New York City
It had been determined that I would facilitate the man’s death at his place of business. His residence, although not impregnable, was simply not suitable to the method that was called for. Also, there could be no collateral victims in this endeavor. I would not trespass upon that mandate, no matter how inconvenient. These kinds of narrow parameters always required nothing short of an optimal level of awareness, demanding the most assiduous planning. It was, indeed, my calling, my métier, as it were, and I had long ago come to accept the often-daunting realities that came with it.
My subject’s name was Jamal Blanket. He was a retired professional football player who had enjoyed a stellar career in the National Football League as a Tight End. He had played for several teams and had won a Super Bowl ring with one of them—I do not recall which. He’d finished his career with the New York Jets, placing himself in a favorable light with the local population.
Standing six-foot-six and still in possession of his über athletic physique, he also offered that quintessential, strong-jawed alpha-male face that many women were instinctively drawn to. The man exuded testosterone.
He had been widely described as egoistic, charismatic, and vivacious. These combined characteristics earned him an offer, upon his retirement from football, to enter into the world of professional wrestling. As a high-profile character with an already well-known name, he soon became a household name.
Three years later, at the peak of his popular success as a professional wrestler, Blanket’s wife was kidnapped and held for ransom. Evidently fearing for his beloved wife’s life, Blanket paid the ransom without ever having notified the authorities.
When his wife’s body was found floating in the Hudson River, an investigation ensued.
The investigators working the case became suspicious of Blanket, himself, when it came to light that his wife had, just before the incident, begun legal proceedings for a separation. However, when the investigation came to its conclusion, Jamal Blanket was cleared of any culpability regarding his wife’s demise.
Now regarded as an innocent victim, sympathies were poured upon him, thus elevating his reputation back to his previous status, but with the added virtue of having endured a tragedy. Not all were convinced, however, in the court of public opinion, as was typical for such cases, but that had appeared to have insignificant consequences.
I knew the actual truth of the matter, in fact. But that, as they say, was neither here nor there and unrelated to the purpose of my endeavor.
With his image flourishing, Blanket soon fulfilled his long-held dream of owning a parcel of the New York City club scene. His nightclub, aptly named Blanket, achieved immediate success.
Blanket gained national media exposure due to an article in People magazine on the club’s VIP room, which was growing increasingly popular among celebrities. Soon after, an article in Rolling Stone magazine followed, wherein, a trendy young actress labeled Blanket “Bohemian central.” Another actor claimed that it was “the new it place to be.”
It was my fourth night of reconnaissance inside the club, sitting with my back against the wall at the small round table. I had been there for hours, waiting, watching.
Arriving early, as I had the previous three nights, had been a necessity. I considered waiting in line to get into the club, any club, both inefficient and an intolerable, personal anathema.
The density of the energies of the city, as a whole, always weighed heavily on my senses. This was something that always occurred whenever I put myself within any concentrated populace. But, much more than that, was the feral, gross field of energy inside the nightclub where I sat.
There are certain distasteful frequencies that are emanated from nervous systems, influenced by certain substances swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected, whatever they may be. It made detecting the, infinitely more subtle, quantum realms all the more challenging. Then again, it is the challenges in life that make it more interesting. Would you not agree?
As the night progressed, the greater balance of the crowd shifted to the dance floors, where they were moving, with varying levels of skill, to the beat of the “music.”
They called it Electro, or Techno, or Trance, or House—all indistinguishable to my uneducated ear. The perpetrator of the incessant rhythm was a young, rising-star deejay who plied his craft from his elevated perch. Due to his cultural background, I had erroneously assumed that Jamal Blanket’s self-titled night club would have been a Hip-Hop club, which would have been an even greater assault to my tastes. Regardless, I still would have a task to accomplish. It was a hard fact that my work often required me to allay my personal preferences.
Blanket emerged from the door near the main bar. The door led up a stairwell to his office on the second floor. It was midnight, the same time that he had come down the three previous nights.
