I have scruples, just not your scruples, yours are boring.
Touchdown on time, private is almost always on time, smaller airports, no wait to take off, no sitting on the runway because the gate isn’t clear, no sitting around waiting on passengers to stick their crap in the overhead, no fatties, no infants or toddlers. Bags get on with us, get off with us, car is waiting, a passive Ford Jejune.
Zero, ‘I got us here, what now?’
‘We pass by his place of employment, Rack ‘Em, a pool hall, check the GPS.’
I hand it to her, she taps the map app, ‘Five miles down state road six, the turn is ahead about a mile, left. What’s he do there?’
‘Janitorial and light maintenance. Probably testy after a hard day swabbing toilets,. mopping misdirected pee off the floor, hauling empty beer cans to the dumpster.’
‘That would do it, even with less than adequate self-esteem.’
‘Prep the guns. No way to tell when we might get a shot.’
She opens the gun case, puts the bits together, fills the magazines, racks a round in both.
‘You learned well.’
‘I managed to overcome the inadequacies of my instructor.’
I take the left, keep to the speed limit. It’s the kind of road that tempts speeding, light traffic, straight, occasional signs lowering the limit, which attracts local storm troopers looking to score an easy ticket, otherwise known as a speed trap. I don’t mind shooting a cop, but they tend to call in plate numbers before they approach and ask to see license and registration. Fuckers.
Zero, ‘Upcoming on the right, just past the strip mall.’
I pass the place, it’s getting near noon, turns out the joint has a bar and grill, pickups and SUVs in the dirt parking lot.
‘See his wheels?’
‘I see there’s parking in back too, employees probably park there.’
Good call, I pass through, plate matches, numbers barely visible under a film of grime.
I find a place down the road that’s reasonably shielded from the two lane but gives us a view of Sleazy’s pickup, a beat to hell GMC Mudder, originally red, now rust.
Zero, ‘Is it too complicated to drive the thing through a car wash?’
‘Making change is probably too complicated for Sleazy.’
We wait, Zero has music on her phone, trance, no vocals, she has a Bluetooth in one ear, her head bobs left and right. Despite that, her eyes shift from the truck to the door that must open to the kitchen, there’s a faint twang of country from inside.
If there’s line dancing at night, we may have to kill everybody.
Zero pulls her earbud and puts it in the case with the second bud.
‘You see the phone and Bluetooth as ordinary. Thirty years ago if anyone had predicted a connection through the air to something called the internet to a hand held computer, then the music traveling through more air to a device in your ear, they would have been put on meds.’
‘I know, years ago I had something called a Walkman that played CDs and earbuds that connected to it by a wire.’
‘You’re nine, the math doesn’t work.’
‘It does if I’m timeless.’
I look over at her, she’s serious, ‘Here comes our janitor dragging two bags of empties.’
Sleazy gets to the dumpster, the lid is open, he tosses the bags in one at a time, takes keys out of his pocket and heads to his truck. I crank the engine, we lose him for a few seconds as he drives down the far side of the building, then appears in the front lot and onto the two lane.
I give him a lead, pull out when he’s a quarter mile down the road.
‘He’s going opposite of how we came in, home? Check the phone, his address is in there.’
She fiddles with the phone, then, ‘Yeah, it’s farther on, eight miles.’
I keep my distance, there are no intersecting roads, a dozen minutes later, ‘There, mobile home hell, on the left.’
Zero, ‘They keep trailer parks isolated, makes it easier for tornados to spot them. They like making all the boxes fly in circles until they get bored, then drop them a few miles away. Tornados are the psychopaths of weather.’
‘These should definitely be recycled, a true redneck trailer park, not a neat community of retired oldies with little dogs and small swatches of garden. Is a Chihuahua really a dog?’
Zero giggles ‘No, mutant rats. The former punching bag live here, or does he live here?’
‘This is the address on the latest arrest report, after he was picked up for stalking and after the restraining order he ignores. Must be his crib.’
