EMILY'S TRYING OUT the mother of all wedding rings right at this moment, so I'll take a couple minutes out to let you in on something I know's been bugging you for a while now.
How does being an assassin work?
Well, okay, since you ask, it's very simple. Here's the Cliff Notes version.
People in the world piss each other off. It happens all the time. It can be over anything. Someone's run over your cat. Someone's slept with your wife. Or your daughter. Or your wife and your daughter. Someone's orchestrated a hostile takeover of your company. Someone's not getting old fast enough and you want your inheritance sooner rather than later. Someone's currently ruling a country that has kept your social group oppressed for centuries. Someone's married to a woman you've fallen in love with and you both want to run away together. Whatever.
Now, as you can probably figure, there's no simple right and wrong about a lot of those situations. They're just situations. And situations need resolving. And that's where the Agency comes in.
Wait, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. As Stan Lee used to say, let's take a f’rinstance;
Some guy sleeps with the wife of the CEO of a multi-national oil conglomerate. The CEO finds out about it. Probably slaps his wife around some. Then calls his trusted advisor. Not the one that goes with him to meetings at the White House. The other one. The one that oversees things like security for his seventy million dollar mansion and background checks on the families of any boy his daughter brings home. He says he wants the scum who screwed his wife 'taken care of' (oh, yeah, people use that phrase).
Now, everyone knows a criminal within about three degrees of separation. Maybe less. Ask around your friends and work colleagues. Trust me, it'll shock you. And it's this thin but ever present link between the respectable world and the criminal world that allows people who aren't criminals to commit criminal acts by proxy. So, the CEO's trusted advisor is not a criminal but he goes away and speaks to some people. They're not criminals either. Those people go off and speak to other people, and these people usually are criminals. Only a little - you know, shady accountants and like that. But criminals nonetheless. They're less than snow-white clean. Once the request gets into those kinds of circles, it's pretty much a matter of hours before someone's talking to the Agency.
The Agency is just one of many, many brokers out there who gather work for assassins. Don't know exactly how many there are but I'm pretty sure it runs into the hundreds in
So anyway, the Agency. Imagine your local temping agency, Office Buns. Now, Office Buns is just some room somewhere with a half dozen people working there - but on their books, they have a whole raft of nice, polite, pretty, young women who sit around all day waiting for news of an accountant's office somewhere in need of someone to type out letters, photocopy invoices and send faxes. But imagine those nice, polite, pretty, young women knowing their way around a Dakota T-76 Longbow assault rifle with model-70 style trigger, adjustable cheekpiece and blind magazine feed. Imagine them turning up to an office in the dead of night and hiding out in one of the cupboards, waiting, perhaps for hours, until one particular person comes along. That one particular person who they’ve been given a file all about and which holds such tidbits as their place of residence, place of work, general comings and goings and anything else that the Agency has uncovered about that person that'll make the hit go easier. Oh, yeah, and the background to the hit (the bit I never read). And when that person comes along, that person gets dead really soon after. Imagine that. That's basically what the Agency is about. That's basically what we're about. The freelance killers who have the years of experience and success that qualifies us to be on the books of such a prestigious outfit.
Apart from the fact we're not all nice, polite, pretty young women. Okay, some of us, sure.
When a job comes in, it's all pretty slick. The Agency generously provides a whole bunch of hardware and software to each of its workers since their cut of your fee more than pays for the outlay. Their secure computer servers send hit information to our secure email inboxes along with a secure text message to our secure mobile phones and we log in and pick those emails up. Securely, of course.
We look over the hit and decide whether it's our thing. It always is. As part of our initial application to join, we have to undergo extensive skills and psychological evaluation. This assures the agency of our mental state as well as what types of jobs we're competent to carry out. That way, we get the right jobs for our skills - there's no use in sending a low-grade thug-whacker to surgically remove the President of Guinea-Bissau.
So, once we've looked the job over and decided to take it, the target is then what death row prison wardens refer to as a dead person walking.
Which brings us right back to our oil conglomerate CEO and his philandering wife. Once her lovesick young stud has been taken off the scene, there's nothing that ties the deed to the initiator. Not if the assassin has done their job. When we're on our game, we're invisible almost to the point of not even existing. The only thing to mark our passing is a corpse. Sometimes, not even that.
The CEO's pockets suddenly become a good half mil lighter and he has no idea who the money's gone to. And he doesn't care. He had a problem. He had money he was willing to spend. The problem went away. His broken feelings have been fixed. He's happy.
And the Agency? The Agency moves on. It doesn't have time to be happy. It has another fifty sets of broken feelings to fix.
That's about the size of it. Being an assassin - at least, an assassin in the employ of the Agency - is a fairly straightforward business. Not glamorous or sexy. I wouldn't be so irresponsible or, well, such an idiot as to claim being an assassin is glamorous or sexy. It's just a job. Like being a milkman. I won't lie and say it's boring. If you have an aptitude for it, you can last a long time; you get to see the world and meet a lot of interesting people. Quite a few of them, you don't even have to kill. And the best part - as least as I see it - is you're fulfilling your place in the universe. Oh yeah, the universe has a place for hired killers too, you know. What, you figure anti-war campaigners and soup-kitchen volunteers got the exclusive deal?
“What do you think to this one?”
“Anything that warrants its own zip code is good enough for you, honey.”
“You see, life's so much easier when you start seeing things from my perspective. I'll need your card. And get off your phone, it's so rude.”
As Emily goes back inside the shop with my card, I finish up my text message to the Agency, accepting one of the jobs they sent to my inbox. In a couple days, we're going to be back in the
And we're all outta lollipops.