October 2004

Storytime In The Land Of OzÖ

(Part II)

We all have our habits that give us comfort.

Mine is ironing.

After doing laundry, I can happily stand in front of my antique ironing board (which has grossly insufficient padding to iron effectively) for hours simply ironing away. Maybe itís simply my form of meditation. Iím sure that there are a thousand psychiatrists who would happily spend their 15 minutes of fame on Oprah explaining why a hack like myself finds comfort in ironing.

But have you watched Oprah lately?

I havenít, so itís entirely possible that my judgements could be entirely off base.

But last time I caught her while at my parents place for dinner, it was an atrocity (Thatís only opinion, mind you. Hopefully, that will scare off any potential lawsuitsÖ).

Me? I believe that every human being needs those moments of predictable repetition, no matter how small. I really do believe that we all need those sacred seconds where the actions of the moment are so well known to us that they are second nature. This second nature allows us to focus on the things that are far more important, things that are weighing on our minds infinitely more, with infinitely more weight. I also believe that these moments can provide for us the purest form of escapism from what our lives may or may not have become.

Like I said, for me itís ironing.

For Wally it was a cappuccino with a healthy amount of foam and two shots of espresso and a strudel of varying sorts. These were made in a small café on the outskirts of a tiny town lying just outside of Ottersberg, Germany. As I said earlier, we all have our simple pleasures in life. Cappuccino and strudel in a small café happened to be Wallyís.

It was a quaint little café. It was everything that you would expect actually from a quaint little café. It had a wooden sign hanging out front advertising the fact that it was a small coffee shop and bakery (but in German of course) with a couple of small tables on the patio. When you walked in, you could smell freshly baked pastries and a slight hint of lemon.

There was a lot of wood, and it wasnít that new Ikea wood thatís all the rage these days. It was tables and chairs that had grooves worn into them from decades of use.

You know the kind of wood that has seen enough use and been around for long enough that the grain of it seems to open up?

Thatís the kind of wood that Iím talking about. In fact, several of the tables were old school desks that the elderly proprietor of the café had turned into booths years ago.

On the walls were old wrought iron decorations that had been salvaged from fences in the town. There were posters of advertisements for flour that were decades old, and there were shelves that had been filled to capacity with small model cars and trains, all carefully crafted by the elderly proprietor.

There was a long wooden and stone counter that looked like it could have at one point served as a bar in a local pub. In truth, it hadnít, but with a little creativity, Wally was certain that it could have. On top of the counter was a long glass dome under which all of the pastries rested. The cashiers till looked as if it had been around for the better part of the century, and in fact it had. It was one of those antique tills that had the tall back and the little round keys that were fixed to thin arms that ran inside the machine. The arms reminded Wally of the robot from "Lost In Space". Not that travesty from the late nineties with Matt LeBlanc, but the TV series from the sixties.

The good one.

Also, the till had a bell. A real bell. Not one of those electric dinging dealies that tries to sound like a bell but still sounds half assedly electronic, but a real bell that rang loud enough that the whole café could hear it when it went off.

Behind the counter was a friendly young woman who never wore a nametag, but always remembered your name if you were a regular. She was young and friendly enough that you would always remember hers as well. She was one of the few people on the planet that actually knew Wallís name was Wally. He had allowed himself that one luxury.

I suppose the word best to sum it up would be cozy.

Wally came upon this quaint little café in his third year in Europe. The Man had taken him to Europe immediately after his parents agreed to entrust Wally to The Manís care for a "worldly education".

As far as Wallyís parents (and the rest of the world for that matter) were concerned, Wally died in a pan-international plane crash that claimed the lives of 256 people.

Wally of course, was not on that particular plane. It would be several years before Wally would realize that the lives of 256 people was the price that The Man had comfortably paid in order to get a willing pupil. The Man was a firm believer that there were too many people on the planet anyways, so if you had to get rid of a few to get a job done, thatís what you did. The Man was, and Iím sure still is, something of a pragmatist.

Initially, when Wally learned of The Manís method to create Wallyís new persona, he felt some guilt in the fact that all of those people had paid for Wallyís freedom and anonymity with their lives.

He got over that given time.

And so Wally disappeared into Europe with The Man. In fact, Wally only disappeared into a villa owned by The Man that was located on the outskirts of a small town outside of Ottersberg.

Wally spent two long years there learning the finer arts of taking human lives in the most subtle of fashions before The Man would even allow Wally into town to purchase the groceries for the week.

