A man was born, he lived and he died. There was typically much, much more to the story than that, but for some, that is the extent of their lives. The significance, the value, the meaning, all depends on point of view. Ted didn’t have a very high opinion about his point of view, at least not at the moment.
Ted was currently in the process of the living part, and was desperately trying to stay that way. He had done the being born bit many years ago, and had successfully staved off the death element for quite some time. The amazing part was that Ted was still alive. By most accounts, he had no business continuing to breathe air, walk, talk, and do all of the other mundane and sublime activities that are considered part of a life. But, here he was, still among the living, and doing his level best to stay that way.
Sherry, however, was intent on moving Ted from the middle stage to the last stage of the story. She was, however, not having much luck. Not for lack of trying, mind you. Ted currently was sporting at least 2 stab wounds and one bullet in the thigh. Unfortunately for Sherry, not one of them was anywhere close to being fatal. Ted had got his licks in though, but not with quite the same level of success. Sherry had one small nick from a knife-blade, and was grazed on the ear when the fight turned to guns.
Like it or not, this time one of them would not be coming out alive. Too often, they both managed to drag themselves from the field of battle, and returned to fight another day. Their respective bosses seemed to like the work they did, and it always seemed that wherever Ted showed up, there was Sherry. And vice versa. Both ways.
“Hey!” Ted called out. The packing crate he knelt behind was sporting more new holes.
“What?” Sherry yelled in reply. She was decidedly not happy about current events.
“Look. We keep doing this. Why don’t you give it up and we can both go home?”
“Not this time buddy. I’ve had it, and you are going down.”
“I am, am I?”
In reply, Sherry opened up with the submachine gun again, attempting to reduce Ted’s crate to splinters. Ted had no choice but to find a new crate.
“You missed” Ted announced.
Sherry poked her head up just over the edge of the steam pipe, looking to see where Ted went. Ted was looking back from his new location. Both raised their weapons, and the sound of gunfire exploded into the air and echoed in the warehouse. The reverberation was deafening.
“Okay, so you want me out of here. Why? What did I do to you?” Ted asked.
“Remember Bangkok. Under that bridge near the Trade Center? The night market?”
“Asshole! I still can’t crap right. Okay, I’m sure to you it seemed like fun at the time, doing that in a public place, but it wasn’t for me, and you just took it a bit too far.”
“Er, babe, you asked for it. ‘Course, you probably don’t remember that part.”
“Lies! I did no such thing.”
Ted fired a few random shots her way.
“Did to! Right after you swallowed that blue shit the old man was selling.”
“I remember the blue shit. Then I remember waking up, and having a hard time sitting comfortably. I do NOT remember ‘asking for it’.”
Bullets slammed into Ted’s newest crate, sending splinters up and around him.
“Well, you did. I didn’t want to…”
“Then you shouldn’t have. You didn’t have to sit through 20 hours of flying time afterwards.”
Ted grinned to himself for a moment. “Actually, I did. I suspect I was more comfortable.” Ted heard a ‘whump’, followed by the clatter of something rattling near his feet. The grenade came as a bit of a shock. He picked it up and tossed it toward Sherry, but it exploded in mid-flight, sending shrapnel everywhere. A piece caught Ted on the cheek.
“Hah! Serves you right” Sherry gloated. She ducked as Ted fired a few more rounds her way. She decided it was time for a new spot. She saw a nice place behind a big, thick water tank, and scuttled over to it.
“Bitch. I’m going to get you, and do it again!”
“Just try, prick! Just try.”
Sherry was watching Ted’s current crate, and she could see part of Ted’s head exposed near one edge. He appeared to be leaning over a bit. She pulled out her revolver, uncovered the small scope attached to it and took aim at the sliver of hair-covered skull peeking around the edge. She activated the laser, and a spot formed on the brown curly mass poking past the box. Sherry squeezed the trigger, and the bullet leapt on its way, grazing Ted’s skull and taking a fair chunk of skin and hair away.
“Shit! That hurt!” Ted screamed.
“And more of the same is coming”. Sherry took out two hand grenades, pulled their pins and rolled them across the floor, where they bumped against Ted’s crate. They exploded, taking most of the crate with them.
“Okay, okay! Look, I give up” Ted started to raise his hands. Sherry fired her machine gun again, putting a hole in Ted’s right hand. Ted screamed at her “I said I was surrendering, damn it!”
