WINTER 2013 (Issue 77)

Dean Keller Jacobs


Rule 1: Do not ask questions.

Rule 2: Rely on people’s stupidity.

Think about this: In a car moving 70 mph, what do you see in a forest, even if you’re looking? Treetree. Tree. Tree. Tree. Treetreetree. Slow to 25, what do you see? Tree. Bramble. Tree. Poison ivy. Tree. Treetreetree. The wood seems dead. But go sit in that wood and you’ll begin to see other things, start to hear the birds and insects and the sound of dead branches creaking against live ones. You’ll hear something rustle bushes. You’ll start, only to realize that the noise came from something small enough to fit in the palm of your hand with room to spare—a squirrel, a sparrow, a skink. You’ll smile and shake your head.

When you drive by the forest, what’re the chances you see hunters’ blinds? Even when you walk through the forest, if the blind is situated in a tree, you probably won’t see it. Really, you’re no smarter than the average game animal. You don’t look up. You think you’re the top predator, even if you’ve never hunted a day in your life. Average person’s brains are just wired that way.

Most likely, you are not above average. But.

The point: you’re driving. You’ve got your eyes focused on the road, maybe on the traffic around you. Or, more likely, your cell phone or passenger, or both. You don’t see my blinds. My blinds are not always traditional blinds. I’ll give you a hint: I-10 bridge, Louisiana. I-95 Maryland. Window of a hotel near the 405. Or somewhere closer.

Rule 3: Change positions and caliber.

The occasional stray bullet during hunting season, no one thinks much about. A drive-by. Road rage. Gang violence.

You’re thinking to yourself: guns are registered. You can trace
a gun from the marks on the bullets.

You watch too many TV crime shows. This is what’s real:

There is not an unlimited budget in the real world.

There is little communication between police in different states.

Guns can be bought on the black market.

And some guns—shot guns, for instance—cannot be traced. Sorry to disappoint. That being said, I do not use a shot gun. Too much scatter. Unprofessional.

What should scare you more: even if the police managed to trace me, people more powerful than your local pigs would step in. Information can disappear. Information does disappear.

Rule 4: Always have an alias & alibi.

Layer 1: name and disguise.

Layer 2: back story.

Layer 3: identification papers.

Layer 4: a network of people willing to say they know the person created in layers 1-3.

Target in range. Focus.

Rule 5: Think of it as fishing.

Rule 6: Relax.

Crosshair on the white Buick, older model, maybe mid-2000s. Focus.

Breathe out. Focus.

Squeeze trigger between heartbeats.

Watch the car fill with red.

Lower the gun.

Watch the car swerve.

Watch other cars swerve.

Rule 7: Collateral damage happens.

Rear-facing baby seat in the back. Three car pile-up.

Rule 8: Targets are always just targets.

No name. Almost never an age or gender. Only a description of the automobile or a radar blip or a mechanical voice in my headset. Never all at once. Just one.

I cannot make a mistake, cannot hesitate. Hesitation suggests weakness. I make the hit, I go to a hotel. I have no home, but I have a wife and four-year-old boy waiting at home for me. When I’m with them, I tell them about selling textbooks, about how much life on the road sucks, how much I missed them. I know nothing about selling textbooks. I don’t hate life on the road.

On the road, sometimes I screw a whore, sometimes a gal from a townie bar. When I do, I wonder what her number is.

I don’t ask. I don’t really want to know.

Rule 9: Everyone has a number.

I met the wife at a bar—a night club, really. Five years ago. Flashing dance floor. Fake IDs, both of us. She was nineteen, I was seventeen. I was not supposed to get involved with locals. The mission: practice surveillance. Watch the bartender. He was the mission. But.

She wore a little maroon dress, blonde hair swept up. She played darts with two other gals. I bought them drinks. She ordered a shot of tequila. Top shelf. She took the shot, aimed her dart, bulls-eye. When she laughs, she looks surprised.

Usually I sleep alone. It’s easier that way. Less to explain. Less on my conscience. I don’t enjoy cheating on the wife, you understand. I love her.

Money enters my account, the one the wife doesn’t know about. And I transfer $3,000 twice a month, more than I’d make selling text books. The wife does not ask questions. Perhaps she doesn’t know how little salesmen make. She’s a nice gal. Maybe she doesn’t want to know. My boy goes to a private preschool. That makes the wife happy. Happy people don’t ask many questions.

Targets are always just targets. Except.

My first hit, eight years ago, greater Chicago: a nursing home attendant. White guy in his early twenties. Baby-faced. A little overweight, getting in his car at the end of a shift.

Targets are always just targets. Except.

Highway snipe on the Jersey turnpike last October, during Friday night rush. .30-.06. My preferred caliber. Turned on the news that evening. Movie star murdered. One of the humanitarian types, did a lot of good bringing clean water into poor nations. Sixteen other people died in the pile-up. Shit. One of the wife’s favorite actors.

