It all happened so fast. I have no idea where it came from, but I sure know where it ended up. Against my forehead, nice and cold. I could almost feel the emptiness of the barrel. I uncrossed my eyes from looking at the gun, and slid my sight down the barrel. ‘Nice black finish,’ I couldn’t stop myself from thinking. ‘Extended barrel; revolver; my guess would be a .357. And they’re not using hollow points.’ Now my view had reached the gunman’s, and I could see the uncertainty in his eyes; it was there, flickering in and out with fear and rage.
“Well, hombre. You and me here. What ya gonna do?” I asked slowly. I tried to keep my voice from breaking, and in the back of my head, the rest of me was trying to keep from releasing my bladder. I was always told to play tough if this were to ever happen. Be tough. Stay on topic. Confuse the shooter, then defuse the situation. Almost like every cop negotiation seen on TV. Things aren’t always that easy though. I should know. I was the one with the gun against my head.
“So exactly why are you holding this gun against my head? Do I know you?”
“YOU know what you did. And I’m a gonna put one in you to stop you from taking from me again!” His eyes are getting beady, and I can see the sweat starting to form on his forehead. I haven’t much time left. I slowly raise my left hand, and his eyes dart back and forth between it and my face. I start to reach into my jacket –
“Don’t do it! I will shoot you dead.” The sweat has begun to run down the sides of his face. The crappy long sideburns he has doesn’t stop them at all. I watch a drop drip off his chin.
“C’mon, boy. You don’t want it to end this way. Let me show you my wallet, por favore.” His eyes glance to my hand again, and I slowly slide it in my jacket. “We gonna end this just fine,” I say softly. His gaze switches back to my eyes. More sweat drips off his face. “Just watch,” I croon softly to him, “this!!”
At that moment I kick out, smashing the inside of his knee. The sound of the dislocation is huge in the quiet interior. I fling out and up my left hand, brandishing a collapsible baton. In smooth motion my arm deflects the gunman’s aim, and the baton slides open to slam against his forehead. Moving quickly I squat and leg sweep what is left of his right leg out, and the body falls to the floor. Before he can open his eyes, and start to scream from the pain, I am standing on his gun hand, and tapping his check with the baton.
“Now then, shall we say, you owe me an explanation?” I coyly ask. He starts screaming and trying to grab his shattered knee. “Tut, tut. No manners.” I reach down for his revolver, and spin the chamber to make sure it is full. A snap of the wrist closes it, and I cock it, pointing at his head. “One last try, Amigo?”
Stifling a scream, he looks into my eyes, and I see the fear running rampant now. Sweat is pouring off his face, mixed with tears of pain. “They told me you was coming. They told me to stop you. I would get lots of money and my family would not be hurt if I stopped you. Let me go. I won’t tell them you are coming still.” The shakes take over his body for a moment, and I pondered what I should do.
We’ve all seen the movies, and the movies are almost always right. If I let him go, as soon as I turn to leave he will miraculously get a gun and shoot me in the back; or he will try, and I will turn and shoot him first. Either way he is dead, and I am slightly wounded, or maybe free from harm. But you always have to get the info from them first. So I needed info, then get rid of him. Some other way around this? Hmmm….
“No habla senor. I don’t know who “they” are, or why they want to off me. Do you?”
“I know nothing. I only want to protect my family from them. They are bad men. Please help me!”
“I sure will help you, muy amigo.”
“Oh, thank you, sir! Thank –“ The report of the pistol echoes briefly. I collapse the baton, replacing it in my pocket. I start to search his body until I find the wad of cash. Looks to be several hundred, and that goes into my pocket as well. I toss the pistol on the chest of the dead man lying on the floor. I never clean up the mess.
Someone always has questions in which no one will ever have the answer. Trust me, I know all about it. I am that guy. I searched for solutions in places a normal person would never dream of being. Studied religions and doctrines from around the world. Noting comes close to the answers I seek. People tell me God will answer them – and I ask them, then where is God. No man wants to wait for his death, and have his answer told then, if wins the lucky flip of the coin as to where his soul goes. If man has a soul. I know I don’t.
