No Victims


He wondered how long it had been since he last moved. It seemed like hours. It always did. From the moment he set himself in position any time lapse, no matter how short, felt like hours. Time no longer had any particular relevance.

Others he had spoken to had told him that what they hated most about the job was the waiting. He liked it. He liked the solitude; the focus of the mind on one small thing; the ability to shut out all extraneous sights and sounds till you became alone in the universe. It was a far superior tonic for the mind and body than the meditation or yoga that so many people espoused. The only thing that disrupted this perfect seclusion was the ear set connecting him to another.

Even now it crackled into life. “You still reading me Thoms?”
The familiar voice was a harsh whisper. It always made him laugh that the person at the other end would always whisper even though he was too far away to be heard by anybody that mattered.
“Still reading.” He answered dryly.
“Not falling asleep are you?”

He answered the question with an obviously faked laugh. He had to work with a number of these people on the other end of the line, telephone operators he deridingly called them, and though they all outranked him, he had no respect for any of them. All they ever did was sit in a safe, warm {or cool depending on the weather) room in complete safety well away from the action and talk on the telephone. When things went right they acted as heroes. When they went wrong, they always managed to blame another. It would be no exaggeration to say that he despised them, but being the true professional that he was, he could convey his attitude in his voice while following correct protocol and never saying something worth being disciplined over.

“I assume that means you are still awake.” Came the voice from the other end.
“Still awake.”
“So what’s happening up there?”
“Absolutely nothing sir. Down there?” The question was designed to demonstrate his ability at teamwork rather than being a request for information. He didn’t have the slightest concern or interest in what was happening down there. If what was happening down there was at all important, then he wouldn’t be needed up here.
“Still not a lot to report. We have been in negotiation for sometime now but I can’t say there has been a lot of progress. This Starik is one sticky customer.”

Rubbish he thought to himself. This Starik was no different to any other he had encountered. These men were all the same. All the situations were the same. They began in the same way; they progressed the same way, that is to say hardly at all, and they all had the same outcome. As usual and like all the others, the one on the end of the line was making things appear more dramatic and tense than they really were so he could again be a big hero at the end of it. It was not advisable of course to tell the one at the end of the line that. He would not be believed, and anyway it was not protocol.
“I bet he is.” He said.
“What can you see from up there?” The one on the end of the line asked.
“Nothing I couldn’t see before.” He responded.
“Aright Thoms,” said the one on the end of the line, “but tell me the moment you do see something. From what we can gather down here you’re the one who will have the best view when Starik does make his move. So we may well be depending on you. I’ll keep you posted of any progress this end.”

When the one on the end of the line had gone, Thoms laughed to himself at the remark ‘we may well be depending on you’. After the inevitable outcome the one on the end of the line will reverse that comment. Thoms could just hear them telling their superiors ‘those guys on the roofs, they depend on us, they really do.’ The thought made him laugh again, though it was a hollow laugh. He knew he could do the job without them. He knew, though of course it was never official or even spoken about, that they existed only so it could be declared that proper protocol was always followed. ‘Our official, legally ordained procedures were followed to the letter’ was usually the line taken.

He also knew that it was no coincidence it was he who would have the best view when Starik presented himself. It was common knowledge, even if it was never officially recognised, that he was the best man on the roofs. There were far too many who hesitated at what had to be done. There were some, and this really galled him, who questioned if what they were doing was really necessary. As if it could be anything else. To see these people; the supposed keepers of the social framework, the protectors of social order; question their duty, made his blood boil. He was even aware of some roofers who had pulled out completely and become ones on the end of the line, telephone operators. These he despised the most. Though the voice of today’s one on the end of the line was familiar because he worked with it before, he had never met who it belonged to and so didn’t know if he was one of those.

It was a funny thing, he thought, about telephone operators. They always knew your name, but you never knew theirs. There was the possibility of guessing because their names were often in the paper. The heroes of the latest crisis. For a while he played the game of placing the name to the voice, but he soon tired of it. It disturbed his concentration. Still it did annoy him occasionally that they should gain fame and kudos for doing nothing while he, the true hero, remained anonymous. Being a true professional however, he understood that for him anonymity was essential. If people connected one name, as opposed to the many ‘telephone operators’, with these essential crisis-defusing situations there would no doubt be an outcry from some small minority sectors of the public. The public were a fickle, strange lot he thought to himself.

While all these thoughts casually meandered through his mind he kept his attention on his focal point below him: a window with curtains partially drawn and a small section of dimly lit room beyond, a door and some paving. He needed to move his telescopic sights from one to the next for they restricted his view. He could have seen more with the naked eye or by sweeping the sights around, but he had no need. Anything he missed, another would pick up. Anyway, he knew only too well that he had the necessary focal point.

As if to purposely prove him right, the figure of a man moved to where it could be partially seen just beyond the curtains. Though he could not see the face, Thoms could see that he was well dressed and by the movements that he was not particularly old. His movements were fast and erratic. The man was obviously agitated. Thoms realised it was nearly time for action.
“He’s near the window.” He said to the man on the other end. “I think he’s going to make a move.”
“I thought that was the case.” The man on the other end came back. “The negotiations seem to have failed. I don’t know why. I followed negotiating protocol to the letter.”

Thoms smiled to himself. This one on the end of the line was very aware of being recorded and always made sure he said the right things. Well if cliché jargon is good enough for press releases, then why not for telephone operators?

“I explained that he should not do anything foolish.” The one on the end of the line went on. “That his best option was to submit to the ‘R.A.P.M’ scheme, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Thoms smirked to himself. The ‘Repay All Public Moneys’ scheme was a euphemism for making highly skilled, and previously highly paid professionals work free of charge for the government.

“I think Starik may be coming out shortly.” He heard the one on the end of the line say. “Make sure you do this well Thoms. From what I hear, this one is especially desperate. He owes an incredible amount of money.”

Of course he does, Thoms thought. He knew how it went. Under the clandestine guidance of government officials, Starik would have partaken in all manner of illegal tax minimisation schemes. Of course the Taxation department would reassure him of their legitimacy until the day they decide they are no longer legitimate. By this time Starik has an impossibly high tax bill to pay, plus several charges of fraud and conspiracy to face and so is placed in the R.A.P.M scheme. It was fair enough as well. How else was the government expected to have such highly skilled professionals? It was obvious they could not afford to pay them. It was; Thoms was convinced, for the greater good of society. Unfortunately, some of the greedy misers refused to see it like that and went the way that this Starik had.

The figure had now disappeared from the window. Thoms moved his sights to the door and sure enough, the door began to slowly open. Starik emerged. In his right hand he had a gun, which was pointed at the head of the young petite woman he had in a headlock with his left arm. He was turning his head wildly and shouting words, which from that distance, could not be heard. Thoms laughed. They were all the same.

Carefully Thoms focussed his sights on the exact spot he wanted to hit. Confident of his target, he gently squeezed the trigger. With detached interest, he watched through his sights as the woman’s head blew apart and she slipped out of Starik’s grasp. Thoms then put his gun down as several policeman rushed Starik, thrusting him to the ground while handcuffing him.

Thoms stood up and stretched himself. He smiled at yet another job well done. Despite the questioning of some of the others, he was proud of the law declaring that there were no victims but the state. It made his job so much easier and society that much better. Now Starik and others of his ilk had no excuse for not paying their dues.

No Victims


Kelmscott, Australia

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Artist's Description

A short story about an assassin

Artwork Comments

  • artmetro
  • purpleneil59
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