Collateral damage.

Usually I prefer highway snipes.

Sometimes an 18-wheeler is involved. The best time: when hogs too fat to walk rolled across the road. Watch a car hit a hog at 70 mph and see what I mean.

Highway snipes are impersonal.

Couple of times, a semi carrying gasoline slammed into pile-ups. Cars exploded. One of the semis was in the Rockies, California side. An early start to wildfire season.

Targets are always just targets. Except.

Once, I killed a little girl my boy’s age.

My radar told me she was the target. No mistake, not with the tracking chips planted in civilians. She had dark skin and dark eyes and dark hair pulled into corn rows and held a bouquet of dandelions. She was alone. On the playground. Sitting on the end of the slide. Drive-by.

I wondered if she liked Scooby Doo. My boy loves Scooby.

Targets are always just targets.

Her death barely blipped the news. No pictures.

She had chubby cheeks.

I’d have sent her parents a card, dropped anonymously in a mailbox from wherever I needed to make the next hit, if I’d known their names.

Targets are always just targets.

That was six months ago.

In bed, that night at the hotel, I imagined what the wife would do if it were our boy. I imagined the wife crying. My boy. Made my stomach jump. I imagined not being there. I imagined the wife crying and me not being there to hold her. I imagined what would happen if I just quit. I cannot quit. I love my job. But.

Targets are always just targets.

Sometimes I hate my job.

I hesitated before I squeezed the trigger.

.30-06, too much power for that little girl. Wouldn’t have picked it if I’d known.

You think I’m a psychopath. I understand. Maybe I am. But. There are more like me. Many more. I do not know how many. I do not know them. We trained alone. We act alone. In the end, we’re all alone.

Try to find the comfort in that.

I keep looking for it.

You’ve seen the news. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed the uptick in murders, in accidental deaths, in AIDS and flu viruses and severe forms of diabetes. These things are not coincidence. Population culling. We pick off the weak, the ones who should not reproduce, leave the ones best able to survive the in the new world.

The new world is coming. It will be a difficult birth.

It’s not just happening here.

Operation Cavefish.

That tracking chip I mentioned? That’s not the half of it.

A few strokes on a keyboard, you’ve got Ebola Zaire. That’s the big one. Kills 9 out of 10. Believe me, you’d rather someone like me picks you off. Bleeding out—blood streaming out of every opening on your body, including your pores—that’s not pleasant. If you live, you’ll wish you hadn’t.

What makes it brilliant: even if you live, you’ll take out almost everyone around you.

Or you’ll end up with a fast-acting dementia. Three weeks and you’re done. Or Marburg aka Ebola lite. Or Brooklyn Heights herpes—yeah, that’s the one you’ve been hearing about recently, the one that cripples you with pain, the one with sores that spread all over your body, the one that affects your brain. Or polio. Or myocardial degeneration.

Operation Cavefish.

Half the population in the next five years, gone.

Big pharma works for us. Expect higher drug prices. Expect the supply of antipsychotics to disappear. You’ll see more depressives and run-of-the-mill crazies. Expect violence. Expect contamination in insulin and antiretroviral drugs and anti-rejection drugs.


Sometimes the wife texts updates about my boy. He’s starting to read.

You know, Marines say they’re the few, the proud. They ain’t got shit on Cavefishers. We’re faster, stronger, smarter. Part genetic manipulation. Part pure training.

Your military will not protect you. Most will be retired. Yes, that is a euphemism. A few are part of the system. They definitely will not protect you. Neither will your second amendment.

Rule 10: The rules can and will change without notice.

Targets are just targets. Targets are fourteen digit serial numbers. Everyone’s got one.

The wife and my boy are safe until my number is up. That’s the agreement.

My number might be up next. But.

The government spent nearly eighteen years and a couple million bucks training me. They pay me fifteen grand a month. That’s right, a month. I’m twenty-three. What have they spent on you?

Just something to think about.

People always get out of their cars at the scene. Someone usually screams. Someone always vomits. I see signs of shock: wavering footsteps, licking lips, sitting down. Sometimes I imagine I see the wife. I imagine her pressing firmly on the wound. She took all sorts of basic aid training when she got pregnant. I imagine a stranger’s blood covering her blouse, her hands, her face. Makes me hard. I imagine her crying over a stranger.

Couple weeks ago, I killed a neighbor. Woman with the two labradoodles. Ridiculous dogs. The wife said her name was Tammy Hayworth. I was in Cleveland, at a text book convention. The wife said it happened in broad daylight, single bullet, hollow-tipped. The wife thinks our neighborhood is dangerous. She doesn’t like my boy to play outside. Wants to move.

Picking people off at the scene would be easy. Fish in a barrel, waiting for a Cavefish. A fisher of men. I want to take my boy fishing. A father should take his boy fishing. Maybe this weekend.

Sometimes my finger itches for the trigger. But I watch. These civilians are not the targets. You are not the target. Not yet.