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Today's Story by Peter Lingard

A great killer. My ego swelled and my life found focus.

The Dead of Night

I had a wretched childhood and I have become a wretched man.  I survived a violent upbringing in foster homes where I was nothing more than an unpaid slave.  My life on the streets started at fourteen and meant taking to crime.  I learned the power of superiority gained through cold, calculated forcefulness.  At seventeen, a magistrate offered me the military as a final option.  “Join up and grow up, or be sentenced as an adult,” she said.

During recruit training, I used violence judiciously.  Not wanting to cross instructors, I did just enough to earn their praise during killing games until one of them, a sergeant, realised I was holding back.

“Let’s you and me get it on,” he challenged.  “Let’s see what you can do.” I hesitated, believing victory would bring me a world of problems.  “That’s an order,” he told me with a grin.

“What happens if I win?”

“Nothing bad.  We might send you for some advanced training in martial arts, is all.”

I didn’t have the sergeant’s fancy moves but I kept him at a distance for a while and even got in a few licks.  When he pinned me to the ground, he asked, “That enough?”

“No,” I spat as I got his arm away from my throat and reversed our positions.

When I had him pinned, he laughed.  “That’s enough for me,” he said.  “When you finish basic training, you’re off on that special course.  The guys there ‘ll turn you into a great killer.  Now, let me up”

A great killer.  My ego swelled and my life found focus.

Five of us took the course.  Three returned to their units before completion.  The OIC said I’d achieved the highest respect of all the instructors and he looked forward to me returning one day to join his team. It’d be a cold day.  I spent time on active service before being seconded to a special unit.

The poems and songs about our private thoughts in the deep of night are insipidly short of my truth.  Sinatra sang of regrets, too few to mention. What drivel!  My regrets are bouncing off the walls of my mind tonight.  And I think I can hide beneath this blanket?

Women I loved do not quite number among my regrets, but they have forced themselves in tonight.

I loved fellow orphan, Maggie.  Well, I thought it was love.  Maybe it had to do with the fact she never challenged me.  “Calm down,” she’d say.  “I’m on your side.”  Maybe there was a bit of a mother thing going on, too.

She found a good foster home and learned to appreciate aspects of life I scorned.  She lived close enough for us to continue seeing each other.  I’d half walk, half run the thirteen plus miles to the house where she lived. We’d go into a local park and she’d ask what had happened since we were last together and tell me off for things I’d done.  That would make me grin and she’d say I was a hopeless case and then we would love.  I believed she had feelings for me until the day she told me of her acceptance at a distant

“Sorry, but this is my chance, and from now on we’ll be going in opposite directions,” she said.  “Have fun playing soldier.  I’m going up in the world.”

She was my world.

Jan had a blue teardrop tattooed on her left breast and was the sexiest woman I have known.  I fell for her admiration of my toughness.  She persuaded me to settle old scores for her and pushed me to expand her boundaries.  When I said “Enough”, she pulled the plug on us because she thought I was aloof.  Me!  When I argued the point, she said maybe I was too cool for her.  I should have put her in touch with Maggie.  I was so shallow, I came away from the relationship thinking I’d added ‘cool’ to my persona.

Penelope wore white blouses and longish skirts and kept her breasts hidden. I was impressed by her speech and silky hair and nice perfume.  When I think of her now, I realise I was a challenge to her.  Because I was vague about what I did, she grew to believe she could reform me, have me wear a three-piece suit and earn money in an office.  I convinced her that the army were not about to release me from my contract and she said they must because she could not help believing I cheated on her when I was away.  If she had known what I really did on those trips, the imagined other women would have become a minor issue.  She cried and said she was sorry, but would forever
wonder who I was with whenever I was absent.  I declined to argue my case, because a woman who refused to trust me could become a dangerous liability.

If only I could have told them what I really did for Queen and country. Maggie was the one person with whom I could have shared some of my deeds. The approval of someone I cared about would have made a difference to my life but, as that was not possible, I realised I had to rid myself of all emotional baggage.  Once I formulated that idea, acting on it was easy.  I had been working on it since the day I was born.

When I told clinging Miriam I was moving on, she hit back by angrily prophesying I would die alone.  Control freak, Jennifer surprised herself with an unplanned pregnancy with which, I later learned, she persisted.

Music lover, Caroline tried to introduce me to recreational drugs and Cecelia asked if I would mind if she experimented with others, including women, in order to define her sexuality.

Tabitha was useful because she provided an off-base home and the ccompanying comforts.  She reluctantly took my course in how to give the perfect blowjob but when I suggested she might want to swallow my issue, she went apoplectic and swore of all but missionary sex.  Sometime later, I learned from an acquaintance of an acquaintance that Tabby had been pregnant when I left her and had given birth to twins.  I treated the intelligence with suspicion.

Evelyn believed that ‘giving me her virginity’ irrevocably led to the altar. I told her that, if she felt that way, she should have kept her legs together until her wedding night.  She said she would have done so, had I not convinced her of my undying love.  It therefore followed, she claimed, that I had raped her, ‘just as surely as you held a gun to my head’.  I suggested she see a solicitor about it.

All loved me and all are gone.  In most cases, the reason for me to end the relationship was so trivial that on nights like this, when they come to visit, I am unable to retrieve a soul-saving excuse.

