This is something I thought about on my run today. A short story perhaps? Maybe a novel if I ever decide it has legs. But it was a running epiphany. Got to write those suckers down right?
“You keep in shape?”
He sat behind a large desk. It wasn’t the oval office desk, that was down the street. The fact that he didn’t call him there, and talk to him across that desk made Curt wonder what the ulterior motive of this meeting really was.
Curt nodded in reply.
“You look like you’re still in good shape, that’s good.”
Curt lived in a world of ulterior motives and hidden meanings. Just two sentences into this meeting and the landscape here was filled with them. Why here? Why at night? Why no one else? Why the questions about being in shape? Why the word, “good?” Good was so subjective and middle of the road. Why did it matter? Curt knew what to do in these situations; shut up and wait to see what happened.
Curt had worked with the man across the desk for years. He had been on his security detail when the man had first made inroads into the world of finance and real estate and fame and eventually fortune. It had been those years that had lead Curt to start his own security business and gained him the slight noteriety that he had.
Sure there were some that would say it had been the wars in the early 2000’s and the lucrative govenrment contracts, and the oddities of conservative and miltiary policy allowiong so many private security personnel into the theater that provided him his wealth and fame within the contracting community. But very few of them knew that Signet Contracting started thanks to an angel investor who wanted to see one of his trusted security personnel, one who had fought for him, protected him and shot to defend him, have what he wanted in his life.
That angel investor was now staring across teh desk at Curt and asking about his weight and health. If he wanted to have a late night meeting in some random law offices with the lights down and no one anywhere within ear shot, that was his call, and Curt owed him enough, and knew him well enough to just sit and listen and see where he wanted to go.
“I remember when you first came to me, remeber that? when was that? Ninety-two? Ninety-one?”
“Ninety-one,” curt said. He knew the date he got out of the Marines like his own birthday. It had been less than a month after that, after coming back from combat in Bush’s Gulf War, that he had gotten the gig as a body guard.
“That long ago? Really? We’ve known each other that long?”
“And we’ve have a lot of history behind us don’t we? Alot of history. A whole lot. Isn’t that right? Lot’s of stories between us? Lots of stories. Lots of history. Lots of secrets.”
Curt heard that last statement and knew he had just gotten one step closer to knowing the point behind the meeting.
“Where do you think we’d be right now if not for each other?”
“I know how much my success has to do with you.”
“No, no, no,” the man put up his hands eventhough he barely moved from behind the desk. He kept his body leaned back, his stature laconic, like an old corporate head sitting at a board room table, which until just a few months ago was exactly what he had been.
“You miss my point,” he went on from across the desk. “I think I owe you much more than you owe me. I owe you my life. Remember that night in Vegas? How could you forget? I know I haven’t. If not for you I doubt I would be here. Hell, without you that night I wouldn’t be alive.”
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” Curt said. It really hadn’t been that big a deal. Some drunk asshole who had lost too much at the casino had gone to his car and gotten a gun and come back with thought of revenge on whoever he could find. The drunk had targeted the first rich looking asshole he saw and started walking up on him. Curt had seen him coming and intercepted him steps away from the boss. He felt the man pull up the pistol and instinctively Curt had stopped the drunk’s arm from coming up. There had been a struggle, the gun went off. The drunk took it in the chest and Curt had held the man as he went down.
For Curt, a combat veteran and a willing participant in many fights with drunks, the episode had been little more than a blip on his life’s radar. Sure it was a big deal to have a man die in his arms during a struggle, but in Curt’s mind it held little compared to launching an anti-tank round at an approaching column of tanks and frying the crew inside, watching burning men, men still on fire, exit the top hatch and be mowed down by the machine gun situated next to him. How does a drunk pulling his own trigger and sealing his own fate compare to that same vision of the Iraqi tankers replayed four, five, six times?
Curt’s resume started with those tankers, in continued with the drunks, and had been added to drastically with each protection contract he signed throughout the Iraq invasion in the early 2000’s, and thankful seemed to have come to an end just five years back when he had called in an air strike on a compound that had him and his team and his employer trapped in a far ambush in northern mosul.
“It may not have been a big deal to you but it was a huge deal to me.”
Curt decided the best thing to do was to just shrug his shoulders. So he did.
“Big deal,” the man went on. He did that. He overemphasized and reapeated himself to get what he wanted. He wanted something now. “Great big deal, huge deal.”
Curt just nodded.
“I know you didn’t have to do that for me.” The man leaned back again, even further in the huge, squeaky leather, office chair. His face went from a shaft of yellow light produced from the lamp on the side table to one of dark shadow. “I would never ask anyone to do that for me. You know that. I’d never ask that. Never.”
“You don’t have to ask.”
“That’s right,” the man leaned forward again, his face coming back into light, his eyes bright now. “I shouldn’t have to ask. Just like you would never have to ask me.”
A silence dropped between them. A curtain of silence. Heavy like yards and yards of velvet that comes down thick at the end of a stage play. It sat there between them for long moments. Curt knew that this was his cue to say something. He let the silence remain for long moments more than he knew the man wanted it to. The man to his credit didn’t force anything. He knew the art of the deal better than any man.
“What can I do for you,” Curt finally asked.