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THE R&D MAN

by

Jim Martin




I have spent the last 10 years of my life living in this strange place waiting for that one botched op, that one fatal mistake that would end everything and answer all my questions. I never thought about that much, not until these last few months. Itís a calculated job risk, nothing more. That was right up until that moment last week that changed everything for me.

A bug bites me, and that sharp stab of not quite pain emanates from the back of my neck. I slap at it absently. After a while, the bug bites and the heat just sort of blend together to become part of the landscape. If I lived back home, it would be puppy dogs and professional sports. Here, itís bug bites and heat.

Iíve been here in Israel for the last 10 years, most of that time here in the strip. It really is a magical place, kind of a horrible mockery of the west. Here you have people of every nationality, every race, every religion, but unlike in the west nobody pretends to get along. Here, they know how to hate. It makes my job a hell of a lot easier.

I donít even really know what to call my job anymore. The names all have connotations I donít much care for. Maybe when I was younger the thought of being called a mercenary or commando might have been exciting, but Iíve lived this life long enough that the thrill of being Rambo has faded from my memory. I suppose I would call myself a patriotic ex-patriot, someone who lives abroad but works actively for the benefit of his home and native land.

Thatís not the story that most people know about me. As far as my government, my friends, the Israelis, and any number of other interested parties know, I am simply Dwight Casey. I have a position with a local oil company in the research and development department. Come to think of it, research and development is a pretty accurate description of my job, but it isnít oil I work with.

I should clarify something before I move on. I said that my government was unaware of my real duties, and that is true. Since God only knows when, the government has not known a heck of a lot about the goings-on of people like me. You see, there are three reasons to keep government out of the equation. Firstly, those who would not approve need not know. Second, thanks to Woodward and Bernstein, we know that politicians do not keep secrets, so even those that would understand the importance of what I do could hardly be counted on to never let on. Lastly, and most importantly, the two words that mean more to any politician than Family Values: Plausible Deniability.

I donít know if it started with the Vietnam conflict or not, but government has found that they donít especially like being held accountable for their mistakes. As a result, they adopted an industry concept called plausible deniability that simply means that if somebody decides to throw a bucket of shit their way, they arenít going to wind up dry cleaning their suit.

So people like me are sort of like independent contractors who work closely with certain American organizations to handle their dirty work, especially the things that require a particular knack or flair. In my case, I have a remarkable ability to get in, get the job done, and get out with nobody the wiser. Back in the States, this doesnít really make for a thriving career. Here in Israel, Iím a God.

The Oil Company that I work for has a vested interest in my work, and that is why they are happy to keep me on the payroll for accomplishing nothing. They do an excellent job of keeping a lid on what I do, even amongst their own employees. As far as they know I am Casey from R&D, and that suits me fine.

I said that my job is a lot like an R&D position, and that is true. Through a series of strange contract relationships, the company I own (Casey Solutions Inc.) contracts my services to the Oil Company, who have certain relationships, both contractual and otherwise, with certain employees of certain government agencies.

My research duties are generally related to intelligence regarding both the balances of power among the various factions here, and to the location of individuals, groups, and items of interest in the area. The only thing that I develop is instability in the region. In laymanís terms, what I do is keep my ear to the ground and wait for the times when things start to stabilize between the warring factions. I then determine the best way to shatter that stability, and then perform those functions. This usually involves the murder of Palestinian civilians who are closely related to the more outspoken leaders, terrorist or otherwise. This of course results in a retaliation march by Palestinians against the Israeli soldiers, thus shattering whatever peace initiatives were in the works and maintaining the positions of the American government and the Oil companies.

I can imagine the look on your face right now. How could I live with myself doing what I do day in and day out? And more importantly, how can our country, founded on the principle of ending tyranny, support such a practice? Actually, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

America needs the Middle East. We need access to the oil reserves, and we need to get a good deal out of it. We need to have our personnel there handling the extraction of oil from the ground to ensure that we donít end up ransomed for the price of oil. Now, what we have is a cluster of many nations that almost without exception hate us. Those that do not hate us have a nasty habit of changing their minds. Did you know that we spent a lot of hard-earned money creating the Saddam Hussein that eventually waged war on us?

