Joe Gores: Menaced Assassin

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Joe Gores Menaced Assassin
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Joe Gores

Menaced Assassin

I am your dwarf.

I am the enemy within.

I am the boss of your dreams… the kindred of blackness and impulse.

See. Your hand shakes…

It is your Doppelganger trying to get out.

Beware… Beware…

Anne Sexton, “Rumpelstiltskin”


End of the Cambrian 510 m.y. ago

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so,

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me…

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall he no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne, Holy Sonnets


Listen to Raptor, mon vieux. Don’t take this life so seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.

I kill. Oh, I know. You expect me to add, Therefore I am. But that is nonsense. I do not kill out of any inner compulsion to give what that fool Hemingway called the gift of death. If killing is a gift, it is a gift to the killer himself, during the ritual frenzy of the hunt. Whoever considers Proud Death a gift to a healthy animal has no imagination and is already half in love with his own finis.

I am not. I kill-without pity, compunction, emotion or moral qualms, to be sure-but not because killing obsesses me. Just because, well… it is what I do. Previously I have done other things, perhaps in future I will do other things again. But for at least a few hours more, I kill. After that…

After that, well, tonight Will Dalton plans to give a lecture. A lecture on the nature of man in hopes of exposing, no less, the roots of man’s endless violence, perhaps man’s evil, and to draw some sort of inane conclusions from it.

No, no, my dear women, lower your knitting needles. I am sure he will not exclude the Fair Sex, the Better Half, the Little Woman, from his overview. I would not. When I say Man I speak not of gender, but of my own kind sui generis, as a class by itself apart from all else in Nature.

Separate, let me hasten to add, only in the way that a dog is separate from a stork. Not separate as the fallen angel of Religion (with an immortal soul breathed into it by God) is separate from the beasts of the field. And not separate as the risen ape of Science (last best result of evolution’s efforts) is separate from those same angels set twirling by Aquinas on the head of a pin.

Rather, I speak of man as fallen ape, of whatever sex he might be. Baser than heaven, baser than our primate stock, baser even than the slime from which both Science and Religion insist all life springs.

I admit that I speak to you now out of my own base pride in my own base actions, because I am vain enough to want to give you my version of events-small things make base men proud, you can appreciate the reference. And also, by showing it in action, my version of man’s nature to set against Dalton’s pitiable attempts at exculpation and justification for mankind.

But I grant poor fool Will life enough to air at least some of his views. Grant? Of course- I kill, remember? Before this night is over, Dalton will have joined the other dead, and my work will be done. Or I will be.

Does that give you pause? The assassin facing his own assassination? The policeman Dante Stagnaro will be at the lecture, peeping behind the arras and beneath the chairs for that murderous wraith Raptor, that mocking evil fellow who has haunted his dreams for lo these many months, yea, verily and forsooth, even moi, your humble servant. Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral.

But you have seen through my facade already, haven’t you, carcajou mauvais? You know that despite the front I put up, the easy amiability and the desire to please, I am self-centered and selfish and self-righteous. That I love wrangling and the utter bleak tension that goes with it. That I love to pile lies upon lies, thus justifying and excusing my own actions. That the self-lie is always preferable to other lies, because when one lies to oneself one need never confront naked truth.

But if I lie to you tonight, mon brave, and then die, my truth will never be known. So contrary to my own dark na ture, I must be totally honest. I must make you privy to my thoughts, memories, feelings, and reactions to those other deaths, seething in the dark of my brain during these past fifteen months.

So my story-like any good fairy tale-begins with

Once upon a time…


Once upon a time, in the twenty-ninth year of her life and seventh year of her now-failed marriage, Molly Dalton sat at her desk in the Atlas Entertainment corporate offices, staring out across deserted lower California Street at the lighted apartments and raised walkways of San Francisco’s tony Embarcadero Center. She chewed her lower lip, strangely breathless and not a little… probably frightened was not too strong a word.

So. Frightened. What she had accessed in the corporate mainframe had made no sense at first, but being very bright, and with an attorney’s inquisitiveness besides, she’d transferred the data to a 3.5? floppy and taken it to her penthouse apartment and for the past few days had played with it off and on during her free time. And suddenly it had made sense. Too much sense.

It had angered her at first-this was her career, after all-then suddenly it had scared her. So now…

Moll-short for Molly, short for Margaret-was a platinum blonde with very large blue eyes, a tip-tilted nose and small chin, high cheekbones and narrow cheeks, arched, slightly thick brows, and a dazzling smile that just naturally gave men very specific erotic notions. Her hair was a golden halo around this innocent angel face, her full-bosomed body was kept rounded yet taut by fanatic devotion to Nautilus and the stairs (on the chart she could climb the Empire State Building without getting winded).

Naturally, starting with her daddy when she was an infant, almost every man she ever met told her she was beautiful, and she had believed them all. Mirror, mirror on the wall. But that wasn’t quite enough for her, because she was also smart, whiplash smart, and wanted to be told that as well.

One of those proclaiming her beauty had been a rawboned grad student named Willard Dalton. Will was finishing up his Ph. D. in paleoanthropology at Cal-Berkeley while she was finishing her senior year in psych at the same school. They had met in a drama class-inevitable for her, given her background, just fun for him and a place to meet pretty girls, although he showed a fine flair for playacting and an unexpected satiric wit in improv. Perhaps in Will the stage lost a fine actor to science.

He quickly began to tell Molly that she was not only the most beautiful but also the most intelligent woman he had ever met, which was what she had been waiting to hear. So it was Will for Molly; and what Molly wanted, Molly got.

Too bad. Because Moll’s daddy was an entertainment attorney with a plush suite of offices in Century City, and she went to Beverly Hills High with the spawn of movie stars. She was deflowered in a hot tub by her best friend’s older brother-second lead in a sitcom on CBS-at age thirteen. Physical beauty was the only measure any man ever judged her by, so sex became the only coin with which she could confirm her value. By the time her daddy gave her the expected cherry-red high school graduation Ferrari, Moll already was finding a fortnight without a fuck like a year in a convent without a door.

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