As I go deeper into the darkness, I see a procession of the faces of men I have killed.  I was only twenty-two when my employers sent me to assassinate an African upstart who thought he could murder everyone standing between him and the presidency of his gold-rich country.

In Colombia, I injected a massive overdose of heroin into the arm of a drug dealer who had aspirations of ultimate power.

I caused an overweight German racist to suffer a fatal heart attack.  I garrotted a genocidal general in Rwanda.  An American gunrunner in Trucial Oman swallowed poison as he drank with me.

An Irish thug who killed his own and left evidence to implicate the English government cried like a baby before I doused his lights in the Liffey.  An anonymous right-wing powerbroker spat in my face, but it was the last thing he did.

I recall the invitation to a private box at a London football stadium where the only other occupant was a general who suggested I would be more valuable to certain people if I were a civilian.  My skills were in great demand and the pay would be much better.  He handed me my five passports, knowing I would accept them.  I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

As I sink deeper into the night, I curl in my shoulders.  My breath labours.

I had the option of turning down any job I did not like.  Having such a choice meant there were other assassins; people who could end my life should I cross, or not cross, some unknown line.  The knowledge brought me the realisation of how vulnerable I had become since leaving the army.  I was totally alone; nobody would miss me if I ceased to exist.  From then on, I never left a woman away unless I had a new one in place.

In the silent movie my memory plays, faces of people I have killed for someone’s gain make me shudder.

Surely, someone mourned when the bungee cord tied to the ankles of the young woman snapped.  She was a lonely soul who would not accept a silent partner in her successful business and for that, a multi-millionaire with a different agenda wanted her dead.  At her funeral, that bastard was full of regret for ‘a tragically shortened life’ and swore to make it his mission to look after the business that was the woman’s life-work, if her executors would grant him permission.

An Arab terrorist appeared to have flown through the windshield of his crashed car.  The Mossad needed deniability in the death of a Jewish militant who refused to vacate surrendered land.  The man’s wife prepared dinner for me before I blew the couple and their house to smithereens.

I despatched many drug dealers, blackmailers, businessmen and politicians to their respective Gods.  It took me a year to erase eleven unindictable leaders of a worldwide paedophile ring.

My lowest point involved snuffing out the beautiful actress who decided she needed periodic compensation for bedding an aged Prime Minister.  She promised me all kinds of favours if I would let her live.  It is amazing how ardent a woman’s favours can be when she believes her life depends on her performance.  The memory of her forced and frightened smile fills me with toxic shame.

I pull up my blanket, hug my convulsing body and sink further into the night.

My last job was to arrange the death by seemingly natural causes of a cabinet minister whose deteriorating mind had turned him into a murderer. The scandal of an arrest and trial were an unacceptable option for the government.  My arrogance allowed him close enough to plunge a knife into my side.  The resultant medical treatment revealed I have a body riddled with cancer.  The disease is an even more efficient killer than I am.

According to the quack, I needed to clear up my affairs within the next two months. What affairs?  I am a forty-eight year-old man with nothing and no one, and I am pathetically aware that Miriam’s prophecy has proved to be true. Miriam.  How could she have foretold that I would forever be unable to cultivate an honest and lasting relationship?  If I could live my life over, I would swim in all the love I received and rejected.  No, I would immerse myself in it – sink below the emotional surface and never rise above it again.  How often I carelessly destroyed what I now crave.

Only now, when I am dying, have I bothered to remember that I have three offspring, even if they do not have me.  I secretly watched Michael the artist, and kindergarten teachers Anne and Juliet because I could not face them and explain who I am and what I have been.  Perhaps I was reluctant to face myself.

When I started to earn sizable fees for my work, I hired a woman to invest my money for me and she has made me financially comfortable.  I have most of the trappings money can buy but they have not relieved my loneliness.  The woman will ensure my children each receive an equal share of my anonymous estate and my conscience is somewhat soothed by knowing I will ease their lives.

The mood that made me check on my children lasted long enough for me to trace Maggie.  Her marriage to a suburban doctor and frequent fines for speeding made her easy to find.  The husband and wife routine failed years ago and she now lives with her two teenage children in a small country town.

Her boy has my name.  When I discovered her situation, I spent some time romanticising how things might have been.  Perhaps, after she had proven herself academically, she could have accepted me, for she knew of my dark teenage deeds.  Perhaps she could have borne my three children.  Perhaps I could be living with her in the house surrounded by green lawns and a white picket fence.  Perhaps pigs might fly and such warm thoughts, such a soft life, would not have led to an even earlier demise.

Twenty minutes ago, I took a decent dose of the poison I used on the Yankee gunrunner.

Not long now.  Damn, my bones are cold.  I haul the blanket higher and expose my feet.  To hell with it.  To hell with me!  It’s time … time to go to the night’s deepest darkness … time…


Peter Lingard (plingaus@bigpond.com), born a Brit, sold ice cream on railway stations, worked as a bank clerk, delivered milk, labored in a large dairy, served in Her Britannic Majesty’s Corps of Royal Marines and ‘bounced’ leery customers in a London clip-joint.  He lived in the US for a while and owned a freight forwarding business in New York.  He came to Australia because the sun often shines here and Australians are a positive people who speak English.  Peter is a member of the Caulfield Writers Group and Phoenix House Writers.  He has had 40+ short stories and several poems published.  A novel in three parts is finished and he is currently looking for a publisher.

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