It had started like any other job. Some Pablo-Escobar-wannabe in Chile and his son were in the coke trade together, and had stepped on the wrong people’s feet. I’d been called in to dispense some high-roller justice. Discretion is always the plan, but sometimes things don’t go to plan.
The tabloid rags reported my failing like the salivating lapdogs they are; 15 dead and one injured. I’d hit the targets, sure, and I got out of there relatively unscathed, but there was a civilian casualty and another poor mook laid up in the hospital. Worse, I’d been seen and a cool fifteen-gees were needed to keep the gawker from flapping his yap to some upstart investigators.
Just another day, but I could’ve done better. I don’t need to admit that often. In my mind, I couldn’t stop replaying the moment that the bullets started to fly and when it all went south. I was never this rattled; what was going on?
Then Diana called.
“Agent Forty-Seven” her cold, sophisticated voice did things to me.”I think I’ve got just what you need.”
“Listen baby – This ol’ Hitm’n isn’t what he used ta be!” I told her matter-of-fact-like.
Suddenly her voice changed. It was warmer and slightly amused, “how would you like to go to the opera in Paris, Forty-Seven? Tickets on me. You could use a vacation!”
Vacation… that was the plan…
Tosca – in Paris! I couldn’t believe my luck. The featured tenor playing the part of Mario Cavaradossi was Alvaro D’Alvade, and though he had a shady history – who was I to judge, considering the things that I’d done?
I wanted to forget about my troubles, and just immerse myself in the atmosphere of the arts and the theatre. I was so happy to be at the opera!
Diana had sent me a telegram on my arrival in Paris with a ticket stub for the theatre coat-check room, telling me something would be waiting for me there that I’d be interested in.
I approached the coat-check concierge and handed him the stub. He passed me a jacket and I felt something heavy inside one of the pockets. I reached in, and found…
A replica of the actual gun used in the show! Diana, how sweet! I loved it – what a thoughtful souvenir!
I passed the jacket back to the concierge, who looked slightly surprised.
“You don’t want the jacket sir?” he asked incredulously in a thick French accent.
“I just needed something from one of the pockets” I told him, passing the jacket over. This vacation was off to a great start!
I decided to go to the little boys room before heading into the theatre. Entering the bathroom to the side of the coat-check room, I checked my reflection in the mirror, as a man in a green-technician’s uniform passed behind me.
I noticed a smudge on my face and so reached into my pocket to find a tissue and get cleaned up, when my hand brushed against something. It was my set of work-syringes.
A sense of stress and self-doubt unexpectedly washed over me as I was reminded of work. NO! I said to myself, I came here to have a good time. I opened my syringe case and loaded one up with a dosage of the sedatives I would usually use to knock-out unsuspecting guards. A little would take the edge off, I thought to myself.
As I prepared the syringe, and prepared to administer a small dose to myself, the technician who had entered the bathroom earlier, suddenly moved behind me and tripped – right into my syringe! What awful luck – and he received the full dose!
This sort of thing could only happen to me – on my vacation!
What a predicament! Fate certainly was cruel to this ol’ Hitm’n, I thought to myself.
Then a sudden fancy came to me. Even though this man was just a technician, he was still a part of the theatre! My mind was suddenly full of fanciful dreams of performing the opera in Paris, Italy, New York… beautiful bouquets presented to me as I performed flawlessly; gracious speeches to press; praise and admiration lavished upon me by my fellow elite of society! Did I dare to dream?
I undressed the technician, and laid his sleeping body in the bathroom’s laundry basket. “Rest here, fellow thespian.” I whispered to him warmly as he snoozed dreamily.
I exited the bathroom, now dressed as the technician, and headed along the corridors towards the theatre-backstage. A man painting the doorway to the backstage area acknowledged me as I approached him, and allowed me to pass by. I was really a part of the theatre!
I walked down the stairs to the under-levels of the stage, where the technicians and stage-hands worked. I felt amongst fellow compatriots of the arts, and I longed to be accepted into their world.