He was dressed in a three-piece cream-colored suit with a black dress shirt underneath, sans tie. He wore a gold chain around his neck and his Super Bowl ring on his right hand.
He immediately drew attention, which, considering his good looks and enormous size, would occur even without his fame. As was his custom, he began to schmooze with his patrons—shaking hands, giving hugs, a photo here and there. He appeared most comfortable with his fame.
Blanket slowly made his way across the floor to the lift for the VIP room, where a hostess behind a podium greeted him with a smile. She was flanked by a bouncer, or should I say doorman, or more likely, security personnel, the designation dependent upon the class of the establishment.
Blanket stepped into the lift, which took him up to the elite space. The VIP room, with its large, slanted windows, looked down on the crowd of commoners below, like all proper elite positions do. The large panes of glass were strategically tinted, to allow for just enough light to pass through so that those below might be able to identify a particular celebrity, but opaque enough to discourage photos taken from a distance.
Blanket remained in “Bohemian Central” for nearly an hour before he came back down on the lift. He made his way back to the main bar, where he spoke briefly with a dark-haired woman, who I had come to determine was the bar manager. He then proceeded to the door that led to his upstairs office. The man standing sentry in front of the door stepped aside with a nod when he approached.
I had observed that the door was not kept locked. That was convenient for me. The real problem was the fifteen-stone obstacle standing in front of it. However, since I had remained in the flow of The Way, my faith was imperishable. An opportunity would present itself. I would only have to wait for it.
As it turned out, I did not have to wait long.
Through the turbid field of energies, I felt it.
It was still small, in its initial, brewing stage, but I could sense its useful potential. I finished the last of my soda and lime and left the table, feeling a heavier bladder than was prudent and wishing that I had timed my visits to the lavatory better. I began slowly slaloming through the crowd like a shark zeroing in on the scent of blood. Up ahead to my right, my eyes found what I had been sensing. Two young chaps were posturing a confrontation with two other chaps. As I proceeded past them, I saw several others try to intervene to keep the peace, a futile effort. The emotions had already boiled up past the point of control.
If the security was as good as I had assessed, they would be on the situation in a mere moment. The head of security, a black chap nearly as large as Blanket himself, was watching from his elevated position in the center of the club, a spot that afforded him a nearly unobstructed view of the entire place. In less than a second, his eyes caught the situation, and he gave the alert into his headset mic.
Numerous security personnel began heading toward the scene, intent upon preventing the melee.
They were too late.
I felt the violence commence behind me and saw many heads turning toward the commotion. I accelerated my pace and continued toward my objective. I was chuffed when I saw the man who was guarding the door to the second floor leave his post, sprinting to the fight, thus leaving me an open path.
When I reached the door, I took a quick look around to see, with satisfaction, that all eyes were focused on the other end of the club. I opened the door and went inside.
The dimly lit, carpeted stairway ascended to the second floor above. I climbed the steps and peeked around the corner. There was a chance that Blanket would see the fight on a CCTV monitor or hear the security team’s communications, if he happened to be monitoring them from his office. If that was the case, he might be impelled to go downstairs, and in a hurry. If so, I would have to intercept him there, at the top of the stairwell. That would not bode well for my endeavor.
Risk factor number one.
I extended my senses. Blanket’s energy was still. He was not coming.
I had performed a special reconnaissance of the second floor two days earlier, so I had a good idea of the layout. I saw four rooms down the hall. There was an overhead light at the end with a CCTV camera perched up in the corner of the ceiling. The nearest door was open, and from it spilled a florescent light. The next two doors were closed. The last door at the end was facing the length of the hallway. It had no door, as such, but had been affixed with two black curtains.
Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid moving into the camera’s field of view.
Risk factor number two.
I went past the first room, glancing inside as I went. It was a break room with gray metal lockers, a table and chairs, a refrigerator, and a sink. I continued to the third door, which I was certain was the office.
