A Henchman’s Tale: The Interview

“Are you willing to kill women? Children? Dogs?” asked Mr. White, peering over the top of his glasses.

“Of course. My reputation in this business is well earned,” I replied. “I don’t feel good about the dogs. But I’m a professional. I do what I have to.”

Mr. White made some check-marks and notes on his clipboard.

*****

My name is Shitztig. Bradley Shitztig and I was a bit nervous about the interview. My extensive CV should have made my hiring a no-brainer. Still, I’d been off work for the better part of two years. A shattered femur is no joke. Throw in all the ACL and MCL repair, I’d never had that kind of work layoff in my career. Being crushed by falling girders is an occupational hazard, of course. I guess I’d just been lucky up till then.

That’s about the only luck involved in my career. The odds were definitely stacked against me ever succeeding in this line of work. I’m not hulking. I don’t have metallic implants of any kind – well, I guess I do now, but I don’t count the bolts and screws holding my leg together as professional assets. I don’t look menacing in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit. I don’t have an Eastern European accent. I have no facial scarring that gives me a permanent, threatening scowl. As it happens, I have no gender, ethnic, or visual exoticism whatsoever. I just look like a regular guy. If you saw me at Starbucks you’d be more likely to think, “Should I have a croissant?” than, “I’ll bet he’s a world renowned criminal henchman.”

Now, let me just stop here and clear up a couple of points. First, I mean Head Henchman. It’s an actual title. Second, I don’t mean I work for some kind of leotard-wearing, mask-sporting, “evil” freakshow who is foiled by some other leotard-wearing, mask-sporting, “good” freakshow. You think that kind of comic book super-hero/super-villain world actually exists? You might as well believe in unicorns. I’m talking about real life. The people I work for are insanely wealthy, fly in private jets, have opulent yachts anchored at Monte Carlo, play baccarat in Brioni tuxedos or Valentino gowns. Sure, we often operate out of fantastical headquarters, lairs if you will, but you’d be amazed what you can build off the grid if you have enough dough – underwater compounds, missile silos in dormant volcanoes, mountaintop biological weapons facilities. You name it. But you get my drift. Real fucking life.

I was interviewing for a Head Henchman position at CLUSTERfuck, Inc. a world renown criminal consortium. Each letter in the CLUSTER refers to one of the partner-level masterminds. Ignacio Catafascio the Italian olive oil mogul is the C, for example. The “fuck?” Don’t know. Guess they just thought it sounded cool. At any rate, the buzz on LinkedIn (yes – we’re the ones who keep it in business) was that there was an opening. I made some inquiries and there I was.

*****

As instructed, I had shown up at the Ling Ling Chinese Cafe and Pancake House at the appointed hour and ordered the Xiongmao Dun. I was led to the back office where a Mr. Chin blindfolded me before leading me out what sounded like a secret door, into the back alley and into a car. We took a right, and five lefts, stopping at three red lights along the way. I was led into what sounded like a restaurant and smelled suspiciously like the Ling Ling Chinese Cafe and Pancake House from where we had just departed. I was led through what felt like a walk-in freezer, through what sounded like another secret door into an elevator. We went up for fifteen or twenty seconds and stepped out. My blindfold was removed, and my companions returned to the elevator. I found myself standing in what could have been an empty waiting room for the HR department of any Fortune 500 company – terrific city views. A class operation. I was impressed. There was no one at the reception desk, but almost immediately the main office door opened. A very professional looking man with salt-and-pepper hair and wire-rimmed glasses – a “suit” in common office parlance – stuck his head out and said, “Ah! Mr. Shitztig! Please excuse, I’m afraid the receptionist is on maternity leave and I’m flying solo today. Please come in.”

*****

The office was nicely appointed. A large oak desk, modern sculptures in the corners, red leather chairs and couch. The CLUSTERfuck, Inc. logo, as recognizable in my business as the golden arches, hung larger than life behind the desk.

“Welcome, Mr. Shitztig,” said my host. “I’m Mr. White, Director of Personnel here at CLUSTERfuck, Inc. Please have a seat. You come highly recommended. Our partner-level masterminds are all thrilled at the prospect of bringing you aboard. Am I correct that the Old Fashioned is your favorite cocktail?”

“It is indeed.” I responded. “I’ve done my homework and it seems you have as well. Impressive, Mr. White.”

“We are a top-drawer operation, Mr. Shitztig.” He pressed a button on the intercom, “An Old Fashioned with Knob Creek please. For our Guest.”

*****

“As you know, we currently have the one Head Henchman position available,” Mr. White began once I had drink in hand. “That is the position in which you have indicated interest. But there are three, maybe four, henchman’s assistant positions. Would you be interested in one of those?”

“Sure,” I answered, “I’m anxious to get back in action.” My self-esteem wouldn’t let me take anything lower than that, but realistically, after a couple of years on the sidelines, I know I may have to prove myself. I’ll take whatever. I can always murder my way into the head position if necessary. I’ve done it before. “Who’s the head position with?” I continued, “Why is the position open?”

“Madame Louche (the L in CLUSTER, of course) is in need of a new right-hand after her previous Head Henchman Blowhard and both of his assistants were stung to death by Africanized bees. She’s willing to promote from within for the assistant positions but is looking to bring in fresh blood and ideas from the outside for the main position.” After a slight hesitation he added, “Madame was quite partial to Blowhard, so I imagine one of the first duties of his successor would be to track down and extract a reckoning from the Mossad super-agent responsible for planting the beehive in Blowhard’s Range Rover.”

