Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Assassin

This is part of a novel I keep going back to. It's one of the projects I keep around because I think it has potential and I enjoy the main character. I open the file about once every couple of months and work on it. Just a little. Enough so that I don't forget about it. The book is plotted, so I know that eventually I'll finish it. I even have the main character appearing in another book that I sometimes work on in a similar manner.

by James Robert Smith.  
   The patient was at the end of the two-month treatment. Off drugs, at last. It had been as the other vets had told him. Just show your service card at the entrance and, no questions asked, they’d put you on the cure and get you off without having to try it cold. Or he could have continued the life of petty crime and buying from dealers on and on and on.
   The eight weeks of sterile white walls and starched sheets and three squares and vitamins and meds had done the job. His body wasn’t craving drugs anymore. And now, as soon as they released him, he’d find out what he was made of. Just then, he didn’t plan on using again. But he wouldn’t know until he got out, away from the locked doors and the doctors and psychologists and guards.
   “You’re wanted in Admin,” someone whispered in his ear and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked first at the pink fingers pressing on his trapezius and followed the pale cloth up the arm to the face of Dibbs, the head guard on this unit. Of course they didn’t call him a guard, but that’s what he was. Sure enough, the patient had seen Dibbs club, beat, or otherwise subdue a dozen or more patients who’d trod over the line. The guy was good with his fists and his feet and you didn’t want to get under his skin.
   “Oh. ‘Kay,” he replied, and rose from the chair where he’d been sitting contemplating the green lawns outside in the bright, yellow sun where soon he would be free to roam as he pleased.
   Dibbs hadn’t followed him down the long corridors to Admin offices, which surprised him. But he was due out in a couple of days, so perhaps his personal security was lapsing in honor of his imminent release. The halls were quiet and cool and clean. And the door to Admin was standing open for him: expected. He went in.
    “Close the door.” A man he didn’t know was sitting behind the administrator’s desk. He did as he was told, closing the thick door with a soft metallic huff of air. The two of them were all alone.
    “Have a seat,” the man said. He did so, sliding easily down into the comfortable white leather, a cold metal frame supporting his elbows.
   When he was seated, his thin hands folded in his lap; the stranger smiled casually, peered down at the open folder on the Administrator’s desk, and then back. “Have you thought about a job when you get out?”
    “Job? No, not directly. I have some money still in the bank. Enough to last four or five months. If the Law hasn’t taken it. But I don’t think they have, or I would have been told. Wouldn’t I?”
    “Yes, you would have been told. Your funds are still there.”
    “Well, then. I figured I’d rent rooms for a few weeks and look for work. Take it easy for a bit.”
    “Would you like to work for us?”
    “What? Here? On the grounds? Doing what? Raising tomatoes? Corn? Gardening is not my thing.”
    The strange man smiled. “No. Not here. I don’t work here. I only visit here. You’d work for us…for the government.”
    “What? Back in the military?”
    The strange man laughed. “Ha! No, not that. The armed forces only make junkies. They don’t like to employ them afterwards.”
    He didn’t smile. No joke to him.
    “What then?”
    The strange man said it. A clipped word. Very short, hard to hear. His audience of one almost thought he hadn’t heard it at all.
    “Assistant? Assistant to whom? For what?”
    “Not assistant,” the stranger said, still smiling. “Assassin.”
    They sat and stared at one another. The room was quiet. So quiet that neither could even hear the other breathing. Together, their eyes locked, smiles melted and expressions faded to blankness.
    “Is this a test? Are you another psychiatrist? Trying to trip me up?” The words came out without pause, and he hadn’t thought about them at all. He was pretty steamed.
    The man behind the Administrator’s desk had a poker face. He wasn’t laughing and he wasn’t even smiling. “No,” he said. “This is not a test. What do you say?”
    “I’ve never killed anyone,” he said. And he was surprised at his reaction. Not no. And not never. But I’ve never killed anyone.
    That smile returned to the stranger’s lips. “But you have. According to our records you have killed. Many, many times. Effectively, too.”
    “That’s different. That was battle. That’s not assassination. Not really.”
    The smile.
    “Think what you like,” the stranger said. “We do our work carefully and completely and you’re a prime candidate. You’d be just about perfect, we think.”
    “You do?”
    “Oh, my, yes. You rate a 98.6 (he paused to chuckle) on a scale of 1 to 100. That’s as good as I’ve seen in many a day.”
    “I just want to get out and start a normal life,” he told the G-man.
    “Normal life?” Long fingers not dissimilar from his own ran across the file like a pale spider and moved the pages softly about. “You don’t think you’re going to kick your drug habit, do you?”
    “I’ve already kicked it. No cravings. None.”
    “You’ll be back on drugs two days after you’re out of here. Maybe sooner.”
    Some small anger flared in the center of his forehead. Then vanished. “No,” he managed.
    “Oh, yes. We’re never wrong about such things. Yes, you’ve left Atlanta far behind. And, yes, you don’t know anyone in Lexington. But you’ll find a source, even if you have to drive to DC to get it.”
    “I won’t.”
    “You most certainly will.”
    The patient sighed and frowned and felt his fingers wanting to curl into thin fists.
    “Wouldn’t it be much better if we supplied you with drugs? Good stuff, too. Nothing you’d have to worry about. Fresh needles. Pills, sometimes. Weed. A little variety, to take the edge off. From time to time.”
    They stared hard at one another. The G-man matter-of-fact in his eyes, something like hatred beaming toward him.
    “We’ve learned long ago that addicts make lousy citizens, generally. Lousy soldiers, too. But your type makes excellent assassins. Self-centered. Either because of your addiction, or in spite of it. Makes no difference. The addiction becomes the be-all of your existence. Why not pay you well, in cash and credits and security, and in drugs? All for this very specialized employment.”
    “I,” he said.
    “You’re interested, then?” Those spider hands came up from the desk and danced in the air. “It’s a foregone conclusion. You’ll never be clean. Not completely. You might as well have your addiction sanctioned by the government while you commit yourself as an asset to this nation. It’s a much better arrangement than anything you could do on your own.
    “What do you say?”
    “I don’t know,” he said.
    “You’re interested, then? You’ll begin the program? Sign on? At least to see what it’s all about?”

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