Sunday 18 – Wednesday 21 August 2013
Adrian Porter’s office was immaculate. His bookshelves, desk, drawers, and filing cabinet were tidy enough to make them look unused. Everything in Porter’s office had its place. He returned from the kitchen with a much-needed cup of coffee and carefully placed it on a coaster already positioned next to his notebook computer.
He swivelled the chair in front of the desk to face him, dropped his body heavily into it, and turned back to face the computer. Leaning back into the chair, Porter gently tapped his fingertips on the keyboard. The sound of his fingers on the plastic keys calmed him and allowed his mind to focus on whatever task he was working on. He tapped a little harder on the space bar and woke the computer from its hibernation. The email icon was still indicating that a new message had arrived.
Ordinarily, in his line of work, Adrian Porter favoured punctuality and swiftness when dealing with clients, and correspondence, but there was something about the name and email address that simply didn’t sit right with him. It was this unease that prevented him from immediately opening the email when it arrived in his work inbox.
‘Shit,’ he tapped the keys of the computer faster, ‘shit shit shitty shit.’ He glared at the email icon. The new mail indicator was not going to disappear until he opened the message, and the longer he put it off, the more his mind would conjure up all manner of stories about the message and its sender.
‘Here we go,’ he said to himself before taking a sip of coffee and replacing the cup on the coaster next to the computer.
He drew the index finger of his right hand across the trackpad. The cursor followed the movement of his finger until it was directly over the email icon. He double tapped the trackpad and opened the mail application. There it was, the message Adrian had been putting off reading: another request for help from another desperate client.
Despite coming from different backgrounds, all of the requests for assistance were essentially the same. All of Adrian Porter’s clients wanted the exact same action taken on their behalf. The new message was no different but this message was the only one that sickened him to the core. He continued tapping his fingers on the computer keyboard as he read and reread the email.
His potential new client was not like the regular type of person who hired his particular brand of service. Most clients wanted to remain relatively anonymous, often taking on pseudonyms in order to deal with Porter, and the financial transactions were either done via offshore or Swiss accounts that protected the account holder’s identity, or via cash drops set up during the initial consultation. Rarely did Adrian meet face-to-face with clients, and this served his purposes well. He didn’t need to engage with clients to effectively do business. In his experience, it was detrimental to good business if he met and engaged with clients.
He read the message again, and shook his head at the veiled attempt to disguise the writer’s identity. She had given away vital clues that, if the email fell into the hands of the authorities, would ensure that she spent the better part of the rest of her life behind bars. Foolishly, and the biggest give away as to her identity, she had included a cell phone number and a request that Adrian call her to discuss the job she hoped to employ his services for. He rubbed his eyes then ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated that the woman who’d contacted him had been stupid enough to include information that would identify her. Still, he considered her request for him to contact her via cell phone.
‘I may very well come to regret this,’ he said to himself. ‘Oh shit, I already regret this. There’s no way it can turn out okay. Shit. SHIT.’
Against his better judgement, Adrian pulled a burner phone from the top drawer of his desk and dialled the number listed in the email. When he read the email, he had recognised the cell number immediately, and the rest of the information fell into place. He knew she would answer the call after a few rings, but she wouldn’t recognise his voice because of his use of a voice changer. It was a relatively standard piece of technology that most people in Adrian’s line of work chose to use. The device and the voice changer software were simple to use but highly effective in disguising one’s identity.
Adrian recoiled at the sound of her voice, as his assessment of the identity of the sender of the email was confirmed.
‘You sent me a message about . . . solving a human resources problem that you have.’ He didn’t like engaging in small talk with clients, finding little benefit in connecting with them on a personal level. To Adrian, business and personal situations did not meet. He couldn’t afford the luxury of connecting personally with clients or their circumstances.
The woman hesitated, taking a few moments to reply, and leaving Adrian wondering if she was perhaps reconsidering her request. Her reply not one he had been asked before, despite all of the people who had hired him to solve their issues.
‘Is that what you call it? Solving human resource problems?’ An uncomfortable laugh followed her questions. ‘I suppose it is though.’
‘You weren’t particularly clearly about the problem you needed solved. What is it exactly that you need me to help with?’ he asked.
‘Don’t you mean who?’
‘If that makes you feel better,’ he replied.
‘No, actually, it doesn’t.’ She paused and Adrian waited for her to continue. He’d heard this part of the conversation many times before. ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’
‘Just tell me what you want,’ Adrian said.
‘You’re not a cop, are you?’
It seemed to Adrian that the terribly nature of what she was going to employ him to do had finally hit her, and common sense had started to kick in.
‘No, I’m definitely not a cop.’
She laughed again. ‘You would say that though, wouldn’t you? If you were a cop? You’d tell me that you weren’t so that I’d go on incriminating myself.’
‘Look, if you’re having second thoughts about this, then I suggest you hang up now and we’ll forget that this conversation and any communication took place.’
‘No, no,’ she was quick to reply, ‘I need this done. I do.’
‘How much will it cost me?’ she asked.
Adrian sighed. Costing his services usually meant that the client was serious about employing him to solve their problem.
‘Well, the prices vary depending upon what you want done, but my starting rate is ten thousand dollars. That’s non-negotiable.’
He heard her sharp inhalation of breath and wondered if he might have been able to make her reconsider using his services.
‘That’s fine,’ she replied. ‘How should I pay you?’
Her reply disheartened him; she had not been put off by the price.
‘You’ll need to transfer half the total cost of the job into my bank account prior to me completing the task. Upon receiving evidence that I’ve completed the job, the remainder is to be transferred to that same account. I need to know what you want done, and I need to know who.’
This was often the most difficult part of the conversation, as the client made their final decision. From here, there was no turning back. Adrian wouldn’t stop until he had completed the job. He waited for her to make that decision. It didn’t take as long as Adrian expected.
‘I want you to kill someone. How much is that?’ Her voice had steadied.
‘It’s not cheap.’ He tried again to discourage her.
‘I don’t care. I can get the money. How much?’
‘Half a million.’
‘I can do that.’
Adrian wondered how she would get hold of the cash, but wanting to remain detached from the client and situation, he chose not to enquire.
‘And the HR problem that you want solved?’ he asked.
‘I’ll email you a photo. It’s my husband, Adrian Porter,’ she replied. Unable to catch his breath, head spinning, and only able to focus on the sound of blood pumping through his body, Adrian disconnected the call before his wife could say anything else.
* * * * *
When Adrian Porter arrived home that night, he adjusted the pistol and its attached silencer in the waistband of his jeans. Tonight, someone was going to die for free.