Now letís pretend for a moment that we were looking at things from a schoolyard perspective. There are a group of kids that have something you want. They donít really like you. Some of them actually hate you. Some of them would beat you senseless just to watch you twitch on the curb. You arenít going to get anything out of them no matter how hard you try, are you? And if you absolutely need that thing they have, they are going to lord it over you and make you suffer for it, right?

Well, when the British created Israel they changed the situation. Imagine the same group of kids, but add one technicality. They have no choice but to hang out together. Along comes this big fat kid with a dumb accent and changes the rules so that right in the middle of this group of people he puts someone who is totally different, and much like yourself inspires hatred and disgust in the group. The fat kid somehow manages to ensure that the new kid is just as locked into the group as the others. The rest of the group try to push and shove him, but this new kid just wonít budge. More often than not, when you push him he pushes you back twice as hard and doesnít lie down under any threat.

Suddenly, you see your opening. You can use this situation to your own interests, canít you? I mean, you have some things in common with the new kid, and you can use that to get on the in with him. You then start talking to the other kids about how you want to help them fight this kid and get him the hell out of Dodge. So long as things are kept on edge in this situation, you can work the new kid into giving you a little of what you want, and you can use the dislike of the new kid to get what you want from the other kids too.

It might not be the most moral situation in the world, but morality is a very subjective thing. In order to maintain a grip on the oil deposits in the region, we have to play and win the game. The only card we were dealt was intrigue, so we play it well. We keep the factions warring and reap the benefits. The oil companies are glad to assist, often quite without their own knowledge, because they grow fat from the profits. All it takes are a few people like me to maintain this state of brinkmanship.

Thatís a lot more difficult than it seems. We do not want to push things too far and wind up with a war on our hands. Wars mean rationing. Sure, there are profits to be had during war, but the outcomes are far more difficult to control. People think that wars are easy to orchestrate, but if that were true then why did we lose Vietnam?

The other difficulty in this venture is finding the right person for the job. Contrary to what the media tells you, psychopaths do not work out in this line of work. Some guy with a penchant for destruction is too much of a wildcard in a situation like this where diplomacy has to meet half way with terrorism. Itís also quite a task to find someone who can handle the mental strain of this job.

When I got here I had a mentor named Ezekial Jones, a sinewy black man from Tulsa who had taken part in a great deal of action between Israel and the PLO. I was just 21 at the time, and Ezekial was the one thing I knew in Israel that I could count on, and the one thing that reminded me of home. He was an incredible man, and without his tutelage I donít think I would be here still. It seemed like he and Israel were inseparable, like he had always been and would always be.

I was devastated when he wound up under the tires of a taxi. Everyone knows that Ezekial died in a freak accident. They know that because I never told them what was in his last letter to me. Ezekial had killed himself because he didnít think he had a soul left. The letter was long, detailing the slaughter of so many children and a plethora of other cruelties he had enacted for the good of the homeland. I knew why he sent it to me and not to his family. He didnít want them disgraced, or worse yet to feel shame for him, but he wanted someone to know why he had taken his own life. I burned the letter and buried the ashes in three different places. Ezekial would have done the same for me.

Under Ezekialís tutoring, I quickly learned about the cadres of stoolies and how to play them one off the other to get the information you needed. He taught me how to camouflage myself to blend into any kind of mob. He introduced me to all the right people. He took me on my very first mission.

That was a bit of a nightmare. Nobody can really prepare you for something like that. In this case, we were working primarily with a group of PLO splinter cells that had a much more fanatical viewpoint than the main body. We were training them and arming them with Russian weaponry, a trick the Americans had perfected during their dealings with the Iranians and the Sandinistas. At this point, Ezekial was doing all of the espionage and I was just trying to keep up.

One day, Ezekial and I went back to his house for a pint after the day was done. We were stretched out on two incredible sofas enjoying our beer in silence when Ezekial said, ďTonight we kill Bartholomew.Ē That was our nickname for the son of the leader of the sect. The name was given him because he looked so much like the drawings from the Dr. Seuss book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. You cannot possibly imagine this without seeing the child, but I kid you not. It was uncanny.

