Mike Wistersheshenham scanned the diner. Four men, three women, three children…Quickly he calculated their average ages and deduced their socio-economic groups; then, he deduced each of their last names and wrote his first name with each deduced last name on a napkin. Were any of them agents? Was he getting paranoid so long after leaving the agency? A waiter put a cup of coffee in front of him. Mike speared his adam’s apple with a finger strike and stashed the unconscious individual under the table. Just like ‘Nam, he thought to himself, Charlie made coffee alright. But, when they made coffee, they got the same treatment from Mike: A good strike to the throat and some kinda nihilistic wisecrack as they lay in the dirt gasping for breath. He must’ve killed thirty or forty Vietnamese after wandering off from the tour group.
But, that was then…Sure, he still only had two instincts: To kill and to compile instantaneous statistics on rooms full of people. In a flash, he counted the number of eyes plus the number of noses in the room and, then, divided by three. Why did he have a remainder?
His waiter crawled out from under his table, still gasping for breath. Mike Wistersheshenham considered spearing his adam’s apple again, as an apology. He decided, instead, not to draw attention to himself. He paid for his coffee with a dollar bill that had been soaked in kerosene and set afire. He walked out of the diner without waiting for his change.
Blend, he told himself, blend. Become one with the crowd, that’s what his old master had taught him. He’d been in the temple for eight…no, ten…no…wait…eight years. He’d been out of college for two years and then, his cousin joined the coast guard, so he’d attended the graduation; then, the temple and when he got out his sister-in-law had just had her second child…No one wanted a white man to train in the ninja arts back then. Training was difficult, nearly impossible. For his first six months his only task was to carve a Buddha into solid granite with his nose and shins. When he’d completed it, they were astonished. No one, they told him, had been stupid enough to even attempt it. It was just a hazing mechanism. But, Mike thrived on challenges. Once, as a child, he had even trained a rabbit to prepare rhubarb for pie. You over-sugared it, his mother told him, but, your crust is good.
In his mind’s eye, he could see his mother. A strong, fashionable woman with two heads. What would she think now?, Mike asked himself as he walked through the rainy night, oh and blend…
Suddenly, instinct took over and Mike threw himself to one side, bouncing off the brick wall of a town home and landing at the threshold of a basement apartment. He lay motionless until everyone had passed. Followed? But, by whom? There was no time to consider motives; instinct took over. Grabbing the railing of the cement steps in front of him, he vaulted over and landed on the sidewalk. He scanned the area around him. No people…eleven doors, sixty windows…curtains on forty of the windows…
He was sure that someone had been behind him. If they were painted the same color as the sidewalk, they’d be very hard to see, he reasoned. Charlie’d do that, he muttered.
“Mr. Wistersheshenham?”, a voice inquired behind him. Mike spun around and, before he could think, he struck. He speared the man’s genitals with his fingertips and broke a floating rib with a hard knife hand. As he raised up for the killing blow, he recognized the man from the agency. He must have a message.
“Mike Wistersheshenham?”, the man inquired, barely showing signs of the traumatic injuries that he’d just received.
“That’s me”, answered Mike. The man handed Mike an envelope. As Mike fumbled to open it, the man said,
“They told me you’d spear my testicles AND break a rib. They also told me that you wouldn’t kill me. They’ve got your psych. profile down pat”. Mike nodded as he scanned the letter.
“Tell Ahem and Buck to coitus themselves. I don’t play that game any more”, Mike handed the letter back to the man for shredding.
“They knew that you’d turn them down”, he pulled another envelope from his pocket, “They told me to give you this”. Mike opened the next envelope.
“There’s nothing but gum wrappers and toe-nail clippings in here!”
The man grinned, “They knew you’d say that”. He handed Mike another envelope. Mike glared at the man as he opened it.
“There’s nothing in this one, at all”, Mike exclaimed. The man reached into his inside coat pocket. Mike stayed his hand. “How many envelopes did they give you?”, he asked him.
“A whole bunch of ‘em. I’m supposed to give you a knowing look with each one. It’s all explained in this envelope”
“These are just the lyrics to My Funny Valentine”
“Maybe this one will explain-“
“Forget it!”, Mike exploded, “I’ll meet with them. Where and when?”
“At the disco on Seventh Street. Sixteen-thirty tomorrow”
“Why thirty minutes before happy hour? Why not during happy hour? It’s not like we’re going to sit around after discussing some world threatening imminent catastrophe, then, wait twenty minutes for drink prices to go down. This is precisely why I left the agency…”. But, Mike was talking to empty night. The mysterious man had vanished.