It was a strange series of events that had convinced him to abandon his usual routine of doing absolutely nothing to take a rare excursion into the night that descended outside of his abode. No doubt what brought him to this place at this time would make an interesting story for him to tell one day, if he lived long enough. But these were thoughts not to be dwelt upon as he sat there in the car waiting and trembling.
One thing he hated about getting old had been losing his sense of time. Waking up at all hours of the night either to urinate or because of a noise, real or imagined served to ensure he was tired all the time. He had a tendency to nod off any time he sat down during the day, this may or may not have contributed to the expiration of the batteries that powered his once perfectly accurate body clock. He knew for certain that however long he had been waiting it was too long. He did not look at his watch.
He jumped when someone tried the door handle. Looking over the passenger seat, through the glass of the window he saw the man he had been waiting for. He leaned over and pulled up the lock of the door. The man climbed in.
His clothes were battered, his 40 something year old face look jaundiced with only the light of a lamp post to illuminate it. It was a face covered in several days worth of stubble. He stank of body odour, his forehead shone with sweat, his green eyes beamed with fear. His teeth were chattering though he was not trembling.
“Drive” he said, but the car was already pulling away.
The younger man looked over at his former mentor, he took it all in, the deep set lines in the skin, the eyes with eyeballs that never ceased to move from side to side, the once powerful arms that gripped the steering wheel, the light grey raincoat he was wearing that seemed to be the uniform of old age. The car pulled smoothly away from the curve the old man’s hands gripped the wheel tightly, the skin around the knuckles was white from the the strength of his grip.
The old man asked him no questions, they hadn’t seen each other for years but neither of them spoke, this was not the time to swap stories and anyway the protege couldn’t reveal anything of his adventures and the old man hadn’t had any so there was very little to say.
The protege had been waiting in the dark for a long time, he had waited in his perch, enduring wind and rain, hunger and thirst in his vigil of the road before him to make sure that his old instructor hadn’t been followed. It reminded him of another road years before, of another perch he had sat in waiting for the same man to pick him up in a very different car. When he had jumped in the old man had asked him if anyone had seen them and the protege had answered with a confident “no”.
The old man hadn’t exactly smiled, he had simply exhaled loudly and allowed the very fringes of his lips to rise before saying; “if you haven’t spotted him, perhaps it merely means that the other side have done their job well.”
The protege had dwelt on that a long time before answering but he finally asked the question he feared was so simplistic that the master might decide to get rid of him altogether;
“So how do you ever know whether or not you are caught in the opponent’s trap?” He finally blurted out.
This time the old man had allowed his lips to curl at the sides almost enough to show his teeth. “Now you’re getting it” was all he had said as he watched the road before them while driving away at a speed that was neither legal nor unusual.
It felt like that lesson had been learned a long time ago.
The setup had been perfect, nothing had gone wrong, the protege hoped it would remain that way and after looking at the once wise old man next to him he was as sure as one could reasonably be in this situation that it would remain so.
“Pull over here” the words came out almost like a grunt. He hadn’t meant it to be that way but there you are.
The old man obediently pulled over to the side of the road without indicating.
The protege pulled the 9mm pistol out of his jacket pocket and placed it to the temple of the old man’s head.
“I could still teach you a thing or two” the old man whispered.
“I know” said the protege as he squeezed the trigger.