I carefully tried the knob. It was locked, as I knew it would be. The CCTV camera was pointed directly at the office door, so I kept moving and slipped through the curtains in the last doorway.
It took my eyes a few moments to adjust to the darkness. When they did, I could see that I was in a large space that extended the entire depth of the building. Various supplies and materials were stacked about in no apparent order. I knew that the exit door nearby opened out onto the fire escape outside. That was to be my primary means of egress.
However, there was an alarm installed in the push-bar release that would require a key if I did not want to set it off upon leaving.
The suit that I was wearing was atrocious in appearance, but useful in design. It had been custom-tailored to be a bit oversize and blousing, which allowed me to better conceal the items that I had brought along for the specific occasion, in addition to the regular contingent of tools that I carried. My dress boots were proper Ferragamo, but with custom-made soles that had soft rubber nubs that provided ample traction. I had put a dark rinse in my hair to match my mustache and goatee. The disguise was not elaborate. Extremes were not necessary amongst the crowd of the club. I am, as a matter of fact, rather nondescript, which serves me well in my line of work. I stand at an even six foot and carry a medium build. My eyes are brown. My hair is brown.
I am not particularly handsome (sorry to disappoint you), nor am I uncomely. I am rather unremarkable in appearance, unless I am shirtless, I suppose. My work demands that I maintain a very high level of fitness. And, there are a few scars.
The beat of the music was palpable through the floor, as I pulled out a pair of black rubber gloves and wiggled my hands into them. I was under the protection and guidance of The Way, but that was never something to take for granted.
Therefore, I made a practice of due diligence.
A few minutes passed before I sensed someone coming up the stairwell. From my dark vantage point, I saw the bar manager heading toward the office. She wore a dark pantsuit with clunky mid-heels that thumped on the wooden planks beneath the carpet. In her hands, she carried a black vinyl pouch, a cash drop, no doubt. She unlocked the door with her key and went inside. I took note of how the door closed slowly behind her on a counter spring.
It was several minutes before she came back through the door. I slipped out from the curtains in time to stop the door from closing. I slipped inside, keeping the door from closing on its own, to avoid the loud clack that might prematurely announce my presence.
I evaluated the space. The office had a high ceiling with crossing steel beams, a vital element for the task at hand, actually. On the far side of the room sat a leather divan with a coffee table. On the nearest side of the room, two high-backed chairs flanked a small table, upon which a half-burned cigar lay dormant in a crystal ashtray. The walls were decorated with an array of sports memorabilia and framed, signed photos of the many celebrities who had visited the club.
Jamal Blanket was in the process of closing the door to a safe that was set inside a large, black lacquered cabinet behind his desk. When the door latched closed, he turned back toward his desk and froze in place. His face remained stoic as he stood up straight, showing me his full size, as many creatures instinctively do when encountering a perceived threat.
“Who the fuck are you?” Blanket said.
“Irrelevant.” I said.
“What the fuck you doing in here?”
“More to the point, I’m afraid.”
“How’d you get in here? You lost or something?”
“Precisely where I need to be.”
“I asked you a question, fool!” he said.
“Scurrilous,” I said with mocked disdain.
He had, in fact, presented himself much more eloquently in the interviews of him that I had watched online for my research.
“I don’t know what your problem is, but it’s about to get a whole lot worse, fool,” he said.
He reached for something behind him in the corner. I stepped closer to the side table and put my hand on the heavy ashtray. He turned back around with a baseball bat in his hands. A gun would have been a spot of bother. A baseball bat? Not so much.
I let go of the ashtray.
I would have expected more confidence from him for a mano a mano engagement.
He was, after all, six inches taller and twenty stones heavier and a former professional athlete.
Perhaps I had spooked him, though. I do tend to do that from time to time.
“I respect your protest, sir. Everyone has the right to resist their destiny, no matter the futility,” I said.
“You know, maybe you crazy, I don’t know. But you’re trespassing up in here, and you need to leave. I ain’t asking, see.”
“Then, let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get on with it.” I took a step toward him.