Sleazy opens the only door, ‘It wasn’t locked, anything stolen from this dump would get laughed out of the pawnshop.’
‘Let’s do it, looking at this sad collection of vinyl covered shacks is depressing.’
I park in a stand of trees a couple hundred yards from the immobile mobile home community. We approach Sleaze’s Sleezbox from the rear. There are other trailers, but this park is not set up to encourage neighborly visits, a fair amount of space between them.
We walk the rear, quiet inside, then a TV comes on, every box has a satellite dish, I doubt cable reaches this far into the boonies. Window is open at what I guess to be the kitchen, but the blinds are down. I hear something about bass boats, can’t tell if it’s a commercial or a hunting and fishing program. Then a pop-fizz, like a beer being opened.
Zero whispers, ‘Doesn’t sound like anyone but him, no other car besides his truck.’
‘Follow me, I’m your shield, for all we know he’s got a weapon handy.’
As previously noted, when we’re on the hunt our roles shift, I say, she obeys. At home she can issue all the commands she likes, that’s our play, this is serious, dangerous, potentially deadly.
I briefly wonder if I should knock or just open the door. If I knock, there’s questions to answer before I get in. I don’t want to shoot him from outside, even in this hear-no-evil pothole. We slip on latex gloves.
I turn the knob, step inside, Zero behind me.
As expected, it’s one room for kitchen and living, a tiny hallway to the only bedroom and bathroom.
Sleazy is on a ragged couch facing away from us, the TV shows a guy in a bass boat hauling in a fish. Sleazy has no idea he’s hooked, I nod to Zero.
She steps around me, he must sense something, turns his head, spots me, eyes narrow. He can’t see his young killer.
Zero puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger, a surreal moment of nothing, time slows. Then Sleazy slumps forward and is still. The load worked perfectly, hole in the side of his head, no brains splattered out the other side. She has jacketed hollow points, the bullet doesn’t break up, it just becomes a fatish blob of metal crushing his brain into mush. I touch his neck, no pulse, I push him to the side, body obeys, now he’s leaning over the arm of the couch almost like he’s reaching for the beer.
I go to the door, peer out, same as when we went in. We holster the Glocks, down the three steps, through the trees to the car.
‘I’m going to use the same drill as before, drive a hundred or so miles and find a hotel.’
She searches, ‘One fifty, take this highway to the interstate, head east. There’s a couple of good hotel options…let’s see, got it, extended say place, full kitchen, king bed, looks nice.’
She taps, makes a reservation in the corporate name, ‘Done, now, nearest supermarket, I like eating in better than fussing with restaurants.’
By four, we have a roasted chicken, beet salad, vodka and a bottle of cab, bag of ice. Hotels have ice machines, but it’s tap water and doesn’t freeze hard, vodka turns that ice into water too quickly.
Hotel Yoga-Fit, guests are walking around in workout gear, women in yoga togs, everyone has one of those exercise heart rate monitors on their wrist or bicep. I collect the key card, walk past a gym, weight machines, treadmills, stair climbers, most taken by one or another fitness freak. It occurs that there are no fat people, Maybe they’re banished to a different part of the hotel. The room is as advertised, I heat the oven, Zero cuts up the chicken, slides the pan into the oven, beet salad in the refrigerator.
‘Let’s get a shower, then I’ll make your drink.’
We do, now clean and shiny, I’m at the small dining table, Zero hands me a vodka with plenty of cracked ice and a fat stuffed olive.
‘Excellent, thank you angel.’
Zero, ‘That was easy enough.’
‘We surprise them, they have no idea someone is out to cancel their ticket, whether it’s a for-hire kill or our new foray into vigilantism. Fine with me, I never looked to make it exciting, I prefer non-action scenes with bullets going from my gun to his head, not dodging return fire. Had enough of that in the army.’
We watch a forgettable movie after dinner, then to bed. I’ve become accustomed to the little sylph curing into me at night, she’s slim, solid, smooth as satin.
Morning, flight out at ten, home in time for a late lunch.