“Not accepting it. Now, you can put the bullet into your own head, or I can do it for you. I’d rather hit you in the gut though. I don’t want to make this easy for you.”
“Easy? How is getting shot in the head easy?”
“It’s over too quick.”
“So, you won’t accept my surrender then.” Ted said it more as a statement than a question.
Ted sat down behind the remains of his crate. This was a new one. Sherry always accepted surrender. It was one of their rules, although Ted would have to admit they never wrote it down or anything. It had to have been more than a kinky act under a bridge in southeast Asia. She’d had as bad or worse, as had Ted and the others in the trade. What could it be?
“Okay, so what is your fucking problem, then? And don’t feed me that crap about Bangkok. Its not like you were a virgin or anything.”
The only sound was the laboured breathing of Ted and Sherry as adrenaline pumped through their systems.
“Look, could we at least talk about it? I want to know the real reason I’m going to die.”
“I at least deserve that” Ted pleaded.
“No” Sherry barked back after a pause. “If you can’t remember the real reason, or at least figure it out, then screw you. What you did was cruel, and I can never forgive you.”
“Oh, come on, it wasn’t…” Ted started.
“It wasn’t Bangkok.” She paused. “Don’t you remember four years ago? Or did that mean nothing to you? And then two years after that?”
Ted thought hard, trying to remember. Four years. Four years. What had happened four years ago?
“You mean, between us? He asked.
“Yes, you moron. Who else would it have been.” She fired a single round at the concrete near him, causing bits of the rock and cement to spray at him.
Ted kept thinking. What? There was that job in Buenos Aires, but she wasn’t involved directly. Then that bit of work on the boat from Southampton to Abidjan. Or the trip in Tokyo….oh, wait a minute.
“Tokyo?” he yelled.
“That’s part of it.”
“You mean, after we…”
“Yes, after that. Try about nine months after that.”
“But I thought you were protected.”
“It doesn’t always work you idiot.”
“So that was why you dropped out of things for a while. But then two years ago as well?”
“Detroit. Near the river.”
What did he do near the river? He remembers taking out a small boat from the shore, but…
“Who was on the boat?” Ted asked, not knowing if he wanted the answer.
“Take a wild fucking guess.”
Ted thought, and thought and thought. Who could have been on the boat? He tried to replay the mission in his mind. The boat contained someone with information, and that someone was targeted for removal. He was on the shore, the boat was moving by slowly, he raised the rifle, scanned the deck, and… nothing. He was still drawing a blank. What was he missing?
“I still don’t get it” he said. A flurry of bullets slammed into the remains of his latest crate. Time to move! He scuttled over behind a forklift, bullets following him as he moved.
“Who did you see on the boat?”
Ted tried to recall the events again. He remembered there weren’t many people on deck. Just a guy at the wheel, and… something. But, what?
“There was a guy at the wheel.”
“Yeah. And who else did you see?” she barked.
Sherry peered past the tank, looking at the forklift. There were tears in her eyes. Why doesn’t he get it? Is he that thick? Or that unfeeling? How could he give her something that special, and then take it away?
“Who else did you see?” she asked again, emphasizing each word.
Ted was stumped. He remembers something small near the guy, but what the hell was it? It moved pretty fast, but he could only see… hold the phone.
“There was a kid there too.” he yelled.
“You finally remembered.”
Ted’s mind cleared. Now he remembers, the guy at the wheel, looking down from time to time at the child beside him. Just before he pulled the trigger that launched the grenade that hit the boat and blew it into a million pieces. And blew the guy into a million pieces. And the child.
Sherry had no such memory blockage. She remembers seeing the boat off, then the glint of light that could only be off of a scope. Then the faint arc of the grenade, and then her whole world exploding into a fireball.
“Whose kid was it? Ted queried.
Sherry screamed, and emptied all thirty rounds into the forklift. Surprisingly, none hit the propane cylinder.
“Jeezus, was it yours?” Ted yelled.
“And yours too. You killed my son. Our son. And you didn’t even give a damn, did you?”
Ted felt his stomach lurch. His son? He had a son?
“So what do you want me to do about it? I didn’t know, you didn’t tell me, and I had a job to do. What do you want me to do?”
“Die” came a husky, female voice right beside him.
Ted hadn’t noticed that Sherry had been maneuvering closer. Now she was standing right over him.
“Fine, take me then. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do now, or could have done then.”
Sherry raised her pistol, pulled the trigger twice. Ted slumped over.
“You finally did something right.”