APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 5 May, 1999


Too Old

John Guilfoyle

My eyes close gently as I attempt to commit the vision before me to memory. She's like a goddess; she's like no woman I've ever seen. She's the kind of woman who haunted my dreams as young man. The kind of woman I never met, never even had the chance to glimpse. I don't know her name. A room number is all I can attach to her face -- her beautiful, flawless face. The fetching mess of short black curls on her head is a perfect mix of chaos and order, and her movements convey grace, strength, and confidence in equal measure.

Absently licking my dry lips, I look around the room. She has very expensive tastes. From the stylish desert crystal candle-holders on the table -- undoubtedly crafted at Red Sands -- to the Martinique Leduc oil painting over the fireplace, everything oozes quality. Several pictures are scattered around, on shelves and end tables. Pictures of the woman with her family, with what look like high-ranking military officers or politicians. I don't look too close, for fear of recognizing someone. As beautiful as she is, I don't want to know too much.

I watch her every move as she makes her way around the apartment, drinking her in for long seconds. I'm not ashamed as I hold my breath in anticipation of what's to come. She steps into the bathroom for a few painful moments, and when she emerges I see that she's taken off her dress and put on a nightgown. Beneath its gossamer caress I can make out the lines of her hips, her legs, her shoulders, her breasts. Her olive skin contrasts marvelously with the white cotton of her nightie, and for the first time I notice the heat of the night, the sweat on my forehead. I'm aroused. Now is the time.

I hesitate.

She crosses the kitchen floor, cool tile passing under her bare feet. She picks up a small kitchen knife and plucks a piece of fruit out of a bowl. Still standing, she peels the fruit and drops the skin into the recycler. I steady my breathing. She turns to face me, looking radiant. I whisper that I'm sorry, and I touch the trigger, painting the wall behind her with her blood.

She drops to the floor as the report of my rifle thunders in the gulf between our two buildings, rattling glass all the way down to the street. My bullet had turned her bay window to sugar, and then found its mark square in the woman's chest. Lowering my scope, I see her body on the floor. I watch in morbid fascination as the blood spreads quickly and indiscriminately at first, then slows and trickles into the grooves between the ceramic tiles, forming a sort of cris-crossed scarlet lattice on the kitchen floor.

As I break down my rifle and hurry to the roof for extraction, I try to put the woman and her blood-soaked nightgown from my mind. I didn't know her. I don't know what she's done to earn such a death, and I tell myself it's better that I don't. I'm silent on the hopper ride, though the night sky above and city-scape below are both glorious. Perhaps I'm too old for this.

Too old.

Too old to be ending lives indiscriminately. Too old to not care. Too old to hide behind the facade of professionalism.

Too old to change.

By week's end, I'm in Marathon despite my best intentions. I've got a photograph and a piece of paper telling me all I need to know about my next target. I've already forgotten that beautiful woman's face, but I've not forgotten her death. The window shattering a split-second before the red stain leapt upon her bosom. Droplets of blood spattering against the glass cabinets behind her. The fruit rolling out of her lifeless hand. I carry it all with me, and I don't know how much longer I can shoulder the load. Tonight, one way or the other, I'll find out.


Author's Afterward

Well. This is quite a departure for me, writing in the first person, present-tense. I found it fairly challenging, since it's pretty much my first-ever shot at writing something reasonably serious in this format. Also, sorry this is a bit on the short side. It's meant to read a bit like one of the chapter leaders in the DP9 books, so I tried to keep it terse. Let me know if you thought it worked or didn't, and why. Bring on the constructive criticism!


[Nah, forget the constuctive stuff! Lay into him! -Ed.]

Back to APAGear II Archives

APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 5 May, 1999