8am, Monday morning. I arrived at the office early, entering through the non-descript and well concealed back door set off a rubbish-strewn back alley. There is no way you’d know there was a place of business here unless you had prior knowledge of the location, but then that’s the whole point.
I stood at the reinforced steel door, looking up at the CCTV camera as I waited for the on-duty security officer to let me inside. Several seconds passed before I heard the buzzer sound, and the heavy door swung open a moment later.
Each morning, I walk into a different world, leaving back the filthy alleyway and entering the modern, hi-tech and spotless office complex contained within. I jumped ever so slightly as the heavy steel door slammed shut behind me. I never quite get used to the sound, even though I’ve worked here for years.
I proceeded through the sterile white corridor, nodding to the tough security guard on duty. The guard’s name is Greg, and he’s one of the regulars. A butch ex-military man with deadpan stare, a face like thunder, and a pump-action shotgun hidden underneath his desk. This guy always made me nervous.
I nodded in Greg’s direction and sheepishly wished him a ‘good morning’. All I got in return was a curt grunt. Greg was a man of few words, but this suited me fine, since I was in no mood for small talk.
I went through the usual morning ritual, emptying my pockets and placing my electronic devices in the plastic tray, as I walked through the security scanner. They didn’t take any chances here, for good reasons.
Once Greg had finished frisking me, he informed me that there was a package waiting for me in my office. I thanked him, feeling a chill as I did so. I didn’t know what this mystery package contained, but I suspected it was nothing good.
I took the elevator to the ninth floor, standing impatiently inside the steel box as I was forced to listen to tedious piped music. Small details such as this frequently reminded me of the surreal nature of my situation.
The elevator doors slid open and I proceeded onto the floor, striding through the office space, down identical corridors and past neatly laid out computer terminals, work stations, and water coolers. I greeted my co-workers, exchanging meaningless pleasantries and small talk without engaging in any meaningful conversation.
I’ve worked for the company for almost five years, but I haven’t made a single friend amongst my co-workers. We all keep each other at a distance and never reveal any details of our personal lives. I learnt long ago that it was necessary to completely separate my personal and professional lives, and I imagine the other staff have done the same.
My first stop was the communal kitchen, as I knew I would need a strong cup of black coffee for what was coming next. I carefully prepared my hot beverage before drinking it, savoring the warmth as it went down. Then, I took a deep breath and reluctantly proceeded to my corner office, still holding my mug in hand.
The package was sitting there waiting for me on my desk – a cooler box. If I hadn’t known better, I might have assumed that it contained somebody’s lunch. Unfortunately, I did know better.
I carefully set my coffee mug down before firmly closing my office door and drawing the blinds. No-one else needed to see this. I reached for the cooler with a shaking hand, carefully breaking the seal and lifting the lid. Taking another deep breath, I looked down at the contents, recoiling in horror at what I saw.
A severed human head, sliced at the neck and packed in ice. The head was that of a human male aged in his 40’s or 50’s. His bloodshot, dead eyes remained open, staring up at the ceiling, and his mouth was gaping wide, as if trapped in an eternal scream. Unsurprisingly, his skin was a ghostly shade of pale, as all the blood had been drained from his face.
I remained in a state of shock for a moment, fighting back my revulsion to examine the victim’s face in more detail. It didn’t take me long to recognise the dead man. I’d never met him, but his photograph and profile were contained within the encrypted file I’d provided to a particularly challenging client just two days before.
This client had been contracted to carry out a very specialized and difficult task, one which I hadn’t expected him to complete. But the severed head on my desk meant the contract had been fulfilled. So, despite my revulsion, I was able to breath a sigh of relief, knowing that the job had been done, and my commission was secure.
I’m sure this is all rather confusing, so let me do my best to explain. I am a recruitment consultant working in a very specialised sector. What this means in practice is that I recruit unique and talented individuals for jobs that are rarely legal and often involve acts of extreme violence, up to and including murder. Also, some of my recruits aren’t human, at least not in the strictest sense of the word.
