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Day Two Hundred and Nine: My Sister, the Assassin

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

What with the death of Christopher Hitchens, I wish I had a character who was even a faint echo of the guy, but I don’t. That has to be remedied, I think.

Having said that, let’s roll the 361-sided die and see which character gets to be featured today!

*rollrollroll*

Number 210 – Loren Rudi from day 98, Back in the Saddle! Lucky you, Loren, come on down! Let’s see what the story tells us about you:

  • She’s returning to a job from which she had taken a hiatus. That job? Assassin.
  • She has a sister, Anna Lambourne, and a nephew, Alton. Anna seems to have no problem with what her sister does.
  • She’s killed 81 people.
  • She’s not allowed to share specific information about her job.
  • Her target is Brant Laidler, a businessman who is in talks with Munin Scientific. Her employer doesn’t want those talks to happen.
  • She counts doubles to relax.

I wrote this story after my vacation back to the US in August, and I wrote it for a specific reason: the ridiculousness of a vacation to see the family, compounded by the utter absurdity of international travel, had kind of thrown my writing mojo way, way off. I managed to get a few stories done, but not nearly one a day. I missed more days than I made, actually.

When I cam home, I wasn’t sure I could pick it up again. The blank spaces in my writing calendar just glared out at me, and for a brief and horrible moment I thought it would just be easier not to write than to write. I mean, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it through the year anyway – that was some kind of insane idea I had. And like most of my insane ideas, it was wildly unworkable. So maybe it would be okay to be satisfied with the ninety or so stories that I had done and call it quits.

What’s more, I have come to realize something important about the way my creative impulses work: they are capricious and liable to switch around without warning. There was a period a few years ago where I did a lot of drawing. My DeviantArt page is testament to that. And then the impulse to draw just… stopped. It just went away, to the point where I pretty much gave up on drawing anything before the pencil could touch the paper.

So I figure that was what was in the process of happening with writing – I had done as much as I could do, and the time for being a writer was over.

But there was another part of me that refused to let that happen, and I’m sure we’re all glad that that part won out in the end. At least, I’m pretty sure we’re all glad. Some of us, anyway.

One of the nice things about writing is that you’re allowed to explore these little mental quirks, wrapped up in an obfuscating cloak of character and fiction. I was able to take my worries about not being able to write any more stories and gave it to Loren.

I’m not sure why I decided to make her an assassin. Maybe because it’s not a job that’s usually linked to this kind of problem. People don’t (I imagine) take breaks from being an assassin and then pick it up again. But Loren did, and she seemed perfectly happy to be a killer for hire. She’s got enough experience and kills under her belt that no matter how much self-doubt she may experience, deep down she knows that she’s good at what she does.

So there are three questions – no, four – that come to mind from her story.

First, how did she get into the business of being an assassin? It’s hard no t to take a cue from Grosse Pointe Blank and give her a start in the military, but I’m not sure how else one becomes an assassin. She’s all-American, so there’s no life of having to kill government soldiers or rebels to survive. From how she talks to her sister, she sounds fairly middle-class, though that could be because she’s been doing this for years and has moved on up. For all intents and purposes, Loren sounds very well-balanced, with the exception of the fact that she kills people for a living. So this might take some research, although I have no idea how you research the life stories of professional assassins.

Secondly, why did she take a break? All we know is that she was off the job for a while. I’d like to think it was because she was given a target that showed her how terrible her job was, but that wouldn’t hold up – she seemed to have absolutely no problem killing the guy in this story. So it seems that the “moral flexibility” that she needs to do the job is still intact. Perhaps her identity was revealed and she had to be holed up for a while. Maybe she – like I – had a moment where she thought, “Is this really what I want to be doing?” That led her to take some time off, but the need for work and money was too much for her. She had to do what she was good at, which was murder.

Thirdly, what did Brant Laidler do that needed killing, and who hired Loren? Excellent questions both. Laidler was working on merging his company with Munin Scientific, a company that we all know specializes in computer components, with a focus on storage and memory. Perhaps Laidler had a manufacturing role to play, and taking over his company would allow Munin to do more in-house. It is a fairly secretive company, after all, so fewer outside vendors would be a plus for whatever big secret thing they’re working on. But then who would want the merger stopped? Someone who has a beef against Munin, perhaps. Or someone who manages to lose from the merger. It could be short-term gain or a move in a long-term plan. I haven’t quite worked that out yet.

Finally, why is her sister cool with what she does? If I may pat myself on the back for a moment [1], I’m really happy with how their conversation works out. I think it has a good natural feel that tells of a long history of knowing each other. They speak in such a way that when you get to, “No problem, sis,” Anna said. “Happy shooting”, you’re not surprised to find out that they’re sisters. And I did it without resorting to the old, “You know, Loren, as your sister I think…”

But all that back-patting doesn’t answer the question. Why isn’t she freaked out by the fact that her younger sister is a killer for hire? I mean, I love my brothers and my sister, but if one of them decided to be an assassin, I probably wouldn’t be cool with that. I most certainly wouldn’t joke around about it on the phone while I was cooking dinner. But Anna does, and she wishes Loren, “Happy shooting.” How weird is that?