“You’re British? Do I know you? We ever met?” he asked, picking up on my English accent.
“I am certain that we have not.”
“I’m certain that I’ve already warned you, muthafucka!” he said, stepping out from behind his desk, pointing the bat at me. “Think about what you be wantin’ here. Ask yo self if it’s worth it.”
He was more confused and frightened than he was angry, which meant that he was more determined to repel me than to do me in. At any rate, I was growing weary of the conversation. There was also a time factor to consider.
I slowly closed the distance between us. His body tensed, and his eyes glanced at my left leg. It was a clear telegraph of his intention. I extended my leg forward. He took the bait and swung.
I had already gauged the extent of his reach and pulled my leg back out of the way.
He tried to chamber the bat back at his right side again, instead of swinging from his left. It was a mistake. I was already on him. I checked his hands on the bat and drove a heel-palm to his nose, snapping his head back. I leveraged the bat away from his grip and drove my shoulder into his chest, which sent him crashing into the wall. A normal chap might have dropped right then, but our fellow was especially tough, and able, considering the roughness required of his previous professions. He was far from finished.
I examined the bat as I waited for him to gather himself. It was a black varnished bat once used by a player name Alex Rodriguez, as evidenced by the stamped name on the barrel and the player’s own signature in silver ink near the label. I tossed the bat in the corner.
Blanket looked at the bat where it fell, wondering with dismay, no doubt, how I had so easily taken it away from him. By now, he had revised his initial assessment of me.
Whilst he could only guess the reasons for my presence, he knew that he was in jeopardy. That was when I recognized, from experience, that certain ominous shift in his eyes.
His fight-or-flight response, which had, up to that point, been in the middle of the spectrum, now appeared to surge to the former. Henceforth, I knew that he would no longer hold back.
Blanket gathered his rage and took a fighting stance. A quick analysis told me that he had received some boxing training somewhere along the way. This, combined with the fact that he possessed natural speed—fast-twitch dominant muscle fibers—elevated our game to a new level. I must admit, I so relished the challenge.
Bringing the fight to me, he shuffled forward two steps. I met him and feinted forward, just inside his range, and then sprang back, narrowly avoiding a lightning-fast jab to my face. I repeated the tactic, enticing him. He jabbed again. Although he was fast, he also telegraphed his movements, as many do. As I moved my head back out of the way, I simultaneously kicked his forward knee. It was not a smashing blow, but, rather, designed to distract his brain long enough for me to successfully deliver a cupped-hand blow to his left ear.
He covered his head, just as a boxer would, as he teetered about in pain and the ensuing dizziness that followed. He hurled furious obscenities at me as he desperately attempted to regain his equilibrium.
When I thought that he had recovered enough, I resumed the game by moving into his range once more. He responded by attacking with two jabs to my face before he came in with the big right punch. Once again, he telegraphed his attacks. I slipped out of reach of his massive right fist and hit him in his floating ribs. I had used a special fist, with my index knuckle protruding. I felt his ribs separate and fracture upon impact.
Blanket took a few more cracks at my head, while I ducked and slipped away from each, before his brain registered the crushing pain in his side. He grimaced and took a few steps back toward his desk. Though he still held his fighting posture, his breathing was now labored.
I had no illusions that the fight was over though. As a top-level American football player, he had, no doubt, endured numerous painful blows and had soldiered on after each. As a professional wrestler, even though the action is somewhat scripted, the physics involved are quite real, the stunts dangerous. The injuries frequent. But the show must go on, as they say.
Giving him some time to recuperate, I offered him a smile, which, for some reason, he took with great offense.
His eyes suddenly burned with an insane rage. It was a phenomenon that sometimes occurs in real warriors, the ability to turn pain and fear into an indomitable, frenzied aggression. Going berserk, if I may borrow from the Scandinavian term.