Zero, ‘This is always my favorite place, Canada was cool though.’
‘We’ll go back next summer. I’m thinking we might take a winter vacation to the Caribbean. You can search for a good spot, some upscale hotel, get a suite.’
She brightens, ‘Wow, sounds scrumptious, how long?’
‘How long before we go or how long do we stay?’
‘Late January or February, temperatures are mild, it doesn’t get cold. Maybe seven days, no, ten.’
‘Ten, I presume I can’t walk the beach naked, but I can get a nothing bikini. It will make all the moms think I have a perv dad, Lolita by the Sea.’
She makes a platter of sliced roast beef, turkey and cheese, ‘I’ll skip bread, or do you want it on a sandwich?’
‘No, just the meat and cheese. I’ll pick up Chinese this evening, we can be lazy the rest of the day. Only a little laundry from the trip, it can wait.’
While she organizes a simple lunch, I put away the guns then park at the kitchen island. She’s rolled up the slices of meat, added Tonkatsu sauce to the turkey, olive oil mayo with horseradish for the beef. Stack of mixed crackers and slices of sharp cheddar.
‘You up to explaining your hope for immortality?’
She grins, ‘I don’t hope, live in hope, die in despair. I don’t do despair. I can see things, snippets of the future. Sometimes just a flash that doesn’t last long enough to tell me much. Very occasionally more, or longer. The most recurring vision is that when I’m twelve, I quit aging.’
‘And you don’t think that’s hope, wishful thinking?’
‘I know it isn’t. And you, big boy, have already stopped aging. You are my chiseled pretty boy forever.’
I start to say I hope you’re right, but she’s axed hope from our vocabulary.
‘How is it possible?’
‘Everything is possible, you need not believe, I will reveal when I do, not before.’
‘And I don’t need to do anything?’
‘We aren’t vampires, if we get an ax in the skull, crushed by a runaway baby carriage, or fall off a cliff, we die, we aren’t bulletproof.’
‘Glad you mentioned it, I’ll skip hang gliding and avoid getting in front of a bullet, or an ax. You say, I obey.’
‘Keep it that way, we’re rhyming, see our synchronicity and wonder.’
‘When, rather how, did you decide on me? My intervention with your mother’s boyfriend?’
‘No, I saw it happening before it happened, and where. I got the asshole to stop at the store, made sure to press his violence button when you came along.’
‘Did he hit you before?’
‘Of course, mommy fucker too, that’s what made me reach out, state my intention. The vision came about a week before the actual event.’
‘Do you actively seek visions of the future?’
‘No, they come when they do. If I try for it, I get zip, zero. In martial arts and shooting we go for wu wei, effortless action. As you say, learn the moves, forget the moves. Intention is intention, no action at all, just state the intention. I did it several times a day and did nothing else to make it happen.’
I clear the lunch plates and glasses, rinse and stick the stuff in the dishwasher. I don’t know what to make of what she said, but then all I have to do is wait and see. Or regarding my non-aging, wait to see what doesn’t happen.
We take our usual after lunch chill, Zero usually nods off, I usually get to the twilight between sleep and wake. An hour at most, we don’t get that foggy head that comes with napping too long.
We have an active workout session, she gets her dit dow massage. We shower, I get dressed to fetch Chinese, slip on her t-shirt and knee socks, little toes get cold.
Zero, ‘I’ll do the laundry while you forage for Peking duck, won ton soup and jumbo shrimp in garlic sauce. One order of pork fried rice, none of the regular rice they usually stick in, we don’t eat it.’
‘Yes ma’am, sir,’ I salute.
‘Idiot, get going, a light lunch and you throwing me around, I’m hungry.’
Half hour and I’m back, soup still hot, we deal with that first, then split the entrees between us.
‘Take more shrimp and broccoli, you’re growing and you’re growing muscle, keep it fed.’
‘You want me tubby fat?’
‘When I spot a stray ounce of fat, I’ll give you a heads up and you can fast for a month.’
She giggles, ‘I am rather perfect aren’t I? And beguiling.’
