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. Terminal Island


In this game you’re always on the move. It’s like fighting a fire: stay ahead of the flames, don’t trust the floor, and don’t leave anything smoldering—kill it dead. But no matter how careful you are, there is always an element of chaos. Or fate, if you prefer, in which case we’re both just actors on some cosmic stage. Do you believe in free will? Lord knows there were many times I kicked myself for taking on this thing, but I couldn’t stop. That’s government work for you, though: always just a little too good to pass up. As a private contractor you can’t always count on a steady paycheck. But this has become more than a job to me; as they say in the movies, this time it’s personal.

You know how many people I’ve killed to find you? How many fanatics and fools have tried to stop me? Dead fools, now. But you people are like heads on a Hydra: cut one off and five more pop up. That’s okay, I like a challenge. You might say I was born for this work. Your mistake is that you forgot about me; you got too comfortable. You got old.

Hell of a place you have here, hell of a place. Look at that view! Did you think nobody could find you out here? Or have you been looking out over the ocean all these years wondering when somebody like me was going to finally show up at the door? I bet you have. Look at you: I bet you’ve hardly gone outside in twenty years—you’re a ghost. That’s why it’s such a tomb in here, isn’t it? You’ve gotten to like the dark, you and her, living like bugs under a rock, surrounding yourselves with this freakshow that would give anyone the creeps. You’ve turned paradise into your own private nightmare, you dumb shit. Open the curtains for God’s sake, let in some sun. Sorry to hurt your eyes. Take a breath of fresh air in case it’s your last.

Believe it or not, I’m a pacifist by nature, but I’m not afraid of a little blood—you can’t be squeamish in this business, and I been doing it a long time, long enough to know that the human body is a flimsy sack of guts, all too easily ruptured and spilled, and the sooner you remind a man of this, the sooner he is likely to be forthcoming with useful information.

Also it doesn’t hurt to look like I do. This face has a tendency to make little children cry…and sometimes grown men, too. That’s why I like having a teenage girl make my phone appointments—it makes some guys more inclined to take a meeting, if you know what I mean. You spoke to my assistant, didn’t you? I call her my own personal Siren—that sweet voice has lured a lot of sailors onto the rocks. You’re not the first. They get all decked out like schoolboys about to lose their cherry, and it’s amazing how the blood goes out of their faces when they find me waiting for them—you can just about see their nuts shrivel up inside their bodies. Usually it doesn’t take much more than that to get them talking a blue streak.

Others require more persuasion.

Only thing I don’t like about this work is when tax time rolls around. It’s always a pain in the ass, what with all the travel expenses, vouchers, receipts, you name it, and I particularly don’t like having to define what I do for a living. Like most bald guys, I wear a lot of hats. In any given year I might pick up a few bucks working someplace like Iraq or Sierra Leone, or maybe I’ll handle personal security for some dignitary or corporate hotshot, or I’ll do a little private investigative work for select clients in the higher echelons of our government—a little headhunting.

I guess you’d know about that.

Is this what my parents died for, this little ivory statue? Is this your good luck charm? Your people out there seem to think so—they swore I’d never get near you while you had this thing. Did you also think it was protecting you? That’s a shame. Anyway, it’s mine now, my own American idol. And while we’re at it I also need names. I need you to I.D. these faces for me. I need phone contacts and offshore account numbers and file access codes. I need cold hard facts—solid evidence of everything you people are doing out here, the whole sick playbook. It’s the only way you’re gonna outlive your wife.

You may think that these things won’t be admissible in court, fruit of a poisoned tree and all that, but we’re not following strict legal channels here. I’m just a private citizen doing his patriotic duty. Consider it a family matter. As for the old lady, she shouldn’t have tried to cut me—I don’t like to kill senior citizens, not even ghouls like her.

So talk, old man. Speak to your long-lost nephew. Unburden yourself while you still can. I’m giving you five seconds to decide, and then I tape your mouth and flick on the old Zippo. Your next chance won’t be for ten long minutes. Yes? No?

Time’s up.

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