So, how did I get into this nefarious line of work? Well, that’s a question I ask myself on a daily basis. I won’t go into details, but it’s a familiar story. I originally worked in the legitimate recruitment world and was fairly successful…but then came the economic downturn. My company went bust and I got laid off. I struggled to find a new job and soon fell behind with my bills and rent.
You can probably guess what happened next. A fantastic job offer came out of the blue. Naturally, there were very few details of what the role would entail, but the pay and conditions were both excellent, and they were offering a signing on bonus which would more than cover my overdue rent and debts. It seemed too good to be true, and of course it was.
To be fair, I was suspicious – but I’d become desperate and so didn’t ask too many questions. They sucked me in, and now I can’t escape. These aren’t exactly the kind of people you can walk away from.
I don’t know who exactly I work for. A shell company under a mysterious and nefarious corporate entity, so powerful that its apparently above the law. I’ve never met my boss in person. I know him only as ‘Mr Black’, and he’s never visited the offices during my time here.
Every Monday morning, I receive an encrypted email from him with my weekly assignments and interviews schedule, and on Friday afternoon he sends me an evaluation of my week’s work, specifically reporting on the performance of my recruits in their assigned tasks.
This detailed report analyses such variables as body counts, cash and valuables looted, premises destroyed, and even governments destabilized or overthrown. Anything goes in this company. Each individual recruit will be assessed and rated on their performance, and a decision will be made whether to retain their services for future jobs.
Other than these regular emails, we rarely hear from the enigmatic Mr Black, that is unless we really screw up. That’s when we can expect an ominous phone call. You see, our company does not have a tolerance for failure, and both the recruiters and recruits know all too well the consequences of failing to fulfill a contract.
The term ‘Head-hunter’ isn’t taken literally in most of the recruitment sector, but not so in my company. And when Mr Black says that ‘heads will roll’, he’s not talking metaphorically. The main risk is for the recruit, but their failure reflects badly on the recruiter, and there can be severe consequences if our vetting process is found to be lacking.
So, perhaps now you can understand my relief at finding a severed head in a cooler on my desk first thing on a Monday morning. This is my confirmation of a job well done. It’s fucked up, but better his head than mine.
Perhaps its best if I describe a day in my working life. Let’s take last Thursday as a typical example. My first appointment that day was at 9:30 sharp. My client was a pyromancer – that is to say, an otherwise ordinary person who happens to have the ability to conjure up fire with the mere flick of his fingers. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to reveal his real name. So, for the purposes of this account, let’s call him Keith.
Keith is a fairly innocuous looking individual – unremarkable when you first see him. He’s a young man in his mid-twenties, about 5 foot 8 tall and of medium build, clean shaven and smartly turned out in a designer suit. Keith is polite and respectful compared to most of my clients. He’s a pleasure to work with to be honest.
It’s difficult to believe that this mild-mannered gentleman is capable of causing so much mayhem and destruction. This guy could burn the entire office to the ground in a matter of minutes and there would be nothing anyone could do to stop him. But I wasn’t worried, because Keith is a professional.
“What’s the job boss?” he asked in a cheerful tone.
I nodded my head, quickly typing on my keyboard and bringing up the details.
“Insurance fraud. The client’s an industrialist with a failing factory downtown. He wants it burnt to the ground. Obviously, the fire must look like an accident, so the investigation doesn’t lead back to us. I take it that’s not a problem?”
Keith smiled and nodded. “Piece of cake boss. As you know, this is my bread and butter.” He paused momentarily, a frown appearing on his brow. “It’s just the building though, right? No fatalities?”
I took a deep breath before answering, struggling to contain my discomfort at his question.
“Just the factory. He wants it done late at night when the building is empty. No witnesses.”
“Okay then,” Keith responded, barely disguising the disappointment in his voice. “Send me the details, and it’s a done deal.”
It still gives me the chills when I think back to this conversation. As I said, I like working with Keith, up to a point at least. But I know he’s a charming sociopath, the type who wouldn’t think twice about burning a bus full of schoolchildren, ad long as the price was right. Burning down an empty building was nothing to him, but he gets paid a higher rate for killing people.
Nevertheless, Keith was a known entity and so I knew the job would be done clean and efficiently. My second client that day was a different prospect however.
