You would not have known he was the devil. He was far too clever, his disguise far too effective and convincing for ordinary mortals to spot, but I knew. Oh yes, I knew as soon as I met him.
His façade this time round was that of a high-falutin’ corporate-type: expensive suit, expensive house, flashy car, nice wife and kids and a young mistress. The aura of success oozed from his every pore – along with the stench of vileness and corruption that only I could smell.
He looked me in the eye as he clasped my hand in that ‘hail-fellow-well-met’ style he had and I saw that he knew that I knew. The eyes darkened and they seemed to change shape, becoming more like almond-shaped slits than rounds orbs. I saw in them, too, the greed, the hunger and the evil that drove him and knew that it was up to me to stop him – again.
The occasion was a fund-raiser for his bid to take-on the biggest office in the land, if not the world: President of the United States of America. I could not allow that to happen. Only I knew what his real plan was, what evil he intended to unleash upon an unsuspecting world. It would mean the end of civilisation as we had known it and the one thousand year reign of absolute evil.
“Pleased to meet you” he said to me in a pleasant, well-modulated and lightly accented voice. “Can I count on your support for my nomination?” he asked.
“That’s why I’m here, sir” I answered in my best kiss-ass voice. “I sure would not want to a-wastin’ my time elsewhere!”
“Your support is mightily appreciated, son” he said, releasing my hand and plastering on another fake smile for the next sucker falling over their-self to meet the ‘great man’.
I wiped the hand he had grasped too firmly on my handkerchief. I swear it felt hot and tingly, like an electric current had passed through it or something. It was not a pleasant sensation.
I had to get out of there. I was sweating profusely and I felt dizzy and nauseous. At least one of his security detail was paying me a little more attention than I was comfortable with. I wiped my sweat-dotted brow with my handkerchief, made an exaggerated show of waving my hand in front of my face as though to cool myself down, then slipped out of my jacket.
I had large sweat rings under each armpit. Luckily on my plain white shirt they did not show up as much as they would have on a coloured shirt. As nonchalantly as I was able I made my way to the back of the ever-swelling crowd and made my exit.
For more than fifty years I had hunted him, fifty long and difficult years. He had perfected his disguises, got better at it so that detecting him was less straightforward than it previously had been. I had already eliminated six other incarnations: an internationally recognised businessman in the arms trade, a couple of highly-placed banking types, the CEO of a national drugs company whose quality control standards were less than perfect and a middle-manager in a national fast-food chain who was already rising faster through the corporate management structure than was good for him. Most recently a British politician had met an untimely end in a boating accident after becoming too close to certain Middle-Eastern types who bore the West no good will.
And now I was face-to-face with him once more. But I was tired.
Watching, listening, following, assessing, identifying and finally, eliminating these threats was long, hard work. It was also a lonely occupation. I could never, ever take anybody into my confidence just in case they let slip a single syllable of what my mission was. No, this was something I had to do alone.
I was not getting any younger… and his disguises were becoming very much harder to detect. This time, for instance, I only became one hundred percent convinced it was him again when I heard him speaking on an obscure daytime radio talk show. It was pure chance – or maybe it was fate, I don’t know – that I was driving through that particular town at that particular time and listening to that particular radio station. Whatever it was, I knew, I just knew it was him as soon as I heard that voice.
And I knew also that it was up to me and me alone to stop him.
There was no trouble in tracing his route as his publicity team had done a darn good job of making sure everybody across three states knew when he was coming to their little corner of the universe to address them. Yessir, his face was plastered on billboards and posters up and down every highway and high street for hundreds of miles in all four directions of the compass.
I had not actually planned to get quite as close to him as I did that afternoon. I was there merely to observe him in action at close-enough quarters but still be a reasonable remove from him. He had blindsided me by approaching the crowd from an unexpected direction, which had led him straight to my handshake.
It was an error on my part. None of his previous incarnations had met me until the moment I ended their lives. I was a complete and utter stranger to them, which was just how I liked it. I would have been confident of him not recognising me out of the thousands of face he saw on a daily basis were it not for the momentary connection between us. He knew who I was and why I was. That could prove to be a problem. No matter, I had a task to perform and perform it I would.
