Friday, October 07, 2005

Body Guard

The McFab compound. Ops Centre. Recently.
I was stretched out on my army-issue cot, checking out the latest issue of Soldier of Fortune and...Well, doing what came naturally. I was thoroughly engrossed in an article about armour-piercing ammo when the hot phone rang. I didn't want to, but I stopped, cleaned myself up, and answered--the hot phone is my mercenary line, used only for calls from people responding to my ads in various military-related publications. Duty first.
"This is the Colonel," I answered. "Talk."
"Uh, yeah...Hey there," a strong southern accent said. "I'm callin' about your ad in Cat Fancy. Mercenary for hire."
"Never heard of it," I said.
"But...The ad had this number..."
"Correct. I was testing you. What's the job?"
"Well, my name's Ham Rasher, and I need me a bodyguard."
Ham Rasher! The bacon king of East Carolina! The man owned over forty hog-processing plants, and had recently opened a restaurant chain, Saturated Pat's. He was loaded, and then some. This could be big.
"You called the right man," I said. "If you want to stay alive, that is."
"Well, yeah, I was considerin' it. Y'see, they's some folks out there--believe they're called E-co terrists--don't like the way we do bidness. I been gettin' way more death threats than usual."
I had heard all about it. Rasher's processing plants had come under fire from terrorist groups like PETA and the SPCA because of the methods they used for slaughtering hogs. Unlike traditional processors, Rasher had pioneered the method of playing Christian rock music to the animals until they voluntarily commited suicide. It was cruel, yes, but it was a hell of a lot cheaper than traditional means, and had made Rasher rich. I'm a merc, though--my morality is money, and I wasn't gonna let a little animal cruelty keep me from a big score.
"I don't come cheap," I said.
"Money ain't no object," Rasher said. "I got plenny o' that."
"Ten bucks an hour," I said. "Plus meals."
He haggled me down to seven, and it was agreed. I was back on the job.

The Rasher estate. 1400 hrs.
The name of the mansion was spelled out in the intricate wrought-iron of the gate: Hog Heaven. I pulled the war wagon (my mom's Saturn) up to the speaker and requested permission to enter.
"This is Enrique," I said. "I'm here to deliver the foetus you ordered."
There was a pause, and then a voice crackled over the intercom.
"Er...I'm waitin' on a Mr. McFab."
"That's me," I said. "I was testing you." The gates swung open.
The Rasher estate was impressive: twenty-plus acres of rolling East Carolina hills with a mansion set smack dab in the middle of it. The driveway was tiled with melted-down quarters-- money that could have gone to welfare cheats but instead was used to make stuff shiny. I'm all for that. I followed the drive to the main house and parked by the front door. Ten minutes of mustache-combing, and I was ready. I exited the war wagon and knocked on the door.
"Welcome to Hog Heaven," Rasher said, grinning. He swung the doors open and let me into the most impressive home I've seen since the barracks at Fort Stewart. The floor was marble, and probably Italian marble if the faint smell of garlic was any indication. Alcoves along the walls held statues of pigs in period costume--mostly cowboy gear but a few hogs in armour, as well. I was in awe.
"Nice place you have here," I said. "Too bad it's gonna be your tomb."
"Well, now--" he seemed taken aback. "I thought that's why I hired you, to keep me alive."
"Oh, yeah. Right."
He insisted on giving me the grand tour before we got down to business, and frankly it was worth the time. I learned a lot about the man by watching him waddle his 400-plus-pound frame around the mansion, opening doors to rooms full of pig-related antiquities and lecturing me about the history of bacon grease. I learned he was fat. Really, really fat.
"So whadda ya think?" he asked when we finished the tour. "Can you protect me?"
We had settled in the library, a strange name for a room that contained no books by Andy McNab or Dick Marcinko.
"I can protect you," I said. "Even if God himself wanted you dead."
"I'll need some tools...Standard stuff, for executive protection work."
"Sure," he said, his jowls flapping. "Whatever ya need."
"Six pounds of C-4. Det chord. An M61A1 Vulcan cannon. Two puppies, preferably labs. Some soy milk..."
He started a list, and two hours later we finished.
"...Make that four suitcase nukes, and we're good to go," I said.
He scribbled some more.

The next day. On the job.
We were at Hog Wild, the annual meeting of pig farmers and those who go to meetings about pig farmers. I'd tell you where it was, but my lawyer said to leave that part out. The only hint I can give is, it was in Vegas, at Circus Circus, on 5 October 2005, 1700 hours. I wish I could tell you more, but I can't. Opsec.
I'd been to a few trade shows in my time, but none of them had smelled like breakfast in the way Hog Wild did. It seemed every booth had a fry-up going, and the aroma of burning pig was making me both hungry and very hungry. I never eat before a kill, and since I assumed I'd need to kill someone today, I was starving. The only thing that helped my mood as I shadowed Rasher around the various trade booths was the sweet little firearm he'd requisitioned for me--a .40-calibre Glock that had once belonged to Rush Limbaugh. That little baby felt great in my groin-holster, and I couldn't wait to get my hands down my pants.
"Randy," Rasher said, turning to face me. "Let's go check out the Rendering Arts booth--heard they done got 'em a new use for hog fat. They makin' cow fat outta it!"
"Roger, boss." I followed dutifully, walking in circles around him to match my pace to his corpulent crawl. We were halfway to the Rendering Arts booth when it happened.
I don't know how I spotted him--operators develop a sixth sense after a while, I guess. Guys like me get a feeling--misinterpreted as the need to urinate in civvies--and we know something's wrong. The tango was wearing a suit, hanging out by the People for the Eating of Terrestrial Animals booth, all slicked up and looking like a typical Yuppie. He was trying to blend into the crowd, and would have looked innocent even to me if not for one thing...He was smiling. Like snakes, terrorists smile just before they strike. This rattler wasn't gonna bite my boss.
"DOWN!" I screamed, and pulled the Glock out of my crotch holster. I hit Rasher on the back of the neck with the pistol, to make sure he was out of the line of fire. He went down and I lined the tritium sights up on the tango.
I was about to dispatch the would-be terrorist to Hell when something obscured my sight-picture. Shit! It was Rasher, trying to stand. I hit him again, this time with the barrel of the Glock. He wavered, but remained on his knees, accidentally coming between me and the assassin. I brought the pistol down again, harder, and followed up with a garrote.

Later that day.
The tango got away. I ended up having to pepper-spray Rasher after the Taser didn't work, and by that time the terrorist was nowhere to be seen. As usual, the hardest thing about executive protection was the stupid client. After the crowd had subdued me (mistakenly thinking I was a threat myself), I was taken to hospital to get my wounds treated. A few cc's of morphine later, I left my hospital room to visit Rasher, who was in the same wing.
He looked bad, with the full body cast.
"Hey boss," I said. " We lost the battle, but we'll win the war."
The poor man couldn't talk--it had been necessary to hit him across the teeth with my pistol in order to clear him from the line of fire.
"Shh..." I said. "Thank me later. We'll get that bastard eventually, boss, I promise."
"Yrgh frktng ifdit! Frk ugh!"
"Yes, I know. Damned tangos. Sleep now, I'll be right here keeping you safe."
"Nargh! Narhgh......!"
He seemed to be saying "yes," so I left him to sleep and recover.

The McFab compound. A few minutes ago.
My mom brought the mail in, and there was a strange letter among my renewal notices from SWAT and Penthouse...A letter from a legal firm, claiming to represent Mr. Rasher.
I'd quote it, but, my lawyer said I need to stop typing and visit Belize for a while. No idea why.