The Hitman That Found God
"The Hitman That Found God.”
Just when I thought I had the required time in country and streets-smart instincts to anticipate almost every weird thing that could possibly happen to me in Asia, something like this happens. One morning, a local, top-rung Hit Man came knocking on my door.
We became friends about seven years ago when I accidentally beat up a guy in a bar that he had a contract to politely persuade or "remove".
Two years later, he disappeared without a trace. I figured that he probably succumbed to the endgame of most Hit Men - someone else probably offed him while he was being cocky or careless. But there he stood this morning, smiling at me on my front porch.
He looked more like a Tricycle driver than a Hollywood version of a successful, high-paid assassin. And that's why I was instantly suspicious. Contrary to popular belief, the most successful assassins were gifted chameleons and made it a point to disguise themselves as non-threatening, ordinary people; just another working Joe lost in the crowd. It's akin to the contrast between the Rambo types portrayed in the movies and actual Special Ops Personnel. Real life Special Warfare operators, when seen in public civilian settings, are usually reserved, almost painfully quiet, slimmer, and shorter - rather diminutive- compared to the loud-mouthed, aggressive, and muscle bound characters depicted in the movies.
In fact, the most lethal person I have ever known was a guy named "Saul" - a frail looking, tiny, ancient man who ran the Mossad's Krav Maga Instructor-Trainer program I attended many years ago when I was still a Bad Ass Punk; truly believing that I was "an indestructible, young Superman." That little old man instinctively knew that I was my team's Ring Leader. So, on the first day of training, he called me out and simply said, "Son, kindly attack me." I hesitated for a second, then attempted to "close the gap" and subdue this elder as quickly as possible without embarrassing him too much.
What happened next made me look like a total idiot.
In less than three seconds, he deftly side-stepped my advance, effortlessly cammed my strikes, stunned me with lightning fast, open-hand blows, knees, and elbows, trapped my arms, and with a simple leg-sweep and finger push, threw me to the ground like a red-headed stepchild! With his knee in the back of my neck and my arms securely pinned, he whispered in my ear, "Son, we understand each other now, no? Humbled, that was the moment in my life when I decided it was wise to deflate my bloated ego, listen more, and immediately let go of any, irrational fantasies of immortality.
Ok, enough about how I got my ass whipped by a little, old man. I distinctly remember that my friend, when he was not working, had an obsession for a clean-cut, neatly dressed appearance. But now, he wore an old style, camouflaged jungle hat, nicknamed "Boonie Hats" in the military, a dirty oversized T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, grease-stained baggy cargo shorts, a small carry-all bag slung over his right shoulder, and cheap flip-flops.
It was about 7:50am and I had just returned home from bringing my daughter to High School on my old, nondescript scooter. As much as I could, I avoided conspicuous consumption. It's a no-brainer. If you look wealthy or pretty, Asia punishes you in one way or another; and usually by the same people you thought you could trust!
So, after running the newbie Asian gauntlet of getting scammed, heartbroken, scammed again, burglarized, scammed once again, and being taken advantage of for showing how weak you are by displaying generosity, or even worse, kindness? Then and only then, do you eventually learn how to blend into the surroundings. Or, at the very least, you learn how to look like less of an easy, juicy target.
My scooter was an example of this. It is a six year-old, ubiquitous, red colored, 115 cc Yamaha Vega. Indistinguishable from all the other scooters of the same make and model, I didn't have to worry about theft; especially when there were so many rookie foreigners showing off their expensive bikes. I see it every year; Newbie Ex-Pats on their big, multi-thousand-dollar bikes that they can barely sit on and touch their toes to the ground. And it's even more comical to watch them try to drive those behemoths safely. Apparently, the size of your wallet doesn't guarantee that you know how to use a clutch.
Imagine that? Seriously, what the Hell were they thinking? In my small city, you were hard-pressed to speed over 40 kilometers per hour. We have no street lights, nor stop signs. So, unless you're going through a mid-life, male menopause crisis, or pledging to be a new member of a local Bad-Boy Biker Club; basically, a bunch of old guys trying to act like young bad asses, Thug Wannabes, it was inevitable that a big, expensive bike will cause you much heartache.
I've said this many times before, "It's always the expensive, pretty, or shiny things that get stolen or damaged first." Consequently, I have no sympathy when my friends would complain about the theft or damage to their Harley Davidson, Ninja, KLR, and BMW motorcycles.
Looking at the Hitman through my barely open front door, I instinctively palmed the small of my back; only to realize that my handguns and full clips - my ARMSCOR 1911 A1 (Yeah, I know, freakin' ancient.) and my brand new GLOCK 43 Subcompact Slim line (So cool, so freakin' sexy!); were locked away in my safe.
Damn the bad luck!