I approached a group of workmen enjoying cold beers together and stood by them. I waited for one to greet me, and offer me a drink. I yearned to join them in their foolish talks of whatever the working-class talked about; processed cheese, coupons, and silly televised diversions – that sort of thing!
But they ignored me. They didn’t even look at me.
I sighed. Of course, my place was with the thespians above; not with the plebs below.
I walked up the stairs in the direction of the stage.
After reaching the top of the stairs, I entered an unmarked door and emerged into a dressing room, but uh oh!
It was the ladies room!
They saw me and began screaming, protecting their modesty.
No need ladies – this is the theatre!
But their screams persisted, and again feeling rejected, I exited the room.
Was the theatre really all I thought it was?
Out in the next corridor, close now to the stage, a security guard passed me and stopped as I walked by; fixing me with a long, penetrating stare while rubbing his jaw thoughtfully. I walked hurriedly along, and he likewise continued on his way. It was slightly harrowing.
My initial elation at joining the theatre, had turned to a melancholy as I went through incident after incident of dejection; rejection after rejection from a world I so longed to be a part of.
Saddened, I entered a service door and found a scaffolding leading to the upper levels of the theatre. I climbed the scaffolding and passed through a door, finding myself in a curiously beautiful domed room – in fact, I was now in the roof, at the top of the theatre. Another technician passed me with a brief glance as he exited, leaving me alone with the birds.
A fine place to stop and reflect.
Who was I? Was I a thespian? A workman? Was I even a good Hitman?
Feeling sad, I reached into a pocket to find a tissue to blow my nose, and instead found another tool-of-the-trade; a small explosive device. It must have been left-over from a past mission, and I had completely forgotten I had it. What sort of a man forgets he has an explosive on his person?
It was time to make a change. I placed the bomb safely next to a winch, where surely no one would notice it. It would be safe here, forever.
Time to rejoin those below. Time to take my rightful place as an actor!
I walked back down the stairs and found the doors with stars next to them – the actor’s dressing rooms. As I noticed this, the man playing The Executioner walked by me and into his room.
It might have just been me, but I didn’t think this man looked so good – in fact, he looked a bit peaky to me. I decided to follow him into his room, to find out if everything was OK with him. I had to support my fellow actor!
While in his room, I decided to again try to administer some sedative into myself to calm my nerves, but the actor – accidentally – fell into my syringe. My luck today!
Seeing nothing else for it, and the bell for rehearsal ringing loudly and announcing for all actors to take their positions on stage for rehearsal, I did only what the good thespian should do. I played this fine actor’s understudy – I took his clothes and left him to take an actor’s-nap on the floor of his dressing room. Sweet dreams, fellow thespian!
Only one thing for it now- to the stage!
Where all my dreams would come true!
Finally, I felt accepted. I stood on stage, in front of a small yet adoring audience, and amongst my thespian peers; here to enjoy the rawness of theatrical rehearsal. Opera at its most carnal.
In the box-seat looking over centre-stage was the US ambassador to the Vatican, Richard Delahunt. Another man with a sordid reputation for certain, and alleged friend of the disreputable tenor Alvaro D’Alvade. But again, who was anyone to judge another – in the theatre!
The billed-man himself – Alvaro D’Alvade entered the stage and took his place in front of me as the character Mario Cavaradossi; set to be executed. He stood against the execution pole, and I stood in-front of him, playing the role of The Executioner. The sound of tape reel started-up, and the sound of the orchestra flooded the theatre, as D’Alvade began to sing his parts, with extraordinary beauty. I was certainly lost in the moment, and wished it could last forever.
Soon, the musical cue changed, and I realised it was nearing my time to act as the Executioner. But then a stark realisation struck – I had forgotten the prop weapon!
What do I do? Use a finger-gun gesture!? No, no – I can’t blow it like that; this is my shot to be accepted as a true thespian! Think Forty-Seven, think!
