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By Mike McCready, 2002
By the time I got off the plane in Batan City I knew I was being followed. I just didn’t know by whom. It seemed to me that the hit man my ex-husband had hired was getting more than he’d bargained for. I’m sure following me on this criss-cross, city to city to city plane trek put a dent into whatever meagre amount that cheapskate low life deemed my death to be worth. If I were extremely lucky this would have been a pre-paid deal and the hired hand would have exceeded his self imposed P&L ratio and called it a day. But that wasn’t a realistic assumption. As the plane door opened the dry heat rushed in like a thief on the lamb. A brown dust that stung everyone’s eyes chased it. I made my way down the movable staircase and walked across the tarmac into the airport terminal. I was one of the first people inside so I turned to look at all of the other passengers. I didn’t know which one was my grim-reaper wannabe but I wanted to memorize as many faces as possible so I’d have a better chance of spotting him once I was on my way.
Looking back on it, the only thing that had saved me up to this point had been staying out in public while at the same time avoiding bodily contact with anyone in the crowd. It wasn’t easy, especially in airports, but so far I’d managed almost by happenstance since I hadn’t figured out I was being followed until this last flight.
My ex-husband had just gotten out of prison three weeks before and since I was the one who sent him there I knew he wasn’t going to forgive and forget. I knew him too well for his own good. I hadn’t been lucky enough to get a judge who favoured the death penalty so it looked like I was going to have to do the job myself. My testimony in the trial, though very graphic and detailed, albeit false, had only been good enough to merit a life sentence. Twenty-six years and eight weeks later here he was, out on good behaviour. The problem had been finding him, but I’m a clever gal.
From behind bars Diego had tried to have me killed three times. I’d been lucky twice and somewhat skilled the third time. The first time my housemaid bought it instead of me. We looked too much alike for the assassin to distinguish us from the old photo Diego had given him. The would-be killer got away. He wasn’t the brightest fellow however because eight weeks later when he came back I found him in the basement stiff as a board. Apparently he’d choked on a bullet he’d been holding in his mouth while loading his Smith & Wesson.
The third time had been three weeks ago, the day Diego was released. But I knew something might happen that day so I made sure I wasn’t at home. Instead I had a lady from church, who vaguely looks like me, come do some woodwork polishing with some Amway products she sells. Now she’s selling Amway products to her maker. Oh well. She was a churchgoer so I have a clear conscious. Hell, I’d have a clear conscious anyway. Why deny it? Diego would have thought me dead if it hadn’t been for the newspaper headlines about the murder. Although we looked alike we certainly didn’t have the same name, and headline news coverage of a routine murder is one of the drawbacks that come from living in a small town. So following Diego hadn’t been easy. One lead led to another until his trail brought me to O’Higgins International Airport in Batan City. The terminal building had no air conditioning and for a menopausal woman like me I could have used some cool breezes. I also needed a gun.
I was thinking about how I would get one when I saw him. Diego had been alerted to my arrival, confirming my suspicions about being followed. I didn’t think he had spotted me although it looked like he was staring right at me from behind his sunglasses. He was dressed in a light brown suit that seemed to blend in with everything and everyone around him. That’s when I realized I was sticking out like Mr. T in a gay bar, dressed in my cherry red dress and matching high heels.
“Come with me bitch!” said a gruff voice behind me. I could feel the gun barrel against the small of my back.
I didn’t say a word in protest as I walked, nonchalantly away from Diego, through the passenger terminal into what looked like a cargo area. There was a lot of equipment, boxes, conveyor belts and typical cargo moving lifts but no people except the goon with the gun and me. Then I heard Diego’s voice from behind us. “Thought you could outsmart me, didn’t you Mary?” His voice was the same as I’d remembered. “Well you can’t and you never will. You may have given me crabs, kept me in jail, married and murdered my best friend, spent all the money and sold the book and movie rights to my story but now it’s time to pay the piper.” Diego came into my line of sight and began walking in front of us. We stood still as he moved closer to the metallic swinging double doors with a green exit sign above them. “Take care of her just like we agreed, Rudy.” He said when he was a good 30 feet away. “It’s the brown cargo box.”
Just has he’d finished, as if on cue, the conveyor belt come to life with a bang, followed by the sound of the electric motor powering up. The three of us jumped, startled by the broken silence. I made my move.
I realized that whatever was poking me in the back was not the barrel of a gun. I’d had to get rid of mine because of the metal detectors when I boarded the plane and so would have he. I dug my heel into his toe, turned and brought my knee hard up into his crotch. As he doubled over I moved behind him using his body as a shield. The bullets from Diego’s silenced gun pushed us back and down onto the moving belt, which was running in Diego’s direction. The thug on top of me had a new hole in the side of his head and blood was pouring out onto the belt. I laid perfectly still until I could see Diego’s brown boots out of the corner of my eye.
“Well it looks like the cargo box will have to hold two bodies instead of one.” Diego said. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was talking more to himself than to me. That meant he thought I was already dead. As he reached down to pull Rudy off of me my leg came into position thanks to the continuously moving belt. I’ve kicked a lot of men in the crotch in my time but I don’t think I’ve ever connected better than both times that day. Diego’s eyes bugged as he bent over and dropped the gun to the brown marble floor with a clatter. I was on my feet in an instant, the gun in my hand. I held the barrel against the back of Diego’s head and put a slug into his brain. Then I put one more in for good measure. I’m still not sure which cargo box Diego was referring to. They all looked brown to me. But I’ve never heard anything about an investigation into a double murder shooting here in Batan City. Maybe that’s because it’s a big town. Maybe it’s because it was never discovered. The box I decided upon said it was going to Calcutta so maybe they’re a little puzzled about it in India. I kept Diego’s and Rudy’s wallets. Rudy’s was worthless but Diego’s had his numbered bank account information in it. So I decided to stay in Batan City. I think I’m gonna like this town.
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