Black Waves

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Temptation for him after temptation takes her.
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I stopped at the bedroom door. The sounds inside conveyed an unmistakable picture: my wife was having riotous sex with someone who was not me. Most men would have a problem restraining themselves at this point, especially if they were already holding a Beretta 92FS with a suppressor, as I was.

If I wanted to, I could be inside the room and have them both staring sightless at the sky within six seconds. They would barely have time to react before losing consciousness and animal death would occur shortly after that. The van in our garage could take all three bodies, and I could easily transport them to a boat and motor offshore to where the depth dropped off to a quarter mile, then cast the weighted corpses down there. I had done it with more corpses than I cared to count, and not one had come back to haunt me.

Unfortunately, I could not: doing that would lead to my death in the same way. I'm what you would call a "hit man," and I don't mean hit singles on the radio. You're probably wondering how things got to this point.

It started on a hillside in Afghanistan. Outliers on a lone patrol, my comrade and I had chased mujahideen to a cave complex. I stripped down to my vest, a pistol, and my knife. To avoid going deaf, I used a suppressor. With only some night vision goggles, I traversed the entirety of the cave complex, and anyone who appeared as a combatant, I shot. This is why they called me the Hatchet Man. I went in and cleaned out everyone.

It might shock those of you living out there in the comfortable consensual hallucination shaped by emotional movies and ideological promises by your leaders, but in a war zone, just about everyone is a combatant. Hollywood adores a plot where the brave young Marine rushes into a room and rescues the poor abused innocent victim being kept against her will as a concubine. Let's have a soapy enema of hard, cold reality for these constipated minds: there are no noble whores, she is a businesswoman who saw a good opportunity and took it, and she hates you for trying to take away the life she has made for herself.

Consider your options out there in the world outside the floaty American or European cushion of cheap consumer goods, police to keep the streets safe, and a semi-functioning government. Most of humanity lives like it did two million years ago, from hand to mouth. The average IQ on Earth is something like 82; that's a labrador who knows how to open doorknobs, basically. Dumb people are arrogant because they don't understand anything beyond their level, and they think in the short term only, so most of them are criminal or at least will trade up on you.

Now grow up as a woman in an Afghan village. Your best hope is to find one of these dumb opium farmers to marry you and carry you off to his hut where you can work all day while he wanders around reading the Koran, raping goats, attending bacha bazi pedophile parties, and smoking hashish. You have him for one reason: he will die for you, defending you because you are his possession, even if he doesn't love you or just views you as a slightly less hairy goat. Feminism is blown away by harsh reality in Afghanistan, and lives in the "civilized" world only because we tolerate it.

Here in the civilized world, we don't rape goats; we have casual sex in bars throbbing with moronic music and alcohol sold for a thousand-percent markup. We don't have the Koran, but civil rights and free markets. No one goes to bacha bazi parties, but you have five hundred channels of porn and can visit Thailand if you want underage sex. We are no different than the goat-fuckers we make fun of so much, just a little smarter, a little richer, and little more organized. The rest is just pretense and I'm sick to the heart of it.

In the third world, "government" means people licensed to steal from you. Lots of people want to get into government because those jobs come with a title and uniform, and that means that if you kill someone, you get away with it. That means that you can demand money from them. It's not much different than our corporate lawyers except that lots of people get killed and raped. You need a violent, primitive man with a weapon to keep you and your children from being anally violated until you resemble donuts, and that's just how it is.

Before you get on some wanky high horse about how uncivilized these people are, consider that it's about the same here. You need some man who is willing to go off to some job and do bullshit for ten hours a day so that you can have a house in a neighborhood where you won't get raped, food that isn't toxic, and maybe some time to do something with your life other than a dreary job. We have built a little reservoir of paradise on a planet that is mostly hellish, even if the occupants are oblivious.

