No one ever said it was a soft life in this nan’s Caribbean(!). This isn’t London, where you can converse safely in the street without fear of splicing through a cheese shop. This is a crucible where the truly ragged and desperate lose their health, their sanity, and sometimes their lives to build great fortunes. So when it comes time for mainland aristocrat to drop by and collect said fortunes, it pays to be wary of the local hazards, like wild pigs and coconut crabs and the mobs of righteous poor who want to beat the piss out of them.
As someone quite recently indentured, I understand the socioeconomic arguments for giving all those shot-silk custard-sucking bastards a kicking. Unfortunately, I’m too broke to join in. So I’m playing the other side of the market.
|My business cards say, 'I personally promise you'll have a hit point at the end of the mission.'|
Me and those five other “mercenaries” are protecting this bonehead from the terrors of a midnight stroll through English-occupied Grand Turk. Apparently, the last time he was here he “had a run in with the local thugs.” Interesting story, which I can’t help but translate to, “The last time he got out of his carriage a couple stevedores asked him for the time.” Seriously, though. This dude can afford a trip to the Caribbean(!) under his own auspices and six bodyguards—six subcontracted bodyguards, which, I don’t even want to know what the Suspicious Overhead is–once he gets arrives. What am I supposed to pretend happened here? He stole Leroy Brown’s girlfriend?
So he starts strolling along into Dark Alley Boulevard, bold as brass, and my fellow mercs stack up on him in a dutiful anxious puppy swarm.
Then five dudes attack us.
Well, shit. I guess this guy’s the Scarlet Pimpernel.
I mean, jeez. We actually did just have to kill five armed assassins. One of them nearly gutted me with something called a “hanger,” which, at a guess, is not an experience that features in many modern-day tropical vacation packages. This guy absolutely has made some enemies.
Sincerely pissed ones, too. Assuming these killers weren’t contracted via the Suspicious System (“We’ll pay if you win, and you can’t, so we won’t!”), this was an extremely expensive and committed attempt on his life. I mean, how much quality muscle does one criminal enterprise really have access to this far out? For all I know these were the only five hitmen in Grand Turk.
I said, “for all I know, these were the only five…”
Right, here they come.
Look, I’m not feeling a lot of faith in the Suspicious Man on this one. If I see a nun standing on a porch I am cashing the fuck out.
I mean, holy crap, we’re not even in the alleyway anymore! We are on main street! There’s little bakeries and homesteads and shit, and these sods are boiling up a pot of blood and gunsmoke gumbo and not even pretending everyone can’t see them. Who thinks they’re getting away with this? What is going on here?
But our patron just keeps striding on, totally complacent, apparently unsurprised at the full-blown military action his arrival prompted, and in no obvious hurry to reach his destination. Which, five more dead men later, we do. This is an unhappy time in my life. Not because I’m killing people, but because it’s been obvious for the past minute or so exactly where this wealthy embattled turd was headed this whole time.
The gate leading out of town.
“Anything else?” As usual, just a question. This “friend” of yours–and I want your honest opinion, as a colleague and fellow entrepreneur–is he in any respect Oliver Cromwell? Because I’m trying to figure out why all of England wants him dead.
You know what, though? As trying as that was on my last remaining rational nerve, I didn’t actually break a sweat. Hours of grueling bloodshed in various Mount and Blade titles have put me onto the sublime path of martial supremacy: I wait until my dumbass comrades have got stuck in and then I circle round and stab everyone in the back. So I didn’t waste any time on that mission–at least, beyond the modest baseline.
In other words, this job was an unqualified success. Hit me with another.
So this noble, who remains nameless, owes the Suspicious Man money. And now Suspicious Man wants to hire a bunch of goons with clubs to go up against bodyguards with blades to beat him up.
And there it is. The innocent splash of paint that turns the asinine street art into the viral sensation–the detail that completes the bigger picture. See if you can follow me:
So some green soft-dandy aristocrat rolls into town a few months back, and local ruffians with ties to, let’s say, suspicious men corner him and beat him up. So when he has to come back for business a month later, a local pillar of the community steps forward and says, dear oh dear, we’d all hate to see something like that happen again–why don’t I find you some protection? Set everyone’s mind at ease. But it won’t be cheap, oh no. I’ll have to pay them out two thousand piastres apiece, muscle’s not free, not ’round here, but just for you sir I won’t take nothing for meself. Credit? Oh, absolutely, your grace.
And so the day arrives and six bodyguards show up, and what do you know, fifteen assassins show up as well. Only they don’t attack all at once–they come in little waves. Somehow they all find this meandering route which the nobleman, who’s not from around here, has apparently decided or been advised to follow–but they all show up at the worst possible ambush spots.
Why? Why not compare notes and all show up in a single devastating offensive? It’s like they didn’t know the other teams existed.
And can you imagine how much you’d have to pay fifteen assassins? Unless you happen to know they’ll all die before you can pay out. All this is starting to seem a little bit, what’s the word? Dubious? Sketchy? It’ll come to me.
So the nobleman reaches the end of his bloody track, and of course the assassins took their toll on the bodyguards, what a shame most of them won’t live to collect their due, dear oh dear. But the service was rendered and the piastres are due–the full balance, of course, even for the dead, widows and orphans you know–what’s that? You don’t have the money yet? And now your house guard have arrived and you don’t expect you’ll need my services again?
Not a problem. Not a problem at all.
And then the nobleman’s out taking his air and exercise, and suddenly a mob of men with clubs fall on his men with swords.
And as the nobleman hits the bricks, bleeding and sobbing as his boys whittle the assailants down to what we’ll call a manageable headcount, one thought worms through the concussion: I need a better class of bodyguard.
And all that’s as may be. But, you know what? I just got paid twice for light work. I’ve got no real stake to complain here. So tell me, Mister Man, now that you’ve just got done speaking with the battered noble–have you got anything else on the slate tonight? Any other rackets?
In my mind’s eye, the Suspicious Man’s businesslike demeanor puckers, and his lips purse with the spittled ghost of a guffaw. But no treasonous noise escapes him. How’s that, Suspicious Man?
“It seems,” he says–and then his jaw squirms, and despite himself his eye burns with puckish glee. “It seems there’s a nobleman who wants some new bodyguards.”
Absolutely incredible. I can just picture the bossman standing there–cold somber–his paternal hand on the nobleman’s swollen, blackened shoulder. “Listen, mate. You’re going to want bodyguards for when you go home tonight. This town can be dangerous.”
Tonight’s been like getting paid to pose nude for a Dutch master. If you can get past the goosebumps, it’s frankly an education.
NEXT WEEK: NOT POSING NUDE FOR A DUTCH MASTER