Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It's the year's end and work is very slow, so I'm trying my hand at some genre fiction to pass the time in this scarcely occupied office. A writer's got to write, even if it's schlock shit.


The start of a novel, written on a boring afternoon in late December

After the killing shot he would walk over to the fallen body. Even if they didn’t move, he liked to be sure. Any job worth doing is worth doing well. It was usually about a 100-yard stroll. He’d place the rifle in the trunk, tuck the handgun into his belt and get his dog from the backseat. By now, the dog was used to the routine. He’d sniff the head wound, work his way down the legs and then look up at his master, waiting for the silenced shot through the chest, head, groin, or wherever he felt a second bullet would be best placed.

“Who’s the best doggie in the world?” he’d ask the dog, pulling a Milk-Bone from his coat pocket.

Early on he toyed with the idea of leaving some kind of calling card, a note for police and the press, a token of his efficiency and style; something to link all of his “extinguishings” as he termed them. But the desperate people who did that were asking to be arrested, begging for notoriety. He didn’t need it, much as it angered him how off the mark they always were. One shot from 100 yards, another from a different gun at close range. That was calling card enough.

“Nighttime Terror Continues” the papers would blare. “29th Shooting Victim Was Respected Doctor” or lawyer, or researcher, or author, or business owner, or teacher – or whatever – as if their careers somehow made their deaths more tragic.

They all had one thing in common, one thing the detectives would never uncover with all their profiling, ballistics, forensics and sophisticated guesswork.

The first extinguishing came about quite unexpectedly, and to read that he was a meticulous planner of these executions gave him great pleasure. He was nothing of the sort. His victims selected themselves. They placed themselves in his path. By fate, chance or dumb luck, they met a swift justice that was in all likelihood quite painless, a courtesy he was sure they did not deserve. Yes, he planned their killings, but they themselves had chosen to be killed.

Would those left behind be hurt? Of course, he knew this. But the temporary grief of a few family members was small price to pay for the removal of a subhuman form, a callous and shiftless sort whose very footprints on the sidewalk were an affront to all that is good and decent.

He was having coffee in a Denny’s the evening he encountered his first victim, who had selected himself just outside the window. It almost seemed a tragedy to have to do away with the man, but his calling could no longer be ignored. Justice is blind. And he was sure of his life’s work from that moment on.

Having already paid for his coffee, he gathered his things and followed the man to an apartment complex some 7 blocks from the restaurant, noting the man’s apartment number. He returned for a few nights, sitting in his car in the parking lot, observing the man’s routine and learning his times of coming and going. This first extinguishing, he was sure, was a fairly pathetic creature, fond of bad music and ill fitting clothes, and it didn’t appear as though anyone would miss him, surely not his employer, who he appeared to curse with regularity, noted through his open window when he spoke on the phone to friends, complaining about “the piece of shit motherfucker” who signed his paychecks.

A hunting rifle with a silencer and scope was his way, but he switched rifles and makers of ammunition enough that the headlines would declare copycat killers were now at work. He enjoyed the errors of the police. Making them miss became a sideline hobby. Guesswork was such an easily manipulated sport.

A preselected perch or parking spot, a few practice aims, and then the victim’s final walk home or to work, felled from a good distance with a high-velocity bullet to the brain. It was so much more efficient than arrest, trial and sentencing. And it was far more merciful than decapitation or torture.

Did God condone what he did? Most assuredly. That was not even a valid question. His chief moral dilemma was whether God smiled upon his method. Weren’t his victims deserving of a more painful end? Didn’t they need to hear their sentence, see the gun aimed at their heads? Should they not be allowed that moment to see their lives pass before their eyes, a chance, perhaps, for a much-needed dose of stark terror and pant-soiling fear? But that was not his to decide, he knew. They had made their choice, and any moment beyond that choice was free breath, undeserved time. To extinguish was his duty, not to offer a moment for deathbed conversion or last-minute repentance.

So to watch them fall in their tracks, to pollute the air one last time with their final breath, was his reward. That the ground beneath them or the walls around them should have to bear the shaming marks of a dead man’s brains and blood for a few days was a source of discomfort to him, but the police cleaning crews did a decent job of erasing any remnants of the victim’s worthless existence.

It turned his stomach to read the newspaper accounts or see the grieving families on TV. They were all, every last one of them, deceived, ignorant fools believing that this or that man deserved so much as another second on this earth. The teary wives with their pleas to the community and vows of vengeance; the concerned-looking anchorman asking for anonymous tips to a police hotline; the neighbors acting as though the departed wretch was a fine man and decent human; everyone pretending to believe that this person had met a horrible and senseless end. Fools all. It was far from horrible. And it was anything but senseless.

He refused to think of himself as a vigilante, as that was for comic books and movies. His calling was higher, more sublime. For his night duties to be labeled as “senseless killings” or “random acts” was infuriating. It was a lonely secret to bear, the price for the type of work he had been selected to perform. And to think of it as anything less than selected was to ignore the obvious. The man outside the Denny’s window was not put there by accident. And neither were any of the others who had crossed his path, selecting themselves for extinguishing.

One thing he enjoyed about the newspaper accounts were the detectives announcing they had leads to go on. They had nothing, and their brave faces and statements of resolve were pleasant bits of comic relief amid the quotes from delusional family members left behind. If it wasn’t a detective, the chief of police or the prosecutor, it was the mayor, all acting like they had the public’s safety in mind. What they didn’t understand and what he could never tell them was that the public was never in any danger. It was just those few who selected themselves.

There was a stretch of nearly two weeks when he thought perhaps his work had come to a finish, when no one chose to meet his or her end at his hand. And then just like the man outside Denny’s, and all the other men after him, another presented himself, all but begging for death. And while certainly some women had met the criteria for extinguishing, he was not permitted to harm a woman, bound by a lifelong adherence to an ancient code taught him by his father that forbade such a thing. Perhaps there was a woman out there who bore the lonely, secret burden of extinguishing her own sex, but he was only allowed to kill men. When that short reprieve from his work was abruptly ended after those nearly two weeks, he switched rifles, cleaned his scope and put the dog in the backseat. It was a relief to be back to work, glad that his life still had a purpose, and thankful that he had been allowed a little time off from his sometimes stressful duty.

“Who’s the best doggie in the world?”


Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home