I look in the mirror and see a face that never seems to age. There is a haunting, flickering going on in my eyes as I study this visage. The water running in the sink starts steaming, so I bend over and rinse my face. Nothing feels better than to be clean after I have had to protect myself. That’s my full-time occupation: protecting myself. Has been for years, but I still do not know why or from what. It all started that day back years ago, when I woke up to the sound of waves …
… crashing on the beach. I was laying somewhere comfortable. I felt warm. I did a quick body check, and everything felt okay, so I slowly opened my eyes. It is dark out. I sit up partially, and a blanket falls down my chest. I am in a bed somewhere. Glancing around I see a radio on the bedside, where the sounds are coming from. I hit the off switch and swing my legs out of the bed. I see a faint outline on the wall that I assume is the door.
“Light switches are usually next to them,” I say to myself. I reach out and feel along the wall, until I reach it. The overhead light comes on. Sitting back on the bed I realize I am in some hotel room. From the phone, it looks like I am in the US, but I don’t recognize the area code off hand. I try to remember what I was doing, but nothing comes to mind prior to waking up just now. Realizing I am naked, I look for some clothes, or luggage, and find a duffle with one change of clothes in it. I quickly dress, finding the boots by the bed.
In the process of putting on the boots, I stop motionless as I hear the phone ring. A glance at it helps not at all, as only the message light flashes with each ring. I debate internally whether I should answer or not, after all, I have no clue as to where I am. Matter of fact, it dawns on me I don’t even know what my name is. Finally, curiosity wins out and I pick up the handset.
At first there is no noise. Then I hear a click of a disconnection. I place the handset back in the cradle and stare at the phone debating if this is a good thing to have happened, or should I be kissing my ass goodbye about now. After a few seconds, it begins to ring again. I pick it up on the third ring.
“Finally you answered. What the hell took you so long?” It was a man’s voice, but it rang no bells in my memory. I decide to play it safe.
“I was in the bathroom. You know – doing the duty. What’s up?”
“I’m telling you now, I am clean of all this crap. This is the last time I expect you to walk into my life.” The man is getting uptight and tense sounding. I still can’t put a name or face to the voice. “Don’t ever come around here again. Your carry items are in the drawer under the phone. There’s enough money to take a bus far from here. What you do the rest of your life, I don’t care.”
I quickly open the drawer and see a wallet, comb, handkerchief and crisp $100 bills lying there. Looks to be almost $1000 in cash. No keys or change. “So you just want me to leave here?” I ask, stalling for time, or information.
“Yes. Don’t try to contact me again after this time. I have washed my hands of you. You are nothing but evil incarnate walking the earth, and you drag your minions around killing everything you touch. I am marked for life, as you know, John.”
John? Is that my name? I grab the wallet and open it to a California ID card. Name reads John Doe. I don’t recognize the address but it is somewhere in Santa Monica – my guess probably fake as the name. I start the push for info. “Where am I? Who is this?”
“C’mon John. It’s always the same with you. You specifically told me to put you where you are, and to give you this call at this time. What you do now, and what you remember is all up to you. After this last time, I am not doing this anymore. You are on your own. I will help with one extra bit of info for you though…. After you pay the hotel bill, and you turn to the door and face the street. Turn right and start walking. That’s the direction of the bus terminal several miles down the road, and the best direction for you to get the hell away from me.” Slam! The dial tone comes back on, so I reluctantly hang up. I put the items in my pockets and do a quick walk-thru of the room to see if there is anything I forgot. Nothing worth taking. I even leave the duffle bag. I head towards the office, blinking in the mid-morning sun.Walking into the office I smile at the guy at the desk. We settle up the bill – seems I was here only one day. I ask directions to the bus depot, and he points down the street, saying it just a couple miles. I walk out the door, and head the opposite way, pondering what the hell is going on with me.