For example, go to one of these Afghan villages and ask a guy living in a ditch with a roof and eating mangy goat if he thinks he is oppressed. He'll tell you he's doing pretty good: his ditch has a roof, which puts him ahead of someone else, someone he spits at on the street. Some day, he'll have twenty-five goats, and then life gets really good. I have been all around the world in a "highly specialized role," namely killing people who both didn't want to be killed and were good at avoiding death, and it's the same everywhere.

This is why when you go into a cave complex, you shoot the whores, and possibly the kids. Too many guys I know bought the farm by ignoring the cute Afghan kid, right up until he smiled and held up a hand grenade like an apple he was gifting them, then blew himself and his target to kingdom come. He would never worry about getting pimped out again or not having enough food. Instead he died a hero and was forgotten a day later. In the third world, that's like winning the lottery for your family, who get enough money to buy a used Honda from the Taliban, and in such places that's basically like a 401(k).

You might say that I am a sociopath; I'll say that I just see things clearly. You know I'm right. You know that even in your cushy neighborhood there are a few people to whom you would turn in an emergency, a lot of people whose existence you tolerate because they are unknowns, and some people that, if the power plants failed and the cop cars stayed away, you would shoot between the eyes because they are bad inside and nothing will make them good, not even fifty years of therapy with Princeton-trained psychotherapists.

Now keep in mind here, I am not claiming to be a saint. I probably come from the other side, that of the demons in Hell who see humanity for what it is: mostly bad. We have no conscience when it comes to the bad ones because we realize that nothing bad happens when they die. What makes someone bad? It's simple: they're selfish. They do only what benefits them. A good person, or one of the "grey area humans" in the middle between good and bad, will do some things for others, for animals, for the sake of having a nice garden, that kind of thing.

Really bad people are hand-to-mouth, just like the third world. They think only about their own mouths. If they see a starving child or weeping woman, their only thought is, "what can this person do for me" which translates to "how can I use this person?" I know this because I spend most of my days killing off bad people who pissed off other bad people, except the other bad people had more money. This all started on that hillside in Afghanistan.

Me and one of my cohorts, who obviously cannot have a name here, saw the "person of interest" flee after a remote IED attack on an American convoy that maimed three men and killed a family of Afghans who happened to be walking along the road when the cobbled-together bomb of artillery shells and Semtex turned them into little flakes of flesh floating on the breeze. We tracked him for hours, but then he turned around a mountain pass and just vanished.

"There's a cave mouth in there somewhere," said my comrade. I stripped down and went in. Luckily I brought a few mags for the Beretta, a glitchy but high-performance weapon, since the complex turned out bigger than I thought. It was like playing a video game; you go around the corner and shoot anyone who moves, then take a wary look at anyone else. Two of the whores I shot had weapons. The third may have been innocent, but only in a relative sense. She was in a Taliban stronghold after all; even the goats here are suspect.

I don't think many of them held it against me that they died. In their religion, they go to a happy place. I'm inclined to agree only because this world is too weird to be anything but the byproduct of a war in the heavens, which means gods, which means there's probably some afterlife. I liked the one the Greeks had, where you just went to a boring place until your memories of all your failures beat you into submission, then you got reincarnated. I think half of these people get reincarnated as goats, either ending up as sex objects or curry, or probably both in that in order.

When I came back out, my buddy had tagged a pair of mujads who came running from the entrance. We got a few AKs from them and inside the cave, so these kills would go down as good ones. Two tagged mujads was enough for us to get the check-marks on our promotion checklist that we needed, so it was time to head back to base.

"What are you going to down when you get out? Re-up?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I came here to get skills, and it's pretty clear this war is going nowhere. I don't want to be 'Regular Army' for life."

"Come see me in New Jersey when you're stateside," he said. "I know a guy who knows a guy."

I met that guy months later. This began my entry into the world of contract killing. Let me say that like all other enterprises, and this is a business; there are levels of competence. Your clueless suburbanite wanting to whack his wife does what happens in the movies and goes to a sleazy bar, finds some guy with nothing to live for, and slides him a few thousand... at which point the guy promptly goes to the cops. Some young sergeant gets the bust and the invariably ensuing promotion, the headlines blare, and people assume that this is how it is done.