Maybe Loren saved her life, or the life of her child. Or both. Maybe it was something that she did have a problem with at first, but some event occurred where she saw her sister in action, how good she was at it, that it reinforced her desire to see her sister happy. Although it would have to be one hell of an event to completely overcome the natural aversion most of us have to cold-blooded murder. I’ll have to work something out, and I will – I like this relationship. I like that Anna is supporting her sister, no matter what Loren chooses to do. So I have to find out what it was, and it has to make sense

Any one of those would make a good story. I’d like to pair her up with Wynona Mooney from day 41, All According to Plan – another very dangerous lady, although a bit more flashy than Loren is.

—–

[1] You may.

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Day Ninety-eight: Back in the Saddle

August 27, 2011 2 comments

Loren held the phone to her ear with her shoulder as she worked. “I just don’t know if I can get back into it for good, Anna,” she said. The hotel room was dark and stifling, but had an excellent view overlooking the street. She sat by the window with a little folding table, working as she talked.

“You’ve already made a great first step,” Anna said. “You’re back at work, back out there. You’ll probably pick up right where you left off.”

“Yeah, right,” Loren said. “Just like falling off a bicycle.”

“Exactly,” Anna said. “It’s – Wait, what?”

“Nothing. Just something my ex-boyfriend used to say.” She switched the phone to the other ear. “I don’t know, Anna, I just don’t feel it anymore, y’know? All that enthusiasm has just gone… Bleh.”

She could hear something on the other end. It sounded like Anna was in the kitchen. “You know, Lo, when I took that time off after Alton was born, I thought I’d never get back to work. I was away from teaching for six years. Six!” It sounded like she was chopping. “A whole graduating class had come and gone by the time I managed to get back to work. I thought I was going to be eaten alive by those kids, and you know what?”

Loren held the phone up while she fished around on the floor for the pin she’d dropped. “What?”

“I just walked in there like I owned the place, Lo. I shut down all those little nagging voices in my head and held my head up high and took charge.”

“That’s great, Anna, but I think my scene is a little different.” She peeked through the curtains at the office tower across the street. There was a long black town car parked in front and a bored-looking man in an ill-fitting suit leaning against the door. Loren checked her watch. Probably another fifteen minutes, which was just enough time.

“Well sure,” Anna said. “But the principle is the same, right? You’re a professional, aren’t you?”

“You know I am, Anna.”

“Exactly. Hold on.” There was the loud whine of a blender for about thirty seconds that gave Loren a little window of focus to start reassembly. “You still there?” Anna asked.

“Yup, still here.”

“Good. So like I was saying – you’ve done this a million times, Lo.”

“Eighty-one, Anna.” She snapped the bolt action into the barrel and tested it out. It came back smoothly and snapped forward. Perfect. She glanced down at her watch. Ten more minutes to finish and get set up.

“Fine, eighty-one. You should be an old hand at this by now.”

“I know,” Loren said. “I guess it’s just the jitters, right?” She started feeding rounds into the magazine, quietly counting as she did so. “I have a reputation – four, five – right?”

“You do, and it’s a good one.” Loren could hear the tick-tick-WHOOMPH of a gas stove being lit. “Can you tell me who it is?”

“You know I can’t, Anna,” Loren said. She held the rifle up to her shoulder and sighted along the barrel. “Rules are rules.”

“Fine, be a spoilsport,” she said.

“Well, that is in my job description.” Loren took the scope out of its case and cupped a hand over the end as she peered down onto the street. The guy leaning against the car jumped closer in her view, and she was pretty sure he had a gun holstered under his jacket. She adjusted the focus a bit, but it didn’t really need it. She snapped it in place, put the gun on her bed and started repacking her go-bag. “Look, Anna, I really appreciate this, but I have to go. Time’s a-wasting.”

“No problem, sis,” Anna said. “Happy shooting.”

“Thanks, Anna. Save some for me, okay?” She snapped the phone closed before either of them had to say “good-bye” and started preparing in earnest. The gun was ready and waiting, all she had to do was prepare for a quick exit. There were enough other tall buildings on this side of the street that her position wouldn’t be immediately obvious, but still – a good sniper never lingers. Rule number one.

The battered backpack was laid out and ready. All she had to do was break down the gun, throw the parts inside, and she’d be ready to go. She was dressed in her suburban mom clothes and hadn’t showered yet. If everything worked out, she’d be gone before Brant Laidler’s brains were finished sliding down the wall behind him.

She turned the seat around, steadied her arm on the folding table and let the curtains peek open just enough to get a good view of the door across the street. Laidler would be coming out any minute, on his way to merger talks with Munin Scientific that her employer didn’t want him to make. Loren took a deep breath and started counting doubles in her head along with her heartbeat, which she could just barely feel. She got to 16,384 before she lost count and had to start again. The second time, she made it up to 65,536. Her third run was interrupted when Brant Laidler walked out the door of his office building, chatting jovially with an assistant. He had a thin white combover and a paunch, but he looked like a nice enough guy. Someone’s uncle, maybe. Probably liked to tell jokes to children.

