Today is the twenty-fourth anniversary of that fateful day in Prague. It’s why I’m sitting here now in total darkness, wondering if Bupkus will pass me by. Wondering if he’ll find a way to forgive me for what happened with Whipple and the Turks. Because I know he’s out there somewhere in the night, somewhere close. I know because he called me this morning and sang to me in a grinding, broken voice…sang the song that was playing on the gramophone when I betrayed him: Betty Boop’s theme song, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”
It all started on the Spanish Steps in Rome, with Bupkus laying out our mission. It was supposed to be a simple extraction, easy in easy out. Transport the target to Sri Lanka, where she’d be used as a bargaining chip with the Tamils. Stroll out of the hot zone with our real objective, the kidnapped cousin of an influential minister. What Bupkus didn’t know was that he was the bargaining chip, and we weren’t going anywhere near Sri Lanka. Even as I kissed his cheeks in greeting, I knew he was marked for torture and ruin.
At first, the double-cross went off as planned. There we were, in a tavern in the oldest part of Prague, subduing our target, Consuela, when Whipple and the Turks swept in like cossacks. Bupkus threw down in a heartbeat, loading the crew with lead…till I pistol-whipped him from behind and welcomed Whipple with a kiss on the cheek. Even then, I’ll be honest, as they skewered Bupkus on some kind of glowing blue corkscrew contraption and hauled him away laughing, I felt no guilt. Tough crapsky, it could’ve just as easily been me, right? No guilt, no pain, no fear; those were the mantras in our line of work.
But I changed my tune when Bupkus spun off that skewer in the street and turned into some kind of twisted shadow creature. When he tore apart one Turk after another with his ebony claws, literally ripping them to bloody shreds. When he went through Whipple like a buzz-saw, hacking him in half, then quarters, then eighths. Shrieking like a crazed banshee the whole time.
As I ran, the Betty Boop song from the bar was playing in my head. “I wanna be loved by you alo-o-one.” It stuck there as I fled across Europe, changing my identity and appearance along the way. It stuck there as I lost myself in South and Central America for over two decades, drifting from one guerilla war and junta to the next. It’s still there as I sit in this room, sensing him outside these walls, knowing this could be the night I’ve been waiting for all these years.
Wondering if finally, I’ll be able to deliver him as promised and get paid, or if he’ll tear me apart first. My finger twitches on the trigger switch of the strobe light that I hope will stun him. I finish another can of Red Bull and wonder what the reward will feel like if I get it. Wondering how it will feel to be like Bupkus.
©2009 Robert T. Jeschonek