He bounded toward me, determined to tackle me to the floor. I side-stepped and deflected him away from me and to the floor. He instantly got back up and came at me again. I caught his face with my hands, bending his head backwards before I pivoted and used his momentum to send him crashing onto his desk behind me.
Blanket popped back up and went into the boxer’s stance once again. This time, though, I did not give him time to formulate an attack. I delivered an intentionally slow jab to his face, which he instinctively met with his left hand. I trapped his arm with my hand, pinning it to his chest, and launched a barrage of open-handed strikes to all sides of his head and face, sending him backwards onto the surface of his desk as he tried to cover his face.
I disengaged and backed away from him to the center of the room. I took the opportunity to extend my senses. No one was coming yet. We still had some alone time.
Blanket picked up the letter opener from a large coffee mug on his desk. It had not been designed to be a weapon, of course, but I judged that the tip of the blade was sharp enough to penetrate if it found the right spot, which he appeared most intent upon finding.
“I’m gonna fuckin’ kill ya.”
“I cheer your spirit. Bring your best, sir,” I said, opening my arms wide, inviting his effort.
He closed the distance between us and stabbed the letter opener at my face. He was still unaware that he was telegraphing his attacks. I easily intercepted his arm at the elbow and, using a spear hand technique, drove my joined fingers into his right eye socket. I then knocked the letter opener out of his hand. Blanket yelled out in pain as it clattered on the floor. I pushed him hard, back onto his desk.
More obscenities spewed from him as he held his hand over his eye. A trickle of blood began to run down his forearm.
I had just begun to, erroneously, believe that Jamal Blanket’s fight had reached its conclusion, when he grasped the heavy ceramic coffee mug on his desk and hurled it at my head, missing by a mere foot. It crashed into something behind me with the sound of breaking glass. He then bellowed loudly and launched himself at me in another attempt to tackle me to the floor, where his superior weight and strength would give him the advantage. I intercepted his attack at just the right moment and used a hip throw to send him over me and crashing to the floor.
Keeping a hold of his wrist, I held his head down with my left knee while stretching his right arm across my right thigh. With a sharp pulse, I dislocated his elbow.
I gave his compromised arm back to him. He rolled away from me, gasping in pain.
He had suffered enough . . . as prescribed.
It was time.
I pulled out a zip-tie cuff from the inner pocket of my suit coat. He protested, as one might expect, as I cuffed his wrists behind his back.
With his good eye, he looked at me with near terror as I undid my belt and lowered my pants.
“Not to worry. This is not some prison romance,” I assured him.
I could not help myself from imagining what an appalling sight one would find if they happened to enter the room at that precise moment.
I unwound the thin pliable rope that I had concealed around my waist and then pulled my pants back up and refastened my belt.
I had chosen the rope, the kind that is used for rock climbing, for its logistical practicality.
Blanket’s expression changed to something else as he watched me tie a noose.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed as I threw the noose over one of the overhead beams.
“The reason for your demise will soon be clear, old boy,” I said to him as I slipped the noose over his head.
He did not appear to take my assurance on good faith.
I cinched the noose properly around his neck and then slid a chair over and placed it underneath the beam.
“Now, we need to get you up on the chair,” I said.
“Fuck you!” Blanket said.
“Such low-shelf language for a man of your stature. I suppose, though, ’tis a bit late in the game to offer advice on that trifling issue.”
“Who sent you? Did Slay send you? We ain’t got no problem. We be settled. We agreed. Look, call Slay, call him. Let me talk to him. Fuck!”
That was a curious reveal. My intuition piqued. I saw a series of images in my mind’s eye. This Slay character was the perpetrator that Blanket had colluded with to kidnap and murder his wife.
However, that was not germane to the task at hand.
“None of that concerns me,” I said to Blanket. “Now, let’s get you up.”
“Look, man, what do you want? I can pay you double, triple. Fuck, I can pay anything you want! This don’t have to be this way. Listen, I can set you up, man. I can hook you up, like for life.”