It took another year before Wally found the café.

For the record, when Wally found the café, he was already actively fulfilling contracts for the man, and I know for a fact that if you pressed him to admit it, he would tell you (assuming that you werenít already dead at this point) that he knew that regularly visiting the café was a mistake.

Wally was thorough.

If This Was Shakespeare, they would call it an "Aside". But This Clearly Isnít ShakespeareÖ

You would never guess it, but there are more ways to get around the security of any given location than there are to get caught. Wally had learned almost all of them in his time with the man.

For example, Wally had learned before even turning 19, that if you sharpened the edge of a simple credit card or debit card diligently enough, you could easily get a razor sharp weapon past almost any form of security simply by placing it in your wallet. At 20, Wally had used an American express platinum card that had been issued to a false identity to take the life of a Puerto Rican drug lord. The drug lord had thought that he might be able to make a little extra money by literally eliminating the middleman. Unfortunately for said drug lord, that middleman happened to be the nephew of one of the more powerful drug czars in operation at the time.

Wally met the up and comer in the bathroom of a reasonably well known airport. As the drug lord relieved his bladder, in a simple swipe, Wally earned himself more than you or I make in a year.

Or ten for that matter.

Now hereís where I can prove to you that what Iím saying has a grain of truth to itÖ

Right now, youíre picturing some guy standing in front of a urinal and some shady figure slipping up behind them and slitting their throat.

And if I was just spinning a yarn, that would work.

But hereís the catch, and I know itís been a while, so please donít take offense if I walk you through it.

Wally was a dwarf.

No Dwarf assassin is going to bother with setting up the required amount of phone books to reach a Puerto Rican drug lordís throat. Hell, he wouldnít even bother with a step ladder.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

Wally simply slashed an artery on the inside of the drug lordís upper thigh.

An artery is an artery kids, and believe you me (and Iíve seen the news clippings) a human being bleeds out just as fast from an artery in their leg as from an artery anywhere else.

Which, this particular drug lord did.

In spades.

Just thought I would share that.

But back to the pointÖ

The Tao Of StrudelÖ

You might think that the life of a professional killer is all Lear jets and limos, but being a professional killer comes with itís down days. You can only kill so many people before it does start to get to you a little. To be sure, most of the time Wally didnít feel that bad about it. Most of the time Wally justified his actions with three simple thoughts.

    1. Wally made a whole lot of money doing it.
    2. Most of the people that Wally killed were either drug dealers or generally unpleasant people, so really, they had it coming.
    3. Wally was damn good at what he did. As it turned out, The Man had been right. Wally would be given the first look, but rarely a second. Not only because a diminutive character like Wally couldnít possibly be capable of the crimes that he was seen leaving, but also, people generally feel a little guilty about staring at dwarves. The end result? People wouldnít really think that much of Wally and they never ever remembered his face.
    4. Wally made a whole lot of money doing it.

And really, in todayís uncertain economic climate, a whole lot of money is not a bad thing.

But when he did start to feel a little down about it, he would pay a visit to his little German café and watch the people come and go. The café was a neighbourhood favorite for mothers to take their children, as they could satiate their offspring with pastries and enjoy a cup of coffee with the other mothers in the neighbourhood. Whenever Wally felt a little down, he would just spend a couple of hours watching these mothers and their children and after that, he would be good for at least another five or six contacts before he started to feel even the slightest bit of remorse.

He also went every Tuesday.

At 2 PM.

Sharp.

As I had said earlier, there are immeasurable benefits into finding that one thing you can do that allows you to simply become your own essence and not have to concentrate on a task. Mine is ironing, Wallyís was his café.

During all of this time, Wally had been staying with The Man at his villa just outside of Ottersberg. The Man had trained Wally to be incredibly proficient in all manners of death dealing, as well as training that is comparable to that of the Israeli special security forces. The Man had taken on the loving father role that Wally had never known, and Wally gave the man all of the loyalty that he would have given his real father (had his real father actually ever given him the time of day). For the first time, Wally had a home and a sort of father figure and, as I said before, was making money hand over fist.

So Wally was, by 23, pretty much a wheeling, dealing, death machine. But one with a reasonably balanced home life, so that was good.

Wally and the man ran quite a lucrative little business out of their German villa. Both Wally and The Man would go out into the world for weeks at a time to complete whichever contracts the man had decided would be suitable for either of them. They never worked together, and they were both so good at maintaining their invisibility that the two of them worked under the one name of The Man. No one who paid for their services had the slightest idea that "The Man" was actually an aging Austrian gentleman and a dwarf.

