Los Angeles, CA – September 1980
Jack walked into the nightclub on Sunset Strip. He didn’t dread these meetings, he just never knew what to expect.
He spoke with security and told them he was there to see Marty. He gave the password, and they let him come into the private room in the back. Marty was there sitting at the bar sipping a glass of whiskey.
“Jack! Great to see you, buddy. It’s been too long. Have a seat. What are you drinking?”
“Nothing for me, thanks. What’s on your mind?”
“We’ve got a little situation. Everything’s fine right now, but we’ve heard some things from some of our contacts in Hawaii.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
“One of our people overheard a guy saying some things to his friends at a bar. We’ve had our eye on this guy for a while, and we think you should look into it.”
“Is there a file yet?”
Marty reached into a leather bag on the floor next to him and produced a folder. He handed it to Jack. He took the folder and flipped through it.
“Is this everything?”
“Well… it’s never everything, Jack. That’s why I called you. Read the file and get to know this individual. We’ve gathered as much intel on this guy’s background as possible. We just feel that things could escalate and that can’t happen.”
“What’s the fee?”
“The usual. But if things get sticky you’ll be compensated accordingly for any extra effort.”
“What’s the time frame on this?”
“Well, we know where he is right now and where he may be going, but not much else.”
“So you just want me to follow him?”
“Yea. Keep an eye on him.”
“We’ll give you his location and the details are in the file. If you want to talk with him at some point, that’s your call. But I really think this needs to be addressed sooner than later. There are a few of these types out there but usually, it never comes to anything. But this one’s got me nervous.”
“Do I need to know who the client is?”
“No. That’s why I brought you in, Jack. You’re good at helping people and doing the right thing when necessary.”
Jack looked at the file. “No previous criminal record. Interesting.”
“Yea. Could be nothing but the client doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”
“How long’s the job?”
“Hard to say. Could be a month, maybe longer. We really don’t know.”
“Alright. Anything else?”
“Uh, yea. I want you to partner with Adhira.
“Come on. You know I only work alone, Marty.”
“Look… for this job I want you to have her with you. This way you won’t stand out too much.”
“Oh, okay… me and some hot Indian chick. Yea, I won’t stand out at all.”
“You two have worked well together in the past and I think while you’re traveling it’ll just look less conspicuous if it looks like you’re a couple. As I said, this all could turn out to be nothing, but it’s for the best if Adhira is with you.”
“Fine. So what’s next?”
“Here are your tickets to Honolulu. Adhira’s already there. She’ll pick you up at the airport.”
“Okay. You got it.”
Honolulu, HI – September 1980
As night fell on the island, Jack and Adhira had dinner at Roy’s Hawaii Kai.
“Food’s great here, Jack. Remember when we worked that surveillance gig back in’78?”
“Yea. That was a crazy time, Adhira. It’s been two years. You still look the same.”
“You look a little tired, Jack. Have you read the file?”
“Probably jet lag that’s all. Yea, I read it on the plane on the way out. The guy seems a bit nuts but I don’t see the urgency here.”
“Well, if Marty hired you it must mean something. Hey…how bad is your life? You’re in Hawaii for goodness’ sake.”
“Yea, but why are you here, Adhira?”
“Oh, thanks a lot, Jack. Way to make a girl feel welcome.”
“You know what I mean. I always work alone. I just like it that way. Free to move around how and when I want.”
“Marty just thought that for this sort of job, you could use a little company on the road. You know my skills. One of them is to keep whoever I’m with calm and centered. And you know how you you can be.”
“How can I be, Adhira?”
“A little intense. You tend to get a little obsessed with the work sometimes. I’m here to provide you with a bit of balance.”
“Did Marty tell you that about me?”
“There are files on all of us, Jack. Now eat your butterfish.”
Jack grinned and took a mouthful. He looked into Adhira’s dark eyes. She smiled and sipped her wine. He always wondered how such a beautiful woman could end up working at the agency. Her lovely face was framed by raven tresses that tumbled about her shoulders like a moonless river.
“So what’s your take on this guy, Jack?”
“Well, as I said, he seems a little nuts. Textbook upbringing. His father was a sergeant in the air force, and his mom was a nurse. Dad was a little abusive to his mom and he never felt like his old man loved him. That sounds like my family. What son hasn’t thought that about their father?”
“Yea, and he wasn’t athletic in school and sort of a poor student. Kind of a loser.” Adhira frowned.
“Yea, kind of like me. But then there’s all the religious stuff he’s gotten into. I think that’s where the real trouble usually starts. People get these righteous ideas, and some can get a little fanatical about that. My ex-wife was religious and she had a lot of good intentions… if you get what I mean.”
“Yea. The road to hell is paved with them. I get it. He did have some early success working at that kid’s camp in Georgia. Maybe he should have just kept doing that.”
“But I think as he’s gotten older he’s started to unravel a bit. I don’t know what happens to some people. Most of us get disillusioned and sad about stuff, but we move on. Then there are other people who just can’t seem to pull themselves out of it. It’s a shame really.”