My 12 noon appointee was a woman with considerable abilities and skills, but also somebody you did not want to cross. The lady’s name is Tabitha, or at least that’s what she goes by. A striking woman in her mid-forties, Tabitha also happens to be a fifth-generation voodoo witch.
Learning from her ancestors, Tabitha has spent a lifetime honing her magical skills and is now considered one of the most powerful active witches in the world. What’s more, she’s also developed an appetite for the finer things in life and therefore demands a high fee for her services.
Tabitha arrived fifteen minutes early for her appointment, insisting to he seen immediately. I complied with her wishes, knowing it was easier to accommodate her on this. Everything had to be just right for Tabitha – the room temperature, the lighting, and her gourmet coffee prepared just the way she liked it.
If anything wasn’t to her liking she would walk right out the door, and that was the best-case scenario. The voodoo queen is certainly a prima donna, but she was also one of our most valuable assets, and so she got what she wanted.
I can’t deny Tabitha’s beauty and the sheer presence she exerts whenever she walks into a room. Dressed in a colorful traditional dashiki, her eyes glistened as she looked upon me, her powerful gaze drawing me in. But I knew not to stare into those eyes for too long, lest I get sucked in by her dark magic.
“What have you got for me?” she demanded, whilst coolly sipping from her coffee.
I nervously turned to my monitor and typed the necessary keys to open the relevant file.
“A young woman married to an older, very wealthy, man. He’s been cheating on her for years, and she’s tired of waiting for her payday. They have no children, so she stands to inherit his entire fortune, if he dies of ‘natural causes’. Luckily, the target already has a history of heart disease, and so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to work your magic…”
“How much?” Tabitha replied sharply, getting straight to business. She had no moral qualms about killing this man, nor would she have any difficulties in getting the job done.
This was the question I was dreading however, as I knew how she would react when I quoted her rate.
“Are you kidding me?” she exclaimed, rising from her chair and pointing accusingly at me. “Don’t you realise who I am? This price is an insult!”
Her eyes were filled with rage. I knew all too well how dangerous this woman was, and I feared the repercussions of her anger. There was a panic button underneath my desk – a silent alarm linked to the front security desk. But I knew I wouldn’t need it. Tabitha had too much class to do anything in the room.
“Unfortunately, we’re on a fixed budget with this job,” I muttered nervously, “but we have some wiggle-room on your commission.”
After several tense minutes of negotiation, during which I needed to massage the voodoo queen’s ego, we eventually arrived at an acceptable figure. I could tell she wasn’t entirely happy, but we shook hands on the deal, and I knew she would complete the task with her usual flair and efficiency.
I was relieved to have survived the encounter in one piece, as I certainly didn’t want to get on Tabitha’s bad side. Her previous handler had done so, and he paid the price. The recruiter’s name was Jeff, and he was a good worker by all accounts. Jeff had taken a firm line with Tabitha during a negotiation and initially it seemed like he’d gotten the better of her.
One day, he started complaining about a pain in his back, and a week later he went off work sick. From what I hear, Jeff ended up being virtually crippled due to chronic pain. There was no way of tracing it back to her, but this was Tabitha’s MO, and we had no doubt she’d put a curse on him.
I treated myself to a long lunch after that unsettling appointment, as I attempted to calm my nerves. My next appointment was scheduled for 3pm, and the client was something of an unknown entity – that is to say, I’d never worked with him before.
I knew that my 3 o’clock appointment was a shapeshifter, but that was about it. Let’s call him Tony. There was very little information on his file, but I’d been informed that Tony had the power to transform into a variety of wild animals, and this was a skill we could certainly utilize.
Tony arrived half an hour late for his appointment. This wasn’t a good start. What’s more, his physical appearance left a lot to be desired. When he entered my office, I could have sworn he was drunk, and I noted his disheveled look, bloodshot eyes, and torn clothes. He also stank to high heaven, so much so that I had to struggle not to retch.
He slumped down in the chair facing me, his red eyes looking me over like I was a piece of meat. I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to get this vile man out of my office as soon as possible. Going through the motions, I took down Tony’s particulars, confirming the information we held on our database.