“I reckon I can do that,” I said. He didn’t crack a smile.

“It says here,” he continued, pointing at my resume, “you have some experience with masterminding at lower levels. Can you tell me about that?”

Now, this is typical bullshit resume padding. I’d never really been called on it before but I launched into a sincere defense of the claim. “As a child, I ran a crew that consolidated the neighborhood lemonade stand business. Then in high school, I headed up a stolen test ring. In both cases, I organized and commanded all phases of the operations. Both enterprises were highly profitable and enjoyable.”

In reality, both were mostly one-man shows. For all the talk of how suggestible children are, you’d be surprised how hard it is to talk them into engaging in honest-to-God criminal activity, much less keeping them focused and on point. I personally had to turn over little Suzy Wannamaker’s stand when she wouldn’t sell. Likewise, I personally had to roofie Mr. Marsetti, the science teacher. In a way, my experiences in youth crime later convinced me that a career in masterminding wasn’t for me. I wanted to be in the field. Where the action is.

*****

After a pause to jot down a note or two, Mr. White continued, “How, Mr. Shitztig, did you graduate to the professional ranks?”

“I started at the bottom.” I said, nearing the bottom of my drink. “My first gig was as a brown jumpsuit in the service of Curtis Beefchip, the Texas cattle baron. Turns out my high school football coach was an operative of Mr. Beefchip. He got me in after graduation. Beefchip’s master plot was to exterminate chickens in the US by flooding the market with robot roosters that would do his bidding. The lair was underneath his main ranch. I was able to work my way up to shift supervisor before the whole operation was torched by Simon Dewgud, Head of the Poultry Industry of America’s counterintelligence wing.”

*****

“Now, if you will forgive me Mr. Shitztig,” Mr. White said, his voice adopting an apologetic tone, “I must remark on your, shall we say, presence? I observe that you are not very physically imposing. You claim no in-, extra-, or super-human powers or abilities. What skills DO you have that make you a suitable Head Henchman?”

“No need for apologies, Mr. White, I’m quite used to answering this. I’m lethal in multiple disciplines of the martial arts. I am an expert marksman. No Mickey has ever been successfully slipped to me, and even if it were, I am 100-percent immune to the effects of alcohol and most poisons. There’s not an aircraft built that I can’t fly. I can cook pork so that it is done but still moist.” I turned my palms upward in a ta-da motion. I concluded with, “Those are some of the arrows in my quiver, so to speak, but my two main attributes are that I’m an expert strategist and one charming motherfucker.” I could practically see the sparkly-glint of my teeth as I laid on the charming motherfucker smile.

“Indeed. Indeed you are sir. But, strategist you say? Can you give me an example or two?”

“I’m five-and-oh against Bobby Fischer.”

Mr. White sat forward, “In chess? That is impressive.”

“Magic the Gathering.” I admitted. “Still a strategy game. Still impressive. If Madame Louche will allow me, I’ll keep her two steps ahead of any adversary.”

*****

After about thirty minutes of this give and take, the office door flew open and I was attacked by what appeared to be a couple of cleaver-wielding Ling Ling sous-chefs. I was expecting it, really. There’s always a skills test in these interviews. I disarmed them and broke just a limb or two – it’s generally frowned upon to actually kill your assailants during a skills test. I can understand. I mean, even if a syndicate interviews only the top three candidates, that’s six assailants. You can’t just throw away that kind of manpower.

As the groaning erstwhile assailants limped their way out of the room and back to the elevator, I whirled around with great fanfare and embedded both cleavers into the surface of Mr. White’s desk. A risky move I’ve done before in similar circumstances. Interviewers are either super-impressed or super-pissed. Go big or go home, right?

Before I could gauge his reaction, a female voice with a French accent barked out, “That’s enough, Mr. White!” The entire CLUSTERfuck logo on the wall started to move, revealing another office. Out stepped about the most handsome woman I’d ever seen. I don’t mean hot. I don’t mean pretty. I don’t mean cute. I mean handsome. Tall, graceful, well shaped. Veronica Lake hair. “Do you know who I am, Mr. Shitztig?” she asked, rounding the desk to stand well within my personal space, her eyes locked on mine.

“Of course. You’re Madam Louche, the wealthy canned soup magnate,” I met her smolder with a cheeky wink. “A pleasure.”

“I’ve made my decision,” she continued nonplussed. “Mr. White, please send Mr. Shitztig to processing for all the dreadful paperwork and such.” A pause. Then, still looking at me, “I presume you will accept my offer?”

“Head Henchman?” I toyed with her.

“Yes, of course. I look forward to having you work directly under me.”

“That’s how I do my best work, Madame. You won’t be disappointed.”

She finally broke the eye-lock and started to walk back around the desk, her backside waving a very fine adieu. Speaking over her shoulder, she added, “There is one other thing, Mr. Shitztig. Mr. White told you about the fate of my beloved Blowhard. I’d like you to- ”

I didn’t let her finish. “Rest easy on that score, Madame. I’m already on it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Shitztig. I’ll see you at the lair on Monday. Mr. White will fill you in.”

She walked out the way she came in. Classy as fuck.

© 2015 Whiskey Leavins

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