‘You are two out of three, beguiling, charming, and enchanting, but not deceptive, at least not with me.’
‘I don’t need to sneak on you, why would I, you treat me like a goddess.’
‘Only because you deserve it, can’t help myself, don’t want to..’
She grins, looks off into the distance, ‘You are most perceptive, I shall keep you.’
We demolish the soup and both entrees, even went through the fried rice.
Zero, ‘You move to the sofa, I’ll bring you a cocktail and deal with dishes, find us something mindless to watch, you know what I’ve never seen? Game of Thrones, the eight seasons came and went, haven’t seen a single episode.’
‘Good, me neither, I kept seeing it mentioned, it was enormously popular. Which may not be a recommendation, so were the Harry Potter movies, I tried one, it seemed childish.’
‘Emma Watson was cute in the movies, she grew up to be worship worthy, and she’s smart, beautiful and smart, she could be me.’
‘Nobody could be you.’
‘So true, I am unique. I sense another coming, you may have to share me, and I you.’
Zero, ‘Found a nasty TFB, definitely needs to be whacked.’
‘What’s a TFB?’
‘Trust Fund Baby, riding on money some other family member made, entitlement by accident of birth.’
‘What’d he do?’
‘Fucked his daughter’s children, boy six, girl eight, got caught on a baby cam trying to stick his finger in an infant’s puss.’
‘That’s nasty, he’s not in prison?’
‘Big money, some judge decided that prison wasn’t the best place for him and released him, home monitoring, what a joke.’
‘He may not be easy to get to, people like that have alarm systems, dogs, even private security.
‘I’ll do more research. I also checked the new website, nobody’s reporting abuse yet, one message…ru for real? I replied yes, nothing else, the bit you wrote on the opening page explains what the site is about.’
‘If you figure out how to get to TFB, we’ll go. My thought is, unlike get away with it abusers like Sleazy, the rich guy is not likely to repeat. Look into it anyway, maybe I’m wrong.’
‘There’s another one that might be easier, he’s on the sex offender list for rape. Did two years in prison, busted for attempted rape of a minor, girl age ten. Did another eighteen months, out now on parole, which is almost meaningless.’
‘Three hundred miles from here.’
‘I’ll rent a car, hotels in the vicinity?’
‘Plenty. More fun to ride in your Acura, can we go in that and rent something when we get there?’
I have an NSX, basically a rocket on wheels, too distinctive for surveillance.
‘You have enough to leave tomorrow?’
‘A few more searches, but yes, enough to find him. I may be able to get more on his activities, if he belongs to anything, I don’t see a place of employment.’
‘How long’s he been out of prison?’
‘May be having trouble getting hired, or has money enough to hang out. Sex offenders can get reduced sentences if they rat another offender. He might be what they call a CI, confidential informant. Doesn’t matter, except we need to keep sharp, if he’s an informant there will be regular visits with the cop he reports to.’
A quiet evening, pack things, gun case, two pistols, standard six round magazines, suppressors. I also carry spare magazines in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. In bed by ten thirty, asleep by quarter to.
I blink awake, my sylph is up already, she gets excited when we go on a hunt. I wave across the room, roll out and do morning things, flush, brush, dampen my bed head hair and brush it.
Zero, ‘Here’s a cup of caffeine, I have our things in the car. We can stop at one of the fasties and get takeaway breakfast.’
‘You going nude?’
She giggles, ‘Not exactly, besides I have to pee.’
She goes in the WC, doesn’t close the door, we never close the door except for the obvious, downloading waste is not a team sport.
Fun done, we get organized to go. Zero is in a dress, which is actually only a clingy t-shirt, the hem maybe an inch below her tush, platform shoes and nothing else.
She’s standing in front of the full length mirror, ‘My legs are awesome, I’m awesome, tell me I’m awesome.’
‘You make awesome look homeless, you’re spectacular.’
She gets a sly smile, ‘Let’s go…Mr. Pretty,’ laughs.