You have probably in your daily life seen a contract killing or two. You did not recognize it at the time. Most of them involve drinks. If you are at a cafe, and someone dressed as a waiter comes up and hands you the drink you ordered out loud, you probably drink it. Then you feel a bit queasy, so you go to the bathroom and throw up. It's a two-part formula: the first drug makes you nauseous, the second makes you pass out. Someone wearing a trench coat or lab coat comes in. He puts the coat on you, then carries you out to the car like a drunk buddy. Everyone else is paid or terrified into saying nothing.

That car, which was stolen a city over, now goes down to the docks or a hunting lodge. If it's the docks, a ship takes him out to the deep water, weighs you down with cinder blocks, and he goes deep into the ocean before he even regains consciousness. If in the woods, they choke him until they hear the death rattle, then strap a steak to his forehead and tie him to a tree. The wild animals do the rest. All that stuff about car crushers and funeral homes is old, like most of our Hollywood portrayal of reality, which still shows mobsters as Italians. The dagos haven't been in charge of jack shit for decades.

Me, now, I'm likely working for a Ukranian Muslim, a Vietnamese triad, a Chinese Jew, or some guy of mixed parentage from Long Island who set up a dozen high stakes card games and hired ex-SEALs to police it for him. "Organized crime" just means more control than two guys high on weed and meth who decide to rob a house on Saturday night. There is no grand order and honor among thieves. If you notice someone else somewhere, then that's his territory, unless you want to remove him. That's where I come in.

Suppose you are from the Chinese Muslim mafia and you notice that the Russian Jewish mafia owns a township next door. You want in on the bread-and-butter of organized crime, which is sin: gambling, drugs, tax-free alcohol and cigarettes, prostitution, and human trafficking, including children. If you're smart, you send some of your SEALs over there and they bring nothing but cameras. They get you a list of all of the principles and footmen involved, and soon you have a hierarchy chart.

Then out go orders, to people like me. Find so-and-so, he lives in these places (criminals like to hop between multiple crash pads), goes to these places to drink, and his bitches are at the following locations. How do we get our orders? Generally, I go to my favorite bagel shop. I order my lox and sesame seed, then while I eat it, I look up across the street. If the old lady in 3G hangs out her laundry, I go to her door. There's a mezuzah next to it, and I take out the folded paper. It's typed, with all of the information I need.

I use a lot of methods. The old KGB heart attack spray is a favorite, so is the needle to the neck. The whole point is to incapacitate the subject if you can, then get him into the van so he goes to disposal. If that can't be done, the preferred weapon is a silenced Ruger 22LR pistol. Aim for the center chest, hit it at least twice, and wait for the loss of blood pressure to close the eyes. Then shoot right into an eye. The point is to have someone who is dead and, if not dead, who cannot testify because his brains are paste. Then your cleanup team takes the body.

The toughest kills are combat kills. This means you are going after some guy, he knows you're coming, and he and his friends are armed. In this case, I take a carefully cleaned Beretta 92FS with a suppressor, just like the M9 I used overseas but the civilian version. The job is to go in the door and tag everyone twice in the chest. If someone is there who you did not expect to be there, you clean them too. Once they are all down, you do one shot to the forehead, the "lobotomy shot" that ensures that even if somehow they make it to a hospital and survive, they ain't testifying never. The van takes them too.

My bread and butter is cleaning out other organized crime. This doesn't happen unless someone is moving up in the world, either taking over territory or enforcing a horizontal merger. Crime is a business, and violence and disruption are expensive, unless you're going to get new territory or something. Just like in the military, I spend my days wasting bad guys and getting paid by bad guys. I saw enough of the corruption not just of the American military but the European militaries and the politicians behind them to stop believing in cowboys versus Indians. We're all Indians, just some get to go home.