Luckily, Tony wasn’t one for small talk and so we soon got down to the business in hand.
“What the hell do they want me to do?” he demanded.
I wiped the sweat from my brow, avoiding eye contact with my unpleasant client as I brought the details up on my monitor.
“A snitch in the witness protection programme. His testimony could do a lot of damage to a very powerful and wealthy crime family, and so they want him silenced. We’ve tracked him down to a remote part of the country. He’s guarded day and night by the Feds, but they allow him to take a run alone in the woods every afternoon, and that’s when he’s vulnerable.”
The mobsters can’t get to him, but a lot of predators live in those woods – bears, wolves, and cougars. The snitch goes missing, his remains turn up, and they write it up as a wild animal attack. A freak accident, and nobody is ever the wiser…”
I shot Tony a sly smile, hoping I could make a connection, but I was shocked to see how disinterested he appeared, his head down and nodding back and forth. He didn’t appear to be paying attention, and I wasn’t sure if he’d heard a single word of my pitch.
In my frustration, I did something foolish which I would soon live to regret. I clicked my fingers and waved my hand in front of Tony’s face to gain his attention.
“Hey man, are you listening?” I asked in a patronizing tone, “Do you want the job, or is it too much for you to handle?”
To my horror, I saw his whole demeanor change in an instant, as his face screwed up in anger and his eyes became filled with a bloodthirsty rage.
“You think I can’t handle it?” he spat in disgust, “Who the fuck do you think you are? I eat the likes of you for breakfast! I’ll fucking show you!”
What happened next is something of a violent blur in my memory. I knew he was going to attack, and so my first instinct was to push the panic button under my desk…and thank God I did. A second later, he was on me, physically jumping over my desk and knocking me off my chair. Next, he pinned me to the ground, sitting on top of me as he transformed into something monstrous, his eyes turning redder, as fangs extended from his gaping mouth. Simultaneously, he grew claws which cut deep into my chest, making me scream out in agony.
I was paralyzed by fear and felt certain that I would die right there and then in my own office. But, just as Tony prepared to bite into my throat, two security officers burst into the room, shouting a warning as they both deployed their tasers, disabling the attacker before they dragged his limp body off me.
My employers were generous enough to allow me to take Friday off as a sick day. Luckily my injuries weren’t severe, although Tony had ruined a perfectly good outfit. The attack had shaken me up, but unfortunately such acts of violence go with the territory in my job. I was more annoyed about the contract not being fulfilled. We’d get the snitch one way or another, but Tony clearly wasn’t the man to carry out the job – or so I thought.
I kept my eye on the news over the weekend to make sure all had gone smoothly with the other jobs, and I wasn’t disappointed. A fire was reported during the early hours of Saturday morning, gutting a factory downtown. There was no suspicion of foul play. Then, on Sunday afternoon, a wealthy businessman suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf. He was survived by his young wife, who stood to inherit everything. Keith and Tabitha had completed their work with typical efficiency.
Nevertheless, I don’t like loose ends, and I knew my employers weren’t happy with the whole Tony fiasco. I was racking my brains on Monday morning to find a solution – that was until I arrived in the office and opened my package. The severed head inside belonged to the snitch, the man who the mobsters had been so keen to silence.
After recovering from the initial shock, I opened an envelope which came with the cooler box. The crudely scribbled letter was from Tony. He apologized for the ‘incident’ on Thursday, admitting that he’d lost his temper and promising that it wouldn’t happen again. As a sign of good faith, he’d completed the job free of charge, and he hoped we could work together in the future.
I smiled when I finished reading the note. My employers would be very happy with this outcome, and I was glad to have put this matter to bed. True, Tony was a loose cannon, but now I knew what I was dealing with, and I’d be able to handle him better in future.
And so, that’s my story. You may well judge me and think what I do is evil. But I didn’t choose this life, and I’ve got to make a living. It’s a dangerous job, but the rewards are good, and who’s to say what I do is any worse than those who sell cigarettes or guns, or companies that run sweat shops overseas? The likes of Keith, Tabitha and Tony provide a service, and I facilitate this for my clients. This is what I do, and I’ll keep doing it for as long as I last.
Credit : Woundlicker
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