Monday, June 15, 2009
Walking out of that office door, the floor clean, the Diputado's head in his hands as he stares at the newspaper he was reading when I entered the room. He'll do fine. He'll oblige my client and we'll even compensate him for his new found clarity with another pound of gold coin. That's how it works, actually: people get paid, they fuck up, they correct it, they get paid more.
No one wants to think of the other outcome. Everyone fucks up. Most fix it so that they can break promises again. Sometimes it reminds me of a couple I know; they slam each other's faces with fists, then they make love till the early morning. Like shampoo, it's rinse and repeat. Not my style, just my job.
As I roll down that lonely but clean hallway, turning out the lights as I lock up behind myself, I consider the unlikely odds of me returning again next week. Slim to none. No one wants blood on their hands, but in reality it won't be me coming back. I'm not the muscle, I'm just the shot of adrenaline that you get moments before something bad happens.
I hear a noise, and my hand reaches to my tool bag strapped to the small of my back. No, not for a weapon to defend myself, but for a bag of chocolate M&Ms, the plain kind. Forty-two-and-a-half grams of mostly sugar. That's my rush of adrenaline to end my day. A door opens in front of me and a man who I recognize from days of scoping out the building smiles and walks past me. I don't get scared, I know how people think, how they respond.
Most people respond with tears. Some people scream. Once in awhile, they draw their own weapon, which is quickly knocked out of the way. There's something a lot of people don't know about others: what you're going to do 10 seconds from now is completely readable. If you're thinking of pulling a gun from a drawer, the muscles in your neck tighten. Which side tells me which hand you're going to move. I can see muscles move in your hand, fingers twitch. Your eyes give you away.
If a woman is going to kiss me for the first time, I can read that, too. She'll take a minor lean BACKWARDS. Most guys will never notice. They'll lick their lips sometimes, or glance at mine microscopically. I notice. It's my job.
My response is always to prepare for the most realistic situation, not the worst. The worst never happens, people are afraid of it. You might get a nut case here or there who flings himself at a gun pointed at his chest, but they're easy to admonish: smack that bitch in the temple, hard. Problem solved. He'll end up crying, too.
As I get in the freight elevator, I grab my backpack I left there for this slow exit. Manuel's jumpsuit gets thrown in there, along with the shoes and the toolbag. I throw on my Eton white cotton-linen blend dress shirt (with black gold cuff-links), pull on my Brioni flat front slacks in chocolate, and pull on a pair of old Bottega Venetas in black. The belt is also black. I prefer these Venetas because they're worn in, and if I have to run (doubtful), I can.
The elevator breaks at the ground floor, chugging the last few inches. It's an old building with new public elevators. This one is on its last leg. I hop down the 1/2" difference to the ground floor, swing past the security front desk with a wave, and head onto the street. A quick mile walk and I've gone from the center of town to the outskirts ghetto. I'm out of character, but the regular characters here have no beef with me.
Anyone in dress shoes in this area has business here, and is left alone. My business is with one of the many metal oil drums that are burning whatever paper, cardboard and garbage could be found. I add the backpack to the fire, stare at the homeless degenerate drug abuser who looks scared at my eyes, and turn back to reality. In truth, there are more degenerate drug abusers on any nice street than here, but a least they hide their problems, away from burning bins of trash.
The car I called arrives almost exactly when I do, pulling up to a pre-specified stop off of Río San Pedro. My driver is Alfonzo, the same guy as always. He never asks who I am, but he always comes exactly on time. I turn my wrist to check my watch. Fuck! There's $13,000 in fine gold, sitting at the bottom of an oil drum with 1200 degree fire blazing above it. All in a day's work, I guess.
Alfonzo is nervous with me, twitchy. I pay him in cash, he never takes me anywhere apparent, we never speak. He's twitchy with me, but not with others. I've driven in cars with him as the driver before, but I had a different haircut, facial hair, dress. He didn't recognize me then, but he was always comfortable with the customer I was with. It's OK, he does his job, he never asks questions, he's prompt, and he takes me where I need to go.
He drops me off in an alleyway, off Santa Engracia not too far from where he picked me up. I pay him, in Swiss Francs, and watch him drive off through a reflection in the warehouse building window ahead of me. I walk down the alleyway and grab my scooter rental. My bag is still on it, even the keys are in the ignition. The bum who is watching it is sleeping against it. I kick his leg, twice, and he wakes up. He mangles something in French, but I have no idea what he said. I whip out 100 euros and pay the bum, thanking him in French. He smiles longingly at the 100 euro bill he's holding, not paying attention to anything I say.
I hop on the scooter, making my way down Calle de Sta Engracia. I twist into traffic on Plaza de Chamberí, continuing onto a crazy traffic circle that leads me to Paseo de Eduardo Dato. The next few streets are named after who-knows-whoms: Calle de Juan Bravo, then Calle de Serrano, followed by Calle de López de Hoyos and ending up with a right turn/merge at Calle de María de Molina.
My little scooter barely keeps up with traffic, and as I hit Av de América, I wonder why I didn't ask for a bigger engine. Who knows. 7 kilometers down and I finally pass under the sign that reads "Autovía de Acceso al Aeropuerto de Barajas," which puts me on highway E-90. Moments later, Barajas International Airport pops into view. It's dark out, the day has passed.
So why this basically boring story? This is mostly my life. It's not all excitement, it's not adventurous. I get work, I do the work quickly, and then I'm alone. There isn't room for friends or wives, children or parents. Today it's Madrid, tomorrow it's Tijuana, next week it's Oklahoma where cities mean nothing because the entire state will just lead one to suicide. At least there's work.
As I drop off my scooter at the airport exchange, I whip out my passport. Monaco, this one. It's a lot easier to rent and travel in Europe and Western Asia when you have a Monegasque passport. The attendant doesn't even look: he knows me, remembers me, and promises to take care of the paperwork. He also knows his 100 euro bill is attached to the bottom of my passport as I slide it his way. It's not there when he returns it.
Off I head, into another airport in another town to complete another job. My customer doesn't expect me. He's already paid me in full, and even included the bonus since he knows I do my job quickly, efficiently, and without any blood on his hands (or mine). Still, I like the end of a job the most: the glass of Scotch that even I could never afford, with a cigar that is even more expensive, and an hour of time with a client who I will never admit to knowing in public, or even in private. Such is the life of a Finisher.
Such is my life, my truth.
This story is the first part of chapter 1 of my soon-to-be-published book Finisher, continued from the preface: It shouldn't have come to this