KEYS TO THE CITY
I: A New Career In A New Town
II: Dream Life
III: Paintings As Prayers
IV: Late Summer Evening
Rose Crowned Evenings
Moments Of Pure Ashtray
The Personalised Circus
Blind Children On Western Streets
Lucifer Says He Won't See Me
Swans On The Surface
Girl Smoking On Balcony
Stained Glass Window
The Insurance Was WILD
The Sea's Smile
Van Gogh's Lights
The Disappointed Prince
A Night At The Circus
Chekhov In Kreuzberg
A Stolen Dress
Two Contract Killers Get Arrested
My Uncle Dick
Death In The Cafe
Performing To The Curtain
Getting Past The Curtain
Living With Samuel Beckett:
An Anti Essay
TWO CONTRACT KILLERS GET ARRESTED
We had stopped, Hank and I, to figure out what the hell had happened to our car. I say, we: Hank, stormed out the drivers seat, and immediately opened up the bonnet, treating it like an errant schoolboy, while I, quite unpeturbed, sat in the passenger’s seat, reading. What was I reading? I honestly couldn’t tell you, it was a while back. I vividly remember how hot it was though. The speeding cars on the highway left trails off smoke as they passed. So the air was thick, humid, and had a sooty smell and feel to it. You could smell this, or rather, be consumed by it, just with the window slightly rolled down. All in all, a hot dreary affair, and now, the problem with the car.
“Any luck, Hank?”
No answer. Hank’s sunglasses and hat covered his burnt, coarse face. In fact, I hadn’t really properly seen Hank’s face in all the years we’d done jobs together.
I carried on with my reading. I wasn’t too concerned. Hank would fix the car, we’d drive on for another couple of hundred miles, reach our destination, do what we had to do, and then go our separate ways for a few months. It was always like that: long boring drives, through the miserable back-ends of the country, with nothing to do but stare at the various cars we passed en route to murder.
“I think it’s really broken,” Hank said, spitting out into the road.
I put the book down again.
Hank opened a bottle of beer with his teeth and slugged some down. “Yeah, really.”
I got out the car. To hell with this. It was too hot. “Have another look Hank, we haven’t got time for you to monkey around.”
Hank chuckled and drank some more beer. He smiled to himself, as if the running joke of his life had been confirmed once more.
“You said it sister, I’m a regular monkey.”
“I’m not your fucking sister,” I said, closing the door, and blowing my nose. I stared at him with barely concealed agitation.
“I know you’re not fucking my sister,” Hank said, bemusedly. “I don’t even have a sister!”
He let out that horrid laugh of his, a stuttering hiccup of idiocy.
“Just fix the car Hank.” All this was said in my soft, patient voice, the voice I used when I would become incredibly impatient and prone to bursts of wild anger.
Hank put the beer by the curb, balancing it for a few pointless seconds so that it stood up by the wheel. “The art of mechanical engineering,” he said, walking towards the bonnet again, “is a complicated process.”
We were near a small café and I decided to leave Hank and the car and buy myself a coffee or something. Working with someone like Hank when the conditions were this hot was not something I’d signed up for – but saying that, I was well paid for what I (and indeed Hank) did, so I tried to think of something else.
When I walked into the service station I was eyeballed by an old idiotic looking man, leaning against the door of his truck, chewing gum and trying to figure who I was. He was drenched in sweat. I gave him a bright and breezy smile and said rather exaggeratedly, “hot day!”
He looked away, almost worriedly and nodded to himself, mumbling something in agreement.
I must admit, I do like these triumphant moments of intimidation. Little moments like these get me through the day, they make it all worthwhile. Perhaps it’s the boots I wear, for they really are rather abrasive boots, the sort that beat people’s heads in. Calm down Terry, since when do you beat people’s heads in. Since, since -
I’ve given up morally assessing the work I do a long time ago. Like I said, I’m well paid and there’s worse out there than me. But, in all honesty, me, Terry, myself as a man, a character – I’ll admit, while what I do can be pleasurable I should have done something else with my life. You’re a lost soul Terry. Christ it’s hot.
I sat down in a booth by the window and rubbed my temples with the table napkin. My clean shaven head was sticky with sweat. I let my cowboy hat rest on the table. Rachel, the waitress, came over to me and asked me what I’d like.
“I’ll just have some juice, do you have orange?”
Rachel nodded. “Yep, absolutely. Anything else I can get for you?”
Rachel – a beautiful girl.
“Your boss is a bastard for making you work today,” I said, quite matter of factly. I had decided to have a conversation. Driving around with Hank these last couple of days, it’d been a while.
“I’m sorry?” She said, embarrassedly.
“I said your boss is a hard task master for making you work on such, such a hot, hot fucking day!” This last bit was said in mock irritation that even I myself hadn’t planned on doing. I’d tried to make her laugh: what of it.
Rachel nodded, and collected my menu.
“It is hot,” she said.
“I’m not finished with that,” I said gently, referring to the menu.
“Oh I’m sorry,” she said handing it back.
“Don’t be sorry, Rachel,” I said. “It I who should be sorry.”
I starred out of the window and saw Hank shouting at the car.
“I’m not from round here,” I said, lightening the tone.
“I’m just passing through, you see? But our car out there – just there… It’s broken down, the damn thing! We’ll have to fix it.”
She was feigning sympathy. A terrible actress. Go on, get out of here.
I smiled at the car outside. “And that dashing young man outside, my good colleague Hank, he’s trying to fix it.”
“Well I hope you’ll fix it!” She said boisterously.
I nodded. “That’ll be all.”
I put my head in my hands and tried to focus on the upcoming job. Hell, that made things worse. I didn’t even know the man, nor what he did. What an impersonal world we live in, eh? Relax, concentrate, rehydrate.
Behind me were a couple, two students presumably, having an argument. The young man was being a real jerk, saying things like, “if you start crying, I’m going to walk out of this restaurant and just leave you.”
All the young woman did was sob. I couldn’t help myself. I turned around, and stole a glance: it was the young woman, a doll – like looking face, with make up all over the place. It made me quite sad to see her so upset. She briefly stared at me, which alerted her boyfriend, who then, quite gruffly turned around and said, “Can I help you pal?” To which I said, “no you can’t”, and then Rachel arrived with the juice. I sat there in silence and tried to block out their conversation. I then went for a piss and came back to hear the young man passionately talking about science, his girlfriend looking by now very upset.
Hank walked in, quite noisily actually.
“She’s ready to go!” He said, announcing it to the whole café. He was drunk, I’d have to drive.
He approached my table, and then saw the girl crying.
I think Hank started singing an Elvis song to her, upset the boyfriend, decided to throw my juice in his face, and then we left, without paying. I found it all quite dramatic and unneccesary, in all honesty.
As we got in the car, two men came up to us. They were wearing hats and sunglasses.
“Hank Versaise? Terry Ricks?”
Hank shrugged. “Who wants to know?”
I simply looked on.
Then one of them, the blonde man, seemed to offer out his hand, only to reveal a gun. The other man he was with did the same.
“I’m Den, this here’s Chris, and you’re both under arrest.”
And they drove us down to the station and within half an hour we were in jail.