…you are ruled by the thought that this or that is good, or that this or that performance is indispensible, this or that cause is objectionable, this or that goal must be attained in headlong striving work, this or that pleasure must be ruthlessly repressed at all costs. Consequently you sin against incapacity. But incapacity exists. No one should deny it, find fault with it, or shout it down.
Liber Novus, Carl Jung
I stick to the speed limit, you can generally push it five miles over, ten over is dicey. Three hundred miles is five and a half hours at best. On the other hand, the little luscious is in the passenger, checks to make sure I glance over at her bare legs from time to time. I wouldn’t want to disappoint.
‘Check for a hotel, we have logistical issues without a place to leave the car.
Zero, ‘Logistic…oh, I get it. You don’t want the rental company to see the Acura, and if you leave it someplace and take an Uber, you can’t drive both cars to the hotel.’
‘Exactly, so we park at the hotel and check in, then I get a ride to the rental place. It also avoids you being with me when I rent the car. I forgot to ask, you packed some sort of disguise or cover-up?’
‘Yes, my platinum gorgeous will be tucked under a watch cap and a hoodie. My sunglasses look like alien eyes and cover half my face. Steel toe sneakers, my Glock and the SOG for my waist, and the small Bowie for my ankle. I will be so dangerous I might scare myself.’
‘You don’t scare, I saw that on day one.’
‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’
‘Wait, that’s from…something…’
‘Dune, the sci-fi with the giant worms.’
‘Yeah, that’s ancient, where’d you come across it?’
‘I was self schooled, home schooled implies someone at home is helping you with lessons. My mother didn’t have the brains to come in out of the rain, a lizard is more intelligent. And I had lots of time, so I read, and read, and went online. Fortunately, I am rather brilliant, I remember things.’
‘Yes, entirely self taught, at least until you taught me martial arts, weapons and how to be a pervy little slut.’
She crosses her legs for the I don’t know how many times since we left. Her t-shirt dress comes to the top of her thighs and occasionally past.
‘I love it when you stare at my legs.’
‘I don’t stare…much, I do have to keep us on the road.’
‘I wanted to masturbate, but I figured we’d wind up in the emergency room with you trying to explain a ten year old in a t-shirt and no panties.’
‘I admire your restraint.’
‘Screw restraint, admire me.’
I laugh, ‘As if you get no attention.’
‘True, you are good about that, and it’s enough, I don’t have any desire to show my stuff to anyone else.’
‘You still enjoy lesbian porn.’
‘When a girl comes along I can relate to. You and I have our unique relationship, we have intimacy but not sex…yet.’
‘Hypothetically, if a young lady comes along, how does it work? We live in one big room.’
‘We’ll figure that out then.’
‘You have already considered this.’
‘A bit, like you I wondered. We don’t need to give it much thought, she will appear soon enough. Most girls my age might talk about it, even check out porn, but they aren’t hyper-sexual like I am. That’s mostly a guess, I don’t know any other girls of any age. Maybe they’re all fucking like rabbits.’
‘Understood, we’re just talking theory.’
‘Take the next exit, the hotel is on the right.’
Melanoma Lodge, free tanning bed and breakfast buffet. I check in, take the car to a side entrance and park, ‘Take the key card, go to the room. I’ll bring up our things in a minute.’
I figure it’s better for us not to be seen together, she’s in near nothing with a man twenty years older. Normally I don’t care what people think, but we’re here to take out a target, not a simple trip to the grocery. Once, in a grocery by myself, before Zero came along, I was dumping things in a basket and a girl of maybe twelve came down the aisle with her mother. The girl was pretty, with long lean legs in a dress as short as Zero’s and panty free. She made it a point to bend, stretch and squat down pretending to be reading a label. Her mother wasn’t blind, she watched while I got flashed, smirk on her face. As I approached, the girl stood in front of her mother, pulled up the hem to show me the bare slit, biting one corner of her lip seductively.
As I passed, mom said, ‘She’s beautiful isn’t she?’