Security was tighter than ever at the next meet-and-greet fundraiser. There were twice as many burly guys in ill-fitting suits and with closely cropped heads standing around looking menacing and talking into the sleeves of their jackets. At any given time there were at least six of these apes surrounding him and another four strategically placed at north and south, east and west of him.
Metal detectors and new-fangled body scanners at both entrances to the venue made carrying a weapon into the place a no-go. Hell, the security guys were even antsy about bunches of keys and cell phones! No, taking him down this time would require something extraordinary.
With other incarnations I had taken the ‘unmasking’ route a couple of times to bring to a halt his progress in whatever business he was involved in. I was amazed - and infuriated – at the capacity people had developed over the years to forgive and forget major indiscretions that at one time would have meant instant disgrace and a one-way ticket to obscurity. Damn them! Consequently I was more often than not left with the one solution that always worked: complete elimination.
Up close and personal was my style. I liked to see his eyes when he knew that he had lost yet again. I liked to see that moment of fear just before I took his life from him once more. I liked to watch him die. This time around, though, it might not be that simple.
I don’t like guns. They are cumbersome and noisy and they leave a whole research facility-worth of evidence behind when one is fired. That is just not what you want when you are trying to evade capture by the law! I have only ever used one before and that time it was pretty effectual. After weighing up all other options I felt that I really had no other option open to other than to use one again.
Guns and me, we’re pretty-much strangers. I know how to fire one to a superior degree of accuracy because I taught myself to. I needed that skill in my armoury. Even so, I didn’t know a whole lot about the different makes and models though. As long as it shot well and the bullet hit its intended target that was fine by me.
Believe me, tracking down the devil is not a cheap occupation. I had to save money where I was able and although a pre-owned weapon would have been cheap I didn’t want a paper trail leading back to me. Instead, I decided that theft was as good an option as any, which is how I came to acquire something called a Kimber Model 84 hunting rifle. Some careless redneck asshole-type left the thing in the trunk of his SUV while he and his revolting redneck buddies drank beer, ate greasy burgers and flirted with waitresses younger than their own daughters. It was a pleasure to relieve the asshole of his prized possession.
I took position on a roof overlooking the main entrance to the high school. School was out so there was no danger to any kids, unless any happened to be in the crowd when I fired. Collateral damage the military call it if innocents get hurt through their actions. It a crap phrase, but it covers the bases pretty-well. I was not looking for collateral damage; I was hoping for a clean kill-shot.
I had test-fired the rifle in a small out-of-town copse of trees and had been pleased with its accuracy over about a hundred feet. Over one hundred and twenty feet accuracy was compromised by about twenty percent and over a hundred and fifty feet it was more than fifty-five percent. That meant if I was able to fire four shots in rapid succession from my rooftop vantage point, which was around one hundred and thirty feet from where he would be standing, I stood a good chance that at least two of them would hit the desired target area. That was good enough odds for me as I would only ever get the one opportunity to take him out.
You see, this time it would be my swansong as well. There is no way I can make the kill and survive as I need to expose myself to his security guys in order to make my shots. They will mow me down like a rabid dog for sure once they see my weapon. My only hope is that in those few moments of confusion after the first shot is fired I am able to loose off the other three in the magazine. Here goes…
Against the odds, I survived! He didn’t. The world doesn’t know it yet but I have prevented a catastrophe of a scale that is beyond imagining. I have tried explaining it to the authorities but they are not listening. I told them about how I had taken him out in sixty-three when he had reached the White House once before. I told him how I drowned him when he became a media mogul in the UK. I also told him how I had prevented him getting too close to the British Royal Family by killing him in that French road tunnel and now I had stopped him from running for US president again. Ronald Crump was dead and, for now, the world was safe once again.
They have me locked up in an asylum for the criminally insane. That’s okay, I can live with that. After all, the madness is out there, beyond these walls. In here I am safe from him and whomever his next incarnation will be. All I can do is tell my story and warn you to be on your guard. He will come again, mark my words. Without me to stop him the next time… well, the consequences are incalculable.