I tried to lift him to his feet, but he began to fight me, unleashing another deluge of profanity-laced protests. Even with his hands secured behind him, with a dislocated elbow and a blind eye, he was quite a handful to manage.
He would need some motivation to cooperate.
I set him back down and took out my folding knife. Pressing the tip of the blade into his crotch, I said, “Mr. Blanket, please. Don’t force me to be rude. Spare us both the indignity, won’t you?”
He reluctantly accepted my plea, and, with the aid of my kind assistance, he got to his feet and stepped up onto the chair, all the while trying to persuade me to reconsider his offer.
I looped the rope twice around one of the legs of the large desk, estimating that it was hefty enough to hold his weight. I pulled the rope tight, removing all of the slack, and tied it off. As I approached Blanket from the rear, he tried to kick me. However, in trying to kick me, he knocked the chair over himself.
The drop was not violent enough to break his neck or sever a carotid artery. A slower strangulation had been called for.
His legs violently searched for footing. His torso writhed with spasms. The capillaries in his eyes began to burst, turning his eyes crimson. His kicks became more intermittent as the seconds passed. The spasmodic responses ebbed.
In less than a minute, Jamal Blanket’s earthly life came to its end. I watched with reverence as his soul eased out of his body and into the bright portal above.
Horatio’s words to the departing Hamlet came to mind: “Good night, sweet prince . . .”
I snapped myself out of my thralled state.
There were mundane matters to attend to.
I went over to the CCTV monitor on the small table in the corner with the intention of removing the hard drive or the disk and found that there was neither. Nothing was being recorded whatsoever. I wondered what the New York City regulations were on that issue.
If I was correct, the key that I needed for the door alarm would be on the clump of keys on Blanket’s desk. I fingered through them and found one smaller than the others. I also found one key that was more worn down than the others and figured it to be the office door key.
I saw a lavatory at the other end of the office, and beyond it, a closed door, which held some mild curiosity behind it. It had been rumored that Blanket had an en suite bed chamber where he entertained many a lady-of-the-night. I quickly went to the door and tried the knob. The door opened to reveal a room with a bed covered with satin sheets and an overhead mirror on the ceiling.
Time to leave.
I opened the office door and checked the hallway. I tried the worn key in the lock. It was the right one. I closed the door and snapped the key off, leaving the broken stem in the lock. I wanted to ensure that the innocent bar manager would be spared having to discover the hanging corpse all by herself. Someone would have to force the door open, and I was confident that it would not be her.
I went through the black curtains, back into the storage space. After I used the small key to turn off the door alarm, I tossed the entire clump of keys behind a stack of boxes. The door opened with the protest of long-term disuse. I stepped out onto the fire escape and pressed the door closed.
There had been emplaced for some time, thousands of video cameras throughout New York City, nearly as much as in London proper. I knew, through my technological resources, where each were stationed in the area. I had planned my exit accordingly.
I climbed the fire escape ladder to the roof and, moving to the center of the building, casually traversed the length to the adjoining building, and then to the next, which angled east, leading me farther away from the nightclub.
The ancient fire escape tested my confidence by swaying and creaking as I made my descent. I reached the alley and began walking at a casual pace toward the street ahead.
As I began peeling off my rubber gloves, I suddenly sensed another energy in close proximity. A cat sauntered around the corner of a trash dumpster and looked at me with the mildest of interest. I echoed his sentiment and continued on my way.
I pulled off my temporary mustache and goatee, wincing as I did so. The glue that I had used was a bit strong. One needs a proper adhesive if one wants to keep their disguise intact during a tussle.
I dropped my disguise materials into a storm drain and continued walking east. It was a pleasant evening, and the relative silence of the street soothed my ears, which had been assaulted inside the club.
I walked toward 9th Avenue, the traffic noise increasing with each step. Once I arrived there, I hailed a taxi. Only then, in the back seat of the taxi, did I allow myself to relax.
At this early point in my story, you may have concluded that my work is that of a professional assassin. That conclusion, although valid in its assumption, would not be accurate.