This is not to say that my life is idyllic or highly paid. Kills are expensive. You need to have not just a shooter, but watchers. You need a driver for the van and someone to help load the corpses. You need people running the boat. You need a smith to provide the gun, or at least the barrel for an automatic, and someone in a foundry who can make those old barrels back into soup cans. If you are good, you have at least one local police lieutenant on your payroll to misfile the paperwork.

As a shooter, you need a retirement plan. There was a reason Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald: a shooter knows secrets. If all goes well, he does his job and no one notices. If someone notices, you send in a cleaner to get the cleaner. This is why there is constant turnover. The smart shooters like me move between major cities every five years in a cross-country zig-zag. Don't move from New York to Chicago; go from New York to LA, then NOLA, then Chicago, then Seattle (the Chinese trade across the border is brutal), and then go overseas. There's good work in Europe, all very quiet.

I get about enough to buy an economy sedan per kills, after all the tips and bribes and little costs like uniform (you'd call it a disguise) and disposal fees. Like any contractor, I pay the guys who work with me well so that I can use them again. If they screw up, I make a call, since they know the metadata of my kills. You don't want to be in a courtroom when your erstwhile buddy comes out and says, "Oh yeah, that's the guy who wanted a clean Beretta the day before the guy disappeared." Governments are corrupt, but they are careers, and those aspiring careerists thrive on big busts that make big headlines, and if that happens, you're going to get Epsteined in jail.

My wife would be very upset to know that our basement has a false wall and behind it is a little workroom. There's enough normal stuff in there that you could not call it a murder factory, but that's what it is. Here I disassemble my weapons, clean them and buff them carefully so every part slides smoothly and nothing jams. I load my own ammo so there are zero defects, or as close as I can get. When I have everything done, I pack two bags: one, for storage at the locker I rent down at the marina under a fake name, and the second into my working bag, which is what I will take to the scene.

Like I learned in Uncle Sam's employ, I check everything three times but not more. You never want to start second-guessing. Do each check systematically, methodically and you end up fine. Anything else just makes you look like an amateur and, not surprisingly, commit amateur mistakes. If anyone else has touched your bag, even for a moment, call off the operation and start from the top. You want to take as little as possible with you and to pack it using gloves. Everything you do creates evidence, and part of your job is to reduce that entropy wherever you find it.

As I have said, however, your best operations involve a spiked drink, a needle in the neck, or choking someone out so that you can get them into the van. Once they are wrapped up in a carpet or stuffed in an old refrigerator "going out for repair, ma'am" you have done your job. The rest is just procedure, every bit as impersonal as filing your taxes, even if you are ending the life of some scumbag like yourself just trying to make a buck without a mind-sucking office job.

What you want to avoid is what we call scent. A little old lady with a telephone does more damage to our operations than a bruiser who leaps out and howls before attacking because any scent produces an evidence trail, and that starts to stink when enough coincidences line up like bananas on a slot machine. People will ignore a detail or two, but a fact pattern will cause a police report or worse, people to start noticing what else you are doing. You are paid to do a job, keep your mouth shut, and do so invisibly.

Most of the guys -- and it's mostly men, but there are some very vicious women out there -- who do this job do it for a short term. After they have whacked their share of baddies, they get out of Dodge. I have an agent, just like a writer or actress, and he signals me then takes his ten percent off the top. His job is to make connections and retire after ten years, but if something goes wrong, he has a special bottle of whisky in his desk that will kill you dead with half a shot glass. He knows that when the battering ram hits the door, he drinks it or his family dies. It's a simple but rigid business.

My morning started at dawn with a five-mile run as it does most days, and I had just finished up the murder bag when I heard something upstairs. This caught me at my most vulnerable, since I was in a prosecutable position with an unlicensed firearm and, well, obvious tools of the trade like a lock-pick and uniform as a HVAC repairman. If the law was busting in the door, I had one chance only, which was to find some sucker on the sidewalk and tag them in the leg. Cops stop a bust for wounded civilians and I can escape during that time.