I was totally aghast. I knew exactly what I was there to do, but the thought of killing a child, especially one who looked like a character from a childrenís book made my stomach heave. ďWhy him? And why tonight?Ē I couldnít think of a better argument, taken aback as I was.

ďWe have to kill him because the entire faction loves him, his father most of all. His death, blamed on Israeli soldiers, will result in an immediate and harsh reaction from the PLO. With all these damned peace initiatives we keep working on, weíve got our work cut out for us. Why tonight? No particular reason, but it just feels like the sort of night for getting your feet wet.Ē

ďYou want me to kill him? Iím not ready. Iím not--Ē

I had already learned that arguing with Ezekial was a pointless exercise, and the next thing I remember is standing over this little sleeping child holding an Israeli issue field knife which glowed in the light from the window. I slit his throat silently and quickly, knowing that I sent him off quickly and relatively free from pain or fear. I have to hope he wound up in a better place.

We quickly fled the scene without leaving a trace that could tie us to the murder. The previous morning we had made a few off-handed comments in the right company about a cache of Russian weapons arriving for temporary storage in the bedrooms of a local PLO sect leader at midnight that night. We knew that the message would get passed on to the Israelis, who would have to take action.

The next day, we went to the rendezvous point where we daily met the PLO operatives. The leader did not show himself, and the story that was told to us was that a bunch of Israeli soldiers had burst into their home and killed the leaderís beloved son. We were outraged and a few days later, the summit meetings were in a shambles as Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers in record numbers.

For ten long years I have washed blood from my hands and watched it run in rivers to satisfy the interests of my government and the world as a whole. You remind yourself of the greater good. You constantly tell yourself that you are just doing your job just like the Nazis claimed. In the end, though, you canít run. Everyone hits the wall at some point.

Here I sit, a 31-year-old veteran of a war that does not exist, fought by a country that actively promotes peace between the combatants. My friends, my relatives, my government, my boss, and my country do not know what I do for a living, and they would recoil in disgust if they knew the truth. I will receive a healthy pension, and I have a surprisingly large store of money available to me in certain discreet banking agencies. The world is my oyster.

Last week everything changed. It was a routine hit. The target was a fanatical mullah who had been whipping his followers into a frenzy towards the occupying forces. Nobody who saw me would have known I was anything other than an Israeli soldier. The conflict was in the open, and the mullah was standing on this shoddy wooden podium wailing about ending the rule of the Satanists. The bullet shattered his train of thought. It was one of those tragic flukes that a mullah will always take for the will of Allah.

The bullet hit one of his ribs and ricocheted back out again. It buried itself in the eye of a beautiful girl standing nearby, driving into her brain and ending her life. She was pregnant.

I donít know why that makes things different. Iíve killed beautiful women before. On one occasion I killed a woman I was in love with. I have killed babies, children, the elderly, anyone that the situation needed. Iíve done it all in cold blood and never looked back. In these 10 years, I didnít think anything would phase me.

Why do I care about this little baby that will never be born? If it had been born, I know what sort of life it would have had. I did it a favor. I saved it a life of poverty, pain, and terror. This child meant nothing to me. It was an accident.

Somehow, I canít find the words to justify the mistake. I had found my one button. None of my victims were innocent. Nobody is innocent when they are learning to shoot at the age of 3. You donít see anything alive as being pure anymore. That part of you just doesnít work anymore. But an unborn baby? No matter how hard you are, nobody would believe that an unborn baby wasnít innocent. And I slaughtered one of the only innocent creatures in this place.

I canít forgive myself for that. Iíve tried to convince my friend Budweiser to erase the memory, but even the King of Beers has failed me. I donít see a human when I look in the mirror. I lost my soul, sent it packing with an unborn baby. I am the walking dead, and nothing can ever save me.

I think that you realize now why I am writing you this letter. Ezekial would understand, and I hope you can too. Please destroy this letter when you are done with it. My family does not need to know what I am now, they do not deserve it.

Dwight Casey





ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Jim Martin is a 27 year old writer, computer programmer, bass player, father, husband, political activist, and freak. He has published several works of both fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Please read Part of the Ritual and Shelly the Hole






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