Which was ok by both of them, really.

The Catalyst

Just as every story has an initial event, it also has what I like to call a catalyst. To be sure, that is not the correct literary term. The correct term left my head years ago (much to the chagrin of my high school English teacher Iím sure, but then again, he was something of a nasty man with the propensity for attacking me with a meter stick, so to hell with him and all of his terminology), so youíll just have to deal with what Iíve got now.

What you are about to read is what I consider to be the Catalyst for this story.

Pay attention.

Noumea is the principle city on an island called New Caledonia which is somewhat near Australia (look it up if you donít believe me). The Man had traveled to Noumea on what was supposed to be a relatively simple contract. All that the contract required was that the man end the life of a vacationing lawyer who often represented a rather prominent American drug dealer. The Manís plan was to sneak up behind The Lawyer while he sat on the beach one night drinking little pink drinks with umbrellas in them and strangle the life out of him with a rather simple but equally unpleasant device called a garrote.

Now there are a couple of important things I really should bring to light for this next bit to make any sense.

First of all, the lawyer was not the type of lawyer that immediately springs to mind when you throw a phrase like "the vacationing lawyer of a rather prominent American drug dealer" into the mix. Not at all. He was not a criminal lawyer (although, really, quite the criminal).

He was a real estate lawyer who worked for quite a respectable bank full time.

However, in his spare timeÖ

As almost anyone who has ever had to deal with large sums of cash that doesnít come from a, shall we say, respectable source can tell you, real estate can be a real godsend. Of course, to make any large transaction look reasonable, you have to make sure all the legal tís are dotted and the legal Iís are crossed.

It was quite a simple system really. The Lawyer would approach the owner of real estate of extremely high value and propose the following:

If the owner would sell the property on paper for a ridiculously low sum, The Lawyer would then transfer one and a half times the property value into an offshore account that couldnít be traced.

If the owner said no, he would then offer double. If the owner still said no, The Lawyer would then go back to the drug dealer, and the drug dealer would ensure that the property became of no interest of keeping to the owner. This can be done by a variety of methods, ranging from simple intimidation to the planting of several decapitated bodies and such.

A great motivator to move, any of those. Of course all of these dealings and actions would be done in countries that had police forces that were less than substandard.

Better to avoid any serious investigation that way.

The Lawyer would then turn around and sell the property at its normal value, and on paper the drug dealer simply looked as if he had a particularly shrewd lawyer and real estate broker.

Which, to be sure, he did.

Granted, the drug dealer generally lost twenty five to fifty percent of his money, but when youíre talking about twenty million dollars, itís far better to have 20 million in clean money than 40 million in dirty.

The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer had sent the vacationing lawyer on vacation for two very simple reasons. First of all, being that rather prominent drug dealers are always looking to find ways to legitimize their money, The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer had come to Noumea with the lawyer to decide if he was to invest several million of his hard earned dollars into a rather luxurious beachside mansion. Truth be told, The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer was only half assedly interested in the aforementioned mansion, the real truth was thisÖ

A few weeks earlier, The Lawyers son was mercilessly gunned down while at his after grad party by an insane young woman. Understandably, The Lawyer was quite distraught over this, and being that The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer had a vested interest in ensuring the lawyers happiness, he took The Lawyer and his wife on a vacation to Noumea.

Why was a hit put out on The Lawyer?

Simply, The Lawyer had brokered a deal such as I mentioned earlier with a rival drug dealers grandmother. The rival drug dealer didnít realize that The Lawyer was acting on behalf of someone else, and when two very large and aggressive men visited his grandmother late one night, he took more than a little offense. So in the fashion of any respectable drug dealer, he took out a hit on The Lawyer.

Hopefully that answers any and all of your questions.

So The Man found himself in Noumea waiting behind a palm tree. He had a garrote with him that he planned to use to kill The Lawyer. The Lawyer was sitting on the beach in one of those low sitting plastic beach chairs with that have the holes in the arms with which to hold alcoholic beverages. Irony being, the pink drinks with umbrellas in them were in glasses that didnít remotely fit into them. On the other side of the table was another chair in which sat The Lawyersí wife.

She was drinking beer.

Despite the fact that she looked like a Barbie doll, she was much more the man that he was.