My whole 24-year career in the military could be summed up like this: "Train, fight, get broken, stand down and heal; then rinse and repeat!" Coupled with countless lessons-learned from the school of hard knocks, I truly believe this old saying, "Fools rush in, while a prudent angel may pause." Being prudent was the major reason I was alive now, so I surreptitiously groped for an immediate, make-shift weapon. The Hitman and I both knew that business was business. Nothing personal. And a guy's got ‘a do what a guy's got ‘a do." In other words, no one should fault a guy merely because he was doing his job; or should I say profession, even if the profession required killing (e.g., soldiers, assassins, butchers, brain surgeons, etc.).
Behind the door was an end table. As a way to find things in a hurry (i.e., keys, pocket WIFI, ball-pens, spare change, etc.), I habitually left unneeded items on the table before leaving the house; and then emptied my pockets on it when I returned. But the only things on it now was my shopping list, keys, and an empty, ceramic coffee cup.
Damn! Damn, damn the bad luck again.
I knew the sound of the keys would be a dead give-away to my visitor, so I silently grabbed the coffee cup. I know what you are thinking; what the Hell kind of weapon is a stupid, empty coffee cup? Well, if you don't know, here's the skinny on coffee cup warfare:
Beyond Opponent's Kicking Range - launch it as a missile to the face or body.
Beyond Opponent's Punching Range - parry opponent's weapons, intercept/destroy incoming fists, flying knees, or short (non-chambered or Savate style) leg/foot check.
Within Trapping Range - bludgeon head, back of neck, and ears; or shatter teeth, eyes, and nose.
Use any shard as an edged weapon.
*Note: Be on the look-out for any split-second when you have stunned your opponent. This is the perfect time to either run away; or finish the fight with any deadly maneuver you prefer.
I immediately put my vertical index finger to my lips and made the please be quiet, “shooshing" gesture. Then, to increase my chances of survival, I lied. "My daughter is sick and resting in her bedroom," I whispered. You see, I remember him telling me years ago that he had a code. That meant that he never accepted contracts or did a job involving women and children. He even declined any offer, no matter how high the pay, where there was any chance that a woman or child might end up as collateral damage. Eventually, I found out that my survival lie was unnecessary.
As a show of good faith, he turned his front pockets inside out. Then he slowly unslung his bag, took off his hat, and placed them both on the ground, exposed his mid-thrift, and jumped up and down; slowly rotating 360 degrees. This was to show that he wasn't packin’, at least not in his shorts.
With my lips, I pointed to his bag. After kicking the bag towards my front door, he said, "Can we have some coffee and talk a bit, my friend? It's been a long, long time. And I have much to tell you that I know you will be very interested in."
In spite of the cloak of the cloth bag, I was pretty sure what was inside. The muffled scraping sound and slow travel of the bag from him to me on my tiled porch suggested one or more metal objects. Knowing him, it was probably his favorites: a retractable baton, a garrote, a Gerber knife, a butterfly knife, and a handgun.
Keeping my eyes on him, I reached down and picked up the bag. It was a bit lighter than I expected. I told him that I was temporarily closing the door to look inside the bag. He just kept smiling and gave me a thumbs up. I shut the door and opened the curtain so I could keep an eye on him. While still grasping the coffee cup in my right hand, I held the bag with my teeth and opened the draw string with my left hand. Then I did a quick inventory of the bag's contents.
"What the Hell?" I said.
Instead of weapons, I found an ancient, oversized King James Bible that was obviously very expensive. It was bound in gold leather and had a gold front clasp. The other items were prayer beads and a silver necklace with a 4-inch silver cross attached. Gems of different colors decorated each end of the cross on both sides.
Again, I said, " What the Hell?"
He was slightly bent over now, holding his stomach and laughing so hard that he was almost crying, or about to pee in his pants. "I know you. What you packin' behind the door, my friend? Really, let's talk over coffee, ok?" he said. I felt like a fool. I closed the door to release the security chain, swung the door open, and revealed my killer coffee cup. "It just so happens that I'm packing a lethal, empty coffee cup," I chuckled. He coughed and choked with more laughter. But I also noticed that his eyes never left my hand that held the coffee cup.
I guess old instincts die hard. It took me over five years after retiring from the military to be able to leave my back exposed without feeling paranoid. Normally, I would position myself at the rear of any public place with my back to a wall, near at least two easily accessible exits; or if not near, preferably having one or two structures close to my flight path to use as cover, if need be.
"I'm getting my cellphone from my right front pocket now." I said. He nodded. I reached into my pocket, got the phone and showed him that I was turning on the recorder. "Ok amigo, you know the drill. My cellphone recorder is on."
He instantly recited "The Chant" that we agreed upon over six years ago. It was a Blood Pact that we made after I saved his ass; then later that night, he saved mine. And with perfect intonation, he said, "Puan, mai phen rai (Thai: Friend, It's ok.). Walang trabajo ako, ngayon (Tagalog: I am not working now.); NOK (Next of Kin) is .... And can be located at..." He waited quietly during the couple minutes I needed to confirm the name and number.
Then, with a big shit-eating grin, I switched the coffee cup to my left hand and held out my right. He shook it with both of his hands. Funny thing. I thought he was about to cry?
