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The cold metal of the gun pressing against the small of his back threw into sharp relief the plush warmth of the sitting booth. The haze hung heavy as Damien took another drag on his long tapering cigarette, holding the smoke deep in his belly as the man in front talked endlessly about whatever it is he was talking about. Something about innocence, and morality.
“Are you even listening to me?” His eyes wide behind wire framed spectacles, mouth working, hands pleading.
Damien blew the smoke across the table, adding to the haze constricting the booth. His hands slowly came together in front of him as his eyes, half closed, shifted lazily to the man sitting across from him. To the observer, Damien looked very cool.
“This is extremely important information Damien, you can’t expect to…”
“I expect, Mr. Colleton, that what you are saying bears little to no importance to the actual assignment. I expect, Mr. Colleton, that what you are saying shows a surpassing ignorance on the subject you have asked me to divulge myself in. And, Mr. Colleton, as you are assuming the role of employer, I expect that you are not familiar enough with the work I do to attain my services. Good day to you sir.”
Damien was halfway out of the booth when he felt a gentle hand wrap around his wrist. “I don’t think you understand” turned into a frightened shriek of pain and surprise as Damien applied pressure of his own to the man’s arm and shoulder, leaning in close so as not to alarm the scattered patrons of the establishment.
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Colleton, and if you ever touch me again, I will make you my personal project, do you understand that?”
Damien left amidst the haze of cigarette smoke and gasping sobs, the gun cold and hard.
“Please don’t make me do this Damien. I don’t want to”
It didn’t matter though. It never mattered what they wanted; only what they meant to him. And she meant very little in the grand scheme of things.
“This is what I was hired to do, Sarah. I want to do my job, and I want to do it well. That means you need to shoot me.” Steel. Marble.
He was ice.
“What if I hurt you?” It had been some time since Damien heard something that stupid come out of an adults mouth.
“That’s the point Sarah. But it won’t kill me, and I will still be able to do my job, now shoot me.”
He slapped her, hard. She recoiled, hands flying up to her face, coming away bloody. Her eyes begin to water. As the gun came up she made a noise somewhere between a whine and a growl. Damien shut his eyes.
The gun was deafening in the small space of the apartment. The sound hit Damien before the pain did, ripping through his head as the bullet ripped through his leg. Ears ringing, Damien fell to the ground.
Sara stood there shocked; eyes wide and mouth open, searching for reason. Damien fished a set of keys out of his pocket, throwing them to her. They bounced off her cheek.
“Pick those up. There is a car outside. You’ve done this before Sarah. Don’t mess this up.”
As Damien began to fade, the last thing he saw was Sarah bending down. He wondered if she was dating anyone.
It wasn’t bad, considering what he had seen in the past year alone. Still, it wasn’t exactly pretty. The apartment was leased under the name Martin Porter, who under further inspection turned out not to exist. The man lying on the floor was bleeding from a bullet wound to the meatier part of his leg, not to close to any major arteries or muscular systems or whatever it was that freaked the medical people out. That wasn’t his problem.
His problem was the man was a John Doe, no ID at all. No dental records, no fingerprints, not a shred of identifying paperwork anywhere. And, to top it all off, no one knew why or how he got there. All of those contributing factors turned this debacle into his problem.
That was his job, talking people without identities and turning them into information the system could process. Hopefully after a night of phone calls and database searches, he could get John Doe back where he belonged.
“What should we do with him Boss?”
Boss sighed, not looking forward to the work ahead of him. Such unnecessary work.
“Better take him to the hospital, Al. Is he awake yet?”
“No sir, Boss; something to do with blood loss or trauma or some insufferable medical term.”
“Sounds good Pete, write it up. I think were done here.” Boss took one last look at the face without a man behind it. Sleeping in such a peaceful way. “Better sleep while you can boy,” Boss said under his breath. “You got some serious talking to do when you wake up.”
The hardest part was keeping still. He knew he was hooked up, and he had to keep his movement minimal. In that half-asleep state of return, however, maintaining control of your body was a matter of pure will.
Fully awake, Damien focused on his surroundings, adhering himself to the now. There was a heart monitor, and an IV. Not bad at all. The IV was easy; it slipped out of his arm without so much as a pinch. Damien stuck it into the side of the hospital bed to keep the drip off of the floor. Just common courtesy.
The heart monitor was a little bit trickier, but Damien was well versed in all types of hospital equipment. The alarm wire was hidden just underneath the back plate. Ten minutes later Damien slipped the monitor off his fingertip and stood up slowly, testing his weight.
It was a good shot, clean through the side of the leg, small-caliber, minimal muscle damage. Damien had retained most of his motor strength, and the pain was inconsequential.
He looked at the window, no alarm. Then he checked the door. Police escort, just like he thought. It didn’t matter, if he had done this right, what he needed would be two floors above him, stuffed into a duffel bag wrapped with duct tape. In five seconds the hospital room was empty, a flat-lining heart monitor lying silent next to dripping saline.
Sleep in a hospital was easy, but never deep. Even after eight months of acclimation, Walton woke almost immediately after Damien walked through the door of the long term care ward and sat down next to his bed.
“Keep the noise down, people are trying to die in here. “
“Is that your idea of humor?” Damien put the gun up on the table. Next to packets of Jell-O and blood stained handkerchiefs. Walton snorted.
“No, the gun is my idea of humor. Only you would bring a gun to do a hospital job.”
“So you know what I’m here to do”
Walton sighed, laid back against his pillow. That was another thing about sleeping in a hospital, you could take an eighteen hour nap, and when you wake up a nurse would have to get you another pillow, to sleep it off. In many ways, it was like prison. “I know why you’re here, but why, why do you have to take me like this. I don’t want to die sitting in a hospital gown, half naked with a catheter. Wait until they release me Damien, let me die in my own bed. You owe me that.”
Damien took out the syringe, “I probably do, but it’s a job Walton. There are rules. Rules you taught me.”
Walton looked through his window at the softly lit hospital yard, peering through the bars. “Remember when we were kids Damien. Remember how we used to train for this. How we used to study for days at a time, how we used to fast…What were we doing Damien?”
Damien remembered very well, “We were trying to change the world.”
“What happened to that?”
“You quit. And I had to go on by myself, for thirteen years, Walton, i thought you had died. Now I hire out contracts, working for petty morons with aspirations to nothing. All of them justifying their depravity through one means or another. We couldn’t change the world, and now all I do is make it worse.”
Walton smiled at that. “I guess we all have our own dreams to fail.” Damien leaned forward, needle in his right hand, ready to end the life of his oldest friend. Walton scoffed, “Don’t do that, Damien, I’m not some target.” Damien took a suppressor out of his coat handed it to Walton; Started to walk to the door.
He did, turning to look into the eyes of the man who saved his life, and ended many others. If Damien was ice, Walton was nitrogen.
“I just wanted to tell you, you have always been kind of an idiot.”
Damien smiled, for the first time in years.
“What do you mean gone?” Boss yelled through the phone at the hospital orderly who had given him the call. “You mean we have a John Doe, without any identification, under police custody, who has apparently walked out of a major state hospital, without anyone seeing him?”
“Actually sir, we have reason to believe there was one patient that did come in contact with him.” Boss’s day was about to get considerably worse. Of course it was still his problem. In a week he would no longer have to worry about it.
Damien was no longer working freelance.