To say I was surprised to see Diane at the interview table would be an understatement. I still couldn't get last night out of my mind. How do you forget a woman, a perfect stranger, who makes conversation at a bar, then makes love to you, and then, after learning about your "private security" interview in the morning, reaches into her purse to give you a .45 caliber round. "So you can study and be prepared," she said "Good luck."
But that was last night. Now she looked all business.
A heavy man with a crewcut sat next to her. His facial expression said he was either pissed off at being here or just pissed off in general. I couldn't tell which. As I sat, Diane picked up a pen and scratched a few lines on a notepad.
Last night, I told her my name was Richard. Today, the truth would be no less evasive.
Crewcut scoffed. "That's original."
"I'm an original kind of guy."
"Mm-mmm, ain't we all?"
Dianne shot Crewcut a look. "Why don't you tell us about yourself?"
I frowned. In this line of work, people usually handled things direct. They never turned to squishy, pseudo-intimate questions like "Why don't you tell us about yourself?" or "What's your five-year plan?" or the half-baked question that sometimes came up when an interviewer had no original thought of his own: "If you're reincarnated as an animal, what kind would it be?" Interviewers like that deserved to be shot, no questions asked.
"Like I told you," I said. "I'm an original—"
"Yeah, yeah, we got it." Crewcut rolled his eyes. "What the lady's asking, though, is tell us your story. What makes you think you're qualified?"
Diane touched Crewcut's arm to shut him down. He stiffened, and I knew then why he was angry: she was the boss. She looked at me, and my mind flashed to last night, her hair streaming down around my face, our eyes inches apart. I blinked away the thought.
"I have more than ten years' experience," I said.
"At what?" Crewcut asked. "Playing the piano?"
I gave him a quick glance and reminded myself that he was the one with a problem, not me.
"Two years in Afghanistan," I said. "The rest just outside of Fallujah."
"What were your duties in the Corps?" Diane asked.
So she knew I was a Marine. Did she also know about my dishonorable discharge? I figured she did.
"My primary function was to engage the enemy when and where I found them," I told her. "Before they found me."
Diane smiled. "That's one way to put it." She wrote more notes. "Any major accomplishments? Anything you're proud of?"
I nodded. "Sixty-four kills and countless lives saved."
Crewcut leaned forward. "Can anyone confirm that?"
"Yeah. I could give you sixty-four, but don't ask me to spell their names. And I don't think they'll tell you much."
Crewcut leaned back. He muttered something, but I didn't catch it.
"Let's put you in a situational," Diane said. "You're in a room with two men and a woman. One has a gun to the woman's head. The other has his pistol pointed at you. The first tells you to drop your weapon or the girl dies. What're you going to do?"
"I first take out the man with the gun to the woman's head. Then I take out the second one."
Crewcut leaned forward again. "And risk the girl? Why don't you just lay down the gun?"
"Because they're going to kill us anyway. They just want to make it easy on themselves. And because they're scared."
"What makes you so sure?"
"They wouldn't try to negotiate otherwise."
Diane wrote some more. "Okay," she said. "Let's deal with your competencies."
Finally, I thought.
She tilted her head toward Crewcut. "Mike here carries a Glock G30S. You familiar with it?"
"Then you'll also know how to disassemble and re-assemble it."
I nodded again.
She turned to Crewcut. "Mike? Your gun."
He looked at her for a moment, but then unholstered his weapon. He released the clip, thumbed out all of the rounds, and then ratcheted the gun to clear out the bullet already in the chamber. Finally, he placed the gun and clip on the table.
"Show us," Diane said.
I disassembled the gun, placing the various pieces on the table. Diane stopped me before I could re-assemble it.
"What's your best time?" she asked.
"Thirty-five seconds." A lie, but did she know that, too?
She nodded. "Mike? Use your watch." She looked at me. "Do it in less than thirty."
Mike raised his wrist. He clicked a few buttons, and then said, "Whenever you're ready, hoss."
My hands gripped the pieces, fitting each one together. Almost finished, I knocked the clip off the table and cursed. Mike smiled. I reached down, careful to slip the bullet from my coat pocket. It was the same bullet Diane had given me last night, her words now on my mind. I thumbed in the round and pushed the clip into the grip. I laid the gun down.
Mike pushed a button on his watch. "Twenty-nine."
Diane glanced at Mike, then at me. "But does it work?"
I picked it up, chambered the round, and pointed the gun. Mike's head snapped back as I squeezed the trigger. Blood splattered the wall behind him.
Diane looked at the dead man for a moment. Turning to me, she said, "So you are a quick study. That's good. The job's yours if you want it." She stood. "Oh yeah. Last night was fun, but it won't ever happen again. We clear?"
I nodded my understanding. Screw the boss once, you might be forgiven; do it again, you're dead. One thing bothered me, though.
"What if I hadn't been a quick study?"
Diane gave me a half-smile. "I guess we'll never know."