Lackluster Communication Skills

“Lackluster communication skills.”

“You sound like a business manager or a corporate hack.”

“I am a business manager.”

“No! You’re an assassin that just killed the wrong fucking mark. Way, underline fucking exclamation point way, wrong.”

The shit of it is that she’s right.  Absolutely, one hundred percent, undeniably right.  She knows it, I know it and in about half an hour every monkey with a gun’s gonna know it.  And she’s upset because there’s a real good chance we’re gonna see what the ground looks like from the other side of the grass real soon.

“Where’s the pot? I need a joint.”  She’s not upset, she’s pissed.  She only smokes grass if she’s afraid she’s gonna kill someone what don’t deserve it.  Since that’s the last thing we need I pass her the bag.  There’s a hogleg in there that should set her straight while I do some thinkin’.

See, that’s my strong point.  I’m not that good with words much, but you let me wrap my head around an idea long enough and I can usually come up with something worthwhile.  Not saying that I’m the brains of the operation or anything.  That girls got more ideas than Ben Franklin.  It’s just that, in a pinch, she gets a bit emotional.  Fortunately, I don’t get those much.

“How long should we stay here?”  She looked at me through the haze her joint was making in the room.  She wasn’t asking for an answer, she already knew. She was testing me, makin’ sure I wasn’t gonna flip.  If I go then there’s a mountain o’ shit gonna follow and she ain’t about to stand around and watch it erupt.

I answer cautiously.  She don’t have nothin’ to worry about, but the ideas are already coming and they’re tellin’ me to work fast.

“Normally I would say three hours.  Not a soul on this Earth would think to look for us here.”  It was some heavy shit she was smokin’ and almost gone to boot, but the crow’s feet were barely showin’.

“What do you mean by normally?”

“I think we should leave now.”

I’m up and moving before I finish my sentence and it’s genuinely pleasing to see her follow me, not hesitating a bit.  Knowin’ someone has that kind of trust in you goes a long way towards makin’ a relationship work.  Mr and Mrs. Smith we aren’t, but we do screw each other and kill people on a regular basis.

While we pack everything my brain lays on the throttle.  “I posted scene flee times from here to The Hole in under seven minutes.  Particularly bad traffic will get us ten.  We can clean The Hole in five and bounce and then go deep.”

She stops moving for a split second.  I don’t know what clicks in her head, but something does.  “What if he hole’s compromised?”

“It is, but there’s something there I need.”  She raises her eyebrow at that, but doesn’t ask any more questions and I don’t volunteer any more information.  We’re both workin’ on things – plans, ideas and ideas of plans – but they still need fleshing out.  When it’s time they’ll come together.  They always do.

Eight and a half minutes later we’re at The Hole.  The Hole is a small cigarette shop I own.  Owned.  It didn’t ever make me any money.  Hell, most of the time it would lose money.  Didn’t matter, though.  The place had been priceless until twenty minutes ago.

In another twenty it would be worthless as tits on a boar.

I go in alone and she waits in the car.  Less than four minutes and I’m back and pulling onto the road with a small pile of hope in the backseat and a knot in my stomach.  The Hole had been a bit more to me than a hiding place, a business interest or a criminal front.  It was a place that I honestly felt comfortable.  Sometimes I would go on siesta and just spend my afternoons there playing cards with the regulars . They knew me as just another guy trying to make a buck and that felt good.

Good enough that I wanted to keep that feeling and when some junkie robbed the place while I was there I called the cops instead of killing the stupid prick.  They had off duties come in for a few months after that.  I gave them a little out of the till (sometimes I even added a bit so they wouldn’t complain) and they played cards with my regulars so the place felt safe.

Problem is, a lot of those cops saw my face on a regular basis.  That fucks everything up.  If something goes wrong on a job, we arrive at the nearest haven exactly three hours after the mistake.  That lets us make sure it’s not hot and lets our team get the arrangements ready for later.  I let The Hole get compromised because I didn’t ever think we would need it.  Not many people to kill here.  Wouldn’t you know I was wrong.

I pull onto a rural road and head deep.  The fog is lighter than I want, but with dim headlights no one should give us much thought.  Hell, they won’t be using air to look for us for at least an hour.  By then we’ll be on the bikes and they’ll need to work a hell of a lot harder to find us.

The others don’t really need to worry.  As long as they stay low until we work everything out they’ll survive without a scratch.

Ours is a small organization.  Besides me and her there’s only three others. Alex is our voice, our front man if you want.  That means he has some cross hairs aimed his way too, but he’s crazy smart and I’m sure he’ll be able to ride it out.  Amanda and Devlin work utility and no one knows they exist, not even Alex.  So they’re pristine.

I really like the name Alex.  Always reminds me of Clockwork.  Amanda’s a good name, too.  Brings back memories of a girl I used to play paint ball with.  She was about five times cooler than you.  But Devlin gets under my skin.  I think it’s because it’s so close to Dylan.  I hate fucking yuppie names.  Ten years ago we had to deal with Chaz, Chet, Thad and Tab.  Who the hell name’s their kid after a diet soda?  Now we get Dylan, Tyler, Noah and Toby.

What the hell.

Imagine a short fat kid.  Do you see him? Put him in a red and white striped t-shirt that’s just a little bit too small.  Got it?  That kid … that’s Toby.

“Cease to resist, giving my goodbye.  Drive my car into the ocean.  You think I’m dead, but I sail away.”  I like to sing when I drive.  Helps me think and makes the time pass.

Before I’m done with the song, we’re at the bikes.


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