An object lesson in how a fool buys gas.
A key, the key, underpinning my existence is, ironically, my non-existence. Most of the most powerful, influential and ruthless people alive want me dead. They have resources and reach beyond what you are willing to believe. I survive because I carefully make sure that I’m believed to be probably dead. Probably dead. As in, there is clear evidence that I’m dead but until my body is delivered stuffed and mounted, visually identified, with confirmation from multiple independent, unimpeachable sources and a note from God there is a very tiny possibility that I might be alive and therefore resources will be spent to locate my possibly dead / un-dead self. Those resources, while minor to the people involved, are still more than any known agency would devote short of a world-wide manhunt. That’s the sort of people I’m talking about. I used to work for them so I know what I’m talking about. I emphasize this so you understand that my number one rule is to never be noticed in any way by anyone unless it’s time to be noticed. So why, when I found myself in the middle of a hold up at a little mom and pop gas station in northern Louisiana did I get involved?
It was a pretty good day, cool, slightly overcast. Those sorts of days make wearing a coat and a hat completely normal and I like wearing coats and hats. I’d left North Carolina a few days before and headed west. (A good rule of thumb if you’re being tracked by devious people is to always start out in the direction you actually intend to go because they will generally assume that you’re not going in the direction you start out. Another good rule of thumb is to never be consistent in your rules of thumb. Take what you will from those two sentences.) Normally, I’d probably have zigzagged and backtracked across several state borders in random directions at random intervals (did you know that it’s impossible for people to actually be random? When we try to be random we inevitably set up some sort of internal pattern of randomness). This time I’d driven due west for two hours and fifteen minutes and then camped in the back corner of a cow pasture for two nights. I crossed over into Louisiana and it was time to get gas (never let your vehicle get below three-quarters of a tank, you never know how far you might need to drive without stopping.) so I pulled into Gert’s Gas (yes, I made that name up. Why would I tell you where I really was?). I filled up and walked in. The man behind the register (we’ll call him Gus) was ringing someone up when I walked in (never shop if you’re the only customer in the place) and his wife was serving chicken strips to another someone from behind a 1985 Artica deli case. I went to the back to get a drink and some snacks (never buy more than twenty dollars’ worth of items in a gas station and never less than three dollars’ worth. Also, never make them return more than fifty percent of the bill as change and never give exact change.).
I actually saw the moron coming in before the robbery started. I saw him through the glass as he came around the corner of the building but it was too late for me to get out. I could see he was carrying a gun under his coat (a skill I’ve carefully cultivated) and I could tell he had no real idea how to use it. There was a long, thin, white pole with a suction cup on one end (the kind you use to change the little plastic letters on outside signs) leaning near the door leading behind the beer case and while he charged in and yanked his gun from his pants, miraculously without shooting himself, and demanded “all of it, open it up and gimme all of it”, I unscrewed the suction cup from the pole.
There are naturally occurring movement patterns for every habitual human condition. People in various professions have indicators developed over time that speak of their profession. Usually hobbies are the same. Disabilities are also the same. When you see someone who exhibits all of the proper indicators of blindness; a slight shuffle of the feet, a directionless and vague gaze, a small but continuous swivel and inclination of the head to focus on sound, etc. (there are actually nine typical indicators of blindness); your unconscious mind automatically recognizes them as blind even if, for instance, they happen to be using a white aluminum pole with threads on one end rather than a true “long” or “Hoover” cane. He saw me coming and the gun nervously swiveled toward me (which I very carefully failed to recognize) but he dismissed me and re-focused on Gus. He let me get close.
Too bad for him. That’s the penalty for stupid. I stripped the gun with one hand and collapsed his trachea with a tiger’s-mouth blow (Google it) with the other. He died choking within two minutes. I’ve never claimed to be a nice guy.
That begs the question of why did I even get involved? I could have fairly easily stayed in the back unnoticed (I’m good at unnoticed). He’d probably have taken the cash and run. Worst case he’d have shot Gus and Gert and maybe the other two customers. Was that it? Did I feel bad for Gus and Gert and his high blood pressure (weight and facial coloration) and her arthritis in the knee (she unconsciously favored the left side) and their two daughters, one in college and the other still in high school (the only car in the parking lot that had been there all day had an up to date booster sticker from the local high school and had last year’s mortarboard tassel hanging from the rear view mirror.)? I’ve done a lot of…clinical things in the past. You already know about my former employers. My skill set has been responsible for a lot of death and destruction (I wasn’t a trigger puller but I sent the trigger pullers) in the past. Was this some instinctive grasp at a form of redemption?
There were obviously no images of my face on the one cheap security camera. I know how to avoid those and I had on a hat, remember? I left immediately when everyone else was still focuses on the man slowly dying on the floor. I took the pole and there were no other useful fingerprints left behind. But, and this is a big but, I was noticed. I don’t get noticed.
Unless I want to get noticed.
Sometimes chasing a hint of a rumor that leads nowhere is more diverting than searching for something that isn’t there at all.
I never said I was nice.