A thought crossed my mind just in time, and I remembered the darling gift that Diana had sent to me in the jacket, that I had retrieved earlier – the souvenir gun!
I drew the weapon and pointed it at Mario Cavaradossi’s head; I waited with baited breath for the line – I wasn’t going to miss it! As the rumble of the gunshot was heard from the backing-tape, time seemed to stand still – I was filled with a rush of joy at being the perfect actor, finding acceptance after so much rejection, and finally realising my place on the stage – I pulled the trigger.
The souvenir gun recoiled firmly in my hand – like a real gun – and a fine red mist appeared around the head of D’Alvade, and his body slowly began to slump to the stage floor.
Goodness gracious – my luck today!
Oh my, how Diana will laugh when I tell her this story! I thought. Knowing my proclivity for detail, she had obviously sent me a real gun as a souvenir, and silly me! I hadn’t even checked this! I should’ve known better.
After several moments, Delahunt sprang to his feet in fear, realising that something was not right with his dear friend D’Alvade.
Suddenly, the entire stage was in a state of pandemonium, as by-standers realised that something was not right; this wonderful actor, was not acting! The police serving as security in the theatre were running around securing the area. Civilians were pointing fingers wildly in each direction, leading suspect to all corners.
I still stood in my position on stage, soaking in the ambience of the theatre. What a dream!
Richard Delahunt ran from the door of his box seating and into the theatre halls, no doubt heading for the stage.
With elation inside me now subsiding, I suddenly felt a little nervous at the commotion around me, and took a pen out of my pocket, mindless twiddling it between my fingers.
The US Ambassador ran through the doors into the main theatre and down the central aisle. To my surprise, he tripped as he ran down the carpet, and with this slight fright, my thumb slipped on the pen I was holding – and pushed down on the button at the end of it…
Oh my goodness gracious! I realised in a heartbeat – this isn’t a pen; it’s my remote detonator!
The bomb I had innocently placed on the winch in the roof several minutes before duly exploded, and from the ceiling, the chandelier crashed down onto the prone body of the unsuspecting US ambassador!
This was starting to look a bit suspect, so ol’ Hitm’n decided to make his exit!
As I exited stage right, actors and guards ran past me in the chaos, but no-one stopped me. It seemed I was not suspect at all – my first stroke of good luck today!
I walked back to the room of the actor playing the Executioner (not as well as I did, I do say!) and returned his clothes, dressing again in the technician’s clothes that I had been wearing earlier.
As I moved to exit the room, I noticed the prop-gun on the ground. I thought about the real gun in my pocket, and how much trouble it had caused today! I decided to leave the real gun with the actor, and took the prop-weapon as a replacement souvenir. Diana would understand, I thought, and hoped she wouldn’t feel too sad that I had swapped her very thoughtful gift with a plastic – if perfect – copy.
I could still hear the commotion from the stage area as I retraced my steps backstage, again through the dressing rooms, through the lower levels, and back up through the doorway where the workman was painting.
I continued walking until I reached the bathroom, where the clumsy technician had earlier stepped into my syringe, setting this whole series of splendid events into motion.
I picked my finely tailored suit off the bathroom floor, dropping the technician’s toolbox, and got redressed – back into regular ol’ Hitm’n.
My fleeting dreams of being a thespian seemed to evaporate, and I felt gratified by the experiences I had had.
As a wise-man once said, “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”
I reflected on these words, and though my dreams and this vacation hadn’t gone exactly to plan, it had been exactly what I needed. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
I exited the bathroom, out into the beautiful hall of the theatre full of running guards, panicked workmen, and terror-stricken tourists. With a new spring in my step, I stepped out of the theatre and onto the Parisian footpath. The evening was still young!
Maybe after a few more days taking in the sights and delights of Paris, I would visit a friend of mine currently staying in a rehabilitation clinic? Or, visit a nice suburban neighbourhood for a real change of pace? Whatever the choice, I knew I was destined for adventure!