Did you see in the file how he started to get into these altercations with the camp counselors and can’t seem to fit in anywhere?”
“Right. Which for some odd reason brings him out here. Kinda weird. It’s expensive to live on this island. It’s a resort. Then he attempts suicide by asphyxiation in his car, but screws that up too when the hose he stuck on the exhaust pipe melts, and he survives. Some people move to California thinking they’ll start a new life. But like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, it’s just the last exit for the lost. But why Hawaii to kill yourself?”
“Maybe to die in paradise? Didn’t they give him a job at the mental hospital they stuck him in after his attempted suicide?”
“Yea, but then he got into an altercation with the head nurse and quit. I think the last job he held was as a security guard. Funny how he’s good with the kids at the camp, then works at a hospital, and then in security. It’s like he’s always working in jobs that serve and protect human life. But then he starts drinking, and that’s never a good thing if you’re suffering from mental illness.”
“I think it’s only made his obsessions worse.”
“Yea, booze makes you feel better in the beginning… but after a while, it sledgehammers everything else in your life.”
“Speaking from personal experience, Jack?”
“What do you think?”
Manhattan, NY – December 1980
Jack and Adhira sat in their agency-issued vehicle in front of the hotel where their subject was staying.
“We’ve been on this job for a couple of months and although I’ve enjoyed our time together, Jack. I don’t know what to think now.”
“Yea… He goes to New York, and he wanders around the city and not much else. Then he leaves. We follow him to Atlanta, he meets with a friend and then he’s back in Hawaii. Now here we are back in New York again. It’s just weird. But I believe he’s still thinking about doing something.”
December 7, 1980
Jack and Adhira followed their subject as he walked around the city. Keeping a close tail but far enough away to seem inconspicuous. It was pretty easy in a city as populated as Manhattan. They were standing near the 72nd Street subway entrance when they saw their subject speak to someone for the first time since they’d been following him.
“Jack…look. He’s talking to that guy over there. I wonder what that’s all about? Planning something with him?”
“I don’t know, but doesn’t that guy look like the singer, James Taylor? It’s uncanny.”
“Yea, that’s funny. He really does look like him. Let’s just stay close.”
It was early morning. Jack and Adhira sat in a cafe across the street from the Sheraton Hotel. They watched as their subject walked out of the hotel lobby.
“He’s on the move. Let’s go.”
They followed him to a local bookstore. He was inside for a few minutes and then exited the store. They again followed him to 72nd Street just off Central Park. He just hung out in front of a large apartment building chatting with people and the doorman. Jack watched from across the street and Adhira went to get the car.
They later sat in the car parked nearly in front of the building. Watching their subject just hanging around the entrance.
“This is boring, Jack. He’s just standing around. He’s not doing anything. Maybe his connection is late or something. This doesn’t make sense. All we’ve seen is a guy chatting with people, and that one lady with the little kid he said hello to. But I don’t think he really knows any of these people.”
“Jack, we’ve been here all day watching this guy. What time is it?”
“Nearly 11 pm. Are there any of those fries left?”
“Thanks. You know what? Stay here. I’m gonna get out and stretch my legs. I’m going to go talk to this guy.”
“What are you going to say?”
“I’ll think of something. Move into the driver’s seat, in case we have to leave again, okay?”
“No problem. But after this, you’re buying me some real food and some strong drinks.”
“You got it.”
Jack exited the car and approached the apartment building’s archway entrance. The subject stood off to his left.
A black limousine pulled up in front of the building and caught Jack’s attention. A man and woman exited the limo and walked toward the entrance.
Jack was right behind the subject at this point. Adhira watched from inside their car. The man and woman walked past the subject and Jack thought he heard the subject say the man’s name. The subject then reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun.
From years of training, Jack was ready. He was always ready. This was what he did for a living.
The problem solver.
Jack emptied the clip of his .38 automatic into the subject’s body. Headshot first followed by a hail of bullets into his body. The subject fell to the ground as the woman with the man screamed and ducked behind her husband. They both turned and looked into Jack’s face.
But only for a moment.
Blood began to pool around the subject’s head as he died on the pavement in front of the building. Guards grabbed the couple and pulled them inside the lobby.
Jack was already gone. He leaped into the car, and Adhira hit the gas. Within minutes they were far from the scene.
“Oh my God! How did you know, Jack?”
“It’s what I do. Just keep driving.”
Los Angeles, CA – December 9
Jack sat alone at the bar in the club on Sunset Strip. He was approached by one of the servers.
“Marty will see you now, sir.”
Jack walked into the back room and sat down in front of Marty’s desk.
“You did good, Jack. Real good.” He placed a briefcase on the desk in front of him.
Jack looked at him and took a sip from his drink. “No.”
“No? but, there’s extra in there.”
“You keep it.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yea. This one’s on me.”
I wrote this story back in 2020 in memory of one of my fallen heroes who was taken from us too soon on December 8, 1980.
If only things could have been different…
Rest in peace, John.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.
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Merry Christmas, everyone.