The Man waited until The Lawyers wife wandered back to the hotel to fetch another round of drinks and he then began to sneak up on The Lawyer. The Man had many years of practice on sneaking up on people, so when he finally did, The Lawyer didnít have a clue. Even as The Man raised the garrote to slip it over The Lawyers head The Lawyer probably would never have even been aware of the man had The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer not decided to check on The Lawyers mood (investments and allÖ).

Upon seeing a dark figure sneaking up on The Lawyer with a garrote raised, The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer pulled out his nickel plated Colt .45 pistol which was a gift from his Uncle when he turned 21, and from a distance, removed a good chunk of The Manís calf.

Now this next bit I donít really feel like going into detail on, but I will say this. The Man was then dragged into the basement of the hotel by several of The Rather Prominent Drug Dealers hired goons (who up until this point had been enjoying their violence free vacation and were somewhat annoyed that it had been interrupted) and subsequently soundly beaten in an effort to gain information on who had ordered the hit on The Lawyer.

Initially, The Man refused to say anything.

However, about three hours in, the goons did something that changed his mind. One of the goons pulled out a blowtorch and a pair of blue rubber gripped pliers. He then lit the blowtorch and began to heat the pliers up until they began to glow reddish-orange in the dim light of the basement. This was a technique that The Man had used many times before, he knew what came next and had no interest in it what so ever.

The Man also knew that if he revealed who had hired him, the rival drug dealer would have a contract on The Man in no time whatsoever.

So he did what any rational, self serving, generally evil human being would do at that point.

He told The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer that he had been hired to kill the lawyer by a man that had been very angry at the lawyer, but that he didnít know why, nor did he particularly care. He told The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer that his services had been subcontracted out by a particularly notorious contract killer known only as "The Man". He told The Rather Prominent Drug Dealer, that if he wanted retribution, he could find "The Man" (who was actually a dwarf and not that much of a man at all) at a small bakery in a small town outside Ottersberg.

Every Tuesday.

At 2 PM.

Sharp.

And It Hits The FanÖ

Wally only wanted a coffee and a pastry and a couple of hours to watch the children at the pastry shop play under the watchful eyes of their mothers.

Wally was walking up the street towards the pastry shop when he noticed in the window of one of the shops a small display. Behind the window was a large circus tent made out of tin. The circus tent had wind-up machinery in it that made a parade of a train of small tin circus folk. Wally watched the parade for a second when he saw three large figures emerge from the tent. It seemed that the little tin circus had giants in it's parade, and for what seemed like only a few seconds more, Wally was taken away.

It was more like 5 minutes before Wally got his attention back. He shook his head and began to walk down the block to his pastry shop. He was about fifty feet away when a small electric timer that was in a briefcase that had been strategically left under a table in the café delivered a small but invigorating dose of electricity to what can only be described as an excessive amount of plastic explosive.

And Wallyís world went red.

Wally, being of diminutive stature, was thrown back against a concrete wall and knocked unconscious. In the movies, the concussive wave that follows an explosion throws a person to the ground. Thatís not how it happens in real life at all. In real life, it lifts you up and throws you. As I said, Wally was thrown against a wall.

Wally awoke to find himself with an oxygen mask on, but not yet loaded onto a stretcher. He lifted himself off of the ground and gave put his hand to his head. It was, as one would expect to find after being thrown into a wall, damp with blood. Wally looked around and saw, as he had many times before, what happens when a small but invigorating dose of electricity is delivered to an excessive amount of plastic explosive.

Although I myself have never understood what a reasonable amount of plastic explosive is when discussing the exploding of human beings.

And for the first time, Wally was stunned.

Wally saw all of the mothers and the children that had been at the pastry shop spread out across the street. He saw the parts of them that were no longer connected to them scattered across the street like ticker tape in a parade gone all to horribly wrong. He saw the surviving mothers weeping over what was left of the bodies of their children, and he saw children trying to wake up mothers that were never to wake up.

And in the moment, Wally came to a realization that only a man who has spent the better part of a decade taking the lives of people could come to.

Being that The Man was the only one who could have known about Wallyís pastry shop, Wally knew that The Man had betrayed him. The Man, for whatever reason, had allowed the lives of mothers and children to be extinguished. The Man had, for whatever reason, turned Wallyís little habit that gave him comfort into a massacre that could truly only be described as senseless.

But above all else, The Man had not only betrayed Wally, but tried to kill him. Mothers and children are one thing, but there is one simple rule to life that Wally was, at that exact moment, determined to educate the man of.

Never mess with a dwarf.

In fact.

End of Part II