I said, ‘Stunning,’ and moved on to the checkout, the girl giggling her excitement.
More evidence that anything that can happen eventually will.
Zero gets situated in the room, I call an Uber, collect the rental, a Toyota Erratic, no matter which way you go, it wants to go the opposite way, think of a teenager. I return to the hotel.
Zero, ‘I took a walk through the hotel, didn’t flash anyone but I got a couple of wonderfully gratifying stares from two teenage boys.’
‘They follow you?’
‘No, they looked, didn’t approach or try to start a conversation, I went to the far elevator and met no one. The hall was empty on our floor.’
‘We need to do a bit of surveillance, get into your work clothes.’
We organize, then to the Toyota, ‘We check out his place, you have the address?’
Zero, ‘Yep, take a left, I’ll tell you where to turn next, it’s on the other side of town, small apartment complex, only four apartments…what do they call it?’
We get to the fourplex, the rest of the block is a small park. If you divide the block into quadrants, the building is one quadrant, the park the other three. There is, not surprisingly, an absence of children’s playground equipment, no swings, no slide, only a few concrete tables and benches. A dozen oak trees that have clearly been here a while, oaks grow slowly, these have height and large canopies. The only signs of life are birds and squirrels.
Zero, ‘I wonder, are all the apartments offenders?’
‘I doubt it, at least if our CI theory is true. If he rats others living in the same building, he gives himself a problem. It is possible he rats other offenders, just not the ones in his building. Or, more likely, he’s providing information about offenders who haven’t been caught yet. Why would the cops need a CI for sex offenders already in the registry?’
‘To find out if they’re still stalking. And the CI theory is only a theory, we don’t know that he’s telling tales at all.’
‘Doesn’t matter I suppose, or maybe it does. What if he’s leading police to suspects? Are we making it worse for kids who get raped by as yet unknown child predators?’
Zero, ‘I hadn’t thought of that, what now?’
‘Surveillance is surveillance, we need a piece of equipment, find a store that sells listening devices.’
Long fingers tap away, like most young people, she’s good with the phone. It would take me twice as long, I have big hands unaccustomed to small screens with tiny letters.
‘Guns, surveillance equipment, a whole spy store. Five miles.’
We get to the store, Private I, ‘Wait here, a guy alone is one thing, a guy in a shop like this with a ten year old girl is memorable.’
I go in, the clerk is knowledgeable, I tell him I want good equipment, he guides me to the top shelf stuff. Some of those seemed like overkill with dishes larger than I want for our purposes. In the end, I get one that uses a twelve inch parabolic dish and headphones. A voice recorder that plugs into the device and a crash course in bugs in case I want to plant something inside. Finally, a bug detector which we currently have no use for, but I figure it might come in handy. If I go in to plant a bug, it might be helpful to know if the place is already bugged.
In the car again, I hand her the boxes, ‘Figure it out and we’ll go someplace to test it.’
We pass a baseball diamond, it’s wide open, I pull over.
‘I’ll walk to the other side and talk in a normal voice, looks to be fifty or sixty yards.’
I talk to myself the whole way, get to the far side still babbling, then return.
Zero, ‘Awesome, got every word,’ she plays the recorder, I can hear me loud and clear reciting a list of things we buy at the grocery.
‘One more test, I’ll park down the street from a convenience store or coffee shop, whatever comes up. Point the dish and let’s see if we can distinguish voices.’
The device is supposed to be good for a hundred yards, but that’s open space, like the ball field.
Convenience store comes along first. She points the dish, fiddles with knobs, we hear a customer buy lottery tickets, the clerk says good luck, have a nice day. A man’s voice says there’s a stack of beer that needs to go in the cooler, than another male voice getting twenty bucks worth on pump two.
‘Good enough. We can’t listen to our target from a hundred yards, but if we get to forty like we are here, we should pick up something.’
Zero, ‘If you ever leave while I entertain a girl, you can take this thing and sit outside, get yourself all worked up.’
I laugh, ‘You think of the most bizarre things.’
‘Part of my charm.’