Loren stopped counting, centered the scope on his face, and took a deep breath.

She let it out slowly, feeling all the nervous energy, tension, doubt and fear rise away from her like a vapor. It left her still, quiet and sure. She put the crosshairs right between his eyebrows, and squeezed the trigger.

Loren didn’t need to see his head explode into a red mist to know she’d made the shot. In an instant, she was up, her hands twisting and unmaking the rifle and throwing the parts into the bag. She took off the extra shirts she was wearing and stuffed them in as well, then zipped up the bag, ran her hands through her hair and left the room. There was no one in the hallway to watch her leave, but she kept her face a sleepy, harried mask. By the time she got to the front entrance, her steps had slowed down and she was flipping intently through a local guidebook. No one said anything to her as she left, and she didn’t even lift her head to look at the police cars and the ambulance that raced by in the opposite direction.

Later, as she was melting the hotel keycard with a cigarette lighter, she would finally allow herself a moment of glee. She giggled quietly to herself and resolved to call Anna back once she reached the safehouse. “Yup,” she whispered as she tossed the small, blackened lump of plastic down a sewer drain. “I still got it.”

Day Eighty: One More Door

August 18, 2011 1 comment

Killing Alfie Vandersen would be easy. Getting to him, on the other hand, was proving to be a pain in the ass.

Vanessa repositioned the mirrors against the lasers to redirect them to other sensors, a trick that wouldn’t have worked if Vanderson had bothered to upgrade his security in the last ten years. She managed to create a hole just big enough for her to slide through and, for a moment, regretted not joining the weight-loss group that her sister went to every week. She tightened the belt on the housekeeper’s uniform she had swiped and slid under the gap she had created.

The lasers were easier than the motion sensors, which were only slightly more challenging than the pressure-sensitive floors. During the day, Vanderson’s offices were the epitome of modern office deisgn – clean, sleek, yet welcoming. Nice wood floors that were made from renewable forests, walls that were covered in a recycled ceramic tiling, energy-efficient lights that illuminated the wide and welcoming halls with light that closely matched that of the sun. Hundreds of people worked in these offices every day, and to hear them talk about it, many liked the place More than their own homes.

At night, it was one of the most fiercely guarded buildings on the planet. Merely getting in had involved months of planning, several fake identities, and spending at least two nights hiding in cubicles and supply closets. Vanessa wouldn’t be able to make or receive any calls from her contacts, and if she was caught, she would most likely disappear. The fact that she had even gotten this far was why her clients paid her exorbitant fees. Although, getting this far was no guarantee that she would be able to get to her target, who kept apartments on the top three floors of his building. She had gotten up there without much trouble, but the closer she got, the harder it became to move forward.

According to the information she had, there was another crucial step to pass through – a biometric exam. And this one, unlike the lasers, was new. In the old days, she could have made a latex fingerprint or – if circumstances were dire – cut the finger off of someone with clearance. The new biometric systems, however, were able to distinguish between living flesh and non-living, so gaining entry that way required a little more finesse. In this case, her finesse was a teenage hacker she’d only ever known as Speyeder. Not an original name, but the kid knew what he – or she – was doing, and earned the hefty sum that she – or he – got for jobs like this. In this case, Vanessa needed her biometrics on file, and with the proper clearance. Speyeder said it would be easy, but then Speyeder also claimed to have put the President on the no-fly list and set up an untraceable monthly deposit from the bank account of the nation’s biggest Christian megachurch into the bank account of the nation’s biggest gay rights activist group. In short, Speyeder claimed to do a lot of things, and had not let Vanessa down yet.

“Yet” being the operative word.

She got to the second-most outer door and flipped the cover up on the security pad. A gently glowing panel lit up, asking her to please put her palm on the scanner. Vanessa took a deep breath and gave up her palm print. The scanner faded for a moment, and then a second panel asked her to please position her eye in front of the camera above. She stretched her neck a bit and submitted her iris for examination. A faint laser went up and down, back and forth, and then the door clicked open. Vanessa slid through and made a mental note to transfer a little extra to Speyeder’s account when she got home.

The inner offices were more like a home – a narrower hallway with a deep carpet runner, flowers on tales, and portraits of Vandersen’s family on the walls. It smelled like potpourri and some kind of cologne, a smell that made her think of an uncle she’d liked when she was young.

The main office would be through one more door, and for that door she needed a very special key. This lock required a blood sample, albeit a very small one. It was keyed to Vandersen’s blood, and try as he – or she – might, Speyeder was unable to put Vanessa’s blood signature into the database. That file was locked tightly, read-only, and not to be tampered with. Unless Vandersen let her in, there was no way she was getting through that door.

The trick, then, was to get Vandersen out.

She cracked her knuckles as she thought, only moments before the outer door slid open and a large security guard came in, hand on his gun. He looked at her, then around the office, and raised an eyebrow as he loosened the gun in its holster.

“Shit,” Vanessa muttered.