints and DNA have never been found at a scene as far as I know.
So, how did I get caught this time? Because of the mistake of accepting several jobs from the same customer and the failure to eliminate a woman because she escaped from a fire I set.
My name is Max.
I drove my ancient Ford directly to a filling station. I had been given back my life savings of fifty dollars when released from the Sandoval County lock-up, after being told that the charges of kidnapping and attempted murder by arson had been dropped because the only witness, Callie Cox, had refused to testify. I didn’t know why. Since my fingerprints and DNA were now on file, there was no longer any necessity to kill her. Unfortunately, I now had a police record. An arrest and arraignment would now forever appear next to my name. Still, it would be possible to function in my chosen profession as long as I continued to leave no evidence.
I had also learned that my old client – the one I had killed for several times – was now dead. For this I was actually relieved because he had known too much about me. (It’s a mistake to do more than one job for the same person.) With him gone, the future would have seemed rosy but for the facts that I had no home except the old car, no money except the fifty dollars, and no job prospects.
During my short stay in the lockup, my old car had been picked up and parked at his low class dive by Sidney, one of the petty criminals I referred to earlier. (Last names are not important. I never use mine, for example.) I had called him on my cell as the cops approached to arrest me.
When my prepaid cell was returned, along with other personal effects on my release, I called him to pick me up. While driving him back to his saloon, I let him know about our future relationship.
“You won’t see me again, Sidney.” (Never call him ‘Sid’. Pisses him off for some reason.) “I’ll be changing my email and prepaid phone and you won’t be able to find me. I’ll also warn my other contacts not to help you contact me.”
“The police probably know you. You know me. They probably know you know me. Too dangerous. I do have copies of your emails, so if I do go down, so will you. But if I hear you are talking about me to anybody, I’ll order a hit on you. My contacts know other people like me.”
“Max, I don’t like threats. I’ll never rat on you.”
“I don’t like threats either. This is just to make things clear. I’ll miss you starting today, but if you die soon, I’ll not miss you any worse.
“By the way, I will send you some money when I get some to cover you holding my car for me. Also, the cops took everything out of it and didn’t return my fake driver’s licenses and ID’s. Bastards. I’ll have to replace all that stuff.
“Well, goodbye Sidney.”
Sidney had not looked back when he walked across the dusty unpaved parking lot to his ratty old dive. I thought as he walked away, I will send him a grand when I get it to spare to keep him having good memories of me. I don’t think he will rat on me, though. Has too much to lose. I hadn’t made copies of any of his emails, but he didn’t know that. Keeping copies would have been too dangerous for me as well as Sidney.
I carefully stopped the gas pump at ten dollars and prepared to replace the nozzle when a shadow fell over me. A tall man who I had noticed at one of the other pumps greeted me.
“Max, I have an envelope for you. Please count this money and give it back to me.”
The business-sized envelope, with my name written on it, was stuffed with bills; exactly twenty, all hundreds.
“Okay, I counted it,” I said as I handed the envelope filled with cash back to him.
“I’m going to give it back to you at this address. It’s a house in North Hills. Please come there as soon as you pay for your gas. The door will be open. Come right in.”
“Who are you? How did you find me?” I asked.
“I showed you the money to avoid you asking and me answering such questions at a gas pump. You needed to know there really is money available for you.”
He gave me an address. On the back of the paper he had drawn a rough map.
“Can you find it from that?”
“Yes. I’ll be right there.”
I entered the store and paid for the gas. When I came back out, the tall guy and his car were gone.
The car sat in the driveway and the front door stood open as the guy had said. Any fear I had took a back seat to my curiosity, desperation, and greed as I walked into the house. The door led directly into an unfurnished living room. The tall guy was sitting on the carpet leaning back against a wall. The tract home smelled of fresh paint.
“Please close the door and take a seat across from me. The new carpet is quite comfortable to sit on.”
“Get to the point, please.”
“You sound agitated. Please be advised that I have a gun and I know you don’t.”
I wore my usual jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap and could have had a gun in my belt hidden under the shirt.
“Oh, I know because you drove directly from the lockup to a bar, then from there to the gas station and then directly here. You don’t have a gun, unless the passenger you dropped off gave one to you. Not likely.”
“How do you …”
“Please drop the silly questions. We know everything about you. That’s why we know you will take our money and do the job for us.”
I sat down as instructed. “Who is ‘we’?”
“Need to know, need to know. God, I get tired of that old cliché. All you need to know is ‘we’.”
I decided to say nothing. It was time to listen. He threw the envelope over to me.
“How do you know I’ll take your job?”
“You already have, just by being here. Be advised, if you don’t pick up the money and put it in your pocket, I will shoot you dead on this nice new carpet.”
I put the envelope in my pocket as I stared into his beady eyes.
“I have never worked with an organization,” I said. “Only individuals.”
“You will be required to kill someone. We will not expect you to do anything else.”
“What choice do I have?”
“We leased this nicely renovated home for the sole purpose of meeting with you. With our group, money is no object. Your earnings for the first job will be $10,000, in addition to the $2,000 retainer. We might have offered more, but we didn’t want to overwhelm you. Here’s a pre-paid cell phone. We’ll be in touch in the next few days with instructions.”
“Is this a one-shot deal?” That was the most money I had ever been offered for a job.
“We won’t plan to use you again until after this job is successfully carried out. If you do well and we are satisfied, it will be up to you. Once you perform for us, we know you won’t be inclined to speak to anyone about us. We could implicate you, you see.”
“I know how that works,” I said as I picked up the cell phone and left, glad to have money and wondering how they had honed in on me.