Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Last Thing, Part I

Cray stares at Drew, studying his partner's face. They've been together for years, not really out of any sort of friendship, merely the acknowledgment of the other's competence. Cray is slightly older, just on the other side of 60. Drew has a couple of years left before he enters that particular decade.

"You talk too much," Cray prods, taking a sip of his beer. It's horrible what they call beer in this facade of a country, but he always imbibes in local product. It keeps him from smelling different out in the field. The best killers, he's well aware, can smell their prey.

"I'll tone down my loquaciousness." It is a joke, of course. Drew speaks only when necessary or, as is the current case, when Cray's ribbing provides an easy response. Drew knows that his friend needs two-way conversation once in a while. Ever since the blunder in the Ukraine, Drew has no desire to see Cray have an hour-long conversation with himself ever again.

"Nah, it's all good. Just tone up your alcoholism."

"You talk too much."

Cray holds up his beer in an empty cheers gesture. Drew quit drinking a decade ago. Not that it's helped his disposition any.

***

"You know, Cray," Drew whispered through his drunk haze, startling his friend. "I think I'm gonna give up the drink."

"I need to write this down."

"That I'm quitting drinking?"

"Fuck, no. That you spoke without being spoken to."

***

"Why aren't you practicing your Urdu?" Cray's speech is slurring, which annoys Drew more than the question.

"My Urdu is worse than your Russian."

"That's why you practice," Cray starts in Urdu. He pauses, thinks about something, then - realizing he doesn't know a specific translation - finishes in English, "dipshit."

Drew pretends to ignore Cray. It is a convincing gesture that only prompts Cray to ramble on.

"What happened to blending in, Drew?" Cray's not sure if he said that in English or not.

"Two old white guys sitting in a cafe in Karachi. What difference does it make if we speak Urdu?" Drew's eyes never settle on any one identifiable thing, but Cray knows that his friend's attention is on the entrance. "How late is this guy?"

Cray starts laughing loudly and Drew noticeably cringes. Drew hates having attention drawn to him, but he's almost learned to live with it over the past 30-odd years.

Cray starts counting his empty bottles. He manages to get to three before a waiter brings a fresh drink and takes the bottles off the table. "However many beers ago Yousaf just took away."

"You'd think you'd learn to use a watch by now."

"There's no time like Miller time."

Drew allows a small laugh. Except, he thinks, when it's crunch time.

***

"God, I love Rio," Cray exclaimed as three women who temporarily made him forget his infatuation with Helen Mirren strolled by the park bench he and Drew were sitting on.

"Keep your mind in the game," Drew scolded, eyeing two approaching strangers in business suits. "She's late."

The strangers stopped a few feet away from the two Americans and made their intention clear. "La mujer está muerta." The woman is dead.

Drew turned and scanned the rest of the park. These strangers had at least three more friends scattered throughout the area. Stupid, Drew. Stupid fucking mistake.

"Well, shit," Cray muttered. "Crunch time."

Drew's temporary anger with himself faded with Cray's smile. As annoying as Cray is, there's little as amazing to Drew as watching Cray ply his trade.

By the time it was over, Drew had killed two and Cray, five - Cray had spotted two that Drew had missed. Cray hadn't rubbed it in like he usually did, though. Drew needed to be in the best of moods to bribe the corrupt Rio police about seven minutes later.

***

But that was years ago, and Drew doubts they can pull anything even remotely that insane off anymore. Luck is a game for the young to play, and even though Cray is certainly still among the best in his field, age and alcohol are not things to bring to the table. That their reputations - when dealing with the increasingly fewer numbers of those who've actually heard of them - allow them to hide behind an occasional bluff has been what's saved their asses over the last few years.

At least, that's what Drew thinks. Cray has a different theory. "It ever occur to you we're just that damned good, Drew?" Cray would say. But Cray's a dreamer, a romantic. Drew knows better. That they've lived this long is nothing short of a miracle. The quantity of dead friends - a number both lost count of long ago - is more than proof of that. And, in light of Drew's lung cancer, it is a quantity he knows he is sure to join soon.

Secretly, it is a matter that upsets Drew with Cray. Cray still smokes like a chimney, whereas Drew quit smoking when he quit drinking. How fair is that? But he can't stay mad at Cray for long. Never could and probably never will be able to. After all, Drew didn't have to ask Cray twice to come with him when news of the disappearance of Drew's grandson and granddaughter arrived. Didn't have to ask at all, actually. Cray had finished packing before Drew even hung up the phone.

Drew's never met his grandchildren in person; his daughter wouldn't allow it. He would feign anger whenever Cray sent him covertly-acquired video footage or taped phone calls of Amy and Brandon, but they are the best gifts anyone has ever given him.

He shakes the thought, reminding himself that there are details that need attention. They're effectively in the open here and a whole lot of people are looking for them, the US State Department included. "We need to go," Drew says, tapping his drunk-asleep friend until Cray's eyes open.

"Last call?"

"Closing time. He's not coming." Drew helps Cray to his feet then guides him towards the entrance. They just exit when a voice calls out.

"Where the Hell are you old bastards going?"

*To be continued...

6 comments:

  1. These two are interesting. It is interesting with the use of flash-backs the time spent seems so very long, considering, we were only with these guys a few minutes in real time. -j

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  2. "Just tone up your alcoholism" haha . . OK

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  3. Ah, evidence of reincarnation, perhaps.

    I like this a lot. I did have a little trouble following at times: who was speaking, who was older, who was the drinker, who was sick, who was taciturn and who loquacious, etc. A bit more background might help with that.

    But I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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  4. is this what they based the andy griffith show on?

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  5. Didn't Liam Neeson just finish this movie as a solo?

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