Satisfied that somebody else didn't send my friend to come kill me, I ushered him into my house, past my daughter's empty bedroom, and into the kitchen. "You still got a sweet tooth, amigo?" I said.
"Yeah, I guess you spoiled me with all those French Vanilla and Kona coffees we used to enjoy. What was it, five or six years ago?"
"Not really sure. You vanished into thin air about five and a half years ago, Bro. I thought you bought the farm (A military term for dying while on active duty. The serviceman dies, then his spouse gets the Death Gratuity Benefits and SGLI - Serviceman's Group Life Insurance - and can finally pay off the mortgage on the family farm.); and what's up with the new toys in your bag of tricks, my friend?"
Smiling, he extended both his hands towards me over the table. I grabbed his hands and waited for some really good, or some really bad news. A veteran of receiving and giving news of death, I was all-ears now. But he completely blind-sided me with what he said next. Looking me straight in the eyes, he said, "Brother, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My mission is to make amends for my past life. Any wrong that I've done in the past that I can possibly make right, I will.
"You must be freakin' kidding!" I thought. He was the last person in the world I figured would get religious on me. Compared to him, I was a Saint. Twisted me, I instantly pictured the neon sign in my head: "IMAGINE THAT? THE HIT MAN THAT FOUND GOD! YEAH RIGHT."
He used to drink, fight, and chase women almost every night. Many times, I either had to go scoop his drunk ass up from a bar room floor; or at ungodly hours, answer my front door and find him so drunk that anyone could probably ignite his breath - bloody, muddy, and hanging onto his latest girlfriend.
In fact, if he didn't remind me so much of myself at a much younger age, I would've disowned him as a friend long ago. But, needless to say, I didn't have to.
He simply "fell off the face of the Earth" before I could counsel him with brotherly love. That is, get his attention by putting a good ass-whoopin' on him, then schooling him on the evils of public excess.
But his face and eyes told me that he was stone-cold serious.
"I know that I owe you some money. You can have the contents of the bag or this," he said. And with that, he reached behind his back, pulled out a Glock 17, and slapped it down on my table!
"WTF! How the Hell did you get that past me and in here?" I shouted. "Are you crazy? You could've brought trailing heat with you if someone spotted that!"
"Before I knocked. I hid it behind the potted plant beside your front door; directly in your blind spot when looking outside your door and window. When you unlatched the door chain, I got it and put it in the back of my shorts. You're getting sloppy in your old age, my man," he said with a mischievous smile.
I immediately grabbed the gun, retracted the slide and made sure the chamber was empty, and released the magazine. Damn! The clip was full of pristine 9mm bullets! For an instant, I was a young, dumb, and full of…well, you know what, Special Warfare Operator again (Heavy Sigh).
After letting out a big breath, I gently put it all back on the table. "Well fu€k me, I must confess, you were always a sneakier bastard than me. But seriously, those things are much, much more valuable than the measly 10,000 pesos (about $210 USD) that you borrowed. And after you saved my ass, I just figured we were even, Bro."
He just held up the bag in one hand and the gun, muzzle end towards him, in the other hand. Just Like a local, he pointed to each hand's items with his lips and raised his eyebrows.
"Please, Brother, choose one. Then I will be on my way," he said.
Finally coming to grips that, yes, my friend was now a religious man, I couldn't ask him to give up the expensive, religious artifacts in the bag. So, I pointed to the Glock.
He put everything down on the table, slung the bag over his right shoulder, and handed me the gun. "My friend, I know you have your own chosen religion - Buddhism; so I will not waste your time and my time. You grew up as a preacher's son. And I KNOW that you probably know more about Christianity than 99% of the world's Christians!"
Then he reached into the front of his shorts and pulled out a spare, full clip.
Damn! He was good, really good. "I guess the world just lost a top-notch Hit Man," I said to myself. And stifling a laugh, I also thought, "Woe be the man who underestimates this kind-looking proselytizing, humble evangelist!"
Rather abruptly, he stood up and said in at least five different languages (I guess he still had a little pride in his talents?), "Thank you so very much, my friend. And I apologize that I wasn't ready to hear your words; I mean really hear your words of wisdom. I have many more miles to travel and hundreds of people from my past to meet; but make no mistake, I will always think of this before doing anything rash: 'What would J.C. do?"
The double entendre was clear, in the same breath, he referred to me and his....
And I felt deeply honored. Then, without a fuss or drama, he egressed my kitchen through the back door; waving goodbye and smiling a smile that I have never seen on him before. The only way I could describe it was sublime, almost angelic. And I never saw, or heard from him again.
As a Buddhist, I’m glad that my friend finally found his own "Nirvana."
His peace is my peace; and just one more karmic nail out of my own coffin. Maybe, just maybe, I might not come back in the next life as a flea in a soi (Thai: Street) dog’s ass.
About the Author:
He is a retired U.S. Military veteran. Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an A.A., B.S., and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic. In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he freefall parachuted out of airplanes and performed diving ops in very deep, open ocean water. He spends his days on an island paradise with his teenage daughter, longtime girlfriend and three dogs.