They could see me; I knew they could. Even though I was hiding behind a dumpster, I knew that some part of my anatomy was sticking out, waiting to be shot.
It started a few years ago. I checked out a few library books, never got around to returning them, and eventually forgot about them. The library was less than pleased with this. They put a bounty on my head. $1,453,210. This bounty was not chosen at random. It was the exact amount of money I owed the library. For a long time I couldn’t pay it back, and then my luck came in.
Earlier today I bought a lottery ticket and won. Four million smackaroos. I hadn’t gotten it all yet. Just one and a half million, the first installment. But it was enough to pay my debt off. I had the books in my backpack and the check in my wallet. All I had to do was make it to the library and pay what I owed, then I would be free and clear. The good news was I only had five more blocks to go. The bad news was that I had a sniper on the rooftops waiting to shoot me, and another killer on the street moving in to flush me out.
I looked out from behind the dumpster and saw her, Mrs. Kerbopolis, the finest assassin they had. She was trained in combat tactics, stealth, demolitions, and the Dewey Decimal system. I was less than appreciative of her skill and precision when a burst of automatic gunfire took the hat off my head.
She moved in closer, her sensible shoes hitting the pavement in a staccato beat that reminded me of the drum roll during an execution. Kerbopolis stopped within five feet of me, the machine gun pointed at my skull, and said, “Do you have any last words?”
I kicked the gun, sending a spray of fire through two windows, a clothesline, Mrs. Hoffeldinger’s cat, several window air conditioning units, and a flowerpot. She corrected her aim and prepared to fire again, but at the same time one of the air conditioning units, mortally wounded, decided to seek revenge. With its last breath, it leapt from the windowsill and plummeted down, landing on Mrs. Kerbopolis’ head, knocking her out.
In an alternate universe, one much nicer than this one, I would have been a gentleman and checked her pulse, perhaps called an ambulance. In such a universe I wouldn’t have a pair of harpy assassins trying to kill me over an honest mistake.
I shot out of the alleyway down Main Street, heading for the library. It was five blocks, and the journey wasn’t helped by Miss Jenkins trying to snipe me from the rooftop. Unfortunately for her, it’s hard to hit a man who’s running around like a second grader on meth. And she wouldn’t want to hit innocent bystanders either. Killing such people was considered a sign of poor skill in the assassin trade, not to mention a mark of unprofessionalism and a lack of work ethic.
As I neared a mailbox I heard the sound of an explosion, sounding as a thousand firecrackers blew up inside a dynamite factory next to a nuclear power plant. Jenkins had detonated it a bit prematurely though, and it only managed to leave me dazed. Apparently, she had called in a favor from the guys in the postal service. I was going to write a stern letter to my congressman tomorrow about proper separation of government powers, especially as it relates to the ones trying to kill me.
I barged past several onlookers, one of them wondering if I was a stunt man and another asking if he was drunk. I answered “No.” to the first and “Probably.” to the second and continued on my way.
Finally, I reached the doors of the library. I walked in and headed towards the returns counter. Suddenly, I heard a pistol being cocked behind me. “Turn around slowly,” Jenkins said.
“You can’t shoot me, this is a library.”
“I equipped a silencer.”
I had no choice. I slowly turned to face her. Then I got an idea. I grabbed a random book off the shelves and held it in front of me. It was the collected works of William Shakespeare. No self respecting librarian/freaky psycho assassin would risk damaging such a great work. I threw it to the side and while she dove to catch it, I ran closer to the counter.
Her instincts were good, her reaction time quick. I hadn’t gotten more than a few paces before the silenced pistol was pointed at my head again. However, by this time I had also managed to get another book in front of me. Anne of Green Gables this time. Miss Jenkins shot me in the shoulder and I dropped the book.
Thinking quickly, I snatched the easiest piece of literature I could, this time Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Before I could even get it in front of me a stream of bullets tore it to shreds. Apparently Jenkins wasn’t a big fan of speculative history.
I wisely rounded the corner as fast as my feet could carry me. She was right behind me.
She called out, in a whisper suitable for a library, “You can’t get away. I’ve read every book in this place on assassination, bounty hunting, and military tactics.”
“How about Walt Whitman?”
“I have, but I find his use of color symbolism sketchy at best.”
“Really, that’s too bad. His imagery is extraordinary,” I said, placing my books down on the returns counter.
“I suppose. What his main strength is, though, is reaching out and grabbing your heart.”
“I feel the same way,” I replied. By this time I had gotten the check down as well. The cashier was ringing up the bill.
“Thank you,” he said, handing my receipt.
Miss Jenkins pointed the gun at my head, “It’s a shame I have to kill you now.”
“Actually, I just paid off my debt,” I said. “Your assassination contract is no longer valid.”
“Say, Miss Jenkins, it is Miss, right?”
“That was a nice shoulder wound you got me with. Tore through the flesh with great accuracy. Didn’t even scratch the bone. That was some nice precision.”
“I was thinking, if you don’t mind, maybe we could get some coffee, continue our discussion of Whitman.”
“That sounds nice.”